Mike Fossey

Keep Smiling

Mike Fossey

Once upon a time, I was something important in the UK travel industry, where I spent more than 35 years of my working life roaming the globe at someone else's expense. So, if you dream of living overseas on less than 10 Dollars a day, be warned: I'm an experienced, mature traveller - not a backpacker. 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!

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.

Keep Smiling!

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Jaisalmer February 8th 2018

Dry heat and bright sunshine at this time of year, when it's dark, cold and damp at home in Hertfordshire, do wonders for body and soul. My three-score-years-and-ten-plus-a-few drop away and I become a recycled teenager. I explore anew with a spring in my step, bounce in my friendly hotelier's jeep on long, straight military roads that lead to the Pakistan border, visit oases and simple settlements among desert sands, and search for ever-elusive Great Indian Bustards. Of course, I make time too for relaxation on my hotel's terrace with a glass of chilled Kingfisher, cool fresh lime soda or hot lemon tea while admiring views across flat rooftops and temple domes to a vast living fort that dominates the skyline beyond. I also meet my favourite family in a nearby musician's colony and take rice, ... read more
Typical Rajasthani puppets
Jaseri oasis
Climb aboard boys!

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Khichan February 4th 2018

Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?Sir David Attenborough Nowhere could this be more true than here at Khichan, near the little town of Phalodi in the hot, dry expanse of Rajasthan's Thar Desert. This gathering of thousands upon thousands of migratory Demoiselle Cranes, here to avoid freezing temperatures on the steppes of foreign lands far to the north beyond the Himalayan heights, remains a wonder to which I could happily return every year. The sight of such vast flocks of delicate, maiden-like birds with their plumage in shades of grey and white, bright red-brown eyes and guttural trumpeting 'krilll-krill' call is difficult to express in words. Suffice to say that this was my third ... read more
David and part of the flock in flight
Cranes at the village pond
A flock takes flight

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Bikaner February 2nd 2018

The alarm clocks sounded their merry chimes far too early. We’d have liked more time with our hospitable host, Raisal, and could easily have spent many more happy hours exploring his interesting little town. But, there's no rest for the wicked - and, with our combined age of 155 years, these two old farts had had plenty of time to be bad so, after a hurried breakfast, Santosh quickly ushered us to our car and we bid a reluctant farewell to Khandela. Off towards the Thar Desert we headed. An uneventful two-hour journey brought us via Sikar and Sujangarh to a long, flat, straight road with even more potholes and missing tarmac than usual. Thankfully, we only had to endure 5 kms (3 miles) of constant bouncing and zigzagging before we reached the entrance to the ... read more
One of the salt-pans at Tal Chhapar
Male blackbuck lekking

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Khandela February 1st 2018

Now here's somewhere for those who want to see the real Rajasthan, where time seems to have almost stood still since tourism gentrified most of this regal state's cities, forts and palaces. It was a breath of fresh air to enter an ancient town that was noticeably quieter and cleaner than most other small towns we'd visited, one that wasn't overflowing with shops devoted to tourist tat or fancy restaurants with international menus. Here we found people who were a little shy in the presence of camera-wielding visitors, who spoke only a few words of a language other than their own, who welcomed everyone with genuine curiosity, courtesy and smiles. So why had we come to this seemingly idyllic outpost 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Jaipur? Well, we'd come to visit the father of our ... read more
Castle Khandela
Khandela's main street
The greengrocer and his hash pipe

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Jaipur January 31st 2018

The sun had barely risen above the horizon as we bid 'Namaste' to Raju and boarded the car he'd borrowed to take us to Varanasi's little airport. Our fascinating, intensive, exhausting three-week tour along the Ganges had come to an end. We'd been to remarkable places, seen amazing things and travelled a lot of miles - more than 2,000 of them since leaving Delhi. But what did we remember most? A tough question - there were so many wonderful things to remember! However, above all, I think it had to be the people, particularly the new friends we'd made: people like the Saigal family in Haridwar, who'd made us so welcome at the start of our Ganges adventure; like Gagan, who had devoted his time to ensuring we saw at least one tiger a day in ... read more
A few Jaipuri friends
Polo - the riders and the audience
It's behind you!

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Sarnath January 28th 2018

'If you let cloudy water settle, it will become clear. If you let your upset mind settle, your course will also become clear'.* Is this something Buddha might have said? I think so - but probably not in those words.† Take a look at an actual quote in the picture alongside! It's a definite fact, however, that Buddha's story was one of riches to rags - but it's not one that many people know about, so be prepared for a bit of history: Born in 563 BCE as Siddhartha Gautama, he was the son of a wealthy chief from a small kingdom in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal. He was brought up in relative luxury but, when he ventured beyond his spoiled existence, he was shocked to discover poverty and suffering in the world outside. A ... read more
A visiting monk
Monks and pilgrims among the spacious gardens
Inside the Mulagandha Kuti Vihar

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi January 27th 2018

'Look over there,' said Raju, pointing with his chin in the Indian manner to some indistinct letters and numbers painted on a building. 'Would you believe that the Ganges reached up to there in the monsoon of 1978?' We looked down to the river flowing serenely beside the stone steps of Varanasi’s ghats today, a dizzy, mind-boggling 74 metres (242 feet) below. Ahead and beneath us, left and right, as far as the eye could see, everything would have been covered in a fast-flowing, brown inland sea. The vast sandbanks stretching to the horizon, the ghats, the temples and streets throughout the city would have been flooded, flushing away the grime of decades and adding to it with the detritus from towns and villages upstream. It seemed almost inconceivable that this remarkable city could have survived ... read more
Janki Ghat, just one of Varanasi's 80 ghats.
Manikarnika Ghat
Harishchandra Ghat

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi January 25th 2018

The past few mornings had been cool, clear and crisp. Today was positively freezing, foggy and soggy. But, at last, we'd be travelling by boat on the sacred River Ganges and arriving in Varanasi like proper travellers - providing we didn't freeze to death along the way! I'm not sure what type of boat we were expecting. A typical wooden boat, perhaps with a pretty awning, colourful cushions and rugs on which to while away the hours, a mast and sail to speed us on our way...? Well, correct on one point at least. A typical wooden boat awaited our arrival at the foot of one of Mirzapur's ghats, next to an old chap casting a line out into the calm water, more in hope than in anticipation of catching a fish for lunch on a ... read more
The journey begins
Fish traps
A flock of pochard and pintail rose into the air as we passed.

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Mirzapur January 24th 2018

Pilgrims often arrive in the holy city of Varanasi on foot. Tourists usually arrive by air or by road. A few travellers arrive by boat. These two grey-haired brothers, determined to be travellers rather than tourists, were among those latter few! In the late 1960s, one of the finest travel writers of all time, the late Eric Newby, wrote a book* describing how he and his wife Wanda set out by boat to cruise the entire length of the River Ganges. Travelling in a variety of unstable vessels, their journey was more treacherous and slower than they'd imagined, but it was absolutely fascinating nonetheless. One critic rightly observed that the book's pages contained 'all the exasperating charm, dusty enchantment and recurrent dottiness of India'. Perhaps it was my reading of those same pages long ago which ... read more
Sitamarhi Temple - 'Shiva and the Ganges'
Sitamarhi Temple - Sita
Sitamarhi Temple - Shiva lingam

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Allahabad January 24th 2018

It was a cool, clear, crisp morning as we left by car for the six-hour journey to our next destination, from the State of Madhya Pradesh northwards into Uttar Pradesh, from tranquil Bandhavgarh to the hot, hectic, holy megalopolis of Allahabad. After a too-brief pause to search for tigers, we were continuing our spiritual journey along the sacred River Ganges. But this next holy city was quite unlike those we'd previously experienced. I'd go so far as to say it was distinctly more frenetic, more crowded, more disorganized, more - how can I put this politely - more smelly. Maybe it was different because of its particularly huge resident population - currently around 2.3 Million - in a tiny 70.5 sq kms (20.5 sq miles). More likely, there was something happening here at exactly this time, ... read more
Early morning cycle-rickshaws
David and Purnima in Kanchan Villa's dining room
Khusro Bagh

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