Sheryl writes from India.

Part 1: Puri
Part 2: Kolkata
Part 3: Khalaigat
Part 4: Assam
Part 5: Trains
Part 6: Sikkim
Part 7: West Sikkim
Part 8: Darjeeling
Part 9: New Delhi

Home > Part 1: Puri

Greetings from Puri, India

Writing from a very hot and humid Puri, India, in Orissa state on the eastern coast. I'm traveling with a friend Anne, whom I met last year in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

This is a coastal resort area; lots of "hippie" types hang out here and it's a pilgrimage site for Hindus as well. Interestingly, foreigners are not allowed in the Hindu temples. Winter is high season and the area is full of Indian tourists at that time, though there are quite a few people here now. The beach boardwalk has been compared to Brighton, UK. There's a fishing village right up the road, so we've been eating delicious fresh fish and prawns. Living is very inexpensive here.

We're staying in a Raj era house, huge room with a mosquito net on a big frame covering the beds. Still getting bit, though, when we're out and about. Sure hope the malaria prophylaxis is doing its job.

We've been getting around via bicycle rickshaw, which is very hard work for the driver but it's an honest living. Also local buses and auto rickshaws. Spent this morning at Konark at the Sun Temple, a World Heritage site originally built in the mid-13th century. It was damaged by typhoons and weather and restored by the British in 1901. The carving depict, among other things, various sexual positions. Our guide explained it was a way to educate people. Right.

On my arrival, i spent a night in Delhi and had the morning to visit the Sulabh International Toilet Museum. They have an amazing collection of toilets, both historic and contemporary, as well as interesting historical information. But the main purpose of the organization is educate and provide vocational training to "untouchables" through collecting 1 rupee (about 2 cents) per use of environmentally sound public toilets. This covers maintenance of the facilities and funds the educational programs. Originally this idea was to relieve the untouchables from the awful job of collecting "night soil" and provide reasonable public toilets. Interestingly, at the Konark temple today, i used a very decent public toilet built and maintained by the Sulabh organization.

I met my friend in Bhubaneswar, south of Kolkata, where we spent a morning visiting Hindu temples via an auto rickshaw. We were able to go inside some of the smaller ones after removing our shoes.

Many people speak English. It's interesting, the educated middle classes often speak English to each other. I believe it's a status thing to speak good English and use it in public. So it's no problem getting information or directions.

We're taking the night train to Kolkata tonight. We purchased tickets when we were in Bhubaneswar. They have these great kiosks where you can key in your train number and find out availability and how long the wait list is for the different classes. We got a regular seat but were able to upgrade to 2nd class 3-tier sleeper once we got to Puri by using the "Tourist Quota." There are often tickets set aside for foreigners.

Well, so far so good. Will write more another time.