A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: mulliganward

Final Blog

We had the time of our lives

sunny 19 °C

Well we have been home nearly forty eight hours and we are still on a high.

The trip back from Delhi to Heathrow, which was an eight hour flight, and was the first flight in many years I didn't take any Valium before flying. I suspect I may have had food poisoning (some iffy Indian cheese) and spent the whole night before the flight been sick, so the next morning feeling very poorIy, my main aim was to get on the flight (without been turned away), which I did and then slept for six of the eight hours. I woke up feeling much better and with no Valium quashing the fear, I had a horrendous time landing. It was good to land in a country where we knew the rules and understood the language, certainly makes for an easier life.

When you are away for a long time and go from one brilliant thing to another, it is hard to have time to sit, internalise what you have seen and remember it. We have seen soooo many things, met so many people and done so many things, that we are looking forward to having the time to remember them. For example, I was in the hairdressers yesterday and was chuckling about the Thai massage that Bill had from the women from the prison in Thailand and Bill was talking yesterday about how proud he was of him and Natalie climbing Palitana in such bad weather.

We have so many of memories; the traffic in Hanoi, the man walking out of his house and straight in the river to have a bath before going to work in Cambodia, the beautiful red soil in Cambodia, Island hopping in a Thailand, Bill eating Thai green curry for every meal in Thailand, monkey watching in Langkawi, meeting John's relatives in Malaysia, playing in the pool in Singapore and our 'anniversary' meal, leaving Thailand because of the curfew, Bill sharing a pudding with the lady in Singapore, Sri Lanka how we loved you, India and all it's madness, beer in a tea pot, monsoon rain, the traffic, cows, camels and shopping. We could go on and on, not forgetting all the wonderful people, we only ever saw goodness from people and all the beautiful beautiful temples.

We are asked the same questions quite often by people:
1. How did we get on? We argued all over the world as we do at home, but became much closer and as Bill was always quoting at me when I was moaning about organising everything "we are a team".
2. Has it changed us? Bill especially feels that he has learnt so much about people and their different cultures and has more compassion. I think I have learnt not to stress about everything, life takes you where you are going. I have also learnt that Bill has no patience at all.
3. Favourite place? Has to be India. Everyplace we went to we would not have changed, but may not go back, but we know that India is calling us to return (I must see the faces of the beautiful cows again). I feel like a little bit of me is still there, as my terracotta horse is on the side of the mountain in Poshina (I just remembered the town drunk!) waiting for my return.
4. Best food? Bill has put a lot of thought into this and can quote individual meals, but again it has to be the food in India, which is so different from the India food we get in England.
5. Money? Yes, we overspent but have no regrets and my haggling surely saved money!
6. Did we have fun with Natalie? We had great times, we laughed a lot, Natalie and I coughed a lot and drank a lot of gin (but not enough).
7. Are we going to do it again? You bet your bottom dollar we are. Our next plans are to travel in South America as soon as we can. We just have a little matter of finding jobs and saving, but we will do it.
8. Did we miss home? We missed the people we left at home. We didn't miss home at all.

Thank you to everyone for reading our blog and your thoughtful responses, it made us feel we were not alone.

Posted by mulliganward 02:09 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Sightseeing in Delhi

sunny 36 °C

Well, the title really should be 'How not to sightsee in Delhi'. Yesterday morning we got up bright and early to catch a 'hop on, hop off bus'. Leaving the hotel, we were met with a gauntlet of taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers offering us all sorts of different journeys. We eventually got into a tuk tuk and insisted they took us to the bus stop. This was about the last time we had any control on the day. The tuk tuk driver and his mate (sitting on the same seat as the driver), were telling us because it was Raksha Bandhan (brother and sister day) everything was closed and we should use them to take us sightseeing, but we kept insisting we went to the bus stop. We got to the 'bus stop' and they told us to go into the office and find out about the bus. We went into this strange office, where this man rang the 'bus company' and told us they were not running that day and our best bet to see anything was to use the tuk tuk driver. We came outside (Bill was in a foul mood with them) and we got back into the tuk tuk and told them to take us back to the hotel. It was a terrible journey, Bill was refusing to talk to them and they spent the journey trying to get me to agree to use them for sightseeing. I kept telling them to take us back to the hotel, they kept trying to persuade us to use them for the day and I kept falling out with Bill for being so rude to them; he was furious we had spent sixty rupees on the journeys (sixty pence).

We did eventually get back to the hotel, Bill spoke to the hotel, who told us the bus was running and most of the taxis and tuk tuks outside the hotel were touts and we had literally been taken for a ride. By this time I had no desire to go on the bus and said I wanted to get an old fashioned taxi, Bill eventually agreed to this and the hotel sorted it out for us. We agreed a price with the taxi driver and gave him a list of places we wanted to see....then down came the rain. We wanted to go to the Lotus Temple and sat in traffic on a bridge for over an hour (in the pouring rain) as the road was flooded at the bottom. The roads were littered with cars, bikes and tuk tuks which had broken down. When we eventually got to the temple, the queue to get in was phnominal, with an estimated two hour wait, so we turned back. It did stop raining, but all the roads were still flooded. The driver took us to Humayun's tomb, which we had on our list, and it exceeded our expectations . By now our arranged four hours was virtually over with the taxi and we had to go back to the hotel.

This morning, our final day in India and the final day of our travels, we decided to spend the morning next to the pool and then go sightseeing in the afternoon. There is no rain today and it is extremely hot. We went outside the hotel to try and get a tuk tuk to Chandi Chowk and the driver proceeded to tell us it was closed today, but he could take us to this big shopping centre near there, we walked away from him and he started to say he just remembered the chowk is open today, but we keep walking. Going back into the hotel, we arrange a taxi, which was half the price the tuk tuk driver quoted. The taxi driver proceeded to tell us, that everyone outside the hotel is a crook, apart from him and we should use him for the day! We eventually get him to drop us off and we were immediately surrounded by people telling us various things are closed and we needed to come with them. Natalie had told us, we should get a guide to take us around the chowk (market), but we didn't; consequently we couldn't really find our way around and it was hot, so hot. After walking around for about an hour, we decided to head back to the hotel as I was feeling I'll with the heat. The tuk tuk driver gave us such a low quote to take us back to the hotel, we doubled it!

We are all packed, seats have been booked on the plane, taxi booked to the airport and we are feeling very sad, but tomorrow we return home. We shall write a final blog when we get home, to round everything up, but we have had the time of our lives (que song).

Posted by mulliganward 03:36 Archived in India Comments (1)

Dehli

sunny 33 °C

The road to Dehli from Agra, was a great disappointment to me, but Bill and Vinay were very happy about it. The road was less than a year old and was like a motorway in the UK. The price to use the road was more expensive than other roads and consequently we saw about ten other cars on our three hour journey. That was the problem for me, we didn't see any cows, camels, water buffaloes, vans filled to capacity or people on the roadside. The roads in India have been a great joy to me as all life goes on on the roads and are a joy to travel on. Since Vinay picked us up in Ahmedabad on the fifteenth of August, we have traveled 2,734 miles with him, which is pretty good for two people who really don't like travelling in a car; 2,734 miles is equivalent to travelling to Malta and back from the UK.

So, we have arrived at our final destination. We have heard a lot about Delhi and not all of it positive, but we absolutely love it; it is our favorite Indian city. It is a very green city, with lots and lots of trees. It is quite unbearably hot here, as the monsoon still has not arrived and people are quite desperate for the rain. Vinay dropped us off at The Marigold (not as in the film) and we said our goodbyes. Ramesh, who organised our trip around Gujarat for us, welcomed us at the Marigold and plied us with gin, whilst we chatted to him and Paveen, not forgetting Brandy the dog. We were originally going to spend two nights at the Marigold, but decided to head for the Imperial hotel a day early as it is nearer tourist attractions, allowing us to spend our last three nights in what is said to be the best hotel in India (Bill, would beg to differ, he has already fallen out with them about our fridge, which is heating everything up).

We have been travelling around with some material for a few weeks, waiting for an opportunity to find a tailor. So yesterday afternoon, we headed to a tailor, which was recommended to us. We have not had a good experience with tailors previously, so we left the material with some trepidation. We returned this afternoon and we are both really pleased with our clothes and the brilliant work the tailor has done on them; our faith in tailors has been restored. What has been good is we have been using tuk tuks again. We had a driver yesterday, that tried to play us the whole journey, we had agreed a price and he kept moaning about the heat (mopping his head and sighing) and then moaning and moaning about the traffic (it was bad), when we got out of the tuk tuk, he was quite surprised we gave him the originally agreed amount. Bill says I am going to continue to haggle with everybody, when we get home!

Tomorrow is Raksha Bandhan. All the shops today have been full of people buying things for the festival. It is a Hindu festival meant to tighten the bond between brother and sister. Sisters tie a thread on the wrist of their brothers. The festival is celebrated to protect brothers from evil things and sisters also pray to God for the well being and long life of their brothers. Sisters wear new clothes and do not eat until they tie the rakhi on their brothers wrist. The brothers give gifts on Rakhi (usually money) as tokens of love and blessings to their sisters. So, Happy Raksha Bandhan, Nick and Myles.

Tomorrow, we have a day of sightseeing planned.

Posted by mulliganward 06:39 Archived in India Comments (1)

Taj Mahal

sunny 32 °C

We left Jaipur early this morning to head for Agra. In my backpack I had carefully placed a bar of Ritter's chocolate, as a sign of victory over the Taj hotel chain. When we had checked into the hotel, we had been very excited that they had Ritter's chocolate and Bill and I finished the bar rather quickly. The following day, when the man came to check the mini bar, I told him we needed some more chocolate, to which he just shrugged and said, they didn't have any. I sent him off on a mission to find chocolate, after assuring him we really really needed it. Several hours later he returned to say there was no chocolate, he even rang his boss up, so he could assure me there was no chocolate. It was at this stage that I had chocolate melt down (this was a five star hotel, a previous hotel had gone out and found me decaf coffee, so they would find me chocolate) and told them that the hotel was hardly full and I expected them to search every empty room, until they returned with chocolate; ten minutes later the chocolate was delivered. It is still in my bag, nearly twenty four hours later.

The journey to Agra took about four hours and was quite uneventful, although I did have a little cry, when I realised that very soon, I will not be able to see camels everyday. Agra is the city (in the state of Uttaranchal Pradesh) where the Taj Mahal is, and this is the only reason for coming here as it is not a pretty city. Our hotel upgraded us and our room does give us a view of the top of the Taj Mahal. I was determined to see the Taj Mahal when I knew we were coming to India and Bill really didn't want to come and we even fell out about it (what a surprise), but I said it was a done deal for me, we were going to see the Taj Mahal.

The hotel was in walking distance of the Taj Mahal and as we walked along the road we we really been hassled by people wanting to give us a lift, be our guide, sell us water, come to their restaurant or their shop. They were very insistent and ignoring them (our usual ploy) really didn't work, Bill was even penned into a wall, by a man with a horse and trap. It didn't help that it was hot (where is the rain when we need it) and there was no shade. The security measures to get in where understandably strict; our bags were checked by hand. This lady was good, she found cough sweets in my bag I didn't know where there, she took my Hall's cough sweets off me, but did allow me my cough medicine. Looking in the bag, she found the bar of Ritter's chocolate and removed it (putting it in a pile with my Halls). She then brought out a statue of Ganesh (without mouse), that Bill had bought earlier and said this wasn't allowed inside. She did point us in the direction of some lockers and Bill had to go back outside and face the gauntlet of people volunteering to 'help' us.

The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum, built by Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child! The Taj Mahal, did not disappoint me in any way, it is truely beautiful and Bill acknowledged that it was well worth the visit. Inside the mausoleum were just the grave of Mumtaz and next to her, Shah Jahan (although the real graves where in the basement). I did want the 'Princess Diana picture', sat on the bench in front of the Taj looking melancholy, but the bench was surrounded by people and I was having a happy time. The colours of the saris worn by the visitors were beautiful, as everybody was in their Sunday best and we sat for sometime, people watching. I asked Bill if he would build anything like that as a memorial to me and he said he would rest my coffin precariously on top of a tall building!

Tomorrow morning, we head for our final destination, Delhi. Hopefully we will find a tailor to make up some clothes for us and we will have a chance to stroll around the bazaars.

Posted by mulliganward 04:23 Archived in India Comments (1)

Rajistan

Yes, three bed covers, may be too many

sunny 39 °C

Udaipur is a lovely city. We have seen quite a marked difference between Gujarat and Rajasthan; Gujarat is quite a rich state (a lot of industry) and it has little need for tourism, whilst Rajasthan relies on tourism. Consequently Udaipur was incredibly clean, the hotels are much more client focused and the people are super keen to please us and it almost feels like a different India. The turbans worn by the men in Rajasthan are also magnificent, as they are so brightly coloured, although Bill keeps failing to get a picture.

We had arranged for Vinay to pick us up a little later on Monday morning. It soon became apparent that Vinay now had the cold and sore throat virus, although he insisted that he must have got his cold from a bad cup of tea, and he would not accept he had caught it after sitting in a car of swirling germs for days. We decided to just visit the palace and the lake and then spend the rest of the day resting. We have been to a few palaces in our travels, but we really enjoyed this one. It was not as opulent as most palaces we had seen, but the colours were beautiful and there were lots of depictions of the sun god there (the family are direct descendants from the sun god). Surya is the main solar deity in Hinduism and he is my favourite deity.

Yesterday morning, I decided cold turkey was the only way forward with Rexcof, as although it was doing a great job, I felt like I had the shakes when I woke up and decided swigging a cough medicine out of the bottle, which is said to have a high percentage of Indian children addicted, may not be a good idea. Getting into the car yesterday morning, Vinay informed me he felt much better as he had had some Rexcof! I was watching him very closely on our seven hour journey from Udaipur to Jaipur, and I am pleased to say he showed no adverse effects. Unlike me, who still has a terrible cough, no sense of taste or smell and now no decent cough medicine.

Jaipur is the capital and largest city in Rajasthan. It is quite a modern city and the roads are brilliant, everybody almost stays in a lane. It has a palace, a beautiful fort, with a wall around it which almost looked like the Great Wall of China. It is called the pink city, although we think it is more terracotta (Prince Albert as in Victoria, called it pink). For the first time in what must be months, as we were walking around we saw about three other sets of tourists. The hotel we are staying in is quite upmarket (yes, Natalie, they still play the sitar at breakfast), consequently Bill is watching every penny we spend here and I am eating all the decent chocolate out of the mini fridge.

We decided to do a Lonely Planet walking tour around the old city of Jaipur this morning. Now, you may know, that we do not have a good history with walking tours, generally getting lost and falling out. Well today, we didn't get lost, nor did we fall out, it was almost boring. It was so hot (we go from torrential rain, to unbearable sunshine in minutes), that we did it quite quickly and hardly looked at anything on route. Although, we did manage to have lunch, buy another (yes our third) bed cover, five metres of material of a picture of Ganesh (yes and the mouse).

Now you may have guessed that we love India, we have both lost our hearts to the people and the country, but we have to acknowledge there is a lot wrong with India and the lives some people live. In the local paper this morning, they printed some of the stats (I love a good stat) from the 2011 census for Rajasthan:

  • 65% of households do not have adequate sanitation, ironically 63% have mobiles phones. Poor sanitation is seen as dangerous for women, who have to go outside to go to toilet in quiet places. This is also seen as a reason why girls drop out of school.
  • 70% of households use firewood for fuel.
  • 54% of households do not have a separate kitchen.
  • 49% of households do not have drinking water. 17% are still reliant on hand pumps.
  • 33% of residents do not had bank accounts.

We are really on a final countdown to coming home and we swing from being excited and then sad. We decided this morning, if somebody said to us, you can still see everyone at home and carry on traveling, we would snap it up, until that utopia, we will be heading for home next Tuesday.

Tomorrow we are off to see one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World, although this depends on which site you look at.

Posted by mulliganward 04:09 Archived in India Comments (1)

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