Sunday, 19 January 2020

Dubai

On the way home from India, we stopped in Dubai for two nights, staying at the Sheraton on The Creek.   we had a good view of boats on the river and the City beyond.






Buying perfume oil in the Mall, on the recommendation of local ladies who were keen to give suggestion. I chose something floral.




In the shopping Mall, there is an aquarium, you can see lots from the outside, we didn't have time to go inside - we should have planned better!  Wearing my comfy Anokhi loose trousers purchased in Delhi.




 Water feature in the Mall, this has synchronised water jet display at certain times of the day, the water makes lovely fountain patterns in time with opera music, it's beautiful and attracts a huge crowd.



 Birds, display in the Dubai Mall shopping centre.




Lunch (vegetarian curry with bread and rice) at the Dubai Mall shopping Centre fast food floor.






























There are lots of displays around The Mall like this lovely camel,it's really luxuriously designed.










We went to the gold souk at night, it's a large area of streets and alleys fully of gold jewellery shops like this one. If you go on to browse some of them will offer mint tea.  There is no pressure to buy, and it's the best place to buy as the gold is sold by weight, there is room for a little discount if you bargain.


We used the Dubai metro to get around, it's very modern, efficient and easy to use.




We ate at a café close to our hotel in the evening, this was falafel in a bread roll with salad.



This was a nice break on the long journey home, the hotel had a small pool with sun deck so we spent time either exploring the shopping or resting around the pool until it was time to go home.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Agra, Jaipur

We used tuk-tuks frequently during our travels, they were the most affordable means of transport although not many are as glamorous as this one, being used for a wedding.  The fumes/dust are unpleasant and they don't feel very safe, although the drivers are expert - it can be hair raising when traffic comes at you on the wrong side of the road (frequent occurrence) or cows walk in front of you!  On some roads the traffic was so thick and somewhat unsafe we were unable to cross on foot, when we did we learned to keep moving and traffic somehow drives around you.  If you stop, you will interrupt the flow over everyone!



The main event on our travels in India was to see the Taj Mahal.



This beautiful building/masoleum was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan to hold the tomb of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal who was his favourite and mother of 14 children.  His tomb is also there.


We learned that the real tomb where the Shah and his wife have been laid to rest  is actually in a crypt  below the ground floor level and not accessible; what we see as tourists is actually a replica tomb.



We needed a guide as there is so much detail and beauty here to appreciate, every surface is inlaid and decorated (inside and out) with semi precious stones).  We learned that the inscriptions above were carved larger at the top than at the bottom so that it would appear the same size right to the top  when viewed from ground level.




We visited the Pink City, Jaipur. The city was painted pink in honour of a visit from Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, it is the colour of hospitality.  There were a lot of stalls along the roadsides selling printing blocks, this region is known for its beautiful hand block printed cotton (as in the skirt I was wearing at the Taj Mahal!).



Below is the spectactular Palace of the Wind





The buildings are made of the most beautiful red sandstone.  It makes a huge impact as you enter the city and, of course, the Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds (above) is astounding.  I think it's the most amazingly clever building I have ever seen.  It was designed so that the ladies of the palace could observe everyday life from the secrecy of the many intricate windows, without fear of being seen themselves.  The design also ensured the building was very cool and comfortable.

The ladies could also look into a courtyard garden and markets were held there so they could buy trinkets and fabrics from hawkers without being seen.



Below is the Amber Fort, the mother of pearl and mirror work inlaid to the walls of this beautiful building is another sight that is somewhat overwhelming, it is just beautiful beyond words.








Wearing Anokhi block printed wrap top (eBay win) quite a
few of the clothes I found on eBay and charity shopping and squirreled away for this trip, were actually made in India!




Tourists are discouraged from the riding the elephants here, a practice the Government is
now trying to phase out.  These elephants are well cared for but we chose not to ride them.


Jaipur is becoming a dry state, we found it difficult to buy alcohol.  Not everyone would mind, but we looked forward to a cold beer or a rum and coke at the end of the day.  Some backpacker hostels will get it for you from the Government run shops if you ask the day before, and a few 3 star motels have beer.  The main hotels will sell alcohol at very high prices.  Staff in our hotel were willing to go to the Government shop for us (there's usually limited opening hours and long queues of Indian men!) but luckily we had bought rum at Delhi airport and hung on to it so didn't miss out.  We also found a hostel that had chilled beer and gave us free freshly cooked poppadoms, which they ran across the road to get for us!  We always negotiated what we were paying for our beers throughout our trip,  before sitting down, and always paid for the first one up front to ensure no misunderstanding,  you can usually negotiate well down to half the hotel prices if you bargain, the place is not busy and they want you to stay.  A friendly conversation, rather than a hard haggle.

The rest of my pictures are randomly taken around our travels through India, where many modes of transport were seen - we didn't try them all!

camels seen coming in to Jaipur
elderly couple, Delhi



Rickshaw drivers, Delhi

and random things of interest, especially food!










snake charmer, Jaipur

I got very close to this charmer but later a guide told me he had once seen a snake leap from the basket, I will be more careful next time!

I am making a short video which I will post a link to soon.

Kerela, India

We stayed at Marari Beach Hotel, Kerala. Having spent  weeks touring Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi we were glad to slow down the pace and enjoy the relaxation of this beautiful eco hotel owned by the CGH Earth Group.

we ate vegetarian curry for breakfast/dinner



Kerala is populated by the Malayali people, with roots of Sri Lankan descent and their own Tamil/Sanskrit based language,  Malayalam.  When we arrived in Kerala the first thing we noticed was the difference in the writing on billboards compared to other parts of India we visited.



The Marari Beach Hotel 

The hotel grounds had a butterfly garden (with black and white butterflies the size of sparrows), many birds, wandering cows, coconut palms and many dragonflies.

Mineral water pool
This was a peaceful, restful resort with a great emphasis on health and well being and focusing huge effort on respect for the environment.

If you are interested in the way the CGH Earth Group manage their hotels and produce their foods, they have a Facebook page and a website.






The bath water is sourced from harvested rainwater and the swimming pool is chemical free, using salt mineral water that is anti-bacterial and good for the hair, skin and eyes.



the hotel offers ayervedic doctors/medicine

The hotel has many eco friendly features which we had not experienced before:  Drinking water is processed by reverse osmosis method (for the detail on this see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_osmosis)  in recycled glass bottles.  There are Ayurvedic doctors on hand who can prescribe a suitable diet/herbal medications for those who have come to stay for recovery from illness.



The hotel had direct access to the public beach, which was sandy and the sea warm.



relaxing on my verandah



 Food is provided by the organic farm kitchen onsite, there is great emphasis on Ayervedic health which is evident in the healthy, varied menu.

 
cookery demonstration for guests (curry sauce base)

The mineral pool and a separate supply of fresh water/flowers for the birds

I went to a lecture on Ayervedic medicine and two cookery classes which were complimentary and well worth the time.  There are 5 acres of organic garden that supply the majority of food to the hotel guests.  I also learned about an experiment the hotel is working on to grow food soil free in water fertilised by fish.


Chef showing me the organic garden

The cottage style rooms have beautiful open air bathrooms (bathing to the sound of birds and seeing butterflies flutter past is wonderful)


open air bathroom and shower


There is very little outside the hotel, just homestays and a few little shack type shops selling basic  supplies for the locals and canned drinks to tourists.

local shops


this is a typical signage and the food is in someones house/homestay
homestays are plentiful


The nearest town is a 30 minute tuk tuk ride away in Alleppey, there is a small supermarket here and a market.  It's the hub of the backwaters of Kerala and where you pick up boat rides or homestays on housebouts 


Boat on the backwaters of Kerala

our boat


The boat was comfortable and gave us a wonderful view along the lakes and rivers of everyday life in the area.
 .


There were many people bathing, washing clothes or pots and pans in the river and along the bank we could see all their colourfull houses, the men in the fields bringing in sacks of rice and tapioca and children playing.








loading sacks of rice for delivery from the fields
Throughout our adventures we have eaten curry every day, for every meal and never got tired of it.
Although we experimented with caution in some of the cities, we found that eating a large breakfast, skipping lunch and eating a light dinner kept us within our budget and was more than enough.










Feeling a bit jetlagged as we only got back 24 hours ago,
so I will be back soon with more posts on our stops in Varanasi, Delhi, Jaipur and Agra...