I've bragged, I've blagged, but never before had I blogged - until I discovered TravelBlog!
If you dream of travelling the globe on less than five quid a day, be warned: I'm an experienced, mature traveller - not a backpacker. So, you won't find stories here about me thumbing my way across the Sahara, slumming it in cockroach-infested hostels, or sharing a room with giant mosquitoes.
More my style are self-drive cars (or, better still, chauffeur-driven ones), first-class sleeper trains, and comfortable hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, holiday cottages, villas or apartments. Having said that, I'm not made of money, so good value in everything is important, and I'll try to include things in my blogs which even a traveller on the meanest budget may find useful.
Oh, and I'm British - so you can expect a stiff upper lip in times of adversity and a sense of humour that's often not understood by others.
March 13th 2013
It's a long drive from Mcleod Ganj to Amritsar, so we'd decided to stop for a night at Pong on the way. No, it's not 'Pong' the other half of 'Ping'. Nor 'Pong' the arcade video game. Not even 'pong' the disagreeable or offensive smell (although that's fairly close to the truth). I'm talking Pong the reservoir! There's only one hotel. It turned out to be a carbuncle on the landscape with basic rooms, terrible food, dire management and a website that miserably failed to tell it how it was. The view from the roof was lovely. The boat ride on the reservoir was awful. I thought about ending this blog right here, but you want to know more about why we didn't think much of Pong, don't you? So... First, a confession. It was me ... read more
March 12th 2013
I had hoped that some day I might see Tibet, the roof of the world. However, until China returns the country to its rightful owners and stops brutalising its people and destroying its traditions, I'll make do with Tibet in exile. Mike Fossey, March 2013 In March of 1959, after an epic journey on foot over the Himalayas, Tibet's spiritual leader, Tenzin Gyatso - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, crossed through the Khenzimana Pass into India. Days earlier, in Tibet's capital Lhasa, the people had risen up against Communist China's occupation of their country for the past eight years. The uprising was brutally put down. The tiny Tibetan army was outnumbered and out-gunned. More than 85,000 were said to have been killed. Those members of the Dalai Lama's bodyguards who'd remained behin... read more
March 9th 2013
We'd spent yesterday amid the clamour and cacophony of Delhi's characterful monuments and charismatic markets (see ). At five o'clock this morning, a more different view could hardly be imagined. There was only the merest hint of daylight. There was a chill in the air. There were no buzzing tuk-tuks, no honking horns, not even a background hum of traffic. Apart from a dog barking somewhere in the distance, silence reigned. We were on our way out of chaotic Delhi. Despite the ungodly hour, one of the young men from our homestay kindly supervised arrival of our taxi and quickly installed our bags, some in its boot and the rest balanced precariously on its roof-rack. We sped through an almost deserted city, racing through red lights, crossing junctions without slowing down, not giving the handful of ... read more
March 6th 2013
As the protest march (see: ) was now north of Mathura on the AH1, we made a detour onto the Yamuna Expressway, a massive six-lane motorway opened just six months earlier. It was almost deserted and we scurried at previously unheard of speed towards Delhi. Possibly, as this was a new road, drivers weren't yet fully aware of it. Perhaps the tolls were too expensive for most. Or, maybe, as it starts in Uttar Pradesh and passes through the state of Haryana, albeit briefly, before reaching the National Capital Territory, its emptiness may have had something to do with separate vehicle taxes payable in each of the three states. Our driver, for example, had a Rajasthan-registered car with tax already paid in Uttar Pradesh. He didn't usually go as far north as Delhi and had been ... read more
March 5th 2013
To the south-east of Agra, in the city of Allahabad, a mass protest had begun about pollution of the Yamuna River. For years, industrial waste and sewage has been discharged into this river, the largest tributary of the sacred Ganges, from drains on the outskirts of Delhi far away to the north. It has become officially 'dead' by the time it runs beside the Taj Mahal in Agra. Now the masses were heading up to Delhi on foot to voice their concerns to parliament and doubtless to Delhi's Chief Minister herself, the appropriately-named Mrs Sheila Dikshit. By 'masses' I do mean masses! What had started off as 10,000 farmers, sadhus, union activists and members of religious and social groups had already swelled to many times that number. Yesterday morning, they blocked the Agra-Delhi highway with parked ... read more
March 4th 2013
Agra - grubby, overcrowded, totally tourist-oriented, 'want postcards?', 'need taxi sir?', hassle, hassle... It’s best to get in, see the sights and get out – as quickly as you can. Arrive around midday. In the afternoon, visit Agra Fort for a distant view of the Taj Mahal down by the Yamuna River, then the glorious ‘Baby Taj ’ (the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah), before taking in the sunset view of the Taj Mahal from across the river at Mehtab Bagh. If you still have any energy, complete your day with the Sound & Light performance back at the Red Fort. Before dawn next day, enjoy the highlight of your visit by joining the queue at the Taj Mahal to see the s... read more
March 3rd 2013
A week into our wildlife adventure and we still had another three days to go. What I'd hoped would be a leisurely ten days had so far turned out to be anything but! It had been a hive of activity, involving chilly early mornings and hot, sunny days in the open-air, with much hurtling around in jeeps or bumping along on cycle rickshaws. It had been exhausting, educational and exhilarating in almost equal quantities. Okay, I did get one lazy morning - but, boy, did I need it! Although a veteran of many places on our itinerary, the last two animal sanctuaries, Ranthambore () and Keoladeo (), were entirely new to me. While I won't hurry back to one of these, the other was fantastic! Now, we were off to a third, the Chambal National Sanctuary, ... read more
February 28th 2013
Okay, I know it's a corny title and I'm aware that a 'Bird of Paradise' doesn't exist here in Rajasthan*, but a man and his blog have to start somewhere! Today, we were making the long journey from a disappointing Ranthambore Tiger Reserve to the Keoladeo National Park and the promise of a paradise for birds and birders alike. However, unlike the , who have binoculars which cost a king's ransom and who put them to good use at the drop of a floppy beige hat, I am not a birder. Until I came on this holiday, I didn't know a Purple Swamphen from a White-eared Bulbul - but, as the nomads will tell you, I was keen to learn and to take pictures of them, providing they posed nicely! *The Asian Paradise-Flycatcher doesn't count! The ... read more
February 25th 2013
Warning! This blog contains negative comments! But first, here are some positive ones: We'd had a great time in , but were now on our way to ten days of tranquil wildlife safaris and bird-watching, starting with the well-known tiger reserve of Ranthambore (that's the negative bit, which comes later). On the way, we called in at the Monkey Temple, Galtaji, about 10 kilometres from Jaipur on the road towards Agra. This is not a well-trodden tourist site like most other places hereabouts. You'll be asked to make a tiny donation if you plan to use a camera and, for a few Rupees, you can buy some peanuts to feed the monkeys from the man at the entrance; he'll put them into little bags that he makes from old newspapers. You might find a snake charmer ... read more
February 23rd 2013
How many times have I been to this overcrowded, over-touristy city? How many times have I said I really don't need to go again? Too many times perhaps! You either love or hate its buzz, its teeming hoards, its chaotic traffic. Me? I love it. I always find new things to see and do here. Of course, the had never been here before, so they had to pack everything into the inadequate day and a half that our hectic itinerary allowed. We needed a plan. I knew what there was to see - but not the order in which to fit it into so little time. That's where the superior knowledge of our driver came in handy. Although he currently lives 400 kilometres away in Udaipur, Yadu is a native of this city and knows the ... read more