Saturday, January 31, 2009

Out and About with a Camel Friend

Who is that woman with the drab outfit?
The kitchen where the tea was made.
Milking the goat for tea.
A delicious cuppa!
After many hours of waiting in the grubby Agra station followed by a very slow train from Agra to Jaipur, we finally arrived at our inn at about 3am. The Savista was a lovely place, very warm and welcoming. It's a bit outside of Jaipur, on the edge of a small village. After resting and restoring ourselves with a few hours of sleep and an ample breakfast, we set off on a camel cart ride arranged by our host through the surrounding countryside. We saw small farms, lots of birds, beautifully dressed women, and adorable children. Despite linguistic barriers, we were welcomed warmly by the locals. At one family compound we had fun photographing the kids and then showing them their pictures. After one of the goats was milked, we were all treated to delicious Rajasthani tea! It was a truly memorable day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More from Agra

After the Taj Mahal, we visited Agra's other major attraction, the Agra Fort. Building on the fort commenced in 1565 under the emperor Akbar. Significant expansion took place under Shah Jahan. (Akbar liked to use locally available red sandstone - Shah Jahan preferred to import costlier white marble, so you can date the different portions of the fort readily). At the time it was built, Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire, and the fort served both as military fortification and palace for the emperor's family. Over the centuries the fort has been looted extensively - imagine how splendid it must have been in its heyday!
After the fort, we took a little spin in a horse drawn carriage, and strolled around a local park where the slide had the most amazing view - then it was on to Agra's dark, dirty and depressing rail station, where we had a prolonged wait for our train to Jaipur....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

At Last

Early on the morning of Jan 12th our little party left Delhi station bound for Agra. The north of India often gets foggy in the winter months and this Dec/Jan has been no exception. As the train rolled into Agra, the fog was so thick that we couldn't even see the train tracks... "Oh no", I worried, "all this way and we wont even be able to see the Taj". Well - the worries were in vain, by the time we arrived the fog had burned off and it was a beautiful day. The building itself - well, words cant describe it, and even pictures don't fully do it justice. I was very moved.
You all know, I'm sure that the Taj is a mausoleum that Shah Jahan, one of the mughal emperors, had built for his favorite wife (Mumtaz Mahal), but you may not have known that was after she died giving birth to her 14th child. I'd say that she certainly deserved having this most beautiful building built in her memory.
More from Agra shortly, but we thought the Taj deserved a post all its own.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Delhi Delights

Ashwin and Don at the Qutb Minar, highest minaret in Asia, circa 1300 India Gate, and Ashwin with Gurkha Guards
Ashwin at the ruins of a Jain temple from the 4th Century, at the Qutb Minar complex.
Scenes from the Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque. completed in 1656. That's Nana in the main prayer hall, and a view of the Red Fort in the distance from a corner tower.
Humayan's Tomb - a beautiful example of Mughal architecture and a prototype for the later Taj Mahal. Priya thought it was a great place for dancing!
The Lotus Temple, which is a Bahai Temple of recent construction, with the reflecting pool below.
Yes, they were lovin' it!!!
Well, we have returned from our epic journey around India. We know you blog followers have been waiting for an update - so here goes. We had a wonderful time, and saw and did so much. Our first update is from our stop in Delhi, where we saw lots of sites that Ashwin has been learning about in social studies, and Nana has been reading about in the Lonely Planet. We also enjoyed Delhi's wonderful restaurants, and an exciting trip to McDonald's - the first one for Ashwin and Priya since they left from the US. The menu is quite different here (lots of options for vegetarians!), but the happy meals left two kids just as satisfied...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Welcome Nana and Grandpa

We know that many readers are eager to know that Nana and Grandpa arrived safely in Chennai in the wee hours of January 7th. They had an uneventful flight, and amazingly landed on time at 1:00 am and made it through customs and picked up their bags within forty minutes. They were met by Prabhu - we decided that Ashwin and Priya should skip the trip to the airport so that they would not sleep through school on Wednesday, but they got up to greet their grandparents who were here by 2:15 handing out delicious homemade Christmas cookies made by Nana and hand carried from Mpls/StPaul in Grandpa's carry on bag! We're all thrilled to have them here (and we're all enjoying the cookies)!
Now, a couple of days to acclimate, and then off to Delhi on Friday. We'll be sightseeing in Dehli, then to Agra and Jaipur. Following that, back down south to the state of Kerala, where we will first be in the city of Cochin, then on the backwaters and a bird sanctuary. We wont be posting while we travel, so look for another update in a couple of weeks. Cheers!