Page 9 of saritrace Travel Blog Posts

Asia December 20th 2009

Diu is at the end of the line. This tiny (11 km by 3 km) ex-Portuguese island at the tip of Gujarat has a quirky charm and lends itself to lazy sand- and sunshine-filled days. Not quite a tropical paradise, but very nearly. Indian, but yet not, Diu has white-washed churches, catholic-saint-filled chapels, and colourful Lisboa streets with gaily painted houses. Our guesthouse is the gorgeous, white-walled Retiro Sao Tome, the five hundred year old St. Thomas' church. From our kitsch-filled mini-appartment with crocheted table covers and "Little Mermaid" curtains we look out over the churches of St. Paul and St. Francis of Asissi to the sea. We can eat breakfast on the roof and even sit right on top of the curved dome to enjoy 360 degree views over the whole island. We're literally on ... read more
Retiro Sao Tome.
Diu Fort.
Catholic Saints..

Asia December 17th 2009

Shatrunjaya is one of Jainism's holiest pilgrim sites. A mind boggling array of 863 temples perched on a hilltop plateau high above the gulf of Cambay. Three thousand two hundred steps lead to the top. We began to climb. Slowly but surely. Luckily there was plenty to distract us from our aching calf muscles and thirst. Donkeys being herded uphill, carrying paniers of water containers. Schoolkids in sunshine yellow shirts and navy blue shorts/skirts literally running uphill! Nuns dressed completely in white, carrying large wooden staffs, nimble and sure-footed, making their way downhill with alacrity . Pilgrims - young girls - dressed very curiously. Every inch of their bodies covered, face masks, leggings, knee-pads, long gloves covering their arms. And then there were the dholis. Pilgrims sitting cross-legged on ratan woven seats swinging from a pole ... read more
Pastel shades. Peace and Serenity.
The ascent.

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Bundi December 4th 2009

The Buildup.... wonderful! "We spend so much money on weddings", sighed Mr. Singh. He might also have said: energy. An Indian wedding requires stamina from all concerned. An unceasing stream of ritual, prayer, blessings, dance and music. For days, our guesthouse, Haveli Katkoun has been filled with song. Family members have arrived from all over India and a happy chaos has reigned. We are the only remaining paying guests - a tiny foreign enclave in a sea of Hindu ritual. Ladies begin singing at 06.00 each morning, accompanied by the beat of a drum. "They are giving thanks to God for the marriage ceremony" the groom told me. Outside the front door an old man with a red turban plays a pipe. I think of him as the mad snake charmer. He's also accompanied by a ... read more
Pre wedding jitters?
Tilak ceremony.
The Baraat.

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Bundi December 3rd 2009

Once in a while you meet someone extraordinary. Someone with such an infectious positive energy, that the only thing you can do around them is smile. Mr. Prakash Gupta - alias Kukki, is known throughout Bundi. He began talking as he welcomed us into his living room cum bedroom, pulling out book after book, he proudly showed us articles that had been published about him in German, French, Hindi and English, and a photo of himself with the President of India. His energy took my breath away, like a tornado he laughed and talked continuously. To Mr. Kukki everything is at the least 'very fantastic'. A school drop-out, educated only until eighth grade, he's taught himself everything he knows. His passion for archeology began when he was a young boy, he found his first coin when ... read more
Me and the rock paintings.
Ten thousand year old rock paintings!
Countryside near Bundi.

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Ranthambhore National Park November 29th 2009

Ranthambhore National Park was once the hunting ground of the maharajas of Jaipur and is one of the last few habitats capable of supporting viable populations of 'Panthera Tigris" - the Royal Bengal Tiger. "Seeing a tiger needs patience, and is purely a matter of chance", said the forest ranger as our jeep entered the park. We knew it, but the excitement and sense of anticipation was palpable. The park sprawls across approx. 400 sq. km. of forest where the rolling Vindhya and craggy Aravalli Hills meet. Vegetation is lush and varied. Dhok, ber, sal, pipal and banyan trees, a few scattered palms, the odd mango grove, and three lakes support more than three hundred species of birdlife and a profusion of wildlife. Every trip to the forest was rewarded. Sambar stags with magnificent antlers chewing ... read more
Chittal (spotted deer) fawn.

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Shekhawati November 29th 2009

Shekhawati is a landscape of narrow country roads, half forgotten villages and beautiful havelis. (large ornate traditional houses). Crops of bright green mustard seeds, wheat and cauliflower interlaced with sandy tracks, ornate yellow sandstone wells and crumbling cenotaphs. An open air painting of shifting colour and light. Once an area on the silk trade route between the ports of the Arabian Sea and the Ganges Valley, the wealthy Shekhawati 'thakurs' (noblemen) were able to build fantastic residences, decorated from top to bottom with frescos. The paintings depict Hindu gods, portraits of local dignitaries and maharajas, scenes of everday life, and the latest inventions of the time. Often the artists had never seen the wonders they were painting and imagination had free rein - mythology and modernity combined to give real images. Personal favourites included Krishna flying ... read more
Wall Painting.
Doorway to an inner courtyard.
Krishna flying a plane!

Asia November 22nd 2009

She greeted us with a traditional 'namaste' greeting. Palms pressed together, fingertips pointing heavenwards, hands just below her face. She bowed her head - "welcome", she said and ushered us into our room - guest quarters at the front of the house. She busied herself, fetching water which was set on a small table in front of us. "You will take tea"? Chai cements all relations in India - to refuse would be unthinkable. Off she went again, and duely the water jug was replaced by a small tray - two cups of chai - sweet milky tea, some cake and 'namkin' (spicy nibbles). Duty, for the moment, complete, she took some time to talk with us and during this and subsequent conversations we learned something of her life. "I am always busy, so many things, ... read more

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Pushkar November 2nd 2009

Every October in the 8th month of Kartika, business and religion come together and the quiet town of Pushkar is transformed into the circus that is the Pushkar camel festival. Thousands of livestock owners stir in the Thar desert, pack up family and belongings onto wooden carts, trailing camels, horses, and cows behind them, to trade on the Mela ground - a huge, dry, expanse of scrub on the northen edge of town. Some 50,000 camels and cattle cover this terrain - animals as far as the eye can see. With front legs tied together, the camels eat, drink, snort, groan and slaver. Trying to encourage a sale owners decorate their animals to show them in their best light. Snouts adorned with flowers, the beasts are draped with pom-poms, tassles and bows. But a ship of ... read more
Fabulous jewelry.
Break in Negotiations.
A true beauty.

Asia » India October 27th 2009

We noticed the barber shop, the size of a postage stamp, squeezed in between the internet cafe and our guesthouse. "Shave sir", asked the barber appearing out of nowhere, nodding at Jim. "No, can I have a haircut", I asked hopefully. Normally the only customers in these shops are men. "Yes, yes, five minutes waiting". All three chairs were occupied so I sat on a bench already shoved halfway out the shop - even so, there wasn't enough room for the barbers to move around the chairs freely. To my right, a man enjoyed a head massage. It seemed pretty vigorous. Lots of slapping, clapping and rubbing. The man swayed back and forth, and the ancient chair creaked and groaned. The young masseur gave his customer a hearty slap on the shoulder to indicate the massage ... read more

Asia » India October 22nd 2009

Frantic. Frustrating. Frenetic. Delhi, with a population of 12.8 million, everyone of them, it seems, on the make, was down right hard work. Tenacious touts pretending to be our best friend, wanting to direct us to places where they would receive commission. Auto rickshaw drivers who refused to turn on the meter, and argued about price and destination... 'Is closed today sir, because of festival" said one rickshaw wallah with a waggle of his head when we asked to go to Humayun's Tomb - even though he'd agreed to take us just two seconds earlier. "Sir - it's easier to go on the metro", two helpful guys offered unbidden advice, when we tried another day, to go to the Red Fort - "you must first buy entrance ticket here" - they pointed to our map indicating ... read more
Old Delhi
Humayun's Tomb.

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