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Blow Horn Please

On the road in India

sunny 30 °C

This would be the Taj Mahal.

October 20


Title: Wow India! :) neat

Today we got up and had breakfast with our nice tour guide Manu (very nice). Then we walked down to a ATM and got Indian Rupees and went back to hotel and rested. Then had lunch and looked at some not to big temples. One you had to cover your head. we walked to a bar and had a very big good dinner. Good night.


When I think of our first days in India in the future, I will remember the smells of Delhi: smoke, exhaust, urine and dust. It's a bit of a cliche to describe India by smell, but everything I've heard is pretty much accurate. To be fair, we landed at Delhi's airport just as they're completely expanding and rebuilding it, so the first impression was a poor one. Then we stepped out and saw the old Ambassador taxis that look like they were here in 1947!

Meeting "Manu," our tour guide, was a pleasure and relief. For eleven days, thanks to our signing up with Imaginative Traveller, he will take us around Rajastan, and some of the most overwhelming travel in India. Jenn and I are very happy to leave the planning and decision-making to someone else for a couple of weeks.

Today, on our first full day in India, we saw some of the sites in New Delhi, including the place of Matahma Gandhi's cremation, the war memorial "India Gate", a Sikh temple (where we all covered our heads) and a Hindu temple (built in 1938, and covered, un-ironically, with swatiskas.

It's Durga Puja being celebrated now (or Dussehra), and across the street from our hotel there has been a concert last night and tonight. James and I went over to check it out last night, and saw a quiet, family crowd enjoying modern rock music on a closed-off city block. The lights for Puja are already being added to for Diwali, so Delhi looks quite pretty in certain stretches.

October 21-22


Today we went to town and saw a fancy-ish hotel. it was very pretty and old. Then we went to some Havelis. one when we got there the owner came and let us in. Me: "thank you." and we also saw a well that was 90 feet deep. then we saw the castle, then Manu said camel ride. "Yay" really hard to get up and down. then after that put on a green dress, lipstick, a scarf and bengals [bangles] for dinner. Good night.


These days should be subtitled "escape from Delhi." They probably do it like this on purpose, getting you out of the big, bad city. If so, we really have appreciated it. We are now at a desert resort (I know because it's called "The Desert Resort") in Mandawa, about 250 km from Delhi. Our accomodations are "luxurious mud huts," and I hope that's easy to picture because that's a really good way to describe them. The dinner is served outdoors, as a buffet, and the view is over several kilometres of desert shubbery. There's not a cloud in the sky. This is Rajastan. The drive here was every bit as evocative and colourful as the drive we took exactly one week ago through Cambodia.

The town itself, Mandawa, is known for a kind of decorated house called a "haveli." Havelis are the houses of rich merchants from the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century. They are adorned by fresco paintings that are very hard to keep up, as they are done completely in authentic local vegetable dye colours. In Mandawa, there are 45 such houses, and other than a couple that are now hotels, they are vacant. We had the good fortune, however, of running into a family from Calcutta who was visiting their haveli property here, the house of their ancestors. They only make the trip twice a year, and don't stay inside the house, but as they unlocked the door, they invited us in to look around. Anica had her picture taken with their daughter, who is almost a year to the day older. Each haveli is a courtyard home, with two stories, and the paintings cover the inner courtyard as well. Some have a theme, like one of the hotels, which was devoted to Krishna, or another done in art deco. It's certainly a unique feature to this part of Rajastan.

The next day, unfortunately, James became the first victim of some Indian indigestion. He missed out on an afternoon camel ride and a dinner at the local castle. Anica overcame her initial fear to quite enjoy the camel ride. As I looked out over the desert landscape, I couldn't help but think that the scene was one that hasn't changed in centuries. That is, until the camel driver's cell-phone sounded. We rode for about half an hour, until we came to a farmhouse (if that's the right word). There, we met the family and they served us tea. Indian tea is all boiled together, not steeped, and their milk was from their buffalo. Then we thanked them and rode the camels back to the resort.

We enjoyed the resort, including the playground and pool, except for the fact that there were many wasps. Manu even got bit by one that crawled down his shirt! That made relaxing by the pool a bit of a challenge.

October 23


A mere three hour drive today, and we're in Jaipur, the "pink city." There are many historical buildings here made from the local pinkish sandstone, and the old city has officially been "pink-only" since it prepared for Prince Albert's visit in 1876.

Palace of the Winds, currently scaffolding, in Jaipur

That, combined with the 400 year-old city walls, and the fortications looming over us cliff-side, make Jaipur a very striking city. As with the other places we've been, cows are roaming freely through the streets. This I'd heard about all my life..."sacred cow" and all that. What I never imagined, however, was that monkeys, pigs and goats would also roam freely in a city of several million people. We first noticed the goats, when we saw a few on a second-floor balcony!

We were taken out to the Amber Fort today (which is not named for the colour). The combination of sandstone and marble, and also the detailed work in marble and carving, make it very impressive. Unfortunately, the lake below the castle is almost dry, and some of the fort is undergoing major restoration (such as the gardens). Still, it was neat to walk through the "women's quarters," with twelve apartments for twelve wives, and look out through marble lattice to the outer courtyard. Our local guide, Mr. Pram, seemed to be the dean of all local guides, and spoke very passionately about his Rajput ancestors. After a Jeep ride back down the moutain, we stopped on the way back to town to take pictures of the "lake palace," or summer home, which does indeed seem to float on the water.

October 24


Today we got up and had breakfast and went to the city palce and took a look around it. Beatiful. and the family still lives here. neat. Then we had lunch and we saw a Bollywood movie called Dhamaal. One time a grownup was bargaining to a kid. Then had diner. Good night.


A second (final) day in Jaipur, and we were with Mr. Pram again in the morning for a tour of the City Palace. The former Maharaja's family are still in residence here, a fact that greatly impressed Anica. First, we saw the ancient, royal observatory. These monumental instruments look at first like a giant, abstract sculpture garden. Their design just seems so impossibly modern, and yet they were built in 1728 and are each highly functional. There's a large sundial at an angle of 27 degrees, for instance. We, of course, set our watches to it because it's so accurate. There's another set of astrological platforms to measure each birth sign's position in the heavens.

After the Observatory, we saw a collection of the royal clothes, another of weaponry, and admired the beautiful, pink-walled courtyard, and the inner courtyard with the colourful peacock gate. Anica had her picture taken by a couple of Indian tourists; suprisingly to us she attracts quite a bit of attention here, too. One gentleman from Calcutta gave me his card (film-maker) by way of a thank-you.

There were also many pigeons about, because they're considered auspicious in Jaipur. Mr. Pram said you might get away with killing a man in Jaipur, but never a pigeon.

In the afteroon, we went to a 3:00 PM showing of a new Bollywood comed called "Dhajmaal!" Manu and our bus driver were with us, too. It was light-hearted, and slapstick silly, and even in Hindi, the plot was easy to follow.

We went out to dinner tonight...on our own (gasp!). Manu was so worried; it was cute: "Do you know how to get to the restaurant? Will you walk? Do you have the hotel address? Call me on my cell if you need me?" Well, we did just fine, although this is a very dirty city to walk around in. The beggars and hawkers, however, are not very persistent or bothersome. Dinner was delicious; it was south Indian vegetarian cuisine. They also made great ice cream desserts, and we all indulged in that. The restaurant was the first one we've been in here in India where we were the only visible Westerners. Maybe it's a coincidence, but Jenn and I thought that it was the best meal we've had so far in India.

Ocotober 25


Thousand year old Ranthambhore Fort, tucked away high above the national park

After another stunning drive, we arrived at the "Ankur Resort" in Ranthambhore in time for a quick swim before climbing into an overgrown, open-top jeep. This was the vehicle that took us through Ranthambhore Nature Reserve for the better part of three hours.

Seeing a tiger, the main attraction, is actually pretty rare, and we had no such luck. We did see monkeys, spotted deer, (unspotted) deer, a mongoose, crocodiles (from a distance). Lots of deer and birds, actually. When they gave the alarm call, our jeep's driver took off in pursuit of the tiger that was surely coming. But no, despite the thrill of the chase, we never glimpsed a tiger. The park, however, is beautiful: hilly, with riverbeds running all along the road. In some places, there's a panorama; others the branches closed in our vehicle and we had to duck our heads to prevent being scratched. Once Anica figured out to avoid being injured, she enjoyed the ride itself. We also stopped beside a clear, still lake, which reflected the trees that ringed it.

Lake at Ranthambhore Park

October 26-October 27

We arrived on the 26th of October in Karauli, to stay at the former Maharaja's palace. The Rajastani town of Karauli is much more off the beaten track that I would ever expect to see on a packaged tour. Driving here, we passed along a single lane road through several farming communities where people seemed very surprised to see who was inside our van. Sometimes children would run alongside our van, waving and smiling. The other drivers, however, were more aggressive than friendly. Very few oncoming vehiciles gave way at all, forcing us onto the dirt shoulders. It was best simply not to look, I found!

The Maharaja's residence is now one of faded glory and assorted curios. James and I had a veritable apartment to stay in, with a sitting room, a two-room lavatory, and numerous french doors and shutters. The rooms looked on the inner courtyard, where various size tables were set up for the meals to be served. At night, the full moon rose over the wall and shone down on the center of the courtyard.

Anica enjoyed being shown around the grounds. They keep four horses, some cows, rabbits, budgies, turtles and dogs, for example, on the property. They have a collection on panquins and of vintage cars. There was a swimming pool, which Manu described as "old-fashioned," before we saw it, but that we described as murky and univiting. There was a really cool billiards room, and we did play, but the undistubed dust was thick, and not all the snooker balls could be found. Like I said, faded glory.

At their "city palace," which we toured on the morning of the 27th, we were the only ones there. They opened up the rooms and buildings piece by piece, sometimes pointing the way with a flashlight. We couldn't believe how immense the palace was. And the oldest part of it was built in 1348! Much of it was fairly well-preserved, and very much worth seeing. Yet, many guidebooks, including our Rough Guide to India, don't even mention Karauli, or its city palace.

The best part about Karauli was walking through the town and its market streets. The people were so friendly: everybody waved and said hello, and nobody was begging or trying to sell us anything. The people here also like to greet us with "ta-ta," which (thanks to the British, I guess) we heard over and over in a singsong tone. I joked with Anica that we must be the "ta-ta" people. To our eyes, they are poor people, but not desparately poor, although the region is practically in drought conditions. The main business seems to be the quarrying of the red sandstone from the surrounding hills. The open sewers, and crowded, rough housing is quite a contrast, however, from the Maharaja's holdings. We met her highness, the latest Maharaja's widow, who was very gracious and welcoming. I wonder how the family is regarded in Karauli, because the property they own dwarfs everything else in town, even the temples.

When we took a camel cart ride (the equivalent of a horse-drawn wagon ride back in Ontario) in the late afternoon, we headed out of the town to a nearby lake, the dam for which was built over 400 years ago (although not considered a "historical" site, so I'm glad I asked about it). The people in the homes we passed came outside to greet us, and some children biked or walked alongside us. It wasn't at all intimidating, though. In fact, when we got to the lake, Anica saw that there was some playground equipment. She climbed and slid for an audience of children for the first few minutes, but then the novelty wore off and they all played together.

Leaving Karauli, we once again had that wonderful, bittersweet feeling of not wanting to go, of having found a place we really enjoyed staying at, and could have stayed longer.

Posted by jennrob 09:29 Archived in India

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It's great to have you back online! It all sounds so interesting. I can understand how nice it would be to have a guide, even for a short time. A chance to relax and leave the details to someone else.

I enjoyed the photos. Anica looks as if she has grown! She's adapted to nomad life exceedingly well. Take care.

by Mom-Momma

Wow...that is quite the entry and such great imagery (not to mention the photos). I have always wanted to travel to India and getting to read your travels makes my desire to go even stronger. It sounds like such fun and it is amazing to me how much attention Anica attracts. That is quite fun and interesting to note.

I love that your best meal was the first one you had without Westerners around...I love Indian food and I can only imagine how good it must have been.

by sabrinagb

Hello Again! We've missed your blog these past few days & were thrilled to hear all about India. What contrasting sights for you,as well as amazing photos for us. Loved Anica's wonderfully clear entries. What an education for all of you.
Love & Hugs,
N&G, H&D, M&D

by hdbutters

So gladto hear from you! I had thought I might have to have the American Embassy search for our friends from the northern state of Canada. (Ha, Ha!) You see such unigue sights on your tours, I went to India in '89. Went to Agra, Delhi, Mc Cloud and an attempt to go to Lea from Shrinigar. I did see the Sandelwood boats on Dahl Lake but due to uprising in teh area it was not safe to stay overnight in one of these tpurist attractions. Note new email: on last post. ; )

by Mum 2

Thanks for the comments, and it's nice we were missed. There's not a lot of wireless internet access, so we only have limited opportunity to get online. More soon! - Rob

by jennrob

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