Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Traveling light

Sort of
Delhi, Agra and Kathmandu

One of the many, many things preoccupying me these past months has been the pending visit of my 2 sisters from America. They arrive in Delhi on 31 October. I haven't seen them in six years.

Since one has been to Turkey and the other, to Malaysia and Singapore, I suppose technically it is not their first visit to Asia. Still, there is lots of preparation for them.

Now if only they had been reading my blog all these years, they would know most of these things. Anyway, I am now answering questions like

"how many hair scrunchies should I bring?"


"do I need to bring sheets, towels and bedclothes?"

In general, I have found travel in this part of the world to be a great lesson in how little you really need. But to answer:

Scrunchies are available on the street here. Bring 3 from home, you will probably lose two.

All the the grungiest lodges have decent sheets and towels. If you are exceptionally picky about towels (ie, need to have 100% cotton - I know I do) bring one from home.

"What kind of stuff should I bring?"

A great many, many things are available here now, particularly in Nepal which has a history of being much easier on the imports than India. But there are a few things that really make life easier:

1--hand sanitizer and wet-wipes. They are in stores here, but you will want them on the plane ride over...plus they are ridiculously overpriced here.

2--Something to put your hair back with. Yes, you can get this in the stores but do you want to spend your first night looking for a scrunchie?

Why put your hair back? It is usually too hot or windy to do anything else, and long loose hair on women is associated with easy morals. Besides, as soon as you get off the plane your hair will be sticky with pollution.

3--Ziploc Bags. These do not seem to have made it over here yet, and they have 100 uses.

4--Some kind of washcloth or sweat-and-dirt-wiping rag for your pocket (see #2). Also available here, but you will need it en route.

5--Since we are doing some hiking, 2 pairs of shoes only. A pair of Teva type sandals, and a pair of hiking boots. For some reason, good shoes like this are still unavailable even in hiking-capital Kathmandu. Reebok, Nike and Adidas do have shoppes here....but not the serious outdoor brands like Teva, Merrell and so forth.

What are readily available are a lot of Chinese copies - best avoided. Chinese fakes are fine for some things - but not for your feet. You cannot put a price on how your feet (and back) feel.

6--Again, for some reason, mosquito repellent products containing DEET are mysteriously unavailable here. Bring some DEET sprays (spritzers are best to cover wide areas).

7--A travel mug with a sippy top really, really comes in handy. Yes, you can buy it here; but again, usually the western quality is better (ie, local ones often leak).

I really like having this on long trips or walks round town...I can buy a mug full of tea and keep going, or sit on a boulder or park bench, or wait for a train, drinking tea and watch the world go by.

8--A non-material thing many people forget - actually two things. A whole bunch of passport photos and photocopies of your passport and visas. These come in handy countless times during your travels, for entry permits and all kinds of things.

Another very important thing: make sure you scan and upload your passport and visa to your email account or other online account. After all, if you can lose your actual documents, you can just as easily lose the photocopies. This way, if the worst does happen, copies of the critical documents are available in the ether.


Jennifer said...

How exciting to see your sisters after along time. It seems like just yesterday you emailed me telling me you were planning to go to Chennai!! And, already 6 years have passed!
This is a great post.
I agree with all items posted, though it's true hair ties are readily available. Even Indian brands of mosquito repellent are available. Most items are available in Delhi.. of course in remote areas maybe not so much so...
PS I am suprized ziplocs are not available in India as it seems every NRI and their brother take them home for their families in India!

Rada said...

You saved the most important piece of advice for the last? In my opinion Point No: 8 should have been first! :-)

Sirensongs said...

@Rada: you're right, maybe I will switch the order! thanks.

@ Jennifer: the real pity is that americans get so little leave from work, they have only a total of 16 days including the flight. Pretty stupid, so we have a very truncated itinerary that I will post.
--Yes, there are Indian repellents but THEY ARE NO GOOD! since they don't contain DEET. At least, Odomos never stopped me from getting bitten. Maybe the Indian skeeters have become resistant.

Ravi Kumar said...

Its interesting to see a foreigner's perspective of travel in India. I giggle when I see the kind of futile preparations. I know I will be one like them when I travel abroad. :)

Mridula said...

When I travel abroad (rarely) I too have such a list and on the top is photocopies of the passport and visa. But I understand that feeling of anxiety.