A Travellerspoint blog

April 2010

More from Rajasthan.

Jaipur to Pushkar to Udaipur...

45 °C

So we're still on the 12th of April and still in baking hot Rajasthan... here's a few more snaps:

I bought this Kurta when we went shopping with Arvind and Rajini...what do you think?

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Nice Vass...

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Anyway, after our music lessons we went to get some lunch and then in the evening headed off to the Raj Mandir Cinema in Jaipur to catch the latest Bollywood movie - "Prince". The cinema itself is stunning, it can seat over 600 people and is an old 1950's Art Deco design.

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The movie on the other hand was not as grand as its venue, and we left after half an hour of tring to follow nonsensical plots, rubbish acting and general gayness. What was funny though was how all the men whoop and cheer whenever they see a woman in a bikini on screen! Very funny :)

AFter the cinema we headed off to find a beer somewhere and ended up in a hotel called Wall Street watching the IPL cricket until about midnight.

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After our drinks the evening starts to get more exciting. We hail a rickshaw driver and chance upon the Indian equivalant of Del-Boy and Rodney, Sheikr and Lakraj, the two cheekiest chappies in Rajasthan. They give us a ride home and on the way we are lucky enough to stumble upon a true Rajasthani wedding just about to start. There are hundreds of people in the street, horses covered in jewelerry, elephants painted with rangoli patterns, fireworks going off everywhere! It's really a highlight for me...

When we get back to the hotel we haggle over a price for Sheikr and Lakraj to take us round jaipur for the whole day, we settle on 600Rs which is a rip-off but I cant be bothered to push any more.

The next morning we get picked up by the infamous Jaipur couple and we head off to see some sights including the water palace, a very strange park that they take us to that is dry as a desert and plays a continuous looped tape of elephant and tiger noises!

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A nice surprise is a young child who approaches us just outside the water palace asking if we want to see a magic trick. We cant refuse him as he's so cute, cant be more than 6 or 7 years old. The tricks he can do though just blow my mind! He is AMAZING! He really could put any professional magician to shame. I feel sad that he has no option other than this to survive, but at the same time I feel happy that he has managed to learn a skill that can put food on the table. India has really shown me the resilient spirit of human beings.

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We also visit a nice Jain Temple and then head to the Hawa Mahal, which is for me the most beautiful building in Jaipur. The structure is essentially a facade consisting of hundreds of tiny windows which were for the use of the Maharaja's wives and mistresses who were practicing Purdha. Basically Purdha means that they were not allowed to show their faces or be seen by any other person but the Maharaja, these little windows therefore allowed them to watch the comings and goings on the busy market place of the Pink City without being seen.

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Here's one of the Hawa Mahal at night:

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When we get back to the hotel Neeta heads back out to the Pink City for some shopping while Martin and I drink some Beers and come out to meet her later. I get some nice pictures of the city at night: -

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The next day we head to Pushkar. Stay tuned :)

Posted by Gavness 20:41 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (1)

Himachal to Rajasthan

Felling HOT HOT HOT!!!!!

sunny 46 °C

We arrived in Jaipur after the longest journey ever!!! We left the cool climes of Himachal Pradesh by bus - a 12 hour overnight journey from Dharamshala to Delhi. The bus station like so many we know was horrid - lots of poor children and beggars which we are finding quite hard to deal with. We were supposed to get a super duper air conditioned Volvo bus but as luck would have it, it had broken down so we got a "deluxe". The journey was awful beyond words - AC on a deluxe is open windows and piddly little fans that don't work. The driver drove like a maniac, the best way to describe it is like trying to sleep on a roller coaster ride. He sped over the potholes and bumps and we'd all fly 3 feet into the air. I also recall some horrid stenches as we made our way through the night. Anyway, we did get to Delhi in one piece...the way I will remember it is me telling Gav we'd arrived in Delhi as I'd just seen someone taking a dump. So there I am pretty disgusted and the next thing there is a line of them just crouching down (pretty evenly spaced out) taking their morning dumps!!! We just looked at each other and laughed.

As we arrive in Delhi there is a group of us (James and family, a russian lady as well as us) trying to locate the pre-paid taxi stand at the bus station and after much to and fro we found a stand but for auto-rickshaws. Gav and i managed to book one for New Delhi - we'd have preferred a taxi due to the distance we had to travel. Nonetheless, James was sorted too leaving the Russian lady who didn't speak much English or Hindi, I can only imagine how difficult that must be. We tried our best to help her so hopefully she's made it too whereever she was trying to get to...

Our old mate Pervez at the Delhi B & B was kind enough to give us a room to get showered and refreshed before our onward flight to Jaipur We had a lovely surprise at Delhi B & B - my friend Martin who'd arrived a few days before. It was lovely to see a familiar face and to have a nice cuppa of masala chai and quick catch up before he rushed off to catch his train to Agra. We are meeting up again in Jaipur which I'm sure will be an adventure. We spend the rest of the day getting our stuff sorted and catching some Zzzz's, this evening we catch the plane for Jaipur. We get to the airport in good time and are pretty impressed with the building,it is as snazzy as Terminal 5. The international terminal is a shack in comparison.

After a short time in the air we arrive in Jaipur to 36 degree heat at 8.30pm. It is the kind of heat that just envelopes you. Our first impression of Rajasthan is positive - a lovely modern airport, our drive to the hotel is lined with the heavenly scent of jasmine, the roads seem much better and the general craziness of drivers seems to be much calmer. Of course it is short-lived as we enter the city and we hold our breath as our driver navigates around the chaos that is indian traffic to get us to our hotel.

The hotel - Krishna Palace is superb. It is in the old haveli style with garden and rooftop restaurant. A much needed cold beer ensues and after a quick bite we are ready for bed.

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The next day is very chilled out, it is 40 degrees outside and neither of us has the inclination to be out during the day. I go for a morning walk just round the block looking for fruit. I don 't have much luck but on the way back, I spot some grapes on a cart being pulled by a man. His name is Ramesh and we tell each other what the various fruits and veg are called in hindi and gujarati. We do get a bit of an audience but I'm used to the stares by now not to feel intimidated. Back at the hotel there is a bit of commotion as we finish lunch. There is a monkey who has been a bit of a pest all morning, this time though the cheeky cheekster manages to steal a couple of bananas from the lady downstairs. He runs off as she chases him with her broom and once at a safe distance he picks off the bad bits of the banana and throws them at her!

In the evening we head into the Pink City (Old City). The chaos, colours, sights and sounds remind us of a larger scale version of the medina in Marrakech. As we turn different corners we see different wares...bangles upon bangles shiny ones, sparkly ones, glass, clay, mirrored, shoes, covers and wall hangings, indian outfits. It is a feast of colour, sound and smell...we love it!!!!!

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Every corner unearths something new...earthen ware pots, food stalls and it is a hive of activity most nights of the week. We stumble upon a shop selling bombay mix and decide to get some ourselves. We've been quite lucky getting by on my hotch-potch hindi, however it is little to no use in trying to buy the bombay mix. So we observe what others are doing and try to do the same but to no avail. It all happens so fast. We work out that we want a half kilo mix and ask a guy to help us out. It may have taken about twenty minutes to purchase but it truly is the tastiest half kilo mix in the whole of Rajasthan!

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We whizz back to our hotel and Vinod and I go back out to pick up Martin from the bus station. En route Vinod gets a phone call to pick up another client - Joel (or Ju Ho as pronounced by Vinod) from the train station. Vinod sings some lovely old Bollywood tunes on the way back and my comment that his singing is better than his driving goes down a treat. We spend the evening drinks beers, catching up and getting to know our new traveller friend Joel who is from China.

The next day Martin, Gavin and I head to Jantar Mantar as we have a bit of time before our afternoon with Aravind, Ragni and Arushi, the family we met in Himachal Pradesh. We leave at about 10.30 and already it is baking hot. Jantar Mantar is the biggest of 5 observatories in India. The place is approx 280 years old and it is truly amazing! It looks like Salvador Dali paintings and we are in awe as our guide explains the various instruments. We somehow cannot get our heads around how every line and angle on the structure has to be just so to measure whatever it is measuring. These instruments can measure not only time to an accuracy of 2 seconds but also the inclination and declination of the earth, the sun and the position of the sun in relation to the earth. The guy was a genius, simple and plain...

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We get back to our hotel where Aaravind is waiting to take us to his place. The afternoon is spent with our Jaipuri hosts - drinking, eating and shopping. Martin, Gavin and I try to resist the hot and crispy puris but they seem to be coming in threes and combined with the chana, bhindi and aloo we just can't help ourselves...super delicious!!! Aravind and his family have been truly gracious in their hospitality to us, and don't forget Snowy, the most handsome dalmation in all of Rajasthan!

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There seems to be quite a lot of activity at the hotel when we get back. Vinod has recently won an award and gets Martin to organise a picture with family, staff and guests to post on his website.

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We get chatting and before we know it our new friends Joel and Vinod together with Gav and Martin are drinking beers late into the night, Vinod shares his tips on success - always follow your heart and not your head, and after a few more beers out come the guitar and tablas for a jam.

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Much later we will clamber into Vinod's car to go and get some paan - a leaf with bettlenut,sweet syrups and fruits. It can leave your mouth quite red depending on how long your chew. Shashi, Vinod's wife comes too and as space at the back is tight Joel sits on Martin's lap. It really is quite a funny sight especially when one of us asks Joel if he is comfortable, his reply "I'm not comfortable but I am OK."

The next morning we head for out sitar and tabla lessons. I've been wanting to play the sitar for years and to do it in India was truly special. The pros make it look very easy but it is quite difficult, however, even when you are not sure what you are doing, the sound that comes from the sitar is so beautiful that you somehow just go along. Gavin and Martin try their hands on the tablas and again the pros make it look effortless.

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Since we've got a bit of wifi here (we're in kerala at the moment) we'll publish this now and try to finish off the Rajasthani saga tomorrow. Thanks for reading loyal followers :)

Posted by Gavness 10:52 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (0)

A bit more from the Himalayas

sunny 40 °C

Hey dudes!

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I've managed to upload some more photos from the Himalayas for you guys. Here are some of our favourites...

These photos are from a place called the Norbulinka institute in Dharamshala, close to the Tibetan Border. It's a charity that helps Tibetans and it specialises in crafts and hand made artefacts. Below you'll see some of the processes involved in making a huge Buddha statue...

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Lovely flowers and ting....

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These photos were taken about 15 minutes walk from our cottage in Palampur. I was certainly not expecting anything like this when the owner casually said "there's a stream over there somewhere...."

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I found this river snake lurking...

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And a lizard doing a funky dance...

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Walking back up I was lucky to get the opportunity to take some amazing photos...

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Some more amazing vistas...

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While we were there we visted Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama. It's a really funky little town, full of hippies and some great markets. It did hit home how sad the Tibetan story is when you see photos stuck to trees of political prisoners taken recently by the chinese communist government...

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Remember these from the Golden Child!!!! I-I-I-I-I-I want the knife.....

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The sacred cross dagger of Ajantii (another Golden Child reference mainly for the benefit of Jasen, Andy and Pete!)

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And this one solely for the benefit of Jasen... GUTTED!!!!

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Tibetan kids are SO CUTE...

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More photos from Mcleod Ganj and Tibetan Monasterys....

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These are some of the photos we missed off from the last blog update, some nice views, temples, pottery pics...
You'll notice one photo of what looks like hundreds of flags hanging in the forest. These are everywhere as you climb the mountain pass up to Sherabling Monastery, there are thousands and thousands of them. Each flag is filled with bhuddist mantras that the tibetans believed are carried off into the wind...

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This is Karan's 1926 Model T Ford, he owns the cottages we stayed at in the himalayas...

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On the way from Amritsar (Punjab) to Himachal Pradesh we smelled something funny, not unlike a student common room. Turns out weed grows EVERYWHERE in this region...

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And here's the last of them....

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See you later loyal blog followers, Neet will hopefully be updating soon with some pics of Jaipur and other parts of Rajasthan :)

Posted by Gavness 08:17 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (1)

Punjab to Himachal Pradesh

A country of contrasts

sunny 35 °C

The reality of our trip hit me when we left our beloved B & B in Delhi to catch the train to Amritsar. Its nearly six hours on the train - the Shatbadi Express. Now the express trains that I have encountered are either the Gatwick or Heathrow express and I am glad Gav is on the ball when we get to the station as I am having problems rationalising "express" with what rolls into the platform. Nonetheless we are reliably informed that it is the Shatbadi Express and so we board. I try and sleep through the 6 hours and Gav makes friend's with a 16 year old - Tanmay who is also en route to the Golden Temple in Amritsar for some luck on his Board exams...Good luck Tanmay!!! Gav and Tanmay talk about everything from politics to music to religion, he is very well informed and as well as proposing an import-export business invites Gavin to see more of Delhi. We've made another friend and look forward to meeting up with Tanmay when we return to Delhi.

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We arrive in Amritsar in the afternoon and our first impression is shock at the poverty. We are quickly whisked off to our guesthouse - Mrs Bhandhari's Guesthouse where we spend the rest of the afternoon chilling in the beautiful grounds. The guesthouse was first opened by Mrs Bhandhari Snr back in the day and has been taken over by Mrs Bhandhari Jnr since her mother passed away in 2007 at the ripe old age of 102!!!

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We are up very early the next day for our visit to the Golden Temple. Our ride is powered by a lawn mower engine and is possibly the ricketiest rickshaw in Punjab if not the whole of India driven by Krishan and his friend. The road to the temple is via the back streets and again we are shocked by what we see. Before we have time to process this we make our way to the temple entrance and are immediately awestruck as we catch the first sight of the magnificant Golden Temple. Its beauty truly takes your breathe away and in the early morning light is looks like a fire in the middle of the lake.

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As we walk round the atmosphere in the temple is peaceful almost hypnotic with the sounds of the tablas, harmonium and soft bhagans despite the activity - cleaning (the temple is immaculate), people (mostly men) bathing in the lake that surrounds the temple, cooking and so on. Again the thoughts about India that don't quite make sense come to the fore as I see the equality of all men on this side of the temple and the inequality on the other side.

Krishan awaits us with his trusty(?) ride back to the guesthouse and as we make our way back I am shocked when I see a man, now how can I put this...uhmmm..."self loving" may be the most appropriate term. Now this is another thing, it really is not uncommon for men to play "shuffle ball" as you chat about the price of something or another. Where is one supposed to look?

Anyway, after breakfast we spot Mrs Bhandhari and her friend Greda and go over for a chat. One gets the feeling of a great sense of history at the guesthouse and the chats with Mrs Bhadhari Jnr do not disappoint. She is a jolly lady who brings India to life with her many stories.

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In the afternoon we go to the Wagha Border Ceremony, the closing of the India-Pakistan border has turned into a bit of an event with many hundreds of people attending every day. There is a carnival atmosphere with the lots of loud music, ladies dancing bhangra as well as flag running. The two sides (India-Pakistan) try and out-do each other in a peacock display with the above as well as the soldiers seeing who can hold their breathe for the longest, the elaborate marching as well as twirling of moustaches!!!! It is crazy weird but we have a great time and I think both Gav and I feel slightly emotional as we plead allegiance to the Indian side....Mahtha ki!! Zindabad!

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The next day is an early morning drive from Punjab to Himachal Pradesh, both of us are feeling a little under the weather...Delhi belly has arrived as a result of a Paneer Pizza from Dominos (you gotta try!!) the night before. Sunglasses on, water bottles at the ready and off we go for a ride that turns out to be hellish beyond belief. Now the best way to describe the roads would be to say you know how Hinduism is about respect for your fellow man? Well, that doesn't apply to the roads. There are no speed limits, it is not uncommon for a riskshaw to overtake a bus at the same as as a car overtaking a rickshaw and if you just look in front of you, exactly the same is happening on the other side. Our driver was particularly bad and we had near misses more than a dozen times.

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Although a little flustered, we arrived to our cottage in a tea plantation on the Himalayas. The setting is tranquil beyond words, the only hooting is from the birds and other wild life around us. We settled in for the evening full of anticipation for the exploration of this region over the next few days....

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(OK Gav is taking over now as my fingers hurt!)

We are up and ready to go....first stop is Sobha Singh's gallery which is a tiny room with some beautiful oil paintings of various indian icons, Ghandi etc. The work is truly inspiring and its nice to think that there have been unknown artists like him working in india for years. Next stop is the Andretta pottery shop, where they also hold pottery lessons for local children. Arun, our bedi smoking host lets us have a go and we create some decent attempts at pottery. Seeing that its our first try, I think we did quite well. Washing our hands is a bit of a conundrum as there doesn't seem to be a sink anywhere, but Arun soon clears that up, pointing out that we have to go down the hill to a stream! It's a really lovely little pool of crystal clear water with dragon flies buzzing around. Amazing!

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Next we headed off to a hindu Temple, very old and simple but so beautiful. Loads of monkeys dotted about that pretty much kept themselves to themselves.

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We then head off to the sherbaling monastery where the monks in training learn their trade. It's beautiful and serene, loads of old women potter about chanting mantras and the monk's canteen serves the best Momos this side of Tibet! (more photos to follow, they're on the other camera!)

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On the drive back we spot a clearing that is just calling out to us. The sun is high in the sky just in front of us, the Himalayas to our right and we decide to sit and watch the sun go down over Himachal Pradesh. It is a moment we will always remember, the image is undescribable and we truly feel blessed to be able to have seen this with our own eyes...

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When we return to the cottage we meet Alan and his friend Subadrha. Alan is a proffessor of asian studies at coventry university and Subadrha lives in Kolkatta. Alan is a fountain of knowledge about India and we talk late into the night. The conversation gets onto Mauritius and he is able to shed some light on my ancestry. He says that most indians came over as indentured labour after the indian poppy crop failed. The british cultivated poppies in India for export of opium to China and indians were forced to farm it. After the crops failed poverty struck the regions of Varanasi to Kolkatta and Indians were shipped off to Mauritius to tend the Sugar Cane fields, Britains newest fad export to London. Indians from Tamil Nadu were brought over as Clerks or Book-keepers as they tended to be more educated and excelled at mathematics. Alan recommends a book called Sea of Poppies by Amitav Gosht, I am determined to find it tomorrow....

The next morning we head to Mcleodganj through Dharmshala, the residence of the Dalai Lama and general hippie fest! The town is crazy, hippie clothing, hippie food, hippies everywhere! We do some shopping (I find Sea of Poppies and Neeta gets some self teaching Hindi books as well as some weird indian comics) then head to the complex which houses the temple and the residence of the Dalai Lama. He's not there but the temple alone is worth it. Three walls are covered entirely with amazing murals depicting the transformation of Bhudda and the wheel of time. We cant imagine how long it must have taken to paint it, but it must have been forever!

We head home after McLeod for a well needed rest.

Today we have an easy day hanging out in Palumpur organising onward travel to Rajasthan....

We'll update again after Rajasthan and keep checking the blog as we might add more photos from Hmachal Pradesh if we get the chance. BYE BYE :)

Posted by Gavness 02:56 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (0)

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