Friday, November 25, 2016

Mandawa: Hotel Castle Mandawa

Saturday 12th November 2016


We stayed in the very grand Hotel Castle Mandawa, the town’s converted fort. It featured multiple courtyards, terraces, gardens and a bell tower.











Our room was furnished with four poster beds.



The porters and bell boys were appropriately uniformed.



It looked quite spectacular at night. There was an Indian party, with live music and enthusiastic drumming, going on in one of the many banquet halls, so it wasn’t a very restful night.

Delhi to Mandawa

Next day, we undertook the seven hour drive from Delhi to the small town of Mandawa.




Typical roadside scenes.



Holy cows wandered around everywhere, scavenging food wherever they could find it.


At a stop along the way, Joan was given some sari tying lessons:









Delhi: Qutb Minar Complex

Friday 11th November 2016

“In a city awash with ancient ruins, the Qutb Minar complex is something special. The first monuments here were erected by the sultans of Mehrauli, and subsequent rulers expanded on their work, hiring the finest craftsmen and artisans to create an exclamation mark in stone to record the triumph of Muslim rule” (Lonely Planet).



The complex is dominated by the spectaclular Qutb Minar, a soaring Afghan-style victory tower and minaret, erected by sultan Qutb-ud-din in 1193 to proclaim his supremacy over the vanquished Hindu rulers of Qila Rai Pithora.



Ringed by intricately carved sandstone bands bearing verses from the Quran, the tower stands nearly 73m high and tapers from a 15m-diameter base to a mere 2.5m at the top.



The tower has five distinct storeys with projecting balconies, but Qutb-ud-din only completed the first level before being unfortunately impaled on his saddle while playing polo. His successors completed the job, and kept up the work of restoration and maintenance through the centuries, as the tower was prone to being damaged by lightning.



At the foot of the Qutb Minar stands the first mosque to be built in India, intended to be a physical symbol of the triumph of Islam. An inscription over the east gate states that it was built with materials obtained from demolishing ‘27 idolatrous temples’.



Here are Rae and Jan inspecting a 7 metre high iron pillar standing in the courtyard of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque that is of such purity that it hasn’t rusted in over 1600 years. This extraordinary pillar vastly predates the surrounding monuments. A six-line Sanskrit inscription indicates that it was initially erected outside a Vishnu temple in memory of Chandragupta II, who ruled from AD 375 to 413. What the inscription does not tell is how it was made – scientists have never discovered how the iron could be cast using the technology of the time (from Lonely Planet).


Some shots around the complex:
















We saw these green parrots in quite a few different places on our tour.

Delhi: Ghandi’s Tomb (Raj Ghat)

Friday 11th November 2016


On the banks of the Yamuna River, a simple black-marble platform marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948. It is  inscribed with what are said to have been Gandhi’s final  words, Hai Ram (Oh, God).



The tomb is set in an extensive, well-tended park.



Large groups of schoolgirls were also visiting the tomb. It was either a very large school or else all girls’ schools in Delhi wear the same uniform.



The girls were very friendly and liked to come and say hello.



Some local visitors.

Delhi: Rickshaw ride

Friday 11th November 2016

I am sure that this bicycle rickshaw ride through a Delhi bazaar will be one of the highlights for me of the whole tour. It was remarkable in that the bazaar was set in very narrow lanes completely packed with people with no space visible for a person even to walk. Somehow the pedallers found not only room to travel, but to travel at speed! It was quite a surreal experience on a number of occasions to glimpse another small vehicle heading straight for us at similar speed, but just melt away a second before what seemed like an inevitable head-on collision. Our rider was particularly athletic and even managed to overtake several other rickshaws.


Jan and Ros setting off.



The alleys were narrow.



A goat in a cart, and part of a queue (male side) at an ATM.  After the “demonetisation”, people were only allowed to exchange up to 2.000 rupees ($AUD 80) of the old money in banks or ATMs.  This resulted in very long queues and long hours of waiting, and the facilities would often run out before everyone had a turn.

In the bazaar:










Marigolds for making garlands.

Delhi: Jama Masjid Mosque

Friday 11th November 2016


The day we were leaving Australia, Delhi was declared the world’s most polluted city, with pollution masks unavailable. Looks as though it’s going to be a good trip – first our money’s useless, now this! Looking out our window on our first morning confirmed this news, but undeterred, off we set to explore the city.


Our first visit was to the Jama Masjid Mosque, India’s largest, capable of holding 25,000 people, and built by Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1658.



Not having the necessary currency to pay the necessary shoe-minding and camera-carrying fee (as well as having visited other major mosques), Joan and I opted to wait outside on the steps……



and marvel at the teeming life before us.


We could still see parts of the mosque over the wall:






India: Off we go!

10th November 2016

Six ladies and Fr Noel are going to India.

Here are Joan and Noel, then Joan and me in front of a pre-Christmas tree at Brisbane airport.








Our Singapore Airlines flight included Singapore Slings in the complimentary drinks list. Somehow, having it presented in a plastic cup didn’t have quite the ambience of the Long Bar at Raffles.

Changi Airport however is still a winner with me, with its orchids, gardens, waterfalls and butterfly house:













Joan admiring the orchids.



Travelling between terminals.

Two days before we left, the Prime Minister of India declared the 1,000 and 500 rupee notes to be invalid, in an effort to deal with some corruption issues. This threw the whole country, and us, into some turmoil. As well as Indian currency (now worthless) we had purchased travel cards in Australian dollars for withdrawing Indian currency from ATMs (now with limited cash and all-India queues). Oh dear.

There was a delay at Delhi Airport as our minibus tried to obtain cash to leave the carpark.


We were welcomed to our Delhi hotel with a marigold wreath and a red dot on our foreheads, which took some days to wash off. We had arrived.