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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Adventures in India - Part 6 (Route to Khajuraho)

Dear Family and Friends,

Today we took a morning train ride, and then took the rest of our journey by tour bus.  

We probably could have done it all by bus, but the tour company wanted us to have a train experience in India.  It was nothing like the train experiences in days past and they put us in a nice private air conditioned train car filled with other tourists. 

Below are some photos made in the train station.

A more traditional train on another track.

I was impressed with the strength of this porter at the station.

After we got off the train we were met with a new tour bus.  We drove from the train station to Khajuraho.

Here are some photos I made from the bus.

Small road side market.

Good tourist stuff to buy.  It is difficult to buy good cheap stuff when you are on a tour.  The tour tends to take you to "special" places where the goods are guaranteed and the cost is higher.

Street food vendor.  We never ate street food, but somehow I felt we were missing out on some good food.  On the other hand, we were healthy for the whole trip.

We stopped for a buffet lunch with this beautiful temple as a backdrop.

Here is your everyday cow in the street.

When we reached the hotel, the doorman obliged me with a photo in front of an ancient passenger cart.

Next post will be the beautiful Hindu temples we visited.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Adventures in India - Part 5 (Agra)

Dear Family and Friends,

Our day in Agra started out very early.  Our tour guide wanted us to see the Taj Mahal in the morning sun.  

This first picture is just a teaser.  I need to back up to the beginning.

Our tour group consisted of 16 people.  Five of those people were Chinese, all relatives, who had come to India for a wedding and decided to do the tour before they went home.

They were all dressed up to have their pictures made at the Taj Mahal.  They looked so pretty, I asked them to please pose for a picture, which they happily did.

As you can imagine, the Taj Mahal is the biggest tourist attraction in India.  You can't just park your car nearby.  You have to go to it from the remote parking lot in provided carts.

So, what is the Taj Mahal?  It is a mausoleum built by the emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth.  It is set in a beautiful 42 acre park.  The building was started in 1632 and completed in 1653.  After his death, Shah Jahan's  tomb was placed beside hers in the mausoleum.

This is the gate into the Taj Mahal.

If you look closely at the picture below, you can see a glimpse of the Taj Mahal through the opening of the gate.  It was at this moment my heart started to beat hard.  I could not believe that we were actually going to see it.  How exciting.

As we walked through the gate and it came into full view, I gasped.

It was ever bit as awesome as I had imagined it would be.  Was it crowded? Yes.  Did that matter? No.  The grounds are so enormous it absorbed the crowd easily.

We were able to go inside, barefooted of course, but they did provide us with little footies to wear.  The inside was very dark and you could not see much. There were many people passing through in a never ending line.  The actual tombs were hard to see.

Here is Chuck on the porch of the mausoleum, looking at the Yamuna river which is behind the mausoleum.  

Looking from the mausoleum back towards the entrance building.  

Another view of this beautiful monument.

After we left the monument, I took this picture on the way out, of the ladies in our tour group.

We visited other sites that day, but honestly, after the Taj Mahal, everything else was anti-climatic.

We went next to the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. It was built between 1622 and 1628 and was probably an inspiration for building the Taj Mahal.  Like the tombs before, we entered through a gate.

  Our tour group below entering through the gate.

Once inside is the white marble mausoleum.   It is set in the middle of a huge garden, criss crossed with water courses and walkways.

 Towards the end of the day, we visited the Agra Fort.  It is made of red sandstone and was beautiful in the late afternoon sun.

Once inside, I spotted this mama and baby monkey looking out over the crowd below.

What a fantastic day.  We were very fortunate because our tour guide told us that sometimes it is so foggy you can hardly see the Taj Mahal.  On his last tour he said he had to almost take the tour group up to the building and put their hands on it.  The weather was perfect for us and we are so grateful.

Our next post will continue with more of our travels.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Adventures in India - Part 4 (Traveling to Agra)

Dear Family and Friends,

We spent the next day traveling to Agra.  In this case, getting there was so much fun.  

I enjoy just snapping photos from the window of the tour bus.  Some pictures turn out, many don't.  

Below is a picture of colorfully dressed ladies walking in the road of a village.  

Here is something else going on, not sure what it was.  Whatever was going on stopped the traffic for awhile.  Loved seeing all the women so beautifully dressed all over India.

We stopped at a small school that is partially funded by the tour company we took, Gate1.  It was located in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, but obviously close to an unseen village or villages.

Here is a picture of the school head master.

Some of the classrooms.

We were allowed to peek inside the classrooms.  The children seemed so happy to have a small break in their studies.

Here are some older kids.  They are taught English from grade one.  Notice that the children do not wear shoes in class.

Here is a photo of their shoes lined up outside the classroom.

This metal plate, hanging from a tree branch, is the school bell.  

Our tour group posed with the headmaster outside his office.  Donations were gladly accepted.

Here is the school master thanking us and bidding us goodbye.

Another stop on our journey was to see Chand Baori, one of the largest step wells in India.  This picture does not do it justice, but it is a very deep well (reservoir) that can be used no matter what the water level happens to be.  The deeper the water, the more steps one would take to reach the water.  This is from ancient times and is no longer used.

Today, villages have community pumps.  We saw many of these pumps during our travels with several women with vessels getting their water for the day. 

Located adjacent to the step well was a temple dedicated to Harshat Mata, goddess of joy and happiness.

Back on the bus, I photographed the cow dung patties being dried.

Once dried, these patties are used as fuel.  

Some more patties drying.

Believe it or not, they do not have an odor when they burn.

In the late afternoon we arrived in Agra.  Agra is home to the Taj Mahal.  I can't wait to share about our visit there next time.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Adventures in India - Part 3 (Jaipur)

Dear Family and Friends,

We had an early breakfast and were on the tour bus heading out of Delhi by 8:00am.  We had a nice long drive to Jaipur.  I am glad we didn't fly or take a train, we would have missed some interesting things.

This first picture is on our way out of Delhi.  There were several cars that had UBER on their back window.  I don't know if they do this in the U.S. but I thought that it was interesting.  There are actually taxis in India, but UBER is considerably cheaper.

Before we were actually in the countryside, we went through the area of India where a lot of the tech industry is located.  I snapped this picture out of the bus window.  

When we finally got out of the city and on our way, it was so much fun.  It was so different than anywhere we have ever been.  It seems like in India, every creature is free to exist.  We saw these monkeys playing around on the side of the highway.  

I was amazed that this cow had crossed the highway and was resting in the median. How did she do that?  

When on the highway in India, we were sharing the road with pedestrians, bicycles, motos, tractors, carts, cows, monkeys, and yes, even camels.  Such fun!

It took most of the day to get to Jaipur.  Jaipur is nicknamed the "Pink City" The original city was built in 1727.  It was well laid out and surrounded by ramparts with many arch openings.

I found the architecture to be fascinating. It reminded me of Morocco. Here are some examples.

There were hundreds of businesses.  We were fortunate to be able to get off the tour bus and roam around a little.

Here are a few pictures of what we encountered.  The first photo is of a hardware store.

This young lady is shopping on the street from a vendor of bracelets.

Brass door knockers.

These guys were selling spices.

This young guy was operating his business on the sidewalk, in a corner of the buildings.  He was making and serving masala chai (a delicious spiced tea.)

Interesting way to warm bread.  

Incredible fabric store.  

It was getting late so this is as close as we got to the city palace, located nearby.  

The next morning we boarded the tour bus again to go to Amer Fort.  It was built in 1592. We didn't actually go to the fort, but we went to the opulent palace below the fort.  The palace was built on the side of a hill and the fort was built further up the hill.

Our transportation to get up the hill to the palace was on the backs of elephants.

The elephants were beautifully decorated with an interesting crib like seat on their backs for us passengers.

As we went up the hill, elephants who had dropped their cargo were descending to get another load.  Two passengers per elephant plus the driver...poor elephants.

We made a grand entrance through the main arched entry.

Here is an view of the huge main courtyard.  If you look closely you can see the elephants entering and dumping their passengers.  Also outside the palace walls is another wall built to protect the city below.  It reminded us a little of the Great Wall of China.

The actual red sandstone fort is further up the hill.  We were able to actually see it but did not go there.

The palace is beautiful.  The main courtyard called the "Hall of Public Audience" is very large.  Below is a beautifully dressed lady pretending to sweep.  

The main entrance to the palace.

The inlaid tile is exquisite.

Another courtyard inside the palace.

Here is another view of the wall that was built to protect the city below.

It was a very interesting day.  Such a nice well preserved treasure.

That night we got all dolled up and went to dinner.  What fun!

Our next destination is Agra.  Can't wait to share that with you.