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Incredible Indians

2 Jul

Honestly, when we were re-introduced to the hot, dusty and busy India after our mountain break in the Himalayas, we went into hibernation.

Because once out of Kaza, it hit us that the rest of the country was slowly cooking its inhabitants. The rain had yet to come and temperatures had reached the high forties. It was simply too hot and humid to do anything. And that, my friends, was our excuse for barely leaving our hotel room in Delhi the last few days in India.

Because India is tiring. And we were tired.

After two and half months in India we needed a break from being tourists. And besides, it didn't retrieve our lost tourist spirits that we were staying next to New Delhi railway station. In the competition between wandering out into humidity that left us wet with sweat in alleys smelling of perfume de peepee, fluffy hotel room pillows and our new god, The AirCondition, won. And, we had seen Delhi before, and truthfully, it really was too hot.

So, how was India?

It would be most obvious to tell you about the crazy and wacky, the people curled up on the pavements, how the social mobility ladder is still far out of reach for the many, and how the caste system seems to be hiding in every nook and corner.

But, for every elbow in the ribs from a local queue jumper, there were people who went out of their way to help us. Like the girl who missed her bus to help us figure out ours, the couple who ended up giving us a 20 hour lift, the ones who came with us to ensure we got Indian prices for the souvenirs, and the man who left a nice and warm cafe to walk in the sleet to help us find our hotel. And for every holy cow munching on plastic, every aggressive tout and roadside littered with trash, there were bright saris and turbans, butter chicken and tandoori nan and Indians who were warm and welcoming.

Loved it or hated it?

Before we left for India, we were repeatedly told by other travellers that the country was a matter of black or white. “You either love it or hate it”, they said, “there is no in-between”.

In a way, they were right. India was all the extremes. The highs and the lows often happened juxtaposed. But in the end, there were more good people than bad people, more superb experiences than horrific, and more wacky wonderful memories than anything else.

And above all, India was never boring.

 

 

Leaving Spiti Valley, India: apologies for the oohs, aahs and ouches!

29 Jun

The upper reaches of the Indian Himalayas are among the most remote places on the planet and also the most disaster-prone. The hostile terrain, unpredictable weather and the dirt track that passes as the national highway to Spiti are a dangerous mix and many tourists end up getting stranded. This year we were two of those tourists.

For 10 long days in June, all roads out of Spiti were gone. The road southbound was washed away in four places by landslides and the road northbound was still blocked by moving glaciers. The winter had been particularly long and dreary, and the road north through Kunzum pass (4,551m) was still stubbornly white.

Spiti is spectacular, mind you, but the prospect of not being able to leave one of this planet's most remote inhabited places was daunting to say the least.

Our journey to the Indian Himalayas had come to an abrupt halt. When the snow and landslides started, we had barely made it to Kaza, Spiti's largest village. The snow had come as a surprise while we were still in Dhankar, a mountain top village where boulders had by then appeared on the road. Local drivers preferred to stay in their safe homes and we only made it out by hitching a lift with the Congress Party who were out electioneering.

Our original plan had been to go walking in the surrounding mountains when we reached Kaza. But when rumours started floating around of more incoming bad weather we decided to stay put.

We were already without electricity and water, but there was a German Bakery in the village, Kaza was likely to hear any news about the roads first, and above all, it would be dangerous to move about on Spiti's roads if the rain/sleet/snow started again. Even a small amount of rain could set off new rockslides.

So, like everyone else, we opted for shorter day-trips from Kaza while we waited and hungrily lapped up any news about the roads.

This is Kibber, a small village at 4,270m that used to be highest habitation in Asia connected by road. The distinction is now passed on to a nearby village – surely a rather unpopular one in Kibber..

With views on 5000 metre peaks, even a day-trip to Kibber was rewarding. Pity we were only left to imagine what it would be like to walk in these mountains.

The houses are traditional Spiti houses, with thick walls made of mud and often also cow dung to keep in as much heating as possible.

The road returns

We had decided to not take any chances, and only try the 4,500m mountain passes northbound after someone else had made it past the glaciers and all the way to Manali. On 21 June, the first jeep this year chugged along Spiti valley and across Kunzum Pass. The day after, we were in a jeep out of Spiti.

For the first dark hour of that morning, we kept to the left bank of the river Spiti. We averaged 30 km/h on dilapidated roads (which was rather fast, we would soon discover), with rocky inclines to our right and snow-capped mountains both ahead and behind us. Key gompa, mounted on a crest, was visible from miles around.

Before long, we rattled over a bridge made of wooden planks, nothing else in sight than mountains. As we ducked under a particularly menacing overhang next to a ghostly canyon, one of my fellow (Indian) travellers shook her head. “Why would anyone want to live here? On the edge of the world?”.

Then there was the check point at Losar. Although meant to record any travellers going up into the mountains in case anyone has any problems, our convoy of four jeeps were waved through. The mountain pass we were headed for was not yet officially declared open, so in the Wonderland of India the check point was rendered invalid. Spiti may have been the land of the officially missing roads at the time, I remember thinking, but bugger me if they were going to have any recorded missing tourists on their hands. Reassuring.

As we climbed higher and the air became crisper, the number of messages to drivers painted on the mountainsides increased. Yet, none of the “Life is short, do not make shorter” or “Please honk!” could compete with the sign just ahead of Nako further south in the valley: “For the oohs, aahs and ouches. Sorry, we regret the inconvenience”.

After Losar, a carpet of green appeared on the valley bottom and on the lower edges of the mountains. Like Kashmir, the Indians in our car said. We passed a yak, mesmerised. By this point in our Indian trip, my boyfriend and I had become blase to holy cows. But yaks?!

At 4551 metres, the Kunzum pass was the highest point we were to reach that day. As everyone else passing through this part of the Indian Himalayas, we got out of the cars to walk around the small temple on the mountain top. Believers or not, we needed all the luck or blessing we could get to ensure a safe journey.

Blessed by the deity, we continued downwards from Kunzum. As we winded our way down the narrow road taking us down the steep mountainside, we passed mountainsides still frozen in thick, solid ice.

In India, you see, they cut through the glaciers to bring out the road during summer.

“Do you do this with your glaciers in Norway?”, one of my Indian travel companions asked.

I slowly shook my head, while I pondered how to phrase diplomatically that no, that would be insane.

“No, I think we let them be”, I replied matter of factly. “I don’t think we travel through them”.

But my emphasis gave me away, making everyone laugh.

“That is the difference between Norway and India! We travel through moving glaciers – they travel around them”.

But to be fair to wacky Indians, it's not only down to engineering bravery. In the Himalayas, building roads is tricky. One of the youngest mountain ranges in the world, the Himalayas are not yet stable. Porous mountainsides also means landslides and, in severe rain, the roads themselves may very well plunge to the bottom of the valley. Add to that massive glaciers pressing on the terrain, and it's easy to cut Indian engineers and construction workers some slack.

The road rapidly descended to the valley bottom, where a few stone houses with canvas roofs came into sight next to the blue Chandra river. After hours on remote roads traversing several thousand metre high mountains and with the closest permanent human habitation 100 km away, the Chandra dhaba (small eatery) seemed like a magical place appearing out of nowhere.

And for many travellers, Chandra dhaba has been a godsend. Leaned against the inside of the stone walls, framed newspaper stories tell dramatic stories of how Bodh Dorjee and his wife Chandra have rescued tourists who have been helplessly stuck after a sudden dramatic shift in weather. For us, the Tibetan dhaba owners served up masala instant noodles and hot tea before we headed for new glaciers.

We continued on a dirt road that made us wince to the beat that only very expensive car parts hitting rocks can make.

“How can they even call this a road?! They should say the track is open!” my backseat neighbour exclaimed.

“In our countries, this is not a road!” my boyfriend laughed.

The reply came quickly:

“I don't think it is in our country either!”

After crossing another few patches of glacial ice and small thoroughfares cut out in the snow by JCBs, the road improved (everything is relative – check the first photo below!) and we found ourselves in a green valley packed with sheep.

But soon, we were again driving through water falls, rivers and past patches of snow and ice. And eventually, the three came together in a dangerous mix.

Holding our breath, we drove through stretches of road with waterfalls running under the glacier to our left. The icy water was slowly hollowing out the ice before pouring out onto the road and then plunging down the cliff face to our right.

The climax of the journey was however the rocky road that passed through ten metre high snow walls. The thrill mixed with real anxiety when driving through was confirmed on the other side, where a JCB was waiting and would be waiting for the next few weeks, to clear up the snow when it inevitably would fall down again.

For our South Indian friend who had seen snow for the first time the week before in Kaza, Spiti and Lahaul was surely delivering:

“OOOOOH! That was exciting!”

On the way up to Rohtang pass (3,978m) past new walls of ice but also potato fields, reflecting that we were getting closer to people, the driver of another car flagged us down. There was a jam ahead, he said, they were shooting a Bollywood film on the other side of Rohtang pass.

While a cluster of Indians had pulled out their cameras by the Bollywood stars, I pulled out mine 10 km after Rhotang as we were descending for Manali. Because there, on a small stretch of snow to the left of the road, were thousands upon thousands of Indians happily rollicking about in colourful one-piece snow suits and rubber boots. Ponies and yaks (yay!) tottered around with delighted children on their backs. Snow-mobiles scooted past flapping prayer-flags. Hundreds of local vendors and parked cars brought the passing traffic to an almost halt. We had reached “Snow Point”, a legendary strip of snow visited as a day-trip from nearby Manali by honeymooners and tourists.

After our spectacular car journey from Spiti, the slushy brown snow and short slopes failed to impress. But, the smiles, wonder and excitement of thousands of people experiencing snow for the first time did.

“I didn't expect this many people!”, I exclaimed, making one of my fellow Indian travellers burst out in laughter:

“Come on guys, this is India. 1.2 billion people. If only a few turn up, we're talking thousands!”

I guess that is it. With the chaos, diversity and creativity of 1.2 billion people and a country that fits all of Western Europe, it's simply hard to know what to expect. I didn't see Snow Point coming, let alone snow in June in Spiti, and I did not expect an 11 hour car journey to become one of my highlights from our travels in India.

 

Sweet & sour tones at the puja in Kaza

28 Jun

On top of the flight of steps leading into Kaza monastery were twenty pairs of tiny red rubber boots and colourful crocs. Undoubtedly, this morning's puja would be somewhat different.

The room inside was large, and because the windows and door faced the snow-capped peaks in front of Kaza, it was light and cheerful. The prayer was already underway, so we settled down in silence on the low couch running along the left wall of the room. Three rows of monks sat in front of us, all cross-legged on couches lined with Tibetan rugs, but with a narrow table running alongside them.

Yet, despite the familiar setting, something was different. Obviously different. For one, the monks kept nudging each other, changing places and giggling. Their red robes were attached with safety pins to thick puffer jackets and hoodies. And, the majority of them at one point gave up on following the prayer altogether in order to rather follow the bread basket around the room with their eyes.

In Kaza and its surrounding villages, it is tradition for the second son to join the monastery to avoid squabbles over land. The eldest son gets all the property and any younger brothers are hired by him to work on the land. The majority of the monks in front were therefore children, some of them barely reaching me to my waist.

The music did however ring a familiar bell. I recalled the cymbals and the drum from the pujas in the other monasteries. But Kaza was way cooler than a mere set of cymbals. The mantra here seemed to be a much more inclusive one; the more the merrier! Bring on the conch shells and the horns as well!

It was woooonderful. As we sipped hot milky tea saturated with sugar, the monks struck sweet, sour tones. After an uneven start, they eventually caught up with each other, only to let the music die out with one or two lingering on a bit longer. “It's like a school brass band”, I whispered to my boyfriend, who nodded cheerfully in agreement.

Prayer over, the young monks put on their woolen hats and left the hall. We walked towards our guesthouse to hear if there were any news about our evacuation from Kaza. On our way back, one of the Indians in our group pointed to the old monastery further up on the mountainside.

“Apparently there is an elderly monk there who holds a really good puja. But for this one, the entertainment value was very high”.

 

Stuck in the snow in Spiti

27 Jun

Kaza is the district headquarters of Spiti and the little town where you stop for supplies before you head for one of Spiti's more remote villages or the mountains. Or, if you were there in June this year, where you were simply stuck.

With one petrol pump, even if it is the highest in the world, a bus stand, a few restaurants and hotels, as well as a monastery, Kaza was not a place we intended to stay for a week. Even less so when it turned out that the floods further south had washed away the power lines, leaving Kaza without heating and electricity.

(Before I continue, I’d like to stress to the ones back home who might have followed Indian news and know that flooding devastated the Himalayan region in June that we were in the northeast of Himachal Pradesh. It was in the state of Uttarakhand that swollen rivers took down entire towns and killed an estimated 1,000 people – with the figure likely to rise.

We were unaware of this while in Himachal Pradesh – as we were cut off both literally and communicationwise. We only knew of the landslides isolating people in the hill state we were in. For us, the “evacation” was a matter of getting people back to work and their families, not away from gushing waters.)

The route back south to Shimla was blocked by landslides in four places, which the ones in the know said would take weeks to clear, and the road northwest to Manali had yet to open for the year. A menacing glacier was blocking the way just by Kunzum Pass at 4551 metres.

But there was adrenalin in the air (as well as snow, sleet, fog and the smell of unwashed tourists). Every morning, a new impatient jeep would set out, its driver hopeful the information that had reached Kaza was inaccurate and the road in either direction would turn out to be open. Though, as the eight, ninth and then eventually also the tenth Indian came back for the night, day after day, someone brightly pointed out, “This has become Hotel California. You can check out, but you can never leave!”.

Huddled together in the common room, the only room warm thanks to the sheer number of Indians inside with woolen hats and mittens, we spent the next few days “doing time pass” and learning other Hinglish phrases.

It's not like we had a bad time in Kaza. After the first two days with sleet, the fog lifted and the sun came out over snow-capped peaks in one of the most spectacular valleys on earth. And, “downtown”, as I once happened to call Kaza's main one street and which caught on among laughing Indians, was Babu, a cheerful Nepalese man who every day got up at 3am to make cinnamon buns and apple pies in candle light for his German Bakery.

But, people's vacation times were running out. Erratic bosses, concerned Indian mothers and frustrated colleagues were on the lines, whenever the phone connections worked (“I get no connection. We're back and beyond!”). Some had children they needed to get back home to. Domestic tourists from southern India kept postponing and cancelling their flights from Delhi and home, running up higher and higher costs for their vacations. Rented jeep drivers, paid by the day, were playing cards in the garden. (It wasn't all bad though; for many Indians, it was their first snow fall. Though by the time the snow turned to sleet and then eventually rained away, most of them had been cured of their initial obsession).

For us, it was a different story. Our plane tickets out of India were two weeks away (one week by the time we managed to leave). We would have prefered to explore the area around Kaza, but with uncertain rumours about coming bad weather and when the roads would open, we decided to stay put in the big smoke of Spiti and not end up stranded in one of the remote mountain villages. And, in many respects, being stuck in Kaza turned out to be one of our highlights in India.

Consider, for instance, a room full of extremely bored Indians and two extremely curious tourists. Name the question and we had at any time a handful of friendly and interesting people ready to explain and answer. Consider the opportunities to discuss Indian politics and society; among the just under twenty people we met, there were Catholics from the south, Bengali Hindus, Sikhs from Punjab, atheists and muslims from Delhi and Indians living in England. Later, thanks to the helpful and insisting tourist information they also provided, we ended up seeing the pythonesque border ceremony with Pakistan, had the super and original Moti Mahal's butter chicken in Delhi, and we had wonderful new friends to meet up with when we all eventually made it to Delhi.

Indeed, we were having a really great time. When we each got a bucket of hot water on day five in Kaza (day eight with no hot water in hotel rooms we could see our own breath in), we were even close to ecstatic.

 

The Indians were less happy with being stuck. As the days passed, the pressure mounted to get people out, or more accurately, to get the voting booths in. A local by-election was only a little week away and the electronic voting machines had to be brought in and set up in the villages.

With no roads, the only option was by helicopter. After offloading the voting machines, the helicopter was able to bring a few people out. And for the rest of us, it was a day of exciting time pass.

So, there we were again, sipping hot chocolate in the common room of our hotel. But then, one euphoric day later, there was one who triumphed. The Sikh family of four who had persistently tried for days to drive over the mountains sent a text message. This time they were not coming back. They were through; Manali, no wool and lots of electricity next!

And, by that time, German Bakery in town or not, we were ready to wake up without being fully clothed under three thick woolen blankets, to shower in hot water and not with wet napkins, and to not order cups upon cups of tea to have something warm to hold on to.

We were lucky enough to get a lift with one of the Indian couples we met in the hotel, who adopted us for the week and made sure we were updated with information about our evacuation routes (as well as regional and national tourist information, restaurant recommendations, recipes, invitations for dinners in Delhi, and the Indian political situation… to name but a few.).

So, thank you Debbie and Ashok for getting us out of Kaza! And to the rest of the tour group that made our frosty stay in Kaza well worth the wait, thank you for a great week.

Dhankar: better in sun than in sleet!

25 Jun

From Tabo, we headed northwest to Dhankar, another monastic village. After about two hours alongside the river Spiti on the valley bottom, a road shot up a steep mountainside. Following this twisting road, we leaned as close to the windows as possible to get a glimpse of what waited on top.

Dhankar monastery, perched imposingly on a cliff three hundred metres high, was hard to miss.

At one point in time, Dhankar was the capital of Spiti. Today, it is a village of fifty-one houses and host to 25 monks that alternate their prayers between the old and the new monastery. Situated at an altitude of 3900m, I was startled to see what the children were up to: “LOOK, THEY ARE PLAYING VOLLEYBALL!!” Yes, panting and catching my breath with the slightest inkling of incline, I found the children jumping up and down almost equally impressive as the superb mountain views.

But, as with our stay in Nako – another place we loved – our stay in Dhankar was much against the advice of all travel agents in Shimla: “It's too high”, “there is little to see”, “there is nowhere to stay”.

Well, we were thankfully reluctant to follow their advice. The list of misinformation they had dished out about Spiti was long, and more importantly, Mary had put her foot down. Our wonderful host in Sangla valley had shaken her head when we told her our travel plans (Sangla valley to Tabo and then onwards to Kaza, Kye and Kibber). Indeed, a recipe on how to miss out on the best parts, she told us. Both Nako and Dhankar deserved longer visits.

Unfortunately, most travellers spend only a few hours in Dhankar before jeeping away to Kaza or Tabo. And, as expected, the monastery guesthouse has no agreements with travel agencies. Manik, a cheerful stereotype of Indian hospitality, told us “we give no commission. The ones who want to come and stay, can stay”. Sadly, travel agencies snub them. And since the majority of tourists ask for help to plan their route when booking their jeeps, Dhankar and Nako are often left out.

Anyway. Back to the monastery on the cliff. From the monastery guest house, a dusty and narrow road leads to the old monastery. I asked Manik, and not surprisingly; just like the tourists, the monks prefer the old monastery.

But, only Buddha knows how long the old monastery will be around. It seems only a matter of time before the monastery, along with the rocks and sand supporting it, will tumble down into Spiti river and extinction. It is already on the list of the 100 most endangered monuments in the world.

When entering, a narrow staircase leads to the top floor, where you find a small courtyard flanked by prayer rooms. Inside most of them, cracks run from top to bottom next to fading frescos on the wall. If you come around prayer time (and you're a man; women are not allowed to witness the puja here), you can sit in with the monks. When we passed by, it seemed like the cosiest puja in Spiti. The monks sat huddled together in thick bags of sheep wool, sipping hot tea in a room that barely fit two benches, but that most likely kept in most of the heat.

Heat, you see, was a scarcity in Dhankar. Already on our second day, fog crept in and the air seemed unusually crisp. The explanation came the morning after when my boyfriend peeked out the window.

“I blame you one hundred percent for this. Have you seen the amount of snow outside?!” He paused for dramatic effect before adding: “Yes, this is entirely your fault!”

Right. Having almost melted away in Rajasthan, I was the one who had wanted to go to the Himalayas. I might even have said at one point that I looked forward to being cold.

Well, I got what I wished for. There was snow. Lots and lots of it. In June. For the first time in 26 years.

Electricity was also out. As you may imagine, we were cold. It was two degrees outside and no heating inside. After the third day of candle light toilet visits and three layers of wool blankets wrapped around us as eskimo dresses, we started to check if any cars could take us to Kaza. If we were to be stuck up in the mountains, we would prefer to go to the largest town in Spiti, where we could find working phone connections and information about what was happening.

At first, our prospects of leaving looked bleak. No one wanted to take us the one hour drive to Kaza. The mountains in Spiti are largely rocks and sand. When the valley escapes its normal rain shadow, boulders easily come tumbling down the mountains. But then, the Congress party – India's ruling party headed by an Italian (no worries, the Indians are just as perplexed as you are right now) – rolled into the village in two jeeps. With a by-election for the state government only days away (23 June), they were out campaigning in the villages.

Although originally looking for a leaflet, my boyfriend ended up getting us a lift to Kaza. We had to come electioneering with them first though, the Congress party half-way apologised, making my boyfriend's eyes twinkle even stronger. Although a bit of sleet was not to stop the campaign, the first few rocks that appeared on the road did. Within minutes of sitting squeezed into the jeep, Congress party visors on our heads, we turned around. The day's campaigning was called off and we were en route directly to Kaza.

But, also in the big smoke of Kaza electricity was out and we were advised to look for a room in one of the traditional mud houses that apparently have the thickest walls. Soaked within minutes as we left the car, we sought shelter and cinnamon buns at the German Bakery in town.

Kaza turned out to be a major adventure in our India trip. By the time we had reached town, landslides had eaten up the road in four places en route back to Rekong Peo and the mountain road over to Manali was still blocked by glaciers and had yet to open this year. We were stuck. But, stranded with 16 Indians in a hotel with no heating or electricity for a week whilst jointly plotting our escape/evacuation taught us more about India than what we learnt in the past two and a half months combined. And, we had the German Bakery. And, that is for my next blog post!

 

Drab Tabo with the grandiose monastery

24 Jun

Honestly, when I first arrived in Tabo I thought to myself, why oh why would I want to come here? And let alone, why would anyone like to live here? Yet, this drab little place is why many people travel up to Spiti.

Tabo greets you with a helipad, a few shops and a number of hotels in the middle of a barren expanse high in the Himalayas. On each side of the small village, rocky mountains sweep down with hardly a hint of green in sight. It is like stumbling into a giant quarry with a dozen confused households.

But, in a small compound in the middle of the village is a world-famous monastery. In 1996, Tabo monastery celebrated a millennium of existence. It has been a working monastery since it was founded; in the past one thousand years, Tabo gompa has not known a day without prayer.

Most of the monasteries in Spiti are impressively located on top of a cliff or a hill. Tabo monastery is on a flat ground. Made of sand and clay, the buildings look plain and boring from the outside.

But, on the inside they harbour some of the most important Buddhist art in the world. Duck inside with a small flash light and fragile frescos and clay sculptures come into sight. Some of the murals of deities and demons inside date back a thousand years.

After our morning with 30-year old Tashi who cracked jokes and served hot chai, the puja in Nako monastery would be a tough act to follow, even for monastery rock star Tabo.

We caught the monks in Tabo just before their lunch. Twelve monks sat cross-legged in the main prayer hall, counting their prayer beads and sipping tea. A small window in the ceiling let in just enough light for them to read their prayers. As the monks slowly read through their prayers, I realised that Tashi had given us the express puja. After twenty minutes, the cymbals and drum were still untouched. My boyfriend had similar thoughts. “I bet they don't skip pages”, he whispered, before adding: “I don't think we get tea here.”

We didn't. We did however get more of a show than the one Tashi put on. While he stumbled sleepy into the monastery, wearing his red robes, a hoodie and woolen socks, these monks were impeccably attired. Several of them wore large golden decorations on their heads and intricately woven shawls on top of their saffron and red-coloured robes. The chanting at different notes by 12 monks was also more impressive than that of a single monk.

Yet, I preferred Tashi's prayer. In Tabo, a tourist would every now and then move around the room to take in the murals, while in Nako it was just the three of us. The larger number of monks in Tabo, with the occasional one checking his watch or resting his back on the pillar behind, also made the Tabo prayer feel less intimate and more like a scheduled group exercise.

And, all of a sudden, that was it. Two monks suddenly got up and walked out of the room. Another quickly emptied what was left in a white tea cup. The rest of the monks folded together their thicker blankets and walked out quickly as well. It felt like a meeting had ended.

Perhaps that was why Tabo was my least favourite monastery among the ones we visited in Spiti (Nako, Tabo, Dhankar, Kye and Kaza). The monks left without a nod, smile or a glance in our direction. In all the other places, I felt invited to see the prayer and many of the monks invited us to tea and a chit-chat post-prayer. Though in Tabo I had the feeling of being someone peaking in, not being invited in.

Yet, as we were on our way out, the woman in charge of the small gift shop at the entrance and also for detecting any cameras, encouraged us to come back: “Now, lunch break. You come back two o'clock!”