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 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