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Photos going up


Photos, mostly unsorted and unrotated, are slowly appearing in the usual place.

Made the standard Jaipur circuit today–Amber and Jaigarh forts, City Palace, the sublime Jantar Mantar psychedelic astronomical garden, and Hawa Mahal. Bundi in the morning.

Delhi; Agra; Jaipur


I meant “a” museum in my last post. After an exciting adventure finding the International Tourist Bureau at New Delhi train station, I got very lucky and snagged a 3AC ticket to Agra on the 5:30 a.m. Punjab Mail train. After the requisite rip-off taxi at 4:30 a.m., I hope to be rid of travel-planning-scammers for the rest of the trip.

Later that day, I did pretty well on the transport front–prepaid tuktuk (trishaw, autorickshaw, whatever…) to Humayun’s tomb, tourist-police-assisted metered auto from there to the Gandhi memorial (which I can’t spell from memory, but the one where he was shot and not the one where he was cremated), and not-too-bad auto from there to Connaught Place where I caught the Metro back.

I ran into a London-based Danish financial analyst in my section of the train: we talked for a while about economic doom and decided to split a car and driver when we got to Agra. I also got to get rid of my Oyster card, which had about L 5 left on it after I fled the terrifying queues at the Heathrow Tube ticket windows.

After dropping bags at my guesthouse, we set off for Fatehpur Sikri. The “city” itself was not quite as impressive to me as I’d been led to believe, but the mosque next to it was delightful. The touts there were not: they were easily on par with the best (?) of Delhi’s, except without any shoe-soiling.

The Agra fort was very nice, especially in contrast to the Red Fort in Delhi (which just doesn’t have that much of it left).

The Taj Mahal, despite our heat and exhaustion by the time we reached it, was… the Taj Mahal. There’s a picture to prove that I was there, but this computer doesn’t have any exposed USB ports, so it may have to wait.

I had a fan room at the guest house — terrible mistake. Sweltering. A clever way to increase sales of car travel? Probably. It worked on me — I have an (AIRCON) car and driver for the next 13 days or so.

Set off for Jaipur this morning, arriving around 1:30. Ended up paying for a huge room to get aircon tonight (smaller aircon room tomorrow will average out the price to more what I was looking for, in the Rs. 750 neighborhood). After late lunch, I went out to Nahargarh Fort (which is much more impressive as a lookout than as a fort–it’s been let go). Because almost all of the attractions close by 5 or so, I came back to the hotel afterward. I hope to hit the city hard tomorrow morning.

After Jaipur, it’s looking like Bundi, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer,
Jaipur (again, maybe, to break the trip), Pushkar, and back to Delhi
with a few forts on the way.

London; Delhi


Internet access has been less prolific and less air conditioned than I’d hoped, so far, so this will be in blurb form. I’ll do my best to update my location in as frequently as possible, though.

My hotel in London was ideally located for the O2 arena and not much else–about 10 minutes’ walk from the nearest tube stop. Somehow, it never rained while I was on that walk. Other than a couple cloudbursts, I managed to time the rain well.

I enjoyed the normal museums but also got to see my first West End show courtesy of the Ms: Arcadia. Enjoyable–I’m told not as funny as some productions, but I didn’t mind seeing it played straight (and playing into my mental biases about England).

I was saved from a middle seat and about a half hour of checkin line at LHR on my way to Dubai, ending up in Exit Class thanks to dumb luck. Emirates’s In-Flight Entertainment is, like Cathay’s, sensational. I probably don’t need to bother mentioning how backward United’s was on a 767.

Caught Frost/Nixon on the flight to Dubai, finally.

Dubai airport is awfully lively at 4 a.m.

Delhi is 9:30 ahead of EDT. No SIM card yet — if I’m going to be ripped off I might as well wait for Rajasthan (I’ll be there longer, and by waiting I’ll avoid roaming charges).

So far in Delhi, I’ve been coping about as well as I expected with touts (not flipping out… yet), about as well as I expected with the heat (dripping, all day), and much worse than I expected with travel agents. I’ve been a bad bargainer and walked out pretty frequently. I really need a hotel-based agent (so I know the transport will show up) I can trust (not trying to shoehorn me into an all-inclusive minivan tour by inflating prices for everything else).

After working on my jetlag, today I’ve managed to see the Red Fort and Jama Masjid (both near my hotel). Tomorrow I’ll probably try for some museums before an overpriced departure for Agra on Monday morning.

Hopefully I can get a lot of sight-seeing done early tomorrow — with no noon day gun to reprimand me, I was suffering the heat with all the mad dogs and Englishmen in Delhi.

Auspicious Beginnings


At around 11:30, I got a text message announcing the cancellation of my flight from LaGuardia. I called United and was reassured that the flight was on time before hearing that it was indeed scrubbed. United re-booked me on the next flight out of LGA, which would have delayed my arrival to London by about ten hours.

I rebooked through Newark (UA 7922) and am now faced with getting there at an unlovely hour. It looks like a combination of the 1 train, the PATH, and either NJT bus 62 or a cab should work out: I’ll have to leave in the next 1:15 or so.

Go East


London tomorrow. Delhi by Friday. Watch this space, where I may or may not get around to blogging. I’ll try to keep updated with my whereabouts / transportation info even if I’m too lazy to blog.

Hong Kong Revisited


This January, I’ll be making it back to Hong Kong for far too short a time. If you’ll cross paths with me, let me know:

4 Jan arrive HKG around 2 p.m.
6 Jan in Macau from early morning and then flying to Kuala Lumpur, overnighting there
7 Jan to Langkawi
8 Jan back to KL and overnight again
9 Jan back to HKG
11 Jan back to NYC in the morning

Pandoc OS X Package


Here’s a package (in .pkg format) I built of Pandoc, subversion r1367 (pre 0.47), for OS X 10.5. I have no experience with making OS X packages, but it works for me. Maybe it will be useful to you. Both files GPLv2+, of course.

f7efbd6f3db919141b0140b9921f64e7 Pandoc-r1367-osx.pkg.gz

Source tarball (unmodified from the svn):

9cbba4c10011a3beb45d0829079dcbca pandoc-r1367-src.tgz

Bem Bolado: Brazilian kilo food in East Harlem (CLOSED)


This review is a little delayed, but I must do my small part in creating a web presence for the scarce non-churrascaria Brazilian food scene in the City. Note: you may also find this listed online as “Bolado Bem.”

Note also: it closed :-( (some time before March 6, 2008)

I’d previously mentioned Brasilianville in Queens. The wonderful (if woefully Brazil-deficient) Nueva York alerted me to Bem Bolado, on E. 106th and 2nd: a kilo food/pizza place in Manhattan? Of course I had to check it out.

After a little tinkering with Hopstop it became clear that, short of timing the M4 bus miraculously (on a traffic-free weekend), walking would be the fastest option. The temperature was in the 40s, so I walked [110th from Columbus to 5th without being passed by the M4]. From the circle at the NE corner of Central Park, I walked down 5th to 106th before cutting across, under the MetroNorth tracks at Park, to 2nd. Things got “Spanish” in a hurry, but it wasn’t hard to find the awning over Bem Bolado (Brazilian flags help).

Unlike Brasilianville, there was no churrasco. The salad bar wasn’t there, and the steam table was small. Nothing I tried (rice, beans, greens, farofa, standard chunks of meat) was worth the increasingly expensive stamp to write Brazil—however, those few basics were there and they were… competent? workmanlike? something like that. It was definitely the highlight of my outing: I walked down to the Guggenheim after lunch and I’m not sure the exhibit was worth my waiting in line for my free ticket. So: tolerable, Brazilian, in Manhattan, and (the overriding virtue of kilo food) cheap. Minus one star for being out of guaraná.

The couple eating behind me waxed euphoric about the pizza. I wasn’t going to waste my effort on Brazilian pizza in New York.

See also: [menupages]

In other Brazilian news, Eating in Translation reports a Brazilian-owned coffee shop a mere 20 blocks down Amsterdam. I’ll go in a few weeks and hope they’ve sourced some pastry in the meantime.

Baltimore and my first Greyhound and Amtrak rides


Those of you who have already talked to me since the train ride may be worried that my blog is turning into one about railroad accidents (not the Torts casebook ones, the modern ones). I’ll try to write about some other stuff too.

Baltimore was a very nice break for me. I took Greyhound from New York, leaving an hour early (after standing in line for an hour) and arriving just barely on time. The driver (he and his bus were borrowed by Greyhound from a New Jersey company) was a bit of a Mr. Rogers character, and he played Home Alone II. Another first: I set foot in Delaware for a few minutes. I guess it was worth the money (thanks to the Chinatown competition on the route), but I’m not a big fan of the ticket’s not guaranteeing a seat on any given bus schedule.

I was picked up at the station by Alison, who has also hosted me in a slightly more exotic place. We launched straight into the much shorter part of the preparations for a gumbo party. This party included barrels of homemade gumbo (I’m glad I only showed up for the easier part, though), pecan pie, and… mead? Yes, someone brought homemade mead. It wasn’t bad, and the rest of the food was great. I don’t have enough gumbo in my diet.

The next day brought a leisurely tour of parts of Baltimore: a smallish local craft/farmers’ market, the Walters Art Museum, a communist cafĂ©, and the ridiculous Christmas lights on 34th St. [you may google for pictures, but they don’t convey the full ridiculousness] I also finally got around to watching Das Leben der Anderen, which was excellent.

In the morning, Baltimore’s Penn station provided a civilized point of departure with high-backed wooden benches and light Christmas music. I boarded the Amtrak #51 train, Cardinal service from New York to Chicago, which was running about 15 minutes late. A bit later, the train and I were sitting uselessly at Union Station in Washington for a layover of about an hour. I was able to sneak into the station and then back through the one-way exit with my fast food breakfast—try that with a plane. We left DC on time and were maybe 10 minutes behind after discharging quite a few passengers, including my seatmate, at Charlottesville, when…

I didn’t really feel anything, but I heard “Mayday! Mayday!” crackling from radios and the air hissing out of the emergency brakes. Apparently someone drove her 1993 Nissan Sentra through a lowered crossing arm just as the locomotive was arriving. The train won: the driver and her mother were ejected, and the driver’s 4-year-old son had to be airlifted to Charlottesville. Staunton News-Leader. Surprisingly, that only cost us 45 minutes (instead of the normal 2–4 hours).

The day had been mired in a never-lifting fog from the start, but after leaving a tunnel somewhere in Virginia the sun broke free, already low, and treated us to a golden pastoral view with dramatic clouds until sunset: the last notable happening of the trip. The train kept going, no more cars got in the way, and thanks to skipping a flag stop at Thurmond, WV I made Charleston only 1:20 late–not bad for Amtrak, from what I’ve heard.

34 Street / Penn Station


A lady in a motorized wheelchair—gray-haired, but not too old-looking—zoomed by in front of me, between me and the subway trackbed, faster than I thought those usually go. In retrospect, I’m not sure if she was awake; I didn’t get a look at her face. My friend and I exchanged raised eyebrows.

We had gotten off the 2 on the uptown local platform. The 2 was running local, as it has every weekend for ages, but we still needed to shift over to the 1 to get back home.

I heard a shout from an MTA worker. I glanced left: the lady in the wheelchair was perhaps ten or fifteen yards away, now between the columns (a couple feet inside the platform from the trackbed) and the still-present train. Then she hit the side of the train as it started to pull out of the station. I was uselessly frozen, watching, as bystanders approached but stayed back, fearful of the train. Awful snapping noises echoed, whether from her wheelchair, from the train’s normal operation, or from worse. I couldn’t tell. The train continued to pull out, and the sounds grew louder as it picked up speed. I willed the train to stop and didn’t think of shouting, but it would probably have had the same effect at that point. Somehow, it threw her from her chair, and tossed her horizontally toward the platform. What looked like the middle of her back caromed against one of the columns, a few feet off the ground, and she fell. The 2 cleared the station.

My friend ducked around a corner so she wouldn’t have to look. From that distance, I couldn’t see anything, but I heard people making calls for help. What seemed like a few minutes passed, with no professional help joining the cluster of riders at her side on the platform. One berated MTA workers for the lack of help, and said that she was alive. I looked away, too.

The 3 came and went on the same track. Service was unaffected. A policeman arrived.

After another minute, the disembodied voice of the MTA reminded us that the 1 was running on the express track. We went down through the underpass, and as we came back up to the express platform we looked straight across the tracks at the scene. My friend gasped and turned, scalded, back toward the downtown side. The lady wasn’t moving—but who knows if she had been before? The uptown 1 arrived, mercifully blocking our view, and we boarded.

Update: two news stories:
NY Post
If the Post’s claim about disrupted service is true, it happened after we’d left.