Friday, 24 August 2012




I was up at 3.45 this morning, and the nerves had already set in.
I arrived at the airport in good time and I checked in my
backpack, which weighed about 20kg. This is it now, Billy no mates in
 the airport. It felt very surreal, and my mind was working overtime,
 thinking about the next 20 days.

It felt odd being on my own in the airport and I spent the next 50
minutes clock and people watching, and avoided the bar.

Thankfully my flight from Birmingham to Munich  was on time and I filed
through to departures at 6.30 am.  With typical German precision the
plane departed on time and I was off.

It was a smooth flight and the blueberry muffin was delicious.
I landed in Munich and the airport was huge. I checked with the
information desk and I’m able to leave the airport before my flight this
evening in 9 hours’ time. I’ve decided to go to some thermal baths - in
fact the biggest in Europe. Therme Erding is a complex of over 20
saunas and swimming pools and Jacuzzis etc. A Great way to unwind
and chill before India.

I spent over 3 hours at the baths and then got my taxi back to the airport.
I still  had over 4 hours before my flight, so i explored the airport and found a
restaurant to have some food and a drink, I decided to have a curry to
prepare my stomach for the next few weeks in India.


Delhi



I arrived in Delhi this morning at 8.00 am Indian time. I hadn’t slept a
wink on the plane, and it took me ages to go through passport control.
I collected my bag ok (weighs far too much), and managed to find the
Airport Metro Express underground which takes you into New Delhi
centre. There was lots of security and it was all very efficient, clean and
new..... That’s where it ends!

I arrived in  central Delhi to a chaotic mess of cars, rickshaws, dogs and people
everywhere. There was so much noise! Everywhere you look there is
something going on. All of my senses were working overtime!




I just wanted to drop my bags off at the hotel, so I could have a proper
explore. After asking a few police men they pointed me in the direction
of Pahar Ganj, the area my hotel was in. I got a lot of hassle
from the Indian touts, trying to get me to use their hotel/Rickshaw/taxi etc.
The Indians just won’t leave you alone! All good fun though. I found my
hotel - Hotel Hari Piorko,  and my room is actually ok. It was fairly clean
and the hot shower was refreshing. (1500 RPS a night)

I decided to carry on without sleep as there is so much to see. After an
unsuccessful rickshaw ride I found a travel agent and hired a driver for
the day, that drove me round to all the main sites -Raj Ghat, Lotus
temple, India gate etc.stopping off for lunch of chicken curry, garlic
naan and cold beer.


I was dropped back off at the hotel, freshened up and I'm now out again
(7.00pm). I found a nice bar/restaurant at the Metropolis Hotel (Main Bazar Road)
which has Wi-Fi, so I’ve started this journal  your reading over a cold
Kingfisher lager and Tandori Chicken. Bliss.
 I will hopefully get some sleep later,as I’ve not slept properly in 36 hours,
before getting the overnight train tomorrow to Varanasi on the River
 Ganges. I’m loving it so far!




I woke up this morning at 08.00 after going to bed last night at 9pm,
sleeping for about 9 hours of that. I was feeling a lot more refreshed and
I packed my backpack again ready for my train journey later this afternoon. I
ditched my day bag and bought a North Face bag  in the nearby bazaar for about 400
Rupees (£6) as the straps on the old one were rubbing and the stitching
was coming apart due to its weight!

I had my breakfast on the roof terrace. The roof terrace of the hotel is
beautiful with lots of potted plants and a nice seating area and the
weather today is hot. Lovely hazy sun.

Travellers, New Delhi


My breakfast consisted of tea, scrambled egg on toast and a diet coke.
I had to check out of the hotel by 12 but I could leave my main bag in
reception, as my train to Varanasi doesn't leave until 18.45. So I was able
to go for a wander, taking in the atmosphere of the streets and markets around
Pahar Ganj.
Street Market, New Delhi

After catching some sun on the rooftop of the hotel, it was time to head
to the station. I was looking forward to this experience. I picked up my
backpack from reception and caught an auto rickshaw to New Delhi
station. It cost 50 rupees (60p) for the ride.

After reaching the station I went to the enquiry desk who told me that
the train departs from platform 12 at 6.45pm.

Reservation List, New Delhi Railway Station


I headed to the platform and checked the board which had reams of
paper attached to it which tells you your carriage and seat number.
The train was already waiting at the platform, but I couldn’t get on until
it had been cleaned. At 18.15 we were allowed to board. I found my
berth okay in AC 2Tier, and it all looked good. There was a pillow, clean
sheets and a blanket for each passenger and another man came round
with a towel.
The berth had 4 people in it, with 2 on top and 2 below. I shared with a
middle aged Indian lady and 2 Indian men.

The train departed at 18.50 and we were on our way. Various Hawkers
would walk down the aisle selling hot Chai (tea), playing cards, crisps,
naan breads etc. I bought a tea for 10 rupees. (15p). the chai (tea) was sweet
and nice, and very welcome. Later another man came round and took a
food order. I ordered a Chicken Biryani. The food came but it didn’t look
good and it wasn’t very warm, so I left most of it, not wanting to risk an
Upset stomach. Luckily it only cost about 100 Rupees.

After the meal it was time to make the bed and try and get some sleep.
The seat which made your bed was rock hard, so I knew I wouldn’t be
able to get much sleep, and I dozed in and out of sleep for most of the
journey, being gently rocked by the train motion.

I needed the loo during the night, and the toilets were 3 squat types and
1 western toilet. Luckily I only needed a wee!

Squat!


It started to get light at about 06.00 am, and I was able to see that we
were passing through nice green countryside, with a few farm workers
out in the fields. We eventually arrived at Varanasi Junction station at
08.15.

Varanasi Railway Station


Varanasi


Namaste! After arriving at Varanasi on the overnight train I met the hotel rep at
the station. It felt warmer and sunnier in Varanasi, which is apparently
 the oldest city in the world.  There were lots of people in the station, and
a cow was waiting patiently at the enquiry desk!


The pickup was a hair raising tuk tuk ride through the old streets of the city,
until we reached the back alleys of the town. We walked the rest of the way.
 There is not a chance you could find it on our own. There are a lot of cows
who wander around as well...maybe they are lost too!

I Finally got to the hotel - Ganapati Guest House. The hotel is fantastic.

Ganapati Guest House, Varanasi



There is a courtyard which is quiet and peaceful in the centre and the
views from the terrace and balconies are amazing over the River
Ganges.




Ganapati Guest House




 There is a music school (Baba school of music) attached to  the
guest house, and I have booked myself a sitar lesson tomorrow at 12!
I took a quick shower to freshen up after the journey, and then went for
a wander down the hotel steps to the banks of the river. There are lots
of Ghats, which are a series of holy steps down to river where people
pray, wash themselves, wash clothes and pray some more. It is a very
holy place and is brilliant for people watching.

Ghats Ceremony, Varanasi


 Each Ghat has a meaning or purpose,  and is attached to a God or Goddess and temple.
One of the Ghats is the burning Ghat, where they cremate people. Over
200 a day! It is a strange site. They bring the body down the steps. The
body is wrapped in gold material and is placed in the Ganges. Male
family members pour water into the mouth of the person until it is full.
It is then burned on wood for 3 hours. It is very surreal to see it happen
in front of you.

On the Ghats, Varanassi



There are lots of cows, dogs, goats and 1 monkey ran past me whilst
wandering about.


I was approached many times by boat hawkers plying their trade. Taking a boat trip on the
river Ganges was high up on my list of  "things to do" so I agreed a trip with one of the boatmen.
 The boat owner is a man called Raj, who spoke good English and explained the meanings of the
various Ghats. It was a brilliant  experience and well worth the 150 rupees.





After the boat trip I returned to the roof terrace restaurant of my hotel and
 had a mixed veg curry and naan  for lunch. It was delicious, and cost 200
 Rupees.

Luckily tonight and tomorrow there is a big festival called Mahashivrati
celebrating the Hindu God Shiva. Thousands of pilgrims are expected and
there will be a big ceremony tonight. So I've booked another boat ride at
sunset to take photos and watch the ceremony.





 It was a Great spectacle with over 10 thousand watching and lots of boats. I lit a candle and
floated it on the Ganges for good Karma. Must do the lottery when I get
back!
Celebration to Shiva

About 8 I returned to the hotel for another curry and then bed. I hadn't
slept much in the last 48 hours, so was shattered. I’ve booked another
boat trip at sunrise 6.00 am with Raj, so will need some sleep.

I had my first dose of Delhi Belly during the night, I woke up with
stomach ache at 12 midnight, but it didn’t last too long, and I felt ok
again by the morning.

There was also a lot of noise throughout the night as thousands of
pilgrims were arriving for the Shiva festival the next day. They were filing
past the hotel along the path  that runs along the banks of the Ganges.
Some were chanting and singing, they all seemed in good spirits.

My alarm went off at 6.00 am, I dressed and was met by the boatman at
the steps of the Ganges. We set off at 6.30 and by 6.45 the sun began to
rise, it was chilly and very peaceful, a lovely time of the day, and I took some
photos.



Dawn Boat trip, River Ganges







Sunrise, River Ganges


After the ride I decided to go for a walk through the city.
It turned out to be not a good experience.....there were tens of thousands
of people all queuing with a pot of holy water and some flowers as
offerings to Shiva, I don’t know where the queue began or ended, but it
was the biggest queue you can imagine. I was the only white face I saw
and there was a high military and police presence, and they were armed
to the hilt. It felt like everyone was staring at me. I had been told there was
 some local tension between the various groups there.
 I walked for over an hour and still the queue continued, I turned back and
 made my way back to my hotel.


Varanasi pilgrims


For the first time  I felt uneasy, but got back to the calm of the hotel.

I had a shower and breakfast (Omelettes and tea) and went out for
another stroll along the Ghats of the Ganges. The atmosphere was a lot
better there and all was good again.

I got back to the hotel for 13.00 for my Sitar lesson at the Baba school of
music. The teacher was an old guy called Ravi, who didn’t look a day
under 80. He taught me how to sit and hold the Sitar...I wish I had
learnt yoga before as it was an uncomfortable position. He showed me
how to play some chords whilst he sang along to my tune!

Sitar lesson, Baba school of Music, Varanasi

Not being able to play an instrument I found it a bit tricky! The string
has now caused a blister on my finger! I think at one time he held his
head in his hands in frustration!




I got the hang of it eventually and we shared some samosas and tried to
talk to each other. He then played the Sitar himself and was fantastic.
This all cost 200 Rupees (£2.50)

After the lesson I walked some more through the Ghats and to the
Burning Ghats (cremations). Behind this, there was a government
Bhang shop were you could buy Bhang sweets, drinks and smokes
(Bhang is made from Cannabis). Everyone looked stoned but happy!!!

Bhang!

I returned to the hotel at 15.45 for a welcome lunch of Veg Pakora and a
cold beer.
Varanasi is a strange but beautiful place; very spiritual and a place I
will never forget. A must for anyone who likes to people watch and take
interesting photos.

River Ganges
It was good to Skype home last night, although the Wi-Fi kept cutting
out, and today it is off completely. I didn't bother eating last night and
stayed in my room to read, and began to pack my back pack and
collect my laundry from reception. They washed and dried my clothes
for less than £1.

I had a decent night’s sleep, and woke at 06.15, in time to see the
sunrise for the last time from the terrace.




I had breakfast - omelet, toast, juice and tea. (120 rupees) showered and
finished off the packing. I had to be out of the room by 10.00. I paid for
my room - 2 nights 1200 rupees about £12. The hotel was brilliant and a
bargain.



I had 6 hours free until I needed to make my way to the train station, so
I went for a walk through the markets and alleyways, and then to the
main streets. I found an ATM and withdrew some more cash.

The Indian roads are a nightmare to cross. The cars, scooters, auto
rickshaws, cycle rickshaws come at you from all directions. There is no
highway code here. The best way is to just go for it confidently or go for
safety in numbers.


I had my first taste of street food; I had 2 veg Samosas which I saw
cooked in front of me. They were delicious and cost less than 15p.
I also bought a nice patterned table cloth from the market.
I returned to the Ganges and walked for 2 miles in a direction I hadn't
been before, it was a lot quieter at these Ghats.

Holy Man, Ganges


Ghats, River Ganges


During my wander, I saw a group of  monkeys, who would sit and watch you suspiciously,
and a few bright green Parrots were flying around.



I returned to the hotel to have a light lunch and chat with 2 guys from
Switzerland who were also back packing, and they gave me the
rundown on Agra, my next destination. It's great to swap stories and tips with fellow
travellers.




At 4pm I left the hotel and made my way to the main road where I could
catch a TukTuk back to the station. Another crazy trip on the TukTuk,
the driving is unreal, they all drive whatever side of the road they
choose, but miraculously they don't collide. Must be the good Karma.
I made it to the station in one piece.

Namaste!



Varanasi station was packed, but I was relieved when I found the
information board.

Travellers to Agra

I waited for my train - the Maradhar express, which came on time
(18.15). Found my carriage and berth. I am sharing with 3 French men,
so at least I can practice my Francais!

I'm not going to bother with the food on the train, so will settle for cups
of tea, water and a small bag of Leys crisps for dinner tonight. Would love a
nice roast dinner!
Travellers, Agra

Train is due to arrive at Agra Fort train station at 05.55. Hope I wake
up in time.

Agra


(My Taj Mahal Blog can be found here)

The train arrived in Agra about 30 minutes late, but I surprisingly slept
quite well, so the 13 hour journey went quickly.

I got off the train at Agra Fort railway station and headed past the
masses of rickshaw wallahs that were after business. I headed towards the
signs for the Taj mahal, as I knew my hotel was close to it.
I eventually gave in to a cycle rickshaw rider who offered to take me to
the hotel for 20 rupees (25p). The poor man had his work cut out taking
me and my heavy bags the 2 km journey.

When I arrived at 07.30 the hotel could not check me in until 10.00, so I
left my big backpack at the hotel and headed to the area around the taj
for breakfast. The area was not nice, rubbish everywhere with dogs and
monkeys scavenging for food.

Taj Ganj, Agra


I found a cafe and ordered a breakfast at the door and made my way to
the rooftop. The cafe was in a terrible state. It looked like it hadn't been
cleaned for years and last night’s rubbish was all over the place. It would have been
condemned by the Environmental Health brigade back home.  The
food came, but I could not eat it, I paid the 50 rupees and left.
I carried on walking to the East Gate of the Taj and headed towards the
river.

This area was a lot cleaner and well kept. I met an Indian cycle
rickshaw rider called Rajou, we chatted and he told me I could take a
boat across the river for photos (50RPS), I'm glad I did, the view was stunning.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Rajou offered to pick me up from my hotel after I had showered and
sorted myself out, for a city tour for 300 rupees, I agreed and he
dropped me off at the hotel for free. I'm staying at Hotel Sidhatha, and it's only
a  2 minute walk from the West Gate of the Taj Mahal. (1600 RPS)

I had my breakfast and waited for my room to be cleaned. The room
looked ok and clean. The shower was only cold though!

I called home from the international phone call office next door and then
got picked up by Rajou at 13.00. The tour was good and we visited Agra
fort which was very impressive, the Baby Taj and then the gardens on
the opposite bank of the river to the Taj.

Taj Mahal


 This is the best place to take  photos of the Taj Mahal at sunset. I bought us a couple of drinks and we walked the gardens chatting about our customs and backgrounds. Rajou was a Muslim, who married a girl from Bangladesh. He works long hours to bring in some much needed Rupees to support his family.

 The Taj looked stunning, every bit as beautiful as you could imagine.




During the tour, the rickshaw had a puncture. The Rickshaw repair
stall was next to a school. The kids were pleased to see me and were
posing for photos and smiling and waving. They loved me showing the
photo I had taken of them.
School children, Agra

Rajou dropped me off at the hotel at 8pm. After the 7 hour trip I gave
him an extra 200 rupees for the good tour. He showed me a good
restaurant to go to (M,G. Royal Cafe), which I walked to after a quick
 cold shower. I Had chicken biryani and naan. Very tasty. On my walk
back I heard a voice. It was  Rajou shouting my name! He was being
 taken home by another  rider as he had spent the extra money I had
given him on Indian whiskey and was drunk! He got me to get in the
rickshaw and dropped me off at my hotel, on his way home.


Me and Rajou

A tiring day, but well worth it. The Taj Mahal at sunset was brilliant
and Rajou was a star!

Up early tomorrow at 6,00AM, to get into the grounds of the Taj for sunrise.

I woke up before my alarm at 05.50 to get showered and ready for my
full visit to the taj mahal. I left the hotel at 06.10 to get to the West gate
ticket office (only 100 meters from hotel). There were already a lot of
people queuing there. A guide approached me and said he could get a
ticket quicker for me for 200 rupees I decided to pay the extra (the taj
mahal ticket costs 750 rupees). Sure enough, it got me to near to the
front of the queue at the west gate.

I was one of the first in, and went through to see the Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal


 The sun was still waiting to rise so there was a nice blue tinge to the Taj
Mahal walls and some early morning mist. It looked unbelievable. The
grounds and garden are immaculate and everything is in symmetry.

Taj Mahal at Sunrise


As the sun began to rise the colours changed to white, then pink and
then gold.
It was a brilliant site and I took loads of photos from all different sides.






As the crowds came in it was funny watching people do all different and
strange poses in front of the Taj.


I got my pose in on the seat where Princess Diana sat, taken by an
Indian guide for 20 rupees.


It really deserves its status as one of The Severn wonders of the world.
A beautiful building.  I stayed there for 2 hours taking loads of photos
 and walked the gardens. I left at 09.00 to have breakfast at the hotel,
 shower and sort out the photos I had taken.

I left at 11.00 and went looking to buy an Indian SIM card for my
phone. My sandals had broken so I had them repaired at the roadside
by a street Hawker for 30 rupees.

I bought a SIM card which made my calls back to the UK a lot cheaper.
There wasn't much else to do, I toiled with visiting Fatehpur Sikri, a nearby
village, but I needed to relax. I decided to indulge myself by going to a top
 end hotel to use their swimming pool and sun bathe for the rest of the day.
My first real relaxation since I got to India. It was at Hotel Amar (Fatehabad Road)
 a short tuk tuk ride away. It cost me 400 rupees to get in, but that included a
 sunbed, towel and the service of loads of Indian waiters. I spent the rest of the day there
chilling and had a few cold beers around the pool. I also had a great
mixed meat Tandoori platter. Delicious. Today I lived the life of a
Maharajah. Tomorrow I'm up early AGAIN to catch the 6.15 train to
Jaipur.


Traveller to Jaipur

A full version of my Taj Mahal experience with more photos can be found by clicking here

Another early start, my alarm woke me and  I showered and left
the hotel to catch my tuk tuk at 05.30. The tuk tuk got me to the station
15 minutes later ready to catch my train which was due to depart at
06.15. I waited and waited and the information board showed the train
was delayed. It eventually turned up 1 hour 45 minutes late. I was tired
and hungry, as I had skipped dinner last night to go to bed early. I was
hoping for  a few snacks on the train...No such luck, not even
Chai (tea). I then saw a few of the Indian travelers drinking chai and
eating snacks; they jump off the train at the stations, and get their food
from there. I will know next time. The train finally arrived 2 hours late at 13.15.

Jaipur


I made my way off the train to be greeted by the usual masses of
taxi/rickshaw drivers. I felt tired so couldn't be bothered to walk any
further and took a taxi to my hotel for 150 rupees. The taxi was an old
Ambassador driven by Ali Baba, a nice guy who sold me a tour of Jaipur
to see the main sites outside the city.

Ali Baba, Taxi drive, Jaipur

First call was to a restaurant  callled Rainbow where we had mutton
 curry for lunch, I hadn't eaten for 22 hours and was starving, and it was
excellent food. Ali Baba was good company.


Jaipur seems a bit more laid back than the other cities I had visited and
looks cleaner (by Indian standards) and it was a pity I'm only here for
the 1 night.



We went to amber fort (amazing), a stunning fort high up in hills, and a
sunken palace in a lake, a tomb complex and finally the monkey
temple.


The monkey temple is a temple high up in the mountain overlooking
Jaipur, and has 2000 monkeys on the path up to it. I was shown up there by a 12 year
old lad called Rajiv.

Feeding the Monkeys, Jaipur


 He was friendly and he took a few photos of me feeding the monkeys
 and we looked at the views








 I  showed him my mobile phone and he had a few games of Angry Birds
on it!



After the tour I was taken to a couple of wholesale places that sold
jewellery and silks. The usual end to a tour it seems. I stood firm and only
bought what I wanted for a good price.





I got back to my hotel, called Suryaa Villa (1900 RPS), and had mixed veg curry,
again it was delicious. The hotel is fantastic and the room is nice and clean, and
there is a small swimming pool with nice gardens. Unfortunateley I'm only
 here for 1 night, although I have a full day ahead in Jaipur tomorrow before my
train to Jodhpur at midnight. I felt exhausted , so lie-in tomorrow, for sure.

I had a comfy night in my hotel, the best hotel so far, good clean rooms
with a warm shower. There was a big wedding party going on in the
hotel next door with fireworks and dancing. I was invited to go in and I
took a few photos and chatted to the kids. They all love to have their
photo taken and talk about cricket. They know all the players and
scores. A few of the men called me Ian botham!

I Got up at 08.30 and had the breakfast which was included- scrambled
egg, toast, juice and chai.

I packed my backpack and was able to leave it at reception. My train
isn't until 23.45 so I still have a full day in Jaipur. I'm now looking a bit more
like a traveller with a bit of a beard and a tan, and I've perfected  that
knackered look!

I took a cycle rickshaw inside the Pink City walls for 30 rupees. I spent the
next 5 hours walking through the streets, looking at the sites. The most
impressive is a building called Hawa Mahal, a 5 story pink building
where the women used to watch the streets below without being seen.
I was able to go inside and  up to the top for 50 rupees; it gave you a
great view of the city.

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

I went to some different temples and the people were all singing and clapping, it
was great for people watching. There are many bazaars and shops
selling everything you could ever need. Wish I could buy  loads, but I
don't have the room!

I tried a bit of street food, called Kachori. Its Like a spicy potato patty. Delicious
and only 10 rupees.
Walked a few miles and decided to find a nice place to have a bit of
lunch.


I found a place I'd read about called Laxi Mishthan khandar, it's billed
as the oldest and best veg restaurant in Jaipur.
I had samosa, Kachori and a banana lassi (145 RPS) The best veg food I have
eaten and cheap too. If all veggie food tasted this good I could turn
veggie quite easily.

Jaipur wedding procession

I walked the 2km back to the hotel and sat in the sun, drinking cold
beer for a bit. I reckon I must have walked over 5 miles this morning so
I think I’ve earned it!




I finished off my time in Jaipur with a night out at the cinema at a
famous cinema called Raj Mandir in Jaipur; I queued to get my ticket for
the film which started at 6.30. No one else seemed to understand the
concept of queuing, so I had to have a word! The ticket cost 70 rupees.
The lobby of the cinema was magnificent, quite luxurious.
The film was a Bollywood comedy/romance called Tere Naal love ho
Gaya! Although in Hindi it was quite easy to follow the plot; there were
 the typical Indian song/dance routines in it. The audience all seemed to
 join in, and clapped and cheered, and some were in hysterics.

Raj Mandir cinema, Jaipur

I went back to my hotel to collect my backpack and head to the station.
The train was actually only 5 minutes late and I boarded at 23.50. The
train already had people on, as it started in Delhi. I founded my berth,
everyone else was already asleep, and it was dark. I set my alarm for
04.25, as my train was due to arrive in Jodhpur at 04.45. I managed to
get a bit of sleep, but was awoken by some shouting in the berth
compartment next to mine. They had caught a thief and where slapping
him and stamping on his bare feet. The guard/conductor came and
joined in. Guess he deserved it. It made me a bit more conscious of my
bags anyway.

Jodhpur

The train arrived on time in Jodhpur and I got a tuk tuk in the
darkness to my hotel (Jee Ri Havelli, 2000RPS)  They let me check
 in early at 05.00 and I went straight to sleep.

I woke at 07.45, and the sun was up. I had a private balcony with a
view of the fort on the hillside, only 0.5km away. It was a stunning
view……………

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

I had another great day. Jodhpur is called the blue city, as funnily enough, most of the
buildings are painted blue!



 I first of all climbed up to the magnificent  fort, which overlooks the city.


 I met a Japanese guy called shoo and we chatted and walked up together.
The fort is very impressive and had a great view of the city.

Blue city, Jodhpur

In India instead of crows flying overhead, like in England,  there are huge birds of prey
hovering and gliding, sometimes they land by you- a great site.
I then Skyped Liz when I got back and had some lunch- paneer pakora
on the roof terrace and also Skype mum and dad. It was good to speak to
family back home.



I chatted to the Indian man who owned the hotel, and he sorted out a
cheap tour of the other sites For 200 rupees. The hotel is in an excellent location and
the room was comfortable and clean. A nice family run hotel.

The 2 hour tour took me to palaces; the first was lovely, with nice gardens and was full of
paintings and photos of the Indian royalty. The second was impressive,
but was really just a nice hotel. A good value tour though.

Clock Tower, Jodhpur


Jodhpur is a lot more laid back than the other places I've visited, not too
much hassle from the street markets and touts. Some nice restaurants
and hotels.

Musician, Jodhpur



I Had my evening meal at a beautiful hotel/restaurant called Pal Haveli
a short walk from my hotel.The food was delicious- Chicken Labhabdor and
Onion Cumin rice and the roof top restaurant had a brilliant view of the fort.

I returned to my hotel and watched the sunset and chilled out for a bit.
Tomorrow I’m off to Jaisalmer for 2 nights.


I left the hotel at 04.10 for my tuk tuk to jodhpur railway station, the
tuk tuk I had booked did not turn up, so I had to head in to the main square in the
darkness with my backpack on, looking for another tuk tuk . It was
quite Eerie as no one was about apart from the dogs and sleeping cows
and a few street people huddled round fires. I managed to find a tuk tuk
who took me to the station.

Travellers, Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer

My train was on time and I found my berth ok. There was an American
lad in my compartment, and a couple sleeping from the Far East, and a
mouse! I got to sleep ok and dozed in and out of sleep for most of the 6
hour journey. I even tried the Indian breakfast on the train, spicy veg
cutlet and bread, and it was ok. I spotted the fort of Jaisalmer rising out
of the desert, like a giant sandcastle, and it was confirmed when I saw
the sign for Jaisalmer at the station. The train was actually 45 minutes
early for a change.

I found a taxi, which was a land rover jeep, which took me to the hotel, and
I was greeted warmly by the manager. They took my bags from me and
took them to my room. It’s a lovely hotel, called  KB Lodge (2000RPS a night)
- the best yet.

Jaisalmer

With Indian decor in the room, a nice wooden bed and a warm, clean
shower.

KB Lodge, Jaisalmer


The room had a view of a magnificent 200 year old Havelli building called
Patwon-Ki-Haveli, and the roof terrace has lots of comfy cushioned
seats with a view of the fort.

I'm glad I've got 2 nights here and hopefully will get chance to relax.
I showered and had a drink on the rooftop, before heading to the fort.
The fort is a crumbling ancient building with lots of narrow alleyways
with temples, bazaars and cows. The shops and bazaars sell nice
textiles and Indian crafts - wish I had room to buy some! The people
here hassle you less and are laid back. One seller said “come inside my
shop, and let me rip you off" with a grin on his face! Maybe because
there is a government Bhang shop just outside, selling marijuana cakes,
cookies and lassi drinks!




I bumped into shoo the Japanese tourist I'd met in Jodhpur and we
swapped a few tips, and also saw the American who was on my train.
The weather is very hot and sunny, and I found a nice hotel restaurant
with a rooftop to have some Veg Pakora and a drink. I walked some
more and headed back to my hotel, stopping to go inside the haveli
opposite. It was cool and had bats that where roosting inside, it had a
great view from the top.

Jain Temple, Jaisalmer

I've arranged with the hotel to go on a desert safari tomorrow afternoon
into the evening at sunset followed by a meal and music, should be
good.  I'm going to eat at my hotel and no early wake up so SLEEP!

Namaste!

I had a lovely meal last night at my hotel - Maharaja  Thali - a selection of
Indian veg dishes, rice, chapati, salad, lassi, and a sweet , so tasty (450RPS)
I will ask for the recipes. Went back to my room full and tired. I managed to
get about 8 hours sleep in my comfy bed. The power is off now so I will
have to wait for a hot shower, and took breakfast on the roof terrace in the sun,
watching the cows, dogs and people below. (No monkeys or hawks so far
in Jaisalmer). There’s a Belgian couple, a Japanese traveller called Yuki and an
American in the hotel.

I think I will just relax and go for a stroll around the streets and
Bazzars this morning, my desert safari is at 2.00 pm.
I went to the fort and visited a Jain temple, the work inside was
amazing, with detailed carvings from stone. It took 30 years to build.


The Jain religion is an ancient religion that originated in India, they are very devoted.
They don't believe in killing anything so are vegetarian and are even
careful of treading on ants and flies!
The jeep arrived at 2pm for the safari. Firstly it took us to some ancient
temples in the area and an old abandoned village.


We arrived at a camp for the camel ride. The camels took us through
the dunes and desert, there was a few wild deer running around.


At sunset I took some nice photos as the sun went down. It was a nice
peaceful experience.





Sunset, Camel Safari




The camels took me back to camp for a campfire with music, dancing
and a meal, and of course they picked on me to join them in the dance!
The jeep took me back to hotel for 10.30pm.




It was a great day, relaxing and seeing a different side of India.

I Woke up at 7.00 am and took breakfast on the roof, watching the dogs
play amongst the cows below. I then packed my backpack and showered
and checked out. I could leave my bags in reception for the day. I visited
a wholesale textile shop and bought some souvenirs that will be posted
back for me.

I then went up to the Fort to wander a bit and had a drink.
My train to Delhi leaves this evening at 17.15 so I spent the rest of the
day in Jaisalmer. I really enjoyed my time here, thanks to the comfort
and hospitality of my hotel. The old town and laid back people make you
feel welcome and relaxed.

The train - the Jaisalmer to Delhi express takes 18 hours to get to
Delhi, over 900 Kms, so not particularly looking forward to it.
Train for the night. Jaisalmer-Delhi


My hotel is making a takeaway meal for me, to take on the train- Tomato sandwich,
Boiled Eggs and a banana.
I caught tuk tuk To Jaisalmer train station, and my train was already
there waiting. I found my berth ok, and made myself as comfy as I could
for the 18 hour journey, chaining my backpack to the seat.

I shared with an Indian family who offered me some of their food, but I
just had my packed lunch. We chatted and they thought I was a
student, and was in my 20's! Result. They ask you a lot of questions,
including how much you earn!

To put it bluntly I had to use the toilet on the train, the squat type, you
have to be careful not to lose items from your pockets!
Apart from that the journey was uneventful and I managed to get sleep
in several spells, the mouse was still scurrying about, and the journey
was quite pleasant.

Delhi

Eventually I arrived at Sari rohilla old station at 11.15, and got a taxi back to my
original hotel in Delhi - Hotel Hari Piorko.

The room wasn't ready so I had a short wait. I was tired and in need of
a shower/food/rest.

New Delhi

That was the plan at least, but after my shower, I felt fresher and went
out for a wander. Had a beer in an Indian pub called My Bar, it was a
dark and dingy place playing loud Indian disco. Cheap beer though.
Then caught a cycle rickshaw to old Delhi, to an area called Chandi
chowk. There is supposed to be a spice market there but I couldn't find
it. A Map is a waste of time in India, there are no street names and it is
very difficult to work out where you are. Delhi is so different to the
other places I have been to, a lot busier, noisier and spread out, but still
all part of the Indian experience.

I’m getting a lot less hassle than last time I was here; maybe because I
have a tan and a beard, I look more experienced.

I didn't have any joy in finding the spice market, so headed back to the
hotel. Feeling the effects of my 2 weeks nonstop traveling and retired to
the roof terrace to relax in the sun. I've handed in more laundry and I
have an early start tomorrow - 4.00 am for my 2 trains to Shimla, hope I
wake up!

It's now 7.00 pm in Delhi and I'm at the Metropolis hotel in Delhi pahra
ganj, near to my hotel. I've ordered Tandoori chicken and naan, feeling
extremely tired so won't be out long, I'm up at 04.00 for my train to
Kalka, which is the connection for Shimla. The restaurant is very
cosmopolitan with lots of different voices and colours, a bit of a
traveler’s hub, my favorite in Delhi. And they have a weak Wi-Fi!
The food was excellent, my last proper food until I reach Shimla in 24
hours’ time. I will stock up on Lays crisps at the station.

The alarm woke me up at 03.45am and I got ready and left the hotel,
luckily a tuk tuk was passing as I went outside, so I hailed it down. It
was quite a way to the station, but only cost 150 rupees.

I waited for my train. There were a few others waiting and some dogs.
One of the dogs walked with a limp, and had a bad open wound on his
back leg, but bless him, he wagged his tail when he saw people. I felt
sorry for him, but there wasn't anything I could do for him.

The train came on time. The Himalayan queen to Shimla via Kalka. My
carriage is AC chair class, and has only seats, laid out like a plane. I got
to sleep ok, in my seat, but woke at 06.50 for a beautiful sunrise over
the misty fields that we were passing.

At 7.30am we pulled into a station - Panipat junction. The train became
a hive of activity, as various sellers boarded to offer chai (tea), breakfast
of omelet with bread, water and crisps. I had the lot - take it while you
can!

The train journey was pleasant and comfortable, and you could see the
mountains and hills appear in the landscape. The train arrived at
Kalka 30 mins late, but still in plenty of time for the transfer to the
next train.

Shimla

Toy Train, Kalka-Shimla

The train from Kalka to Shimla is known as the toy train, it is an old
narrow gauge railway which winds the 100 odd miles up into the
foothills of the Himalayas. It takes 5-6 hours to complete this journey,
traveling slowly over bridges and through many tunnels. The train was
there waiting and I found my seat ok. There are open windows and
doors, so am hoping to get some good views of the journey.



I had a nice  meal on the train of thali, a mix of veg curry, tasty.
 I was joined by an English couple in their 60's that have been traveling
 since November, going by train from London to Iran! - Now that's a journey!



The train pulled away and we were soon climbing the hills. The doors
were open, so I spent most of the journey sitting on the train floor, with
my legs dangling out, over the side. It was brilliant; the scenery was
amazing as we went higher, through tunnels and over bridges. You
could see monkeys in the trees, it was stunning. The journey took 5
hours, stopping at a few stations for refreshments. I phoned the hotel to
see if there was a pickup from the station, and there was - Great!!
We arrived at Shimla station and I was met by a man from the hotel,
we started walking, I thought to his car, but we carried on and on. We
walked the mile and a half to my hotel – Hotel Dreamland It was a
Steep uphill walk all the way! I got there shattered, what a work out! I
checked in. My room was not that good, very dated and very basic, but
the view from my door was breathtaking.


The view looked out for miles over the mountains. I walked back down
to the mall area at sunset, looking for a restaurant. I found a chinese restaurant
called Alfa, on the Mall and had a good set meal, tea and soda for £2!

Feeling full I walked up the hill again to the hotel and bed at 7.45 pm!
I got up this morning at 6.00 am, my room was freezing all night, and
the duvet is filthy. I slept in my clothes. I put on my thermals, hat and
gloves to climb to the top of Shimla, to a temple for sunrise. The Jakhu Temple at
the top, is the highest point in Shimla. There were monkeys everywhere and they
weren't friendly, they try to attack you. I avoided eye contact with them.
When I reached the top the view was fantastic as the sun rose over the mountains.


I took a few photos and recovered from the exhausting climb. There is a
giant red statue  of Hanuman, the Monkey God up there looking over the mountains.


Jakhu Temple, Shimla 




 I walked back  down to the hotel, showered and changed and went out again, it was
still very cold out, and so I kept my thermals on! I went to the Indian
Coffee House, an old colonial building, with staff dressed in white and
fancy hats on. Had a nice filling breakfast for 120 rupees, and went out
to join the people wandering up and down.

Indian Coffe house, Shimla

Shimla is very different to the other places I had been to; it's like a
middle class Indian holiday resort, with British colonial influence.

Shimla

There are signs saying no rubbish, no spitting (a male Indian ritual; they
cough up from the back of their throats as noisy as they can in
India), no smoking and no plastic bags. The place is spotless and
immaculate. No rickshaws, even using the horn is not allowed! The
police have different smart uniforms with fancy hats, and they actually
do something.

There is a mall where people just wander up and down, having ice
creams and chatting, an old Christian church, a few temples,
government buildings and lots of shops and bazaars. There is also a lot
of school children in smart uniform, as I think there are a few public
schools here in Shimla.

Christ Church, Shimla


There doesn't seem a great deal else to do, so I spent most of the
morning walking, then sitting and watching the people, and the Hawks circling
in the blue skies above. I found a place to have a beer at lunchtime, had a few,
sitting in the sun and went back to my hotel to sleep. - it’s all caught up on me now,
I've done so much, walked and got up early. I feel shattered!

Sunset, The Mall, Shimla


I’ve just woke up at 6pm to watch the Liverpool v Arsenal game on
 TV in my room (which is now freezing again!). I spent the rest of the
 night in bed, as it was too cold to get out of it.

I slept on and off all night, and got up and showered by 8.30. I checked
out, and decided to go on a tour with a Kashmir guide called Ashraf
 from the hotel.

We drove 50 km for 2 hours along winding mountainside roads, the
views down were great, as we descended down from 2500 meters to
500 meters.



We ended up in a valley town called Tattapani, where we went for a
trek to a cave that was devoted to Shiva, the climb was up and down
and it was a killer!



 Afterwards we took dinner at a riverside restaurant
next to the river Sutlej which flows from the mountains in Tibet. The
water was freezing, but next to the river, hot springs were rising to
form hot pools of sulphur water. I was able to bathe in them, which was
nice and relaxing.


We had to leave after a couple of hours as I had to be back in Shimla for
my train to Kalka. We drove back, and on the way stopped off for a
horse ride through the Forrest's. It was a good day, and I saw some
lovely scenery and again a different side to India.



Ashraf  dropped me off at Shimla station, with plenty of time. My train the
Shivalex Deluxe was there waiting. This train which is another toy
train, is there equivalent to the orient express, with comfy soft armchair
seats. We were served tea and biscuits, given a bottle of water, and
I ordered a veg curry meal- all inclusive of the ticket. I sat with three
Indian engineers, in their fifties, who asked the usual inquisitive
questions, and they took my photo! They talked about whiskey and
where friendly. The one was chewing some tobacco which made his
mouth and lips red. We started off as the sun began to set, and was nice
to watch, listening to some Indian music they were playing from their
phone.

Shimla Station

2 hours after we left Shimla, our food was delivered on board at Bogra
station. The food came hot and was bean Dahl, mix curry, rice, 2
chapattis, and a sweet. It was delicious and very welcome. As we
finished the food, it was quite bizarre to see the men just throw their
rubbish out of the window! Obviously an Indian practice, but was a
shame really.

We arrived back at Kalka at  22.20 in plenty of time for my train to
Delhi at 23.55. I was one of the first on, so was able to sort my berth out
before others arrived, and use the phone charger.
The train is due in at Delhi at 06.30, for my last day in India.

Delhi

The train arrived on time at Old Delhi railway station, and I took an
Auto Rickshaw back to my home in Delhi. I arrived back at Hotel Hari
Piorko (cost 1500 Rupees a night), and waited a while before I could
check-in for the last time.

I was given another comfortable room, in the hotel. This hotel is a great
base for this sort of trip. It is in the backpacker area of New Delhi, on
the main Bazaar. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and hundreds
of Rickshaws to take you wherever you need to get to. I was going to
make sure I had a nice relaxing last day in India.



I showered and changed, and then went for a walk up and down the
main Bazaar, buying a few last minute souvenirs. The weather was also
getting hotter and hotter everyday so I topped up my tan on the roof top
of the hotel.




I arranged for a “travellers Massage” with the hotel at 16.30 which was
a nice treat for my aching arms, back and legs. 800 rupees for 1 hour.



I went out for my final evening, back to Hotel Metropolis for Ghost
Mutton Rogan, Naan and poppadum’s. I met an interesting German
man there, who was a professional travel photographer. He was in
Delhi for 5 days before going on to Nepal. He showed me some of his
work and he has a website – www.Klaus-polkowski.de , he makes a very
good living out of traveling the world taking picture, very inspiring
work and conversation.

Pahar Ganj, New Delhi


I went back to bed full and tired ready for my return flight to
Birmingham in the morning.


I’ve had a fantastic time in India; it has opened my eyes to a very
different way of life. Some of the people I have met in India lead a very
humble life, but mostly it is accompanied with a wide smile.
 I’ve met some great people and made some good
friends. The sites have been amazing. I will definately be back!
Now, where to next time?


Next Trip Here!!




Itinerary

Day 1 Fly to Delhi
Day 2 Arrive Delhi ...Stay Hotel Hari Piorko, New Delhi
Day 3 Tour Delhi.... Depart Delhi  @ 18.45 Shiv Ganga Express train to Varanasi
Day 4 Arrive Varanasi @ 07.30 ...Stay Ganpati Guest House
Day 5 Tour Varanasi....Mahashivrati festival, Ganges Sunrise Boat trip
Day 6 Tour Varanasi ....Depart Varanasi @ 17.20 Marudhar Express to Agra
Day 7 Arrive Agra Fort 05.55...Stay Hotel Sheela, Agra
Day 8 Taj Mahal Sunrise and Fatepur Sikri
Day 9 Depart Agra @ 06.15, Marudhar Express to Jaipur....Stay surrya villa, Jaipur
Day 10 Tour Jaipur....Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal...Depart Jaipur @ 23.57 Jaisalmer Express to Jodhpur
Day 11 Arrive Jodhpur @ 05.55..Tour Jodhpur....Stay jee ri haveli.  Jodhpur
Day 12 Depart Jodhpur @ 06.10 Delhi-Jaisalmer Express, arrive Jaisalmer @ 11.45 stay KB Lodge
Day 13 Tour Jaisalmer, Desert Visit, Golden Fort.
Day 14 Tour Jaisalmer, Depart Jaisalmer @ 16.30 Jaisalmer-Delhi Express
Day 15 Arrive Delhi @ 11.05, Stay Hari Piorko, New Delhi
Day 16 Depart Delhi @ 05.40 to Shimla Via Kalka, Himilayan Queen, arrive Shimla 17.20, City View.
Day 17 Stay Dreamland Hotel, Tour Shimla (Himilayan Mountains)
Day 18 Tour Shimla, Depart Shimla @ 17.40 to Delhi via Kalka Shivalik Deluxe Train
Day 19 Arrive Delhi @ 06.15, stay Hari Piorko
Day 20 Depart Delhi to Home


Rail Pass



Got my rail pass sorted today. Firstly I checked the trains I needed to catch to fit in with my itinerary.
Great web site from India rail, with all the info that you need. Simply enter your starting station and your destination station. It will then display a timetable for that journey and the train numbers.

Next step, if you require a rail pass, is to contact their UK agent, SD Enterprises.

Another great website to use. After contacting SD Enterprises, and filling in their booking form, complete with the trains that you require, they will send you your rail pass by post. Cost for 21 day rail pass is £137 (more expensive than booking individual train journeys independently, but in my opinion far simpler and hassle free).


21 Day Rail Pass


Attached Train Reservations


Rail Pass


Some other brilliant web sites with useful information:-




Distance covered - 3979 Kms

Stage 1 New Delhi to Varanasi - Shiv Ganga Express
Stage 2 Varanasi to Agra - Marudhar Express
Stage 3 Agra to Jaipur - Marudhar Express
Stage 4 Jaipur to Jodhpur - Delhi Jaisalmer Express
Stage 5 Jodhpur to Jaisalmer - Delhi Jaisalmer Express
Stage 6 Jaisalmer to Delhi - Delhi Jaisalmer Express
Stage 7 Delhi to Shimla (via Kalka) - Himilayan Queen
Stage 8 Shimla to Delhi (via Kalka) - Shivalik Express/Kalka Howrah Mail                                                     






Many more of my photos from India on my Flickr site


http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicovilla/sets/72157629547226967/

My other blogs...........


Cappadocia Blog here

Euro-Rail Blog is available here

Istanbul Blog Here

Baltic Blog Here

Thailand Here

Hong Kong Here

Croatia Here

Nimes Here

#microadventure Here

London Here



14 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog and the pictures are excellent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks snehansu for taking time to read, glad you enjoyed it! Please share it.

      Delete
  2. Hi there

    This is a great account of your trip, lovely photos too, sounds fabulous. My husband and I (also fellow Harts!!) are going to India for 3 weeks in April this year, also flying via Munich so have found your account very useful indeed.

    Thank you and happy travelling!!

    Amy and Dean Hart

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amy and Dean

      Thanks for reading, us Harts were born to travel! You will love India, what part are you going to? I Am off to south India in march/April, can wait!

      Will Hart

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  3. Hi Will ! Yes us Harts love to travel :)

    Awesome blog, a great read and amazing pictures !

    We plan on travelling the north due to the weather as we're both fair skinned lol We are going mid April ! We have the golden triangle (standard) planned so far but have only just started researching India.

    Can I ask how much you spent in 3 weeks ? We are getting varied answers but your trip looks like something we would do.

    Thanks

    Dean & Amy

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Dean/Amy

    I left Rajasthan early March last year, and it was getting very hot, so obviously even hotter by April time, so be careful with the sunburn, maybe ok further north in Shimla etc.
    Regarding costs it varies depending on how much you want to do, the entries to the temples can mount up.! 1000 RPs each a day should cover your food/drink, Rickshaws are cheap and a great fun way of getting around. Hotels I pre-booked before arrival and varied from £6 a night to £25 a night.
    Clothes etc are very cheap out there so pack light and buy in India.
    Hope this helps.

    Will

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  5. Excellent blog! Nice pictures too.
    Looking forward to reading your south India experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Hari, glad you enjoyed it!

      Delete
  6. I didnt want to read your blog and run with out writing a comment.
    One of the best blogs i have read.The pictures were amazing and i could feel how much you fell in love with India,like most people do.
    I didnt read if you went to Mahatma Gandhi memorial in Delhi.I hope you did as that is well worth seeing.
    Off to read your 2nd blog now.
    Thanks very much for taking the time to write it all down.
    Pat.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for reading Pat, glad you enjoyed it. I did visit Raj Ghat in Delhi. It was very impressive. Also went to Mahatma Gandhi's residence in Mumbai on my recent trip. The photos in the building run though Gandhi's life. Very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  8. All the pics looked great.. Specially the last one... It was awesome

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you so much for this article. It is incredibly useful information (we're planning to go to Rajasthan next January) and your pictures are truly wonderful. I wish mine were half as good. Can I ask if you use a specific type of material or technique? Perhaps you should have a photo blog too ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ariane, thanks for reading, and the comments. On this trip last year I took a Canon sx20 bridge camera, a great all round camera (although I have since upgraded to a canon 600d) some of the photos have been processed with snapseed with various effects. India and it's people are so photogenic anyway, the main thing is be at the right place at the right time. As I travelled solo, i was able to spend more time watching and observing what was happening around me, and able to capture interesting moments. Good luck with your trip, I'm sure you'll love it. If you have any more questions I will do my best to help :)

      Delete
  10. Hello William. Having just booked flights for a five-week solo trip to India, discovering your blog has been a godsend. With each day that has passed since I hit that 'purchase' button, I have been scared and excited in equal measure. Your blog has really put my mind at rest, while the excitement remains. It looks like it's been a while since you were last in India but I hope you are still travelling. I may come back to you with a question or two as my trip draws nearer. Mainly about managing technology - phones etc. Thanks for a great read. Martyn

    ReplyDelete