S: India - 2010
FC: India - 2010
1: In October 2010, I finally went on a long awaited trip to India. It was an Intrepid Travel tour through the north that stayed mainly with Rajasthan but also took us to Agra and Varanasi. We had so many laughs and adventures along the way that on only whetted my appetite to visit India again.
2: Delhi | I arrived in India quite late at night and I didn't get a good look at my surrounding until the morning. We were set up at the swanky Hotel Perfect, which....wasn't! | Street view from Hotel Perfect
3: After meeting up with some other members of the group at the hotel, we decided to set off on our own to explore New Delhi. | India Gate | Cricket in the Park
4: On my second day in Delhi, we set off on a tour of Old Delhi under the guidance of our fearless leader Mahi. | Typical Indian wiring.
5: Cows and urinals in the streets. | Urban monkey | Typical Indian wiring.
6: High security at the mosque. The metal detectors aren't even plugged in!
7: The mosque is a beautiful and peaceful place but it was hard to maintain a sense of decorum when dressed in these stylish modesty robes.
9: Inside the Sikh temple, volunteers prepare food for anyone who is hungry all day long. The ladies make chapatis and gossip like crazy! | Outside the temple, we attracted quite a bit of attention.
10: Stepping into Old Delhi is like stepping into another era. In the spice market they use old weigh scales, wooden carts, and a whole lot of manual labour to do business.
11: Ear cleaning!!!
12: Mahi makes sure he hasn't lost any of us in the chaos.
14: Jaisalmer | After the chaos of Delhi, the old fort town of Jaisalmer was a welcome reprieve. Even though it's much quieter than the big cities the streets are still bustling with motorcycles and....cows.
17: Jaisalmer is well known for its Havelis, which are old mansions. They are intricately decorated and beautiful to visit to see how wealthy people once lived in India. | Indian James Brown | Typ;ical Indian Family Photo Op.
20: A Jain temple in Jaisalmer
23: We all had fun shopping in Jaisalmer. Alex bought a turban for our impending trip to the desert, Meri bought a bedspread after much hilarious deliberation, and I bought a small painting of an elephant.
25: Our favourite waiter "Bapi" | Lisa and Melissa | Thali. It's like a sampler plate. | Dining on the roof terrace. | Our room in the touret. | While we were in Jaisalmer, we stayed in a beautiful old hotel that was built into the fort walls. Imogen and I even had a room in the turret.
26: Cows are sacred in India and, in Jaisalmer, they certainly rule the town. When you see a cow coming, you better get out of the way.
27: I spent part of my birthday in Jaisalmer and sprained my foot when I basically fell into a pot hole. Luckily for me, a very kind carpet seller put me on the back of his bike an drove me back up into the fort. | It's considered very good Karma to feed the cows that roam the streets.
28: The long camel trek to our desert camp. As painful as it was, it was probably easier than walking with my foot.
29: My birthday continued with a camel trek into the desert to camp out. Mahi had the right idea.
30: When we finally arrived at our desert camp, I was able to continue my convalescence with some samosas and cold beer while I elevated my foot on a cot.
31: Some performers from a local tribe came to our camp to dance and sing for us. Mahi had a surprise birthday cake there for me. All and all, it was an epic birthday! | Another long trek back to civilization.
32: Jodhpur | We returned to Jaisalmer after the night in the desert and then traveled by train to Jodhpur. The big site in Jodhur is the very impressive Mehrangarh Fort
34: Alex's height made him an instant celebrity everywhere we went.
35: Living in the lap of luxury. The gates to the fort are covered in spikes....allegedly as a defense against armies who might charge the fort on the back of elephants.
36: Bangles? Bangles? You want to buy bangles? I give you very good price!
37: Immy got her shoes repaired and received a pair of loaner shoes (many sizes too big) to ear while she waited. | A fortune teller on the side of the road tole Meri's fortune by letting the bird out of the cage and reading the card that the bird stood on.
38: Tuk Tuk decor
39: Not surprisingly, jodhpurs originated in Jodhpur | 3 days in and still hobbling around. | Palace lit up for the royal wedding. We weren't invited. | At the hotel, Alex tries to get sympathy for his Delhi belly.
40: From Jodhpur, we went on an excursion to visit a Bishnoi village. We stopped to see a potter, a rug making co-op, and the "Opium man". Along the way, we did a little off-roading and Mahi prescribed some random tree leaves that were supposed to help Alex with his tummy trouble.
42: The "Opium man" was a life long drug addict who had been growing opium (and using) his whole life at the family farm. He demonstrated how he got high, which involved some praying and ceremony. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch. The rug making co-op was much less awkward since it was created to make jobs for women in the area.
44: d | On the way to Udaipur, we stopped at a spectacular Jain temple in the town of Ranakpur. It's a huge complex built in the 1400s and it's famous for all the
45: columns....more than 1444! Despite our best efforts to fit in, Melissa and Alex had to wear loaner clothes again.
46: Udaipur | Udaipur was one of my favourite places we visited. It's was a smaller town that moved at a slightly slower pace. One of the best spots we discovered was the restaurant at the hotel next door where we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the lake. Fun fact: Octopussy was filmed here and it's screened in many restaurants every night.
47: Our ornate little hotel room | View from the roof of our hotel
52: Laundry lady washing clothes in the lake in the early morning. | Beggar child
53: Udaipur post office
55: There was plenty to do in Udaipur. We took a class in miniature painting, which is a local specialty. While we worked on basic camels (mine is bottom right), the artists demonstrated how the pros do it by painting on our finger nails. He managed to fit the entire Taj Mahal on my nail! | I skipped the yoga class only because of my foot injury. Otherwise, I'm sure I would have been able to do all poses!
56: Cooking class in Udaipur. Melissa really does love that Gulab Jamon!
57: Traditional dancing show in Udaipur
58: City Palace in Udaipur
59: This man took our tickets and had the most amazing mustache. He claimed to have been growing it since he was 13 years old. | Another family photo op
64: We arrived in Pushkar in the pouring rain and immediately set off to explore.
67: Since Pushkar is a religious centre, pilgrims flock to the area, making it good for some of the best people watching of all time.
68: Street Food! | Chai Wallah
70: Out and About
71: in Pushkar | Street Side Tattoos....a a terrible idea if there ever was one.
72: The Pushkar Camel Fair
73: The Pushkar camel fair is an annual event on the edge of Pushkar where camel traders come from all over India to do business. It is a sea of tents, camels, turbans, and hot air balloons.
74: Just like Ardene for Camels | The belle of the ball! | Camel Beauties
75: Camel Tramp stamp | The smoky eye is "in" this season
77: Got to check the teeth before completing the sale | ....might need a little help | ...or a lot of help!
78: The cows and horses got dolled up, too.
79: The camel fair wasn't ALL camels. It was also a market for produce, cows and a centre for socializing. | Despite homosexuality being very taboo in India, young men often walk around holding hands.
84: One morning we got up before dawn to watch the camel fair wake up. All the cook fires cast a haze on the area while them men sat around and had their breakfast.
88: Early morning ablutions
89: These guys may look like they have never seen a hot air balloon before...but some of the traders were linked in with the latest technology! | They might even have been updating their Facebook status before breakfast.
91: Fantastic people watching early in the morning! The turban colours and styles are indicative of the parts of India the men come from but we just enjoyed all the colours.
95: We wandered around all day, always on the lookout for turban in another great colour. There were fascinating people all around....including this very strange German photo tourist.
96: Aside from looking after the cook fires, the women collected camel dung all day long. Makes you appreciate the opportunities women have in the West!
97: Who says chivalry is dead? | The dung was dried out and then used to fuel fires.
98: The mustache contest was a pretty big deal. They guy above made a pretty good showing but the winner was the guy to the left. with the sword.
100: Jaipur | Arriving in Jaiput, the Pink City, we first went to the famous Amer Fort built just outside the city. There are walls that surround the compound that look a lot like the Great Wall of China.
104: In case you haven't heard, I am kind of a big deal in India! This is a pretty typical day where three of us girls found a shady corner to wait for the others to complete touring through the Fort. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by a school trip. The teacher (in yellow) was one of our most enthusiastic admirers!
106: At the Jaipur Observatory, we learned (sort of) how astronomy was studied in the 1700s. Seems like a lot of work to tell time and watch the stars!
107: The Palace of the Winds turned out to be just a facade with walkways behind for the women of court to watch what is going on on the street. A few of the girls went inside and were able to spot our new friend with the Hennaed beard from the top floor!
108: After the relative quiet of Pushkar, the bustling streets of Jaipur were quite a shock to the system. The streets were streaming with pedestrians motorcycles, horse carriages, tuk tuks, and even the odd school bus (top right).
109: So just how many westerners can you get in the back of a tuk tuk? We seemed to max out at 5 on our way to the "Monkey Temple"... | ...but we really had a lot of fun trying!
110: This movie theatre in Jaipur is apparently very famous. We had a fabulous time in the VIP section watching Guzaarish, which starred the stunning Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as a surprisingly glamorous nurse. More glamorous than our resident nurse Melissa (below)....well, maybe.
111: It was a pretty big night out. On our way home we stopped to pick up some Gulab Jamon for the big eating contest (Melissa: I can eat 5 lbs!)., ran into a wedding procession, and Farrah was finally curred of her Delhi belly by some antibiotics with Bart Simpson on the box. The next day we found the mother of all Gulab Jamon batches. That's way more than 5 lbs!
112: Rathambore Park
113: At the Rathambore National Park, we all hopped on the safari truck in a frenzy to see tigers in the wild....but mainly we saw birds and a couple of ruins.
114: Eventually, we did spot some tiger tracks. | This was around the time that Melissa's expensive sunglasses fell overboard. Not to worry, even though there is clear evidence of a tiger nearby, you can always “send the boy”
115: In the end, we did find the tiger and “the boy” did live to see another day | ...but Mahi's tiger hunting stole the show!
116: Agra and | The Taj Mahal was teaming with people and turned out to be a popular tourist attraction for Indian tourists and foreign tourists alike. Picking out our favourite saris kept us entertained while we waited our turn to go inside.
117: The Taj Mahal | The foreign tourists are given bright red booties to wear but Indians just go barefoot. Some, like this woman, cover their feet in henna to help keep cool.
119: By this point in the trip, I was fairly accustomed to being asked to pose in photos for the locals, but even I was stunned when I was handed a baby and asked to pose with it in front of the Taj Mahal. Imagine this little lady looking through the family photo album when she grown up and finding a photo of a strange foreign woman holding her on the family vacation!
120: The cool rainy weather continued the next day when we visited Agra Fort. You could barely make out the Taj Mahal in the distance but it was beautiful inside the fort.
123: Outside the fort, I was able to indulge my fascination with the concept of the outdoor barber. We saw these guys in every town and I couldn't stop snapping photos of them.
124: On our way out of town, we visited a carpet weaving co-op that had been established to provide jobs for people in Agra. We were told that, to protect the Taj Mahal, strict rules were put in place on pollution, making it difficult for industries to operate. They were very happy to show us how they make patterns, weave, shave, and wash the rugs...before the obligatory hard sell!
125: While Meri shopped for carpets, the carpet seller heard about how Alex had left all of his underwear in Udaipur and had been surviving on a single pair ever since (much to the dismay of us girls). Not to worry....“SEND THE BOY!”. Although we tried to warn Alex that an Indian size medium might not be what we was used to in the UK, this is what the boy came back with.
127: Varanasi | Ganges is the life line of Indian Culture and there‘s a bit of everything going on along its banks | ....a wedding, some pilgrims, some cows, and even some laundry!
128: Pilgrims travel from all over India to pray on the side of the Ganges. The banks are lined with ghats where they can stay.
130: Another street-side barber...Im obsessed! | Bargaining for cloth in the market
131: Out and about in Varanasi... | If a street side tattoo seemed like a good idea, how about some dentistry?
132: At dawn, we took a boat ride down the Ganges to watch the sun rise and see all the morning activities along the river.
134: Salesmen everywhere...
137: As the sun started to come up, more and more people appeared on the banks. Sure was a busy place!
138: The Ganges is not the cleanest body of water I've ever seen with the funeral pyres and cows and such. You certainly wouldn't get me bathing in
139: it but people travel from all over India for the honour of doing so. I don't think I got the right shots to bathe in the Ganges!
141: Every few days, I would hand in some laundry at whatever hotel we were staying in for washing. I have to admit that every time I went by a washing line along the Ganges, I checked to make sure I didn't see my underwear hanging there!
143: After our sunrise boat trip, we stopped to have some Chai on the side before going off to find some breakfast. Just like at home, a cup of tea is a good opportunity to chat.
144: Prior to the ceremony, you can buy small candles and release them onto the water, making your wish to Mother Ganges.
145: Varanasi, in general, really stood out to me as a highlight of my trip to India. The highlight of Varanasi, would have to have been this Sunset Aarti ceremony. A few thousand people gather every evening; both on land and on boats. We watched the ceremony from a flotilla on the river while several priests performed the ritual with the smoking lamp. It was an overwhelming experience to be completely surrounded by chanting, ringing bells, and incense for over an hour.
146: A real tandoori oven.
147: The next morning we did make friends with some recent Engineering grads who were on their way to Calcutta for job interview in the government. One of them turned out to be one of the men I'd kicked out of my bed the night before. We had a good long talk about what it was like to live in Canada and work as an Engineer. He was completely scandalized that I hadn't been calling my mother every single day! | Toward the end of our stay in Varanasi, Mahi broke the news to us that our departing train was, oh., about 48 hours late. Given that we were all about to part ways, we had the option to either pay to upgrade to a flight or take a non air-con train and use the savings for a big night out. We all chose the later and dined out at a fancy hotel restaurant on the outskirts of town. Mahi was apparently connected and we were invited back to the kitchen for a tour....but there was a price to be paid for all this VIP treatment! The problem with the non air-con train is not the lack of air conditioning but the total lack of control of who comes in and out. When the train arrived from Delhi, our car was already full of people, most of whom didn't have tickets. We had to climb over people and luggage to find our beds and kick people out of them. I had two men spooning in my bed and had to shake them to get my spot. I was lucky enough to have an upper berth and, although I could often feel people leaning against it through the night, I pretty much had it to myself. If you had a lower berth, you really had to stake your claim. If you tucked your feet up while you were sleeping, 2 or 3 people would sit on the end of your bed! Westerners in the non air-con train are of great interest and it was a bit difficult to sleep with all those people staring at me. When I had the nerve to crack my eyes open, I counted 17 people sleeping in a space with 8 beds. Since 3 of the beds were taken up by people in our group (with only one person in each bed), I can only imagine how many people would have been in that space had we not been there.
149: The trains weren't always comfortable but we had a lot of laughs along the way. It was always nice to wake up the the chai wallah getting on the train to give us our morning cup of chai.
150: Train Stations
151: We didn't always travel by train, some of the time, we switched it up with buses, which might have been even more of an adventure than the trains. We took one bus from Udaipur where we were lucky enough to have first class seats, which essentially meant that we had seats. There must have been at least 100 people on that bus. They were all up and down the aisles, whole families were in coffin shaped compartments overhead, and there was some kind of mysterious room at the back of the bus that held 30+ people and must have been packed like a clown car. You'd think that you'd want a window seat but people from the coffin compartments were smoking/being sick and you had to watch for ANY of that coming back in though the lower windows! I had an aisle seat and spent some time with these two little boys who were fascinated by my IPOD. | When the bus unloaded at the end of our journey it was amazing to see how many people could pour out of that bus! It was probably best that the bus was so crowded. Some of the buses we were on were less crowded and you could see out the window and witness the terrifying oncoming traffic.
152: Finally, it was time to part ways in Calcutta (there are no actual pictures of Calcutta because it was the least favourite place on the trip). We had a nice dinner out and cocktails at a swanky hotel. In honour of the great Bromance of Mahi and Alex, Alex presented Mahi with a coveted soccer jersey for Mahi's son.