Monday, 26 September 2011


No dinner, no breakfast: a night in the blue city

No food since yesterday lunch time and needing sleep.

Maybe that's a TQ7 swallow.

After an 8 hour journey through arid scrubland, with the odd Jain temple snaking up the hillside (Bear summed them up: "Don't kill that ant, he's my uncle"!), we arrived in Jodpur. The hotel resturant had closed and its sandwich toaster had gone down. Forget it - we'll wait until breakfast. We forced the kids to get up for an 8am breakfast and unbelievably again there was no resturant. I let Digs have the heated debate with the staff and the manager of the Marawar hotel and then we left for the Mehrangarh Fort that looks down on the blue - British Gas van blue - painted city.

We were all captivated by the Sati handprints; the last royal Sati here was in the 1830s. Like the framed plaster of paris baby's hand and foot prints we do, these were grouped together in dark red relief at the main gateway to the fort. Inside the palace rooms at the top of the fort, was a huge display of Howdah, the seat for riding on an elephant: from the plain sofa type to the tented canopy with whistles and bells. The thing that we raced around the exhibition to see though was, the Jodhpur scissors. Basically a dagger that contained blades within blades, so as the weapon was pulled out of the victim, more damage was inflicted.

The kids were desperate to get into the car for the drive to Jaisalmer: to get out of the heat and into the aircon. Another long drive; this time the type of road and desert that takes you all the way to Pakistan. Free-range camels chilled out under the trees near Pokhoran; the site of nuclear testing in the late 90s. The road was particuarly pot-holed around here - and it's got nothing to do with the bombs - and since there wasn't a lot of traffic, our driver just weaved in and out of the holes, holy cows and dogs which you could peel off the tarmac.

Amusing place name: LORDI
Funny shop name: NIIT

Jaipur - Elephants, Cobras, Amber Fort

Bear thought he had fruit in his basket. Raz though it was money. Nope.
It's one of those pesky cobras.

Going back down the hill this chap rolled himself a cigarette.

King Cobras and a ride on Nelly

On our first day of everyone feeling that they could take a trip away from the hotel loo for a few hours, we took a short drive to the huge Amber Fort just outside town. We spotted a young elephant standing beneath the fort, on the pavement. We pulled over and let it snuffle our smelly crocs and had a cuddle. The local snake charmer piped up in competition. Raz later confided that he thought the basket was for cash, and Bear thought it was for fruit. Nope. That'll be a cobra. The handler beckoned for us to bestow the same affection for his creature as the cute elly - he even kissed the thing to prove it was vernom-less. We gave him a wide berth on the curb as the reptile lashed out at him.

Digs and Raz went off on the first elephant. It was 900 rupees. Digs gave him 1,000 and let him keep the change. They shouted down the line that this tourist had given a 100 R tip and for others to try and get the same out of their customers. Further down the queue we saw the 100 R tip expectation continue. I rode with Bear and Magi and our elephant, Jamma, was keen to get ahead of the others and overtook a few on the cobbles as we wound our way up the hill to the entrance of the fort. Once inside, it opened up into a piazza and a kind of elephant jamboree with music.

Jaipur - road trip from Delhi to Jaipur

Umaid Bhawan, Jaipur
Umaid Bhawan, Jaipur
Outside Delhi it's all gone a bit Mad Max
We've witnessed a fair bit of Indian driving since we arrived, and all I can say is I'm glad that uncle Si is not in the car with us, although maybe they would appreciate a bit of full throttle british road rage and colourful cursing.

The highway from the capital to Jaipur starts conventionally, then fizzles out into a broken dusty road with an almost apocaltypic street scene. Digs kept saying "Mad Max" as we passed through these incredible places. It was also our first sight on camels - on the highway - pulling cart loads of large kindling.

We got into Jaipur - the pink city (with many shades of brown and grey ontop) - for the early evening. We passed by the Amber Fort with it's cascading walls down the hillside on the way to our hotel, the Umaid Bhawan. The actual, Umaid Bhawan, the mughal palace is in Jodpur, ours is a mock heritage hotel - Bollywood meets Trago Mills. We'll call it "contemporary camp". 

The kids loved it - the pool with painted panels of Ganesh and pals, the roof-top terrace with restaurant and dancing girls and the two huge four poster beds. The first night I had the best sleep in at least 2 months.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Delhi Belly

Laid up with the Inevitable S & D - Delhi Style

Digs and Raz have been laid up for 2 days with S and D! We've put off going to Jaipur until Tuesday. We're hiring a driver, so we can do road-side stops for Digs and Raz when they need it. Ushi is packing us up a picnic.

We've been through plenty of bed sheets and midnights visits to the loo.

It seems like a terrible thing to admit to, but we ordered in Domino's pizza for supper! Well, Krishnish, the 10 year old of the house, mentioned that he was doing that, so we thought we'd jump on his delivery! We've never had Domino's pizza in the UK. You get free "choc lava puddings" as well - hard to resist a bit of stodge in the land of spontaneously emptying bowels.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Deli: Humayun's Tomb - the first Taj Mahal?

After an hour in Delhi Railway Station, filling in forms, watching a happy Dutch couple walz around the reservation lounge and queing to be told "full", we headed off to Humayun's (not to be confused, as I did, with the monkey god, Hanuman) Tomb.
A camera was thrust towards me as we entered the garden and I thought it was for me to take a group family picture of some Indian tourists - that's what you do, don't you - but, we were alI ushered into shot, cosying up with a multi-generational Indian family. That was the first of many such encounters as we ambled around the tomb gardens. Those images are probably heading towards Indian facebook pages over the next few days. Did they think we were Brad and Angelina with half their tribe? I thought we were here to take pictures of the authentic locals? Earily, it did feel like an Indian version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's Vulgaria without the child catcher - and Benny Hill. Have they never seen children - obviously not our grubby little ones!

Lime green parrots and swarms of giant dragonflies were hanging out in the gardens around the tomb,which does look like a less showy version of the Taj. Humayun's son in law, who built the Taj Mahal took the idea from here, expanded it, added lashings of marble and then stuck his father in law in a prison. We'll be going to the Taj Mahal later in the month, so I can get a little bit more flesh on the story by then. I'll be gutted if I don't get a picture of me on Princess Diana's bench to put on my facebook profile. Beren and Magi keep taking these Troll pictures of me on their nintendo DS. That is, they put an image of a jet-lagged me, through a "Troll" ap. At least we're covering the creative side of the curriculum this early into the trip. Sorted.

Delhi - first day

Delhi: monkeys, vultures, warthogs, eagles, kites, chipmunks, lizards, gi-normous dragonflies...

All that wildlife was seen in the first few hours after arriving in Delhi. The warthogs and the chipmunks were a bit of a surprise. Magi was especially happy to see The Chipmunks - last time she saw them in their Squeakquel they were doing a Katy Perry number at super high squeaky speed. They do look very cute when they do this wide eye thing and stand up and look expectantly at you. Then we remind the kids about the 'R' word and the fact that we didn't have that jab. Of course, they are everywhere by then and you have to run the gaunlet in between a couple of furry heavyweights.

Raz and Bear have been playing with the guest house owner's son, Krishnish in the evenings - Angrybirds on an ipad. No, Karenza, not ladies out, of a night in Union Street!
Raz, Bear and Magi have loved spotting the hump-backed "camel cows" and the "Hey Man" who comes past the house regularly trying to gather rubbish to sell on.

Heathrow - leaving home

Heathrow: leaving home for a year

We we were waved off by Nana and the builders and arrived at Terminal 5 ready for our flight to Delhi. The boys tried out their new gizmos and Magi did a weird kind of Poirot routine using a M & S Colin the Catterpillar as a moustache. Strangely they all seemed to enjoy long haul more than a 3 hour flight to Finland - more food and movies. They watched Kung Fu Panda 2 and we kept watching our progress on the monitor from Europe into Asia. The sun set quickly as we flew east and we saw an interesting looking place from the window - as we waited outside the loo - it seemed to be a city somewhere by the edge of the Black Sea.
Over the mountains of Pakistan - the beginning of the Himalaya - there was a bit of bumpy air. The kids slept through it, while I speed-read BA's Highlife.