A Travellerspoint blog

India trip

Day 12

October 21

We are finally at our hotel in Varanasi. Our train in Agra was 4, yes, count 'em 4 hours late. And when your train in supposed to be there at 11:30 pm and we don't leave until 3:30 am it makes for a very, very long day and night of travel. We did meet some interesting people traveling from Holland. And we got to hear the story of Ishwar's marriage. In his village 100% of the marriages are arranged. He did not even meet his wife until their wedding day. He thought it was strange that we had not arranged the marriages for our children. We sat on the dirty concrete floor with all the other masses of people waiting. When the train finally came and we boarded we were very relieved. Ishwar had stayed with us the whole time and was then going to drive back to Delhi. We wished him safe travels. Since we were in 3rd class it was 3 tiered beds up the walls in each cubby and 2 tiered along the walk way. My bed way up top on the walkway and Glenn's was up top in a cubby area. They passed out sheets and they had blankets and pillows but I just used a sheet and my Grand Canyon camping pillow that we had packed. With the commotion of different stops and people moving in and out and the guy coming and checking tickets and the crying baby and.....well, suffice to say we didn't get the best sleep. Come morning time we did get to move down as people left and we rested and read or played backgammon on the tablet (that was Glenn, I read). I ate one of my protein bars that I had brought from home (Thanks, Kathy, they have come in soooo handy!) for breakfast and then we had a very very strange lunch. Glenn ordered us non-veg so we got steamed rice, a curry soup that was basically curried broth as there was nothing else in it and 2 hard boiled eggs in a very spicy curry sauce. Let's just say I am anxiously waiting dinner which is at 8:30. Luckily we made up some of the time during the night and got in only 2 1/2 hours late instead of 4. We were met by our guide who is very friendly and nice. He has a lot more personality than some we have. He helped us with our luggage and we headed to the car.

I don't think our driver speaks English because he did none of the talking. Our guide told us history of Varanasi as we drove to our hotel. It was quite a ways so he did a lot of talking. Our hotel is right on the Ganges river and is fairly nice...oh wait compared to the train it is heaven! Once again our shower is just a spigot on the wall but this time there is no curtain at all. Is does work but the marble floors get very slick when wet. We rested and cleaned up at our hotel and met back up with our driver and guide at 4:30. We drove through the large university here that has 20,000 students. It is the largest unversity in India. We went into their Hindu temple and toured it too. Then we drove to the Ganges to the Ghats (steps) for a evening ceremony called Aarti. It is a big deal for the Hindus and they do it every night at sunset. After that we came back to the hotel for the evening.

Just got back from dinner. You have to let them know ahead of time that you will be having dinner here. They serve it buffet style and you are seated with others. We sat at a table with a young couple from Calgary and an older couple from England. They were both very nice and it was good to talk and compare stories. Although I think we scared the couple from England with our train tale since they are going on one tomorrow to Agra. Dinner was vegetarian curry and pretty good. We are both pooped now so are going on to bed. Tomorrow morning is an early morning with sunrise on the Ganges.

Posted by MaryDavis 09:18 Archived in India Comments (0)

India trip

Day 11

October 20

Had a good night's sleep and felt rested in the morning. Got cleaned up in our shower curtainless shower. Not too much water everywhere. Our driver picked us up and we went and picked up our guide and headed to the Taj Mahal. I will start out by saying it is amazing. We took a autoscooter up to the main gate where the Taj is peaking over. They don't allow gas using vehicles near it due to trying to lessen the effects of pollution on the Taj. They have also gotten rid of all manufacturing industry here also to control pollution. The main industry of Agra is tourism and hand crafts. So we went in through the gate which is also beautiful and made of red sand stone. There stood the Taj in all its glory. There are fountains leading up to it and they were actually on today which our guide said is rare. Usually they are only going for important dignitaries. We later found out that the Prime minister of the state is coming tomorrow and that is why the fountains were probably on. Any who, we walked up the pathway by the fountains taking pictures along the way. The structure is massive and beautiful. The white marble really stands out. Our guide told us that it took 22 years and 2200 workers to build it. The workers came from Persia where they were famous for their inlay work. After it was built he didn't let them go home because he didn't want them to build another Taj for anyone else. But he paid them well enough they never had to work again. Many of their descendants are the inlay workers here in Agra today. We walked all around the area. There is a mosque to the left of the Taj and then he built an exact duplicate of the mosque for no purpose other than balance of visual effects. Everything on and around the Taj is a mirror image if you cut it down the middle. Later the other building was used for royalty who visited. It was a great way to start the day.

Next we went to Agra's Red Fort. It was interesting in that the son of the builder of the Taj was imprisoned there and spent the rest of his life with a view of the Taj from his window. The fort is massive and we only got to tour 20% because the rest is still in used for the Indian army. Sorry to say but the places built out of red sand stone like the Red Fort have all sort of blurred together in my mind. They are all so similar but each usually has a good story behind it and that is what really differentiates the structures. Otherwise if you dropped me in one or another I really couldn't tell them apart. But it was good to see all the same.

Our guide to us to a place where we could see people working on inlaying marble. It was very interesting to see the very tedious process. Of course afterwards he wanted to show us what was for sale. We looked and didn't buy. After we dropped our guide off, our driver offered to take us to a different place that had marble with inlay that is less pricey. So we went there and did get a small something. They really have a system for working the tourists but it is all part of the game.

Our guide mentioned that they have a play of the love story of the Moghul and his wife that the Taj was built for. It is in the evenings at a place nearby. We decided to that we have time and no other plans till our train leaves at 11:30 so we are going to go to it. They have head phones that have different languages so we won't be lost in the story. Our guide was so enthusiastic about it that we felt we needed to do it. Afterwards we will have dinner and pack for our train ride to Varanasi. Now it is rest time.

Well, we went to the show. Let's just say it was an experience reminiscent of the old dubbed films from Japan. It was rather hokey with little to no plot, no real acting skills but colorful costumes and dancing. But our driver got to see it again and thoroughly enjoyed himself so that made it worthwhile. We even got medallions to wear because we were VIPs! We tried to keep our snickering to a minimum. We are now packing back up and will get picked up at 10:30 for our 11:30 train. We shall see how this goes as Tenzing was unable to get us tickets for anything better than 3A class which at least is air conditioned but will not be the luxury of the last train ride. Glenn says it is our cultural experience so we shall see. As we don't have internet (Glenn only bought 24 hours worth last night) this will not get posted till after the fact so onward and upward to infinity and beyond and all that rubbish!

Posted by MaryDavis 09:10 Archived in India Comments (0)

India Trip

Day 11

October 19

Slept in again and this time even later! Whoa, 6:45! Glenn was able to sleep a little longer but he was up early too. We cleaned up and had a nice breakfast here. Glenn had sliced cucumbers with his breakfast which I thought was icky but then I don't like cucumbers at any time. Packed our stuff up again and had a few minutes to read for me and work on pictures for Glenn. Laura had emailed me some pics of the dogs from her spending yesterday at our house to keep Annabelle company. They made me happy to see them but made me miss home too. We are now half way through our trip.

Our car trip to Agra was good. We stopped part way and had lunch at a hotel off the road. Glenn and I shared dal and rice and chicken samosas. It was plenty to eat. Just before Agra we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri which was the capital of the Moghal Empire for 10 years. The Maharajah that built it had 3 wives, one Hindu, one Christian and one Muslim. Each had their own place to live but they celebrated all the different holidays together. It was an interesting place and is older than the Taj Mahal by 100 years. It was built by the Taj's builder's grandfather. There are parrots living there now and we saw several and heard even more.

On the drive from Jaipur we saw lots of things. Never before have I seen camels on turnpikes or a person actually milking a water buffalo. There was a smallish SUV with 23-25 people crammed in it and a motorcyle with a family of four riding on it. By thhe time we got to our hotel I was rather on sensory over load. Our driver is going to pick us up at 7 to go out for dinner. Our room here is very nice and in a very old building. Two of the walls are painted brick and we overlook the pool and the courtyard. The really nice thing is the airconditioner and ceiling fan make lovely white noise!! Helps with the overload. We again have a four poster bed, a sitting area and a large bathroom. This bathroom had a big clawfoot tub and no shower curtain but there is a shower spigot. Guess we shall see how this works in the morning. There is a note that says to let the water run 2 minutes to get hot water. All in all it is a nice place.

So far what I have seen of Agra, it is dirtier almost than Delhi was. Jaipur was a pleasant change from that so I am not sure if it is my imagination or not. There is so much traffic with the festival and all that it is really quite crazy driving. Not sure how it will be going out for dinner. Glenn went down and told our driver that I was too pooped to go back out, and for that I will be eternally grateful! We are just going to go down and get something light as we really aren't too hungry but know we need to eat something. We ended up getting Tandoori Murg Masala more commonly known as Tandoori chicken curry. It was very good and we had naan with it and pea pulao. There was nice quiet live music in the restaurant. One guy playing a sitar and one playing tubla (native drums). It was peaceful but I must say it was the first time I have heard "Strangers in the Night" played on that combination of instruments, kind of like really off beat elevator music. We just shared the order and had plenty. We learned very quickly to share orders or you get way too much food. Now we are full and tired so I think it is time to finish this post and get some rest. Tomorrow is the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort and other sites. Then we take the midnight train not to Georgia but Varanasi. It will be a full day so I say, "Sleep tight and dream of bedbugs tonight." (That was for you, Laura!)

Posted by MaryDavis 08:27 Archived in India Comments (0)

India trip

Day 10

October 18

What a busy day! Luckily we slept really well and actually slept in for the first time on the trip. Okay, sleeping in was 6:00 but hey, since I have been waking before 6 this was sleeping in! We cleaned up in our humongous bathroom and went down to eat breakfast. It was a very nice breakfast and I had guava juice that made me think of sitting our on our lanai in Tobago drinking guava juice except no obnoxious bird making loud sounds. Our driver and guide came at 9:00 and we headed out for our full day of site seeing in Jaipur. We started by driving through the Pink City which is old Jaipur and is walled in with large gates that we drove through. We drove by and stopped to take pictures of the Wind Palace which is basically a facade with 152 windows for the royal ladies to watch processions and such from. Since they were not allowed to be seen they had to view everything through lattice windows and such.

Next we drove on to the Amber Fort which was spectacular. It was huge and actually is a palace but is fortified and surrounded by miles of high walls and armaments so is called a fort. On our way in there were two snake charmers outside the gates and Glenn got to play an instrument and charm the snake too. Of course I got pictures. It was fun. Once inside we got to see where the Maharaja and Maharanis lived. I asked our guide what the maharanis did during the day and he said basically nothing. It was a very boring life for them. Many had to ride in wheel chairs because they always wore all their jewelry and it could weigh so much that they couldn't walk. They couldn't go out in public, they could even hang out with the other maharanis. Not the kind of life I would want.

After the Amber Fort we got to drive by the Water Palace and take pictures. It is in the middle of a man-made lake and was used for parties. While we were stopped there we got to take some pictures of camels too. I was sad I missed the picture when we were driving of the cart pulled by a camel waiting at the stop light. Right now the Water Palace is not used for anything because it is being fought over by the people and the government.

We stopped at some shops which are a part of the ritual of having a tour guide. Our driver told us later that the guide, the travel company and even the driver get a cut of whatever we buy. Well, bummer for them because we bought very little. But we did get another gift. After that we went and had lunch which was very good. It was much more reasonably priced than the last time and I am sure they get a cut too.

After lunch we went to Jantar Mantar which an Astronomical Observatory created in the 18th century. It was very fascinating. The maharaja was interested in time measurement and built huge structures that are still accurate now within a few minutes. Glenn got lots of pictures throughout the day.

Our last stop was the City Palace museum. It had clothes from the maharaja and maharanis. It was neat to see the different styles of what they wore. One maharaja was extremely huge. They had his pants and Glenn and I could have both fit in them with a lot of room to spare! His coat would make a nice tent! I really am not exaggerating, I think our guide said he was 4 feet wide! And one of the maharajahs never drank regular water. He only drank water from the Ganges river which is said to be holy. After I shuddered, our guide did point out that that was a long time ago and the river was clear then. The last maharaja died just last year. He had no political power but was much loved by the people.

We were both very tired after 5 1/2 hours of touring so we came back to our hotel. That is when our driver told Glenn that whenever they go to the special shops everyone gets a cut. He told Glenn that if we were really interested in the rug we had looked at we could go back tomorrow and see what the price would be without all the other people taking a cut. It was a beautiful rug but still above our budget.

Dinner tonight was a multicultural experience. The restaurant here is on the roof right above our room. We could hear the drums playing from our room. When we got up there, we were seated very near the entertainment which was a family playing drums, singing and the women were dancing. The daughter obviously did not want to participate. It was one of those instances of if looks could kill her mother would be toast! Anyway neither Glenn nor I were terribly hungry so we got Oriental spring rolls and pizza to share. The pizza had an Indian kick to it and was very good. The rolls were good too and then we finished up with Rajistani ice cream which was also different but very good! We are going to bed earlier tonight and we drive to Agra tomorrow. More fun and excitement awaits. But can they please stop the drumming now? Oh well, at least it is quieter than the monkeys.

Posted by MaryDavis 08:34 Archived in India Comments (0)

India trip

Day 9

October 17

We got up at our usual time even though we went to bed later. Not the best night of sleep as at some point there were multiple dogs barking in the night. We worked on packing things up in a leisurely manner and had our last breakfast here in Mussoorie. We have had lots of monkey activity this morning with the langurs. We were skyping with Laura computer to computer and we turned the lens so that she and Logan got to see the monkeys at our windows. She could also hear their loud thudding as they ran across our roof. We were glad we could share that with them. It has been nice to have Skype and not be out of touch with everyone back home. The internet is truly amazing for communication. We are waiting for our driver who will take us to the airport nearby.

We are now at the airport and we have to wait a couple of hours for our flight. Driving here was crazy. You could not pay me enough to be a driver in India. There is never a moment when you can not be absolutely vigilant to all the other drivers on the road, not to mention the carts pulled by water buffalo or hand pulled. The roads are worse than Tulsa roads after an ice storm and drivers will just pull into the oncoming lane to avoid a pothole! There were rhesus monkeys all along the roadway and there would be a nice new shop selling name brand items right next to a fruit stand with a tin roof. The airport is very modern and brand new looking. There is really no one else here where we are waiting. We shall see if it fills up as the day progresses. The flight was fairly full especially considering a flight to Delhi took off just before us also. After we had boarded the plane and were ready to take off the captain came on over the speaker system and said we were clear for take off and we were just waiting for the monkeys to get off the runway. We waited a little more than 5 minutes for the monkeys to clear out. Out my window I watched over 75 monkeys running along the top of the wall that surrounded the runway and airport. It was a short flight, only about 35 minutes but they served us sandwiches and bottles of water. The sandwich was a veggie sandwich that was basically a corn and carrot salad on a bun, very strange but not bad in taste. Glenn of course didn't eat his since it had a dressing of some kind on it. Oh and they gave us a little packet of ketchup to put on it too. That I thought was very weird and didn't try it. We have a couple hour wait here too.

Glenn is still on a search for a charger for his camera and is hoping to find one in all the stores they have in the airport. There are a plethora of stores (but alas no pinatas). One of our guides told us this is the 2nd largest airport in the world. Not sure how it relates to number of people passing through or if it is just square footage. We are now at our hotel in Jaipur. It is amazing. They told us it is the best room and I believe them even if they tell everyone that. It is really a suite of rooms with a large sitting area, a huge bathroom and a huge bedroom. We also have a little balcony over looking the pool. The floors are marble and it is amazing. Glenn said the Tenzing told him our hotel in Varanasi is very nice too. We are going to be totally spoiled. No monkeys on the roof here! We should sleep very well. We did get some sad news. No elephant ride tomorrow because a festival started for the next 9 days that has all the elephants busy. Oh well. We will adapt our expectations. Who would have thought you needed advance scheduling with an elephant!

Posted by MaryDavis 08:51 Archived in India Comments (0)

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