Monday, 3 February 2014

January 28 - 30 - Delhi India

Our first morning in Delhi we were picked up by Shriti our guide for the day. Shriti is the sister of Vaydehi who was our host and guide in Mumbai. We were introduced to the sisters by their mother Anu who was our host for the evening in Coonor when we visited the Tandoori Hut. Proving once again that it's who you know!

Amy and Shriti at The India Gate

Delhi has a long history as a capital city and indeed the city now known as New Delhi is actually just one of the 7 historical cities that make up the metropolis - at 22 million the world's second largest.

We began in the oldest part of town where among other things we visited a shrine dedicated to the Sufi saint Kaki. Only Andrew was allowed inside and was invited to sit down with the Priest who shared a bit of history, gave a blessing, and took up an offering - some things are universal! 

The shrine of Kaki.

Muslim and Hindu side-by-side.

A park in the center of the city.

In the afternoon we made our way to Old Delhi which is a warren of streets with specialised markets throughout: the spice market, the sari market, the wedding stuff market, the used car parts market, the optical market and more. For food there was a stretch devoted to sweet stuff - delicious jalebi and a frothy sweet milk treat - as well as every other Indian delectable imaginable. And there was even a stretch dedicated to street banking.


Frothy milk dish.


Poppadoms drying in the sun.

A bank branch.

The most popular and practical mode of transportation in Old Delhi is the bicycle rickshaw. The 'drivers' display the same characteristics as those who drive cars, trucks, and autorickshaws. But in place of the horn they hurl curses at the top of their lungs. We didn't understand a single word but pretty much got the point!

Bicycle rickshaw as school bus.

After Old Delhi we ventured to New Delhi which is the most modern part of the city. This is the area that the British designated as the capital of India early in the 20th century. It still serves in that capacity for the independent state of today.

On Wednesday we had a much-needed sleep-in and then some shopping at a large craft market. 

Thursday we headed back to Old Delhi to visit The Red Fort and The Jamma Mosque. We headed into the center on a very modern and efficient Metro system - one more reminder of how Toronto is falling behind on the subway front!

The Red Fort is a massive complex of buildings that formed the centre of power during the time of The Moghul Empire.

The Jamma Mosque is notable for it's size and for the fact that all are welcome inside; just remove your shoes.

We spent a delightful few moments watching a father teach his children the proper way to pray.

This is a little animal that we saw throughout India which the locals call a squirrel. Shriti told us a story. There had been a great flood and the mighty animals of India, the elephant and the tiger, were helping to clean up and rebuild. The little squirrels were doing their part as well to much mocking from the other animals who ridiculed their efforts. But the God Shiva was pleased with their contributions and as a sign of affection stroked their backs as they worked. And that's how the squirrel got its stripes!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

January 26-27 - Udaipur India

Udaipur is a small city amidst the lakes in the Rajasthan region of India. It is a city of palaces and shrines where the ruling dynasty prevails after centuries of relatively unbroken  lineage - although like our own monarchy they haven't actually ruled for some time. It is a lovely location and - although our Canadian and American friends will have no sympathy with this position this winter of 2013-2014 - it was a relief to be in a cooler climate. We stayed in a lovely hotel with a spectacular view.

A room with a view at sunset.

We started with a boat ride on Lake Pichola to Jagmandir Palace - set on an island in the lake. On the way we passed another island palace called The Island Palace. Apparently Pichola and a neighbouring lake were the first human-made lakes anywhere in the world and circa the 16th century. The capacity to drain the lakes when necessary is what made it possible to build these palace islands.

The Island Palace

Jagminder Palace 

Another sunset!

In the evening we went to cultural show replete with the traditional music and dancing of the Rajasthan region. Particularly impressive was the woman dancing while balancing water jugs on her head! 

You can go a whole life without doing something and then next thing you know you are riding on the back of a camel!

Apparently the Maharana had 7 wives but that wasn't enough so he also had a girlfriend for whom he built a garden where she would hang out with the wives.

Andrew with his one wife in The Girlfriend's Garden.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

January 25 - Mumbai India

Wow! Mumbai: the most unrelentingly alive city we have ever experienced. 21 million people, 24 hours a day.

For more: 

To start we need to note that hardly anybody in India calls Mumbai, Mumbai; they prefer the old name of Bombay and readily acknowledge that the new name, although politically and religiously correct, does not best name the city they love. The religious aspect of the name Mumbai is related to an ancient myth by which the God Brahma creates an goddess named Mumba to save the fisher-people of the 7 islands from the threats posed by a demon. Today we visited the temple dedicated to Mumba and payed our obeisance. It was a special inter-faith moment for us to be welcomed into the temple and to engage in some of the ritual involved. As our guide said Hinduism is a pretty chilled-out, her term for tolerant, religion. We would agree, and reminded of the story of the synagogue in Kochi, we could see that it has always been so. At least as long as adherents remain true to the core tenets of the faith. Sadly there are also many examples of inter-religious intolerance in this region. 

The temple from the outside - no pictures inside.

We began the day with the quintessential Bombay street food breakfast, chai and a Bombay burger - essentially battered fried potatoes on a bun. Delicious.

The Chai man.

Bombay burger.

What followed was a whirlwind tour hitting many of the landmarks:

Amy Crawford at the Crawford Market

The world's largest laundromat. And apparently they never mess up an order! Here are more images from The Globe and Mail -

St Thomas' Cathedral, Church of North India (Anglican) 

The Gateway to India, Amy with our guide for the day, Vaydehi

Vaydehi is the daughter of Anu who hosted us last week in Coonoor and took us to the delicious tandoori hut. With her sister Shriti she runs Beyond Bombay - Now as delicious as mom's tandoori choice was Vaydehi's seafood choice for lunch was, dare I say, even better. The prawn pakora, pepper fish and crab curry were superb. And washed down with Kingfisher of course!

The national obsession - not the boys playing soccer in the foreground but the men playing cricket in the background.

You may note the ubiquitous haze in the air despite it being a cloudless day; Mumbai is a very smoggy city, as Amy, an asthma sufferer, can attest.

One troubling aspect of Mumbia is the way children are used by adults as a means of income. At the most basic level it is children who persistently follow you asking for a hand-out. This girl on a tightrope is a more sophisticated version.

 A Hindu holy site; a fresh water spring deemed to flow directly from the holy Ganges River. Which is quite a feat given that the Ganges is 2000 km away!

The Arabian Sea from the 'end of Mumbai'.

Friday, 24 January 2014

January 21-24 - Goa India

We arrived at Palolem Beach in Goa ready for some beach time but also with ideas of exploring old churches from Portuguese times and spice plantations. As it turned out beach time was all we were interested in. Four training's in three weeks was actually pretty tiring and so once we hit those deck chairs we didn't want to move. Nonetheless we did walk down the beach to take in a couple of boat rides. One was out into The Arabian Sea  to check out the dolphins, and another was up the river to check out the bird life. Otherwise it was laying in the sun, the occasional dip in the sea, the occasional walk on the beach, and eating and drinking and sleeping. Perfect.

Our beach.

Our beach hut home.

If you zoom in that's a dolphin fin in the middle of the picture. They are faster at swimming than Andrew is at shooting them - shooting as in taking a picture..

Amy, and Mr Lucky our river punter

Mr Lucky was throwing chicken gizzards into the river and at one point there was at least 50 eagles/kites feeding. It was all so fast and we were more interested in experiencing it than in filming it. (Well maybe we were interested in filming it but just not very good at filming it.)

 The Kingfishers we saw

The Kingfishers we drank.

And Amy had her nails, all her nails, done.

All in all a lovely break. And if you are ever in Goa be sure to go to Palolem Beach, and if you are ever at Palolem Beach be sure to stay at The Art Resort, and if you are ever at The Art Resort ask for Suni to look after you.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

January 20 - Kochi India

We spent 2 nights and 1 day in Kochi staying at the Bolgatty Island hotel - the former home of the British authorities during colonial days. We ventured out for the day to see a few sites. Of interest was the Jewish Synagogue, situated on Jew Street in Jew Town; perhaps not the way we would prefer to put it! Jews first arrived in the Kochi area soon after the fall of the Temple and the diaspora. For close to 1500 years they peacefully cohabited with the Hindus and Buddhists of South India. And then in the 16th century the Dutch and the Portuguese showed up and promptly destroyed the Jewish community in the name of Christ. (Sometimes it sucks to be a Christian.) The remaining Jews then found protection from the local Maharajah and built a synagogue on the  Raj's palace grounds. It, and the palace, still stands today.

The Synagogue outside.

And inside, with Amy's arm.

Kochi is also known for the 'Chinese Fishing Nets'. It was thought that these were introduced to the region by a Chinese explorer, but it is more likely that they are Portuguese in origin. Still they are captivating contrivances needing a number of people to haul them up and check-out the catch.

The nets.

The catch.

Unfortunately we also had to spend some precious time shopping at a western style mall; both our suitcases had been badly damaged in our travels and we needed to replace them. Thank you Samsonite! 

That evening we were treated to our  personal Kathakali dance presentation. Kathakali dance is an ancient form that tells stories through dance, But this is not jumping around dance; it is primarily though facial features and hand movements that the story is told. Before the performance we sat in on the makeup aspect of the event which was quite meticulous and time-consuming. And then the dance itself was unlike anything we had ever seen; the way the dancer manipulated his eyes and cheeks, and mouth,  and ears, was extraordinary. This is one of those times when we have to say 'you had to be there'.

The makeup.

The dance.

The photo-op.