Our first trip of 2015 was to India. India has always been high on my list for a country I wanted to visit. People have often commented that India is quite hard to visit when you see the poverty which is pretty much everywhere. But it is by far one of the most rewarding countries to go to, so we were very excited about it. We left on the Thursday before Easter Friday and had a very early flight to Zurich with a 4 hour stop over. On the plane over I watched a few films: Interstellar, Serena and Paddington. All very enjoyable films. As we were getting closer to Delhi I took a bit of a dodgy turn and felt awful, there was bad turbulence and for once in my life I was very sick. Rich had the pleasure being on the outside aisle seat to get rid of my sick bag that must be true love. We got met by our driver called Anil and he took us to our hotel which was the Star Hotel. By the time we got to India it was really late so we headed for bed ready for an early start the next day to do our sightseeing in Delhi.
On the Friday we ate breakfast on the terrace listening to the hustle and bustle of the streets below. Breakie was a mix of goodies including some Indian dishes. Our first stop was the Red Forte which was a spectacular red fortress. We spent some time looking around there, they had little market stalls within it as well. There were multiple mini temple style buildings inside and it was very green. There were lots of birds around. We then went to go to the Jama Masjid which was a mosque but had prayers on so we could not enter. We headed to Humayans tomb which was a beautiful set of temples not to dissimilar in style to the Taj. We then went for lunch and had saag paneer and mushroom curry and butter naan. For our first lunch in India it was pretty epic. We then went to Qutub minar which was a red building with a tall brick one which looked like a chimney, Qutb Minar, at 120 meters, is the tallest brick minaret in the world. Qutb Minar, along with the ancient and medieval monuments surrounding it, form the Qutb Complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We headed for the Lotus temple but there was a massive queue so we went and took a picture from the outside but did not go in. We then headed for the Lodi garden - it has a pretty temple inside a park, it was one of my favourite places in India. So beautiful set upon a pretty park. There was cute little lake in there.
We drove past the India Gate on the way home. Anil took us to a shopping mall but we didn't want anything so really didn't stay long, clearly he got something if we bought stuff but there was nothing we wanted. Later that night tired and all we stayed in the hotel and had dinner which was- Naan rice paneer, Butter masala and mushroom mutter
On the Saturday, we got up and it was a long drive to Pushkar, probably a good 8 hours. Driving in India was nuts, there were say 4 lanes but there would be 5 rows of cars across, tons of tuk tuk and bikes, lots of beeping. I was glad we weren't driving. We stopped for lunch and had some cheese pakora, chips and a cheese sarnie. We noticed the places Anil stopped at tended to be on the expensive side. There was a little ritual where we would go into the restaurant with the other tourists and the drivers would go into a side room. Rich read somewhere that they would get some money off their food and probably some commission by taking us there. We then continued our journey and we had a suicidal cow which ran into the road. We went down a steep hill and there was a bus trying to turn the corner to go down the hill but impatient motorbikes went around it.
Our hotel was called the Hotel Kishan Palace and it was a very quirky hotel with detailed paintings all around it. Big padlocks on the wooden doors which were very rustic. We then went for a walk into town and walked around the lake for Hindu prayers but on the lower levels you had to walk barefoot. There were men and women praying in groups with flowers and candles lit up. It was very special to see this daily ritual. For dinner we stayed in the hotel and had Veg korma, naan and biryani. We spoke to the hotel owner and he was saying how busy it gets when the camel fair is on and that it was very quiet this time of year. We sat on the rooftop and it was lovely to see over the city.
On the Sunday, Anil had the day off but showed up outside the hotel to drop us to mountain but he took a wrong turn and got caught in the sand so we pushed him out. He seemed annoyed he had done it and we would have to help him but he had no other choice. We walked up a big mountain which had a temple on the top. Along the way we met donkeys carrying sand up and down the mountain, goats and there were monkeys. There was this line running up the mountain to transport items. When we got to the top the temple had literally just closed so this was rather annoying. We met a massive family and they wanted some pictures with us so we posed with them. We sat for a while and took some pictures and then headed back down. On the way down we met a man carrying a little baby and he handed me the baby and we took some pictures, he was a happy baby. When we got to the bottom I needed to use the loo and went to go into an outdoor one but a massive rat ran across so I skipped it but a woman started saying to be paid as I had gone in, I tried to explain I didn't use it. We then headed into the town part and looked around the market and stalls. I saw some petty shawls but did what I usually did and didn't pick it up and regretted that move later on. We stopped for lunch at the rainbow cafe which was a rooftop one and overlooked the lake and had some dal, chapatti and a spinach paratha, it was delicious as always. We went to head into the main temple but it was still closed so we wandered back to the hotel and picked up some adapters and water. At 4pm we got picked up to go for a camel ride, it was 2 hours- they tried to sell 3 hours to us but 2 hours seemed long enough to be on a camel for and let me tell you now, it was :) We headed into the dessert for sunset and it was lovely, they took us around and we saw the backstreets and a house where they had a little farm and allotment. We eventually ended up in the middle of the dessert and loads of people approached us playing music and trying to sell stuff to us, after a while it was annoying. They did it to everyone, we must have been there a good half an hour watching the sun go down. We got back later on and tipped our guys and went to have dinner on the rooftop. We quite liked our funky family run hotel and the food was nice and staff friendly.
On Monday we drove to Udaipur with rocky roads and hills. Anil talked to us about marriages and family and how the woman's family basically paid as a way for her to seem attractive to the man and ensure she got married. He said they had paid the money for his sister. He had two children and he worked away from home but would go back to the Himalayas when it was off peak season and see how family. Our hotel (Jagatniswas palace) was like a mini fortress, white with small doors and big wooden locks on them. We walked around town - there were lots of shoes and jewellery shops and saw the little clock building as we wandered around. We went for dinner on nearby roof top which was paneer mutter and mushroom butter masala. We then went and had a massage which was a half hour massage- quite a tough one and then we went back to room and watched insidious 2.
On the Tuesday we went to Royal Palace which was down the road from our hotel. It was a gorgeous grand palace and we went for a tour around it with our headsets listening to the history. The man taking the tickets has this impressive moustache which was white and curled around. It was very colourful with amazing drawings and some stunning stain glass windows. We went to the Lotus café on the rooftop for lunch aloo paratha, Chana masala special and chapatti
and chilled on roof and got burnt whilst doing it. We then went on a boat ride for half an hour around the lake seeing the gorgeous buildings. Anil came to collect us and took us to a park, I think called Birmingham which was beautiful and had tall white street lamps. It had a water fountain which really did not smell good and there was a guy in there cleaning, not a job I would want. We then went to the artificial village - called Shilpgram there were lots of shops and people trying to sell which made us very uncomfortable. Some men played some music as well which was nice. We then eventually went back to the hotel and walked to rope way but it was closed. It was meant to be a cable car to the top. We met some Germans and watched bit of sunset which was lovely. We then went for dinner and had
a veg and potato curry. We then went to get some snacks but tried to pull a fast one with adding it up incorrectly and then tried to give wrong change back but I pulled him up on it.
On Wed we headed to Jaipur, it was a 6 hr drive then stopped at an expensive place and had a cheese toastie - 250. We stayed at the Hotel Umaidbhawan We walked for half an hr, alongside a main road with non-existent paths for people walking and headed for a restaurant that was on trip advisor called peacock, a rooftop restaurant. It was gorgeous and we had tandoori mushrooms, saag paneer, fruit lassi -680 We then got a tuk tuk back which cost 80 and spoke to the young guy who took us back. We then went back for a pool swim and watched captain America 2
On Thursday we went to the pink city which was a wind palace for wife of king. It was very unusual and just off a main road. Our next stop was the Amer fort which was a massive fortress above a big lake. We got on an elephant which took us up to the fortress. We went for a walk around and it was very magnificent with beautiful stain glassed windows. The bars were like crosses on the windows and you could see all the houses below. We then went to walk up to Jager Fort by going through an underpass which took us back outside. We ended up on these large broken steps leading us up but unfortunately it didn't take us up there, it became a dead end. There were 3 young lads who were also doing it and we had to walk past a load of monkeys hanging out waiting to pounce and steal anything they could.
We then went to a royals building which had a henna woman outside it, Anil was encouraging me to go and have it but I didn't really fancy it as have had it before and it does take a long time to wash off.
We went to the water palace but it was closed so we headed back to the hotel to relax for the last few hours by the pool.
Anil wanted to take us to spice, gems and pashmina place but we were not that interested. We then went and got some water and some dinner.
On Friday we then had the drive to Agra. We were really excited to see the Taj Mahal. On the drive a kid was staring as us like we were aliens and backed into the house. It was very amusing. We then waited for a train to pass at one of the cross roads and then once it was safe crossed the train line. We then arrived at our hotel and we could see the Taj in the distance from our hotel which added to our excitement. We watched last Vegas with Morgan freeman in it. We then put the lights out for a good sleep but unfortunately for us there was a party on so it was loud and noisy! We were knackered for our 5.45 wake up call.
On the Sat, we got up for our sunrise tour of Taj Mahal. Anil dropped us off with a pick up spot, we assumed we would be a good 2-3 hours. We went through a security bit and were given covers for our shoes and a bottle of water. We walked through a big kind of gate and were presented with the Taj which looked amazing as the sun was coming up. We took loads of pictures walking up beside the water feature until we reached the Diana bench but it was very busy and people were desperate to get on the bench so we had to be quick. We then walked up some steps until where the Taj was. You could go inside the building where the king and his wife were buried but no pics were allowed. We walked around the porcelain white building which was truly stunning. There was a red building off to the left and right of the Taj. There were loads of monkeys around including one 3 legged one running along the bars. We saw two having sex and more fighting! They were very entertaining and seemed to enjoy a mini pool for water. I managed to break my sunglasses which was annoying. We noticed there were dead wasps everywhere. I guess they must spray something to kill the nests for the tourists. We walked around the grounds which were stunning, taking so many pics as the light changed as the sun rose. After we finished walking around we met Anil and he took us back to the hotel to collect our bags and check out. We headed back for Delhi, our hotel was very grand and fancy. We sat by the pool for 2.5 hours and there was a saddam Hussein lookalike by pool. We walked to the underground market nearby for a look around and to get some water. We then ate dinner in hotel- rich had chicken for the first time in India. We settled the balance with Anil of 13,500 and 2,000 for a tip.
On Sunday we got a 500 street taxi to airport as opposed to 1100 for a hotel one. At the airport we had kfc of spicy Mexican chicken. We do normally try out the foreign take away to see what they are like against English ones. We arrived at the Radisson hotel which was very big and fancy. It had a large boat inside the reception area. Our room was massive and it overlooked the pool. We then went for a walk on the beach and took some pics as the sunset. Our first experience of Goan beaches was pretty special. They had pretty big waves in the sea. There loads of dogs on the beach which was very sweet. We then went for dinner in a beach hut which became our regular haunt and spent round 920. After dinner I purchased a pair of 'ray bans' for 300 rupees which were nice.
On the Monday it was my 32nd birthday!! WOO WOO!! Rich gave me a birthday card which had Princess Margaret on it and a present for a hot air balloon ride. We went for our breakfast and I had a dosa- Indian food and pastries. The breakfast buffet was so big with so many options, usual stuff, different eggs, pancakes, waffles, all incredibly yummy. After breakfast we headed for the beach and we had a massage by peter in beach hut. It was one of the best massages we have ever had. There were loads of lookie lookie women on the beach selling jewellery and sarongs. I got myself an anklet for 230 with green stones on. After we were suitably toasted for a while we went and sat by the pool for a while and I finished more of my book. I knew we had to be ready for 6.30 to go out so we went up to the room to get ready. When we were ready Rich suggested we take pics on the balcony before we headed out. He was taking some photos of me and we did a few selfies. He seemed a bit edgy like he wanted to go out so I went to go inside but he put his hand out for me to stay there and then went to go down on one knee. I was super shocked when I realised what he was about to do. He then asked me to marry him. I said of course I will and kissed him and then he presented me with a beautiful ring. We then went to Fisherman wharf which was a lovely seafood restaurant and we sat by the river and ordered a red snapper and two prawns and some cocktails. This was one of our most lavish dinners and quite rightly so at 4000. It was such a special and lovely evening. We got the door man to talk a pic but he seemed to struggle so the taxi driver stepped in and took one. We headed back to the hotel and a bird pooped on rich, he was not happy but it was amusing. Its good luck, right J
On the Tues I had waffles and poached eggs for breakfast. We then decided to sit by the pool but it was really hot so frequent dips in the pool was needed. My sunglasses got broke for a second time L we went to room for an hr and half and Rich fell asleep. After we walked to beach and sat for a bit and walked to an idyllic and deserted beach and some dogs followed us. Rich went to write in the sand will you marry me but a dog was getting in his way. Rich had planned on proposing on the beach on my bday but he couldn't pull me away from the sun lounger so we re-enacted the other proposal, it was funny! We then went back to our favourite beach hut and had fish curry and veg pakora. It's worth mentioning we went to one beach huts a few nights as most were pulled down as it was end of season. The boy who worked there liked to come and talk to us. Basically Goa was Russian's favourite holiday destination. We went back to our room and packed up, our room was very chilly with the aircon and we watched the film 8 below.
On Wed we got a taxi which cost 1100 rupee to our next hotel. It was called the Fern Beira Mar Resort Huts. This was a very different hotel and was huts set on some lovely ground near the beach. It had a small pool as well. On the beach I ended up getting a bracelet for 200 and agreed to paint my nails for 600 but it was a rubbish job and rich had to tidy them up. Whilst I was getting my nails done, loads of women turned up and made me feel bad for not buying stuff from them. It's horrible, you try and support them and they all want it. We had some lunch down by the beach, if you bought lunch with them you could use the sun loungers. That night we stayed in the hotel and had dinner by the pool. We had a lovely waiter called Frank who served us every night we were there. We watched Shutter island
Thursday was a beach day. The breakfast paled in comparison to the Radisson. There wasn't much of a selection. As part of our stay we had a complimentary foot massage which was very nice. The hawkers were back with a vengeance but Rich put them firmly in their place and told them to leave us alone. Again we had dinner by the pool.
Friday was our last full day in India L we had a full body massage- which was 1500 and they finished by putting us in a tiny steam room but I got a bit claustrophobic so had to open the door a little. We enjoyed our last day sunbathing as I always love getting the sun. At lunch we fed the dog and her pup some scraps. For dinner we had the recommended fish as Frank kept saying how good it was. Sadly it wasn't as good as we hoped for. We took a pic with the man Frank and he gave me his email address to send him a copy.
Sat and it was time for the long journey home L we had a quick breakfast and then headed to catch our flight to Delhi. We couldn't get into the terminal until 3-6 hrs before flight so we decided to book a hotel nearby as we had a good 12 hours to kill. We stayed at the Breeze Inn, it was very basic but fine for the time. Luckily they had a restaurant downstairs so we went down and had a lovely last meal which made up for a relatively poor one the night before.
At the hotel we did our standard buy of magnets for 330 rupees and we had a Mc D's to finish off our trip which was around 685 rupees. It was a little spicier then back home. All in all India was a magnificent holiday and was so special for so many reasons. We spent around £1300 each which was very reasonable for being away for a good 17 days.