Sunday, 31 December 2017

India: The Golden Triangle and Beyond - 1/6 Goa

(Disclaimer: These are all the right stories, not necessarily 
in all the right order :)


The original idea was to fly out to Rwanda and spend the festive season with Marion in Kigali. Plans changed when Rwandair announced they were starting direct flights to Mumbai and it snowballed from there.

With a bit of luck and a bit of planning we all met up in Mumbai airport amid much greeting and hugging. Then jumping on a short haul to Goa for a three day R&R to recoup before the whirlwind tour.

The pick up at the airport went well. Drove up to north Goa – Anjuna, bounced up a side road and landed at the wonderful Hacienda de Goa (reflecting Goa’s past Portuguese connection). Copious fairylights twinkled around a sparkling blue pool (around and within which we would spend many a happy hour. The buildings were impressive, the staff friendly and helpful + a restaurant in site – what more could you ask for :)

It also happened to be my 60something birthday so we decamped to the famous Thalassa sunset restaurant. We were not let down

Great views

Great sunset

Great entertainment

And the cherry on the cake M n M organised a surprise presentation of yummy cakes on a plate festooned with Happy Bday to me on chocolate piping at which point the entire restaurant burst into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” (a cameo repeated four more times during the evening as others in the room shared the same birthday :) The toast was in pink fizzy.

The following morning Goan breakfasts were consumed on-site before heading off to Old Goa and a tour of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a church built by the Portuguese in the late 1500s. It's called a basilica because it houses the remains of St Francis Xavier whose body reputedly defies the normal rigours of time and decay except for his toe that was bitten off by a devotee relic collecter.

Followed by the Shree Mauguese Temple.

Time for a change provided by the Spice Plantation. We entered over a long wooden bridge and were met with a shower of wild petals, duly re-spotted on the forehead and offered spiced tea before heading off on an informative guided tour of part of the plantation. Navigated some of the worlds most expensive spices, circumnavigated a local still all under a bright green canopy of leaves. We left having had cold scented oil poured down the inside of our shirts :-O

A quick ice cream at Mirabar beach to cool down and back to throw ourselves in the pool.

An overnight recovery in a comfy bed, another Goan breckie and off to the Red Fort. If it were possible it was even hotter than the previous day around 32-34c.

To cool down we headed for the shoreline and the collection of local boats departing on a dolphin watch to return along the Mandovi Estuary taking in the fort and the old colonial prison + an amazing residency built on the rocks but going down five levels into the rock down to the shore.

A short trip took us to a delightful beach hut, cool Kingfisher and yummy sweats. A great place for people watching.

After a totally confusing taxi ride it was rest, relaxation and a gentle walk to Bean Me Up a unique half open air eaterie in the village.

India: The Golden Triangle and Beyond - 2/6 Dehli

Dehli – let the tour begin

After the flight from Goa to Dehli we were met at the wonderful Dehli Airport by the equally wonderful driver (best driver in India we reckon) Anand Singh. He and his air cond people carrier were ours for the next seven days.

The first guide told us that you only needed three things to be able to drive in India – good brakes, good horn and good luck - many a true word..! The rules of the road seem relatively simple – see a gap (anywhere), sound your horn n go for it, but simultaneously so will several other motor scooters, tuk-tuks, cars, buses, tractors and assorted vehicles; but you must also avoid the stray cows, wild boar and dogs that jay walk the streets. All very exciting.

The Delhi hotel was well secreted and took much finding in the congestion. The following morning saw us in a couple of rickshaws – Marion with our guide, Marilyn n me pulling up the rear. These guys really earn their living. Don’t think any of us will forget the spice market, not just for its colours and scents.

but they were sweeping copious lees in the entrance with wicker brooms the dust clogged every part of you nostrils and left all in its wake coughing n spluttering for some time after!

Back on the open tourist trail there was a calm interlude at the Jauna Mosque. 
This mosque was constructed by Jauna Shah Khan Jahan, who was Firuz Shah's prime minister. He had seven mosques constructed in Delhi.


Then on to the India Gate – Delhi’s equally impressive ‘Menin Gate’. Of the many hawkers Marion succumbed to the whistle sellers charms and added to her growing collection of instruments.


Next on the itinerary was the Lotus Temple of the Bahá'í faith. A seriously impressive marble built edifice in the shape of a giant lotus blossom. You can be Bahá'í whilst also being a follower of any other faith or religion.


Circumnavigated the Qutub Minar Turkish Tower we wend our way back to the hotel. . After a break we set off on foot to explore the immediate surroundings then off to the local bar (not too many of these in India) for another well earned Kingfisher and a toddy.

India: The Golden Triangle and Beyond - 3/6 Agra


The day started with a trip to Agra’s Red Fort. 
The fort was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty till 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. The Agra fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Unfortunate incident – Percy was abducted by the security guard n we had to raise 10rupees ransom to secure his release :)

Then on to the famed Taj Mahal. Seriously impressive, unparalleled workmanship a sight to behold.

we all tried but non succeeded :)
We were to return at sunrise when the external marble turns it’s fabled rosy colour but stories of the Delhi smog are not exaggerated. Delhi to Agra turned into something resembling Brigadoon on an off day. Still, double edged sword we got a much needed lie in before setting off again.

A thick blanket of smog lingered all day making our trip to the impressive Fatehpur sikri an opaque experience at best – though it is an impressive site. The building material used in all the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, palace-city complex, is the locally quarried red sandstone, known as 'Sikri sandstone'. Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri(the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years.

As impressive was the Abhaneri step walls, an amphitheatre well hewn out of the rock, top down, into a most amazing pattern of steps and structures. W
ith 3,500 steps that look like a real-life Escher drawing it's a maze of symmetrical steps appear to form a never ending path deep underground.Also, a short walk up the village, was the remains of an even older temple.

India: The Golden Triangle and Beyond - 4/6 Ranthanbore


We stayed in a terrace of luxury yurt-like en-suite tents. 

 Rising in the morning for a freezing cold ride in an 8 seater open top Landrover (a Gypsy) to the local expansive tiger reserve.

Following paw prints, we seek them here


We seek them there

We seek the totally illusive tiger everywhere without a sighting. This was the nearest we got 

fire was set up by a wonderful early morning worker to keep us warm :)

But we did come across deer, antelope and a distant leopard so all was not lost.

India: The Golden Triangle and Beyond - 5/6 Jaipur


After a late breakfast it was off to the pink city of Jaipur and a stay at the wonderful Dera Rawastar – luxury. There was an option of a Bollywood blockbuster but we were sore in need of a rest.

Another day, another guide starting in the old city th
en off to the Howa Mahal, Jaipur's most distinctive landmark, an extraordinary pink-painted delicately honeycombed hive that rises a dizzying five storeys. It was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city.

Some entered the Amer Fort on elephant, some chickened out and rode the car up the very steep and winding road to the top of the massive hill fort. It is known for its blend of Rajput and Hindu style of architecture and mixture of Hindu and Muslim style of ornamentation. There are a series of gates in the fort and each one has a unique structure and architectural elements.

Some smaller local temples on the way have a Mayan look. Learned later that the Mayan architectural influence was brought over by the early Buddhists.

Parking next by the Golden Fort (not open to the public) opposite was a camel station that had to be tried out.

Jantar mantar in Delhi is one of the five observatories built in 1724 by the Maharaja of Jaipur - Sawai Jai Singh II for the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The Jantar Mantar was built to trace the astronomical phenomena and to ascertain scientific data.

The sun dial is a huge structure in yellow with a 27m long arm placed at an angle of 27 degrees. The sun dial calculates the time of a day accurately. There are two pillars that record the longest and shortest day in the year. This instrument is known as the ‘Mishra Yantra' the other instruments are used to trace astronomical phenomena from other planets and stars.

As the Golden Triangle Tour drew to a close it was time for the long haul back up to Dehli for the plane to Mumbai where we had booked a hotel for a couple of days before we made our respective ways home. Where did the time go ?? So many thanks to Anand our driver and Gopal who organised the tour – thoroughly recommend both if your ever heading that way.