Final India Itinerary

“Welcome to India” Tour – November 2012

Final Itinerary

 

Official start of the tour on November 1st

Day 1:

We gathered in the lobby of the Hotel City Heights in Pahar Ganj, Delhi

Piling into two vans, we drove to Old Delhi to visit…

–                    Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque)

–                    Chandni Chowk (main market area)

–                    Lunch at the famous, 130 year old parantha restaurant

–                    Gurdwara Sisganj Sikh Temple

–                    Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi

Rooftop dinner in Pahar Ganj with Indian food and live sitar/table music

Day 2:

Walked over to Connaught Place area and hopped on the metro

Visito the Lotus Temple, aka “Baha’i House of Worship”

Metro back to Connaught Place for lunch at the famous Nizams (kathi kebabs)

Back on the metro for the ride to Akshardham

Two hour visit to Akshardham Temple and Cultural Centre

Ice cream and other desserts at Nirula’s in Connaught Place

Day 3:

Free time in the morning and afternoon

Transportation from Hotel to Hazrat Nizammudin Train Station in New Delhi

Our train – the Golden Temple Mail Express – was delayed one hour

Took the overnight train to Amritsar – 10.5 hour journey

Met some locals, listened to some snoring, shook our heads at the chai vendors screaming in the middle of the night and some members of the group were given marriage offers

Day 4:

Arrive at Amritsar at 6.30am

Early morning auto rickshaw ride to the Hotel Golden Heritage

Checked into rooms and went straight out (most of us anyway) for a stuffed parantha breakfast

Visited the Golden Temple, wandering around for a couple of hours while eating a free meal of dhal, veg curry, sweet rice and chapati at the longar (pilgrimage dining hall)

Met up at 3pm for the taxi ride to Wagah, the border town between India and Pakistan

After Huong and Tamara were finished dancing, we watched the bizarre border ceremony

Took a taxi back to the hotel and were met by Nitesh, the local guide I had miscommunicated with

Went back to the Golden Temple for an evening visit

Day 5:

Met in the hotel lobby at 8.30am

Took an auto rickshaw ride to the Amritsar bus station

Found a local bus going to the town of Pathankot (3.5 hours)

Ate a basic lunch at the Pathankot bus station

Took a taxi van from Pathankot to Upper Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj (3 hours)

Checked into the Pink House Guesthouse, enjoyed a cup of Kashmiri tea and a view of the Himalayan Mountains from the rooftop

Evening wander around town for a general orientation

Dinner at Tibetan Yak Restaurant (thukpa, thentuk and momos)

Day 6:

Free time in the morning

Group met in front of Gyaki Restaurant

Walked down to the Dalai Lama’s Temple and spent some time inside

Walked the circuit around the Temple and the Dalai Lama’s house, passing the prayer wheels, stupas and prayer flags

Ate a late lunch at Norling Restaurant in the center of town

Free time in the late afternoon/early evening

Beer, shisha, food, chatting at Xcite Bar (rooftop in the main square of McLeod Ganj)

Day 7:

Leaving in the morning, we walked from McLeod Ganj to the nearby village of Bhagsu

We then climbed up to the Bhagsu Waterfall for a rest, followed by a climb up to Shiva Cafe

Ridiculous hike around the mountains behind Bhagsu and Dharamkhot villages, getting lost and climbing ever so higher every time I thought we were done climbing

Eventually arrived at the end of the trail in Dharamkot

Walked back down to McLeod Ganj through the monkey filled forests

Well-deserved feat at Tibetan Yak Restaurant followed by plenty of Tibetan Specials

Day 8:

Late morning Tibetan cooking class at Sangye’s Kitchen

Our visit to the Norbulingka Institute was cancelled as the town shut down in protest after the self-immolation of several Tibetans in Chinese-occupied Tibet

Free time in the afternoon

Indian and Western dinner at Carpe Diem Restaurant

More drinks and shisha at Xcite bar

Day 9:

Morning visit to the Norbulingka Institute in Lower Dharamsala

Free time in the afteroon

Overnight bus to Rishikesh, departing McLeod at 7.30pm (12 hour journey)

Day 10:

Early morning arrival in Rishikesh, auto rickshaw ride to Nigah Guesthouse in Laxman Jhula area

Late morning/early afternoon (half asleep) walk around Laxman Jhula, Swarg Ashram and central Rishikesh areas with our local guide Amit

Lunch at a Rajasthani Restaurant near the main market

Afternoon rest

Day 11:

Morning visit to the main temple/ashram on the banks of the Ganges

Wander along the quiet road to the spot along the banks of the Ganges where it’s possible to go for a dip in the water

Nice rest at this location

Two hours of free time in the early afternoon

Walk from hotel over to Swarg Ashram area for the evening puja (ceremony/offering) on the Ganges in front of the Parnath Niketan Ashram

Walk back to Laxman Jhula area for dinner at New Lucky Restaurant

Day 12:

Morning free time

Afternoon taxi to Haridwar, one of the holiest Hindu cities in India

Walk along the ghats and through the town before taking our seats at the main Har-ki-Pauri ghat to watch local devotees worship the gods by the Ganges River

Very crowded rickshaw ride back to Rishikesh

Dinner at JGB Dhaba Restaurant

Day 13:

Departed Haridwar at 6.30am for the long drive  to Agra

Stopped at Shahpur village (Ajay’s home village) for lunch, a wander, chai and some illness-inducing palak and buttermilk

Some vomitting and other fun stuff

Continued to Agra with stop in Delhi to drop off Huong, Shannon and Liz

Several more stops to accommodate the desperate needs of all those who got sick

Arrived at Hotel Dawat Palace in Agra around 7.30pm

Walked down the street and had dinner at a random restaurant that was okay

Day 14:

With Anil and I confined to our room, you all went for a late morning trip to the cinema with Bhudi to watch a Hindi film

And then you all went for an afternoon/evening visit to Taj Mahal

And then you all ate what sounded like a very good meal at the restaurant next to the hotel

Day 15:

Early 6am departure for the drive to Bundi

Stopover at Abahaneri to view the 1000 year old well and ruins

Continued the journey along poor roads, arriving in Bundi at 5.30pm

Quick walk through town

Dinner on the rooftop of our guesthouse – Shivam Guesthouse

Bhang lassis for some, Delhi belly for others and just plain old sleep for the rest

Day 16:

Wandered around the impressive Bundi Palace in the morning

Free time to roam the lanes of Old Bundi

Lunch for some at the Rainbow Terrace Rooftop Cafe

Some of us met at 3pm for the walk up to the Fort on top of the mountain

Walked around the fort walls, through the tall grass, into the temples and shrines and got lost in the thicket, while being nicked by massive thorns, for an hour and a half

Found a suitable spot on the wall to watch the early stages of sunset but decided to return to the bottom of the mountain when the nearby clan of monkeys began mobilizing their units for an orchestrated attack on us helpless foreigners

Hiked back down the mountain with minimal monkey encounters, led by Leah and her ridiculous stick and protected by Matt at the back of the group, who really just took photos when he should have been fending off the violent monkey enemy

Dinner on the rooftop of our guesthouse – Shivam Guesthouse

Day 17:

Free time in the morning before a 12pm departure for Udaipur

Stopover at Chittorgarh to see the Chittorgarh Fort, India’s largest fort that dates back to the 7th century

Visited the Victory Tower, the holy lake, the Chamba Palace and Mada Temple

Ate a local lunch at a small restaurant at the foot of the mountain

Continued the drive to Udaipur, arriving at our hotel – Poonam Haveli – around 7.30pm

Quick rooftop beer before going to sleep

Day 18:

Morning orientation wander around Udaipur, walking through the Lal Ghat, Hanuman Ghat and Jagdish Temple areas before crossing Lake Pichola on the foot bridge and wandering around the neighborhood on the other side

Lunch at the Biriyani House – Tandoori Chicken and Biriyani meals

Afternoon free time

Gathering on the rooftop of our hotel complete with Indian food, vodka and whiskey

Day 19:

Free time in the morning

Lunch at the famous Natraj Lodge (thali-style lunch) – everyone struggled to eat after the drinking the night before

Afternoon rickshaw ride to the Monsoon Palace entrance

We all piled into a jeep for the ride up the mountain to the actual palace

Spent 1.5 hours at the palace in order to enjoy the views and catch the sunset

Return ride back to Udaipur and a good dinner at the Lake View Restaurant where we moved tables due to the smell of urine that some people did not enjoy

Day 20-  Traveled to Ahmedabad by  bus to meet the software developer (Vishal) I work with.  I met his tream and he took me out to dinner

Day 21-  Spent the day touring Ahmedabad with Vishal. He took me to hindu temple.  I had lunch at his home with his family.  His father gave me a beautiful cotton scarf.

Day 22- Traveled to Mumbai by overnight bus.

Day 23-  Toured Mumbai and took an early morning flight to Istanbu

 

 

And just like that, the tour came to an end…

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Going to a funeral at an Armenian church in Istanbul

My Armenian FriendBlue MosqueThe Thailand, India, and Istanbul road trip is coming to an end.  My interactions with the local people have been the highlight of the trip.  The pictures are of George my Armenian friend and The Blue Mosque.

I traveled India with a blogger named Anil.  He runs a site called http://www.foxnomad.com.  He is a true world historian and has Turkish and US citizenship.  He recommended going to a specific Armenian church in Istanbul.  I looked into getting a cab but didn’t want to foot the 35 lira.  I got within a mile or two of the church before I realized I had run out of money on my public transport card.  I looked sad enough that a German exchange student named simone offered to pay my bus fare with his card but we couldn’t figure out which bus to take.  Now the adventure begins…  I start walking and snacking.  Every pound I lost in India I is back on!  The street food is the best.  Mussels stuffied with rice, Simit (a bread rolled in sesame seads), roasted chestnuts, honey dipped and fried pastry, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice,  corn cooked over charcoal.  I think I get close to the Armenian church and i ask directions once.  Still can’t find it.  Twice.  Still can’t find it.  I asked about 6 people and have not yet found the church.  However, I am feeling cocky because everyone seems to allude that said phantom church actually exists.  I stop at my 6’th food vendor and George (pictured) arrives on the scene.  He is selling bread from a mobile food court.  He knows zero english-seems to know about the church-and points me in a vague direction.  After about 100 yards someone taps on my backpack.  It’s George.  He abandoned his food cart and is helping me find the church.  We walk for another 15 minutes together.  I gather that he is Armenain which I am guessing has partially prompted this random act of kindness.  We arrive at a beautiful small pink/coral colored Armenian church.  For the record I do not think that this is the church that I started out looking for.  George has a rather enthusiastic and heated discussuion with the church administrator.  The church administrator reluctantly lets the two of us in.  I enter the church and kind of register that people are seated.  I am too busy looking at the altar, paintings, design to pay much attention.  I wander around the church for about 15 minutes before I start taking in the people and the object in the aisle.  Wait for it, Wait for it- a coffin.  George is now talking with the widow and pointing at me.  I stare at the Exit door and am pondering a mad dash out of the Church.  I’m slow but I can definitely outrun George and the widow.  I sheepishly walk towards the widow.  She asks if I am American.  I say yes and she talks with me for about 10 minutes right in the midst of her husbands funeral.  She apologizes for not being “herself”.  I offer my condolences and give her a hug.  George than proceeds to give me another 1 hour tour of his part of the city.  George and I wave goodbye and he is back to his abandoned food cart.  Blue Mosque is wonderful but an Armenian funeral in Istanbul is way more interesting…

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India & Pakistan Border Ceremony

India and Pakistan Border CeremonyI traveled to the city of Amitsar, India.   Pakistan and India have frosty relations and still a bit of fighting near the province of Kashimr.  I was in Amitsar where they are trading freely.  Every evening there is an India/Pakistan border ceremony.  In this picture you see Indian soldiers and then about 100 yards away you see the border between Pakistan and India.  You can see the Pakistan flag in the background.  It is about an hour long nightly ceremony where each country competes against one another.  Who can be loudest, who can dance more in the streets, etc..  It ends with an Indian and Pakistan soldier engaging in a high stepping ceremonial march that ends with the border gates opening.  The two  soldiers march agressively toward each other and they finally veer away when they are within a few feet of each other.  At this point, the border gate closes and the ceremony ends.   It is quite clear that this ceremony is staged and that the two countries have spent a considerable amount of time choreographing the evening event.  It was surreal.  The Inidia soldiers seated me in the first row.  They clearly wanted foreigners to witness this event. Could you ever imagine the U.S. and the Soviet Union  staging such a ceremony?

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Elephant safari

Elephant SafariGuest House

Elephant Safari-  After the volunteer stint ended at Baan Dada I stayed at a beautiful guest house on a lake.  I went on a side trip that featured an elephant ride through the jungle and went down a river in a bamboo raft.  The guest house was stunning and overlooked the lake.

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Internet Issues

At the places I have been staying the Internet connections are very slow.  Not sure how much more posting I can do.  Bummer…

 

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Snakes-Rats-Bugs-Scorpions-Tarantulas

Baan Dada is known as the “Jungle Children’s Home”  I arrived to the home at dusk and had dinner with the head of volunteers-Dave.   The volunteer accomadations are about 100 yards behind the main house.  You have to walk down a narrow footpath to get to the volunteer house.  The walk was made in pitch black.  Here is how the conversation went

“Hey Dave, does anything out here bite?”

“You mean besides the snakes, rats, scorpions, and spiders?”

At this point it is pitch black on the trail.  I walk another 10 feet and almost had a heart attack.  I thought it was a 4 foot snake lying across the trail.  It was a rubber hose used for irrigation.

‘Hey Dave, the house is safe- RIGHT?”

“Ummm… In the past month we have had 2 snakes swim up the plumbing and enter the bathroom through the toilet”

I survived the night with one eye open and was hoping if I had an issue Rikki Tikki Tavi would arrive on the scene.

Next morning I spoke with the house nurse who is an American.  She rented a cheap house about 15 minutes from Baan Dada.

“Hey Nancy-how do you like living in your new rental?”

“Do you mean besides the tarantula that is the size of my fist?

“Huh”

“Oh yeah, about a week ago a tarantula took up residence a few feet from the toilet.  I named her “Betty’.  She hasn’t moved as of yet but I do pay attention when using the facilities…”

 

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Hurricane

Everyone surviving the Hurricane?

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This Is How I Was Greeted At The Children's Home

Baan Dada-  www.baandada.org  I am volunteering at an childrens home that is about 6 hours north of Bangkok.  Pachuka (pictured) greeted me at the gate to Baan Dada…  It is located right near the Burmese border and three pagodas pass in a beautiful mountainside town called Sangkhlaburi http://wikitravel.org/en/Sangkhlaburi  I am volunteering for about 4 days and my job is to chaperone a camping retreat for the kids.  Think of a boys or girl scout camp.  It is a childrens home rather than an orphanage because none of the children will be adopted.  They won’t be adopted for 2 basic reasons.  First is that there parents are still in the area and occasionally visit them (think how hard that must be…)   Secondly a majority of the children are in Thailand illegally and have no papers.  Their parents illegally crossed the burmese/thai border because they were being persecuted by the Burmese authorities.   They are of a minority ethnic group called KAREN.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_people

The founders of Baan Dada are Neohumanists.   No Drinking, Garlic, Onion, Smoking, and are Vegetarians.

NEOHUMANIST FOUNDATION

The Neo-Humanist Foundation is a non-profit social service organization registered with the Thai Ministry of Social Welfare. Its aims are to contribute to sustainable development of the individual, the community and the environment. The Neo-Humanist Foundation is inspired by the philosophy of Neohumanism as propounded by the philosopher and visionary Shrii P. R. Sarkar in India.

The staff of the Neo-Humanist Foundation are dedicated full time volunteers who work for specific projects. Other local and international temporary volunteers contribute to the project’s development. “All that humans see externally in multiplicity is intrinsically One. Here all blades of grass, wood and stone, all things are One. This is the deepest truth.” -Meister Eckhart

 

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Thai Nuclear Research…

Thai Nuclear Research- Scary....

Nuclear Research-  Not sure is you can read this but it is a nuclear research center in a decrepit building.  Scary…Thai Nuclear Research

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Lonngboat Ride Along The River In Bangkok

Longboat Tours-  I took the bus from Tooms house to the pier and traveled the river to downtown Bangkok in a longboat.  The suckers look slow but they have these chevy 350 outboards with a tiller they control by hand.  The river is teaming with fish and I mean big ones-10-20 lbs.

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