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Week-end at Mount Abu

The weekend had started well...

The 11-hour day train journey with BabySamourai had proved less tiring than expected, and we had even arrived half an hour early! (Since this is rare with Indian trains, we were not prepared, and since in most trains, there is no announcement, we almost miss the stop!) Finding a taxi to climb from Abu Road to Mount Abu had been very smooth, even at 9 pm. And after a 40-minute ride, we were at the hotel!

This is where the disenchantment began... The beautiful pictures of a large garden and mountain view on the website did not let imagine a small garden “under maintenance” right next to a busy road. The price of the room did not suggest the lack of a functional shower or clean sheets (the guy had to come back three times to bring us a decent duvet cover). Given the place I fully agreed when my favorite Indian decided to lock the door for the night. Although this did not prevent a guy from barging into our room at two in the morning! It was a drunk neighbor who had been fighting outside with his wife very loudly for more than an hour... When you have spent more than 100 euros per night, you have imagined a peaceful haven. Landing in a shabby hotel is quite a shock! Especially when you learn that breakfast is not included, even though you remember very clearly having selected the option with breakfast.

I did not want to let myself surrender to despair so, as soon as I got up, I looked for things to do in the area – it might be useful to add that I had booked this weekend on a whim, finding the word “Mount Abu” romantic. I turned to the Lonely Planet and Oh My God!

“The town is certainly unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan, a green, serene and welcome retreat during summer from the scorching temperatures and arid beige terrains elsewhere.” So far so good. “Gujarat and Rajasthan’s favourite holiday gateway, Mt Abu is a particular hit with honeymooners and middle-class Gujarati families; unlike the hill stations of northern India, you won’t find many Western travellers here.” Here it is either very good news (I have found a lost paradise) or very bad news (there is a reason why foreign tourists avoid this city). And then this story with Gujaratis... One must know that, according to the cliché, they have money to throw by the windows, nowhere to spend it (so they don’t have high standards in terms of accommodation), and as soon as they leave their native Gujarat, a “dry” state (where the sale of alcohol is forbidden, in tribute to Gandhi), they aspire to get drunk and make noise. The locals accept it, the cash inflow compensating the inconvenience ... And then, according to our local guide, as they do not see many tourists at home, as soon as they spot some at Mt Abu, they are more interested in the Caucasian passer-by than by the monuments. Which would explain all the requests of selfie I got...

“Sunset point is a popular and lovely place from which to watch the brilliant setting sun, though distinctly unromantic unless you find that being thrust red roses, bags of peanuts, or Polaroid cameras gets you into a loving mood.” Not the sexiest description of a place… In one day, we visited the beautiful temples of Dilwara –  where we were not alone! – all in marble, a specialty of the region; climbed to the temple of Guru Shikkar, the highest peak (1,722 meters) of Rajasthan (in the Aravalli range); wandered in an abandoned haveli in Alchagarh; and played Holi with a Gujarati family that was passing by. After this beautiful day just a tad suffocating because of the crowds, back in our sordid hotel, we decided that the two remaining train tickets available for the next day (instead of our tickets booked but not yet confirmed for the next to next day) were a sign of fate, and we shortened our stay ! But we still had a whole day to occupy ...

“Trekking. Unused by most local holidayers who remain firmly enchanted with the pedalo-and-pony attractions of the town, Mt Abu’s hiking trails are many and various, leading you in just a few minutes into untouched wilderness. Here, you will find tranquillity, solitude, wild flowers and birdlife in abundance – as well as the odd snake, leopard or bear.” Everything is there: nature, no Indian tourists. We booked immediately! And so, it is wearing ballerinas and ignoring the age of my son (3), I went on a 4 hour trek. And it was fantastic! A complete reconciliation with the region…

If I was to do it again (and who knows?), I would choose my stay better (perhaps the Connaught House or the Krishna Niwas, or a heritage property: Mount Abu was apparently the holiday gateway of all the kings of the region (Rajasthan and Gujarat) and each king had his own property, leaving behind a total of some 50 heritage places. I did not quite understand if they were coming all at the same time, like full summer party, or if in turns.) I would avoid a long festival weekend, Diwali and the summer (too packed), and the winter (too cold). And I would only go trekking!

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking


Beaten as his own game!

Some time back I was speaking at an event in Chennai, and, as the only foreigner in the crowd, I definitely attracted the attention of the photographer. I don’t know how many pictures he clicked of me while I was sitting, listening to the other speakers… I did not react. Rather I posed a bit, hoping I could get a nice portrait out of it!

In between speeches, we were invited to do some relaxation exercises, including working on our breath. At some point, we had to close our eyes, close our ears and do the humming sound. I was quite engrossed in the experience when I suddenly saw red flashes through my closed eyelids. Was it some supernatural stuff?? Had all my chakras opened and was I seeing the blinking light of enlightenment?? I couldn’t resist opening my eyes, and who was there with his big lens pointing at my face less than a meter away?? The photographer!! Now, that was slightly irritating…

He finished his show later on while I was sitting at my table, waiting for the conference to start again. I could see him taking selfies with his cell phone. And it didn’t take me long to figure that he was trying to have me in the frame! Followed a sort of game where I was trying to get out of the frame and he would adjust his position, shamelessly, for a good five minutes. I let him take his photo, just to get rid of him.

India,photographer,white girls

India,photographer,white girls


IndianSamourai goes to the dermatologist

India,skin specialist,dermatologist,medical tourism,acneFor several weeks, I had been more and more worried about a new mole. To be safe, the first thing to do is of course to consult a dermatologist. Of course. I asked my networks of foreign ladies in Delhi for a recommendation – my white skin (type 1) is not an Indian skin (type 4) so I'd rather show my thing to someone who has a little experience with type 1 skin – but no answer.

So I asked Google, or rather Practo, a Tripadvisor for doctors. I observed a few things. Firstly: there is a plethora of dermatologists in Gurgaon. Secondly: there is a plethora of highly rated dermatologists. And thirdly: there are not many of them who have studied or practiced in Europe/United States – this specialty may not particularly benefit from an experience abroad. And with this story of skin types, dermatology is certainly not the flagship of medical tourism in India...

india,skin specialist,dermatologist,medical tourism,acneTo cut my story short, I did find a nice profile. Quite good looking on the picture. But more importantly he had studied in London. And from the comments I gathered that he was the kind of doctor who digs quite a bit and look for the cause of the problem instead of rushing into the treatment. I had lost the hope these doctors even exist! So I immediately took an appointment. And there is was, at the door, tall, lean, fit, strong shoulders, weight lifting type, with cute cocker eyes that makes you melt, an type 4 Apollo! Which broke the spell almost as soon as he spoke – though luckily it was not quick well done charm - not by attacking cash on my not juvenile acne bothering me for several months, but in the following way:

- Him: Tell me, what can I do for you?

- Me: I have a mole that worries me.

- Him: Ok. And do you have a picture?

-Me (flabbergasted): uh... no... But if you want I can show you!

India,skin specialist,dermatologist,medical tourism,acneHe looked at the ‘thing’ from a distance (it wasn’t even between my thighs but above my navel), without any light or magnifying glass. Without touching of course – I was far from being in a scene of Savita Bhabi visiting the doctor. And he concluded by saying that I should check with his boss. I thus had to drive another 30 minutes more to finally land in the exact type of skin clinic I had been trying to avoid!! Very Indian, creepy, specialising in laser and hair (Indians can simply not deal with baldness, hair is just too important and in India hair growth and implants is a huge business since with fast changing lifestyle, this misery seems to touch more and more people). It must be my karma!

As for my acne – I had decided to ask the question, since I was finally visiting a skin specialist – the handsome doctor did exactly the opposite of what I was hoping. He started by telling me it wasn't much; and he must know what he was speaking of since he had a lot of acne scar. Flattering but not really helpful. If he had wanted to get the how and why before treatment, he could have questioned me about my hormone levels, the quality of my digestion, whatever, at least for how long this had been going on. Well no, he decreed that it was because of the sun and prescribed me... sunscreen! The sun! Not only my spots have begun their dance in January when the weather was all cold and foggy but even in summer, the sun is so strong that my vitamin D level actually plummets: we hide from the sun here! Anyway, I found a real winner...