Breakfast at the Taj Mahal

Dateline: New Delhi, India - Tuesday April 22

Good morning from India…o-dark-thirty here as we catch the 6:15AM train #12002 (aka the Bhopal Shatabdi Express) to Agra and a breakfast date with the always majestic Taj Mahal!

This is the only mandatory scavenge teams have in India, and of course I could not let my not son see the Taj. My daughter will have to wait until she comes on her own one day soon…

And so we devour India.  Ohh India, ohh India…We all know the first line...but not the last two. Here is Rudyard Kipling's "The Ballad of East and West" (1889)
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

India is hard to explain to someone who has not been here themselves. And India defies travel logic in so many ways and that is why it is fitting that we have such a long leg here. You cannot fight India and expect to win. All you can do, as conquers and travelers before us have done is ultimately just embrace India. I suspect this will be a life-changing experience for some...

India is not just a place. India is an altered state for those to open to it. India is a drug that pulls you back in, again and again. When you leave India, withdrawal symptoms occur. India is everything, and more, all at once. It is sensory overload. It is a visual explosion. It is organized chaos. It is humanity in all its glory, frustration, despair and hope. India is so very much more than just the land of turbans, monsoons, moustaches, palaces, flying toilets, mountains, bright saris, bougainvillea, lumbering cows, over 1,000 spoken languages, marigolds, and 40 types of mangos and an endless onslaught of people. India is bursts of sunlight and hundreds, nee, thousands of curious gazes. India is the home of chess, pi, the decimal system, yoga, cotton clothes, meditation, quadratic equations, non-violence, zero, the world's largest film industry, there are as many Muslims in India as in Pakistan, it is the largest buyer of gold in the world, and the world's largest democracy.  

And speaking of the world's largest democracy: The election of all elections here India is happening right now. But it is not a one day sale. Not with over 810 million people voting. No this election will be held over multiple phases between April 16 and May 13. It takes that long to facilitate all the voters in almost a million polling stations. Think of it…810 million eligible voters!  And this year, there will be over 150 million first time Indian voters! (BTW: demographically speaking, by 2020 India will also be the world’s youngest country with an average age of just 29. Think of that potential.)Turnout is predicted to exceed 60%. And the Pew Research Center survey suggests that 63 percent of those polled said they would prefer that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party to lead the next government, compared with just 19 percent who picked the governing Indian National Congress party, which is led by Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi of the Gandhi Dynasty--the Bushes have nothing on them. The main issues here are corruption and high inflation and slowing economic growth (only about 7% and not high enough to matter to the 800 million poverty-stricken Indians).

There are dozens of parties, all politics is local and it is dirty, down and low here. Bribes, booze, broads and band aids are the order of the day. Newspapers here will vilify you if you don’t purchase ads in their papers. An anti-corruption party the AAP offers a hopeful albeit Quixotian (sp?) challenge to the major two parties. The Aam Aadmi (Common Man's) Party has secured a spectacular result in some recent local polls here in Delhi and is fielding candidates in all of parliament's 543 elected open seats. But the main contest in the elections is between the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, the latest member of India's influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, and the BJP, led by the charismatic and controversial Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi--a man sworn to celibacy like the Pope I might add! Every taxi driver and retailer I have talked to here says the BJP will win…that it is time for change.

But I regress…back to India.

India can inspire, horrify, enlighten and astonish you. India is utterly heartbreaking from moment to moment. India is all about serendipity as the best laid plans quickly go by the wayside as you inevitably are challenged with adventurous detours, unavoidable mishaps and life unfolding chaotically right before your eyes.  

But most of all, India is personal, real personal, and there are no canned experiences here because each and every one of us deals with India differently. Every traveler coming to India has their own personal Darjeeling Limited experience. Some will embrace it. Some will be repulsed by it. Some will fight it. Some will try to conquer it. Some will be overwhelmed by it. But each and every one of them will react to it...and differently. I have often heard it said that you either love India—or hate it. And that is indeed the full spectrum. But until you experience India personally, face-to-face, you don't know India. And even when you have visited many times…you still don’t know India!

But we will all be trying to get to know nit a little better today.  

More later today from Jaipur.

Current 2014 Event Standings:

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

India Ho!

Monday April 21 –

Good morning…

See here, proof, we are all in India!


This morning we were luxuriating at the #1 hotel in Delhi, The Leela Palace New Delhi. Thank you Neeti. Thank you Harmandeep. Thank you  Saurabh and Sonny. Thank you all…we look forward to our five night stay!

Quick recap: we left Vancouver Sunday (April 13) and spent three glorious days beboping around Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Then we shuttled over to Seoul, South Korea where teams performed amazing site-doing scavenges from the fish markets in Busan to the DMZ along North Korea and every place in between. The rally stopped there in Seoul on Saturday evening and we took the day off yesterday (Easter Sunday) to reposition ourselves to South Asia here in Delhi, India.

Peer reviews were conducted during the transition here and the final results of the Korean leg revealed a few surprises. First off, no surprise that the teams that completed the maximum three Bonus scavenges did well. Teams that completed the more difficult (high risk/high reward) scavenges did well. And teams that were creative in their endeavors and open to serendipity did well and had fun. The team challenge of getting the highest in a Korean building was interpreted differently by a few teams—tallest building in meters vs. tallest building in altitude (build on a hill)—and they split the points.  

That all said, here are the results of the third of eight legs on the 2014 travel adventure competition (a par 4)
5th place belonged to The Ogopogos (Gerry & Phil) our 2013 defending champs earning 1,378 points;
4th place went to a newbie team, Bare Necessities (Bettina & Jonathan) who earned 1,470 points;
3rd place went to the steady as can be sophomore team Retired Traveling Chicks (Kim & Maria) with 1,645 points (who by the way walked 13+ miles on Saturday!);
2nd place went to Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) who are obviously highly competitive challengers this year raking up a whopping 1,843 points;

And the winners of the third leg, their second straight rally leg victory,are the dynamic duo of  Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey) who completed 38 scavenges in 52 hours and amassed 1,905 points.

Amazing job everyone! Event results are here.

But now the real test…daunting, breathtaking, frustrating, exhilarating haunting, sacred, dynamic, traditional, thrilling…I could go on and on…India! A difficult Par 7! We have never had a Par seven. That means the dye will be cast here in India on the second week of the event over the next 4 days here. The leaders will build an insurmountable lead, or one of three or four chasing teams will be right back in and we will have an amazing final 10-days.

Teams were given their scavenge hunt list for the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur, Rajasthan and Amritsar…over 100 options that should have them traveling in a classic travel triangle (never backtracking) in amazing India. The issues will be the heat—it is hot and draining; the crowds—they can be daunting (especially if you are blonde or 7ft tall!); the chaos—things take a while to organize here; and the bureaucracy—there is a right way to do everything. That and the fact that we are in the middle on the world’s largest passion play—Indian elections—where 815 million people are in the process of electing a new prime minister! Good luck all…


I will report more later, but the fruits of India beckon.

Some of the teams are blogging, enjoy:
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey):
The Odd Couple  (Erik & Casey):
 Silver Surfers (Natasha & David):

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

We arrived in India

Sunday April 20 – Happy Easter

Hello all. It has been a long day repositioning ourselves to India for an arduous Par 7 leg; the most difficult ever in the history of this event! We are tired and it is after 1:00AM here and it is too late to blog tonight.

So, just know that everyone is safe and tucked away at a great hotel here in Delhi. We meet tomorrow at 10:00AM to be begin this leg and we will have results for the South Korean leg too.

More later…

 

Rajasthan here we come...

Saturday April 19 – 11:59PM Seoul Time

More than a few unsolicited observations and random thoughts after spending our second day in Seoul.

• We know that technology advances faster than culture and politics…and see it squared here as the South Koreans grapple with tradition and jarring modernity. You see amazing juxtapositions everywhere here.

• Did you know that streets here have two numbering systems (an old and a new)…ironically, neither of them are practically helpful as our travelers have no doubt found.

• Korea Inc… maybe the world's largest company town. Korea employs 50 million and after USA, Britain, Japan and maybe France, as the most global brands of another global entity. Think: KIA, Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Korean Air, Lotte…Quick, name one Chinese international brand? Thought so…

• The Seoul-Incheon-Gyeonggi area, where we are, is a bustling 24-hour huge mega-city that, after Tokyo metro area, ranks as the world’s second largest with about 24.5 million Seoulites! A lot of people here…• Korea lacks any obvious must-sees (no Great Wall, no Angkor Wat, no Macchu Picchu, no Taj, and no Hollywood sign)…but trying to see it all here is simply not an option...you will miss many essentially Korean must-sees sites, and there are many.

• Bet you didn’t know that Korea was one united country for hundreds of years until it was liberated from Japanese rule in 1945 by USSR and USA troops. It was then unceremoniously split like Germany, into North and South...then the trauma of the pseudo-civil war inspired by Cold War politics…the liberation and the Korean War are the two events that have most shaped modern South Korea’s psyche. After the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement (which ended in a tie neither side really likes…) South Korea was entirely rebuilt from a war-torn landscape in the 1960s, thanks to ambitious urbanization projects in the '80s and '90s. It is amazing what they have built here and Koreans are known for their hard work, long hours and focus….in fact, according to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), they are the people of the world who work the longest hours…according to 2012 data, South Koreans work 44.6 hours per week compared with the OECD average of 32.8!

• Moral and ethical guidelines for science and technology are mostly absent here with the pace of STEM-based modernity and advancements (stem cell research, cloning, genetic therapies, STAP cells, M2M, etc) are ushering a brave new world. It was relayed to me that the dating pool here actually employs blood stereo-typing to find prospective mates! It goes like this: there are positive and negative traits assigned to each blood type. People with Type A are thought to be conservative and punctual, but they can be also obsessive, uptight, and a bit introverted. However, they think that cheating on their romantic partners is wrong and will thus be extremely loyal. People with Type B are a totally different story. While they have some good traits like creativity and passion, they’re also willing to cheat on their partners, lazy, and impatient. As for Type AB, they’re supposed to be cool and under control, but they can be elitist, harsh, and judgmental. Type O means a person is ambitious and athletic. They want big things in life, and nothing is going to stand in their way. On the flip side, they’re pompous and egotistical, but once they decide to commit to a relationship, they’re generally pretty loyal. There’s even a South Korean movie called “My Boyfriend is Type B”, a romantic comedy about a Type A girl who falls for a Type B boy and has to deal with his impulsive nature. So if you ever visit South Korea, you might want to figure out your blood type first—someone is going to ask eventually.

• When you are born her you are one, not zero. Shit, I am 39 again!

• The OECD has declared South Korea as the country with the highest estimated national IQ! Hmmm....one wonders if it has anything to do with the fact that students here study for 12-16 hours a day in school classes, with tutors, and taking supplementary courses. The BBC reports that education in South Korea is the best in the world...people here are their sole natural resources and they are investing a lot of time, energy and cash harvesting those resources…like their yin-yang flag, there is good and bad in that.

• It seems that in the cultural identity confusion, between Japanese occupation, Cold War hostilities and rapid modernity, that the people here have braced themselves with Christianity in big way (26% equal with the more indigenous Buddhists)—which seems to go hand in hand with the implementation of capitalism here (I know, don’t even get me started!) …or maybe it is a collective need to identify with their political/military savior (sorry) America? (Yoido Full Gospel Church might not have the largest building in the world but it definitely has the biggest congregation. As of February 2013, this Seoul-based church had close to one million members….and on any given Sunday (like Easter Sunday tomorrow) over 200,000 faithful will attend one of the seven services…and that’s not counting the additional 200,000–300,000 watching on TV in other buildings and satellite churches!)

• As an unpaid analyst, I would say that the Korean people are caught between a rock (Japan) and a hard place (China) with a half-wit deranged twin brother living down the hall...They are a tad nervous and twitchy, and hyperactive too... preferring I think to keep busy, real busy, rather than dwell too much on their unenviable geopolitical situation.

I regress…so back to the event…Teams all checked in at 10PM in the lobby lounge of our Seoul hotel on this wild Saturday night (one week now into our around the world event), were assigned peer review partners and notified that we were repositioning tomorrow on a 2:55PM flight out of Northeast Asia and mild climes to hot and saucy Southern Asia and the Indian subcontinent…Yes, we are off to meet our reluctant and excited destinies in India tomorrow, Delhi and Rajasthan to be specific.


More later…

Some of the teams are blogging, enjoy:
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey):
The Odd Couple  (Erik & Casey):
 Silver Surfers (Natasha & David):

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

A lot of Traveling Souls in Seoul

Friday, April 18 – 11:15PM Seoul Time

Good evening…a late night report from Seoul after a long, albeit amazing day. I would be hard pressed trying to relive any of our teams action packed days here—and each team would have a different story to tell—but I can try to give you a little sense of what it might be like to be here and participating in The Global Scavenger Hunt.

Having fully over come your jet lag by now and being fully acclimated to your new found reality of being in motion on the road living life to its fullest, you would have arisen early and headed out to the morning Noryangjin Fish market to price check out the biggest prawns you have ever seen while helping the fish monger put the escaping assorted-sized octopi back into their bowls. Next you might hope on the ultra-efficient subway off to witness the morning changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace, posing with the head guards’ rather long spear. Then it would off to the Grand Central station of Seoul, err Seoul Station to catch a 200mph bullet train (KTX) to Busan (Facetiming with their siblings at university) in the south to scout out ancient royal burial grounds of Joseon Dynasty rulers. This would all be done before a traditional Korean BBQ lunch while learning Confucian concepts with a local Korean, taking in a professional baseball game, a sunset and doing a soju taste testing...and your day of site-doing is just beginning too!

Itaewon night life


Busan colors...


One's that didn't get away...


A Happy Travis...


Geo Trekers (Michele & Vincent)...in disguise!


DO NOT mess with this palace guard.


Now that is a prawn...$5.00 a kilo!


Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) & The Wanderers (April & Travis)...plotting and planning


Heckarewee (Leslie & Dan) find a media pole...


Always more to eat and more to drink...

It is hard to explain this around the world travel adventure…one former participant may have said it best: it is like being a kid on Christmas morning—excited about opening up an almost endless array of new, bigger, better and more surprising presents….but doing it every day, all day…for 23 straight days! Thank about that. Philosophically, our jobs are to make good day’s great and great days simply unforgettable.

Anyways, every day is different on this magical mystery adventure of a lifetime…and for us the Road Officials too. The geodramas of the event pour over us like vodka on ice. We got a call this morning informing me that someone might have broken their toe on a late night trip (sorry) to the bathroom. Another team misplaced their one and only scavenger hunt booklet, while another had us figuring out how to get their lost meds FedExed to our next secret destination…without them knowing where we are exactly going!? A hotelier who seems to have allowed the government to commodaire (sp?) our fully paid rooms leaving us at the mercy of a local tout. While other travekers have to be daily talked down out of their Shangri-La Syndrome (that naive idealiziation of foreign cultures as magnificently perfect and naively idealize), as they never really fit the expectations burden.

Indeed, a little drama is dood stuff, albeit it a little tricky to address at times keeping all the balls in the air while walking and chewing gum at the same time…they don’t call me the Ringmaster for nothing. As for us, this is just week one and I only know what day of the week it is by looking at my pill box!

And so it is… as they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and we all are all the time.

Everyone is safe and secure as far as I know. And from sitting here posting this blog in the lounge bar while listening to a Korean-version of the Andrew Sisters cum Pointer Sisters, I have seen no less than half the teams stroll by with beatific smiles and mouths agape.

What to look for in the 24 hours? We will see if the top teams stay focused and don’t burn out. We will see if the B Tier teams can push the peddle to the metal a little more efficiently. If the Kings can bounce back against the Sharks. And we will see if that toe is really broken…

Until tomorrow and the 10:00PM check in for leg two, good night.

Some of the teams are blogging, enjoy:
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey):
The Odd Couple  (Erik & Casey):
 Silver Surfers (Natasha & David):

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!