India November 2006


India is totally fascinating and I love it. Agra was magical we managed to see the sunset and sunrise since our guesthouse Sheela was a 3 minute walk from there. The most amazing sight in Agra was the Baby Taj another mausoleum which preceded the major Taj by 26 years. It was breathtaking.

The train ride from Delhi to Agra was very interesting, I ended up sharing a compartment with a Swedish man who was traveling with his Indian friend and an Indian woman with her two sons. The food on the train was great and the conversation enlightening.
The Indian woman looked at me and exclaimed “You must have been very good looking when you were young” her comment left me for once, without a comeback.

My experience so far is that apart from the touts the Indians are marvelous people, extremely kind and helpful. I really like Jaipur. Sue and I are of great interest to the teenage girls who love to pose for our cameras in their pretty outfits. Today we spent the afternoon at Amber Fort and being Sunday the majority of visitors were locals. I was asked to pose for several photographs and got some nice ones myself.

When we left Agra we had hired a driver to take us to Fathepur Sikri and then onto Bharatpur. We got stuck in a traffic jam for close to an hour and decided to skip Fathepur and were thrilled that we made that decision. We ended up at the most delightful guesthouse Falcon Guesthouse in Bharatpur with a lovely room that had a balcony for $8 a night with our own bathroom that had hot water. Pure luxury, the owner Mrs. Singh was delightful, the food great and we could have stayed on happily for several days. We spent the afternoon exploring the Fort and its museum and then the little town that was delightful.

The next morning we got up at 5 am to go to the bird sanctuary. Mr. Mumtaz was waiting by our guest house to take us there on his bicycle rickshaw. He had seen us the night before and insisted to be our guide, the were very few tourists
around because the monsoon had failed, which meant many less birds. Each customer therefore had to be carefully watched in case someone else got there first.

He was a wonderful guide and we saw a lot of birds including 3 kinds of owls. After the park we had an early lunch before catching our bus to Jaipur. We got to the Junction and waited, and waited and waited some more. We were assured that in 10 minutes the bus would be there. After 1 1/2 hours and no bus we got nervous. It was hot, and got hotter. It is a good 4 hour drive to Jaipur and we wanted to get there before dark. Sue went over to a tourist taxi driver, recognizable by the yellow license plate and before she knew it he had flagged down a mini van and arranged a ride for us. The whole thing was so quick that I barely knew what had happened. Our luggage was hoisted on board and we climb in to the surprised faces of 2 young French couples who had hired the car for 10 days. They took it in good stride and we had a most comfortable ride to Jaipur. The driver even took us to the hotel which is in a very residential section.

We have a lovely "suite" consisting of a very large room separated by a wall that has an uncomfortable sofa on the other side. The bathroom is large, the pool is lovely but unused by us. There is no time. Tomorrow we are off to Pushkar and the camel fair. We will be staying in a tented camp, it should be a novel experience. Actually everything is a novel experience, we had the most delicious Samosas for lunch from a stand there people were lining up to buy from. There went my resolution of no street food. Oh well, so far I am doing fine 1 Pepto Bismol tablet every morning and I am doing great.

Here we are in Jasalmer after having been to Pushkar for the camel fair, Jaipur and Jodphur. I forget where I left off so forgive me if I repeat some of my impressions and experiences. We arrived very safely from our hitchhiking experience in Jaipur and to the wonderful hotel Meginwas that is situated a little outside the center in a residential area. Our room is a suite, I claim, Sue claims she ordered a simple double room. When we check out we find that indeed we had been given the suite, but pay for a double. The travel karma continues. We are both totally enamored by Jaipur the hustle and bustle, the bazaars and the people. The first night we have dinner at the hotel and I foolishly order a bottle of wine. It was not very good and expensive by Indian standards. From then on it has been water with every meal, as well as in between , except when we stop for a cup of tea here and there.

The next morning we want to go out for breakfast and start walking towards the center. Not a place in sight that serves anything resembling food. Finally we grab an auto rickshaw, the general mode of transportation in cities. End up in the old city and have an Indian breakfast, at least I do with stuffed paratha and vegetable raitta, Sue had Curd which is yougurt with banana and is happy as a lark. The stores are finally opening up and we window shop, Well Sue did, I bought a top after a lot of bargaining, but it is perfect. Then we go sight seeing, The Palace of the Winds is first on the list this is where the women of the harem could sit behind latticed windows watching the street below.

We had decided that shopping in some of the boutiques we had heard about was high on the list. Sue had heard about a store called FabIndia we went there and I managed to buy a top, not a lot of clothes in my size. While there we meet these delightful young Jaipurians who drive us to a wonderful restaurant called Niros. We had a great lunch of Manchurian chicken, a specialty I had been told that was a must in India, it was delicious very gingery. We had decided to have breakfast in our room and across from Niros was the Old Lassiwalla that sold curd in terra cotta glasses. A large glass cost 20R approx 50 cents with the container, then we tried to find a supermarket. Here everything is sold in small, small shops. We got cornflakes in one place, bananas on the street and we were set together with the dried fruit and nuts I had brought.

Back to the hotel and a few laps in the pool. After the big lunch, we were not hungry, we had some of our provisions for dinner and then into bed. We both have problems staying awake past 8 pm. The days are so intense, the pollution is horrible and the heat takes some energy as well.

After breakfast we hire a driver for the day to take us to the palace and Fort for sightseeing, and some more shopping in the afternoon. Distances are enormous and for the cost of less than $15 it was nice being in an air conditioned car. We keep on giving ourselves titles. That afternoon we were the "Mems" short for Memsahibs. Otherwise I am the Quartermaster in charge of provisions and Sue the Paymaster in charge of our kitty.

Then it was time to leave for Pushkar and the Camel Fair. Pushkar is a holy city with the only temple in India dedicated to Brahma. It sits on a lake and people come on the last day of the fair on a pilgrimage to bathe in the lake and pay homage.

Before the fair starts there is camel and cattle trading as well horses going on. We arrived the day before the official opening

We stayed at the "Colonels Camp" He is also the owner of our hotel in Jaipur that his wife runs while he is away. The camp is in what appears to be an oasis in the desert. Colonel Singh has planted an orchard of gooseberry trees, there is a nice swimming pool and a lawn in front of the main house. Pushkar is a holy town hence no alcohol or meat is allowed, which is fine with me. Lo and behold the colonel is a law unto himself so he offered me a drink almost every night. There went my good intentions.
Our accomodations were in tents that looked as out of a movie set from medeaval times. Our bathroom was completely made of marble. Gypsys came to entertain us nightly and the whole experience was great. We were very fortunate in our choice of camp.

Most of the trading had already taken place when we arrived but we managed to see a few thousand camels and probable as many cattle. It was an amazing sight seeing the camels against the sand dunes with their keepers. After a couple of hours of taking pictures we walked towards the town. Since I had brought next to no clothes having been told that whatever I needed I should buy in India. Well Omar the tentmaker was on vacation, but I found a shop where he claimed to be a master tailor. Had my favorite cropped pants copied by him and picked them up the next day. They are fine if I want to use the legs as sails.

Hi again,
Jodphur was a very interesting experience. Sue had booked us into a 350 year old Haveli which had been in the owner’s family for 200+ years. It was in the middle of the old town and yes Jodphur is blue. We only stayed for 1 night for several reasons. The toilet didn't work, we were told that a tourist had broken it, yes..........and......... There was no hot water for the shower unless we took a 40 foot wire strung it along and put the exposed wire into a socket. Since the hostess was not willing to let us have another room for the same price we decided to move. It had been a great experience being in the old town actually in the middle of the bazaar, with all the spice shops and vendors. We moved to another heritage hotel in a different part of town and it was wonderful. We had a large room right off the interior courtyard. The next day we took a rickshaw to the fort which is an event in itself. The audio guide is so well done that it really comes alive. We ended our tour with having our palms read.
I will live to a ripe old age and and never having to worry about money. I liked those news.

Since I now knew that my future is secure I splurged and bought a jacket next door to the restaurant where we were having dinner. It is something I have wanted for many. many years and managed to bargain it down considerably. We had dinner at a place called "On the Rocks" which was an experience in itself it had a playground, a disco, a bar and a bakery on the premises.

The next day we went on a trip by jeep to see some wild life and a few native villages, including a potter, a dhurrie maker and a local tribe where we were offered Opium to drink. The mother who looked 85 turned out to be my age and kept the opium in a small pouch inside her top. It was bitter tasting and certainly not strong enough to have any effect on us. We got a chance to see how they make the huts with cow dung and straw.

Next morning off to the golden city of Jaisalmer by train. We stayed at a small hotel just outside the fort. Our window overlooked the fort as did the roof top restaurant. This is I believe the only Fort still functioning as a city with a large part of the population living inside the walls.

The highlight of the trip for Sue at least was going to go on a camel ride into the desert in the full moon. She had planned the trip so that we were in Jasalmer during the full moon. I was not going to go, I was on a camel in Damascus in 1965 and the memory has lasted and satisfied me until now. Well, I broke down and agreed to go along, I drew the line on sleeping in the desert. We started out by jeep and were taken to see Cenotaphs and a Jain Temple before we set off to the village where the camel driver lived. I had a great time in the village visiting with the camel driver’s family and meeting most of his 6 sons and all of his 3 daughters. After about an hour I left the huts in search of the others it turned out that several people had left on camels but they ran out so there were 6 of us left behind. Finally we got into the jeep to drive to where there were camels.
I did get on a camel, I rode a camel there is a picture of me to prove it. We got to the sand dunes as the sun was setting. Not enough light for pictures of the dunes. We wait for the moon to show which it does, bright orange before it turns white and decided to hide behind the clouds. The very expensive dinner cooked over an open fire was a joke and the sand crawled with huge beetles. Sue the really serious photographer was not a happy camper. I was thrilled to be off the camel.

Jasalmer is truly the golden city, the palace has a nice audio tour, I get a pair of pants made for $4 that fit, we get to meet a real Maharajah in his palace that has been turned into a hotel. He sits in his apartment, which is really a huge room in his underwear eating his dinner out of a Tiffin Tin. Am not sure whether or not he was all there. We had dinner at his restaurant "Saffron" which was really nice. Now it is time to move on to Udaipur the white city.

Before this gets too long I will send it on. We are now in Gods country high up in the hills of Kerala in the midst of tea plantations.

The bus ride to Udaipur was really an experience. There were many stops with passengers coming and going between Jaisalmer and Johdpur. One of the more interesting ones was a goat, riding next to the driver. Our provisions consisted mainly of cakes and snack food from the German bakery in Jaisalmer. I had bought a nut cake which was very rich and I think made me unwell. We had regular seats until Johdpur. It is a 13 hour bus ride on a sleeper bus. We have loaded up with provisions.

A sleeper bus has sleeping compartments above the seats. We sit in seats until Jodphur and then crawl into the cage above the seat. I take a sleeping pill and pretend to be in Purdah that is a lady of the court not being seen by the general population, carried in a paldakin. The sleeper compartment has a grill on one side and the ride is more than bumpy. However I manage to get a wink or two. Wake up in the middle of the night, the bus has stopped, and I have to pee in the worst way.
Somehow manage to climb down, walk up to the driver and knock on the door.
There must have been at least 6 men sleeping in that tiny compartment that all have to get untangled to let me out. Even managed to climb back up to cage unaided, no small feat. Got a few more winks before arrival

5.30 am we are in Udaipur, the city is just waking up but we manage to bargain with yet another auto rickshaw. This can not be stressed enough, ALWAYS agree on a price before you get into a taxi or rickshaw. We get to the hotel, and are told that the room #22 that we had booked, with a lake view, was not available at all. Nothing to do but wait for the manager to come on duty.
In the meantime a young couple come down to the lobby, and tell us that we must have room #22. Wait a minute, we have been told it is let for several days, it turns out they had that room and checked out at 7 am travel karma continues. We were in our room very shortly there after and ohhhed and ahhhed over the view. Udaipur was such a great difference from the northern part of the state. It seemed more prosperous and we were not hassled as much by vendors. We did manage to see the palace, the craft museum, buy miniature paintings, jewelry and shawls hand-woven by a Kashmiri grandmother. We had several wonderful meals at a restaurant called Savage and one at Jagat Niwas Palace a very fancy hotel on the lake. That night I got sick, am really grateful to the makers of Imodium without which I may not have been able to continue our travels.

We had to take two planes to Cochin our next destination which is in Kerala in the south. Jet Airways and Kingfisher. It is amazing how foreign airlines manage to serve whole meals on flights under and hour. Kingfisher in particular was very impressive.

We are met at the airport by Jenny our hostess and her driver. The airport is far from the city and we are grateful for the AC. Kerala is hot and very humid. Jenny is a marvelous cook and hostess, the guest house which is in reality an opulent villa is quite decorated. It was built for her brother am not sure if it was also meant to be a guest house. The dining room has a back lit stained glass picture of the last supper. There is quite a bit of stained glass and religious statuary around. We have a wonderful lunch and decide to go into the center of Cochin. When we arrive there is a large political rally going on so of course we jump out of the car and start taking pictures. People were very jovial and posed happily for us. I was feeling unwell again and we made it an early night.

The next day we rented a car and went to the Fort area which is the old part of Cochin where the Portuguese had settled and also where one can see the Chinese fishing nets and the old synagogue.

Sue's report from Udaipur
You find me sitting on the rooftop of the Jaiwana Haveli,
our hotel in Udaipur. Fanny is resting and I am having a
cup of tea and savouring the view. To my left the City
Palace is bathed in a golden glow against the moonlit sky.
To my right Jag Niwas Palace, now the Lake Palace Hotel
(where Liz Hurley no less will soon be entertaining her
wedding guests) is a blaze of white lights bouncing off the
black water of Lake Pichola which surround it. Behind me
the ruins of the Monsoon Palace atop a distant hill are also
illuminated. The view from up there is reportedly
fabulous,it is on our wish list of things to do here but the
list keeps growing.........

On a neighbouring rooftop Octopussy is competing for my
attention with a song and dance troupe in a courtyard four
storeys below. 007 is loosing.

We arrived here at 5.00am aboard the overnight sleeper from
Jaisalmer. For the princely sum of $7 we had the use of a
reclining seat as far as Jodhpur and then a berth above the
seats. The first part of the journey was disconcerting
because we kept passing massive brown and green mesh 'tents'
which we finally realized were covering tank. Soon our bus
was blasting it's way past truckloads of Indian soldiers and
trailer after trailer transporting yet more tanks. As they
were heading away from the Pakistan border they were either
retreating or on manoeuvers,hopefully the latter. This
combined with a lot of noisy aircraft activity in an area
with no civilian flights made you feel either very safe or
very nervous depending on whether you are an optimist or a

We made many stops picking up and dropping off local
passengers and their baggage, which at one point included a
somewhat frightened goat. It is amazing how big they are
when they are in the aisle of your bus.

I am the Paymaster General on this trip and Fanny is the
Quartermaster and she did us proud with fruit, nuts, chips,
cookies, and cake as well as water and juice if we didn't
fancy the dinner stop. As it didn't happen until after
midnight it was a moot point as by then we had encarcerated
ourselves in our berths for the night. As I swallowed one
of Fanny's sleeping pills and folded myself into my bed the
thought crossed my mind that if we had an accident they
wouldn't have to bother finding coffins for us. Meanwhile
Fanny was already dreaming of being carried through the
streets in a palanquin. I leave you to decide who is the
optimist and who the pessimist.

The journey was a nightmare as the road to Udaipur was just
terrible and we shook, rattled and rolled our way into the
city. After a shower and a rest we were feeling better and
ready to see what was in store for us. We started at the
City Palace which is now a museum. It is vast and we had a
wonderful time with a large group of tourists from rural
Rajasthan. They were obviously there for a good time and
not an education and they took great delight in posing for
photographs and trying to communicate with anyone who would
point a camera in their direction. Their tour guide was not
amused at their lack of attention but they didn't care, they
were having a vacation and going down in digital history. I
don't think Fanny or I paid sufficient attention to our
surroundings either.

Over the first two days we also saw the Folk Museum, the
Jagdish Temple and a hokey craft village called Shilpgram
which we did not enjoy. Except for a conversation with a
folk artist who told us she made her colours from sienna and
cow shit. Fanny decided that on second thought she liked the
sienna ones best. We found time to discover some good
restaurants and an obliging young chef who wrote out some
recipes for us and take in the cultural show that I had
overlooked on our first night.

On our last full day we hired a car and driver to take us
the 90+km. to Kumbalgath Fort and the Jain Temples at
Ranakpur. The fort is impressive and the custodians claim
its walls are second only to the Great Wall of China. Be
that as it may, it is quite a sight and the view from the
top is worth the climb.

If you could only see one Jain temple in Rajasthan, it
should probably be Ranakpur. The main temple dates back to
1439 and its domes and roofs are supported on 1444 pillars
of white marble. They are intricately carved and no two are
identical. The temple opens at noon, at which time there is
a service after which white clad nuns wearing masks across
their mouths to prevent the accidental inhalation of insects
hold court amongst the women, visitors are welcome to
participate in the discussion.

For us though the highlight was the journey through the
hills and watching the villages come to life for the day.
Lord Vishnu's cows, a hundred or more of them with their red
and blue painted horns, some decorated with gold stars and
most sporting bells were leaving the temple to go to the
fields to graze. Some rural Jain nuns in wonderful rough
spun robes were also on the road making for the next Jain
temple en route to Ranakpur. We would have loved to
photograph them but our driver thought best not.

We also found time to shop and I found my trip souvenir in
the Art School of Udaipur. A beautiful minature on camel
bone of a white horse representing power standing in front
of Jag Niwas and Lake Pichola, an elephant for luck in front
of the Palace of the winds in Jaipur and the camel,of course
the symbol of love in the desert by Jaisalmer Fort.

Our Next challenge was the flights to Kerala but all went
smoothly and Jenny my lovely contact in Cochin was waiting
at the airport to give us warm hugs of welcome.

Namaste everyone,

On arrival at the Cochin airport we were immediately swept
into the warm embrace of Jenny, my contact in Cochin. The
only thing warmer was the blast of hot humid air which hit
us like a brick wall.

Once home at Jenny's mansion we were garlanded with jasmine
and hibiscus and welcomed with coconut milk from the nut.
We had a large room and bathroom with a bath, and no water
shortage so I actually got to use it, bliss. We also have a
fully fitted dressing room, a first in India, divine, not
cheap but divine.

The family is devoutly Catholic and I think the decor came
as a bit of a shock to a good Jewish girl like fanny. Our
favourite was the huge backlit stained glass rendition of
Leonardo's Last Supper dominating the dining room.

Apart from the company of Jenny and Jose and our fellow
guests, a highlight of our stay in Cochin was the wonderful
food. I had heard she was a fine cook and so she is. Jose
makes his own wine so I was quite happy drinking his very
sweet libation. I think I was the only one, but that didn't
bother me.

As soon as we got our act together we took a car into the
city. We didn't get very far before running into a massive
political rally. Without a second thought we waded into the
throng cameras clicking. It was all very good natured and
the men carrying the banners depicting a monkey with a
politicians head, were delighted to wave their flags and
banners for us. They were really enjoying their outing to
the big city as we abandoned ours.

Next day the revelers had returned to their villages and we
set out for historic Fort Cochin the oldest part of Cochin
city. Kerala is staunchly Catholic, we have never seen so
many churches and statuary everywhere. We passed many
businesses such as 'The Little Flower Engineering Works' or
'Infant Jesus Welding. There were groups of very pretty
young postulant nuns their years of sari wearing ensuring
they moved gracefully in the traditional habits long
abandoned in most of the Western world.

We visited the Dutch Palace Museum with heavy coffered
ceilings and extremely well preserved fresco's. After
shopping in 'Jew Town' and my very first visit to a
Synagogue, an ancient one at that, we had lunch by the
backwaters. Fanny bargained for our shrimp, catching the
fishmonger out giving us short measure and we choose a small
cafe by the waters edge to cook it for us. We didn't choose
well as they overcooked the shrimp and forgot to add any
spices to the vegetable rice but it scored high on
experience and ambiance.

On our way home we stopped at the Wedding Palace the
somewhat grandly name department store where everyone goes
to choose their wedding sari's. We started in womens ready
to wear. A small department staffed by 15 young ladies and
15 men. Who on earth wants a male assistant in a womens
dress department, unless he is there to pay of course? All
30 of them danced attendance on Fanny as she choose a couple
of outfits.

Next we hit the actual wedding salon where a bevy of pretty
assistants waited to model the gorgeous red (for a
traditional bride) fabric draped around them by their
colleagues. A middle aged matron was choosing a $350 sari
when we were there but the fabric would never look as good
again as it looked on the model. We spent some time
photographing the girls sitting giggling on raised counters
surrounded by silk of every glorious hue. I felt quite
sorry for the male assistants as they could not join in our
merry hen party.

Over dinner we decided to take a car and driver for a couple
of days and head into the high tea country of Munnar. Jenny
made the arrangements for us and also booked us an overnight
cruise on a converted rice barge. The five hour drive was
spectacular taking us through rice then rubber country
before we reached the amazing patchwork of tea bushes
clinging to the undulating hillsides in their 40 shades of
green. The rubber plantations were interesting as we got to
see them tapping the trees from the roadside. When we
stopped to photograph some sheet rubber drying in the sun we
were invited to see a family processing the rubber. It was
fascinating as we saw the process from tapping to
completion. First it is mixed with water in a shallow tray,
then with acid before being left to set. When it is ready
they put it through a couple of rollers, hang it in the sun
to dry then smoke it. Not sure how it gets from this state
to anything we would recognize but we enjoyed talking to the

We spent the next two nights at Olive Brook a bungalow hotel
high high up in the mountains. So high that even the tea
doesn't grow there, only cardamon. Dinners here are once
again wonderful with the added bonus of being invited to
observe the chef preparing the 'dish of the day'. Can it
really be as easy as these guys make it look?

On our one full day in Munnar we climbed up into the tea
plantation and as I took photos of the girls picking the
tea, Fanny took photos of me doing it. The girls really
seem to enjoy the break in the monotony of tea gathering.
They no longer pick by hand in colourful sari's, if they ever
did except in postcards and guide books. Now they wear
heavy aprons and use garden hedge type clippers attached to
a small box. Later in the day we saw them at the roadside
weighing in their crop. They earn a 80Rp ($2)on average 100
kilo per day and take home about 120Rp ($3).

We also visited the tea processing museum which is very
interesting and took a bus up to Eravikulam National Park
the highest point in Kerala and the home of the endangered
Nilgiri Thar goat. It doesn't look too endangered to us as
there are plenty around and they are almost tame, but half
the world population is in this park. There are many other
wild and exotic animals in the park but far far away from
where we are. We just missed the blooming of a pretty bush,
it causes quite a stir every twelve years when it 'paints'
the park blue. Perhaps we can catch it in 2018!

Wonderful interesting guests again here so we passed two
pleasant evenings chatting over an excellent dinner.

Regards from "Gods Country" where we are beginning to feel
that our trip is winding down.

Sue's report from
Backwaters cruise and Kovalam
NamasteWe drove 4.5 hours to reach our converted rice barge,because an overnight cruise on the 'Backwaters' isobligatory in any Kerala itinerary. It was so peaceful, we made our way along the waterways while the crew cooked lunchthen moored along the bank to eat. They had come prepared with a machete on a long bamboo pole and took advantage ofthe lull in proceedings to help themselves to some betel nutfrom high up a tree. They will probably have a happy eveningas a result.

This must be getting boring but once again the food was delicious. It is amazing what can be prepared on a couple of gas rings. We had baked fish, fish curry, a pale pink dish which turned out to be beetroot and mustard seed in curd, stir-fried beans with coconut etc, cabbage and carrotwith turmeric etc. tomato and cucumber salad, dal and ofcourse rice. We would love the complete recipes but ourcrews English just isn't up to the challenge.We cast off again, cruising the tranquil waters, there wereother house boats but not too many, a few day tripper cruiseboats and of course all the local traffic of people goingabout their daily business.

We spent a lovely afternoon reading and watching. In thelate afternoon a welcome cooling breeze sprang up. By 5.30the sun was setting and we started on our mosquito defenceprogramme. All the Deet cream and Pymethrin spray which hasbeen languishing in our suitcases came into it's own. Weeven festooned our dining area with fly catchers which wereinstantly covered in all manner of flying insects. I woremy mosquito jacket and erected my net tent on my bed. Fannyused the one provided, it would never have accommodated twoof us. If we had been eaten alive it wouldn't have been forwant of precautions. Eventually the sounds and smells ofdinner reached us from the other end of the boat. We ateand retired, relaxed and happy.

Next morning revealed not a single bite, are we experiencedtravellers or what? In truth we have seen few mosquitoesand my paranoia in Delhi about the outbreaks of Dengue andChikingunga quickly evaporated.We said goodbye to our great crew, wondering when (if ever)either of us would next have three men waiting on us handand foot.

Another long drive punctuated by a temple festivalprocession, a palace museum and a long road detour made it pass quickly. Our detour took us round the small side roads we wouldn't normally see but eventually lead to grid lock as huge trucks as well as cars tried to get through. A coupleof local men set about sorting it out while the local cops backed their squad car into a narrow alley and did their utmost to ignore the chaos.

So that brings us to Kovalam, our beach of choice in southern India and we are quite delighted with it. A tuctuc driver advised us that this was the beach for us as the others were only for young people! Our hotel is a typical beach resort hotel built to cater to the British packagetour market. Our room is large and has a comfortable balcony overlooking the garden and coconut grove, we have a pool and restaurant and are two minutes from the ArabianSea. Doesn't that sound exotic, The Arabian Sea.....

Talk about culture shock the whole place is currently occupied by Brits on a 250 pound sterling two week vacation with My Tours from Manchester. Even the local touts haveMancunian accents and certainly didn't acquire them from listening to the BBC World Service. But, we have met some very friendly, very funny and down to earth people whom I am instantly at home amongst. Although it is a bit difficult at times to realize we are still in India.

Yesterday morning we spent hours on the beach watching two teams of twenty fishermen haul on ropes, one either end of a vast net. Hour after hour they sang as they pulled and coiled the rope. Moving back and forth along the beach to coax the net around the headland. It was so exciting for us to eventually see the white floats on the net come into view in the far distance and know that their labour would soon be over. They are paid 25 Rp (50 cents) for their hours ofbackbreaking work + a share of the catch.

As the net drew nearer young men went into the watersplashing and shouting to drive any would be escapee fishback into the jaws of the net. There were no smiling faces however when the almost empty net finally made it on to the beach. We were heartsick for them.

Small canoe style boats also come ashore loaded with mussels. The craft are ingenious, made from 4 shaped logs,with 'Y' shaped pieces at bow and stern. All tied togetherwith nylon rope. Once the catch is landed and sold to the market traders, hopefully for 300 Rp. the boats are taken apart and left to dry in the sun until next morning whent hey are re-assembled. Larger boats also go further out but our hearts belong to the singing haulers on rope who have such a hard life. I wonder how often the nets come in as empty as they were today?

I feel I should warn anyone contemplating a visit to India to beware of Kashmiri salesmen. They lure you into their stores with promises that "looking is free", they then show you gorgeous jewelery, pashmina's made by their almost blind 92 year old grandmothers and follow that up with $2000 pieces of the most exquisite embroidery you can imagine, these of course are made by their equally long lived grandfathers and represent two whole years of work in their village far away in Kashmir. Just when you can picture the little village with Grandma and Grandpa hunched over theirwork, they fix you with a look from their limpid black eyes,flash a white toothed smile and your Visa card is swiped so fast you don't quite believe it happened. They are some ofthe most attractive men I have ever come across and are"full of it" as we say in Manchester or Kovalam for thatmatter. Don't say nobody warned you!

Fanny and Sue India 2006 Accomodations


October 18th &19th Delhi
Bajaj Indian Home Stay8A/34 W.E.A, Karol Bagh, New Delhi - 110 005. India
Tel (91)(11) 25736509, 25812860, 25738916
Fax : (91)(11) 25812905, 25812127, 25751536E-Mail : or bajajhome@eth.netWebsite : (or)

October 19th Overnight train to Varanasi

October 21st to 23rd Varanasi
Hotel Ganges View
B1/163 Assi Ghat Varanasi 221 005 Uttar Pradesh
Tel: +91 (0)5422 313 218Mobile: +91 (0)9415 225 350Fax: +91 (0)5422 369 695

October 24th Overnight train to Agra

Sue & Fanny

October 25th Agra
Hotel Sheela
Eastern Gate of Taj- Mahal , Agra (India)Tel:0091-562-2333074, 0091-562-2331194E-mail :

October 26th Fatehpur Sikri no accommodation booked as yet

October 27th to 29th Jaipur
Megh Niwas
C/9, Jai Singh Highway, Bani Park. Jaipur 302 016
Tel. 91141 2202034, 2202035, 220 2036
Mobile 9193145 07008

October 30th to November 1st Pushkar
Colonels Camp
No1 Motisar RoadGhanera Pushkar
Tel 0145 277 2407
November 2nd to 4th Jodhpur
Saji Sanwri
Gandhi Street, Jodhpur - 342002. (Rajasthan) INDIATel (0091) - (291) - 2440305 ; 2625767 ; 2654875.

November 5th to 7th Jaiselmer
Shahi Palace
Near SBBJ Bank , Shiv road , Jaisalmer -345001Tel+91-2992-255920
Tel/Fax: +91-2992-254293Mobile (Dev) +91-9414365495
Mobile (Jora) +91-9414149647E-mail : Website

November 8th JodhpurEnroute to Udaipur
Overnight Saji Sanwri see above

November 9th to 11th Udaipur
Jaiwana Haveli (formerly the Caravanseri)
14 Lalghat, Udaipur 313001, India
Mobile: (Yash) (0) 94141 68151

November 12th Cochin Kerela
Le Royale (Jenny)
Kalathiveetil,Vaduthala P.OCochin - 682 023,KeralaTel +91 (0)484 2394989, 91 484 2436280
Email :

November 13th to 21st Kerala
No itinerary as yet.

November 22nd & 23rd
Residency Fort Hotel 26, Corner of D.N. Road and Rustom Sidhwa Marg, Fort, Mumbai 400 001, Maharashtra, India.Tel: (+91 22) 22625525, 66670555Fax: (+91 22) 22619164Email: residencyhotel@vsnl.comWebsite