About dartonblogger

Mid forties Male, single Professional On a career break Taking a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel

The Last Post

I write this having been back in the cold, wet and windy UK for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to adjust to what is, quite frankly, a far more mundane existence. It has also given me time to reflect on my trip.

My trip has been an amazing experience and I have many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Pretty much everything I have done on the trip has been fantastic but there have been two real highlights that stand out.

The first is the 6 days I spent on the South Island of New Zealand. I loved the wonderful scenery and doing some amazing things including whale watching, a heli-hike onto Franz Josef Glacier and jet boating.

Whale watching at Kaikoura

Whale watching at Kaikoura

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Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The second highlight was the week in India touring the “Golden Triangle” with G Adventures. I loved travelling through such a vibrant country seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the culture and eating some absolutely fabulous food.

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Jaipur

Jaipur

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds

Trying to make a puri

Trying to make a puri

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

I have seen some amazing sights Including:-

Uluru

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The Taj Mahal

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Sydney Harbour

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The cricket obviously didn’t go according to plan. I watched every one of England’s losses to Australia and became increasingly resigned to the entirely predictable nature of these defeats. Disappointing as the cricket was it gave me a base to explore the great cities of Australia. I was part of the world record attendance for a test match at the MCG on Boxing Day.

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Some stats!! My trip took me away from home for 79 nights. I travelled in 5 countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates. I went on 17 flights and travelled with 8 different airlines. I stayed in 20 different hotels. So making all these flights certainly means I have had an impact on the environment. All the air miles equate to 4.85 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The driving I did in New Zealand, 1095 kilometres, added a further 0.26 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I am investigating what I can do to offset this.

Best airline – QANTAS. I flew with them more than any other airline. Great service delivered by “real people” not the archetypal young “trolley dolly” you find elsewhere.

Best airport – Dubai. Space age. Roomy. Waterfalls!

Worst airport – Goa International Airport. Dirty toilets and rowing cleaners. Make sure you scan your luggage first! I also had issues at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport with baggage coming off the wrong carousel and lengthy queues for biosecurity checks.

Favourite hotel – The Point, Brisbane. Great service and a room with a fantastic view. Well located for the Gabba and the free boat service into central Brisbane. I also had fantastic service and food at the Resort Terra Paraiso in Goa. Excellent towel and pillow art by housekeeping!

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

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Housekeeping art at Resort Terra Paraiso, Goa

Worst hotel – Great Southern Hotel, Sydney. Room very dated and felt claustrophobic

Favourite cricket stadium – Sydney Cricket Ground. Blends futuristic new stands with well preserved old pavilions.

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Worst cricket stadium – The WACA, Perth. Little shade and needs urgent redevelopment.

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So would I do it again??? The trip has been very much a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has cost a pretty penny and I now need to start earning again. 11 weeks away is a long time and there were times particularly around Christmas and New Year when I was really starting to miss family. Keeping in touch through instant messaging, email, FaceTime and Facebook has been invaluable. When you can talk to somebody and see them on screen the world does not seem such a big place.  I have loved experiencing the different countries and cultures and a much better climate. So yes I would definitely do a big trip again but not for as long.

Has the trip changed me??? Well I don’t feel any different. It may have given me a different perspective on a few things. The trip has definitely given me the desire to travel more and explore further some of the places I have been to.

A successful trip can only take place with help from others. I have had great support from friends and family. They seemed to think my trip was a much bigger deal than I thought myself and showed this with a great send off before I went away. I was worried about my house being left empty for an extended period of time. Thanks to Mum and Dad and my next door neighbours Kathryn and Steve for keeping an eye on it for me whilst I was away. My house remained totally intact whilst I was away but ironically suffered storm damage within a week of my return!

A big thank you to my travel agents, Round the World Experts, and in particular Nigel Wright for turning my dreams into reality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. I have enjoyed writing it and it is something I can always look back on. The blog seems to have generated quite a lot of interest – It has had over 4300 views and over 100 comments.

Finishing the blog helps me put the trip “to bed” and allows me to focus on the next phase of my life which starts with the search to generate an income.

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

Sightseeing in Dubai from the Big Bus

For my last day in Dubai I was determined to pack in as much sightseeing as possible. I bought a ticket for the Big Bus City Tour which seemed a good way to see Dubai. There are two routes coloured red and blue and and they cross over at one point at the Wafi shopping mall. I got on the bus at the Burjuman stop on the red route without a clear plan for the day. I decided to let things develop as I travelled round. The bus had many jumping on and off opportunities. It had been a while since I had travelled on one of these open top tourist buses. You get a headset which gives you information about what you are passing and where you are stopping. The headset offered ten different languages. After only 3 stops the bus had reached a stop on Dubai Creek which gave an opportunity to take advantage of an hour long Dhow cruise along the creek. The boat tour was part of the ticket price and luckily the bus arrived at the stop just as the hour long cruise was about to leave. Dubai Creek is a saltwater creek which divides the city into the two areas of Bur Dubai and Deira. The creek was the first harbour in Dubai and to this day cpntains harbour facilities for Dhow boats and water taxis are also used to cross the creek. The Dhow cruise allowed good views of a number of high rise towers and moored boats.

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A water taxi

A water taxi

Another water taxi

Another water taxi

Dhow laden with goods

Dhow laden with goods

Mosque viewed from Dubai Creek

Mosque viewed from Dubai Creek

After the Dhow cruise came to an end I got back on the bus to complete the rest of the red route. I stayed on the bus for the next hour and a half as we passed such landmarks as Dubai Museum, and the Gold and Spice Souks.

The entrance to Dubai Museum

The entrance to Dubai Museum

Street near to the Gold Souk area

Street near to the Gold Souk area

After reaching the cross over point for the buses at Wafi it was around 2pm so I used this as an opportunity to have lunch. The Wafi mall is part of the Wafi City development which also includes a hotel, restaurants and a nightclub. It opened in 2001 and the “city” is themed after Ancient Egypt. I lunched in a cafe situated at the top of a multicoloured glass dome. The Wafi mall is incredibly plush with lots of top end retailers. At this time of day is was very very quiet.

Glass dome at Wafi

Glass dome at Wafi

With energy levels replenished after lunch I boarded the blue bus. The blue route heads towards the seafront and offers some great photo opportunities. I got off the bus twice to take some photos.

The first photo stop at Jumeirah public beach offered great views of the Burj Al Arab hotel. The Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel constructed on an artificial island and the design of the building mimics the sail of a ship. The hotel is often described as having a 7* rating but this is disputed. The buses are 20 minutes apart so I only had a short wait after taking some snaps.

The Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab

Jumeirah public beach

Jumeirah public beach

My next stop was at the Atlantis on the Palm Hotel which is the signature building on the Palm Jumeirah Island. The island, in the shape of a palm tree, was constructed between 2001 and 2006 using staggering quantities of sand and rock. The Palm Jumeirah contains luxury hotels, villas and leisure facilities. There is another palm shaped Island, the Palm Jebel Ali, which is to be bigger than the Palm Jumeirah. However construction of that Island stopped in 2008 due to the financial crisis. The construction took place despite massive environmental concerns. Environmental organisations have attacked the impact of the Palm Islands construction on marine life, coral reefs, oyster fields and subterranean fields of sea grass. They have also stated that the normally crystalline waters of the Gulf of Dubai have become clouded with silt and that beaches are eroding due to the disruption of natural currents.

In front of the Atlantis of the Palms hotel

In front of the Atlantis of the Palms hotel

The man made seafront constructed at the Jumeirah Palm Island

The man made seafront constructed at the Palm Jumeirah island

Getting back on the next bus I finally left the tour at the Mall of the Emirates. I was hoping to visit a branch of a cosmetics business that a friend of mine from the UK has out here. They have a franchise in Bloomingdales but there was no Bloomingdales to be found here. The buses had stopped running, it was around 6pm, so I decided to take the Metro to the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Metro is an impressive, almost space age, transport system with driverless trains. The walk from the Metro to the mall was along long air conditioned corridors with moving walkways like at an airport. The Dubai Mall is by area the worlds largest shopping mall. I was hungry again and was keen to eat but I also wanted to see the Burj Khalifa. This is, at 163 floors, the worlds tallest building. It took me some time to work out how to exit the mall to see it. On the way I saw within the mall a huge underwater aquarium and an artificial waterfall. Eventually I found an outside viewing area with water in front and to the right the majestic Burj Khalifa. It was now dark and the view was amazing. I did feel like I had become a character in a science fiction film having just walked out of the worlds biggest shopping mall to see the worlds tallest building. There were lots of people outside obviously waiting for something. Soon a fountain show took place in the water in front of me.

The Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa

Dubai Mall hotel

Dubai Mall hotel

Fountain show outside Dubai Mall

Fountain show outside Dubai Mall

Dubai Aquarium as viewed from Dubai Mall

Dubai Aquarium as viewed from Dubai Mall

I satisfied my hunger with a lovely chicken Pad Thai in the food court which brought back memories of food I had enjoyed in Thailand.

I also found the Bloomingdales here and my friend Julian’s Illamasqua franchise. As it turned out they have two outlets within the Dubai Mall. I visited both and met and chatted to counter staff – Girlie from The Phillipines and Sally from Egypt.

with Girlie

with Girlie

with Sally

with Sally

The Illamasqua store at Dubai Mall

The Illamasqua store at Dubai Mall

Time was marching on and I had been on the go for nearly 10 hours. I took the Metro back to Burjuman and walked back to the hotel.

So what do I think of Dubai? Well it’s quite incredible to be honest. I can’t really get my head round how it’s transformed from a small pearl fishing village to this incredibly modern and rich shopping, residential and leisure metropolis. Clearly the money from oil in the 1970’s has been incredibly well invested in infrastructure and the tax free environment attracts businesses and the rich and famous. The growth seems to be endless. There have been difficulties caused by the financial crisis but from what I hear Dubai is coming through this. There were examples of a thriving city such as the airport and the number of people at the Dubai Mall. In 2012 the Dubai Mall was the worlds most visited shopping and leisure destination attracting 65 million visitors. That’s more than New York! The environmental impact of the construction of projects such as the Palm Islands is a real worry. I also can’t help thinking that at some point the growth may not be sustainable and some parts of Dubai may struggle. It’s a very clean city and I felt very safe and secure. So a number of different thoughts and feelings really. There is lots to do there and two days is not long enough.

My time in Dubai and my amazing trip had come to an end. Tomorrow I would fly home to the UK.

I will do a summary of my overall trip in my final blog post.

Travelling to Dubai and a trip into the Arabian Desert

So as my week in Goa ended it was time to move on to Dubai. I was entering the final stage of my trip. I had now been away for nearly 11 weeks and in 3 days time I would be home.

Sam, who had been my personal taxi driver for the last few days, drove me to Goa International Airport. As at Delhi I had to produce travel documents to enable me to gain access to the airport. It’s fair to say that my experience of Goa International Airport was not a good one. Any resort airport that has the word “international” in the title should be treated with caution. I didn’t have a great experience in Krabi either. To summarise my experience at the airport in Goa included:-

  • the check in desk being closed on my arrival 3 hours before an international departure
  • watching cleaners rowing with each other. It was quite entertaining to watch but I wish I could have understood what they were arguing about
  • having to scan my hold luggage before check in. I did not realise this was the case until check in and was I was then confronted with a massive queue/scrum of Russians. Thankfully the Air India “baggage man” helped me jump the queue.
  • Immigration desks being closed leading to a further half an hour delay before I could go through security. When the desk reopened there was a long disorganised queue.
  • The immigration man queried whether I needed a visa to enter Dubai. I said to him I didn’t think I needed one but this placed a seed of doubt in my mind about whether I would be able to enter the UAE.
  • Getting “told off” when going through security for wanting to place items such as mobile phone, wallet etc in a tray which is what you do everywhere else. I was required to place these in my hand luggage.
  • Really dirty toilets in the departure lounge. Presumably the cleaners were too busy arguing to clean them!

So it was a shame that my last experience in Goa was such a bad one.

The Air India flight to Dubai was fine. The airport in Dubai is mightily impressive. However there are obviously a lot of people flying in here. On my arrival at around 11pm on a Sunday evening there were long queues at immigration There were loads of immigration desks and most were open. All were manned by men in traditional Arab dress with long flowing white robes and heads covered. I queued for around half an hour and then got through without a problem. So the concern about needing a visa was unfounded. I understand the delays at Dubai airport are being addressed. There is a new iris recognition system being introduced which should mean for returning passengers it will take less time to pass through the airport.

Having arrived in Dubai quite late the previous evening I had a relatively lazy morning. I was staying in an apartment hotel fairly close to the Burjuman area. After a late breakfast I went for a walk to get my bearings. Temperatures were a very pleasant mid to high 20’s. It wasn’t the best area for sightseeing but I was struck my how clean and orderly everything was compared to India. I felt like I was in a completely different world. A world of finance, technology and high end shopping. I walked into a shopping mall. It was quite a small place relative to many others but I was gobsmacked by a floor which had shop after shop selling gadgets and IT peripherals. I lunched at another nearby shopping mall. The cafe had a very westernised menu. I ordered a tuna sandwich. It felt like I could almost have been in the UK.

Mosque in Dubai near Burjuman

Mosque in Dubai near Burjuman

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In the afternoon I was booked onto a tour out into the desert. So at around 3.30pm I set off from the hotel having been collected by a Pakistani tour guide working for the Arabian Adventures company. He was driving a lovely Toyota 4×4 vehicle which accommodated 6 passengers. The other members of the tour were a couple from Delhi who are doctors and three nurses from the US. We drove on motorways for an hour before entering the Dubai desert conservation reserve at which point we had a brief stop whilst our driver reduced the tyre pressure.

The first part of the evenings entertainment was a falconry display. This was followed by a thrilling drive through the sand dunes. I had a great view as I was sat up front with the driver. At times you almost felt that the car would topple over but these 4 wheel drive vehicles are excellent. In addition to us there must have been another 50 vehicles full of tourists doing the same as us. The tour runs 365 days a year so it’s a big business. After the drive through the dunes which probably lasted around 15 minutes we had a stop in the sand dunes for a photo opportunity as the sun came down. After the sun had disappeared below the horizon we drove to the village where we were to have dinner. But first there was the opportunity to ride on a camel. Now I have to say that I am not a big fan of camels and I did turn down the opportunity to ride one in Australia. But here it was included within the price of the tour and all the others members of the group were going to have a go so I went for it. I had a camel to myself and sat in the rear of the 2 seats. It was a fairly short ride but my camel was very well behaved. I was told to hold tight and lean back. The only slightly dodgy moment was when it was time to get off the camel when I could feel it’s movement may launch me forward. I ensured I kept my weight back. The camel driver took some photos of me for which I tipped him.

Falconry display

Falconry display

Deflating tyres

Deflating tyres

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We then entered the village. I am not sure of its authenticity given this was essentially a tourist business but we had a very pleasant evening enjoying a buffet dinner whilst kneeling on cushions. The evening ended with a fantastic display of belly dancing and then some stargazing.

It had been an excellent tour out into the desert and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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A week in Goa

Having finished the Golden Triangle tour I headed by taxi to Delhi International airport to catch a flight to Goa. I was looking forward to the relaxation of a week in warmer and sunnier climes by the sea.

Gaining entry to an airport in India is an experience. I had to provide proof of my flight before being allowed into the departure hall. The flight down to Goa was with a low-cost Indian carrier called Spicejet. It was a really good flight and I enjoyed the Indian meal that I paid for on the plane.

On arrival at Goa International Airport I visited a booth to arrange the onward transfer to my hotel in Calangute. The taxi journey took around an hour and I was able to have a good conversation with the taxi driver despite his relatively limited English. I had not done much research about Goa before I travelled here. I was aware that there had been a Portugese influence and that it was famous for being part of the hippie trail. On the journey we passed a number of beautiful churches. I ascertained that there is a high proportion of Christians in Goa which included my taxi driver. We also passed a large sports stadium near the capital, Panjin, and my driver informed me that Portugal were participating in a tournament there. The Lusofonia games were taking place. They are a Commonwealth Games type competition for countries which are Portugese speaking or have a Portugese background. Taking part in addition to India and Portugal were countries such as Sri Lanka, Angola, Brazil, Macau and Mozambique. For the record India headed the final medal table with Portugal second and Macau third.

I spent the first couple of days in Goa either relaxing by the pool or down on the nearby beach. Calangute beach is a wide sandy beach containing beach bar after beach bar. The beach bars are happy for you to use one of their sun beds as long as you buy food or drink from them. My hotel, The Resort Terra Paraiso, was lovely. They served excellent food and the staff were really friendly and welcoming. One unexpected bonus was the “towel art” that greeted me on my return to the room most days. The piece de resistance was presented on my last day. A crocodile made out of towels and pillows!

Boats on Calangute beach. Note the crosses.

Boats on Calangute beach. Note the crosses.

Calangute beach

Calangute beach

View from my sunbed on Calangute beach

View from my sunbed on Calangute beach

Beach bar on calangute beach

Beach bar on calangute beach

The pool at Resort Terra Paraiso

The pool at Resort Terra Paraiso

Imaginative use of towels and pillows!

Imaginative use of towels and pillows!

After a couple of days I began to get bored of my beach bum existence. One thing this trip has confirmed is that I am not really someone who enjoys spending hours laying on a sunbed.

On day 3 I went for a wander to the St Alex church in Calangute. It wasn’t open but its a lovely looking church from the outside. I was intrigued to see the names of the gravestones, such as D’Souza and Fernandes, indicating Goa’s Portugese heritage. I walked into the centre of Calangute passing numerous bars, restaurants, souvenir and fruit, veg and spice stalls.

St Alex church in Calangute

St Alex church in Calangute

Calangute street scene

Calangute street scene

I was becoming increasingly keen to explore more of Goa and learn of it’s history. A further catalyst for spending more time away from the hotel came on day 3 when a group of BrIrish holidaymakers arrived in my hotel. They were from Sheffield and with their excessive drinking and swearing made the pool begin to resemble the Jeremy Kyle show. Food and drink in Goa is incredibly cheap. A good curry, naan bread and rice costs about £4 and a pint of beer is 70p. This seems to have attracted holiday makers looking for a cheap location in good temperatures at this time of the year. Whilst I was in Goa the night time temperature never fell below 20 degrees and the daytime highs were from 32 degrees to 35 degrees. Pretty perfect really. In addition to British holidaymakers there are lots of Russian tourists in Goa. I guess it’s not too far from Russia to this part of India. So Goa does have the feel of being a bit like the “Costa del India”.

To enable me to explore Goa I needed transport. Outside the hotel were a number of taxi drivers very keen to do business. I entered discussions with one of them. I showed him where I wanted to visit. He threw in an extra idea of a spice plantation. So after some negotiation we had agreed a price and some places for me to visit. Essentially I would have the driver with me from 9am to late afternoon for the sum of £25. Bargain!

So at 9am on Day 4 I got into my driver Sam’s taxi and we headed off to Panjim the capital of Goa. The capital’s Indian name is Panaji but it is still widely referred to by its Portugese name of Panjim. It’s a lovely small town and illustrates Goa’s prosperity compared to the rest of India. Goa is India’s richest state with a GDP per capita 2.5 times the Indian average. It definitely feels more prosperous than the India I saw on the Golden Triangle tour. I saw much nicer accommodation and fewer examples of extreme poverty although it does exist. Panjim is a lovely town with a majestic cathedral, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which dates from 1540. I enjoyed walking through the streets and found a small park. Panjim has a more tranquil and less chaotic feel than places such as Delhi or Jaipur. I had been told before I came to Goa that it is not like the real India and I can see why it has that reputation.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception

The Church of the Immaculate Conception

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Park in Panjin

Park in Panjim

My next stop was Old Goa which I decided to visit mainly because it’s name suggested it may be interesting and also because on my map it seemed to contain lots of interesting old churches. Old Goa was a city which acted as the capital of Portugese India from the 16th century until the 18th century when it was abandoned due to plague. What remains is a UNESCO World Heritage site which contains a number of churches affiliated to various congregations. The churches include the Se Cathedral (the seat of the Archbishop of Goa), the church of St. Francis of Assisi and most notably the Basilica of Bom Jesus which contains the relics of Saint Francis Xavier. He was a Portugese Roman Catholic who undertook missionary work in Portugese India and other parts of Asia. The number of impressive churches and cathedrals here in such close proximity is staggering. I visited the Archaelogical Museum which on the top floor contains portraits of the Portugese Governors and Viceroys who ruled here for the 450 year period until 1961. The number of paintings was immense and they had names such as Dom Garcia de Noronha and Dom Duarte de Meneses. Portuguese rule over this part of India ended in 1961, 14 years after India gained independence from Britain in 1947. On gaining independence India requested that Portugese territories on the Indian subcontinent be ceded to India. Portugal refused to negotiate about Goa and their other Indian enclaves. In December 1961 India undertook military action to annex Goa, Daman and Diu into the Indian Union. The hostilities lasted two days and loss of life was relatively limited. Today the most obvious sign of Goa’s Portugese past are the churches. Other Portugese influences that I noted were cashew nuts which are readily available and introduced by the Portugese. There are Portguese influenced dishes on menus such as Vindaloo. This was derived from the Portugese dish “Carne de vinha d’alhos”.

Church of St Francis of Assisi

Church of St Francis of Assisi

Se Cathedral

Se Cathedral

Basilica de Bom Jesus

Basilica de Bom Jesus

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Next stop on day 4 was the Spice Plantation which my taxi driver, Sam, was very keen to take me to. I am sure he was on commission! It was an enjoyable visit with our guide showing us a number of spices growing in the wild and there opportunities to taste or sniff. The most memorable moment was at the end when a guy who the guide called “Tarzan” scaled a coconut tree and then bent the trunk to enable him to move to the adjacent tree. The entrance to the plantation was over a wooden platform over water with excellent views to either side. On the way back across the platform there was a snake swimming through the water.

"Tarzan"

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“Tarzan”

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The last stop of the day was not part of the original plan. Sam was very keen to take me to a shop. I told him I wasn’t interested in shopping but he told me that each time he takes a customer to this shop he gets a stamp on a card and after 100 stamps he gets a new uniform. So as I would be doing him a favour I agreed to go. Of course as it turned out the shop was full of souvenirs, clothes and furniture and I was attended to by a very nice chap who seemed to be the best salesman in India. I emerged from the shop laden down with souvenirs.

It had been a really good day and I enjoyed having a driver to take me around. The following day I had arranged with Sam for him to take me to a quiet beach. Sam was not there at the agreed time as it turned out he was not working that day as “his neighbour had expired”. Another driver took me to the beach at Morgim which was north of Calangute across an estuary. It was a lovely quiet beach. I was taken to the beach through the Goldeneye restaurant where I had lunch. At one point during the day I noticed an Indian family (mother and 3 kids) walking past with poles and ropes. I thought this a little odd but went back to reading my book. The next thing I knew they had erected this and there was a tightrope act going on. Amazing!

Morgim beach

Morgim beach

Tightrope act

Tightrope act

The view from the restaurant

The view from the restaurant

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The following day Sam took me back to Old Goa which was the starting point for a crocodile trip up the Cumbarjua Canal. Our guide was quick to point out that there was no guarantee that we would actually see any crocs as the tide was up and they would be in the water rather than being laid on the banks. As it turned out we did actually see a couple of crocodiles in the water close to the banks in this mangrove habitat. We also saw a number of bird species such as purple heron, kingfisher, kite, sea eagle and egret. It was a very pleasant way to spend a morning.

A croc!

A croc!

A wake of red kites

A wake of red kites

Crocodile hunting

Crocodile hunting

Fishing for crabs

Fishing for crabs

So this trip brought to an end my week in Goa. It had been enjoyable particularly when I got out and about and started to explore and learn about its past.

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Another majestic church between Panjin and Calangute

Book Review – Down Under by Bill Bryson

I absolutely loved this book. I took loads of books away with me on the trip, mainly cricket related, and finished them all but this stands head and shoulders above the other books. Reading it was an absolute joy. I remember loving Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” about his travels round the UK which I read this many moons ago and “Down Under” was no different. What made reading this book particularly timely for me was reading about Bryson’s travels round Australia after I had recently spent considerable time there myself. “Down Under” was published quite a few years ago in 2000 but I felt that many of his observations about places that I had also visited were similar to my own. Bryson is a fantastic storyteller and brings out some great humour into his writing. There were times I laughed out loud particularly when he told of his experience of getting terrible sunburn in Perth and how people reacted to him afterwards.

I think one place that Bryson really enjoyed that to some degree passed me by was Adelaide. I do not really think my time there did the place justice and next time I visit there I need to check out North Adelaide, the extensive parklands and some wineries. Australia is of course an unbelievably vast country and so much of it is still relatively unexplored. Bryson went to lots of places that I didn’t manage to get to such as Darwin and the Great Barrier Reef. If anything the book has made me more determined to go back to Australia and visit more of this fascinating country. Bryson spent some time travelling across Australia by train and this sounded a great way to see the country.

One area that Bryson explored in some detail was that of Aboriginal Australians. I encountered very few on my travels round Australia. The total Aboriginal population is around 700,000 or 3% of the total Australian population. However in the Northern Territory they are much more commonplace. I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that I found the episode of Australian history relating to colonisation and the treatment of the indigenous Australians very troubling. Bryson detailed massacres of Aborigines that took place in the years of colonisation and in particular the Myall Creek Massacre of 1838. This is notable not so much from the fact that there was terrible loss of life – 28 Aboriginal men, women and children were murdered – but that for the first time in Australian history the killers were brought to trial and hanged. After arriving in the new colony some of the early settlers pushed into inland Australia with the aim of seizing Aboriginal land which the indigenous population had looked after and had sustained them for tens of thousands of years. Of course the Aborginal population would not give up this land without a fight. The scale of the massacres which took place is shocking and perhaps has received relatively little publicity. The journalist John Pilger is quoted as saying “More first Australians were killed than Native Americans on the American frontier and Maoris in New Zealand. The state of Queensland was a slaughterhouse”.

I am left with the feeling that for the indigenous Australians the impact of the arrival of settlers into their world has been like a huge nightmare. Their whole world.was thrown upside down and they are still recovering from this. Bryson detailed his experience at Todd Street Mall in Alice Springs on a Saturday morning. “The people on the street were overwhelmingly white Australian but there were Aborigines about, too – not great numbers but always there, on the edges of the frame, unobtrusive, nearly always silent, peripheral. The white people never looked at the Aborigines, and the Aborigines never looked at the white people. The two races seemed to inhabit separate but parallel universes. I felt as if I was the only person who could see both races at first. It was very strange. A very high proportion of the Aborigines looked beaten up”. Having visited Alice Springs well over a decade later I can say that little has changed. The scene which Bryson witnessed was identical to my own experience. Bryson did say that ” The most ruined Aborigines are those you see in towns”. In Perth I saw a number of Aborigines hanging around on the streets and in one instance a couple of them being bundled into a police van in the main shopping mall late in the afternoon. So there is a big problem in Australia here that needs addressing but I fear the solution is very very difficult. I hope it is high on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s priority list.

I can’t recommend Down Under more highly and it inspires me to check out more of Bryson’s work.

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The end of the Golden Triangle tour

After two fantastic days in Jaipur it was time to leave there and make our way back to Delhi.

It was a long journey taking around 6 hours. Like most of the bus trip round Northern India I found the journey back up to Delhi absolutely fascinating. At the Jaipur end the road wasn’t great, pretty bumpy, and we passed through busy villages and towns where the road sides were absolutely packed with lorries. This was a major trunk road for the Indian haulage industry. On the journey I saw camels being used for transport and close to Jaipur monkeys were commonplace.

Some of the sights from India’s roads are not necessarily easy viewing. On numerous occasions when passing a village I observed locals washing by a water pump. Presumably the pump was having to be shared by a number of people in the village. I wondered what toilet facilities and living conditions were like in those villages. Litter is a problem. It’s everywhere within towns and cities. In the week I had in India I only saw one refuse truck. That was on a motorway with rubbish piled high and litter blowing off the top. I did see wheelie bins and the like but they were often overflowing. Sadly towards Delhi on this journey I did see people sifting through rubbish in a refuse dump. It’s quite common to see men peeing at the side of roads. But what toilet facilities are there for motorists? It is also quite common to see people, mainly men, spitting. This is often to do with the practice of chewing paan. Paan is a stimulating and psychoactive preparation of betel leaf combined with areca nut and/or cured tobacco. Many of the buildings you see at the side of the road, used for trading, are pretty basic constructed from brick and cement. It’s common to see the chimneys of brick kilns scattered through the countryside and numerous advertisements for different cement brands.

After a stop for lunch we were getting close to Delhi. A sunny day turned foggy – or was it smog? We passed industrial parks full of manufacturing businesses. We passed a Harley Davidson manufacturing plant and there were numerous Japanese companies represented.

India is a country of contrasts. Extreme poverty seems all around but there are examples of wealth and real economic advances in areas such as IT and manufacturing.

We arrived back at the Grand Park Inn in Delhi in the mid afternoon. This did give time to potentially do further sightseeing. However the following day was when Republic Day celebrations were taking place and a number of roads and tourist attractions were closed so I decided to stay in the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening we went out for our last meal as a group. Like the first night in Delhi, Yash led us through the streets of Karol Bagh to our restaurant. I found the walk much more relaxing than that first night and I think this is due to the fact that I had got used to the frenetic nature of the big cities. It had been a fantastic week. None of the worries I had at the start of the week had been realised. My stomach had been fine and I had felt safe and secure. I had been travelling with a great group of people and in Yash, our CEO from G Adventures, we had an exceptional group leader. He had a real presence about him which helped everything run smoothly and some of the added extras were real delights – eg the cookery lesson and the trip round the village at Abaneri. He is one of the coolest dudes I have ever met!

It was a fantastic meal and I enjoyed the best Indian dish I have ever had in my life. It is called Chicken Lababdar. I have never seen it in the UK but in India it’s a real delicacy with tongue tingling spices and also containing butter, onions, cream and tomatoes. Yum!!

Recipe for chicken lababdar

I saw this on the side of a truck and am inclined to agree!

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Recipe for chicken lababdar

My dish looked something like this....

My dish looked something like this….

After the meal we returned to the hotel and enjoyed the last room party of the week. I crawled into bed at around 2am… I had an amazing time doing the Golden Triangle. An experience I will never forget. I felt there was so much to see and in some ways we had just scratched the surface. I feel I must return to India to see more.

 

Sightseeing in and around Jaipur and a Bollywood Film

We set off by bus for a morning of sightseeing. Our first stop was at the Hawa Mahal or “Palace of the Winds”. It was built In 1799 and the original intention was to allow ladies from the City Palace, presumably from the harem, to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. Constructed of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white lime the five storied facade contains 953 small windows. The breeze (hawa) that comes through the windows keeps it cool, even in hot months, and gives the palace it’s name. We made a brief photo stop here. It’s certainly very impressive and I can see why it’s known as Jaipur’s signature building. Returning to the bus I saw a snake charmer with cobra!

The Palace of the Winds

The Palace of the Winds

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So why is Jaipur called the Pink City? Well in 1853 when the Prince of Wales came to visit the city most of the old buildings were painted pink to welcome him. The colour has remained pink ever since. Actually it’s closer to a terracotta colour but I guess that “Pink City” sounds better than “Terracotta City”. Our next stop was a few kilometres outside Jaipur at Amber, the former capital of Jaipur state until 1727. We got off the bus and towering ahead of us was the Amber Fort/Palace complex. In front of us was a lake. Unfortunately the view was hazy but we passed by again the following day and had a brief photo stop here to get better pictures. There was an option to ride by elephant up to the fort but Yash did not recommend this describing the elephants as “sad” and the ride up not being within the G Adventures ethos of sustainable tourism. We all chose to walk up which did give numerous opportunities to see the elephants close up and yes they didn’t seem a particularly happy bunch.

The Amber Fort with artificial lake in front

The Amber Fort with artificial lake in front

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Amber was a flourishing city as far back as 967AD. The Fort/Palace complex is famous for its mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture. It’s vast with very impressive architecture, mosaics, courtyards and gardens.  One particular highlight was the Sheesh Mahal containing tiny mirrors which when a single candle is lit can transform it into a “starlit sky”. We explored extensively the central area of the fort only then to discover a much older part at the far end. This area was converted into women’s quarters (the Zenana) by Man Singh to house his 12 wives and concubines.

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Ganesh Pol. The shimmering three-storeyed gateway built in 1640 leads to the private apartments

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The huge flagged courtyard is known as the Jaleb Chowk which translated means the square where elephants and horses are tethered

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A mirrored wall within the Sheesh Mahal

A mirrored wall within the Sheesh Mahal

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Adam Bagh the pleasure garden

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The Zemana - women's quarters

The Zemana – women’s quarters

After leaving the Amber Fort we made a brief photo stop at the Jal Mahal nearby. This “water palace” seems to float on the lake. Built in the mid 18th century by Madho Singh I , it is based on the Lake Palace at Udaipur where the king spent his childhood.

The Jal Mahal

The Jal Mahal

We headed back into Jaipur where the sightseeing continued at the City Palace. Occupying the heart of the city, the City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century. The Palace complex is a super blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture with open, airy Mughal-style public buildings leading to private apartments. Today the complex is open to the public as the City Palace museum. We first visited a lavishly decorated ground floor room which was used for ceremonial occasions. The room contained portraits of the former rulers of Jaipur. The royal dynasty continues but nowadays their role is largely ceremonial. Heading back out into the courtyard we passed two silver urns. These are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest silver vessels in the world. They carried sacred Ganges water to London for Madho Singh’s visit in 1901. The seven storey palace is beautiful. It’s predominately yellow colour provides a great contrast with the rest of the pink city.

The seven storey palace. Each floor is extravagantly decorated.

The seven storey palace. Each floor is extravagantly decorated.

The record breaking silver urns

The record breaking silver urns

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The tour of the palace ended with an opportunity to haggle with local traders for souvenirs – predominately artwork. I kept my hand firmly in my pocket!

After lunch back in the hotel the afternoon was free. The group split along gender stereotype lines. The girls went shopping and the blokes stayed in the hotel! I spent some time sitting on the hotel terrace in the sunshine watching the world go by below.

The view from the hotel terrace

The view from the hotel terrace

In the evening we went to the cinema to see a Bollywood film. This involved another thrilling tuk-tuk ride there and back. The Ray Mandir movie cinema opened in 1976 and is in an art moderne style with a meringue shaped auditorium. We had come to see Jai Ho starring the Bollywood star Salman Khan. He has appeared in several high grossing Bollywood films. It was the first night of Jai Ho in Jaipur and the cinema was packed. I struggled to follow the plot. It was spoken in Hindi and there were no subtitles. The scenes seemed to follow a particular formula that repeated – comedy scene, sad scene, violent scene, romantic scene and occasionally some singing and dancing. Khan played a “Robin Hood” type character who was keen to right wrongs even if this involved using what at times seemed pretty extreme violence. The audience got really involved shouting out when there was about to be an action sequence. It was a great experience to be in such a different type of audience with a real atmosphere in a great movie theatre holding around 1,500 people.

Salman khan

Salman khan

Outside the cinema

Outside the cinema

The view from the foyer

The view from the foyer

The view from my seat before the film started

The view from my seat before the film started

Bharatpur to Jaipur

So after one night in our country residence in Bhararpur we checked out and the bus headed towards Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan.

On the way we stopped at Abhaneri. This former city was established in the 9th century and was known as the city of brightness. Now it is an ancient village that I found absolutely fascinating. On arrival we entered the Chand Baoli step well which was built in the 11th century. It is an incredible structure, a real feat of architecture, particularly given how long ago it was built. The step wells were used for people in the city to draw water. Given it’s design it must have been able to accommodate lots of people drawing water simultaneously.

The Chand Baoli step well

The Chand Baoli step well

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After visiting the step well we went for a walk around the village. It was a fantastic experience. A couple of the girls in our tour party helped one of the locals make pots and attracted quite a crowd. We were followed by some enchanting young children who were after chocolate! I felt like we were stepping into a totally different world. Undoubtedly the people living in the village were desperately poor but I got a feeling it was quite a vibrant community. We saw a local high school with lots of bikes parked in front. Apparently there is a government funded scheme which provides girls (not boys!) with free bikes. This is a way of trying to improve the attendance of girls at school. To end the visit to the village we visited the Harshat Mata Temple which dates from 8th to 9th AD.

Pot making

Pot making

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I was slightly bemused on arrival in India to see swastikas. They are a Hindu symbol, used well before Hitler came along, as an affirmation of good luck, health and prosperity

I was slightly bemused on arrival in India to see swastikas. They are a Hindu symbol, used well before Hitler came along, as an affirmation of good luck, health and prosperity

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No shortage of fruit and veg in the village

No shortage of fruit and veg in the village

The Harshat Mata temple

The Harshat Mata temple

After visiting the village we stopped for lunch at a lovely country hotel, the Umaid Lake Palace. I had a mixed vegetable curry which by this stage had become my regular lunchtime meal.

The hotel where we stopped for lunch

The hotel where we stopped for lunch

We arrived in Jaipur in mid afternoon. I was immediately struck with how much space there seemed here compared with Delhi. Jaipur (city of victory) was founded in 1729 and unlike other pre-modern Indian cities is planned according to the principles of Hindu architectural theory. Jaipur is surrounded by a wall pierced by seven gates. It’s grid of nine rectangular sectors is based in a geometric plan with a system of main streets intersected by spacious market squares.

One of the city gates

One of the city gates

After checking into the hotel we headed out into old Jaipur. Our initial mode of transport was tuk-tuks. This was an absolutely fantastic way to experience the city. It was a short but breathtaking experience. India is somewhere I don’t think I could ever drive in. There are motorbikes weaving in and out and pedestrians, dogs and cows involved in the mix. Lots of horns being sounded. Vehicles often seem to be on a collision course. Surprisingly given the apparent chaos I have seen very few accidents here. So perhaps the horn based system is the answer to reducing traffic accidents?

The tuk tuk I rode in

The tuk tuk I rode in

Our tuk-tuk went through one of the gates in the city walls and then we were on a street with a busy market at the side selling fruits, vegetables, spices and all manner of other goods. We walked up the street and then at the top by a roundabout crossed over the busy road. To do this safely required the help of our leader, Yash, and a policeman. When safely on the other side of the road we got up on a rooftop which gave an excellent view of a roundabout and the apparent traffic chaos. Our next mode of transport was bicycle rickshaws which was another, slightly lower speed, experience of the city. Our rickshaw driver, who I don’t think spoke much English, asked where I was from. I said “England”. He replied “lovely jubbly”! We got off the rickshaws at a shop which Yash promised served the best lassi’s in Jaipur. A lassi is a yoghurt based drink, lightly spiced, which sometimes contains fruit. I ordered a large banana lassi. It was served in a terrocotta pot and was absolutely delicious. On leaving the cafe we smashed the pots for them to be recycled. So as well as an amazing drink you also got a unique pot.

A dog finds an interesting place to lie down!

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A dog finds an interesting place to lie down

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A cow sets off to navigate its way through Jaipur at rush hour

A cow sets off to navigate its way through Jaipur at rush hour

On a Jaipur rooftop in front of a busy roundabout

On a Jaipur rooftop in front of a busy roundabout

Yash, in the baseball cap, takes the lead in crossing the road

Yash, in the baseball cap, takes the lead in crossing the road

The view from the rickshaw sat behind mr "lovely jubbly"

The view from the rickshaw sat behind mr “lovely jubbly”

The day had been absolutely amazing but there was more to come. An Indian cookery lesson. We arrived at the home of a middle aged couple close to the centre of Jaipur. In the garden there were set up a couple of stoves and the lady demonstrated a number of dishes. This included Indian tea (chai), vegetable pakoras, arhar dal, vegetable rice and peas paneer. Her husband acted as a very welcoming host and at one point during proceedings showing family wedding photos. They were obviously very well off compared to most in India. They had a sizeable house and big garden and had a maid living in the house together with a boy from a local village. There was the opportunity for us to participate in some of the cooking. Not being much of a cook, to put it mildly!, it was with slight nervousness I stepped forward to make a puri. This is a type of puffy Indian bread. My attempts with a rolling pin and pan of vegetable oil caused much amusement to all! After the cooking we sat down for the most amazing meal – all vegetarian – in front of a fire in the garden.

Our hosts

Our hosts

Attempting to make a puri

Attempting to make a puri

The group I travelled through India with. Taken at the cooking night, Tor-Bjorn and Paulette didn't attend and Yash missing as he left early to procure booze. Our hotel was alcohol free in Jaipur

The group I travelled through India with. Taken at the cooking night. Tor-Bjorn and Paulette didn’t attend – it was optional. Yash missing as he left early to procure booze. Our hotel in Jaipur was alcohol free.

After saying our farewells we had another tuk-tuk ride through the streets of Jaipur. Doing this in the dark was again another fantastic experience. We drove through narrow streets. On one street a wedding was taking place.

It had been the most incredible day. The highlight of an amazing week. I couldn’t wait to see what the next day brought.

Fatephur Sikri and Keoladeo National Park

After two nights in Agra we checked out of the hotel and headed by bus towards Bharatpur. It was another very wet day and when we arrived at our first stop at Fatephur Sikri it was chucking it down! Built in 1571 by Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, Fatephur Sikri was the Mughal capital for 14 years. An example of a Mughal walled city with defined private and public areas and imposing gateways, its architecture, a blend of Hindu and Islamic styles, reflects Akbars secular vision as well as his style of governance. The site was abandoned in 1585 probably due to a lack of water and many of its treasures were plundered. However other than missing treasures it’s very well preserved and is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The building material is mainly red sandstone quarried from the rocky outcrop on which it’s situated. In it’s day, Fatephur Sikri shared it’s imperial duties as a capital city with Agra. During a crisis, the court, harem and treasury could be removed to Agra, only 26 miles away, less than a day’s march. It’s certainly an impressive place and very well preserved.

The 5 story pavilion on the right is called the Panch Mahal and overlooks the Pachisi Court where the ladies of the harem played a ludo-like game

The 5 story pavilion on the right is called the Panch Mahal and overlooks the Pachisi Court where the ladies of the harem played a ludo-like game

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The gate to the mosque known as the Buland Darwaza. It's 54m high

The gate to the mosque known as the Buland Darwaza. It’s 54m high

After leaving Fatephur Sikri we drove to our hotel near Bharatpur reaching it at lunchtime. It was a grand new hotel in the country. We were welcomed by drums. My room was large but cold and I was glad to be offered a portable heater.

The entrance of our hotel

The entrance of our hotel

Hotel courtyard

Hotel courtyard

After lunching at the hotel we drove the short distance to Keoladeo National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Keoladeo is regarded as one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries. This once arid scrubland was first developed by the Bharatpur rulers in the mid 18th century by diverting the waters of a nearby irrigation reserve to create a private duck reserve. Extravagant shooting parties for viceroys and other royal guests were held here and horrifying numbers of birds were shot in a single day. Today the park covers 29 sq km of wetlands and attracts a wide variety of migrant and water birds who fly in each winter from places as distant as Siberia.

On arrival, Yash procured for us bicycle rickshaws with a driver and an expert guide. Thankfully it had stopped raining and we spent a fantastic couple of hours being driven around this bird paradise. I noted around 40 different bird species including the common and white throated kingfisher, the snake bird and loads of juvenile painted storks. As well as birds we saw deer, monkeys (macaque), golden jackal, wild boar and baby pythons. I did regret at this point not having a better camera as my 10x zoom did not really do justice to most of the wildlife.

White throated kingfisher

White throated kingfisher

This painted stork is around 3 months old

This painted stork is around 3 months old

A baby python

A baby python

The snake bird - so named because of the shape of its neck

The snake bird – so named because of the shape of its neck

Tor-Bjorn and I in our rickshaw

Tor-Bjorn and I in our rickshaw

After dinner in the hotel we were treated to Indian music and a puppet show by a man with an incredibly long moustache.

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Check out the size of this 'tache! He was a real character and made the puppets on display and managed to sell some to members of the group.

Check out the size of this ‘tache! He was a real character and made the puppets on display and managed to sell some to members of the group.

It had been a great day and I was loving the tour. We had done so much already but were only half way through.

Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

We were visiting the Taj Mahal at sunrise so this meant an early start. The bus left the hotel at 6.30am and by 7 we were in the queue waiting for the outside gates to open. At 7am the huge external gate ( one of 3) was swung open and we made our way inside. Security was high and this involved airport style security and the most in depth search of my rucksack since The Gabba in Brisbane!

The forecast for the day was not great but at 7am it was dry but murky. We soon got our first view of the Taj Mahal. Wow! It’s incredibly impressive even in foggy conditions. It’s hard to think there is a more beautiful building anywhere else in the world.

The Taj Mahal was constructed between 1631 and 1654 by a workforce of 22,000. It was built by the Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz had already borne the emperor FOURTEEN children when she died in childbirth. The Taj Mahal must be the ultimate symbol of love.

Yash had arranged for a specialist guide to explain the history of the Taj. One of our first photo stops was at “Diana’s seat” by the Lotus Pool. The seat is so named due to the iconic photo of Princess Diana taken on her visit to the Taj Mahal in 1992. She was on an official state visit to India with Prince Charles but visited alone as at the time her marriage was collapsing. As it turned out the rest of the group, and I, had our photos taken on the wrong seat. Hey ho!

Me on the wrong "Diana seat"

Me on the wrong “Diana seat”

The iconic photo of Princess Diana taken in 1992

The iconic photo of Princess Diana taken in 1992

We then moved onto the Taj itself and entered after covering our shoes. Like the Baby Taj yesterday it’s perfectly symmetrical. We saw the tombs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan. Mumtaz’s cenotaph is right in the centre of the tomb chamber with Shah Jahan’s to one side. This is due to his grave being moved there after his death when the Taj had already been completed.

We has plenty of time for taking photos. Unfortunately the sun didn’t come out and it stayed murky.

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One of the 4 minarets. They are 40m high

One of the 4 minarets. They are 40m high

A recessed arch known as a Pishtaq

A recessed arch known as a Pishtaq

After finishing at The Taj we had a coffee nearby and then headed back to the bus. On the way we passed a number of souvenir sellers. After detailed negotiations I managed to secure a very tasteful item – a Taj Mahal glitter dome! – at the bargain price of 100 rupees (£1).

After getting back on the bus we headed back to the hotel which gave an opportunity for breakfast. Whilst back at the hotel the heavens opened and there was thunder in the air. We were lucky to have seen the Taj whilst it was dry.

Despite the weather we headed back out at 10.30 to visit Agra Fort. The walled city of the Agra Fort was first taken over by the Mughals, led by Akbar the Great, in the late 16th century. Akbar liked to build with red sandstone often inlaid with white marble and other intricate decorations. It was during the reign of Shah Jahan, Akbars grandson and the builder of the Taj Mahal, that the fort took on its current state. Shah Jahan preferred buildings of white marble, often inlaid with gold or other semi precious gems, and he destroyed some earlier buildings to build others in his own style. At the end of his life Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the fort by his son, Aurangzeb. It is believed that Shah Jahan died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with an excellent view of the Taj Mahal. The Taj of course is where his favourite wife Mumtaz’s body lays on the other side of the River Yumana from the Fort. The Fort is also the site of one of the most important battles of the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company’s rule in India, leading to a century of direct rule of India by Britain. The Fort is a really fascinating place and our guide really brought things to life for us with stories such as Shah Jahan and Mumtaz having fishing competitions together in the fishing lake. He always let her win! There was also a harem of beautiful ladies within the Fort in the days of Akbar the Great and Shah Jahan. The rain stopped towards the end of our visit but despite this the Taj Mahal was barely visible across the river.

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Grave of John Russell Colvin who was the governor of the a North West province of India who died at Agra Fort in 1857

Grave of John Russell Colvin who was the governor of the a North West province of India and died at Agra Fort in 1857

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We headed back to the hotel for lunch and I really enjoyed my choice of mixed vegetable korma. In fact I began to order mixed vegetable curries for lunch each day in India following this.

We had free time in the afternoon which I used to catch up with sleep. The journey from Thailand to India and the early morning had caught up with me.

In the evening we headed out to the Dasaprakash South Indian restaurant and a totally different style of food. Check out the Dosa that I had. A Dosa is a type of fermented crepe cooked with rice batter and black lentils. Mine was a little bit different to the norm as it contained wheat, onions and potatoes. Very tasty!

My Dosa

My Dosa

After the meal we headed back to the hotel. Yash invited us back to his room for a party. Most of the group went along. Room parties were to be a theme for the rest of the week.