Notes from Konya, Turkey

My friend, Nobuko, traveller and guest-blogger, is reporting from the city of Konya and the village Sille (Turkey).

Konya  in November 2012

After leaving Cappadocia, I arrived in Konya four hours later. There, I was hosted by the couch surfer, Mr. Huseyin, a professor at a university’s drama department and I was instructed to wait for him at a local police station. When I arrived at his house, I had the pleasant surprise of meeting two other couch surfers staying there – Sasha (Ukrainian) and Yigit (Turkish).

Huseyin cooked dinner for us everyday despite his busy schedule. The three of us went around together for three days. The city of Konya is known as the center of Dervish Sema and for the Shrine of Jalaluddin Rumi, also so-called father of Sufism. Most sites are close to one another. The teaching of Sufism is almost identical to that of Buddhism and Hinduism, about which I had learned in India.

Sufism teaches:
1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river.
2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.
3. In concealing others’ faults, be like the night.
4. In anger and fury, be like death.
5. In modesty and humility, be like the earth.
6. In tolerance, be like the sea.
7. Either exist as you are, or be as you look.

The three of us went to a small village called Sille, a mere 8 km from the city center of Konya. On the bus, we met two cute 11-year-old boys. They kept smiling and whispering to each other as they kept looking at us and so we invited them to sit with us. They emitted such very happy and warm energy. If Turkey has more children like them, I think its future is bright. Meeting little angels like them always seems like a good omen.

It was rainy and cold, but Sille was full of warmhearted people. We were so glad to have gone there. We found a photography gallery / cafe and its owner has a cat named Sushi, because she likes sushi so much! We took a hike on the hill, which sits on the opposite side of the town. We enjoyed listening to the call for prayer. To listen to it in a village like Sille, especially with mist rising from the ground into the sky, and no other sounds besides chickens and dogs, was magical. Sille is also famous for its pottery.

On the way back to Huseyin’s house, Yigit proposed that we hitchhike. He had spent a month traveling all over southeastern Turkey by hitchhiking. So Sasha and I said why not! I hitched the first car successfully which took us about 5 km. Then Yigit hitched the second car. The driver was (yet again!) very nice and went out of his way to drop us off at the city center despite the traffic. This experience got me hooked, and I continued hitchhiking in the following days.

On the last day, Huseyin took us to see the famed Dervish Sema. Here in Konya, the devotional dance is presented to the audience for free. The whole performance is about one hour, accompanied by music and singing that can send a chill down your spine (I mean this in a good way).


Notes From Udaipur, India

This is Nobuko’s travel report. From India, with love.

July 2012 Udaipur: Second Round

So now a full circle has been made – I returned to Udaipur on 18 July. I took a night bus from Jodhpur which was by far the worst ride. Throughout my trip, the quality of taking the night bus with a sleeper kept declining. I don’t know why. It left Jodhpur at 10pm and I fell asleep despite the bumpy ride. But a fellow passenger woke me up around 1:30am and said that I had to get off the bus.
I looked around and everyone was gone. Seemed that the bus we were on had broken down and we had to wait for another one. We all sat around – about 2:30am another bus came with passengers on it already, but amazingly we were all able to get in. People made sure that I got a sleeper slot. Only after that, they sat on the floor in the corridor, where there was no seat. This was how all of us managed to stay on.
The temperature in Udaipur had dropped since I visited almost three weeks back. But this time I had to swat at mosquitoes! I stayed at the same hostel, Hanuman Ghat, run by friendly Babaji. Udaipur is well set up for us foreign tourists with bookstores that sell books in English, coffee shops that make great sandwiches (if you are missing western bread and good coffee), and zillions of money exchange outlets that offers a very good rate at 54 R, far better than Mumbai’s 51 R. I found the book Shantaram, a book recommended by many people.
I ran into the two Swiss girls I had met in Jodhpur, where we had been staying at the same hostel, then again here in Udaipur. They left for Goa the next day. After seeing them off, I went to a corner store to get toilet paper (no, I have not learned how to go without paper). The store keeper was a very friendly woman called Vidhya. She told me about a festival that went on by one of the lakes, and invited me to go with her on the day that was reserved specially for women only: No Gents!  Vidhya told me that it was done this way to prevent “gents going crazy”. Yeah, I understand and appreciate it 🙂
On the day of the festival, I arrived at her store and found her dressed in a very nice sari. Her mom, aunt, nieces and nephews came along too. The kids were so cute, and kept me in good company. The little ones swung from my arms and climbed on my back and made me into a playground jungle gym. I am glad that my body held up for such a roughing.
The festival was like a street fair lined with vendors, where people browsed and bought snacks, wind-up toys that made awful noises, and inflated dinosaurs, etc…. A garden, which normally charges an entrance fee was free on that day, and we picnicked there. Vidhya and her family brought home cooked food (aloo, bhindi, chapatti and sweets called sheel). Vidhya wanted to take a boat ride in the lake. We all stood in the ticket line, and maybe because I was with a big family, I was able to buy it at  Indian price (although I was ready to pay the foreign price). I like this kind of inconsistency.
Udaipur is my last stop in Rajasthan. All in all, it is definitely not a boring place to visit. And the forts and palaces are just so romantic. I thought many times that I would never come to Rajasthan again,but I now think that I will come again if I have a chance, hopefully with company to make it more pleasant.

Notes from Jaisalmer – Going on a Village Safari

My friend, Nobuko, is reporting from her trip to India. At the moment, she is still in Jaisalmer, Raijasthan, India. Jaisalmer is one of the major tourist attractions and a cultural hub in South Asia. Located in the western Rajasthan region amid Thar Desert, it is also close to the Indo-Pak boarder.

A few more days in Jaisalmer (The Golden City), July 2012

I got used to moving like a sloth and not doing much while temps are in the upper 40°Cs. I usually dip the sheet in water and then sleep on it to cool down. Laundry dries up in a mere 2-3 hours which makes it easy to wash clothes daily. After all, the hot desert climate is not too bad.

I joined two nice South Korean men for a Village Safari, a two-day trip. A tour called Village Safari does not sound good – like we are going to see village people like others see animals  at the zoo. But the tours are there to let tourists see and take part in the village life for a cultural experience/exchange. An old Indian guy told me that there was a time the villagers invited tourists since they genuinely wanted to get to know them.

But not now. The villagers, after 35 years of a continuous inflow of tourists, seemed jaded, and now are interested only in financial gains, not in any sort of person to person exchange.

But again, I think this is a natural development. A whole family may live on less than $1 per day and we come into their community loaded, wanting to take pictures of exotic people wearing exotic clothes and ornaments / hennas, singing and playing bewitching folk songs and music. Having said that, we felt less than welcome there.

While we did not understand what the villagers were saying, it was clear that they made fun of us – I realized that this type of laughter can be so offensive and hurtful. We left prematurely before our time was up. I wish they denied entry rather than receiving us, only to exploit us.

This tour had a camel ride included which we all enjoyed. Jaisalmer offers dunes – though small – and for this reason it is a better place to do the camel ride than any other places in Rajasthan. Also the price was nearly half (800 R) of what I paid in Bikaner (1500 R). I love sleeping outside. The sky was cloudy and stars could not be seen, but it was so nice to sleep without a roof above.

Jaisalmer Fort is such a great place to wander around. It is so small that one will not get lost despite the countless winding small lanes resembling a mini-maze. Jaisalmer has several bookstores selling books in English. I have been hunting for a book called Shantaram as it was recommended by three people on this trip. I found it, but it was a whopping 600 R – it’s not that much, I know, but when my hostel room costs 200 R per night, I have to think about such a purchase. I decided to wait until I go back to Udaipur. Instead, I bought a Hindi dictionary. But I am getting only 50% of its worth since I only can look up words in the English-Hindi part, not in the Hindi-English part…yet.

I have learned some words and used them when I bought an entry ticket – “Ek ticket (one ticket)” is all I said, but the attendant broke into a big smile. This made me want to learn more and use what I know, no matter how broken I sound. I also learned “Challa (let’s go)” and “Tola Tola ( or Tora Tora? means a little) which I love saying, because it sounds cute to me.

I have met a Japanese couple at the hotel. They have been on the road for an indefinite amount of time, drifting around North Africa – Middle East – India – South East Asia. I enjoyed their company. Many times I find the Japanese I meet during my travels to be stand-offish, and not wanting to hang out with other Japanese. But this couple was very open and friendly. They have mastered all the To Dos, e.g. eating finger food without spilling or messing up oneself like a baby who needs a bib (a.k.a. as me), drinking local water without getting sick, using the toilet without needing toilet paper, etc etc… I apprenticed under their tutelage for two days, but it was not so easy…

We visited a Haveli *(mansion) which had a room covered with mirrors and colored tiles on all of its walls, ceiling and floor. It was like entering a dazzlingly blinding disco even during the day.

In cities of the Gujarat and Rajasthan regions, one can hear prayers from mosques five times a day. It is such a soothing sound and it is one of the things I enjoy here.

* Havelis are huge ancestral mansions with open courtyards,  and were built in Rajasthan for Wazirs, i.e. ministers and landlords. Some of them have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and museums. Believed to be of Persian origin.


A Good Reason to Travel

The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience.  The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him.  He goes sight-seeing.

– Daniel J. Boorstin 

(died 2004) –

A Good Reason to Travel

So much of who we are is where we have been.

– William Langewiesche –

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