Tour to India – Jo’s India part IV

Hello all from Udaipur,

We have had a whirlwind tour of Rajasthan India.  We are staying at such beautiful hotels but have had very limited time in them as we spend the day touring and end up back at the hotel to eat and go to bed!  As I mentioned Jaipur in my last post, Jaipur was amazing.  Someone read that there were 170 people hospitalized from burns due to firecrackers in the Jaipur area.

In Jaipur we saw the fort, the city palace and Jantar Mantar (the observatory).  It was great.  Then we drove to Jodhpur (yes the pants Jodhpurs come from this city).  We stayed in a Taj hotel that was lovely.  We were late getting there so touring the town started the next morning after breakfast.  We went to the Mehrangarh Fort.  It was very crowded as a lot of Indians are on holidays for Diwali.  Also, the King of Bhutan was visiting the fort at the same time.

We all loved the fort…then we went to a gift shop and bazaar…after dinner we had a Rajasthani dance recital.  It was funny because they thought I understood the language but I could only pick out some of the Hindi words, anyways
it was nice evening.

Today we spent the day driving to Udaipur.  Our day included lunch in a lovely mango tree resort and hotel, a visit to a fabulous Jain temple in Ranakpur and then a drive through the mountains.  Tonight we have a free evening and then we off to Ahmedabad after touring Udaipur tomorrow morning.  Then it is an early morning flight to Mumbai.  I will try to call the Bhatts in Ahmedabad if we get there early.  The tour is keeping both Larry and I very busy so we are looking
forward to our respite on November 3.

Very exciting news – Savita is going to join us on November 5th in Mumbai (Bombay).  She will spend the rest of the vacation with us and fly back to England on November 17th, (the same day as us but on British airways)  We are really looking forward to this.

Okay must sign off.

Take care,

Jo and Larry

 

 

 

Tour to India – Jo’s India part III

Hi All!

We had an amazing Diwali in Jaipur…lots of lights and fireworks.  The bus ride from Agra to Jaipur was hot and long.  Apparently we have three more of these rides and people are already complaining about their backs….ouch.   We are doing  fine otherwise.   We went for dinner at someone’s home for Diwali, will have to fill you in on the details upon my return.  This morning we went to the fort and had an elephant ride, it was bumpy but fun.  Tomorrow we are off to Jodhpur.  We also went to McDonalds for lunch today – needed some American cuisine.  I haven’t written about Agra – which was beautiful and nice to see the Taj Mahal again.

Okay must go…running out of time on hotel internet.

Jo

Kenya & Tanzania Highlight – Ed’s Africa Adventure – Last post

October 15, 2011

It’s our day to bid farewell to Africa but first we need to get to the airport.  Shouldn’t be a problem…drive to the Botswana border, go through their “customs”, board a small boat to cross the Chobe River, meet up with our driver on the Zambian side, clear their “customs”, drive the hour to the Livingstone airport and board our flight – simple!

Or is would be if our driver from the Chobe River Lodge wasn’t late.  Our guides and drivers are never late, they are always early. So as we watch several other people get picked up and we wait and wait, our anxiety builds and builds.  We ask at the front desk and they phone to see where our driver is.  We’re told not to worry; our driver is on his way.  Fifteen minutes later, we still have no driver and no one can tell us when he is coming.  Our concern is that we have been missed in the planning and whether our driver on the Zambia side will now actually be there.

However, our concerns were for not as our very apologetic driver shows up claiming that the customs office was very busy and the people he had to pick up first were delayed.  He radios his dispatch to ensure our Zambia driver is waiting on the other side and off we go.  Long story short, there are no problems at either border, our driver is waiting for us and after purchasing a few trinkets and things from the street vendors on the Zambia border, we are off to the Livingstone airport.

The very small airport is clearly not well equipped for the departure of the 737 British Airways flight and we barely get through security and our flight is being called.  However, it is a smooth flight to Johannesburg where we will have to wait some 6 hours before our next flight.  The Jo’burg airport is a wonderful facility, very modern, clean and passenger friendly with lots of shops.  This is appealing because we have had severe weight and luggage restrictions on our intra Africa flights meaning we could not buy much along the way.  We purchased a few souvenirs and headed for the British Airways lounge.

We are flying First Class on British Airways (BA) from Jo’burg to Toronto via London.  This was accomplished by converting some of our Avion points to BA points several months ago when they had a promotion on giving us 1.5 BA points for every 1 Avion point.  So, this allowed us to book in First Class for the roughly the same amount of points it would normally have cost for economy…it was a great deal.  This allows us access to their lounges, fast track through security avoiding all the line ups and we board first…very spoiled.

The wait in Jo’burg goes quickly and we board our BA 747.  Wow, the first class cabin  is very nice with wonderful, comfortable lay flat beds.  The service is fantastic as they offer great onboard services like an upscale wine list, fabulous menu and get this, duvet service.  When we are ready to sleep, they come with pajamas for us and “make or bed” with a pad on the seat and these very soft and comfortable duvet’s.  Talk about spoiled…really the best flights we have ever been on.

The 10 hour flight goes quickly and I actually slept 5 – 6 hours.  I had forgotten how much I like the 747.  It has been quite a while since we flew on one.  Arrival in London is very smooth and because we are in First Class, we are invited to go the BA Concorde Room, exclusively for their First Class passengers.  The best airline lounge we have ever experienced.  A full and complimentary bar service, a restaurant, shower facilities, massage and spa and even cabana’s (unfortunately you have to book these well in advance and we were not able to use one.)

We have nine hours in London but that goes by quickly as we enjoy the restaurant for both breakfast and lunch, have our complimentary 15 minute massage, have a shower and lose ourselves in our books.  Next stop…Toronto.

We enjoy another great flight to Canada.  We thought we would be bagged after the long trip from Botswana to Canada, so we decided to overnight in Toronto and for convenience, stayed at the Sheraton right at the airport.  Great to be back in Canada but a bit shocking with our bill for breakfast…30 bucks and we split the Eggs Benedict…yikes. Anyway, a relatively short flight and we are finally home and even though we had an amazing Africa Adventure, as Dorothy
said…”there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”.

For those that have been following our blog, thanks for sharing in our adventure!

Tour to India – Jo’s India part II

Good Morning everyone,

Sorry that I have not sent anything for a couple of days because we have been very busy.  I actually woke up early today so that I can catch up on my emails.  We left Delhi in the morning of Sunday October 23.  Sy, Dad and Mum the airport
is not the one we were at…they have a new domestic airport.  I think it was getting built when we were last here.  Actually, the Indian government built a whole bunch of new airports in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi etc in time for commonwealth games and they are very nice airports.

We had no issues at the airport, I was kept very busy trying to explain to the folks that we all need tags for our carry on and everything has to be stamped.  The procedure is so confusing but the group was okay with all the red tape.  When we got to the gate, we were told that the plane was late so we sat around and waited and finally arrived in Varanasi around two(ish).  Instead of going to the hotel and checking in etc, we ended up going straight to Sarnath.  We stopped at a local restaurant and made a stop at what I would call second class bathrooms.  Some of the folks were not too happy, but then we all had “thumbs up” pop so everyone was all smiles.

In Sarnath, we ended up going to the museum and then the deer park.  Larry really enjoyed the Buddha statue in the museum.  We also went to the Buddha temple and I finally checked out the Bodhi tree on the side (for those that may not remember this is my third visit to Sarnath and didn’t make it to this tree).  The tree is a gift from Sri Lanka to Sarnath – a twig from their Bodhi tree.  Actually when Ashoka sent his son to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism, he went there with a twig of the original tree.

Anyways, back to the tour……we got to the Gateway hotel, checked in and then the group wanted to do the Ganga arthi from the boat.  Anil and our local rep from Varanasi had arranged this, we quickly went down (took local cars) but it
took us a long time to get down because of the traffic.  We had an ideal spot on a boat to watch the aarti; a very brief explanation of aarti is that this is the offering of song and lit lamps to one or more deities.  The place was really packed due to Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights.  As I sat on the boat, I kept looking at balcony where I sat with Mum and Dad and brother Shailesh last time we were all here and I must admit that I missed them all and had a couple of tears running down my cheeks.  We had a nice supper in the Gateway Hotel and bed as we had to wake up at 4 a.m. to go for the morning ride.  BTW, the previous evening after the aarti, we went over a bit of a boat ride and saw three/four bodies burning on the ghats (stairs leading down to a body of water, like the Ganges, or this may refer to areas along holy river-cities) which was sad to see, our group was very respectful about not taking pictures.

Monday, October 24, 2011

We woke up at 4 a.m.  I must admit that Larry and I didn’t sleep too well.  The assault on the senses from everything, the jet lag and the early mornings are taking a toll on us slightly.  We drove down to ghats once more and went on the boat ride.  I had explained on the bus about the river, and its significance…relating it to the Mother Earth/ Mother River in the aboriginal culture.  Many of the group members wanted to do a memorial for their loved ones so we did a pooja from the boat.  Lynn was very sad as she did this memorial for Al.  It was so very sad…the sun was hazy but still Varanasi was in its utmost beauty.

We got off and walked along the paths and alleys for a while.  A bit of a culture shock for most of the people as the dirt and rotting garbage is gross.  I wish the Indian government would clean up that city as they get so many tourists and the mess is such a turn off.   We returned to the hotel for a nice breakfast….the staff made me a dosa (a crispy, savoury pancake) special for us, as it is usually not on the menu.  After breakfast, Larry and I went to the Mandir Palace.  We did a small pooja (offering) of all the lingams (a representation of Shiva used for worship in temples) in this Mandir.  Lynn and her niece Linda joined us.  It was quiet and we didn’t have a poojari (temple priest) or any pooja offerings; these are traditional gifts of specific items like food, drink and flowers or everyday items that are offered to or symbolically offered to the deities.  We had a bottle of water and some flowers. We made a dhanteras pooja for the first day of Diwali.

After checking out, we went to a silk factory.  Funny thing is; it was next to the Raddison hotel and where Sy and I went last time.  Many items were purchased at the silk factory by the group.

Our flight mid day was from Varanasi to Khajuraho.  We landed and after check in went to the Western temples; this place is my favourite now – the temples are amazing.  They have the reputation as the Kuma Sutra temples, but the
erotic statues really only represent 20% of the statues found there.  The rest of the sculptures are amazing.  Check them out on internet.  Can’t take photos or describe them adequately.  I came back to the hotel and had a shower as we were out
in 38 degree heat and fell asleep through dinner…

This morning, we check out soon and then we are off to the Eastern temples (check them out in a different light) and then on to Orchha, Jansi and then a train trip to Agra.

If I don’t get another chance, Happy Diwali to all!

Please let the parents (both sets) know that we are fine.

Love to all,

Jo

 

 

 

 

Tour to India – Jo’s India part I

Hello all,

We are in Delhi!  Thankfully, we had an uneventful flight to Toronto and met up with the people from Regina and Edmonton to complete our group.

Jet airways was packed to the hilt, regardless of this we managed to get to Brussels an hour early.  After the brief stop in Brussels, we reached Delhi.  There were no problems with lost luggage or customs.  The tour representatives
were there so we collected the group and made it to the hotel just before midnight.

This morning we started off at 9:30 and since we have only one day in Delhi, we did the town!

We started with the Red Fort and then a rickshaw drive through Chandni Chowk bazaar; everyone really like the drive through the chaotic bazaar.   Then we went off to Gandhi Samadhi and a “cottage industry” shopping tour.

Then to Humayun’ s tomb, a photo-op at Lotus temple, Qutab Minar, a stop at India gate and then ended the day with a nice dinner in a lovely restaurant.

Our escort/guide Anil is very knowledgeable and friendly.

The town is crazy busy because of the Diwali function but our driver and sidekick are taking us around.

Everyone is feeling great but really tired.

Tomorrow we are off to Varanasi; I will check in again very soon!

Love to all,

Jo

 

Kenya & Tanzania Highlights – Ed’s Africa Adventure part XXII

October 14, 2011

Today brings a tearful goodbye to our friends this morning as they head back to Canada.  Our flight is tomorrow as we were unable to get the space we needed using our frequent flyer points.  In many ways we wish were travelling with them to Jo’burg so we wouldn’t have to go through the border process alone.  However, I am happy to spend one more day in Africa (Karen is ready to go home).

We decide to stay close to the lodge and we both have an hour long massage.  After all the travelling, it really felt wonderful.

After lunch, we opt to do the boat cruise again as Karen missed it the first time.  Nothing much different than what I saw the first time I did the cruise but it was a beautiful day and we sat right at the front of the boat so we had the best seats for viewing the animals.

The one thing that was different though, was that we saw elephants swim from the mainland to the island on the river, it is interesting to see how they help the smaller, younger elephants across the water and how they hold their trunks out of the water.

A quiet dinner and finish packing for our long trek home tomorrow…

 

Kenya & Tanzania Highlights – Ed’s Africa Adventure part XXI

October 13, 2011

An early morning today as our game drive starts at 0600.  The Chobe National Park is quite different than other parks.  The roads are very soft and sandy and we stay pretty close to the water.  One of the first animals we spotted is a couple of leopards and we are able to get pretty close to them.  This happens at the start of the safari and all the safari jeeps are close together for such a significant sighting.  It is lucky to see one leopard but to see two together is very rare.  We follow them as long as we can but they easily disappear into the bush.

During the three hour game drive we continue to see multitudes of animals but we have been spoiled by all the safaris we have been on.  I try very hard to remember that no matter how many gazelles and antelope we have seen, it is amazing that we can get within feet of these wild creatures.

The guide gets quite excited and nervously drives off the road and into the bush – which he is not supposed to do; he does this because he has spotted lion tracks and he thinks they are near.  Sure enough, shortly after leaving the road, we spot a lioness and three cubs.  The guide asks us to take our pictures quickly as he is visibly nervous and wants to get back to the road in case any of the park rangers happen by.

No rangers and we are back on the road headed back to the lodge but not before we have another elephant experience where one of the elephants saunters up right beside the jeep…I swear he gives us a good look over and we could almost touch him.

Back at the lodge, we celebrate our farewell dinner as our travelling companions are heading out tomorrow.  Everyone is feeling better and so the bottles of wine we brought with us from Stellenbosch are well appreciated and we reminisce of our many exciting adventures.