The long drive to Jaipur and Diwali

Happy Diwali

Today is a big festival in India. Celebrated by Hindus, it is the Festival of Lights to honor Rama-Chandra and a magical time to celebrate with loved ones. As they say, “May your life be as colorful, magnificent, shimmering and magical as the lights from the lamps.” So, Happy Diwali…

Decorations at hotel

This morning, we had another lovely breakfast in Delhi, then set off on our van to Jaipur at 10:30. After the crush of traffic we have experienced, we were amazed to see almost empty boulevards as we were leaving. Holiday and weekday traffic must start later, which made our departure effortless.

Jaipur is about 233 km away, but the “highway” is pot holed and not marked very clearly with lines. We weaved around wandering cows, pigs, monkeys, not to mention the scooters, motorbikes, auto-rickshaws, the occasional dog and slow moving people. There were small towns with markets selling fruits and vegetables and long stems of sugar cane, carried or held on their motorbikes as part of the holiday celebration. The folks didn’t seem to notice that vehicles were trying to pass by on the road.

Along the roadside were hundreds of large trucks, waiting until after 8:00 PM to enter the cities for deliveries. As we were traveling around Dehli, with the throng of cars, buses, motorcycles and auto-rickshaws, we noticed that there were no trucks. It seems that truck traffic is relegated to between 8:00 PM to 9:00 AM, to cut the already unbelievable congestion on city streets. Not a bad idea for any large city.

The poverty was pretty evident, with some people living is tarp-covered shacks. In the middle of a huge field was a JW Marriott started and abandoned in early Taj Mahal style. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of it. Amazing! By the way, did I mention that even the lowliest bathroom stalls for women (not sure about the amenities for men) included a bidet? So civilized.

Fireworks at hotel

We are checked in to a Four Points Sheraton in Jaipur, also called the Pink City. After the palatial Le Meridien in Delhi, this hotel is a little disappointing. It is still very nice, just not as opulent. The staff was very helpful.

Before dinner, we lit sparklers and there were fireworks all around Jaipur. Very festive… Buffet dinner, then off to bed.

Full Day in Dehli…

After, we met the rest of our small group (seven plus guide), we headed to old Dehli, in an amazing jumble of tour buses, cars, motor bikes, bicycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws (motor bike drawn).

Typical road sign in Hindi, English, Punjab and Arabic

If you think driving in Guadalajara is scary, try driving in Dehli. The national pastime is honking your horn incessantly and cutting in front of other vehicles with literally millimeters to spare. Surprisingly, we saw no accidents, but almost every vehicle had scratched bumpers. No surprise, actually.

 

Our rickshaw

We went in rickshaws in groups of two to check out the area. Our driver maneuvered through the incredibly narrow streets, seeing the spaghetti of electrical wires and the piles of garbage that they were struggling to clean in time for the national holiday tomorrow, the holiday of lights. Jim couldn’t stop saying, “Oh, my!” at every turn.

Electrical wires

 

 

We survived and headed to a park area that holds Ghandi’s cremation remains.  All Indians come for a visit at some point. It was very moving.

Ghandi’s Grave

 

 

 

We went to a shop to learn about silk and Kashmere hand knotted rugs. It was very informative and they even gave us lunch.

How the rugs are made

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snake charmer

 

We passed a snake charmer, with his cobra. It was a nice diversion, but we didn’t stay long. Our next stop was to the ruins of a group of temples, including a huge mosque and the largest brick minaret in India (or possibly largest in the world). The invading Muslims erased any vestige of Hindu god representations on the columns before the mosque itself was invaded from the 12th century.

Unique columns

Back to the hotel for a little rest, then went to the home of a lovely couple for dinner. Rashmi and her husband, Anil, have lived all over the world, but Indian cooking is her passion. She made a delicious potato dish with us, then served it, along with several traditional northern Indian dishes. They invite guests from Smartours to their home, sometimes several times a week. With our small group, we were able to sit around after dinner to get some insight into Indian life.

It has been a long day. Sleep will be welcome, particularly since we leave for Jaipur in the morning and it is almost seven hours away with stops.

Rashmi with finished potato dish
Potato recipe

Arrival in Dehli

The drive from New Jersey took a quick hour, surprisingly. We figured Monday morning traffic would make it as much as two hours, so we now had four hours to kill before our departure. No worries, because we found that we didn’t print off the final approved visa for India. No visa, no trip! Fortunately, a lovely person with Air India allowed us to use her computer and we were able to print the visa.

Next, you have to go throw a huge serpentine line to get through security. Now, we were only two hours ahead of departure. Our boarding time was one and a half hours prior to the flight, probably due to the many wheelchair passengers and families with children. It was a large plane and almost totally filled.

The plane itself was a little shabby, I thought. The flight attendants were a little surly, too. But, I guess accommodating three hundred passengers for eleven and a half hours can get a bit crazy. We slept a bit, too. I think we will have a little melt down once we get settled in our hotel.

Our guide, Ravi, has worked for Smartours for 21 years and seems very knowledgeable. The groups can be as large as 35 people. Our group consists of only seven of us. There is a couple from Las Vegas and a family of three. The parents live in Florida and their adult son lives in Flagstaff, AZ. We were all on the same plane. Our 15 passenger van will be home throughout most of India.

As we drive in, the traffic is nuts. Cars and trucks fight for space with motorcycles, as they all weave on and out of lanes. Lots of honking, too. We pass many embassies and park-like areas, which are very prominent. Dehli is a very green city. All the buses are powered by natural gas and despite what we heard about pollution, it doesn’t appear to be a problem, as it was in Beijing and Shanghai. Oh, and there are cows wandering around and hundreds of monkeys all along the way.

The Presidential Palace, as well as the government buildings are very impressive. Finally made it to our hotel, Le Meridien, near the center of a Dehli. It is an exquisite hotel. The room is lovely and it has a huge tub. Love that! It also has a bidet, just like the airport bathroom. Very European and civilized.

Our breakfast is included, but we were a bit hungry. The dinner buffet was the equivalent of $38 US and the sit down restaurant even more. We went into the bar and had two local Quicksilver beers and shared two sandwiches. Still, it was $50 for our snack. The taxes on the meal were 38%! Yikes! Off to bed.

Tomorrow is a big holiday in India, New Year’s. There will be lots of celebrations, which is why the plane was full. Folks were going back to be with family.

Here we are in beautiful New Jersey

 

We arrived on Friday via DFW to Newark for a three day visit before we leave on Monday for India. Sally and Robert have been friends since 1972, when we all lived in married student housing at the University of Denver. My, how the time flies!

They are the type of friends that you see sporadically, but it feels like yesterday. So, under cloudy skies, we are heading out for the day. At least it is not raining and the temps are good. Tomorrow, a day in Princeton to see the sculpture gardens.

…We are back from the gardens and they were indeed amazing. The main sculptor was Seward Johnson, but there were pieces from many others, including Red Grooms. Johnson is famous for his lifelike metal representations of ordinary people. Some were subtle and others of immense proportions. The photos give you an idea, although I have about fifty more. Although the sun never made its appearance, the day was perfect, with lots of walking.

After two nights of dinners at the house, we went out for a lovely Italian meal in Westfield. You bing your own wine, so two bottles later, we were ready to play Bridge again, after reintroducing the game to our friends after over forty years! And they just picked it up where they left off. Great fun!

A little laundry, organizing our items for the trip and off we go in the morning.

Getting Ready to Leave for India and Nepal

Only a few more days and we are on our way to the most exotic trip I have ever taken – to India and Nepal. There is so much to see, but I know that the two weeks will fly by.
Friday, October 13, we leave for New Jersey, where we will stay with very old friends who live not from the Newark Airport, where we arrive. Our flight to New Delhi departs from JFK, so they have kindly offered to take us there on Monday, October 16. The flights to JFK from Guadalajara were god-awful, arriving just after midnight and our flight isn’t until 3:00 PM. So, this side trip will be not only fun, but much easier.
From everyone who has been to India, the reviews have been that it was incredible, a trip of a lifetime, sometimes dirty and there is poverty, but what we will experience will be amazing. I also was told that the shopping is amazing, so I am taking older clothes, with the prospect of leaving the there and buying new things. Yippee!
I would love to travel with only a carry-on, but then you can’t take liquids and it becomes so confining. I just returned from four days in Phoenix, with only a carry-on bag and boy, was it liberating! Too bad I can’t make that work for two weeks.
I will be posting daily, hopefully with pictures of the various places we will be visiting. This blog is not just for friends, but for us, to remind ourselves of the experiences we will be enjoying.
Feel free to write to us with questions or comments. Here is a link to see the cities where we are traveling. You can enlarge it to get a better view of where we will be.
https://www.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm?user=helenacf