A Travellerspoint blog

Khajuraho to Orchha - Sunday, 10 February 2013

Day 6 - Sunday, 10 February 2013 - Khajuraho / Orchha

On the bus at 8am for the road trip to Orchha. Only 130 kms through rural India, but the trip took about 5 hours, with an half an hour stop along the way for a comfort stop. No toilet on the bus.

It is fascinating driving through rural India and watching all the happenings along the side of the road. Indian men wee anywhere, beside a wall or a tree and for no 2s, they squat in a ditch by the side of the road. They don't seem to use toilet paper so goodness knows what they do. Strangely, we have smelt no awful smells, just a urine smell at the top of the ghats in Varanasi.

Arrived at the Orchha Resort just in time for a buffet vegetarian luncheon. Very nice.

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Walked around the resort and on looking over the wall, discovered a whole new world. There is a lovely river and a causeway and rocks, where women are washing and men are bathing. Very authentic.

View over the fence from the Orchha Resort of the Betwa River

View over the fence from the Orchha Resort of the Betwa River

We walked through the extensive grounds and came across a back packers tented section and chatted with a Swedish girl who is travelling around the world in a group. They had just come from Agra but she didn't see it because she was sick.

Toured the Ram Raja Temple dedicated to Lord Ram and saw some fantastic frescos in really good condition in the palace dining room and the King's bedroom that were over 450 years old.

Walking through the streets of Orchha

Walking through the streets of Orchha

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Walked back to the bus through the streets of Orchha and then a few of the keen photographers, with our guide Claire, walked across the single land bridge to watch the sunset.

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It was very scary as we were standing on a single lane bridge with lots of others and people were coming and going across the bridge - walkers, cyclists, cars, trucks and buses. Got the sunset shots and walked back actross the bridge and up to our hotel. Claire is a very good guide.

Changed for dinner and walked up the hill from our hotel to a magnificent hotel, where we had a lovely buffet dinner. It was so lovely and old world, we are all wondering why we aren't staying here. It was called the Amar Mahal Hotel, Orchha and was fantastic.

Back to our hotel and into bed as we have a very early start tomorrow!

Posted by gaddingabout 22:18 Archived in India Tagged orchha khajuraho/ Comments (0)

Varanasi to Khajuraho - Saturday, 9 February 2013

Day 5 - Saturday, 9 February 2013 - Varanasi / Khajuraho

Up at 6.30 am to attend a Yoga class with a Yoga master. Eight of us attended. It was held outdoors on the tennis court (cement based) and we were lying on thin carpets. It was quite a fresh morning and needless to say, by the time the hour was up, our toes and the rest of our bodies were freezing. It was a nice thing to do early in the morning in India, but I don't think I'll become a Yoga devotee!

On the bus at 10am for a trip to the airport to catch our flight to Khajuraho. Again, security extremely tight at domestic airports in India. Good flight to Khajuraho, only 33 minutes and we are now in a totallty different world. We are in rural India, with much less traffic and people. Our hotel, the Lalit is just lovely. Our room is big, no bath, but overlooks the pool. I was told that we were given a special room because of the flooding drama at our last hotel.

The view from our room at the Lalit Hotel in Khajuraho

The view from our room at the Lalit Hotel in Khajuraho

On arrival we had a very delicious luncheon buffet and then went to visit the World Heritage listed temple area. The grounds were immaculate and cover a huge area. Fabulous temples everywhere and in very good condition. Lots of karma sutra sculptures on the temples which were built between the 9th and 10th century. Of course, the guys went crazy taking photos and the women just ignored them! Boys are so predictable.

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World heritage temple in Khajuraho

World heritage temple in Khajuraho

Carvings on a temple at Khajuraho

Carvings on a temple at Khajuraho

World heritage temple in Khajuraho

World heritage temple in Khajuraho

We are getting to know Yogi and he is warming to our Australian sense of humour. Phil gave him the Order of the Golden Kangaroo.

Yogi receiving the Order of the Gold Kangaroo!

Yogi receiving the Order of the Gold Kangaroo!

Back to the hotel for a quick change before we went out to an hour performance of Indian folk dancing at a small theatre. It was very energetic and colourful and most enjoyable. Most of our men went to sleep and some of the women dozed off occasionally. Back at the hotel by about 8.30 pm. I had a shower, read for a while and went to sleep. Phil went and had a pizza at the hotel restaurant with some of the others and said it was nice.

Posted by gaddingabout 21:16 Archived in India Tagged varanasi / khajuraho Comments (0)

Varanasi - Friday, 8 February 2013

Day 4 - Friday, 8 February 2013 - Varanasi

Up at 5am for a 5.30am departure for the ghats. The bathroom floor is flooded again and all the towels are sopping. Will have to sort it out on our return. I'm glad I thought to put the towels on the floor last night, just in case it flooded again, as two of our party have already injured themselves; one slipping on wet marble in a temple.

The streets are quite quiet at this time of the day so the bus could get closer to the ghats and we had a very short walk and we were there. No rickshaws required at this time of the day.

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We boarded our boat and were joined by a sitar player and a drummer. How lovely. Only half our group opted to do the sunrise cruise; the rest wanted to sleep in. What a spectacle they missed!

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Floating down the Ganges pre dawn with sitar music - doesn't get much better than this. Lots of pilgrims bathing in the river and cleaning their teeth with little sticks. Disembarked and wandered back to the bus through many laneways and back streets. This photo is quite amazing. No one could ever imagine a street in Varanasi without any people in it!

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Had a late breakfast and then changed rooms because our bathroom was still flooding. Spent a relaxing few hours doing emails and had a little nap after our early morning. Went for a stroll around the hotel grounds. Beautiful dahlias growing everywhere and a very nice rose garden. Huge expanses of lawn which are used for Indian weddings. Indians are big into weddings. Must cost a fortune.

Our afternoon excursion was to Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon. Huge grounds with ruins and a monument to Buddha.

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Not too many people around and those who were there were meditating or listening to a llama preach. Walked around the monument four times then took off my shoes and stepped on to it and placed my hands on it for a blessing. Very special place. My daughter-in-law would love to be here. Have bought her a buddha statue and some prayer flags.

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Back to the Gateway for dinner and one of our travelling companions taught me how to blog. Unfortunately I didn't have much time to do it while we were in India (and I realise that it is probably best done while you are actually travelling) however, better late than never. We also purchased a keyboard for our tablet in Singapore on our way home, so it makes it a lot easier to blog. By the time of our next trip, I'll be full bottle on blogging!

Varanasi was a wonderful place and if you are travelling to India, it should not be missed. The Ganges and Buddha all in the one place.

Some peasant women from northern India were sitting on a seat and wanted to have their photos taken with Judy and me. They asked me to send them a copy of the photo when I got home and I will.

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Posted by gaddingabout 18:03 Archived in India Tagged varanasi Comments (0)

Delhi to Varanasi - Thursday, 7 February 2013

Day 3 - Thursday, 7 February 2013 - Delhi / Varanasi

I would be a good blogger if I could learn to download photos into my blogs, but help is at hand - so watch this space!

Up early 6am - bags out at 7am - on the bus as 8am for our domestic flight to Varanasi. Very thorough security checks at the airport. Women separately patted down but if it keeps me safe on a plane, I don't mind at all.

Good flight - 1 1/2 hours and checked in to the Gateway Hotel. It certainly is not The Imperial Hotel but the rooms are normal size and are clean. We were supposed to be staying at the Radisson, but for some reason were changed to the Gateway.

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Our first excursion in Varanasi was to visit the Ghats at sunset. Our bus could only take us so far, as the streets are absolutely choked with people, animals and all modes of transport. So we transferred to rickshaws and off we went, weaving through the traffic. How no one was killed, I'll never know. Eventually, we alighted and joined the throng of pilgrims heading towards the Ghats. If you are Hindu and can't die in Varanasi, then at least one time during their life, they undertake a pilgrimage to bath, drink and take some of the mighty Ganges home.

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I was aware that this part of the trip would probably be the most confronting but found a strange calmness as we approached the top of the Ghats and saw the Ganges for the first time.

A couple in our group had their camera stolen in the crush. When we arrived at the Ghats, we boarded our own boat and were rowed up and down the Ganges so we could take in the overall scene from afar. We watched the funeral pyres (about eight) which was really nice. I thought this would be horrible and confronting but it was actually quite nice to witness this important part of Hindu culture. Others on our boat didn't share my enthusiasm for the pyres, but I don't think they like to acknowledge death either (unfortunately it happens to all of us and there's not much we can do about it).

The mozzies were everywhere but we were all covered up and no one got bitten. In fact, I'm not sure they were interested in biting anyone. They just buzzed around to scare us! I put my finger in the Ganges and didn't suffer any bad effects - well at least, not yet! In fact, it looks quite clean, but we did see a dead cow floating down the river, but no bodies, thank goodness.

After sunset, we came ashore and walked back through the crowded streets clutching our bags and camera dearly, to board the rickshaws again for our ride back to the bus. A couple of our drivers pulled away from the group and asked us for more money. We said no, so they continued on and caught up with the rest of the group. They were paid quite well by ScenicTours but just thought they would try one on.

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Back on the bus and we popped into the Radisson for a kebab dinner. We all agreed that we should be staying at this hotel as the foyer and restaurant is really quite lovely.

On return to the Gateway Hotel, we discovered that our bathroom floor was completely flooded. Called for maintenance and they fiddled around and said they had fixed it but something made me lay towels on the marble floor anyway, just in case. Into bed by 11.30 pm after a long but most fascinating day.

I can't believe I am in India, let alone at the great Ganges River.

Posted by gaddingabout 14:14 Archived in India Tagged new varanasi delhi / Comments (0)

New Delhi - Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Day 2 - Wednesday, 6 February 2013 - New Delhi

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Had a little sleep in this morning as our walking tour doesn't commence until 9.30 am. Delicious breakfast of Bircher Muesli and then on the bus for the short ride to Delhi Railway Station where we were met by an 18 year old boy who was a street kid when he was 9 and lived at Delhi Railway Station for a year. He had run away from his home in Nepal.

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He took us on a guided tour of the laneways and we saw some fascinating things. The laneways were muddy due to the unseasonal rain. There is rubbish everywhere but strangely enough, it doesn't smell. The Salaam Balak Trust looks after street kids, feeds them, houses them and educates them. We visited some rooms where the children were learning to read and write. It was all very basic but totally life changing to see the hope and happiness in their eyes. No sob stories here!

On arrival back at The Imperial, we had lunch at The Spice Route where we were supposed to have our welcome dinner the evening before, but the bookings had been mucked up. It was Indian cuisine but not hot at all, in fact it was delicious. After lunch, one of the waiters took us on a guided tour of the restaurant. It has nine different sections and it took nine years to build as it is all hand made and all the colours are fruit and vegetable dyes. Incredible.

After a small rest, we were back on the bus, and all dressed up for our Bollywood extravaganza. It was a one and a half hour bus ride to The Palace of Dreams but never boring. There is so much happening on the streets and the traffic is something else. Our Indian guide described it as 'Democracy' meaning that the traffic does whatever it wants AND IT DOES but it all seems to work beautifully. No one sticks to their own lanes, they all drive on whatever side of the road they want to, they weave in and out of cattle, dogs, camels, elephants, push bikes, tuc tucs, pedal rickshaws, not to mention the cars, motor bikes, buses, trucks and so on. There is no road rage, and we didn't see any accidents, however I believe the road toll is horrendous due to motor cyclists not wearing helmuts. AND THEY TOOT THEIR HORNS RELENTLESSLY! I had a headache after only one day of it.

When we arrived at the Palace of Dreams, we were all given a cash card with which to buy our dinner. The food section was set out like our Paris Hotel in Las Vegas - ceiling painted like a blue sky with clouds and all the restaurants were from a different region of India. We wandered around in a bit of a daze, not recognising the name of the food and whether or not it was spicy. We finally decided on Chicken Biranyi and joined the queue, only to discover they had run out of chicken and the lamb biranyi was very hot.

Yogesh (Yogi for short), our Indian guide, took pity on us and shepherded us (9 in total), into a restaurant and ordered some lovely mild Indian food for us. It was delicious and we rushed it down so as not to miss the beginning of the Bollywood show.

We entered the theatre and were shown to our seats - good position, in the centre of the sixth row back. The show was great - loud and colourful, with a play incorporated. It was all in Indian but we got the gist. King and Queen parents murdered - baby son brought up by gypsies - beautiful gypsy girl falls in love with prince - prince falls in love with a beautfiul princess - baddies killed - prince and princess lived happily ever after - The End.

At the end of the show, Phil went to the loo and disappeared. We searched everywhere for him and were starting to get worried. Finally we discovered he was already on the bus so we took off for the long ride home. Lots of weddings taking place that evening (must have been an auspicious date) and the road going in the other direction was stuck in a jam for 14 kms. Lots of trucks lining the road as in the cities, they are not allowed on the road until 10 pm.

Organised our luggage for our flight to Varanasi the next day.

Posted by gaddingabout 21:51 Archived in India Tagged new delhi Comments (0)

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