Ben’s Travels Update – 2 Years

Hello new friends, old friends, very old friends, family and acquaintances,
This is the final update on my long adventure traveling Asia. At last it ended, and I returned to the States on May 18th. I then traveled back across the USA and arrived home on the 7th of July. And just a little more than a week ago marked 2 years since when I left on August 12th of 2009.
To see my other updates you can go to:
http://travels.bagelsound.com/6-months
http://travels.bagelsound.com/12-months
http://travels.bagelsound.com/18-months

Last I wrote, I was in Madurai in the South of India, headed to Sri Lanka, so I’ll resume my story overview from there:

I headed up the East coast of India to Chennai for a brief and unpleasant stay. Very polluted and not much to do. But I did meet Chris, who I had seen in Kolkata 2 or so months earlier. I then flew to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Not much there either so I headed down the coast, past towns with really interesting names to stay at a family run guesthouse in a small area of a coast which was hit by the cyclone in 2000. I visited the very pleasant Galle Fort, and the resort beach towns of Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna. After having my fill of beach time and escaping from an over-affectionate monk on a hill, I headed up to Anuradhapura. This is where a branch of the original Bodhi tree that Buddha was enlightened under (that I visited in Bodh Gaya) was taken and grown to make another tree. This one on the other hand was much less impressive. So that same day I left for Kandy. A night there, and because it wasn’t so interesting and I was in a hurry to relax I made my way down to Nuwara Eliya the next day. This little mountain town was really nice, and in the middle of several tea plantations. I chose this place to relax for a week, doing various activities. I also hiked up and down strenuous Adam Peak, and through the gorgeous Horton Plains with a visit to the End of the World. I wrapped up my Sri Lanka experience, and headed back to Colombo to get my flight back to India.

Had a brief visit to the French influenced city of Pondicherry, and the hippie town Auroville. Then headed North on a long train to Delhi. Had a horrible time in Delhi and really began to extremely dislike my experience of India. From there went North to Amritsar where I met Katrin (we met in Chennai). Amritsar was an amazing place, the Jerusalem for Sikhs, and everyone was so kind and friendly. We had free accommodation and food, and the Golden Temple was beautiful. Witnessed weird rituals at the border with Pakistan. Then went up to Dharmsala/McLeod Ganj. Saw the Dalai Lama speak, and seeing him was interesting, but he either didn’t have anything interesting to say or the translator speaking via our tiny cheap radio was awful. Did a lot of nice hiking though! And I cut my beard again (finally). Then I went on a wild ride, using general seating on trains and getting really angry with many things. Despite difficulties, I made it through Chandigarh to see a strange park, and then I saw a mystical side of Jaipur between the hours of 4am and 7am. I ended up in Pushkar, where I spent an amazing Holi Festival throwing colors at people and getting covered in color myself. On to Jodhpur, a beautiful blue city with a fantastic fort, and quickly then on to Jaisalmer. Once again, many difficulties and unpleasant experiences, but managed to find a nice camel trek through the desert and spent a night out on the dunes. Then down to Udaipur, and had a relaxing time learning Indian cooking and reading. My next stop was Agra to meet up with my aunt Paula and cousin Karen, who treated me to a great day seeing the Taj Mahal. My final stop in India was a second visit to Bodh Gaya and my friends at the Bowl of Compassion school. I helped out for a few days there, having a wonderful time and even met the minister of Bihar. Then up to Nepal!

After a bumpy unpleasant ride through the border at Raxaul, finally got to Kathmandu. Spent a few days there exploring the polluted yet historical city. Spent a Nepali New Year in Nagarkot, and then saw the Bisket Jatra celebration in Bhaktapur, which involved tearing down a huge phalus telephone pole. Then to Gorkha, the old capital of Nepal. The palace on the hill was a tiring climb, but uphill seems like a common thing in Nepal. I then went to the delightful and growing town of Bandipur, that seemed to be getting more touristy by the day. The buildings were preserved to be in the old style, and on the final day of my stay there I got a beautiful view of the Himalaya range.

After a short stay in Pokhara, and being hosted by the wonderful Beigh family, I headed to the Annapurna mountains to begin a 2 week trek. I walked 210 kilometers over 14 days, reaching heights of 5416 meters (17,769 ft). Trekking was an amazing experience and I’d love to do it again. I stayed at these small guesthouses and was cooked great meals that provided me energy to get through each day (especially the apple pie!). I saw stunning beauty hiking through the peaceful tall mountains, but despite all this I managed to really injure my knee by descending the mountain too fast. So after my hike I relaxed in Pokhara, buying souvenirs for my friends and enjoying the last few days of my trip.

An unpleasant 3 day journey through India brought me back to Mumbai, where I gladly got on the plane back home. After brief stops in Bahrain and London, I finally arrived back in Boston. Saw my brother’s graduation, visited old friends, and sent things back with my parents. There was a bit of culture shock getting back, and I definitely saw things in a different light. Using various transportation methods, I visited friends and had amazing experiences in New York, Princeton, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, and after a last long Greyhound trip, after 19 countries and 650 days in Asia and another 50 in the States, I arrived home.

Since then I’ve been at my parents’ place, looking at jobs, possible places to live and methods of transportation. I’m started to get back into the life before my adventure. I will be staying in the same place for at least a while, but as always there are more trips of mine being planned.

If you have any questions about my trip, or need any advice for your own journeys, feel free to ask me!

I hope everyone is still well, and if I missed you on my trip back then I’m sorry and you should come out to California to visit me!
– Ben Douglas

Here are some links:
Travel Site – http://travels.bagelsound.com/
Travel Photos – http://pics.livejournal.com/plastic_fork/?sort=recent
The Final Map – http://travels.bagelsound.com/map
Pictures of Myself During the Trip – http://travels.bagelsound.com/me

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