The big trip – India part 3

by backpackingbongos

Now lets return to the other type of backpacking.  There has been a fair old gap since the last one of these, the first two in the series can be found on the ‘Trips abroad’ tab above.

The Taj, Temples and Bedbugs – 8th October 2004

Good afternoon from Bhopal!

Well the last week or so has been pretty hectic – have actually done lots of travelling and sightseeing (for us!).

We left Dehli for the lovely? city of Agra to have a gander at the Taj Mahal. It was really rather nice! Just as you would imagine it to look like. But the cost of entry was a bit steep at 750 Rupees, Indians pay 20 Rupees. Not fair we think. We managed to have a scary day by cycle rickshaw along a busy main road – not recommended.

We then went to Gwalior further south to see the fort on the hill. This must be the hottest place in India, felt like a hammer hitting us on the head. Sweaty pants. We had the hottest hotel room in India there too and shared our beds with bed bugs which are not the best guests! We hurried out in the morning and retreated to a posh air con place (all of 550 rupees). The fort was nice.

Then south again to Jhansi to spend a couple of nights in Orcha. Now this is a special place. Tiny village surrounded by Thai style temples and palaces (and only 30 rupees to get in!). Very very peaceful. We were the only tourists in some of the temples. Lots of mozzies so we have now embarked on 8 months of malaria medication. We were having a Thali in a street side restaurant the first night we took the tablets, the owner asked if the food was ok. We said yes, five seconds later Corrina was vomiting in the gutter. The Policeman had to move his chair quickly!

Then south again! We hit Bhopal and had a quick look at the impressive mosque (one of the biggest in Asia). Then north? to the rather lovely Sanchi. On top of a hill (the best things are always on top of a bloody hill in hot places) are the oldest Buddhist monuments in India. Huge stupas and ruined temples. The oldest Buddhist art dating back to 3rd century BC. But no hanging around for the super duo who headed back to Bhopal this morning.

Now, purchasing rail tickets in India. So far easy up until today. We tried to get some from Jalgaon to mumbai for Monday. No such luck, all trains full. So we are on the waiting list – we will find out if successful when we reach Jalgaon which itself is 8 hours away by train tomorrow. When we reach Jalgaon we will pop to see the Ajanta caves.

We may be in Mumbai (Bombay) hopefully Monday night – keep your fingers crossed for us! Will check email there and hopefully put an end to this current curry run. We need food that is not curry!

The iconic Taj – impressive but not as impressive as you think its going to be

Visiting a Sikh temple in Gwalior

Part of the temple complex in Orcha

Stone carvings in Sanchi

Temple complex in Sanchi

Hello Sir, you want big balloon? – 12th October 2004

Just how can you refuse such an offer. The balloon was very very impressive!

As we write we are going a bit nutty in Mumbai.

Our journey down to Jalgaon was actually very pleasant for an 8 hour train journey, but we do travel 2 tier air con. The poshest on most trains, our 8 hour 450km journey cost all of 10 pounds each. A lot of money in India but cheap as chips compared to home.

From Jalgaon we did a day trip to the Ajanta caves. A trip in a ‘local’ bus to get there. The word ‘local’ bus strikes fear into our hearts. It usually means ‘rusted deathtrap’ in Hindi. The drivers are fearless nutters and they cram the passengers on like sardines.

Did you know that 78% of rural Indian households do not have toilets? This was shown rather explicitly as we left the city in the early morning. Lovely views of bums and garbage. Some things in India dont change.

Ajanta when we arrived was lovely. 30 Buddhist caves in a horse shoe gorge. Some very impressive rock carvings and cave paintings. Plus a huge Buddha in every cave. It was also Sunday so the place was full of day tripping Indians all in their Sunday best. We were minor celebs for the day and featured in many family and school photos.

Our ticket to Mumbai turned out to be ok as the carriage was completely empty! So much for being waitlisted! However, the Dadar express did not go to Dadar station but another Mumbai station much further from the centre. It was like buying a ticket to London only to find the train only goes as far as Luton! At least we had the company of the mad conductor for the journey who tried and failed to get us food and plied us with Betel nut and chewing tobacco (kids dont do it, nasty nasty). We turned down the offer of whisky! The train was also only two hours late.

We ended up in LTT station 20km from our hotel, at night. Let us be prey to taxi touts! Our guard will never be down again. They seemed nice, offered to use the meter (very rare) and then tried to charge us 600 rupees for the trip when we arrived. We threatened to call the police and got back up from our hotel staff and would only give them 300 rupees. Welcome to Mumbai!

At least Mumbai is cooler than the north. We must be acclimatising when we think that 31 C is cool! A much cleaner place than smelly Dehli and lots of things to see and do. But very very expensive, we are paying over 10 pounds for our room, so budget will be dented for the next few days.

Booked ticket for Goa for next Monday – waitlisted number 15. So fingers crossed we can leave for the seaside. Hopefully off to Matheran the day after tomorrow (confused because we wanted ticket to Neral Junction but given one to a place 30km further on). So a trudge back to station tomorrow to complain and winge and stuff. Impressive Raj building but absolute chaos inside.

Stone carving in the Ajanta caves complex

The Ajanta caves carved out of a cliff face

The Mumbai Taj hotel

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