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1 Month In India, New Delhi & Uttarakhand.

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HI,

I am travelling to India in the middle of September. I am a 24 year old female and I'm going it alone.

I arrive into New Delhi first where I'll probably stay a day or two just to recover from the flight! I can see that it would make sense to book a hotel/hostel before I arrive, but having said that I am most definitely on a budget and feel like I may be able to get it a lot cheaper on foot. Can anyone recommend anywhere mid range i suppose, comfortable enough but still quite cheap! I'm guessing about £10 a night is mid-range is that correct?

After that I'm heading up to Uttarakhand, I know this is the region I want but again I have done very little research. Can anyone recommend A; beautiful, safe and not overly touristy places to go B; best travel methods & rough costs C; rough daily living expenses in the region. D; rough climate in the area?!

Any input would be greatly appreciated as I'm starting to become very aware of my lack of preparation and don't want it to spoil my trip!

Thanks

Sadie

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    You have lots of time to read and research this area before you go in September. Start by buying or borrowing several guidebooks. Do a search here and on Thorntree for Uttarakhand. Check weather on one of the weather websites, I usually use www.weatherbase.com

    Once you have done some research, come back and ask specific questions. At the price point you quote, I'd call that budget not mid-range, and you'll find more people who can recommend places to stay over on Thorntree.

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    I agree with Kathie, that is definitely a budget price point, although not totally unreasonable. You can probably forget AC and attached bath, though.

    I'd recommend the Lonely Planet and Footprints guidebooks, and checking both Lonely Planet's thorntree and indiamike.com. For info on Indian trains see seat61.com.

    Have you applied for your visa?

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    No, not hostels in India. You need to go do some research and then come back with more specific questions.

    The answer to your visa question depends on your countries of residence and nationality, you should consult the relevant embassy websites.

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    Kathie, I have been reading some of your reports and they're all fascinating and well written. Excuse me if this appears rude, but I cannot help but wonder what age bracket you fall into?

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    Hi Sadie, I'm 61 and have been traveling for a lot of years. I'm glad you enjoyed some of my trip reports.

    Before every trip, in addition to reading guidebooks and planning my route, I read everything I can find about the area I will be visiting - novels, memoirs, histories. I find it really deepens my understanding of a place.

    Have a wonderful trip!

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    Hi Sadie.

    When you get off at the airport. take a taxi or rikshaw from there(both are cheap), ask someone at the aiport, maybe at the taxi stand desk, they can send you to the cheap hotel chain which is not far from the hotel. you can stay there and rest for your couple of days. its not going to anything near luxuary but it will be cheap.

    Don't try to find a hostel in India, there are not many and even if their are, its probably not safe. If you do want to find a travelers asharam or something, it will require a lot of research.

    I have not been to Uttarkhand and to be honest not heard of many people who go there. The places that I would recommend to you are the following

    1. Rajashtan its a state and has royal cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur. These are the royal cities, I was just there in December of 2011. They are absolutely beautiful. You would also wana see the Taj Mahal. Now this route could be one trip for you. New Delhi to Agra to Jaipur to Udaipur to Jodhour and back. It als depends on how many days you have. You could take the train which is very cheap and then also take buses.

    2 Kerala - it is absolutely beautiful. It nice, peaceful and calm. I havn;t been there so don't knwo much about the prices. but from New delhi its far away, you would have to take the train of fly there.

    Your expenses would be your living expenses, food and travel.
    Try finding a cheap place, but your on a very low budget so it will be a challenge. Food is fairly cheap just don't go to upscale resturants. travel by rikshaw or taxi within the city and train or bus from one city to another, prfereably train.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to ask any more questions if you have. You will have to do some research though to make your trip worthwhile and keep it within budget

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    Ignore the Rajasthan advice. Yes, it has some cities with some beautiful buildings (most in Jaisalmer), but it's where almost all first-timers go. It was very touristy when I was there in the winter of 2001, when there were hardly any tourists, it will be much worse now. You have a plan to go somewhere a bit different - stick with it!

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    I find pgill's advice rather... ill-advised. In India, I would never ask at the taxi stand for them to take me to an unnamed hotel. You'll want to do your research and make a reservation and ask to be taken to the place you've reserved. Otherwise, you'll be taken someplace where the driver gets a kickback.

    There are inexpensive hotels, B&Bs, etc in India, but you will have to do your research. There are ashrams, if that is what you are looking for.

    I also don't know why pgill is advising you to go to Rajasthan when you are clear to want to go to Uttarkhand. pgill is recommending the most touristed places in India - nothing wrong with that if that is what you are looking for.

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    I said aiprot taxi stand desk. They will be very safe coz they are government owned. right at the airport and they will give you a fair pice

    Also I'm suggesting Rajasthan and Kerla as an option not forcing you to go there, its merely an opinion now its upto you if you want to take it or not. I don understand what the harm is in recommending?

    Im giving my opinion and I don't think anyone should have a problem with that. take it if you like it and if you don't leave it.

    Sadie if you wana go to Uttarkhand, please go. I was just advising you some different places so you could look at more options thats all.

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    Kathie is right - even if you give the name of a hotel you may still have an argument with the taxi driver about going there instead of a place he (always men in India) will get a kickback.

    pgill26 - you said your recommendation was based on not having heard of people going to Uttarkhand. And then you recommend one place that is over-touristed and another you've never been to!

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    I'm gonna be civil and leave this argument now. Once again it was just a recommendation. If you like it you may take it and if not then not. I hope you have a great trip. I would love to hear about it. Good luck! :)

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    As a female traveling along, I would NOT recommend a rickshaw and only used licensed taxis. It's fine to travel on a budget, but you need to keep safety in mind too. Some super cheap motels are in areas you don't want to be in and may not be clean to your standards.

    Flying between cities is the best choice, second is first class A/C train. Don't use local busses - ever! Don't travel by road after dark (roads are poorly lit and you should be at your next destination before it gets dark).

    You have a lot of planning to get together to be ready in three months. I was suggest you not arrive in India and expect to make your plans on to the go. Plan ahead and have your reservations done. Also be aware that September is still quite hot.

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    Well, I agree that you should not be on the roads after dark, but otherwise, not.

    I am a female traveling alone, and I certainly take rickshaws (although I board with a map in the rare event the driver uses a meter, and negotiate the price up-front if not). I also think trains are preferable to planes and 2AC or 3AC to 1AC, which is twice the price. If you're staying in budget accommodation you can probably get by without advance reservations (although you should have them for your arrival and departure cities). Calling ahead a day or so in advance should be adequate unless you are definitely set on a particular place.

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    Thank you all for your advice.

    I am certainly open to recommendations but would like to avoid the more touristy areas. I am expecting to travel mostly by train, but part of the reason I have not done too much research is because I have always loved the idea of jumping on a train and seeing where i end up. Of course I am aware this is pretty risky, but the whole point of this trip is to experience things I might not if i were following a guide book...I want a really unique experience! But this is all becoming quite daunting and I'm thinking its possible that i will regret romanticising this once it all happens. But perhaps that could be character building or not....

    Does anyone have any idea what a train ticket from new delhi to the southern part of uttarakhand would cost?

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    For your first night at least, I would make sure to have a place booked! You will have traveled to get to India, and landed in an unfamiliar city with so much going on around you. And IME as a young Western woman solo, getting a taxi driver to respect you and take you directly from Point A to Point B is no small feat.

    In Mumbai, I stayed at the YWCA International Center, and I highly recommend it. Rooms were clean, breakfast and dinner included were good, and most of all the staff was excellent. It looks like the YW also has a location on Parliament Road in New Delhi. Since the YWCA of India is a national organization, they might have lodging in other places as well.

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    Sadie, I highly recommend you do lots and lots of research in advance, as that is what will allow you to be flexible as you go. The idea that you will have a unique experience because you don't plan is simply silly. Doing your research is what will allow you to go places you want to go seek out the experiences you want.

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    "the idea of jumping on a train and seeing where i end up."

    This is a bad idea in India, unless you're willing to sit up all night in overcrowded third class carriages. Indian trains are very popular with Indians, and the better trains and accommodation fill fast. Do go to seat61.com and read the section on Indian trains.

    You can price train trips at cleartrip.com and http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/

    For what you have in mind you might consider an Indrail pass and the tourist quota, and there is the tatkal quota, seats released 24 (used to be 48) hours before departure, but I wouldn't want to count on it if it will cause you problems to miss a train.

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    I want a really unique experience! But this is all becoming quite daunting and I'm thinking its possible that i will regret romanticising this once it all happens. But perhaps that could be character building or not....

    IMO, just being in India *is* a really unique experience. And character building! Not to mention, it's not a small country so there's potentially a lot of ground to cover. Prices for some things can be really cheap, and others as bad as here in NYC.

    But I get not wanting to plan too much! Since you have time before your trip, you can do the research so you know your options. Book a few key things, like your first nights' hotel in New Delhi and your ticket out of there. Have list(s) of places to stay and to eat, things to see, etc., so that you'll have solid options once you reach any given place.

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    Oh and also, regarding this statement: I said aiprot taxi stand desk. They will be very safe coz they are government owned.

    This advice is the opposite of what I experienced with a taxi from the official taxi stand desk at Mumbai International Airport (and despite being a seasoned traveler).

    I found the Meru taxis to be well worth the money for the peace of mind they provided. You might see if you can get one of them or another private service to pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel on that first day, before you get your "sea legs".
    http://www.merucabs.com/about-us/the-meru-advantage/

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    and you might want to try the Indiamike website which is directed to young budget minded travelers and has an enormous amount of useful advice for your age group....
    and The Rough Guide for India is, I think, an excellent one--

    My 23-year-old nephew is returning from six weeks in India and Nepal this week; I'll check with him as to which guide books he found most helpful; I know that he studied Hindi before going, had his first night in New Delhi on his own, but had found an inexpensive hotel near the airport to stay in before departing the next morning for Nepal. I believe he spent the majority of his time in Uttarkhand, and spent several months before leaving reading and planning his trip. It really will make a difference for the kind of experience you have.

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    I intended to say that he also took a taxi from the airport and had no difficulty, BUT he had the name of the hotel, had practiced how to give the directions in Hindi, and, I believe, had a map with him of where he was going. All went well. I don't think it's necessary to study Hindi, but having reservations at a hotel, and knowing where it is in relation to the airport would be wise.

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    Some of the most fascinating places in India also happen to be right on the tourist map. Such as Rajasthan, Taj Mahal in Agra, Goa, Kerala, etc.

    However, as you deliberately want to travel off the beaten track, let me recommend one of the lesser known jewels (to the western world) which fits the bill perfectly:

    Madhya Pradesh (translates into central province)

    It has some of the most fascinating historical monuments, religious spots, history, landscapes, people, culture, food and experiences. Read more on official website: http://www.mptourism.com/web/home.aspx

    Main attractions in MP:

    1. WILDLIFE
    Tiger State of India: MP has nine National Parks and twenty five Sanctuaries and six tiger reserves - https://www.mponline.gov.in/portal/Services/Forest/FinalForest/foresthome.htm

    For example –
    A. Pench – Pench Tiger Reserve comprises the Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park, the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary and a buffer. The Park nestles in the Southern slopes of the Satpura ranges of Central India. The river Pench, which splits the National Park into two, forms the lifeline of the Park. The area of the present tiger reserve has a glorious history. A description of its natural wealth and richness occurs in Ain-i-Akbari. Several natural history books like R. A. Strendale's 'Seonee - Camp life in Satpura Hills,' Forsyth's 'Highlands of Central India' and Dunbar Brander's 'Wild Animals of Central India' explicitly present the detailed panorama of nature's abundance in this tract. Strendale's semi-autobiographical 'Seonee' was the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Rudyard Kipling was inspired to write his memorable book the Jungle Book by the luxuriant forest cover of Pench teeming with an astonishing variety of wildlife.
    B. Kanha - Kanha's sal and bamboo forests, rolling grasslands and meandering streams stretch over 940 sq km in dramatic natural splendour which form the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1974 under Project Tiger. This was the park that the Central Indian Barasingha, also known as the hardground barasingha, was brought back from the virtual edge of extinction. By a special statute in 1955, Kanha National Park came into being. Since then, a series of stringent conservation programmes for the protection of the park's flora and fauna has given Kanha its deserved reputation for being one of the finest and best administered National Parks in Asia, an irresistible attraction for all wildlife lovers and a true haven for its animal and avian population.
    C. Bandhavgarh - The original home of all the white tigers alive, today, Bandhavgarh was the hunting preserve of the Maharajas of Rewa: their old fort still dominates a hill rising out of the forest. Covering 448 sq. km., Bandhavgarh is situated in Shahdol district among the outlying hills of the Vindhya range. At the centre of the park is Bandhavgarh hill, rising 811 mt above MSL. Surrounding it are a large number of smaller hills separated by gently sloping valleys.

    2. RELIGIOUS:
    A. Omkareshwar, the sacred island, shaped like the holiest of all Hindu symbols, 'Om', has drawn to it hundreds of generations of pilgrims. And here, as in so many of Madhya Pradesh's sacred shrines, the works of Nature complement those of man to provide a setting awe-inspiring in its magnificence. According to a legend, when Narad, the great seer, paid a visit to the deity of the Vindhya mountains, he was angry to find that there was no dwelling here suitable for Lord Shiva. Dismayed at this, the deity of these mountains subjected himself to very severe austerities. Lord Shiva was so pleased with this that he said he would make Omkareshwar one of his homes. All this happened in legendary times, long before the first historian wrote the first history of Omkareshwar. The island comprises two lofty hills and is divided by a valley in such a way that it appears in the shape of the sacred Hindu symbol 'Om' from above. Between the precipitous hills of the Vindhya on the North and the Satpura on the South, the Narmada forms a deep silent pool. This pool is 270 ft below the cantilever type bridge constructed in 1979. The bridge has enhanced the scenic beauty of the place, making it look exceedingly picturesque. The temple stands on a one mile long, half mile wide island formed by the fork of the Narmada. The soft stone of which it was constructed has lent its pliable surface to a rare degree of detailed work, of which the frieze figures on the upper portion are the most striking. Also intricately carved is the stone roof of the temple. Encircling the shrine are verandahs with columns which are carved in circles, polygons and squares.
    B. Sanchi – 5th & 7th century Stupas, temple and monasteries. A must-go for getting a flavour of Buddhism. There are rock-cut cave sanctuaries. Some of the earliest known stone structures dated to 3rd & 1st century BC are here!
    C. Khajuraho - In the temple architecture of India, the Khajuraho complex remains unique. One thousand years ago, under the generous and artistic patronage of the Chandela Rajput kings of Central India, 85 temples, magnificent in form and richly carved, came up on one site, near the village of Khajuraho. The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 AD - 1050 AD, saw the completion of all the temples, in an inspired burst of creativity. Today, of the original 85, only 22 have survived the ravages of time; these remain as a collective paean to life, to joy and to creativity; to the ultimate fusion of man with his creator. It is possible that the Chandelas were also believers in the powers of Tantrism; the cult which believes that the gratification of earthly desires is a step closer to the attainment of the infinite. It is certain however, that the temples represent the expression of a highly matured civilization. Yet another theory is that the erotica of Khajuraho, and indeed of other temples, had a specific purpose. In those days when boys lived in hermitages, following the Hindu law of being "brahmacharis" until they attained manhood, the only way they could prepare themselves for the worldly role of 'householder' was through the study of these sculptures and the earthly passions they depicted.
    3. CAVES:
    A. Bhimbetka - Executed mainly in red and white with the occasional use of green and yellow, with themes taken from the every day events of aeons ago, the scenes usually depict hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant riders, animals fighting, honey collection, decoration of bodies, disguises, masking and household scenes. Animals such as bisons, tigers, lions, wild boars, elephants, antelopes, dogs, lizards, crocodiles, etc. have been abundantly depicted in some caves. Popular religious and ritual symbols also occur frequently. The colours used by the cave dwellers were prepared combining manganese, hematite, soft red stone and wooden coal. Sometimes the fat of animals and extracts of leaves were also used in the mixture. The colours have remained intact for many centuries due to the chemical reaction resulting from the oxide present on the surface of the rocks.
    The superimposition of paintings shows that the same canvas was used by different people at different times. The drawings and paintings can be classified under seven different periods:
    Period I - Upper Paleolithic:
    These are linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge figures of animals such as bisons, tigers and rhinoceroses.
    Period II - Mesolithic : Comparatively small in size, the stylised figures in this group show linear decoration on the body. The depiction of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child, pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movement.
    Period III - Chaleolithic: Similar to the paintings of Chaleolithic pottery, these drawings reveal that during the period the cave dwellers of this area had come in contact with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains and started an exchange of their requirements with each other.
    Period IV & V - Early Historic: The figures of this group have a schematic and decorative style, and are painted mainly in red, white and yellow. The association is of riders, depiction of religious symbols, tunic-like dresses and the existence of the scripts of different periods.
    Period VI & VII - Medieval: These paintings are geometric, linear and more schematic, but they show degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style. The colours used by the cave dwellers, prepared combining manganese, haematite, soft red stone, wooden coal and also sometimes by animal fat and extracts of leaves is still remains intact.
    4. NATURE:
    A. Bhedaghat - Soaring in glittering splendour, the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat rise to a hundred feet on either side of the Narmada. The serene loveliness of the scene is one of cool quiet, the sunlight sparkling on the marble-white pinnacles and casting dappled shadows on the pellucid waters. These white rocks with views of black and dark green volcanic seams are truly majestic, and produce a magical effect on moonlit nights. The holy river flows by tranquilly flanked by the towering cliffs which reflect in it like a mirror the changing moods of nature. A little distance away, it becomes turbulent as it plunges in a mighty water fall known as Dhuandhar. So powerful is the plunge that its roar is heard from a far distance. The falls and the breaking of the volume of water at the crest present an awesome spectacle of Nature's power unleashed. Boating facilities are available and while boating by moonlight is a thrilling experience, the Marble Rocks have recently been floodlit, adding a new dimension to their splendour. There is also a ropeway for crossing the length of the river which provides the place an adventurous touch.
    B. Amarkantak - Situated at an altitude of 1065 m. at the meeting point of the Vindhya and the Satpura mountain ranges amongst sylvan surroundings, Amarkantak is a great pilgrim center for the Hindus, and is the source of the rivers Narmada and Sone. While the Narmada flows westwards from Amarkantak, the Sone flows towards the east. Amarkantak is indeed blessed by Nature. Holy ponds, lofty hills, forested surroundings, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls and an ever-pervading air of serenity make Amarkantak a much sought-after destination for the religious-minded as well as for the nature-lover.
    C. Hill station – Pachmarhi - Pachmarhi is Madhya Pradesh's most verdant gem. A lovely hill resort girdled by the Satpura ranges, it offers absolute tranquility. Bridle paths lead into placid forest groves of wild bamboo, jamun, dense sal forests and delicate bamboo thickets. Pachmarhi is also an archaeological treasure-house. In cave shelters in the Mahadeo Hills is an astonishing richness in rock paintings. Most of these have been placed in the period 500-800 AD, but the earliest paintings are an estimated 10,000 years old. Some of the most enjoyable waterfalls are situated here, such as Bee Fall, Big Fall, Dutchess Fall. It provides excellent avenues for trekking and hiking. You can witness the highest point in the Satpura range, with a magnificent view of the surrounding ranges. A very popular spot for viewing sunsets. Pandav Caves, five ancient dwellings excavated in the sandstone rock in a low hill is what Pachmarhi derives its name from. As the legend goes, these caves once provided sanctuary to the five Pandav brothers as per Mahabharat. These caves are now protected monuments.
    5. ARCHITECTURE
    A. Mandu is a tribute to the love shared between the poet-prince Baz Bahadur and his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati. The balladeers of Malwa still sing of their euphoric romance. Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Mandu, with its natural defenses, was originally the fort capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa. Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa, the first of whom named it Shadiabad - 'city of joy'. And indeed the pervading spirit of Mandu was of gaiety; and its rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions, as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty. Each of Mandu's structures is an architectural gem; some are outstanding like the massive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah's tomb, which provided inspiration to the master builders of the Taj Mahal centuries later.
    B. The 45 km parapets of walls that encircle Mandu are punctuated by 12 gateways. Most notable of these is Delhi Darwaza, the main entrance to the fortress city, for which the approach is through a series of gateways well-fortified with walled enclosures and strengthened by bastions.
    C. Jahaz Mahal - This 120 mt long "ship palace" built between the two artificial lakes, Munj Talao and Kapur Talao is an elegant two storeyed palace. Probably it was built by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din-Khilji for his large harem. With its open pavilions, balconies overhanging the water and open terrace, Jahaz Mahal is an imaginative recreation in stone of a royal pleasure craft. Viewed on moonlit nights from the adjoining Taveli Mahal, the silhouette of the building, with the tiny domes and turrets of the pavilion gracefully perched on the terrace, presents an unforgettable spectacle.
    D. Hoshang Shah's Tomb - India's first marble edifice, it is one of the most refined examples of Afghan architecture. Its unique features are the magnificently proportioned dome, marble lattice work of remarkable delicacy and porticoed courts and towers to mark the four corners of the rectangle. Shah Jehan sent four of his great architects to study the design of and draw inspiration from the Tomb. Among them was Ustad Hamid, who was also associated with the construction of Taj Mahal.
    E. There are several other palaces in the Mandu city.

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    Apologize for the long long post, but as MP is not as well-known to non-indian travellers, I wanted to do justice to my home-state and detail out various attractions.

    If you take 2 mins to go through it, I am sure it would make a strong case for a fresh look at India.

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