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The inevitable finally happened.....

The Indian Experience - Wagah

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As much as you may try, preventing getting ill in India is near enough impossible. After several attempts to avoid the dodgiest food, on my penultimate day I was eventually struck down with Delhi Belly.

After the exhausting day I started waking up continually running to the toilet and drinking tonnes of bottled water. After being unable to throw up the last pains in my stomach I was left with the realisation that I would have to wait it out to go through my system. Luckily I had been prepared and had brought immodium and dehydration powder with me, but it still left me feeling completely drained of all energy.

Although it could have been worse - it was somewhat controllable and I had escaped getting ill through the majority of the trip. My final day had already planned to be a much more relaxed, with the only thing planned being the visit to the border ceremony.

The road to the border

The road to the border

After spending the whole morning in bed, ignoring breakfast, I arranged for a taxi to take me to the border as well as wait whilst the ceremony took place. With my dodgy bowels, and the cold temperature outside I was a little unsure what time to arrive at the border and I certainly didn't want to miss it all.

Not far...

Not far...

After arriving at the car park area, you have to them walk the next 1km towards the border itself going through several checkpoints and security searches. Having made it in good time, and flashing my passport, I was sent into the VIP International section of the audience and got to witness views into Pakistan whilst waiting for the show to begin.

The Indians are ready

The Indians are ready


Meanwhile in Pakistan...

Meanwhile in Pakistan...

Feeling rather ill, I was actually rather relieved that I would be going home tomorrow rather than entering Pakistan as I had originally hoped and intended. And so this would therefore be the closest I would get to the Islamic Republic.

Warm up

Warm up

After the shouting and blaring of music stopped, Indian schoolgirls were invited down to run a lap of the 'arena' to the border gates and back with a big Indian flag in tow. Meanwhile the less enthusiastic Pakistani side continued with their music blaring. And then, after some more dancing, the real show begins!

Marching

Marching

At the same time, although not actually coordinated with each other, each side starts marching their soldiers towards the gate trying to outdo the other side with the biggest stomps and high kicks in an elaborate, but totally unnecessary part of the ceremony.

The border gates open

The border gates open

The gates are then opened, with the security teams having face offs, before the flags are lowered and the gates are slammed shut again.

Face offs

Face offs


Flags lowered

Flags lowered

The ceremony that takes place every day of the year was completely mental, but it was a brilliant experience, that was totally worth visiting - even though I was feeling awful! After the ceremony is completed, the public, beginning with the most important sections of the audience, are allowed down towards the gates themselves for pictures with the guards and to take a peak into the neighbour from just metres away.

The closest I'm gonna get

The closest I'm gonna get

After the ceremony ended I headed back to my hotel in Amritsar feeling pretty exhausted. I then spent the rest of the evening in the room, getting my bits ready before tomorrow's flight home.

With my flight not until lunchtime, I had plenty of time to get some rest. But feeling ill, I ended up being awake from about 9:30am. Making my way to the airport, I binned my manky shoes for the clean pair I had been carrying with me and boarded the plane back to Doha. After a four hour flight I then had two hours back in Doha's beautiful airport before boarding another flight back to Heathrow. By this point I was really starting to feel drained, as although the time at home was still lunchtime, in India it was evening!

The whole of Bahrain

The whole of Bahrain

Having spent around 25 hours on Qatar Airlines flights in the last week, I had gone through a lot of the films already, so I eventually settled for the Swedish film "The Here After". After taking ages to get going, it eventually culminated with me finding out at the end credits that the lead character the whole entire time was played by Ulrik Munther! As if I had just sat through an hour and a half and not even noticed...urgh...

Eventually my bowels had held out and I arrived back at Heathrow, eventually getting back home at about 11:30pm on Sunday night - 5am Indian time. Work tomorrow would be fun!

India was a fascinating experience, with some truly breathtaking sites, such as the Taj Mahal. It is just a shame that you cannot avoid the slums or a bout of diarrhoea when visiting. I don't regret going, but as I sat there feeling ill beside the toilet at 3am, I had decided that yes, this would be my one and only experience....

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in India Tagged airport ceremony plane border sickness indianexperience Comments (0)

Political Cyprus

Cyprus - Nicosia & Famagusta

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Although the first day going to Kourion was busy, it was the second day that was the real exploration day of the holiday.

Setting my alarm for 6:20am (despite it being a holiday) I got up and ready, and then went up for breakfast as soon as it opened. Eating as fast as I can, coming back down to grab my bits, I then legged it through the McDonalds next door to the bus stop to grab the 8am bus to Nicosia. Luckily I had enough time to spare, as after arriving at the bus stop I found that for the second day running, the stop had moved around the corner. Nevertheless I made it, and just over an hour later I had arrived in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

Nicosia is the last divided capital city in the world. The southern side being the Greek Cypriot side, whilst the north side is the Turkish Cypriot side. Closed until 2008, it is now possible to cross in the city centre and visit both halves.

Where North meets South

Where North meets South

I started by city exploration by walking along the edge of the UN controlled buffer zone between the two sides, walking along the only part where both sides meet - the Roccas Bastion, where I noticed I was being watched from the north side, and I then walked along the boundary line seeing the entrance to the UN headquarters, as well as a watchtower, reminiscent of pictures I had seen of Cold War Berlin.

UN Buffer Zone

UN Buffer Zone


Ledras Street

Ledras Street

Heading back towards the centre, I walked along the city walls on the south side, before heading through the winding streets towards Ledras Street - the city's main shopping and pedestrianised street. Heading up the Shacolas Tower I was instantly given views over the whole city and beyond, particularly at the northern side, and in the Kyrenian mountains the large Northern Cypriot flag carved into it. This flag is 450x200 metres in size, and despite being located 12km away, is clearly visible from the capital.

The TRNC flag

The TRNC flag


Views of the North

Views of the North

After taking a view over into the north side, it was now time for me to enter it, and walking back down the very westernised Ledras street, with it's posh shops and very European feel, it was not long before I made it to the border crossing. Handing in my passport to be checked I then walked the short distance through the UN buffer zone and reached the north side. Almost immediately the difference between them becomes clear. Not only do the languages and currencies change, but the whole feel of the area. This was not just a different land (my 60th, incidentally), but a different world. The streets are windy, shops bursting with products, and secular Islamic culture beaming from every angle.

Northern side

Northern side


Inside the converted mosque

Inside the converted mosque

Taking a walk around the, in my opinion, far more interesting side, I took a look inside the mosque, the bazaar, and the caravansarai.

Büyük Han

Büyük Han

Having explored the centre of the city, I continued north, walking towards the Kyrenia gate and the Whirling Dervish museum before making my way to the bus station.

Whirling Dervish Museum

Whirling Dervish Museum

After working out how, I purchased my ticket for Famagusta, and once again hit culture shock getting on the bus. Whilst in the south the intercity buses are spacious coaches, in the north they are minivans, that when the seats are full, pull down expandable seats appear in the middle that block in everyone behind! Thankfully I was staying until the end so didn't have to ask for people to get up!

An hour later, and after driving past a huge mosque in construction, I arrived in Famagusta, on the eastern coast, just north of the UN buffer zone at Dhekelia. The city was historically one of the most important in the region, with it's port being the closest to the Middle East. Arriving just outside the city walls, I walked past the huge dilapidated city walls through the Land Gate, and into the city centre, walking past historical ruins before arriving at one of the most peculiar sights in the world - a former Gothic Cathedral, with its top blown off, and a minaret added to the side converted now into a mosque!

Former cathedral

Former cathedral

Walking towards the city walls again, I climbed up the stairs to get a view of the port on the other side, before walking back towards the Canbulat Gate, and the memorial to the civil war.

Varosha

Varosha

Famagusta was in the 60s one of the world's top resorts, with the majority of people staying in the tourist resort of Varosha. Located just to the south of the city centre, and mostly populated by Greek Cypriots, when the island became split, the northern side, who now controlled Varosha closed it off from the world, creating a ghost resort falling apart and stuck in 1974. One of the most peculiar things about this resort, is the fact that a handful of hotels and restaurants on the boundary of the resort remain open, but to get to them means travelling along a single coastal road from the city centre, that on both sides contain military buildings where photos are not allowed. Therefore these hotels just north of Varosha are effectively closed off from the rest of Famagusta with just the beach and sea for company. Not my ideal holiday destination, but certainly an interesting experience. Walking back towards the city centre along the cracked roads it was easy to see how this would have been a lovely resort many years ago, but due to a lack of investment has since become dilapidated and shabby.

Varosha

Varosha

Having now seen all I had wanted in the north, it was time to make my return to Nicosia, and eventually Larnaca. Having arrived back in good time in the capital I quickly hurried through the city centre to catch my bus, leaving from a very eastern world straight into western in a matter of a minute or so. An experience previously only witnessed in Sarajevo.

Despite spending over four hours on buses, travelling 140 miles, and getting back to Larnaca almost 10 hours after leaving, it was a brilliant, if tiring day. So much history and culture to see that is highly recommended.

Luckily my final full day was going to be my 'relaxed' day, and I could at last have a lie in!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Cyprus Tagged mosque beach religion history island cathedral border war islam Comments (0)

"The whole of the Bosnian coast in one picture"

#BalkanBants - Mostar

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Bosnia was the only country in which we visited two cities, travelling via the beautiful city of Mostar on our way from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik in Croatia.

Arriving in mid morning after travelling through the stunningly beautiful Bosnian countryside, Johan and I spent just a few hours in Herzegovina's largest city, where we made our way down towards the icon of the city - the Stari Most, or Old Bridge.

Stari Most

Stari Most

As we travelled south from the bus station in the 40˚C heat with backpacks in tow, we first reached the beautiful Kujundžiluk, or Old Bazaar, where, between the tourists, we first gained our view of the Old Bridge, that had famously been rebuilt just ten years previously after destruction during the Bosnian War in 1993.

Old Bazaar

Old Bazaar

Carrying on a little bit further and we crossed over the bridge itself with picture postcard views of the valley of the local area. We then hit the other side of the bridge and walked down to the riverbank below the bridge for a rest with beautiful views and a photo session.

View over the city from the bridge

View over the city from the bridge

Cooling off we then walked back towards the bus station via the Crooked Bridge and rest of the Old Bazaar, and then carried on our Balkan Tour towards Dubrovnik.

The whole of the Bosnian coast in one picture

The whole of the Bosnian coast in one picture

Being held up at the first border over a pack of leaflets, the thought of travelling back into Bosnia and then Croatia again as we crossed through Neum didn't exactly fill me with pleasure but luckily after stopping off for a photo of the whole of the Bosnian coastline we made it through relatively quickly and found ourselves in the tourist hotspot of Dubrovnik.

Mostar was incredibly beautiful and despite being small is definitely worth the trip, especially as it is doable as a day trip from both Dubrovnik and Split.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged history border war balkanbants Comments (0)

"I'm just going to ask you a few questions..."

Holy Land - Eilat

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The border

The border

Leaving Jordan was no problem, but coming back into Israel after walking across no man's land was not the case. As the lady at the border gate did a check through my passport there she saw my stamp from the UAE. Before I knew it, I was asked to place my bag down at the side, walk through the security scanner and sit on the bench on the side. Whilst she called for back up on her walkie-talkie and the guy with the huge gun turned up, I sat there and waited....eventually after showing my passport to her colleague another lady came and "asked me a few questions".

Where was I going in Israel? How long had I been in Jordan? How long was I going to be in Israel? Where had I already been? Who did I know in Israel? Where do they live? Who did I know in Jordan? With who else was I travelling? Why did I come to Israel? Why did I go to Jordan? Where do I live in England? What is my job in England? What did I study? What is the relevance of that to my job? Can I just clarify everything all over again?.....Even if I had written an autobiography on my life she still would have found something to ask me!

But I remained calm, answered her questions, for she was only doing her job, and she then escorted me to the security check, when she became more human and asked me if I liked Petra - yes, I said, it was still worth the effort of getting there. After passing this, I was then finally allowed to make my way to the border control. "Why are you coming to Israel" said the border guard - "Oh for God's sake...here we go again, can't she just ask the lady I just told my life story to?!" I thought to myself as I rolled my eyes..."I am holidaying" I said, before she asked me the standard, "who do I know in Israel?", "Where do they live?" questions. She then asked me what my job was...as I said admin. "Oh, computers?". I nodded "Why do computer people always travel alone?". As I laughed this off I then got the standard "Welcome to Israel" as I was handed my passport and allowed to re-enter the country and continue my journey.

The Gulf of Aqaba

The Gulf of Aqaba

On my final full day, I woke up in Eilat, and took a little tour of the city, heading down to the beach, before taking the bus back up to Tel Aviv.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged sea border holyland Comments (0)

Britain in the Sun

Strait of Gibraltar - Gibraltar

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Going into Gibraltar was a bizarre experience, and despite crossing many borders before, this felt completely different. My hotel was just a 5 minute walk from the border, but as you get closer to the border itself you pass a massive car park where many Spanish day trippers park and walk into the territory. The closest thing I can relate it to is entering a theme park. As you get closer, the crowd gets bigger and bigger, and in the distance you can see the place that you are entering (although rather than the rides, this was the Rock itself). You then whip out your passport and without stopping walk straight into a different world.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar

Gibraltar to me felt very much like a colony, and I imagine it would be very similar to how Colonial India must've been (although obviously with Spanish features, rather than Indian). Despite Gibraltarians being overly British with more Union Jacks flying than I see in London, there is still a very Spanish presence, particularly in regards to the language heard on the street. For instance one local was talking to her child in English, except using the word "¡Vale!" (Spanish for 'ok') in mid flow. Going to the supermarket I then assumed the woman serving me was a worker from Spain, as she spoke what seemed like native Spanish to the lady in front of me, however once serving me she then spoke to me in the clearest native English I've ever heard!

Crossing the Runway

Crossing the Runway

Crossing the airport runway just minutes after a plan had landed on it, I made my way into Gibraltar Town once again and headed over to the Rock itself. I had already decided the best thing to do would be to take the cable car up, and walk back down - with the ticket lady even telling me "Yes, this is the best thing to do", despite the fact she could have sold me a more expensive return ticket!

The Rock

The Rock

I then arrived right at the top of the Rock, with superb views of the surrounding area, and then walked around seeing the Monkeys and going into the caves and forts that told the story of the importance of the Rock throughout history.

Monkeys

Monkeys

Eventually arriving at the bottom, back in the town, I did a little more souvenir shopping, ate and then headed back to my hotel room. However this is where my biggest mistake of the holiday had become clear - Despite heading over to Africa, I had forgotten all about sun cream!

In my defence, the weather at home was pretty miserable, I was only going for a few days, and I was not sunbathing! However my nose by the last night had become so scorched that a blister had developed and burst, leaking all night, and as I was sunburnt on every side of my face, there was no comfortable position to lie, added to that I was absolutely shattered, and there was a fly in my room had decided to land on my face every time I was almost asleep (oh, and as I said, it didn't get dark until really late at night), you can imagine the quality of my sleep that night!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged hill border gibraltar Comments (0)

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