Monthly Archives:

August 2016

Puducherry, India — By Jennifer Shipp
AsiaIndiaSouth AsiaTrips

Puducherry, India — By Jennifer Shipp

We spent very little time in “Pondi”. Our home base was in Chennai, India and we made a day trip using trains and taxis to Auroville and back. Auroville is a small planned community near Puducherry where Sri Aurobindo and a woman known as “The Mother” are trying to create utopia on earth.

The train took us directly from Chennai to Pondi in about 4 ½ hours one way (Train #56037). We ...
Holiday Inn Airport in Delhi, India — By Jennifer Shipp
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Holiday Inn Airport in Delhi, India — By Jennifer Shipp

Two years ago, we stayed in an Indian hotel that looked pretty good online even though it wasn’t a name we were familiar with. When we arrived to experience tourism in India for the first time, the hotel was quite a shock (specks of blood or something on the lampshades and walls, hairy sheets, and a door that was literally falling apart.  From that experience we learned to take fewer chances when traveling ...
Varanasi, India: Not for Newbies — By Jennifer Shipp
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Varanasi, India: Not for Newbies — By Jennifer Shipp

Varanasi is not the kind of city that can easily be summarized in one article…even one very long article, but I'm going to try. Varanasi is even more crazy and chaotic than Delhi, but the Varanasi vibe is spiritual rather than economic. This is a city that welcomes death with open arms.

We visited Varanasi in 2014 after spending 30 days in Nepal. We stayed at the Radisson Hotel within ...
On Suspending Our Cynicism: Auroville, India — By Jennifer Shipp
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On Suspending Our Cynicism: Auroville, India — By Jennifer Shipp

Auroville is a strange place. Anyone who reads the indoctrination materials for the city knows that the ideals it strives toward are, well…ideal and not remotely realistic. Sri Aurobindo and “The Mother”, Auroville’s founders, offer up communist principles in their books, but they note that the city is decidedly not communist. They claim that the goal of Auroville is to connect with the Divine Consciousness ...
Worst Vacation Rental Experience Ever: Moldy Mattresses in the Himalayan Mountains — By Jennifer Shipp
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Worst Vacation Rental Experience Ever: Moldy Mattresses in the Himalayan Mountains — By Jennifer Shipp

John found out the morning of our flight to Dharamsala (also spelled Dharamshala) that our vacation rental consisted of 2 ROOMS, not 2 bedrooms. John didn’t mention this to me until we got to the rental, which was probably for the best. It was better that I was relaxed and hopeful when we got in the taxi to go up the hill from Dharamsala, through McLeod Ganj to the tiny village where we’d be staying: Naddi ...
My Ayurvedic Massage in Northern India — By Jennifer Shipp
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My Ayurvedic Massage in Northern India — By Jennifer Shipp

If I’d had enough time, I would’ve gotten an Ayurvedic massage in southern India in Chennai closer to where Ayurvedic medicine originated (it came from Kerala, on the opposite coast, but still). It’s been my experience that it isn’t that easy to find reputable massage or medicine clinics anywhere in the world and when we were in Chennai, I never saw a place that looked clean enough to approach for massage ...
Spiritual and Technological Epiphanies in the Himalayas — By Jennifer Shipp
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Spiritual and Technological Epiphanies in the Himalayas — By Jennifer Shipp

Technologically speaking, this trip to India has been a disaster. Our Internet has been non-existent for more than two weeks now and about 7 days ago, my computer starting “acting up”. First, it refused to turn on. John, the computer whisperer, starting working with it, gently at first, pushing buttons and talking to it softly in the dim light of his own computer monitor, studying a forum filled with advice ...
Chennai, India to Puducherry by Train and Puducherry to Auroville by Taxi — By Jennifer Shipp
AsiaIndiaSouth AsiaTrips

Chennai, India to Puducherry by Train and Puducherry to Auroville by Taxi — By Jennifer Shipp

Auroville is close to Puducherry (also known as Pondicherry or Pondi), only about 6 to 7 miles away. After you arrive at the train station, you can proceed to the street outside and hire a rickshaw to take you to Auroville. Make sure you negotiate the cost of the trip with your driver and write down the agreed upon amount before you set out. Don’t pay up front for a rickshaw ride.

When we ...
A Cold Pile of Rocks and Dung — By Jennifer Shipp
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A Cold Pile of Rocks and Dung — By Jennifer Shipp

We visited northern India two years ago in 2014, when the Ebola epidemic was in full-swing and terrorist threats were plastered all across the Delhi news. We’d spent 30 days in Nepal when we made our way back through Varanasi and Delhi over the course of about 9 days. It was one of the most difficult trips we’d ever done in part because we’d gotten rabies shots in Nepal, which left us tired and weak, and ...
Train Travel in India vs. Train Travel in Thailand — By Jennifer Shipp
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Train Travel in India vs. Train Travel in Thailand — By Jennifer Shipp

People always say that for travelers, an essential Indian experience is taking the train. Now that we’ve taken a train, I can understand these sentiments better, especially since we’ve taken train trips in other countries too.

There are relatively few areas of the world that are thoroughly connected by train. India happens to be one of these places. Thailand and Southeast Asia is another ...
Driving in India for Westerners — By Jennifer Shipp
AsiaIndiaSouth AsiaTrips

Driving in India for Westerners — By Jennifer Shipp

Traffic and riding in cars in India left quite an impression on me the first time I was here. Driving behaviors in India are quite a bit different from driving behaviors in the United States. They’re so different, in fact, that I would never recommend that an American attempt to drive in India until they’d lived in the country for at least a year and probably not even then.

John drove us ...
Dengue in India — By Jennifer Shipp
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Dengue in India — By Jennifer Shipp

As we flew into Delhi on August 8th, I read about the outbreak of Dengue Fever happening in Delhi this year. I’d expected problems like Dengue in the south while we were in the state of Tamil Nadu in  Chennai. Before traveling there, I’d expected Chennai to be fairly “wet” and humid. I figured that mosquitos would be more of a problem in the south than in Delhi, but apparently, I was wrong.
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A Perfect Life: The Virtues of Poverty — By Jennifer Shipp
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A Perfect Life: The Virtues of Poverty — By Jennifer Shipp

In 2002, we were so poor, there was a time when we couldn’t afford to buy eggs and John had to bum change off a guy who was almost as poor as we were to buy gas to get home from John’s newspaper route (he had 2 of them at the time). That was in the first few months post-9/11. Our business had gone belly-up. Work prospects had dried up. I was pregnant at the time. And we’d just bought our first house along ...
Our Travel Medicine Bag for India — By Jennifer Shipp
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Our Travel Medicine Bag for India — By Jennifer Shipp

India presents an interesting problem for travelers. Few who go to Delhi leave without contracting some version of Delhi Belly. Diarrhea, vomiting, and general malaise happens, even to the most seasoned travelers. On our first trip to India, I was seated next to a young woman on the plane who’d never been outside of the U.S. Her company was sending her to India for a short educational trip. She worried ...
Buses in Chennai, India
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Buses in Chennai, India

Taking a bus in Chennai, India is easy. Bus stops are easy to identify, though each one looks a little different from the next. Most are located under an awning of some kind. Some have benches, some do not.

It can get pretty hot on the bus in the middle of the day when it fills to capacity, but that shouldn’t discourage you. The windows and doors remain open and so there’s usually a bit ...
Power Outages and Internet Availability in Chennai, India — By Jennifer Shipp
AsiaIndiaSouth AsiaTrips

Power Outages and Internet Availability in Chennai, India — By Jennifer Shipp

For us, as people who earn most of our living online, Internet availability is extremely important when we travel abroad. We worried about electrical outages in Chennai because we’d spent 6 weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal two years prior dealing with them every day for 6 to 8 hours each day. But during our two weeks in Chennai at an AirBnB vacation rental, there were only about 8 outages, usually in the early ...
Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai, India — By Jennifer Shipp
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Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai, India — By Jennifer Shipp

Chennai, India is not well known for its tourist destinations. In fact, tourism in Chennai is virtually non-existent, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a city worth visiting. There’s a vibrant culture alive and well in Chennai that’s worth experiencing and Chennai is a decent jumping off point for a virgin train trip in India, if you’ve never tried the extensive Indian railways. And there are some minor ...
Chennai, India — By Jennifer Shipp
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Chennai, India — By Jennifer Shipp

Chennai is hardly a tourist’s paradise. Chennai tourism isn't extremely common because there aren’t a lot of sites to see honestly, but the people are friendly and the lack of infrastructure actually makes the city more interesting to those who aren’t especially focused on pre-approved tourist destinations. Chennai is a busy place that’s unmistakably Indian, though the locals themselves feel that their ...
Twelve Cold Showers — By Jennifer Shipp
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Twelve Cold Showers — By Jennifer Shipp

Our vacation rental in Chennai is fully equipped with all the latest amenities. It has a reverse osmosis water purification system. The furnishings are comfortable. We have air conditioning throughout. The pillows are acceptably soft, but not too soft. And there’s a washer and a dryer. But one of the things it doesn’t have is hot water. Which means that every day, I take a cold shower.
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Why I Don’t Vote — By Jennifer Shipp
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Why I Don’t Vote — By Jennifer Shipp

I think and read a lot about politics when we travel. It’s important to know what’s going on politically in a country that’s not my own, after all, since I lack the social networks to learn about the goings-on through another person directly. In contrast, I try NOT to think too much about politics when we’re at home because it’s demoralizing to me to get caught up in the quagmire of raging against the ...
Bruised Banana