So here we are in Singapore. we are in an internet cafe come body foot massage place waiting for our room. we are quite blown away by the cleanliness, peace and quiet of singapore. we have been here all of 4 hours and have boked some tours and our transfer back to the airport without any hassles, any "not possibles" or any head wobbling.
Stay tuned, we feel it may be all too good to be true.
Location: Delhi, India
Our last day!!! Yay!!! But it wasnt that easy to get out of here was it!! The day started off reasonably well, we got a driver for the day to take us to a few of the malls around town which in reality turned out to be a waste of time as they were all upmarkets shops, not shops with souvineers which is what we were looking for. we were looking for things the locals would buy. so after running all around town we ended up back in karol bagh, but not anywhere we had been before. we were completely lost. we asked a lady in a shop for directions and she sent us in the wrong direction. so we gave up and asked some rickshaw drivers to take us back to the hotel. but no, they didny know where it was, they didnt want our money. we finally found one who would take us home. back at the hotel we just walked back to the market. but along the way a rickshaw driver offered us a lift. we accepted and then he tried to take us to some emporiums. didnt he get a surprise when we told him firmly no and directed him to the market! after shopping ourselves out we came back to the hotel and had a shower. now the fun started. we had paid for another night for the convenience of having the room to shower, so when we went to pay they didnt accept credit cards. we didnt have the cash on us and we HAD to leave for the airport in 30 minutes. after ruth created quite a scene they took us to an atm to get the cash. the driver was trying to make small talk but the smart alec comments coming from the back kept it very brief. we paid for the room and got the hell out of there. we made it to the airport on time. we had to tell the idiot airport staff to get out of the way so we could get into the terminal, but not before we had to get it through ther heads about etickets. we then were sent back from the check in counter because we didnt get our bags security checked. ruth again had to open her bag to be checked because of all the cords in her bag along with the hair straightener. so then, we still had one lady from the tour with us, while she got some money changes, we got some water, but not before the salesman sat there for 5 minutes doing something else and only seemed to move when we just walked away. back at the moneychangers they wouldnt take one of Maureens 500rupee notes, as it was apparently a fraud, even though this fraudulent note had the security marks on it. we think that they didnt want it because it was ripped and sticky taped together. we went up the restaurant upstairs and had some soup, chicken burger and, you guessed it, masala tea. we went through immigration and were so happy when they called us to board. it was a real shame to have to leave india with such a bad view of it but maybe things will mellow in time and we'll think about the nice things - whatever they were.
Location: Delhi, India
Today with the tour over we had time to ourselves. we headed back to karol bagh market and had a manicure and pedicure at a salon (all male staff of course but we are used to that now). we had a good day buying things there. we left there and caught a taxi over to Janpath markets near where we stayed first time we came to Delhi. we had lunch at pizza hut and that was okay - a little odd tasting but it hit the spot as we are totally curried out now. We tried our haggling skills at the stalls and bought a few things as up to date we hadnt had a chance to do any shopping.
Location: Agra, India
This morning was an early start as we went to the Taj Mahal to see the sunrise on it and see the change of colour in the stone. it was hard to believe that we were standing right in front of it. we werent allowed to take anything in with us, only really our cameras and money. they supplied us with a small bottle of water. we arranged for a professional photographer to take some photos of us in front of it and got duped again as later when we collected the photos he insisted we pay for all that he took - all 8 even though only 3 were asked for! Sneaky buggers. anyway we had some free time to wander around so we took some photos for ourselves and walked up to go inside. it was quite impressive - for a tomb! again marble inlaid and carved beautifully. we left Agra that morning and headed back to Delhi. We arrived a little after dark to a different hotel not far from a reasonably good market place. we walked down to have a look around before tea and decided to come back & do some shopping tomorrow. we met in the basement come restaurant at 6 when our tour guide passed on the greivance that the driver was complaining that we didnt give him a big enough tip. we explained to idris what a tip was - and that we gave him what we as individuals thought was enough. needless to say that there were some very offended people there. As this was our last night together as a group and the hotel retaurant was rubbish we headed out to find on that this hotel had recommended. turns out it was great. the portions were so large some couldnt finish their meals whereas before if we orded that much it was just enough.
Location: Agra, India
Today we had a full day of travel. we havent really been covering many kilometres but the roads are bad and the bus is decrepit. we stopped for lunch at a restaurant before pushing on to Agra. Before getting there we went the Fatehpur Sikri - a deserted city of red sandstone. some others in our group had already been here so they waited out the front and were shocked to see us back in 20 minutes after a whirlwind visit - i dont think our tour guide could really be bothered. sure it was hot but it would have been nice to wander instead of really just running through it. we arrived in agra in the afternoon and then went out for our tour of the agra fort. the red sandstone was beatiful, it was the one most in tact that we had seen. again it had beautiful marble work inlaid with semiprecious stone. the other great thing about this was that we got our first view of the Taj Mahal through one of the windows, over the river. it was worth it but another rushed visit. why? because we had to go to another emporuim - this time a marble one. the work was spectacular but way out of our budget. we then had to go to another odd sort of place - it was a jewellers come needlework museum. the work was beautiful, they even had the original emeralds from the queen who the Taj Mahal was built for. they were not cut, just polished and they were huge. Dinner tonight was at a restaurant our tour guide took us too. bad move, we should have known better. the food had no flavour or spice and it was expensive compared to what we had been paying for to date. also our hotel room smelt like a cross between stale air and sewerage. we couldnt leave the windows open too long as the pigeons were hovering.
Location: Ranthambore National Park, India
Today we went in search of the elusive tiger. we learnt a valuable lesson about them - they can hide longer in the bushes than we have the patience to sit and wait, especially when its a tigress that has 2 cubs. ir probably didnt help that we were again in a huge deisel "tank". we saw their paw prints on the road as we drove in and we heard the cubs calling to their mum but that was about it. we must have sat in that on area maybe 2 1/2 hours of our 3 hour drive but no such luck. we came back to the hotel absolutely covered in dust, and i mean covered. after lunch we went back to the park for another drive and still didnt see a tiger. we didnt wait so long this time so we did actually see some other animals. a little disappointed not to see a tiger but when they are almost extinct it must be expected. at leat they aren't in tigers pacing back & forth like at mysore zoo.
Location: Ranthambore National Park, India
Another morning of travel. the roads are still as bad. the toilet stop today was in the bush. Ruth went out and stepped on a thorn that then broke off in her foot. we tried a mini operation on it when she got back on but the bus was bouncing around so much that it was impossible. we arrived at our hotel at around 2pm after leaving at about 8am and were met at the hotel with a flower lei, some red paint and some rice stuck to our foreheads. after lunch we had the option of going on an extra game drive but we decided not to. some others in our group did and i was glad to hear that they didnt see a tiger, only some deer and monkeys. is that wrong? we lounged around the pool in the afternoon and later continues to try to get the thorn out of Ruths foot. india is rejecting Ruth.
Location: Shivpuri, India
Travel in the morning. This was really just a stopover to break up the journey. the hotel was dirty and the staff were unbelievably unorganised. they wrote our lunch order our 3 times! it's all getting a bit frustrating. so we decided to put in our dinner order at lunch so we wouldnt be up until midnight sorting it out. Our touring this afternoon was to the National Park there - i think we saw one monkey and a kingfisher bird. but the pleasant surprise came from the Cenotaphs that we visited. they were built for a ruler and his mum and they were beautiful. the rulers was all inlaid marble with semiprecious stone and gold leaf. the mother's was not as decorative but the blue stained glass windows coloured everything nicely. it was good to have an a/c tonight but wouldnt you know it they silly thing kept icing over. plus im sure something ran over my legs in the morning. kiki actually got another room as hers was full of some kind of animal droppings.
Location: Chanderi, India
Another morning of driving before arriving at our hotel. This town was even smaller. We were lucky with this hotel as there were only 2 rooms with a/c and as we missed out last time we got one this time. Our afternoon consisted of sightseeing to a palace that was once 7 storeys but is now only 3 (it was built by a msulim ruler but the locals didnt like that so they destroyed it with cannonballs). we also went to some welcome gate. the highlight of the day though had to be the 95 year old naked Jain monk, who had ripped ALL his hair out (as you do) and whose eating chances depended solely on silly games of chance. we couldnt talk to him but we hope he didnt see woody (one of the guys on our tour) kill the bugs that were crawling on him! that night we had firecracker night up on the roof. it wasnt new years but it was funny watching the little indian guy run as the fuses were very short. we also finally got the chance to get some henna on our hands.
Location: Orchha, India
After another morning of driving on those shocking roads, we arrived in Orrcha. We are now in a small town - a VERY small town. Our afternoon visit was to the Raj (not Taj yet) Mahal and the Jehangir Mahal. Basically the ruins of another palace belonging to some Mogul ruler, being slowly cleaned of rubbish as per every other place. The hotel however was really good. as we walked in the doors there was this guy with a flute playing tunes for us, plus the doorman was dressed in that old-style traditional clothing. we spent the afternoon in the pool which had a big mushroom fountain for the kiddies. but as there were no kiddies ruth played under it.
Location: Khajuraho, India
Another morning of travel to get to our next stop so nothing really exciting to say there.
in the afternoon we went to see the western temples of Khajuraho. it had been made out in the brochures we read that they were covered with erotic carvings but in the end they were mainly just carvings of everyday life. the details in the carvings were magnificent and our guide focused more on that than the erotics. we had the rest of the afternoon free so we went back to the hotel and yes, we have been drinking lots of tea. only now we have switched to the masala tea.
Location: Chitrakoot, India
drove on really bad roads to get here. the bus has NO suspension or seatbelts so be careful not to smash your head on the fan.
The villages were rather clean along the way but the towns were filty and putird. garbage everywhere.
the hotel is dirty. infested with bugs. no air cond. power keeps going out. we dragged our beds in front of the fan, covered it and ourselves with aeroguard and went to bed without tea.
nothing to see here, just to break a long journey.
Location: Varanasi, India
Today we went for our cruise on the Ganges. Now according to our Lonely Planet guide there is no dissolved oxygen in the "water" around varanasi. so if water is h2o, can we really class this as water, or just liquid filth? we walked down to get on the boat at daybreak to the ghats where people were already bathing. one guy was swimming, taking in mouthfuls of water and then spitting it out! others were throwing there bags of rubbish in where others were bathing. we boarded the boat without actually touching the water and saw a bloated cow float past. First we rowed up and then down stream. First we just saw smoke. then when we came around a bend we came to the crematoriums where at least 4 people were being cremated. you cant see the bodies but you can see them wrapped in this gold cloth. we headed back to the hotel and immediatley changes our clothes as it was just filthy here. but we came back to the river for lunch where we ate in a restaurant overlooking it. we all thought it would be a great idea to walk back to the hotel from lunch. not such a great idea. it was hot, we got lost a few times and of course every Indian we walked past wanted us to get in his rickshaw.
Location: Varanasi, India
We arrived early in Varanasi. The train station was just as chaotic as Delhi. There was even a cow up on the concourse weeing away and the obligatory beggars hanging around the bus. Heartbreaking to see a very young girl with her blind younger sister maybe about a year old. We just got on the bus and left it behind us. After checking in to our nice air cond hotel we headed out to Sarnath. Sarnath was where they believe Buddha MIGHT have given his first sermon etc etc. Seemed to be basing this whole religion on uncertainties. No further comment! Ruth was asked to hold a baby and have her picture taken with it. it was hot and humid again so it was good to go into this little museum full of Buddha statues if not for the cool alone.
Location: Delhi, India
Today we got back into touring. We had a city tour of old and new Delhi in the horrible heat and humidity! We saw a replica of a replica (no i didnt type that twice incorrectly) of a palace that was the blueprint for the Taj. We saw a mosque and a big monument built by the Muslims to celebrate their victory over the Hindus. Then we got taken to a carpet emporium. Dont get us wrong the carpets were beautiful but we werent hear to buy carpets but they just wont listen when you say no unless you get angry and yell at them - its all becomong too familiar. We boarded the train to Varanasi that night. it was so chaotic getting there that we were late and had to run to it. sure am glad we paid the porters to carry our bags up those stairs and through the mayhem. The train was not as comfy as the Egyptian one. it was more an open plan train, no private cabins here - but then thats India isnt it - everything out in the open! THe cabibn was air cond but ruth froze due to being blasted by it. she ended up in a cocoon or she would freeze. my air cond vent had been covered with newspaper, that soon was fixed let me tell you! we were advised not to eat the food on the train so tea that night was a very healthy chips, bikkies and fizzy drink.
Location: Delhi, India
Well, Delhi. What can we say?? We flew here with Kingfisher Airlines, one of the new ones that had fantastic service but lulled us into a false sense of security. we had organised for the hotel to pick us us (for 700+ rupees) but when they didnt show up, we caught a prepaid taxi, for 170 rupees!! we checked into the hotel and then like the brave girls we are we headed out to look around. What a mistake! it was mentally draining. the guidebooks tells you about scheming tourist touts but it didnt even scratch the surface. They come up to you and tell you that they don't want anything from you, only to pracice their English but then proceed to walk with you, bugging you until you are forced to yell at them to go away. Then the next one comes up and tells you that you have been told the wrong thing and that the shops are a couple of blocks away. Then you get rid of him and the one that has been following you for the past few blocks makes out he has just come upon you and tries to deny to you that he has been following you. So to sum it up - take a taxi. We went back to our hotel and had a cup of tea.
Location: Mysore, India
Today we rested. We ventured out to buy some henna and we had a cup of tea or two.
Location: Bangalore, India
we said goodbye to Raj & Eunice today and headed to Bangalore. we hired the same car and sneaky driver as we had for the Mysore tour. But today he seemed extra sneaky and cranky. To get out to Bethel it was easier to hire a driver to save us the hassle of buses and taxis etc. Bethel generates their own electriciy and later at the hotel in town we would understand why. We even got to have lunch with the family. After we checked into the hotel we ventured out to the shops that were around the hotel. This is where we first heard ourselves being described as milky white. we also found McDonalds. No beef on the menu here, only chicken and fish and curried potato patties - yum!! we found a supermarket on our way back and loaded up with chocolate and lollies. Tea was a strawberry milkshake from Maccas. Later at the hotel after we turned it into a laundry with washed clothes hanging from every space available the power in the whole area went out, twice. Welcome to India.