Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Let me share with you the best and worst of India

The best of India would have to be the amazing temples, palaces and the River Ganges, the tour that we chose to do was aptly named. For in doing this tour we got to see a great deal of what North India had to offer tourists in the way of history and architecture. We were also fortunate to be in India during Diwali, Festival of Lights.
Doing the decorations for the 3 day celebration, Diwali.
One of many paintings that I admired!
Our trip left from Dehli, where you get to visit the Red Fort and Old Dehli. Dehli has a population of 23,000,000 people, the pollution is so bad that a person dies every 23seconds from pollution.
The noise and traffic is hard to handle, along with the pollution and you usually end up with a headache.

The tour group we picked was On the Go and we had a great tour guide named Samrind Singh, who we could not fault, he was excellent and dealt with the 20 people on our tour very well.

After Dehli where we spent 3 days we set of for a 6hr road trip to Jaipur, we spent 2 days in Jaipur the pink city where I managed to buy a camel wool carpet, a kantha quilt and a jacket made.
Jaipur 's population is 5,000,000, pollution is no better in Jaipur.
Thick smog in Jaipur, hard to see the floating palace

After we left Jaipur we drove another 5hrs to Bharatpur for one night so that we may visit the bird sanctuary, which holds a lot of wildlife and covers 29square miles. We all spent the afternoon being peddled about on rickshaws, a great way to travel through the park.
The next day was to drive to Agra, this would be our highlight of the trip to visit the Taj Mahal, on offer and for a fee of 650rupees you could go to a local poor family's home and get dressed in Sari's to vist the Taj, about 7 girls and 2 men got dressed, me included, a pity it was so hot, but comforted in the thought that this money will help a family in India.
Entry into the Taj Mahal

After Agra we travelled to Orchha for an overnight stay to visit the Jehanlgir Mahal palace and see the sunset over the Betwa river.

This is the narrow bridge we stood on the Betwa river
Raj Mahal
Leaving Orchha we then travelled to Khajuraho for one night, here was the option to go on a safari to see more wildlife and hopefully a tiger, a tiger was seen so money well spent by those of our group who chose to go. We then flew to Varanasi for 2 days then a train trip to Dehli and the completion of our tour.
The best of India as mentioned was the history, temples, palaces and Granges. Textiles, fabric and art is amazing as well.

Food was a great treat, we only ate in reputable hotels or restaurants and did not get sick.

The worst of India, is the pollution, rubbish, filth and the poor animals. Most Indians are vegetarians and do not eat beef or pork, they do eat goat and chicken.

The cows are supposedly sacred, but when seeing them in the streets they are eating plastic and garbage, not a pleasant sight. The cows are used for milking, and as long as they produce milk, they have value, if a calf is born and is male, it is just left to roam the streets. The cattle just sit in the middle of the roads, and on the verge, in most of the cities, there is no grass for them to eat.

Their are also pigs wandering the streets as well. The streets are littered with mounds of plastic bags and rubbish, and no one is seen cleaning the streets.

The poor beg on the streets and children are sent to beg and if they do not come back with anything, they are maltreated, 
The dogs are mangey, flea bitten and in poor health.
Although we did see some dogs that were pets and well looked after.
Not many cats were seen, monkeys were often sighted.

Women weeding in Khajuraho 

A local village women
Even the cow pats are sold and used for fuel
The trucks are very ornate with decorations.
All in all my experience of India was a good one except for what I have just mentioned, but we need to look past the pollution, filth, the poor animals and enjoy the experience of another culture and architecture, we do plan to visit the south in the near future.

Varanasi, The Ganges, and a little relaxation.

After our flight landed in Varanasi, we board our coach for the long ride to our hotel. I am not sure about the distance but to get to the ganges it is a 45 minute ride, from our hotel. We all settled into our hotel and rested for the afternoon and our group met for dinner, an early night was had by all, as we were to get up at 0430hrs to go down to the Ganges to witness the sunrise, cremations and the Hindu pilgrims that bathe in the Ganges..
Walking to board our boats
On the boat.

We were driven by coach to the Ganges and then walked 10mins to get to the banks of the ganges, where we board a boat to take us up the river.

There are about 83 cremations performed a day along the banks of the Ganges . These cremations are done on the river bank on a pile of wood, so the fires that you see is a cremation.

I might mention that we were all very conscious of not touching any of the water from the Ganges due to it being heavily polluted, the river is so polluted the dolphins that are in the ganges are blind.
There were also people bathing in the ganges, but I suppose being an Indian native they would be immune to what lurks beneath.

The other that I can not fathom is if the hidu's feel that the Ganges is sacred water, why is it so polluted.?

Let me share some amazing scenes along the ganges.

After our 2 hour boat ride we all disembarked and went to visit the university, where people can go to study for free or a very minimal fee, all they need to do is sit for a test and if they pass the test at an elevated level, they are allowed to study their. This university is one of the leading universities for medicine.
Entry to the Hindu temple
Also in the university grounds was a Hindu temple, we all witnessed blessings to the gods.

We were returned to the hotel for breakfast and free time, until 4.30pm, where we all took tut tut's back down to the granges to witness what happens at night, here we took another boat ride and we all layed candles with marigolds, the sacred flower, in memorium of people we have lost or in poor health at present.
The tut tut ride, 10 of them was the most exhilarating ride of our lives, weaving in and out of traffic, with the noise and pollution, was very fast, I would hate to think what would have happened if we had had an accident.
DH and I layed the candles and marigolds for friends lost, Ian Thompson, Christine Book and Jo Kent Biggs, and DH mum struggling also at the moment, our thoughts were with them when we layed our memoriam.
The candles in the Ganges.

That was an end to our evening in Varnasi , for tomorrow we travel back toDehli.
The next day was a free day, some had left our tour group and were going to Nepal, 15 of us were catching an overnight train to Dehli. The train ride will be 14 hours, we had a sleeper carriage, but had to share with two other people from our tour, we felt we were quite lucky as most of our tour group did not get a private cabin and had to go cattle class with  locals.
All in all it was an experience, not one that I wish to repeat.

Needless to say we were all very tired when we got back into Dehli, thank goodness for breakfast and our room being ready.

After a rest 7 of us went and caught the metro to Chandi Choux, the market place in Dehli where everything could be purchased, this was now my time to shop, as I had only done a little whilst travelling due to the weight restrictions on our flight from Khajuraho to Varanasi.

In hindsight this was not a clever move, as unbeknownst to most of us, 
the Indian government had banned 500 and 1,000 rupees nulinvoid due to the amount of circulated counterfeit notes. 
The banks closed down for two days and no ATM's were accessible, and guess what, all we had was 1,000 and 500 rupees, and no one would take them, so after finding kinnari Brazzar where all the sari's and trims were located, I had a very frustrating time with looking but not much purchasing, due to only having the unacceptable rupees, the other frustrating thing with India is they choose not to accept credit cards and we soon found out that their machines do not work, because they only use eftpos for India and need to get the international eftpos for our cards to work.
Amazing that these eftpos machines are used when they are going to miss out on a sale.
We were fortunate that the banks opened on the day we left, so that we were able to change the money that we had left.
Just a few trims!
Fabric, silk and trims galore!
I did manage to get a few trims!

Thursday we few to Singapore, then Perth, next post I will share with you a recap of my overall experience with India and some amazing photos that I have taken.
Next post Perth, Broome and Margaret River.

Orchha's Temples and onto Khajuraho- the chandela dynasty.

Orchha was once the capital of the Bundelas, now just a village, The attraction in Orchha is that the village is set in amongst an impressive complex of well preserved palaces and temples on the banks of the Betwa river.

Sunset over the temples and Betwa river

The palace Jehangir Mahal, parts of the palace has been transformed into a hotel.

We met some interesting characters on our tour
Our hotel

Our room was quite palatial.

We stayed in a gorgeous hotel, quite a bit out of town and at this hotel was a preparation for a wedding that was to be held on the Saturday. As we are all aware Indian weddings happens over a few days, sadly only the cocktail party was on this Friday evening, we did not get too see the wedding as we departed for Khajuraho.

After travelling for about an hour we stopped in a small village to witness how the farmers irrigate their fields, very rudimentary, but very effective.

Travelling southwest on mainly a dirt track with a maniac bus driver creating his own lanes and beeping his horn all for the whole 4 hours of the trip, all 20 on the bus was pleased to arrive at our hotel in Khajuraho.

We arrived into Khajuraho in time for lunch and stayed at the Ramada hotel, after lunch we went into Khajuraho to visit the Hindu and Jain temples which were built during the Chandela dynasty from 950-1050AD. The intricate stone carved temples are famous for their erotic sculptures, although they were built still remains a mystery. In fact the chandelas appear to have forgotten about the temples soon after they were completed and it wasn't until they were rediscovered in 1847 by a British explorer. 
These exquisite masterpieces are now fully appreciated by India and tourists that come to visit.
Some of the erotic carvings on the temples in Khajuraho.

That night we ate at a Swiss restaurants on the roof top.

The next morning was free, until 12 md, then we all departed for the airport for our flight to Varanasi.
This has been the most challenging part of the tour, keeping our weight limit under 15kgs, I am pleased to report that my weight was 13.4kgs.
The Khajuraho airport was quite decorative with what looked like aboriginal art.

Aboriginal art at the airport.

More adventures in Varanasi 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

India continued, Dehli onto Jaipur, Bharatpur, Agra, Orchha

We After our exploration of Old Dehli, we went to visit Humayan tomb, in a gorgeous setting, such a contrast to Dehli. Humayans tomb, India's largest mosque Jama Masjid.

After this visit we proceeded to visit the crematorium where Mahhatma Ghandi is laid to rest, after he was assinated in 1948.

The same evening we all went out to dinner to a spice restaurant, and were entertained by musicians and dancers.
One pot on the head,many more to follow

The next morning we departed for Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, the bus ride was 4-6 hours, quite a long day.

After arrival into Jaipur, we all did a tour of Jaipur, aptly named the pink city. Jaipur's population is 5,000,000, the city is surrounded by pink walls, as in the 15-16th century was a fort.

We had an afternoon visit to the city palace, our tour company does not use elephants to get tourists up to the top, as it is not good for the elephants backs, we were ferried up to the top in jeeps.
Photos were not great due to the heavy pollution.

Dinner was at a spice court restaurant, quite nice food, our group is enjoying the naan bread and curries.
Elephant rides

The next morning we visited Jantar Mantar, an observatory of astronomy, built by Jai Singh in 1728.
Each structure has a specific purpose, some measures the position of stars, whilst others calculate eclipses, the lunar calendar and simply the time of day.
This observatory was mind blowing to say the least.

I forwent the market Brazzar to go to a textile shop to get another kantha quilt and kantha jacket. 

Being Diwali, most shops are closed, so to get my jacket, I purchased a vintage quilt and had one made in 5 hours, I am very impressed with my jacket.

All in all Jaipur, although being filthy with rubbish and heavy pollution, has a certain charm.
My other purchase in Jaipur was a camel rug, a gorgeous burgundy and gold.
My effort with block printing.
Camel wool rug being made.

Day 5, after Jaipur we travel to Abhaneri, on our way we stop and visit Chand BaorI, which is the largest and deepest step well in the world, this incredible well has a staggering 3,500 steps and is 13 stories deep.

We continue onto Bharatpur, we visit Fatehpur Sikri,which was once a magnificent fortified city and the capital of the murghal empire from 1571 until 1585.

Our hotel in Bharatpur is out of town, so a quite night, had by all.
We visited the bird and animal sanctuary in Bharatpur 

The next morning we travelled to Agra, a short drive. On our arrival we visit Agra fort, which was built during the rein of Emperor Akbar.

In the afternoon the girls and two guys from the group, dressed up in sari's and off we went to the Taj Mahal. I must say the experience of going to a poor family's home and being dressed in sari's for $15 was quite and experience. It was also quite hot as I had my clothes on underneath and no makeup, all in all the visit to the Taj Mahal was an experience and such amazing architecture.
45,000 people a day visit the Taj Mahal, thank god we had the fast past.
The line to get to see the tombs were very long and very crowded.
The Taj Mahal is one of the most extravagant monument ever built for love,Mathis fine example of murghal architecture was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory is f his beloved second wife Mumtaz-Mahal, who died tragically during childbirth.
Built entirely of white marble, construction began in 1631, the year in which Mumtaz died and was not completed until 1653. A staggering total of 20,000 workers contributed their skills, in the construction of this unique monument.

The next day we travelled to Orchha, which is a small village and situated on the Betwa river. The palace Jehangir Mahal, a 17th century palace, a stunning and rambling complex. 
We watched the sunset on the Betwa river setting over the temples, a majestic site, not so much all the fecal matter on the rocks.

Our India adventure will be continued in more posts.