As our roads ran out in Armenia, we ended up flying most of the way back to Seattle. This included flights from Abu Dhabi across Pakistan to India, touring India and China, and our longest flight from Seoul to Seattle. We have always tried to travel during the day in order to see more. Some days the skies were amazingly clear that I just had to try to capture with a camera. I experimented both with my iPad and with a Fuji digital camera. For editors I used Picasa some, but mainly the default iPad editor. Here are the best ones. The airplane window plastic provides some interesting hues and distortions. WordPress loves to re-arrange my pictures as I edit them, so the order is haphazard.
Jumping back to where I left off in India, we flew from Mumbai to Chennai on March18. Chennai, originally called Madras, is the capital of Tamil Nadu, the most southern state of India.
Traveling in India is tiring. There are many reasons for this. We found that there were so many decisions, so much information, so many sources, and so much difficulty in verifying whether the information is correct or just a figment of some salesman’s imagination.
We stayed a week in Chennai at different venues. The city spreads out without much order or localization. We found no cure for it in the different scenes we viewed from our rooms. Our time was interesting. In one guest house Wife struck up a conversation with the Indian Cook and general handyman. His English was very basic but they conversed in Malay. He had worked in Kuala Lumpur for 18 years. A very nice and very humble man.
We walked along the Indian Ocean on Marina Beach, viewed temples, churches, and an apostle’s tomb. We spent an afternoon at the International Headquarters of the Theosophical Institute among the Baobab trees.
When a tourist bus cancelled, we booked a personal car tour south down the coast to Mamallapuram where the most important temples and ruins are. At the last moment it turned out to be a pretty good deal. The driver was interesting and accommodating so we bypassed what did not interest us.
The last days we followed the traffic around the city. The sun rising over the water still leaves an impression with me.
We are in China now looking back on our four weeks in India. First, a disclaimer: I am posting this with minimal Internet access, meaning I don’t have much chance to see what the final pages look like. Picture sizes have been reduced to aid in uploading. In the end it hardly matters. My thoughts are here and we are having fun.
Here is the route we took around India:
Arrived at New Delhi airport from Abu Dhabi
Bus to Agra
Bus to Jaipur
Flight to Mumbai
Flight to Chennai
Flight back to New Delhi
After the hard bus ride from Agra to Jaipur, we had to decide the rest of our trip. We opted for special fares offered by JetAirways that allowed us to fly the rest of the way.
As it turned out, our hotel in the center of Mumbai was the best located. We were just a few blocks from the Gateway to India monument.
The ferry boats for Elephanta Island leave from that jetty. We made a day trip catching the first one in the morning and returning around 15:00. We walked all over the island visiting all five caves and climbing up the cannon hill.
We walked around our neighborhood and were rewarded with the Jehangir Art Gallery and Samovar Café. These are by the Prince of Wales Museum. We had the chance to meet and talk with several young artists exhibiting their works. The Samovar is an icon from 60’s and 70’s art and political scene. Sadly, I hear the Samovar doors have closed since we were there.
There are a lot of tours available but they did not match our interests. Instead we walked out of our hotel passing the taxis touting their tours. On a side street we found an old guy with his neat taxi. We gave him our destinations, haggled a bit for a price, and set off. Here is a taste of what we found.
Many memories of neighborhoods of past centuries still maintaining a local flavor.
Way behind in posting, a lot planning and coordination to attend to. Our first night (about four weeks ago now) in Mumbai (Bombay if you were in my high school World History class), we stayed out by the airport. In the afternoon after arriving we took a little walk around the neighborhood. On the flight in we had seen several areas of sprawling cramped housing, more like ghettoes than shanty towns. Looking for a shortcut back to the hotel, we entered one of these areas beside the railway yards. This post includes no photos. I would have felt like an intruder. We walked for about fifteen minutes and then had to turn around and walk back out the same way. Strong impressions stay with us. First, we were watched but not hassled. No one came up asking for money. At almost all tourist areas there were several holding out their hands and calling to us. The one and two room hovels have no running water. Bathing, clothes washing, and necessities are performed around a public lavatory. For all of that, the area was pretty clean and orderly. People were busy. Mothers cooked meals, kids played ball games, children walked back from school, men worked on trishaws, vegetable sellers tended their produce. After we turned around and worked our way back to the entrance, thre boys we passed ran ahead of us, stopped and called out, “Hello.”
Here’s the Google map of the area. This highlights a contrast seen often in India. Next to a rundown area there are International schools, modern office buildings, colleges and universities.
We booked a ticket through a local agent for a trip from Agra to Jaipur. He assured us that this was a modern, air conditioned bus. Except for a couple of rainy days in Delhi, the weather has been dry and dusty. Heading off to the desert state of Rajasthan offered much of the same. The taxi took us from our hotel to the bus company where we could board before going to the bus terminal. On entering, we discovered our seats had a ceiling, and a second level was constructed above us. Although this was not an air-conditioned bus, we really had a chance to see India from a local perspective. It was fascinating to see how the passengers were fitted into various platforms and seats. After four hours, we stopped for a food and facility break. When plans work out like this, the only solution is to look for the bright spot.
There was a window for fresh air.
Our seats were on the right side away from the sun.
We had the chance to witness how a family moves house.
The hotel sent over a car to pick us up at the bus station.
Strong black tea and crackers can sustain for eight hours.
We had wireless connectivity and shared a few messages and pictures with Daughter who was heading to Northern Italy for two weeks as part of her University Academic Travel program.
Jaipur is famous for its old section called the pink city. Here are some examples of the architecture. It is hard to say what is renovated and what is original after so many years.
We did a four kilometer walk around the Central Park, passing by the polo ground and the golf course. The featured image of this post shows the polo ground with the fort in the distance. There is a temple, but I liked the statue circle.
The next day we visited the Albert Hall Museum completed in 1887. This is a low light of the foreign tourist itineraries, but a highlight for Indian tours as several buses stopped. Seeing what different groups photographed and used for “selfies” interested us. They even wanted to pose with us. The museum provided a showcase for local artisans and craftsmen. One part contains replicas of famous works for the edification of the local population that would never have the chance to see the originals. Up on the second floor I found works on local themes and legends. These were done in an art naive style principally to sell to English tourists and visitors over a hundred years ago. Nice to know that some traditions continue on and on.
We were able to sift through the many layers of travel services and procured a bus reservation from New Delhi to Agra. We waited on the road outside a restaurant from 6:30 to 7:30 just to be sure we did not miss it. There were only five seats available when we boarded, all in the back. We were the only non-residents of Delhi.
Although there are many interesting sights of Agra, there is a strong focus on the Taj Mahal. It can’t be helped. Our hotel had a view from its rooftop, the Agra fort looks over it. There is a complex that is older, but it is called baby Taj because the buildings are smaller. As it provided some inspiration to the designers of the Taj, mother Taj would be more accurate. There is a garden across the river. It is visited only because it provides a backdrop of the reverse side of the Taj Mahal.
We visited during the Holi festival which features water and lots of color paint thrown at everyone. We enjoyed with the locals but left our cameras at home. We tried to balance our visit to the Taj Mahal with traditional views and something unique. As it is one of the most photographed edifices in the world, finding a new focus or perspective is hard.
I found the view from our hotel rooftop intriguing with a statue of Buddha on the building down the street amidst the towers that provide wireless telephone service.
We arrived at the New Delhi Airport which began our initiation to India. We waited in the wrong line for our visas on arrival as the arrow for directions was covered by a maintenance crew. Then, we were supposed to walk out of the airport to meet our host. Wife went out, but then could not get back in to alert me that she had met up with him. Luckily, a kindly guard alerted me to head out to where she waited.
We stayed in South Delhi, which required trishaw or Tuk-tuk to get anywhere. There was a lot to figure out: how to get subway stored value cards, sim cards and cell phone, how to negotiate taxis, which shop sells what, what security line do I enter. We headed up to New Delhi with new subway cards and wandered around Connaught Place, where all business takes place it seems. After a tiring walk, we checked out some street food.
We spent an cloudy, drizzly Sunday in Delhi where the Red Fort and important temples are. Very crowded with touts recommending tours and trinkets. Once inside the fort it was peaceful and relaxing.
That is sort of the motif of Delhi, lots of car honking, a sensory overload of colors and impressions, followed by an escape to really serene locations. We enjoyed the contrast and the juxtaposition in two locations: Lodi Garden in New Delhi and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in South Delhi. Most museums do not allow photos, so I waited and took pictures of the public stainless steel sculpture.