India – Mumbai

Mumbai was extraordinarily warm and humid in comparison to all the places we had been to previously. Must have been the smog which you could see for miles around.

As all the shops were shut we couldn’t go shopping although we had lost interest in that by now. The hotel offered very high end shops so my father in law bought a couple of shirts. My husband had a chat with a member of staff who said there was a nice bar round the corner but we didn’t venture outside of the hotel since Corona was starting to bite here.

To entertain myself having read the hotel magazine since it was the 4th Taj hotel we had stayed in; I picked up Parsis and Zoroastrians. There was also an artists corner at the hotel but it was too warm during the day to engage in this. There were many artefacts in the hotel to admire instead and of course the daily newspaper which was much more extensive than in Goa. All of the usual activities that you could engage in like having a tour of the kitchens being taught how to make Indian food or learning pilates in the gym were cancelled as was the art tour of the local area and the trip to nearby Elephant Island. I had to console myself with a picture of the Gateway to India through the window.

Our hotel though was filled with all manner of objects that I could admire and they even had a tour which you could undertake as they had so many. It wasn’t on but they were still willing to show you round the place just like they would organise a city tour because your tour operator had cancelled there out of safety precautions. All about the money like everywhere else in the world. Regardless here are some pictures of things that I walked past while I was there.

I also have included a special treat in that Mumbai airport was covered in artwork so I took pictures of that and wrote about it. Stay tuned to check it out.

So concludes my Indian trip but if you have enjoyed this please leave a comment, follow my blog and buy my books.

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

India – Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Goa

So now we are coming to the tail end of my trip. As we were all pretty exhausted from trekking across India we were all pretty glad to have a couple of days with nothing planned.

We went in the pool until it was closed because of Corona virus concerns. My mother in law had a pedicure but the next day the Spa closed along with the gym because of Covid 19 precautions. Me and my husband went to the beach but were pretty much set upon immediately by hawkers wanting to sell us massages. Unlike like in Lefkas where there all Chinese women with boards saying what they can do; these are locals with only a bottle of coconut oil in their pocket so you can’t pick them out at all and avoid them. After a 2 minute trial which was in fact a 15 minute leg massage I retreated to my hotel.I paid him but not what he was asking as it was too much and he couldn’t enter the hotel to argue. I got the impression that he frequently gave massages to people on the beach who didn’t have money on them and later they gave him money as they felt bad.

The next day we went to a cafe that was halfway between the beach and the hotel with some Americans we met that we had discovered had mutual friends with us. They were much more adventurous than us so had been checking out the local area but they hadn’t found much besides a pizza place. It was as the hotel said in its documentation, a resort they had created out of nothing. Since there kids club and activities like archery had both seen better days and closed for health reasons they were unsure what to do. They had initially planned to tour southern India spending a lot of time in Kerala but since this was hit bad and Goa didn’t have any they had decided to stay put for the time being.

I also tried to find out where the nearest shop was and was told that they would need to organise a taxi to take us the 10 minutes to its location, wait while we shopped and take us back again. I decided against this with my previous experience of shopping in a service station being full of unpriced items so you never know whether your getting a good deal or not. I could also wait until Mumbai which was a much bigger town. I was surprised that the hotel didn’t have a shop selling items it didn’t provide. In Mexico there was and in Berlin there were corner shops but no such thing in India.

After a couple days of reading the newspaper at breakfast and checking social media as you do, we left for Mumbai having explored the rest of the resort and had drinks on the beach.

For the rest of the posts in the series look here:

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

India – Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Udaipur

When we got here we stayed in the same place that Octopussy was filmed at. The interesting thing is that the Palace of the movie is in fact 2 different palaces that are very close to each other. They have patched it together so well that unless you have visited the 2 locations you wouldn’t know that they had done that. Roger Moore named the pond the Lily Pond when he was doing the filming.Pool with fountain

Pool with fountain
Hotel grounds
Hotel grounds
Hotel shrine
Hotel shrine
Sunset panorama
Sunset panorama
Local dancers and musicians
Local dancers and musicians

While we were staying in the Lake Palace we would get the boat over to the shore to visit another City Palace Study

Study
Inner courtyard
Inner Courtyard
Courtyard
Courtyard
View over Udaipur
View over Udaipur
Inner Courtyard decoration
Inner Courtyard decoration
Courtyard gate
Courtyard gate

and to attend a Hindu temple Hindu temple carvings

Hindu temple carvings
Hindu temple architecture
Hindu temple architecture
Hindu temple statues
Hindu temple statues

which had a service going on. We also visited the gardens that were very beautiful, shady and calming. Udaipur had a lot of construction work going on to build roads but it was still cleaner and quieter than Delhi. People didn’t tend to blow there horns anywhere near as much. Holi is celebrated over several days because there is the initial holiday then the policemen and so on so all members of society participate in all regions eventually.

There are always so many sellers of everything on the streets everywhere you go so its rather overwhelming trying to get anywhere or do anything. By being in a private tour you don’t get to see the real India but its close enough for my liking. I don’t like being hassled so India is not a place to go if your rather sensitive like I am. Which is why my parents had always told me not to go but my in-laws convinced my husband so we went.

This particular City Palace is all about coloured glass as its very vibrant. Its filled with many panels and designs through. Blue stained glass window over Udaipur

Blue stained glass window over Udaipur
Multicolored stained glass window
Multicolored stained glass window
Mosaic multicolored stained glass window
Mosaic multicolored stained glass window
Flower stained glass window
Flower stained glass window
Peacock stained glass window
Peacock stained glass window
Mirror stained glass window
Mirror stained glass window

There are lots of temples, palaces and tombs through India all created with marble and inlaid with precious stones which are magnificent to behold but the input gets too much. I was quite ill the day we arrived here.

There are also many fabric and clothes shops as well as those selling tourist souvenirs. There was a tour that we could have gone on to see the local women and the crafts that they make but we were getting rather tired after our extremely long bus journeys around India. The early mornings and the flights were getting to us.

As was the fact that despite staying in 5 star hotels you still get Delhi belly. We started to avoid milk in all forms, dairy, meat even fruit because you most certainly can’t drink the water. We were wary about ice in our drinks too as it was starting to get hot on the west coast of India. Curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner does take its toll.

Its better than the international options when they were around but you just want some plain food occasionally. You do however realise how unsatisfying pastries are for breakfast as its just carbs. Also nobody ever eats the cereal in hotels abroad regardless of whether its India, Prague, Berlin, Tenerife, Mexico or Morocco.

Time for a beach break in Goa which is the next stop.

To check out all of the adventures see here

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Jaipur

This city was founded by its ruler Jai Singh. He was a Hindi which is why its a pur and not a Muslim abad as I first mentioned in my post on India – Delhi (part 1). Singh means lion or warrior depending on how you translate it. Lots of people are called Singh as its a symbol of strength not a family name which you might think given its popularity.

I really enjoyed the orderliness of Jaipur. It was one of the first cities to be organised on a grid fashion. I think it was the first in India. Jai Singh was into maths, physics and astronomy. To do this on a regular basis he built the most amazing astronomical equipment. These utilise the sun as opposed to the moon which makes it different from anything else that I’ve seen or heard of before.

Indians also seem to enjoy playing chess as there are an amazing amount of chess boards about in the hotels that we have been staying in. Fancy chessboard

Fancy chessboard

This was one of the best that I have come across. It was very confusing though with elephants and camels instead of the usual pieces. Life size fancy Chess board

Life size fancy chess board

I went to the City Palace in the town centre and learnt that Polo that most English of games actually came from India. Jodphur which is nearby is where the trousers come from for playing the game. There are also 5 different types of pyjamas which is another Hindi derived word. I also learnt that while the Sari is Hindi, the shalwar kamneez which is the other outfit that you often see women wearing is of Muslim (Persian) origin. It’s a lot simpler to wear and requires a lot less cloth so is better for children. Jaipur has lots of places you can go to like we did to get clothes custom made for you. My husband got a shirt and my father in law did too. Our driver had recommended that Jaipur was the best place for shopping and it certainly seemed a good option from the limited time I spent there.

We also went to the Amber Fort on the hill which is built on 4 levels each with increasing privacy and seclusion. The courtyard at the Amber Fort

The courtyard at the Amber Fort

There are 12 apartments for each of his wives that he could visit separately without the rest of them knowing so that kept harmony. The wives apartments

The wives apartments

There was also a harem of about 200 women hidden from view behind a screen that allowed them to see court proceedings without being observed themselves. The Harem cloisters

The Harem cloisters

There were gardens to appreciate nature without going outside the fort which is always good for your mental health.The Amber Fort gardens

The Amber Fort gardens

The architecture with the designs on the tiles and the artwork is phenomenal wherever you go in India as they really had some good artisans in those days.Tiles

Tiles
Arches and wall decorations
Arches and Wall decorations
Intricate wall carvings
Intricate Wall carvings
White Marble inlaid with Turquoise
White Marble inlaid with turquoise
Symmetrical precision art
Symmetrical precision art

They also have an art gallery inside that me and my husband wanted to visit but my in laws were quite hungry by this point so we left. There is always many salesmen that you have to avoid so photo opportunities have to be carefully managed.A view of the Amber Fort

A view of the Amber Fort

While I was there I participated in Holi which is the Indian festival to celebrate the Spring. Happy Holi dessert place

Happy Holi dessert plate

A bit like our Easter. Holi is known as the festival of Colours as they get hold of them very cheaply and they are extremely bright. The red is the worst to get to get out of your skin as it takes a couple days. Water is also part of the festival so expect to get wet if you are a young girl. I got absolutely mobbed and needed my husband there to protect me as they like to give out hugs and take selfies with you. The hotel warn you that it isn’t safe and when you still want to go out, they tell you the wrong direction to protect you. A taxi driver found us and corrected this. He took us to the main area and waited while we proceeded to walk and become living artworks.My Holi outfit

My Holi outfit

 They really like peacocks over there as they turn up everywhere.Peacock displaying

Peacock displaying
Peacock arch and artwork
Peacock arch and artwork

To look at all my Indian Adventures see here

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary

Next on my whistle stop tour of India after India – Delhi (part 1) and India – Agra,  was a stop to check out the nature reserve. We had to getup before sunrise again to go to the park and it was so cold! We had blankets in the truck and we were wearing coats having had a snack but it wasn’t sufficient. Just before you enter the park there are many roadside sellers and being half asleep I bought a hat. Your always told how hot it’s going to be in India but nobody ever mentions the fact that it can be seriously nippy in Northern India in the Spring time.

We were very lucky to see several tigers on our excursion in the morning but since I didn’t have my phone on me I didn’t get any pictures. We went back in the afternoon but since we went to a different zone although we saw many animals we were not going to see the tigers again. There are 12 zones so it’s pot luck and some people go on 5 safaris without seeing them. As the tigers move around what worked one day may not for another day as the guides said that when they saw them last month they were in a different area.

Also the same sellers greet you as your leaving the park both times but with different items to try to get the most money from you. As the truck has to sign in and out since you only get a couple hours this means that you can’t avoid this selling opportunity. It does however give you a chance to go to the toilet but since the hotel wasn’t far away it’s best to wait. Most toilets in India either don’t have toilet paper as they have a hose next to them for that purpose or there is a person selling toilet paper. This isn’t a thing that Covid 19 has brought on but another example of Indians trying to make money out of tourists since they don’t have any income otherwise.

An abandoned fort
An abandoned fort
Wading birds
Wading birds
One of the types of deer in the park
One of the types of deer in the park
Fruit bats
Fruit bats

A turtle sunbathing

A turtle sunbathing
A crocodile lazing by the lake
A crocodile lazing by the lake
A herd of spotted deer
A herd of spotted deer
A heron
A heron

Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary

Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary
Fort on the hill
Fort on the hill

For more India tales see here

India – Delhi (part 1), 

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Delhi (part 1)

I have just been to the Indian subcontinent on a 2 week trip to take in many of the world renown cultural and historical sites that are spread around. I was extraordinarily lucky in that Covid 19 only affected the later part of my trip in Goa and Mumbai. I am now home having got what was perhaps one of the last planes out of India before they started to shut everything down.

I flew into Delhi to start my exploration. Our hotel was a heritage hotel (there called Haveli’s like ours was) in the centre of Old Delhi. Inside there was many pictures of the renovations that had taken place to turn the building from a wreck to the stunning place that it now was. Your greeted by refreshments, the red dot is applied to your forehead as a welcome and as a precaution due to Covid 19 you have your temperature taken. Then you have the forms and after being handed your key left to your own devices as the restaurant timings have already been explained to you. For yours and there entertainment in the evenings they fly kites which you can see being demonstrated on the roof at sunset. They also do pigeon racing which is explained to you. From the roof I got an excellent view of the city sprawl.

Later in the evening they have traditional music Life in Delhi is loud as you soon learn. The often repeated phrase, “In India you need 3 things, Good horn, good brakes and good luck.” is understood pretty quickly. On the back of every vehicle it says Horn Please! or Horn not OK to indicate the drivers preference. The streets of Delhi are narrow so walking is an art form as you have to dodge all many of transportation and people selling to you on the street. The roads are congested and there is no such thing as a bus stop or bus station. You just get on or off the bus at a traffic intersection. Pedestrians have little fear of death here as at every junction you will get children miming they want food for there younger siblings, people trying to sell you trinkets or most surprisingly lady boys trying to advertise there services. I didn’t think you would get groups of men dressed in Saris walking the streets. The guide told us that frequently European men who have had too much to drink can’t tell the difference until much later and then they have to pay to quickly get rid of them so it most be a thriving trade.

I visited a Sikh temple (there are approx 10 across Delhi), while I was there and you have to keep your elbows and knees covered as well as your head. This applies to men as well as women so they sell coverings just for this purpose. Alternatively bring a scarf like I did. You have to be barefoot as well but there is water later on to clean the dust away. You can’t take pictures of the insides of the temple but its marvellous.

I found the kitchens amazing in that they cook for hundreds of thousands of on daily basis. The poor of the region get there 3 daily meals for free as well as being able to spend as much time there in quiet contemplation as they liked since there were no set services. You can volunteer to cook there as my mum did and its open to all regardless of colour, creed, race, heritage, religion, age, wealth. The rich sit with the poor cross legged on the floor eating the same food but its funded only by those that can afford to contribute. They feed you until you are full and Indian food is surprisingly filling, allowing you to take your leftovers home with you as its like the Indian Welfare State they are providing here. There were several sittings a day and it was never empty. They never ran out of food and only rested for a couple of hours at night to make sure that they could complete there never ending duty once again the next day. We didn’t eat there as we didn’t have time to wait but the goodness of these people is astonishing.

Talking of kindness we visited the Mohandas Gandhi memorial gardens and they have a flame there that is tended so that it never comes out. Mahatma is a title that is given to Gandhi to show reverence to all that he achieved for India peacefully. Its lovely and peaceful which is a complete contrast to the bustling metropolis that is New Delhi. They are side by side with Old Delhi also being referred to as Shahjahanabad. This is because the city was found by Shah Jahan. He was a Muslim so the city has abad appended onto the end to indicate that its not only his city but an Islamic one too. If it was Hindi it would be pur on the end like Jaipur which I will talk about later.

We also visited Humanyun’s tomb which is a magnificent building in the Taj Mahal (Crown palace) style. This is a striking contrast to the rest of the buildings that people live in on a daily basis. The mughuls that lived there are descended from the Mongolians and its where we get the phrase media mogul from to indicate how much wealth someone has accumulated. The palaces are full of marble and inlaid with precious stones. They have gardens and fountains to replicate the heavens as the word paradise comes from a walled garden. They had more wealth than the average person could gain in a thousand lifetimes as the average life time income after 50 years was £2.

Chandri Chowk is a street that you will pass by often if you are exploring the historical district and it means Moonlight street. This is connected with the daughter of the ruler at the time. There were 5 Shahs that you will hear about when you are driving between the different attractions and if your guide is anything like mine was, it will be information overload. I loved hearing all the history and the word origins as I’m a bit of a word nut as you may know.

There are many temples (Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist etc) in Delhi as you might have guessed and as we were walking about we came across a Jain temple. These are strict vegetarians and have rather odd rituals for their priests during celebrations. They are in fact not allowed to wear a stitch of clothing and therefore the family surround them so that nobody is embarrassed by this. This parade happens from the temple to the family home so it can go on for quite a while. Luckily I didn’t see this but I was reliably informed by my guide who was turning out to be extremely well informed on everything to do with Delhi’s monuments and history.

We passed by the India Gate which was built by Edward Lutyens (who also designed the gardens in Sandwich, UK amongst many other things). He also designed many buildings in Delhi which were beloved by William Dalrymple but sadly are gone now. I read some pages of an amazing book by him (A City of Djinns) provided by the hotel but I didn’t get very far and it didn’t seem right to take it with me. I wouldn’t have had time to read it much anyway as the time was so packed with places to see. I got to read more about the East India Company later in a hotel magazine in an article written by him.

The Red Fort that acted as barracks for the soldiers in Delhi has apparently been hollowed out by previous occupants so we saw the one in Agra which is amazing. More on that later as the next stop is Agra which is home of the Taj Mahal!

Best wishes

Angela

 

India – Agra

These are some pictures of the mini Taj that we went to the day before we went to the Taj Mahal. We also had to go to a marble cutting workshop as that’s usually part of the deal when you go on guided tours as not all guides are the same. In fact none of them matched up to the one in Delhi in terms of knowledge.

It happens in Turkey and many other places around the world that part of your tour is here look at this stuff that we have for sale “and I will get commission if you buy”.

We also went to the Red Fort which was very expansive. He had 3 wives, one Christian, 1 Hindu and 1 Muslim as he didn’t want to show favouritism between religions.

If you want to look at the other posts in my India series see here:

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

In order to get the best photos when you visit the Taj Mahal you have to arrive before sunrise so that means about 6:15am. It’s worth it though as the crowds soon turn up afterwards. It’s never completely silent except now because of Coronavirus. I was lucky to go when everything was still relatively calm.

There is a lot of history associated with the Taj Mahal and some of it is much more recent than the rest. While you are there you will be shown the seat that is now famous as Princess Diana’s seat. There will also be professional photographers wanting to take a set of photos of you. We got some done and if you just want them digitally they can send them to your phone in seconds.Taj Mahal after sunrise

Taj Mahal after sunrise
Taj Mahal
Before sunrise
Before sunrise
Taj in the sun
Taj in the sun

This is apparently Tom Cruises favourite shot of the Taj Mahal according to our guide. We had a different one for each place so they varied a lot in what they could tell us about each attraction.

Since I love series and Organization here is another one so you can easily go from one post to another.

Cyclades Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is part 4 of the series with him previously visiting North and Central Greece before moving on to Athens, The Peloponnesus area, and now The Cycladic (Circular) Islands in the Aegean Sea.

The Cyclades encompasses sacred Delos which is the centre, Syros which houses the capital Ermoupoli, tourist hotspots like Naxos, Mykonos and Santorini for the magnificent sunset, historic Milos and Tinos, religious Paros and out of the way places like peaceful Folegandros and Sifnos known for its many churches.

Our guide for these islands are 2 different Greek ladies, Cassandra and Sylvia as tourism is more prevalent here than history. Santorini is well known for producing the best wines in the area due to its volcanic soil. I personally know this having attended a wine tasting involving their wines. I’ve probably written about this years ago too.

The famous Venus de Milo statue was found on Milos.

He visits Tinos to talk about the islands dedication to Poseidon and to see the many dovecotes on the island. There is also the famous church where pilgrims crawl on their knees from the port to the entrance which is 700 metres. This is an island that is part Catholic due to its Venetian heritage and part Greek Orthodox.

For the last episode he visits the The Dodecanese Islands or 12 islands.

Best wishes

Angela

The Dodecanese Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is the final part of This is Greece with Dr Michael Scott having first visited Northern and Central Greece, Athens, The Peloponnesus area of Greece, and, Cyclades Islands.

The Dodecanese (12) Islands contain Rhodes which is a fantastic historical island especially for someone like me who has an interest in the Durell family as Laurence lived there writing a book about the island which I’m yet to read. That one was called Reflections of a Marine Venus. You can visit his house Villa Kleobolus while your there too.

Rhodes was subject to many invasions over the years so it’s been fortified accordingly. It has been ruled by first the Romans then the British as part of the Crusades and the famous knights of St John or the knights hosiptaller, the Venetians spent some time here, it was owned by the Ottomans but they kept the locals ruling and it was later passed on to the Italians before finally gaining there independence.

Leros is the next stop on the tour but our guide is now an Athenian lady Elenor. There is Byzantine, medieval, Ottoman, Venetian and Italian history here just like Rhodes. Sunsets are of course a big selling point along with churches dating from the knights of St John. If your a film buff you will want to visit the island as it’s the inspiration for the film Guns of Navarone.

He also travels to Patmos famous for being the place where the biblical book of Revelations was written by St John with many churches dedicated to him, a monastery as well as its many windmills.

Symi turns up too. St Michael is the patron saint here with a magnificent church dedicated to himself as he is also patron saint of sailors in the Dodecanese.

As usual with American programs the first and the last are the most interesting with the ones in the middle being mainly composed on second grade material. He even gets other people to do tour guides for you!

Best wishes

Angela