Arrived in Udaipur (Rajasthan) from Jaipur and stayed at the Badi Haveli. A mishmash of rooms on different levels and a nice roof terrace.
We were told there were two choices: stay on the floating palace and look at the shit, or stay in the shit and look at the wonderful palace; we opted for the latter.
At the time of this trip I didn't realise the cruelty that goes on to elephants in captivity. I never have and never would have any part in an elephant safari in Asia due to the disgusting cruelty.
Dinner in the evening in Udaipur you would hear or see the James Bond film Octopussy being played over and over again; hard to avoid. Part of this film was done here in Udaipur.
Took a boat over to Nehru Island Park. Luckily it was very peace and quiet for a couple of hours, away from the masses.
During the day we could see what was called the Monsoon Palace, far in the distance, and from that distance it looked well worth a visit...
Where cremation ceremonies take place. If they're still being used I don't know, I guess so.
Really enjoyed our visit to Udaipur. Okay, it's busy, but it's not as bad as Delhi or Old Delhi. I would certainly like to come back at some point.
For our trip from Delhi to Agra we got what looked like a ramshackle bus that would hopefully deliver us in Agra some three to three and a half hours later with the wind behind us. The road was mainly two-way traffic except this being India there was a mystical third middle lane that anybody in a hurry helped themselves to. On top of all that, there were the horses, tuk-tuks and the occasional camel and cart. That middle lane was a nightmare. It was used like something from ‘Who dares wins’ as traffic flew at each other head-on until one or the other driver bottled it and pulled in avoiding head-on crashes; but above and beyond this was everybody having to dodge abandoned tyres or the very occasional large dead animal. It was a white knuckle ride from beginning to end. Luckily, still in one piece we arrived, threw ourselves out the bus door, feeling lucky to have survived that horrendous journey. At the end of the day this is all part of the India experience or so I'm told.
We only had one night here so no time to waste: bags ditched in the hotel we set off through the rubble that was Agra in the direction of the Taj Mahal. Everything around us looked half derelict or a crumbling mess. How on earth could the Taj survive while the streets around it were like an after the war zone, but somehow it has. Construction of the mausoleum was completed in 1643 and the architecture is Mughal. When you first set eyes on it, it looks like it was built yesterday until you get up close; then the cracks do start to appear. It was built by Emperor Shah Jehan in the memory of his 3rd wife Mumtaz.
We were lucky as the place was reasonably quiet allowing us to have a really good look around, one odd thing was that the river behind was almost dry or at least drier than I expected. I still find it hard to believe that this building is still standing and looking as magnificent as it is while everything around it is crumbling.
After an hour or so we decided to head up river to the Agra Fort which is built on the right bank of the river Yamuna. This had over the years become more of a walled city but with a wealth of history in connection with the Taj Mahal. The story goes that Shah Jehan was imprisoned in the fort by his son Aurangzeb and died with the view of the Taj Mahal and his wife.
The fort still looks stunning red brick, especially when you think how many monsoons it's been through throughout the years. We came across a market on our way back to the hotel, lots of souvenirs such as the Taj in a snow dome and that sort of thing, nothing that interested us in the slightest, the memory of this wonderful sight that is the Taj Mahal was all I needed.
An early morning flight from Amsterdam to Frankfurt in January for our flight to Delhi with Lufthansa. Well, I must say, the Frankfurt to Delhi part flew past… pardon the pun. We arrived in the early hours in Delhi wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a jean jacket. Through passport control: no problems.
Before leaving Amsterdam we had booked a hotel and a pickup from the airport, so outside we were eager to see our names on a board and our driver. It was freezing outside, a jeans jacket was nowhere near warm enough against the icy feel in the air and on the ground; and on top of that no board with our names on it. We waited in the cold for as long as we could, then flew back into the terminal to thaw out for ten minutes, back outside, only still to find our names not being waved with a warm welcome. We waited and waited till eventually the cold got too much, so we decided to phone the hotel; first time no answer, give it five minutes, another try this time a sleepy voice hello. We explained all the obvious but to no avail: nobody was coming for us, great start.
Now what, there was a list of hotels in the terminal building. We wrote the address down of a suitable one and headed out again to find a taxi. We showed the driver, who was covered head to foot in blankets, the address; he shook his head and put our bags in the back but just before we pulled away another dark figure, also covered from head to foot in something, got in the front passenger seat which worried me. Off we go leaving the safety and lights of the airport behind us. Within minutes it was pitch black, the two of us in the back feeling very uncomfortable. The driver repeated the hotel name but suggested another place; we said sternly no, take us to the hotel we asked for. Obviously, he would get a commission from his choice of hotel but ours maybe not.
We were now in the middle of nowhere and the driver started to slow down to a crawling pace, eventually he stopped; my heart beating ten to the dozen. The front passenger got out. “What's happening”, I yelled, only to be told he needed a pee. Oh the relief.. for him and us. After another twenty odd minutes we pulled up outside what in the pitch dark looked like a high rise hotel. We quickly paid the taxi driver and headed in; the reception looked just finished with the smell of paint still in the air. Formalities completed in triplicate we were shown to our room: very basic, cold but everything we might need. Now time to sleep.
The next morning we headed out of our room towards the lift, only to find the structure wasn't complete: you could literally walk off the edge and fall three flights and this in a hotel open to the public, we had to laugh: welcome to India.
As it was almost lunchtime we got a little green and yellow tuk-tuk to Connaught Place and had lunch in the United Coffee House, it looked and has been around for years and full of character. The food was as good as the place looked. After lunch we walked out into Connaught Place and were confronted with an elephant in the middle of this great metropolis. I must say at this point that this was before I knew of the cruelty behind the animal trade, in keeping these poor animals elephants which are born to be wild not trapped by chains. I took photos, something I would never do now, these animals belong in the jungle not in Delhi.
Time for another tuk-tuk, this time to India Gate, a war memorial. By now it was pleasantly warm, so once we arrived we walked around and were surprised at all the monkeys climbing over and around the walls. It was a fascinating afternoon but the sun was beginning to fade, so we headed back to our hotel. We realised we needed to change some money so we asked the tuk-tuk driver where we could change money. He said the unofficial way gave a better deal and he could take us to a place if we where interested. So off we went on another adventure. By now it was dark as we arrived in a dark part of town with a row of tuk-tuks, their drivers asleep on the back seats covered in blankets, and us. Somebody approached and said “dollars?” We said, “yes, how much?” All very cloak and dagger, but it was a much better rate than the banks if not a bit scarier. So money dealt with, back to the half finished hotel. We had dinner at walking distance, and it was freezing again, shivering all the way there and all the way back. I was pleased to get into bed.
Breakfast out of the way we planned on hiring another tuk-tuk for the day to take us around the highlights that Delhi has to offer of which there are plenty. A very young tuk-tuk driver was the first we came across and we were both happy, thinking we would make his day. Money wise, we agreed on a price and off we rocked. This fort, that palace, then lunch. After lunch our tuk-tuk driver said someone else would take us this afternoon. We cottoned on quick: he'd sold us off to someone cheaper but we weren't having that. We said, either you finish this or we go somewhere else; that soon changed his mind back.
Next stop New Delhi, I have never seen so many people in one place, all heading in different directions; utter chaos. We visited the massive 17th century Red Fort (Mughal Fort), then we had the silly idea of walking up a street just as everybody was finishing work and was walking down the street. Impossible, it was like we were swimming up river in a flood. Turn and go back was our only option. The smog, dust was thick in the air: time to retreat as quick as possible.
The next morning (our last day in Delhi) we decided to visit a few more temples and later on go shopping. I must admit by now I'd seen enough forts and temples for the foreseeable, so shopping here we come. I had in mind to get the Star of India, a semi precious stone and a tiger’s eye stone, so this was our mission for the day.
Born in Chiswick West London, grew up in Royal Berkshire, currently living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands