Today our group of nine is in Udaipur and it is the eleventh day of our tour of India. This is my second trip to India in four months. I visited only South India on my first trip, which I’m sure I told you before, I found every bit as incredible as the tourist brochures brag. This time we started our tour in New Delhi - vastly different to the South in many ways. To begin with the north is more populated with both locals and tourists and jam-packed with astounding and magnificent historic sites, royal cities, colourful and rich cultures. As they are in the south, the Indian people are quick to welcome visitors with their brilliant warm smiles.
|Dressed to visit Jam Masjid - India's largest mosque|
|A rickshaw ride along Wedding St.|
|Electrical cables in Old Delhi|
Qutab Minar -70 meter high monument marks the site of the first Muslim Kingdom in Northern India
|Typical Old Delhi street|
|On the train|
|Locals at the train station|
|Agra Fort build as a military structure and later a Palace|
|Inlay work on marble|
We travelled from Delhi to Agra and from Bharatpur to Gangapur City by train. Not my first or my last experience of train travel in India but the last was certainly the most memorable. Why? I’ll tell you. Waiting on Bharatpur station we were as usual harassed by many beggars and touts . We handed out our fruit supplies to the beggars and then John sat down to have his shoes polished. As is John’s way, out came his ever faithful uke. Our group joined John singing Aussie songs and in no time at all had gathered a very large audience. I can’t tell you how touching it was to see the total delight and beaming smiles on the faces of those people as they swayed to the music. There could be nothing more uplifting in this life than to see a legless man on a trolley with a beaming smile joining in the singing and the poor dirty little kids dressed in rags looking so happy and wondrous as kids should. Nobody cared how out of tune we may have been, it just made their day and according to Ajay, (our guide) will probably be the highlight of their wretched lives. At least it was a respite from their seemingly miserable day of begging.
Agra has the imposing Red Fort and of course the memorial to immortal love, the Taj Mahal which no doubt contributes greatly to the reason this trail in the heart of India is often referred to as India’s ‘Jewel In the Crown’.
Twenty six kms west of Agra is the red sandstone perfectly preserved deserted and amazing city of Fatehpur Sikri. This royal city believed to have been abandoned because of the lack of water was once the capital of the great Mughal Emperor ‘Akbar’. The buildings are blended with both Islamic and Hindu elements. Definitely not to be missed.
|Watching the sun go down on Taj Mahal|
|Fatehpur Sikri - The abandoned royal city|
|Inside our tent at Ramathra Fort|
|Tent on-suite. No bad eh?|
|View of Ramathra Fort|
We spent two nights camping in tents at Ramathra Fort. Don’t be misled – these were not ordinary old canvass tents by any means - more the luxury kind. The Fort has a family history going back eleven generations and after being abandoned for many years is presently undergoing a massive renovation and conversion into an exclusive resort. Led by the fort’s owner we thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely 2 ½ hour stroll through the nearby un-spoilt village and surrounds. Again we were greeted by smiles and excited children along with many bemused stares.
From here we travelled to Rathambore National Park Tiger Reserve. Our magnificent hotel was once the Royal summer palace. Very royal indeed with the likes of Queen Elizabeth having stayed here before us.
Thrills of thrills – during our two safaris through the park, one late afternoon and one early morning, every member of our group saw a tiger. It was so exciting and special to spot this elusive royal animal. Our group of five was accompanied by a very passionate Naturalist who rode shotgun on the jeep and pointed out the wildlife and birdlife in the park. He also happened to be the most handsome male specimen one could imagine with eyelashes to die for. As one of the three gals in our jeep remarked – ‘bugger the birds, I’ll just look at him’! “Ask me anything and I’ll try and satisfy you”, he said. WOW. Unbelievably handsome, 24 and single what more could an old gal ask for?
Onto the ‘Pink City’ – Jaipur, the third corner of the triangle. Jaipur is the capital city of Rajasthan state. It is a well planned vibrant and colourful city dating back to 1727. I had read much about the beauty of Amber Fort, the Palace of the Winds and the City Palace and they are truly amazing. I’m running out of descriptive adjectives for the sights of India but suffice to say they all apply. One of the great experiences was our visit to the astounding Observatory. If you come here do not miss this amazing place. Our bulging bags are proof that Jaipur is also a great shopping city.
|At City Palace|
Our domestic flight from Jaipur to Udaipur on the private airline, Jet Airways, was excellent. The airports are spotless and extremely efficiently managed. Security is very tight. We have a longer flight tomorrow south to Kochi in Kerala.
|Feteh Garh Hotel belongs to the Heritage Renaissance School of Heritage Renaissance.This mean the building has been laboriouslyt transplanted stone by stone, pillar by pillar from a heritage structure not far away|
|Our room at Fateh Garh|
|At the tailors!|
|Preparing a delicious 14 course dinner in a simple kitchen with very few appliances.|
|Dinner is served|
|Ajay our wonderful guide|
Every coach driver we have had has been exceptional, particular on the very rough and rutted country roads avoiding people, dogs, cows, camels, trucks, tractors and every other type of vehicle and movable object imaginable. ‘Chicken’ is a most suitable description of the driving style here!
Our time in India has gone too quickly with only four days left on tour. The group is looking forward to visiting the beautiful south and hopefully better weather. We fly out of Kochi airport to Singapore on 18 November where all but two of the group will stay-over for 3 nights. More shopping no doubt!
Don’t believe the detractors who tell you India is a dangerous destination and you will get Delhi-belly. Of course, as is the case when travelling in many countries in the world, one needs to take care to drink only bottled water and select where to eat. Be brave, come and see for yourself, I’m certain you will not be disappointed. Bye for now.
PS – Forgot to tell you I bought another carpet!!