Sunday, April 23
We arrived last nights after an uneventful 6,5 hours flight in Delhi (but I have to admit I am getting a little bit tired of flying). When waiting for the suitcases (mine DID ARRIVE!!! ) we were greeted by lots of moscitos. Of course I had my anti-mosquito stuff in the suitcase... Immigrations was fast and soon we were outside where a representative from our travel agency was already waiting. Our car is a brand new white jeep and first thing our driver did was hanging flowers around our necks. That was a nice welcome. We barely noticed the beggers and other harrassing people.

The drive to the hotel was funny as everybody is driving like crazy. We were at the hotel around 2 am and while we were waiting for our guide to finish the check-in for us I saw the looks of some indian girls. This was the first time I realised that we are exotics here for EVERYBODY although I had read the western women should not do certain things when indian men are around (for example not look them into the eyes). Well, we seem to be exotic for women too as even today I realized the curious looks.

Our room is great with lots of small items which make it fascinating. It's sort of a designer hotel (the pool area reminds me a little bit of the Deseo in Playa) which has seen better days but still we like it a lot.

As we went to sleep around 4 am the alarm clock at 8 AM was a major shock. We had decided to get up early though in order to get into the rhythm (it's a 3,5 time difference to Germany). Breakfast was in bufffet form with lots of cold and warm stuff. There are some indian items but I didn't know the names and was too tired to experiment this morning. So maybe tomorrow morning we will find out what they were.

After that we had decided to do some shopping and discover Delhi a little bit on our own before our tour starts tomorrow. BIG MISTAKE....

As soon as we were out of the hotel, the taxi and tuk tuk drivers started harassing us. We can both be quite arrogant if we have to but one of them even followed us one block and several tuk tuk drivers nearly drove over us just to get us to ride with them. Very near to our hotel we had met a guy who seemed quite nice and he guided us to a shopping center where we didn't really wanna go (but he told us that everything else was closed as it was sunday) but this shopping center consisted of 3 floors with 3 shops each and in each shop there was stuff we neither needed nor wanted. So we were out of there very soon again as in each shop there seem to be more employees than stuff to buy.... (okay, this is a little bit exaggerated :; but one thing we noticed alreay is that there are lots of employees everywhere). We made our way back to the hotel and even found a stand where we could buy two bottles of water. One hour outside and we didn't wanna go out on our own any more.

Don't misunderstand me... we are still very enthusiastic about this trip and we are looking forward to seeing lots of stuff. We even read books about the culture but this was much worse than we had anticipated. I had expected that we would be followed by beggers but all in all I saw about 3 or 4 beggers and they left us alone. It was the taxi drivers who were real pains.

We spent the rest of the day at the pool where we drank ice tea. The air here is very polluted and there was lots of stuff flying on us. Some black stuff looked like ashes to me but we are not really sure about that. What seems strange to us is that down there in the pool the indian dads are swimming with their children, while mum sits outside and watches. Life for women is much different in India (I guess that is the reason why we get the curious looks from them too not only from the men).

When we came back to our room we saw monkeys on the houses in the neighbourhood. We saw falks and parrots flying around too. And what we found very surprising is how green Delhi is... lots of trees everywhere....

During the flight they gave one of the 'Bollywood' films... the indian guys around us had smiles all over their faces and were laughing hard . We just found them stupid...

Our dinner this evening was great and if I wouldn't be so tired I wold upload some pics. We went to one of the restaurants of the hotel and it was just great food. The guys serving us (there were so many of us) nearly all asked us where we came from and what we will see in India. In Europe no waiter would ever ask you something like that.

After dinner we went to the pool bar just when it started to rain. The thunderstorm was announcing itself all afternoon so we hope to have a nice clear blue sky for pics tomorrow...

I know some of you guys would love that pool. There a small cabins which not only have beds in them but two of them have beds, TV, a chair and a table. Several others have swinging seats in them. We made pics this evening but I am too tired to post them today..

Monday April 24
We got up at 8 am this morning since our guide was supposed to meet us at 9:30. And this morning I realized again how many times you get 'disturbed' in your room. There is constant buzzing at the door (and there seems to be sign outside - of course hidden to MY eyes - which says: the bathroom is occupied - lucky me that this time I don't travel alone!!!! ). There is always someone bringing you a newspaper, fruits, towels or the guy who wants to clean the room... at breakfast we saw again that things are not done in an efficient manner - there is no need for that as there are so many people around anyway: we were assigned a table for breakfast which did not have much stuff at the place for me. The guy came three times: first he brought the cup, then fork and knife and the last item he braught was the napkin (if it's not the english word... sorry, I am on vacation... ).

After breakfast our first real adventure in Delhi began. I like it much better with a door between me and the taxi and tuk tuk drivers... and our guide mostly kept the vendors and beggars away from us too so this was okay.

First thing we did was riding with a Rikscha. This was really an adventure. First we had to cross a large street with much traffic. Somehow we succeeded. Then we went through the narrow streets of Old Delhi. This was interesting and strange at the same time. There was not much space but there were people walking, ohter rikschas coming from the opposite direction and they all got around each other somehow. At one point, two large cows were lying there and a little bit later the air was so polluted that I was glad that I had taken all shots... It was an adventure though. Our rikscha driver didn't have a horn to blow so he just shouted and passengers really jumped for him. In one shop there were people beating each other. All rikscha drivers stopped and went back to see what was going on. There was already a large crowd in that shop and I am not sure anyone knew what this was all about...

With the Rikscha we arrived at the biggest Mosque in India. There has been a bomb explosion on April 14 but I didn't see any damage so I don't know what happened that day (I didn't follow the news closely in Sardinia so I didn't know it untail this morning). The mosque was nice with two minaretts. New architecture for my eyes. We wore our 'dust shoes' for the first time too. These are shoes we were given upon arrival from our tour company. As you have to take of your shoes for the temples and mosques and it is very hot and dusty we got 'shoes' made of just cotton (I think) which we can wear. I will post a pic later on.

From there we went to some more monuments and temples. I will spare you details as the pics will show you some of the more beautiful. During the transit from one place to the next we had time to observe people on the streets and there was a lot to see. Not all of it really nice (although it didn't shock me either). It is amazing that people are actually living at the edge of streets with heavy traffic. You see them sitting there, clothes drying on bushes, sometime a hammock hanging on a tree... and this is their home.. no walls - nothing. All drivers are constantly blowing their horns. Signs on the streets marking lanes are unnecessary as nobody respects them anyways... big mess... every now and then you see broken down tuk tuks os busses...

Another thing is that there are about 70 % men on the streets. So it doesn't really surprise that lots of them just stare at us. Near one of the monuments today suddenly three indians were standing in front of us and said 'picture? Picture?' I didn't really understand what they wanted but we just ignored them anyway and a few metres away my friend suddenly said 'Did I understand them wrong or did they just want to take a picture of me?' Well, now I know how the little elephant in the zoo in cologne must feel...

One thing I knew about India is that they pee on the streets. So it didn't surprise me much that I saw several men just doing that. The most funny one had his wife waiting a few metres away and in the right hand he still had a cigarette... talk about men not being able to do two things at the same time...

On the more funny side we saw an elephant on one of the streets with heavy traffic (not nioce for the poor animal though). Traffic is haevy anywhere as Delhi has 14 billion inhabitants with 3 billion vehicles...

An interesting thing was a procession of grieving persons who were burying someone. Fortunately the body of the deceased was covered by a green cloth though. Didn't take any pics from that so don't expect to see one.

The last temple we visited was a hindu temple and it was VERY beautiful with lots of small towers. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures in that one. A pity as it was the most beautiful of the ones we saw today. We saw another temple today which later on has been copied and is the Taj Mahal now. We are curious to see the Taj Mahal the day after tomorrow as the 'predecessor' is already very impressing and beautiful...


Tuesday April 25
Left Delhi after breakfast. We were on crowded streets for a long time but suddenly Odey (don't know whether this is the right spelling - it's pronounced like 'good day'), our driver, told us that we had left Delhi. Good thing he told us as we were still on very crowded streets and we wouldn't have noticed. On the streets you could observe all kind of vehicles: ox carts, horse carts, camel carts, donkey carts, cars which look very old, lots and lots of bicicles (Tony, the Netherlands are nothing against that... ), motos bikes (small ones), taxis, tuks tuks, rikschas, tractors, trucks... and everybody uses the direction he likes. Everybody is blowing the horn constantly as otherwise nobody lets you pass. Odey told us that indian streets are really dangerous and you need three things:
1. Horn
2. Brakes
3. Much, much luck...

There are some very religious indians who have scarfs in their mouths. They are vegetarians and in order to not accidentally gulp down a small fly.

Indians are very hot blooded. We saw several accidents (small ones) which is not really surprising (the surprise is that we didn't saw more than the few ones) and one of them just happened when we passed and the two tractor drivers involved ran to the truck which seemed to have gotten in the way of one of the tractors so the two bumped into each other. Looked like they wanted the get the truck driver out of the truck and beat him up a little bit. Don't know whether they really did beat him as we didn't stop.

When finally we were out of the city and we could see the fields I was surprised that despite the heat (it was above 100 degrees) the countryside was still rather green. There were huts of straw and while driving they changed the form of how they were built. Houses changed the colour too as there were more and more which had a bright green or blue colour. This was supposed to stop the heat a little bit but I am not so sure that this worked. Looked nice though...

Every now and then a cow crossed the streets. Off the roads you could see women in their very colourful sarees carrying things on their heads.

We then arrived in Sikandra where there is the tomb of Akbar (pic already there). It's funny that the moguls often built tombs for other persons too. Akbar built a tomb for his hairdresser and another one for the hairdresser's wife near his own tomb...

Our hotel there was nice, we had a view to the Taj Mahal. And there for the first time we noticed a power outage. This was to become one of the constants for the rest of our trip...

 

Wednesday April 26
We went out at 7 am this morning as yesterday there was a heat record for April of 43 degree Celsius and there is no shadow at the Taj Mahal. Was good we went early as we avoided more tourist crowds. Don't know how many pics of the Taj mahal we took... it's such an impressing and beautiful building. I think we covered every angle with pics. The Taj Mahal itself is white marble with black signs on them (on the pics you usually don't see that as the building is too far away). The black signs are letters and they are verses from the Coran. Inside it is rather small. It is not allowed to take pictures inside and I was a little bit pissed of as there was a frenchmen who took pics WITH flash even though he had been told that this was not allowed. You don't do that as a guest in a foreign country.

The Taj Mahal has 4 entries which are all red. Only one of them is open to foreign tourists (who btw. have to pay higher entrance fees everwhere as indian tourists), indians can use 3 of them, one is closed. Everything is in perfect symmetrie like in many other buildings and monuments here. It was one of those "WOW-experiences". We stood there just to enjoy.

After the Taj Mahal (we were there about 2 hours) we went through the chaos on the street to the Red Fort. On the streets here there are lots of camels, horses, bicicles, cows, pigs and all sorts of animals. Our guide explained to us that indians worship nearly all sorts of animals so that's an explanation....

The Red Fort has a view to the Taj Mahal which is not really a surprise as the guy who owned that building once was the one who built the Taj Mahal as tomb for his wife. And he wanted to see her every day.

The Fort is big and either of red sandstone or white marble (depending on which area of the fort you are). Yuo have great views on the Taj but on the river too which is behind the Taj. On thre river you can see a washery... lots of clothes in white, red and orange are lying there on the ground and especially the red and orange stuff can be seen from far.

From there we went to the 'Baby Taj Mahal' which is another nice building but more impressing was that we had to cross a narrow bridge when going there. Our driver must have nerves of steel.... There was one big cart coming towards us with 4 bicicles (might have been 5 was well) nearby... it looked like they were overrunning us.... and that happened during the whole time we went over that bridge. Unfortunately I didn't have my small digicam with me otherwise I wuold have made a small video.

India is fun and we enjoy it immensely! (even though they keep asking me whether I am my friend's mother.... )
And while I was writing that report in the business center of the hotel in Agra the girl working there suddenly took a chair, sat behind me and read interested what I was writing and looked at what I was doing while occasionally asking me questions about myself. This is a strange behaviour for us. But for understanding this you need to know that there are so many people in India with lots of them living in the same place that they hardly have any private life. So the behaviour did not really astonish me (I know she didn't mean to misbehave she just acted according to her upbringing).


Thursday April 27
This was one of the most interesting days of the whole trip although we didn't visit many monuments. We left the hotel in Agra early in the morning and our guide came with us to Fatehpur Sikri where there is another Fort. The monuments started to repeat themselves a little bit as in Delhi and Agra most of them are built of red sandstone and white marble and the architecture is very similar. The one in Fatehpur Sikri was a little bit different only because two of the palaces in it had blue roofs.

What was interesting in the Fort though was seeing how they are restoring it. They are doing everything manually even the water gets brought in buckets (I have pics of that). We are used to seeing restoring of walls and pavements ot be done with the help of machines but that's not how they did it. It's mostly work done with their own hands. And what is different there as well is that women are doing heavy physical work. Actually a lot of times when we saw workers (even building more lanes on the street between Agra and Jaipur) the women were working heavily while the men were lying in the shadow. Another observation was that for each person who actually worked you saw at least 2 or 3 more who watched that person working...

From Fatehpur Sikri we had another 6 hours drive to Ranthambore which is a National Park in the middle of a desert. This drive was an adventure as there is no highway and we drove through little villages which most tourists do not see. At one point the street consisted only of one asphalted lane and overladed trucks continued to come towards us so Odey had to go off the road all the time. I asked him why we were always the ones to go off the road and he told me that we were going downhill (no hill to see anywhere...
) so we had to go off. But I guess it was just easier for us with the Jeep than for the fragile looking trucks.

When trucks or cars break down (which happens rather often and this again is no surprise ) there is nothing like a warning triangle. What they do is they just collect stones and surround the broken down vehicles with stones. So this is the sign that the vehicle is not moving (needless to say that from far away it is not easy to see this... ).

In the area we passed a lot of brickstones are made. So we saw high roofs which had awfully black smoke coming out. Don't know what they used for burning the brick stones (maybe used tires).

Public traffic in that area seemed to be scarse as most of the tuk tuks were overloaded. We saw a lot of busses where people were sitting on top as well. As there were trees near the street I was wondering whether every now and then a bus looses a passenger due to him getting swiped down by a branch of a tree (yeah, I know I am being naughty...
)

We noticed then that the race of the caprines was changing as they had very long ears (looked like a mixture of caprine and bunny) but they might have been easier to handle as we saw children dragging the animals along by their ears. The water buffalos were different too as they had much more hair. Btw. all the milk you get to drink in India is from water buffalos not from cows. It gets mixed with water as it is too thick otherwise.

When we arrived in Ranthamborne Odey seemed to be a little bit worried about us. He was a really nice guy and when there were no guides with us we had fun with him (when there were guides the hierarchy just allowed him to greet us all other conversation was done via the guide). So he told us that opium was grown in the area and people are smoking it in water pipes. And as he said that we were impressing people so much he asked us not to go home to anybody when getting invited (which we wouldn't have done anyways though). But it was nice of him to warn us.

The ressort itself was very basic we didn't have a phone in the room but lots of insects instead... But that was not really surprising so we just accepted our fate (without liking the insects though )

As we were nearly the only persons in the ressort we got a lot of extra attention again. When we went to dinner at the main house in the evening the security guy came rushing and illuminated the already lit up way for us with his flashlight... Unfortunately that evening I started to be sick in the stomach so I didn't eat much indian food any more in the remaining days.

And to complete it here is the last part of the trip report...


Jaipur April 29 and 30
On the first safari that morning we had 4 tigers but as far as I know we saw only 2 of them. The other two were hidden somewhere or I might even have them on the pics but they are hidden so well that you can't see them... :D 

After the morning safari Oday came to pick us up and we went to the next stop Jaipur. Jaipur was different from the other cities we had seen so far. Not only because the buildings are painted in pink, this city had something special although we could not quite name exactly why. From our room on the 6th floor we should have had a great view over the city and the surrounding mountains and we had it when we arrived. Unfortunately we didn't take any pics then. Later on it became foggy and in the evening there was a big sandstorm. The pool in this hotel was ugly and didn't have any shade so we stayed in our room where we got disturbed about every half hour by someone. One asked whether we wanted tea bags, the next wanted to know whether we had any laundry... my guess was that among the 'guys' word had spread that there were two european women in the room (one of which didn't even wear trousers but that was because the inflammation of my leg had opened up and was an open wound then) and everybody wanted to have alook. When we finally put the 'do not disturb'-sign on the door, they finally had to leave us alone. It was in Jaipur that we got a little bit depressed as it is not so nice to have to stare at the walls of your hotel room all the time...

The visit to Fort Amber and the Maharajas Palace were nice though but visiting the Observatory in the heat at noon (it was about 108 degrees/40 C) was not nice as there was no shade. Our guide got a bad vote from us for that.

One of the things we discovered in India was that you have to comment on everything. In every hotel we had to fill out a comment form, for each tour guide we had and then again one for the whole tour...

Samode May 1 to 3 
We were not unhappy about having to leave Jaipur. Although we had liked that city it was not really great having to stay in the room most of the time. That morning my friend got diarrhoe too (I already had it for a couple of days) so we both did not really feel well. But then we arrived in Samode... it was what we had dreamed of. To arrive at the inner courtyard where Odey would drop us off we had to go through 3 gates and then to arrive at the reception we had to walk through another two. 

The days in Samode were a dream. Not only because the staff left was very inobtrusive but because although not staring much and leaving us alone they were always there to do everything for us (and when I write everything this means everything!). They would put us the towels on the chairs at the pool or bring us the plates so we could fill them at the buffet in the evening and and and... The staff was great and we finally felt completely at ease. Spent most of the day at the pool where usually there weren't many people. On the second day we had an Ayurveda massage at the Spa and that was nice too. I would have liked to use the jacuzzi in the white marble house but unfortunately my leg had this open wound and I didn't want to get any dirt in it (there were lots of doves who drank from the water at the pool so I didn't wanna risk anything).

One evening there was a traditional rajastani welcome ceremony for a german tour group and they had fireworks and illuminated the palace. That was nice too as we were allowed to watch.

During the 2 days we stayed there we discovered lots of places within the palace. It is a huge palace and I am sure we didn't see all of it. Our room was just great, we both had our own Air Condition device and so far none of us had stayed in such a room before... we definitely enjoyed the two days there and were glad that we had made it a 2 days stay and not just an overnight like everybody else....

May 3
Uneventful... after breakfast Odey came to pick us up and we returned to Delhi. As our flight home would depart only at 2:30 am we had booked a room at a nearby country club so we spent the day at the pool of the country club till finally in the evening it was time to go to the airport. The airport is a little bit chaotic but we finally made it into our plane and then we were...

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