Saturday, October 28, 2006


Our last day on Saturday was spent in Delhi a microcosm of India as a whole. There is every level of life here from the very rich to those living on the pavements. The one thing that all have in common is the poor air quality, which is quite frankly awful. A smog hangs over this huge city of 15+m, making breathing a less than pleasant experience. Many buildings to see and New Delhi is very English in design and layout which is no surprise as it was designed by a brit. The contrast between old and new can best be seen by a rickshaw ride through the narrow streets of the old town. Very very narrow passages with tiny shops no more than 4 feet wide and stacked with an assortment of clothes, jewels, food etc. Overhead hangs a mass of cables, many mains electricity all held together with string and a prayer. Mixed into this cocktail is the main centre for fireworks!!! How this part of town has not exploded is a mystery to me.

Now back at airport and through all the security and just waiting for the flight home. India is a  facinating country of massive contrasts, noise, smells, poverty, food, language, cultures and of course religion, some of which I still can't get my head around.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Back at Delhi

Seems like only yesterday we were here, but after a delayed flight from Udaipur we arrived at the domestic terminal at Delhi airport. Then the fun began. Getting our trolleys from there to where the coach was parked was an event. Using my newly found tut tut driving skills I, along with my fellow travelers set off weaving through cars, bikes, people, cows, tut tuts and just about everthing else you can imagine. Now this is a Friday evening during rush hour, and Delhi makes London look like a country lane. We went via Slough I think, but I took no prisoners and got our luggage through! Ahhh at last a shower and a beer. Today has been all travel and I'm very dirty. Full day in Delhi tomorrow and then home on Sunday.

Farewell dinner

Sad though it was we enjoyed a wonderful candle lit dinner in the main courtyard of the Palace Hotel. This morning (Friday) we spent on our own just wandering around the town, after waving farewell to 2 of our party who are off for 3 days in a tent somewhere!  Udaipur seems a nice place and somewhat more affluent than other places we have visited. My new handmade silk Jodhpur jacket arrived as promised last night after slight alterations to the sleeves. June spotted a flaw in the material on the front which I had missed, they made a new leftside front of the jacket in 3 hours this morning, returning it to the hotel just before we left for the airport. It is now perfect, amazing work.
At the airport now and have a delay so will not get to Delhi until 1900hrs tonight. We have a full day in Delhi tomorrow so still time for more Indian surprises.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sunset over lake Pichola

A major highlight of a visit to Udaipur is the boat ride around the lake visiting Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. Unfortunately we were not able to stop and visit the Lake Palace Hotel (Jag Niwas) but we were able to visit Jag Mandir and see the sunset over this magical building built in 1615 by Karan Singh. It is reported that Shah Jahan based the Taj Mahal on parts of this building.. My fears about the boats were unfounded it was most peaceful and extremely calm. Tonight we have a farewell dinner in the Shiv Niwas Palace, before heading off tomorrow afternoon for the airport and a flight to Delhi. June is  going shopping in the morning....... why am I not surprised? My handmade jacket should be ready by 9 PM tonight. Hope it fits!!!


Please excuse the odd spelling mistake, but I am composing on a BlackBerry, mostly on very bumpy roads and the predictive text on this thing has a mind of its own!!!

City Palace Udaipur

Wednesday evening we sat by the lake and had a beer watching the sun go down over the Lake Palace Hotel. Had fish and chips for supper as we were all curried out!! Today (Thursday) we toured the Palace museum and saw many intricate paintings painted on silk and rice paper, a speciality of this region and referred to by our guide a minatures. Of course there were many shopping opportunities which we did not pass over. Including one in the textile area of the set school, where Malcolm was measured for a jacket, Indian style.  The highlight so far today has been high tea taken in Fateh Prakash Palace. At least we left something in India when we left, tea and cucumber sandwiches!! Ita a bit like the Mansion House and the Ritz but with and Indian flavour, and of course we have the fabulous lake to look at also. All very strange. Shortly we are off for a boat trip around the lake and to see the Lake Palace Hotel. Will report on that experience later, only hope the boat drivers are not like the tut tut drivers?

Day 12

So we are approaching the end of this wonderful worldwind your of Northern India and today we had another long coach trip from Ranakpur to Udaipur, the third largest city in Rajasthan. En route we visited Kumbalgarh Fort. This fort is set in a remote area on top of a hill some 3,500 feet above sea level. The climb to the top required some effort but the views from the top repaid the effort. The fort has some 36 km of crenellated ramparts winding round the rim of the hilltop and able to take 6 horses abreast. After this visit which included another hairy ride up and down in a jeep we moved on to Udaipur and the wonderful City Palace where we are staying. This palace complex overlooks lake Pichola which fortunately has plenty of water this year and will mean we can take a lovely boat ride out to Jag Niwas, now the lake Palace Hotel. More later.....

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Day 11

Left Fort Chanwa at 9.30 this morning after a very pleasant evening, made even better by a good nights rest in our wonderful new room. After an hour or so stopped at a nice rest area for a cup of tea etc, June and several of the other shoppers in our party found a great little shop and many purchaces were made!! Continuing our journey to Ranakpur somewhat later than planned there were the inevitable encounters with cows, ox, tut tuts etc, as our wonderful driver, who looks just like a major in the army with handle bar moustache, attempted to make up time. We arrived at the Jain temple complex at Ranakpur in the early afternoon. This is one of the finest Jain temples in India and is the largest. Built over 50 years and started in 1439. Rising 4 storeys in parts it is 72 yards by 72 yards and has 1440 individually carved marble pillars. The workmanship is quite breathtaking even when you have seen as many temples as we have!! After a long visit we continued to our overnight stay at an old hunting lodge called Rawla Narlai. This is like fort Chanwa but not as large and is hidden away in a remote area at the bottom of a large hill. We were greeted by a relative of the Royal family who owns the building, a very regal gentleman who took one back to the days of the Raj, hardly surprising I guess as we are in Rajasthan!! From here they would head out and hunt tiger, black bear and other animals, all that's left are leopard now apparently.  Meal was ok, but it begins to have a sameness after a while. Lots of vegtables and mutton or chicken. Before the meal there was a show of dance during which we had a massage whilst sitting in our chairs, a very interesting experience.  Early night tonight we have a busy day 12 ahead of us.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bedroom Update!

Good news bloggers, we have been moved from cell block 11 to the Maharaj's personal suite!! This is more like it, a double bed (still made out of concrete) and our own balcony overlooking the central courtyard. They even installed a refrigerator!! Tonight we have dancing and music on the lawn and then dinner outside. This will be a really good evening and no early start on Tuesday, so we can party. Hurrah!


Monday 23rd October. Not such an early start today, 9.30, mind you I did not get much sleep in cell 17. Anyway we set off for the impressive Meherangarh Fort. Home to the Maharajas of Jodhpur since the 15th centurary. This is an amazing structure set high above Jodhpur, the blue city. Lunch was taken at the home of the current Maharaja. The Umaid Bhawan Palace, with over 350 rooms is one of the largest residences in the world. Part is also a hotel and Prince Andrew and Eugene were there yesterday. The lunch was superb, but I did feel very sad for all the tigers heads on the walls! No wonder there are no animals left in the world. This really is a country of contradictions at almost every turn.
In the afternoon we visited the bazars having yet more tut tut rides. Fun walking around but not much worth buying.

Fort Chanwa

Well the drive from Jaipur yesterday was fairly uneventful with even a stretch of road being 3 lanes and quite smooth. It still took us all day to make the trip. Worth it to arrive at our Heritage Hotel, Fort Chanwa at Luni just 30 km outside Jodhpur. This 15th centurary fort is very enchanting and we sat out on the lawns listening to music and watching traditional Indian dance. The only downside is our room which I think was once the cells. A 9 x 12 box with 2 planks of wood on the single beds. No hot water or anything else for that matter. This was a slight dilema for me as there were people outside the fort with nothing, not even cold water! Never the less a change of room was called for. On our way back from a full days sightseeing so don't know what the new room will be like. Stay tuned for more on that later.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Diwali in Jaipur

As promised a report on the celebrations in the centre of Jaipur last night. Like most things in India it was an unforgetable experience and a total assult on the senses. Let's start with the ride from hotel to the action. For those that know the main form of transport apart from foot and bike is a motorised lawn mower called a Tut Tut. Imagine the front of a scooter attached to an Atco mower with seats. 7 of us in 2 of these 3 wheeled coffins headed off after an hour of fireworks and snacks laid on by the hotel. The entire population of Jaipur were on the streets all in their new clothes and very happy. We survived the 30 mins trip cutting (excuse pun) through the crowds and were set down amidst this fantastic throng of humanity. We spent a wonderful 2 hours wondering through the bazaars being greeted by many locals with happy Diwali. I think we stood out just a bit and June's red hair was a great favourite. The ride back was even more scarey as the police had closed many of the roads and we had to take the side streets to get back to the Hilton. Arrived back at 11.15 and sat at the bar with a nice cool beer, Tony Grieg was there so we were able to catch up on the cricket, which of course England lost!! Apart from that it was a truely remarkable day. These people know how to enjoy themselves with virtually nothing, a lesson for us all. Today on our 29th anniversary we have a full days drive to Luni near Jodhpur. More death defying road experiences, I am sure.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Pink City

Jaipur is unlike any other Indian city I have visited, in that instead of a maze of narrow winding alleys, the spacious streets of the quarter are completely straight and laid out on a grid at right angles. Founded in 1727 this is one of Rajasthan's younger cities.

As mentioned earlier we visited the Fort early this morning taking a fairly hairy elephant ride up the ramparts. Of course we were surrounded by sellers again but they seemed to respond to my singing here! June made some purchaces but appears to have escaped with all her fingers in tack! Then we visited the Maharaja's home, called the City Palace. The Royal family live there but you can visit most of the amazing complex..

The final site we toured is called the Jantar Mantar, a unique location and an inforgetable site of medieval Indian astronomy and astronomical observation. Built by Jai Singh. A total of 18 instruments were built between 1728 and 1734 and these large objects (one as large as 27 metres high) display the unique time in Jaipur and identify the location of the planets etc, well in fact a whole lot more. Our guide was the most interesting we have had thus far. This man could tell you from your birthdate and time where the planets were and what influences there are over your personality etc. A real character. Tonight the hotel have a Diwali celebration for the guests so we will join in that, fireworks etc and then we plan to visit the quarter to see how the locals celebrate this event. I will report on that tomorrow as we are on another long coach trip to Jodhpur, so I will have plenty of time and it will stop me looking out of the front at all the on-coming traffic!!!!