Amazing Race 13, episode 6: Delhi, India is hard work

After a few lovely shots of Bayon Temple the teams were off in The Amazing Race 13, episode 6 to Delhi, India–my old stomping ground.

Although all teams scored the same flight from Siem Reap, Cambodia, the setting of episode 5, once they hit the airport in Delhi, the order in which each team left the temple was irrelevant. Ah, yes, as they dashed through the airport, there were the familar rows of uncomfortable chairs just outside customs in the main waiting area of the building.

Nick’s predictions of “heat, confusion, and crowds” was exactly right. Delhi is that and more. Nick could have thrown in cows, cows and more cows for a more accurate picture. I was looking for an elephant, and later on in the episode–bingo.

Travel Tips:

  • Use the Internet at the airport to help you locate where you need to go at your destination.
  • Have a taxi driver wait for you when you are making a stop. It can save time later.
  • Ditch the taxi driver for another one if you continue to get lost, no matter if your driver is a nice person.
  • Use terms of endearment with your traveling partner like “Babe” to help diffuse tense situations.
  • If you’re female, don’t wear shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops in India. They’re culturally insensitive.

Cultural highlights and recap: First stop was the Moonlight Motors, a drive into downtown Delhi that made the Andrew & Dan team notice that, compared to India, “Cambodia was child’s play.” As the traffic choked the streets, hands flapped to create a breeze in the stifling heat.

The massive amounts of vehicles, cows and people that barely streaming forward gave Tina the idea that they had landed in Delhi at the wrong time for easy-going travel. How true.

Although traffic in Delhi can be overwhelming, there are hours when it’s not that bad. However, with their rush hour arrival time, I bet they were settled into their taxis by 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., one of the worst hours for going anywhere.

Getting to Moonlight Motors wasn’t easy for Terrence & Sarah, Kelly & Christy or Tina & Ken. Due to no fault of theirs, their taxi drivers had no idea where to go. Tina & Ken were still going in circles while Nick, Andrew & Dan, and Dallas & Toni were finishing their first task–painting the bottom half of auto-rickshaw taxis green.

There’s a movement in India to convert auto-rickshaw taxis’ engines so that they will run on CNG (compressed natural gas), a fuel that is more environmentally friendly. Taxis that have been switched are painted green at the bottom like the one in the photo taken by Avinash Meetoo. The top half remains yellow. The effort is working and air quality is gradually improving.

While the first three teams arrived at the taxi park when it was still daylight, the last three arrived after dark, an indication of just how long they were lost.

Painting the auto-rickshaw involved covering the parts not to be painted with newspaper, donning a paint mask and using a spray can to evenly spray on the paint–all arduous tasks that are exacerbated under pressure. If there are any indications that one should NOT direct the actions of the person who is your traveling companion, this segment was it.

The more Terrence and Tina cajoled and directed Sarah and Ken to paint faster and do the task a certain way, the more the two painters became frustrated. Ken stayed silent, but Sarah told Terrence several times to, in essence, “back off Babe.” The term of endearment kept her from going off her rocker, I imagine.

Andrew finished first, much to this team’s glee, but their lead was lost when they couldn’t find a taxi right away. That’s Delhi for you. Taxis, although plentiful at times, can be evasive when most needed.

Tina & Ken did the smart thing and told their driver to stay, however, their driver had no better sense of direction after Ken finished painting his taxi then he did before. Hopelessly lost, they finally ditched him for another driver.

Once the taxis were converted to green, the teams headed to the colonial style Ambassador Hotel to find the guard in the garden who held their clues with the choice of their Roadblock tasks, two more indications of how labor intensive India is. Pick a job, any job, and you’ll find someone doing it by hand.

The Roadblock four of the teams chose, Launder Clothes where the teams headed by taxi to dhobi ghat, a communal area where laundry workers called dhobis wash, dry and iron clothing in order to make a living. The irons are the old fashioned kind filled with hot coals.

As a cultural note, in India it is very common for people to hire a dhobi to do laundry, even people with a modest income. When we lived in Delhi, our dhobi did our laundry twice a week, although there was a regular laundry room with washers and dryers where we lived. Hiring people to do household tasks is one way to keep the Indian economy flowing.

Each team had to iron 20 articles of clothing that ranged from shirts to pants. Once all items passed inspection by the real female dhobis who supervised their work, the teams were handed their clues that led them to the Pit Stop.

The dhobi section was where the contrast between Western dress and traditional Indian dress for women was most apparent. The Indian women looked elegant and stately, even though they were traditional laborers. This photo by Meanest Woman is typical. The American women, except for Toni who consistently wears a T-shirt, are dressed totally inappropriately for Indian sensibilities of what is considered decent attire.

I kept thinking, Starr, Starr, Starr, I don’t care if you’re hot, put your shirt back on. Christy and Kelly have long ago lost a sense of where they are in the world and are wearing shorts. Even Andrew & Dan commented on their cultural gaffe. I’m not saying that these are decent women, they are clueless though when it comes to appropriate dress.

The other Roadblock, “Launder Money” lead to a fairly accurate excursion into an Indian wedding and the difficulty of finding correct change. The teams who picked this one had a complicated task of acquiring the right number of rupee notes in the right denominations in order to make a traditional groom’s necklace. The next step was to find a groom to give the necklace to.

The elephant in this episode was outside the wedding hall. It’s common for a groom to come riding to a wedding on an elephant. Horses are also used. Also present were horn playing and throngs of dancing people. The noise can be overwhelming, but the weddings I’ve been to are not this crowded. I bet this was a setting designed specifically for The Amazing Race. The elements were there though, including the dais where the bride and groom sits and what they wore.

What was missing from the Amazing Race scene were the tables laden with wonderful food.

Unlike traditional, typical American weddings, in a traditional Indian wedding, the bride and groom don’t get down on the dance floor with the guests, but sit at the edge overseeing the festivities. Both team Sarah & Terrence and Ken and Tina had a hard time locating the groom because the kept looking in the center of the crowd. Finally they found him.

(In this photo by Dahon, the groom is wearing a flower garland. He is waiting for the bride to show up. When she does, she’ll sit where the child is.)

While these two teams were searching for their groom, poor Andrew & Dan’s life as frat boys were haunting them. They had a heck of a time ironing. The dhobi wallah overseeing their efforts shook her head, almost woefully, but would not let up until their pile was perfect. A gust of wind blew half their clothes to the ground which didn’t help. Oh, I felt bad.

As the end came near with Ken & Tina, yet having another problem finding a taxi and getting chased by dogs, and Andrew & Dan finally finishing their last shirt, the suspense built as Phil waited for them at the Pit Stop at the Baha’i House the world headquarters of the Baha’i faith. Andrew & Dan came dashing in 5th place leaving Tina & Ken to pull up the rear.

Who won this round? Nick and Starr–again. Their lack of bickering and focus helps. Plus, I think they are used to winning. They’re wired to win. I still don’t want them to win. They are not underdogs enough for me.

What did they win? An electric car each. As Phil off-handedly pointed out, Delhi is certainly an indication that the world needs clean air.

Who was eliminated? NO ONE!

After how hard Andrew & Dan ironed, but not all that well, and how many times Tina & Don got lost because of their bum luck with taxi drivers, I would have been so sad if one of these teams was eliminated. This ending was one to tug at heartstrings.

Andrew & Dan were over the top, whooping it up joyous, and Ken was tearful, making the connection between the need for a comeback to win the Amazing Race, and a need for a boost to save his and Tina’s marriage. As he sat tearful, struggling to talk Tina gave him a tender rub on his cheek.

For the life of me, I can’t quite figure how why the two of them don’t seem to think they get along. Have they paid much attention to other married couples who are traveling together?

For their last place standing, they face a Speed Bump next week, a task only Tina & Ken have to do before catching up with the other teams.

I wondered why there wasn’t a shot of the Baha’i Temple. It’s shaped like a lotus flower and quite lovely.

Amazing Race 13, episode 3: La Paz, Bolivia, where a taxi can make or break you

The competition is heating up on the Amazing Race. Season13 has hit its stride. When the teams landed in La Paz, Bolivia, each team sped or wobbled along depending upon their ability to deal with the altitude.

Although most teams seem to be trying to win the race by just doing their best without creating drama between them, Starr has decided she doesn’t like Kelly and Christy and is out to do them in. The divorcees aren’t too thrilled with her either. I think it’s because the three of them all look alike.

Although, perhaps Starr really didn’t push Christy’s sports bra off a window ledge. Perhaps, she did. Whatever. The sports bra incident created drama that darted in and out this episode. Whenever the focus was off these three vixens, I was a happier viewer and enjoyed the other people’s company.

Travel Tips from this episode:

  • When traveling at a high altitude, breathe deeply, not quickly.
  • Keeping your mood light and being friendly can entice local people to help you out.
  • Walk in La Paz when the distance you want to go is not that far. It’s faster.
  • Read directions carefully. It can save you a lot of trouble and heartache.
  • If the person you are with is having a hard time breathing, be supportive and don’t bitch. You’ll have a better time and your traveling companion won’t talk badly about you.

Recap and Cultural Highlights:

The initial shots of La Paz were magnificent. The blue skies and mountains showed off the beauty of the city’s surroundings. Once the teams landed they were in the dark, literally and figuratively. All headed to the statue of Simon Bolivar for their next clue. The right after midnight departure time was more to my liking than last week’s 4 a.m. start.

Because the clue wouldn’t come until daylight, each person was handed a wonderful Bolivian blanket from a female vendor wearing a signature Cholita hat. The blankets helped pad the hard sidewalk where the team members staked out a space for a bit of shut eye before the morning newspaper arrived. In its pages was the next clue.

During this segment, I wondered what the Bolivians thought of this rag tag group of Americans sleeping on the plaza as if they were homeless.

As soon as the newspapers arrived, there was a flurry and group pounce to snag one. As normal, some of the teams immediately spotted the ad that directed them to their next destination. Southern Belles Marissa and Brooke were not in this group and appeared more and more worried as they were left behind, still searching.

The ad, specific to the race, directed the teams to Narvaez Hat Shop near Plaza Murillo. There they were to buy a cholita hat to take along with them. The blankets were left behind.

I would have had a hard time leaving such a souvenir, but oh, well for the chance of a million dollars, there’s more blankets where they came from.

The next leg of the race was a lesson in transportation woes. Teams that walked got to the shop faster than those that took a taxi. Keep that in mind if you’re in La Paz.. Taxis are not always the fastest way to travel. Ask a local what he or she would recommend. Knowing Spanish helped.

At the hat shop, the teams received the next clues with the Road Block choices: “Musical March” or “Bumpy Ride.” In Musical March, the teams were to walk between two plazas to gather musicians at each location in order to form a band with a range of instruments.

In Bumpy Ride, teams were to walk to Mercado de las Brujas, pick up locally made bicycles made almost entirely of wood–including wheels, one for each person, and ride them down the hills of the cobblestone streets and through a tunnel to the next clue.

Each of the tasks ended at Plaza Abaroa. With these two tasks, the action picked up, and it became clear how the teams’ different choices and the ability to deal with Bolivia’s altitude could influence their outcome.

Mark & Bill, who normally do so well with written information, didn’t read their clue carefully enough and missed the edict that they were to head to the bicycles on foot. As soon as they hopped in a taxi, pleased as punch with themselves, I felt bad. I like these two.

Sarah and Terrence also hopped in a taxi but, immediately felt that something was wrong. They reread their clue, noticed their mistake, and went back to the hat shop location to hoof it. This pair, a focal point of last week, were having smooth sailing except for the snafu with the taxi so they didn’t have much camera time. Maybe Terrence has stopped whining.

Only two teams picked the Musical March. Marissa and Brooke loved the experience, laughing and clapping the whole way. Again, these two seem unflappable. Their band played a fairly lively tune keeping up the pace.

In contrast, frat boys Andrew & Dan were morose. It wasn’t like they were on a death march exactly, but their lack of fun didn’t encourage the band members to step it up much. Their band plodded along the streets, playing their instruments in a tired sort of way, perhaps wondering how they got stuck with such complainers.

The bicycle riders had a more challenging time of it. The best parts were the funky hats and gloves the team members put on for protection. They were similar to what I imagine the Bird Man of Alcatraz might like to wear.

Here, two distinct team personalities emerged. Those who bitched at each other, and those who helped each other out. Ty was annoyed at Aja because she wasn’t quite fast enough for him and Dallas began to get annoyed with his mom for being slow until she reminded him she wasn’t going slow on purpose. The altitude can be a real downer. Aja woefully said that she hadn’t seen this part of Ty’s competitive side before.

The bicycles weren’t a match for the cobblestones and there were a couple of nasty spills. About the time Christy took a fall, Starr hoped that Ty and Aja would U-Turn the divorcees. All decided there wasn’t a point of U-turns quite yet, although Aja was happy to tell Christy later that Starr was out to get her. I’m thinking that they’ve been watching Survivor and are missing out on the fun of Bolivia. Also, it would have been in poor form, I think, to U-Turn someone who is lying on the sidewalk and probably skinned a bit.

Once the teams reached Plaza Abaroa, off they headed, this time by taxi to Los Titanes del Ring where one of the team members learned to wrestle cholita-style. I loved this part. First though, the taxi ride there was a stress producer. Depending on bum luck, some teams were stuck, barely moving, while others had drivers who found more direct ways. Poor Mark & Bill, still unaware of their earlier mistake, were in a taxi that needed to stop for gas.

Donning traditional wrestling suits, after handing a cholita wrestler the bowler hat, each member learned a wresting routine with six moves. Each move had to be done correctly and in the wrestling ring with a real cholita in front of a real audience. If a mistake was made, back to training before being able to try again.

These are the types of tasks I like the best. They highlight part of the culture with depth and give the contestants a chance to interact with people in a more authentic way. I’m sure the Bolivians who were part of this segment are still talking about it.

Although Ken took to wrestling a woman like a pro, his cape flashing as he slingshot himself off the ropes, landed on his back, flipped over the woman he was wrestling, landed on top of her, and eventually raised his arms and hands above his head in triumph, poor Mark had a time of it. Eventually, the hard work did Mark in for awhile. After screwing up the routine twice, he had to breathe in oxygen from a tank before his third attempt. Luckily, third time was a charm.

At this point, I’m enjoying Tina, Marissa, Bill and Toni the best. As spectators of the cholita wrestling matches, they’re enjoying everyone else’s experience as much as they are enjoying their own–a real bonus when it comes to being the perfect traveling companions.

Because Tina & Ken once again kicked it to the finish first. As they stepped on the Pit Stop mat at el Mirador del Monticulo, a park with a view of La Paz, they hugged and kissed as if all is forgiven in their troubled marriage. Maybe the trick to doing well in the Amazing Race is to have a personal history to work through.

The saddest moment in this segment was when Mark & Bill arrived at the Pit Stop to find out that they had a 30 minute penalty because they took a taxi way back when they should have walked. Because they came in 8th, it wasn’t hard for Christy and Kelly to show up before the 30 minutes were up. To Christy and Kelly’s credit, although they were thrilled to find out they were still in the race, they did look dismayed that their win was because of Mark & Bill’s loss.

What Ken & Tina won:

A seven day trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Word of travel wisdom from Bill & Mark:

When your traveling, pick a person who you enjoy. As Mark said, “Bill’s one of my best friends. I couldn’t have picked a better person.

Amazing Race Season 13: Excitement begins and new destinations

As much as I enjoyed watching I Survived a Japanese Game Show, there is no better way to vicariously travel than watching the Amazing Race when it comes to reality TV. It’s been months since T.J. and Rachel, our favorite hippie couple won the million in Season 12.

In last night’s episode, the first of the season, a different cast of characters headed off from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a pell mell dash for LAX airport and the first leg of their journey to a fortune. And if not a fortune, a heck of an adventure. The teams ranged from a separated middle-aged couple looking to see if they can salvage their marriage, to an older hippie bee-keeping older couple wanting to love the world, to divorcee women friends who think their bad marriages have honed them for the challenges of travel.

True to real life, the airport proved to be one of the biggest hurdles as some of the teams tried to find the right ticket counters and delt with overbooked flights as a result of standing in the wrong line.

First destination: Salvador, Brazil

Recap and impressions and cultural sites:

In the midst of gearing up for completion, there were friendly hellos and glad to meet yous when there wasn’t much else to do but wait for a plane to board.

Although Salvador, the first colonial capital of Brazil, is known as being a fun and easy going place, our eleven new couple friends didn’t have much time for frolic. From the minute they scrambled out of their American Airlines and United Airlines flights after a plane change in Rio de Janeiro came the unnerving task of making it around a bustling city they didn’t know. That was after the stress of delayed and over-booked flights.

Salvador looked like a stroll-worthy city with it’s gorgeous architecture and narrow streets that meander through markets. Instead of strolling through the bounty, the teams first headed to a O Rei Do Pernil sandwich shop where they learned they were to push a loaded vendor’s cart to Praca Da Se, a popular square where they would find the next clue.

The carts were piled with snack food candy that dropped off with the tiniest bump on the cobblestone. That was no wonder. From what I could tell, the carts weren’t much bigger than a balance beam, probably so that they could be maneuvered through crowds.

The candy with the most camera time was Blong (the pink and blue boxes in the picture). I have no idea what it tastes like, but I’m curious. If I’m ever in Brazil, I’m trying some.

Although candies fell off the cart like rain at times, the couples kept their cool for the most part–everyone’s still in that “I’m a good little traveler mode.”

Traffic didn’t present too much trouble as heavy as it was, and no one went the wrong way despite language barriers with the taxi drivers once the cabs were found. At least, I didn’t pick up on unbearable tension.

Once the teams delivered their carts, they were off to a military base to spend the night in the jungle with mosquito nets protecting them from attack. I assume there were mosquitoes, but no one talked about them. The jungle stay did point out that this part of Brazil is lush with rain forest.

On the second day out, the first stop was Pelourinho, the historic center that is the original town. Dating back to the mid 1500s or so, it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first details of the day’s task was found at a gorgeous church.

There were two tasks to choose from: “Hard Way Up” or “Soft Way Down.” Everyone but Andrew and Dan chose Soft Way Down.

Soft Way Down meant scaling a rope webbing down the 236 feet of Elevador Lacerda, a building with an elevator that connects the upper and lower sections of Salvador.

The view from the top was stunning, but like one of the blonds said, “I cant’ even enjoy the view because I’m about to pee in my pants.” Once the height factor was dealt with, scaling down wasn’t too difficult. They were strapped into a safety harness so no one would go splat and ruin the show.

The Hard Way Up involved climbing a serious off weathered stone stairs leading to the cathedral Escadaria do Passo on hands and knees. Devotees do this, we were told. Although not exactly fun, the task wasn’t particularly difficult except for the samba drummer who stood at the top playing loudly the whole time. Once at the top, Mark & Bill were asked the question, “How many stairs?” Since they weren’t into stair counting the first time up, back they went to do it again. Number of stairs? 53

From the Elevador Lacerda, the next stop was the Pit Stop at Forte Sao Marcelo, a floating battlement off the shore. accessible by boat. From the elevator, it’s quicker to walk then take a taxi as brother/sister team Nick and Starr found out. They arrived at the Pit Stop first due to their quick thinking.

For their first place standing, they won a five-day trip to Belize.

Eliminated: Anita and Arthur, the hippie bee keepers/blueberry farmers came slightly loping in last, but seemed okay with the elimination. How many people can say they scaled down a 236-feet building in Brazil?

The moral is, if you don’t want to come in last, you have to hustle. Anita and Arthur’s speed never revved up. The heat held them back, they said. Being from Oregon proved to be a liability for this gentle team.

Their words of travel wisdom: You can be assertive, but treat people well.

Travel Tips pointed out in 1st episode:

  • When driving in Los Angeles, use the commuter lane on the left. It will save you loads of time.
  • If you ever have to wind a vendors cart, or any kind of cart and things keep spilling off, wrap your jacked around the loot. It works wonders as Mark and Bill discovered.
  • When in Portugal, it helps to know some Portuguese like Sarah does and helped put Terence and her in the front of the pack.
  • Ask for help from local people. One woman helped one of the teams push their candy cart and because Starr and Nick asked
  • Spend time in Pelourinho if you’re in Salvador. An important detail, not mentioned on the show, this area was central to the slave trade. For its counterpart in Senegal, head to Goree Island.

Who I am rooting for: It’s too soon to tell. No one popped out as a total idiot, or root-for worthy yet. I did like that Andrew and Dan were the only two to climb the stairs. I’d have felt bad if the drummers were all set to play and no one showed up.

Why to stay tuned: Which teams lose their cool first? Plus, new destinations where the show has not been filmed in the past are on the horizon. The teams also go to India, one of my favorite countries.

((Photos from Amazing Race Web site.)