Is It Beautiful Here Everyday? Thursday, 12/20/18


The weather forecast was for thunderstorms all day, but nothing ever materialized.  Around 6:00pm it sprinkled lightly for 10 minutes, but stopped.  We spent the day in our regular spot, in loungers around the pool nearest the beach, wandering between the ocean, the pool, and the food hut.

 Looking north up the beach

 Looking up the hill.

 Looking over towards Dom and Shannon’s beach bungalow

Looking south


The resort is beginning to fill up.  We had our first encounter with kids today, who were bouncing around in the water, knocking beach balls around.  It wasn’t a problem, but I laughed at myself for being a little irritated about the noise and activity, after days of tranquility.  I could hardly get in a good nap.

The sun was bright much of the day, so my hat has been out.  I’m working to avoid sunburn.  There’s no problem around the pool, but the ocean is warmer and fun, and there’s absolutely no shade today.  I picked up a bit of reddish tint, but it doesn’t seem too bad.

At the end of the day, everyone scheduled another trip to the spa for massages.  Judy and I went up to our room and dipped in the pool.  We have a “pool access” room but hadn’t used it because everyone else was down at the ocean, and the nearby pool.   It’s a beautiful setting, and if the others hadn’t been around, we’d have used it more.

 Our room and our access to the pool

My attempt at some “artistic” touches.

Tomorrow is our heading home day.  It’s been a long trip, but we’ve had a blast.  Check-out time is noon, but our airport transport isn’t scheduled until 9:00pm for our 1:00am flight from Phuket to Incheon, South Korea, and then on to DFW.   We finished the day with dinner near the beach.

 Time for dinner

Thailand Time, Saturday, 12/8/18


The flight to Bangkok is scheduled for 2:30pm, so there’s lots of time to kill in the hotel.  We sleep late, have a leisurely breakfast, and finish up some paperwork (had to get some boarding passes printed).  We walk out the door at 11:00, and Laksme is waiting with the car.  We also have a Memphis Tours contact making sure we get into the airport terminal without problems.

Morning sun fighting through the mist/pollution.

We’ve spent a lot of time in this car since getting off the train in Agra.

 Laksme, our driver for five of our days in India.

Heavy security is again present at the terminal entrances, and boarding passes and passports are required. Once inside I make our currency exchange from rupees to dollars.  I’m trying to hold back enough rupees to purchase a couple of my Starbucks “City Mugs”.

Time to change rupees back to US Dollars.

We moved to the check-in area next. Since I had done web-check-in, we were moved to a much shorter line.  Apparently, not many people are using the web process yet.  They made the discounted Business Class offer again, and after some debate, we upgraded.

The luggage gets priority tags and are the first bags off-loaded.  Immigration and Security both have expedited queues for Business Class, and we sped through.  In no time at all (actually it was a long walk), I was standing at a Starbucks, buying my “Delhi” and “India” mugs to add to the collection.  We’re now carrying 6 different models.

 Delhi Airport art.This is the first time I’ve seen a UN plane.

Now all we have to do is kill an hour, before boarding, and then we’re off to Bangkok.  On the plane, the seats are huge with lots of laying back room and lifted footrest options.  The food is good, and we both agree, we could get used to this.

One last round of Indian food.  Love it!

This is way different than 30 rows back.

It takes a while to clear the clouds, but when we do, the Himalayan Mountains are in full view. This is another one of those moments where I have to pinch myself (there have been several on this trip).  I’m looking at Nepal and the tallest mountains in the world.  This isn’t something I ever expected to see.

The Himalayan Mountain Range!  Pictures don’t do it justice.

Arrival at Bangkok goes smoothly.  I checked with the attendants on the plane about the best way to get into the city from the airport.  They assured me that a taxi is the best option this evening.  They didn’t think there would be that much traffic.  Our other option is the BTS Skytrain.  It’s cheap and there’s a station close to our hotel. But the best I can figure, the taxi will cost about $14, and we’ll get dropped at the front door.  Taxi, here we come.

Business Class customers have expedited lines for immigration, so it goes quickly.  Our bags arrived fast.  Next stop is the currency exchange.  With everything in place, we make the walk to the taxi area. The crowds are light and the taxi area is organized.  Our driver doesn’t really understand what I’m saying, and can’t seem to read the address. There’s a phone number he uses and gets the necessary directions.  The drive takes 30 minutes, and the hotel has everything ready when we arrive.

Bangkok has a much different feel than India.  The modern highways and the city streets are more organized, move quicker, and there’s lots less honking.  We have a day off tomorrow to get ourselves ready for 4 days of touring Bangkok and Chiang Mai with a flight in the middle.  This hotel (Renaissance) is nice and we’re looking forward to our stay.

Jaipur to Delhi, a Slightly Different View, Friday, 12/7/18


Laksme is scheduled to pick us up at 9:00am for the drive back to Delhi.  He says it will take 6 hours.  We have a leisurely breakfast and take care of several things on the internet, since the connection is much stronger here than Agra.  Every time we turn around in this hotel, someone is waiting to ask if we’re ok.  Three different times last evening, someone knocked at the door, wondering if we needed anything?  It became almost too much.

The broom is a different model than we’re used to seeing.  Trident Hotel in Jaipur

Doorman at the hotel.  Doormen at several of our hotels have looked like this.

The drive to Delhi is mostly done on a decent road, six lanes at least.  The truck traffic is heavy, much more than anything we’ve experienced previously.  Laksme says it’s the main road for commerce to pass from Delhi to Mumbai.  Anything for Delhi that comes into the port at Mumbai has to be trucked.

 Many of the trucks are decorated.Check out the front of this truck.

There is an election today in the state of Rajasthan, of which Jaipur is the capital.  It’s for state leaders.  All the businesses and tourist venues are closed.  As we’re driving out of town, we see several places where people are voting.  It looks like the polling is done with pen & paper.

Laksme pulls over at one place where there are lots of monkeys on the roadside.  He says this is a “wildlife area”.  Many hindu people come here to feed the monkeys for some type of good luck.

Didn’t open the window to take pictures.  Thought we might pick up an unwelcome passenger.

We made a halfway stop at a cute little combo restaurant/gift shop.  I noticed several similar places within a few miles of this one.

As we get closer to town the traffic gets even heavier.  We spot the first tall buildings we’ve seen since we’ve been in India.  Our Delhi hotel has been near the airport, which is outside of the main part of Delhi.  We haven’t seen the Central Business District where there are bound to be many larger buildings.  We just haven’t been close enough to see.

 How many riders on this motorcycle?

Some added decorations.

We get checked into our hotel around 1:30pm, collecting the two extra bags we stored before we left Delhi on Sunday.  I’m glad we weren’t trying to haul them with us on our short hop flights Sunday & Monday.  It would have been real interesting dealing with them on the train from Jhansi to Agra. We created only one problem by leaving some bags behind. My extra underwear didn’t get into our traveling bags, requiring several sink laundry sessions.  With good blow dryers, I was in good shape.

Some of the Delhi hotel Christmas decor.

The rest of the day was spent looking ahead at our Thailand activites.  I’m constantly working to monitor our budget (for information more than anything else).  Tomorrow I’ll need to exchange our remaining Indian rupees back into US dollars.  I’m also trying to catch up the blog.

Judy is working on our bags, making sure we can meet the weight limits.  We were close to peak when we flew into Rome.  We’ve made several purchases as we’ve traveled, so we’re pushing it.  We can probably make the international limits on the Delhi/Bangkok flight.  Our two short hop domestic flights in Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and later to Phuket have lower limits.  It’ll be interesting how we do.

Drive to Jaipur and the Amber Fort, Thursday, 12/6/18


The Jaypee Palace Hotel was great, except for the slow internet.  I spent too much time waiting on photos to upload, etc.  Met Laksme at 8:30 to begin our drive to Jaipur.  Today will be our last day with a site tour in India. Tomorrow is just the drive from Jaipur to Delhi.

 Traffic, traffic everywhere A Hindu shrine by the roadside.

As we drove, we began to notice more farms and agriculture.  We’re told it’s potatoes, mustard, some wheat, and some rice. Several places I noticed stacks of disks piled up or laid out.  It was cow dung drying out to later be used as fuel for fires..

We also began to see camels more frequently.  Where there was grain being grown, the camels were being used to pull carts hauling the grain to market.  Almost every animal we see is used to pull or haul something.

 Just another camel pulling a grain container

Many of the villages we passed had a centralized area where water was available for bathing.  It’s a common sight to see someone standing at one of these areas taking a bath on a raised platform, 50 ft. from the road.

The highway to Jaipur is mostly 4 lanes, and seems to be new.  The median has flowering plants.  Only as we pass thru the villages does it get dusty, and the traffic stacks up, especially at an intersection.  Even on a big highway like this, cattle can bring traffic to a halt if they get stubborn.  We stopped after two hours at an Indian version of “Stuckey’s” with a restaurant, gift shop, washrooms, and a place to buy snacks.

Jaipur is built in the hills.  As we get close, the road begins to climb.  First stop in Jaipur is lunch at a small restaurant.  After lunch, check-in at the hotel, meet our guide, and by 2:30, we’re driving to the Amber Fort.

We thought the Amber Fort was named for it’s color, but it’s something entirely different.  Shiva, the Hindu goddess of destruction has 1000’s of names.  The most commonly used name during the time the fort was built began with Amber………. (didn’t quite get the whole name), but evolved into Amber.  It had nothing to do with color?

 The drive to the gate

The fort is just another amazing palace built by a Maharajah with lots of money, who spared no expense getting everything he wanted.  There seems to be a lot of that going around 500 to 600 years ago.  The views of the valley below were great!

The drive back down

After the Fort, we had a short picture stop at the Water Palace.  It was built as a summer palace for the obvious reason it would be cooler.

Next stop was a place where we watched a “block printing” exhibition.  It’s an ancient version of screen printing, with anywhere from 3 to 12 different blocks to add colors to a design.  After the colors are added, a dip in a vinegar and water concoction brings out the colors.

Last stop of the day is the Palace of the Winds.  It’s a façade built to resemble a palace.  It has 953 windows with lattice-work designs that allowed royal ladies to observe life on the street below without being seen.  We’re dropped off at the hotel to eat dinner and get ready for our final full day in India.

Taj Mahal & Agra Fort, WOW!!! Wednesday, 12/5/18


Had a great breakfast and wandered around the grounds of the hotel (Jaypee Palace Hotel) this morning before going out in the city.  It’s a huge hotel complex with gardens and a convention complex.

 Garden outside our roomA few Christmas decorations

Laksme picks us up at 9:00. We pick up Shaym, our guide, on the way. He gives us some of the basic info about the Taj Mahal.  It took 22 years to build from 1631 to 1653.  It was built by the 5thMughal Emperor Shahjahan in honor of his wife who died during childbirth of their 14thchild.

We’re driving thru fairly heavy traffic, and suddenly it’s time to get out.  I’m really surprised because it’s seems like we’re in the middle of the city, honking horns, etc.  Every picture of the Taj Mahal I’ve seen had me thinking it was sitting out away from the city in the countryside.

The walk along a peaceful paved road (no traffic) took about 10 minutes, before we arrived at the ticket area and security.  The crowd was active but not overly large.  The lines to get in weren’t long and moved quickly.  Security is heavy with bag and body scanning.  The temperature today is around 65 degrees, and comfortable.  This would be a miserable place in the summer heat with large crowds, but today, it couldn’t be nicer.

Entrance Gate

Our guide has great knowledge about the design and building of the monument.  It’s all marble and all the floral decoration and writing on the gates are inlaid stones.  The amount of delicate work to piece it all together on such a huge building is hard to imagine in this day and age.

 Looking back at the entrance

The advantage of having our own guide is he really knows how and where to go to get the best pictures.  He had us posing all over the property.  He basically took over our camera.  We’ve never had so many pictures of ourselves.  It’s digital overkill.

When we finish, we walk out and climb in a wooden cart to ride out to the edge of the property to our car.  We get great information wherever we go, and our transportation is ready and waiting at the end to whisk us to our next destination.  This is a great way to see India.

We’re delivered to a marble factory to watch some of the local craftsmen as they work to cut and shape pieces of various stones to make the inlaid designs on the building and now, some of their own designs.  We’re told that some of the workers are descendants of the original stone artisans that built the Taj Mahal.

Our next stop is Agra Fort. Yeah, yeah, what’s the big deal? When you get inside it becomes apparent why it’s a big deal.  This fort was built and improved by three different Mughul emperors.  They ruled India during the 15thand 16thcentury.  Each emperor put his own architectural signature on the building.  75% of the building is still in use by the Indian Army. Tourists are only allowed in the 25% of the fort where the families lived.  It’s built on a hill above the Yumana River, looking out over the countryside, with a great view of the Taj Mahal in the distance.

 Agra Fort entrance Pavilion where the Moghal rulers held court

 More digital overload

After the fort, we had a chance to eat lunch.  After lunch, we opt to go back to the hotel to relax and enjoy the amenities of the hotel. We’re looking forward to some rest time. We’re moving from city to city so quickly and seeing so much, I can barely keep up with the writing.  The occasional slow internet makes the photo uploads drag.  If I miss a day, it’s hard to catch up, we’re so totally involved in traveling and touring sites.

Rural India, Orcha Palaces, Train to Agra, Tuesday, 12/4/18


We met our driver for the day at 9:00am and began the drive to Orcha, and ultimately Jhansi, where we’ll catch a train to Agra.  On paper it seems like a mild drive of 4 hours, enjoying the rural scenes of India. We had a chance to observe the rural scenes, but the drive was way more than “mild”.

 Kinda narrow Gotta share the road Where to go?

The road was narrow, paved, and two-lanes.  There wasn’t a shoulder, and the pavement edge was ragged and dropped off sharply.  The traffic consisted of bicycles, motorbikes, buses, tuk-tuks, cars, industrial trucks with big loads, and lots of tanker trucks.  We even had to wait on a wooden cart pulled by two horses to cross a narrow bridge. The driving technique consisted of pulling up close behind whoever you need to pass, honking to warn them we’re coming around, then racing around before we hit the oncoming traffic.

Passing through the villages and towns was eye-opening.  We see lots people living in the worst conditions, and begging as we drive by. We could tell when we were nearing a school because there were students everywhere, walking and riding bikes (on the same roads as all the traffic).  All along the road we passed tuk-tuks jammed with people (8 to 12) sitting on top of each other.  Cattle are walking everywhere and stopping traffic.  It’s everything I’ve seen portrayed as India, but I assumed it was exaggeration. It’s exactly as you’ve seen it portrayed.  India is expected to pass China for the largest population in the world in 2023.

We arrived safely (whew) in Orchha.  I had never heard of it, but there were several elaborate palaces and temples built in the area.  There’s a river nearby, and the setting is beautiful.  It’s no wonder the Moghul rulers of the time selected this site. We had a nice lunch, met our guide around 2:30, and began our tour.  The palace was built in the 15thcentury.  It’s amazing they were able to design and build palaces and temples with so much detail 600 years ago.  After our tour, we walked the town before loading up for our short drive to Jhansi.

 Where we ate lunchThe river from our lunch site.

 Looking out from the palace over the valley

One of the other temple areas

Sights from walking around town.

Jhansi is a city of several million.  The train station is a hub of activity, with taxis, tuk-tuks, and motorbikes whizzing everywhere.  We meet our train station escort and head into the station.  Our driver has to make the long drive back to Khajuraho, in the dark. Our escort gets the tickets, and stands with us while we wait for the train.  We’re an hour early, so I always enjoy watching the people moving in and out of the station.  Out on the platform waiting to load, beggars are working the crowds.  The whole station is grimy and dirty, much like the city we saw as we drove in.  Orchha is such a contrast!

 Waiting for the train

We board the train, find our seats, and stash our luggage in the overhead.  It’s no small feat since our big bag weighs nearly 50 lbs.  The train trip is close to two hours.  It’s far different from the high-speed trains in Japan and China.  Porters actually tried to serve a meal in the midst of all the passenger activity as we passed through several stations.

We arrived in Agra around 9:30.  Laksme, our Delhi driver, greets us as we get off.  Shaym, our guide for tomorrow is with him.  They take us to the Jaypee Palace Hotel.  It’s a huge hotel, and the nicest of all our hotels up to this point.  We’re worn out after a day of crazy driving, walking some palaces, and a grimy (but interesting) train ride.

The Ganges – Round 2, then Khajuraho, Monday, 12/3/18


This is the earliest departure on our schedule for our India segment.  We meet the driver & guide at 5:30am.  We drive, then walk back to the Ganges for morning prayers and the bathing ritual of the Hindu pilgrims.  The closer we get, the more crowded it becomes.

 Pilgrims praying in the nearby shrinesMorning prayers

Our guide tells us the priests get water out of the river at 4:00 and take it back to their temples/shrines where they wash and clean the building.  Then around 5:00am, morning prayers begin while the Hindu faithful begin to bathe in the river.  There are priests available to receive gifts and pray for people.  We saw a few instances of women mourners who were having their heads shaved for a loved ones memory.

Early morning bathersPriest praying for a pilgrim

We board a boat again and paddle along the riverbank, observing the different “ghats” or defined riverbank areas where different sects or groups regularly bathe.  All I can think about is the sanitation issues related to bathing in water where ashes and bones are dumped, as well as all the other things effecting the water purity.  After the baths, believers take water back to their homes (in every possible container) to add to their shower/bath water at home to “wash their sins away”.

After touring downriver, we turned around and went back upriver to the site of the cremations.  There are none currently taking place since a memorial service must be held before the cremation, and few families are scheduling funerals at 2:00 or 3:00am, for a 5:00am cremation.

Morning on the Ganges

We’re let off the boat a hundred yards upriver from the cremation site, and begin a walk through the old section of town.  The paths are so narrow, in places I can touch the walls on both sides at the same time. We meet motorbikes, bathers, beggars, priests, and locals as we walk.  We had an encounter with some cattle spooked by a dog.  Judy and our guide had to scramble up a small wall to avoid a minor trampling.

 Cremation site we visited last night

Pilgrim washing a shrine with water from the Ganges

Much of the area is on the verge of collapse and the government has decided to widen and improve the access to a “Golden Temple” site that has significant meaning to the pilgrims.  There are long lines of people with water, flowers, and other gifts for the priests of the temple.  Military/police security is everywhere, and I’m told not to take pictures?

These are the cattle that provided Judy’s “close encounter”

We eventually worked our way out of “old town”, found our car, and went back to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, we finished packing, and met our contacts at 10:30 for our 1:00pm flight to Khajuraho.  The short flight departed a few minutes early.  The airport in Khajuraho is small, and by 2:00pm we were checking into our hotel for a quick freshen up.

Our guide meets us at 2:30 and we begin the tour of the temple complexes in Khajuraho.  Population of the town is only 20,000.  It’s very small, accessible and quiet.  We start our visit at the largest complex, which is a UNESCO site.  It’s calm and peaceful, with beautiful landscaping, and some impressive temples built in the 10thand 11thcentury.  Our guide gives us some the basic facts on Hinduism and the significance of these temples.  To us, they resemble Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which he later mentioned were built at about the same time.

The carving on the exterior walls is very detailed and has survived the years in amazing condition. The temples are all sandstone, but built on granite.  Along with the standard elephant, camel, and soldier carvings, there are many erotic scenes portrayed.  Our guide keeps telling us the artists wanted to tell the entire story of the people of the time, including the sexuality of the times.  It’s pretty graphic.  One of the thoughts that keeps rolling through our minds is how great the architecture and design are for the temples, and how ramshackle everything is outside the walls of the complex.  Not much of what exists in the area away from these temples will be here in 800 or 900 years.

Our guide offered us several opportunities for evening activities (light show, traditional dance, etc.), but we decided to relax back at the hotel.  The early morning visit to the Ganges is beginning to wear on us.

Varanasi, the Holy Place of Hinduism, Sunday, 12/2/18


Had an easy departure from Delhi this morning.  At the airport, security guards were checking tickets & passports at the outside doors before we could even enter the terminal building.  Once inside we found the Jet Airways domestic check-in.  It was a long line and took about 20 minutes before we reached a desk.  At the desk, they informed us of a chance for a cheap upgrade to Business Class, so we jumped on it.  It was great, with decent food, lots of room, etc.  It’ll be make it hard to go to the back of the plane on our later flights.

Our tour contact and driver are waiting and we are quickly delivered to the Radisson Hotel. Enroute, it’s obvious this is a more rural & agricultural area, at least on the drive into town.  The hotel, is nice, and we had two hours before we were picked up for our evening activity.  While we’re killing time in the coffee shop, I decided to walk next door to a silk weaving factory, recommended by our guide Delhi (he grew up in Varanasi).  Inside, there were the anticipated sales rooms, and a large room with some very old hand-operated looms for weaving the silk brocade patterns.  One of the looms was a two-man job, but they all looked very complex and time-consuming.

I was by myself, so I had time to watch them work and admire the patterns they were weaving. Eventually a salesman found me and walked me into a sales area where he explained some about their products.  The family had been in the business for 7 generations, and the work is beautiful, but it’s expensive.  I had to leave to catch our guide for our evening tour, but planned to visit again when we returned to the hotel.

We were picked up at 4:30, beginning the trip to Evening Aarti.  We had no idea what we were going to watch.  Our driver worked his way through some crazy traffic, dodging cattle, people, bikes, motorbikes, cars, and buses, as we drove toward the Ganges River. We had to get out and walk the last kilometer because of the huge crowds.  We finally came in full view of the river and all the activity.  It’s impossible to describe the sounds, and scenes on the bank as everyone prepared for the evening prayers.

Varanasi is the place where Hindu believers want to die and be cremated.  Our first activity at the river was to board a small boat which took us up the river to a Ghat (riverbank area) where bodies are being cremated. Cremations are taking place 24/7. As the boat moves closer, our guide describes the activities taking place…..washing the body before cremation, building the pyre and the burning, throwing the remaining bones into the river after the cremation, and so many other significant traditions for the mourning families.  It’s a dramatic sight as the sun sets.

Our next stop was to float off the bank in sight of the evening prayers, delivered by sets of priests in several different sections of the riverbank.  This was all taking place simultaneously, and each group had amplification and big crowds were ringing bells, and taking part.  The colors, the sounds, the smells, and the energy from the whole thing was amazing.

Our guide helped us leave a little before the ceremony ended to beat the crowds.  But the crowds departing were still crazy as we walked out, dodging all the oncoming motorbikes, rickshaws, and tuk-tuks, all going every direction.  Crazy!!!!

Back in the car, our driver worked his way back to the hotel.  It took about 30 minutes.  We went next door, to the silk-weaving factory to check out the products, eventually buying a few beautiful items.  Back in the room, we prep for our early trip out in the morning.  We’re scheduled to be picked up at 5:30 to travel back to the Ganges to observe the Hindu pilgrims bathing in the river.

Delhi, Old & New, Saturday, 12/1/18


We’re in a new time zone now, 11 ½ hours ahead of DFW.  Weird!  Breakfast was nice, but as expected, the food choices had variety, with lots of Indian options, as well as western standards.

We meet our driver at 9:00 am, and start out into the city to pick up our guide.  Traffic is fairly heavy and we picked up our guide Ajit, or AJ, around 9:45.  The drive is revealing as to the poverty and over-crowding.  Everywhere an open spot might exist, someone has spread a blanket or erected a small tent/awning.  Families are jammed together, and in the market area, the pace is frantic.  We spotted a few large monkeys walking along, or climbing on the buildings or roofs.

Traffic is so much like Beijing!

Our first stop is the Jama Masjid or Jama Mosque.  It’s the first mosque built in Delhi way back in the 1600’s.  It is still an active mosque with as many as 20,000 worshippers on holy days.  It’s built on hill overlooking the city.

 Jama Mosque

From the mosque we rode in a bicycle rickshaw in the Chandri Chowk neighborhood.  It a section of “Old Delhi” and the center of the tea/spice wholesale market.  We passed through narrow streets and crazy traffic, with horns honking all the time. With Judy, myself, and our guide, the driver has to work really hard with his one-speed bike.  Everywhere there are small shops, tuk-tuks buzzing around, along with the occasional cow or pig.

Looking over the shoulder of our rickshaw driver.  Check out the wires/cables overhead?

Our rickshaw!

Yep, that’s what it looks like is happening!

We climbed in a Tuk-Tuk next for a ride to the Red Fort.  It’s the first fort built in Delhi, by the same Mogul king who built the Taj Mahal.  It’s built on the same design as the Agra Fort, a site near the Taj Mahal we’ll visit later in the week.  It is still used by the Indian army as one of it’s main buildings in Delhi.

Next up is the “Cottage Industry” exhibition area.  Our guide had been describing it as the place supported by the Indian government for the displaced people of Kashmir to work and exhibit the traditional industries of Kashmir.  It turned out to be more of a Ginseng store, Pearl Factory, Leather shop, or any number of companies designed to get tourists in, display the product, and put on the hard sell.  This shop had handmade carpets, jewelry, scarves, tablecloths, and women’s clothing. The stuff they make is gorgeous, but expensive, and not really anything we need.

We had a nice lunch with the first real Indian food since our arrival in Delhi.  It’s great!  Our next stop is Raj Ghat, the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial.  It’s the site where he was cremated after his assassination.  It’s a quiet, peaceful spot.

In contrast, our next stop was India Gate, a memorial to the 70,000 Indian soldiers killed in World War I. All their names are inscribed on the walls.  It’s a popular place for school groups to visit.  There are buses everywhere, and student groups in uniforms lined up and walking together all over the property.

Qutub Minar is our last stop in Delhi and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s a huge tower commemorating a victory of a Mogul King or an invading Moslem army.  It was started in 1199, completed in 1368.

As I said earlier, everywhere we drove, the traffic was crazy and people and animals filled the streets and small shops all around.  Every intersection was filled with beggars, including young children selling various items or outright begging.  It’s a sad sight, and repeated at almost every traffic light.

Back at the room later, we prepare for our flight tomorrow to Varanasi.  We’re anxious to see what India has to offer away from Delhi.

India, Here We Come! Friday, 11/30/18


Had breakfast and finished up our packing with time to spare.  Went downstairs early (8:15 am), and our driver was already waiting. Traffic was light (it’s a holiday), and we were checking in at the Jet Airways desk before 9:00 am.  It always interesting how each country handles their immigration and security.  We went through smoothly and arrived with an hour to kill at our departure gate.

One last of view of Dubai skyline and the Burj Khalifa

It’s a 3 ½ hrs. flight. The seating on the plane was tight. Before we landed, Judy was getting claustrophobic.  As we neared Delhi, the sky began to turn brown.  The weather app indicated there was fog, but it was more smoke/pollution. We found out later that after the recent rice harvest, they burned the fields, and the smoke is still hanging around. I had our eVisa’s ready and immigration was fast.  After we snagged our luggage we walked through customs, and our driver, Laksme, was waiting for us in the meeting area.  This is when the Delhi experience really started.

It was dark when we started out of the airport.  The traffic was reminiscent of Beijing, with cars jammed together and weaving in and out. We turned a corner as we left the airport, and suddenly, we were in what I would call a ghetto.  People were jammed everywhere, cars were honking, and drivers were yelling.  It was stop & go for 45 minutes until we arrived at our hotel.

All the hotel areas are surrounded with tall walls topped with barbed wire.  As we pulled up, there were armed guards, and the driveway was barricaded.  One of the guards checked under our car for bombs, while another guard opened the hood looking for explosives.  To get into the hotel, they ran our bags through a scanner, and we walked through a scanner ourselves.  It’s a great looking hotel, but the security issues were unexpected.

Up in the room, we begin to unpack and get ready for our tour tomorrow.  I’m trying to figure out the exchange rate for the Indian Rupee. $200 is close to INR 13,500. Dinner is close to 4,000 rupees (or $50).  Our phone app is going be a big help.