Goa-Jaipur-Agra-New Delhi-Varanasi

It’s been a crazy bunch of days and nights of travel.  We took a 2 hour taxi ride to the Vasco de Gama Airport in Goa from where we flew to Jaipur via Ahmedabad.  We stayed for night in Jaipur and took a look at the ‘pink city’, as it’s called, throughout the next day.  The following are pics of our visit to Jaipur’s maharaja’s palace, the ‘floating palace’, and to a few shops.  Other pics are of street scenes including the ever-present wandering cows.

 

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We left Jaipur for Agra on a night bus which we were told would arrive in Agra at 5:30 a.m.  Instead, we arrived at 2:30 a.m. so had to get off the bus at a random street corner, make some calls to hotels listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook and then find our way via rickshaw to a hotel we found near the Taj Mahal.  I slept for about 3 hours before getting up at sunrise to see the Taj Mahal materialize from the fog at daybreak.  Our hotel had a rooftop from which we could view this world-famous building.  After breakfast, we spent the morning visiting the Taj, an unforgettable experience.

 

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We had arranged to take a taxi from Agra to New Delhi from where we’d take a night train to Varanasi.  The taxi ride to New Delhi was the usual bobbing, weaving, honking, braking, swerving bumper-to-bumper madness which characterizes much of the driving that happens in India.  We made the approximately 240 kilometres in about 5 hours which included one flat tire repair and one stop for fuel and chai (milk tea) along the way.  At these stops, we were quite the spectacle for the local people.

 

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In New Delhi, we boarded the crowded train and settled into our fold-down ‘beds’ for the overnight journey to the holy city of Varanasi.

 

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Sunsets on the beach

At Palolem Beach in Goa, we rented two cute cottages for 900 rupees each per night (about $18 Cdn). They are nestled in the palms on the beach.

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Here’s the beach restaurant we ate most meals at and used the wifi (when it was working).

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Goa’s beaches face west so a day in the sun ends with a perfect sunset.  Beautiful!

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Goan to the beach

We arrived in Goa at 4:30 a.m., having survived a 9 hour ride on a sleeper bus.  The bus actually had beds instead of seats.  Each compartment of two (narrow) beds had curtains to close so that you could have privacy in your sleeping cocoon.  In the picture below, the kids are sitting in one double bed and Mary-Anna (in the whitish pants) is sitting in the bunk above.  It was a pretty cool experience.  Thankfully, I was the only one from our family who noticed that the bus also hosted quite a few cockroaches who certainly weren’t asleep during the night.  Bugs like cockroaches have become somewhat commonplace to us and we have learned to keep all bags and packs zipped shut so that we don’t carry any stowaway vermin with us to our next destination.

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Rather sleepy, we were dropped off in a town which we knew was about 2 kilometres from the beach.  We didn’t know, however, which way we should walk to get to the beach.  Thankfully, our trusty compass showed us which direction was west so we headed that way.  We stopped at an open-air  restaurant to ask for directions and ended up staying for breakfast.  Yes, there were a few large cockroaches crawling on the floor but one of the waiters swept them outside the open door.  Problem solved..

Goa, a former Portuguese colony, is India’s smallest state.  It’s located on India’s west coast and is home to some of the world’s finest beaches.  Northern Goa was a hippy hangout in the ‘60s and ‘70s and is still home to remnants of this era.  Today, northern Goa continues is a major party destination for the backpacking crowd. 

We opted for the quieter and more serene southern beaches of Goa.  Palolem Beach, where we settled into two huts, is known as one of the last quiet and undeveloped beaches in the state.  By undeveloped, it means that accommodations are still the rather spartan beach huts nestled in between the palms and restaurants consist of amazing foods created in a bamboo-walled kitchen and served on bamboo furniture on the beach sand.  Sun worshippers share the beach with fishing boats which supply the restaurants and local markets with fresh seafood daily.   Thankfully, the large hotel chains have not yet invaded this crescent of sand, surf, and palms.

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We took a fishing boat out into the ocean to watch dolphins.  The boat had an outrigger to keep the boat in balance.  That was a cool experience.

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These eyes

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau

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“Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.” – W. Eugene Smith

Hampi rocks

Other than the amazing temples and ruins in and around Hampi (it’s a designated UNESCO Heritage Site), it’s the landscape of massive boulders piled on top of each other that sets this place apart.  Some of these rocks seemed perched so precariously that you’d think you see them shift and roll.  They’ve been this way, however, forever.

 

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Aaron’s temple paparazzi

“Your son is so cute.  He is so perfect, so beautiful.”  Being a blonde boy, Aaron gets a lot of attention, especially from the Indian women.  He’s had his cheeks pinched in adoration countless times.  In several of Hampi’s temples, Indian women asked to have their pictures taken with him.  Star status is such a burden.  Smile

 

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Snake charmer

We saw a snake charmer working with 3 cobras.  They would rise up, hoods flared and weave back and forth while he played his flute.  Sometimes, the snakes would strike at him, making a loud hissing sound.  They wouldn’t actually attack him, but the strikes were lightning fast and startling to those watching.  Yup, the scene was just like in the movies.

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Hampi

Hampi is a town located where once stood the capital city, then known as Vijayanagara, of one of the world’s greatest civilizations.  For some historians, it was as significant as ancient Rome.

 

As an aside, it’s disappointing that our Canadian schools don’t spend more time studying ancient Asian civilizations.  The ancients which we do focus on primarily, Greece and Rome, are not the only great civilizations as a whole (if this was the case, we’d also study cultures such as Minoan, Byzantine, Ottoman, Saladin, Mongol, and Persian to name but a few that influenced Europe and the Middle East) so much as that they were the first significant foundations for modern democracy.  When considering cultural markers such as the arts, ancient Rome and Greece are not the most dominant on the stage of world history.

 

Ancient Vijayanagara was a well fortified city, having seven concentric defense walls.  Within its walls stood numerous temples, markets, palaces, and places for the performing arts.  One temple was constructed with hundreds of pillars which, when struck, would each produce a unique tone, thereby allowing music to be performed using the actual structure of the building.  Other engineering feats include a water and waste system throughout the city and the use of sunlight to light up dark temple recesses using the reflective properties of water.

 

Today, in spite of the abilities of modern engineering, we had to cross the Tungabhadra River using a small ferry boat.  This boat, also used to ferry motorbikes from shore to shore, would leave for the other side when enough people were waiting in order to warrant the crossing.  To get to the river itself, we had to make our way past grazing water buffalo and then climb over and around boulders to the water’s edge.

 

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As mentioned in the previous post, we stayed in huts overlooking rice paddies.  Each hut has a porch bed/swing which got a lot of workout from Aaron in particular.

 

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In the small ‘restaurant’, where you sit on mattresses around low tables, we had a great breakfast of fresh fruit juice (pictured are pineapple, mango, watermelon, and grape) and had the likes of cinnamon porridge, a great taste of ‘home’.

 

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