Delhi to Kathmandu: The photos

I’ve been getting my photos up online, slowly but surely, over the past couple of weeks. Next step: set up my S&S leaving pressie photo printer, and to print off the best. In the meantime, here is my day by day pictorial record of the Exodus trip, Delhi to Kathmandu: 22 January to 5 February 2005.

22 January: Delhi – Humayun’s tomb, Lotus baha’i temple and Qtub Minar
23 January: Delhi – Gandhi’s tomb, Gurdwara Bangla Sahib sikh temple, New Delhi
24 January: Delhi to Jaipur – En route, Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, Jai Singh’s Observatory, the City Palace
25 January: Jaipur – Albert Hall, Palace of the Winds, Amber Palace, Jaipur Old City rickshaw ride
26 January: Taj Mahal, the Red Fort at Agra, Fatepur Sikri and the Magadh Express
27 January: Allahabad, Village school visit, Vindachal Temple Mirzapur, Chunar Fort, Boat ride down the Ganges, Barry’s and Maria’s birthday
28 January: Varanasi
29 January: Adieu India, Namaste Nepal
30 January: Bhairawa to Safari Narayani Lodge Ghatgai, Chitwan, and our first elephant safari, traditional Tharu dancing
31 January: Chitwan – Dawn safari, Canoe trip, Elephant briefing, Tharu village visit
1 February: Chitwan – Elephant breeding centre (Elephants there, canoes back)
2 February: Chitwan to Kathmandu
3 February: Kathmandu – Pashupatinath hindu temple, Bodhnath tibetan buddhist stupa, Swayambhunath “Monkey” buddhist temple, Thamel, Durbar Square and the Kumari, Giovana’s birthday
4 February: Kathmandu – Walking around Thamel, Durbar Marg and Durbar Square
5 February: Kathmandu – Thamel and the Rum Doodle 40,000 ft bar

Delhi to Kathmandu: Part 2
Delhi to Kathmandu: To summarise ….
Home sweet home
Delhi to Kathmandu – interim report from Varanasi
Delhi to Kathmandu resources
Delhi to Kathmandu, here I come!
Holi- Holi- Holiday?

January 2012: Following fotopic’s demise, I’ve uploaded my photos for this trip onto Flickr: Delhi to Kathmandu, January/February 2005.

Delhi to Kathmandu: Part 2

The Safari Narayani Lodge was a lovely place to relax and to do safaris by elephant and canoe into the Royal Chitwan National Park, where we saw rhino and crocodiles. We also go to enjoy traditional Tharu dances and a visit to a local village where Kirsty and I were kept busy giving swings.

The drive to Kathmandu was beautiful, even if it featured a few frightening sheer drops as we climbed from the enchantingly named Mugling (fresh spicy samosa, 6 for 30 nepali rupees) along the Prithvi Highway into the high Kathmandu valley.

We couldn’t go to Pokhara – a combination of the Maoists declaring a No Travel day, and putting a bomb under one of the main bridges on the road to Pokhara. So no views of the marvellous Annapurnas, and no treks 🙁

I loved Kathmandu – the Royal Singi Hotel was in a great location in Durbar Marg, close to Thamel, to old city and the amazing Durbar Square. And there is Kasthamandap Bazaar just over the road: a great quasi-department store, with a food hall-cum-Woolies in the basement.

We had a great day of informative tours with our local guide Suresh, starting with the hindu temple at Pashupatinath (I didn’t know that Nepal is the only hindu kingdom, although buddhism and hinduism do seem to blend easily for most nepalese), then the tibetan buddhist stupa at Bodhnath with its busy courtyard and beautiful sunshine lighting up the golden spire, and prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. Our last stop before lunch as the monkey temple of Swayambhunath, with its golden stupa and temples on a hilltop with views over Kathmandu and towards the mountains that encircle the valley.

After a great lunch al fresco in the Dechenling Beer House garden, where I had my first taste of Everest Beer, Suresh let us wander through Thamel and down through streets busy with the activities of daily life, before giving us a fascinating guided tour of Durbar Square, including an appearance by the Kuamri, the living goddess.

The rest of our time in Kathmandu was freetime, mainly spent wandering the streets of Kathmandu, and trying not to buy too many souvenirs….

I want to go back to Nepal sometime, all the more so after Michael Wood’s The search for Shangri-La programme yesterday. Not sure when though.

All telecoms were off during the week we were in Nepal, but once in Kathmandu we go to see BBCWorld reports telling us that “people who can are fleeing the country” and occasionally saw groups of armed soldiers hanging around on street corners, but other than that you wouldn’t have known that the King had just made another step towards increased despotism.

Home sweet home

After the tortuous return flight from Kathmandu (the killer stage being the 6 hour stop over in Abu Dhabi – home of the world’s most uncomfortable airport seating – from 9.40pm to 3.30am), it’s been a nice but weird day back in London. Phil met me at LHR, which was really really lovely, and once back in the Barbican and after unpacking and starting the washing marathon we headed over to Warwick Avenue for a very tasty lunch at the Prince Albert Pub and Formosa Dining Room, organised by Tom Coates.

Time for a bit of a veg session now catching up on all the telly Phil’s videoed in my absence (USA-tastic: The OC! The West Wing! Desperate Housewives!). Then I’ll think about getting my stuff together for day 1 at Norton Rose…… Sorting holiday pics will have to wait a while.

(In the end, I didn’t do anything with my photos (a task for this weekend methinks), but I did manage to stay awake all the way through to midnight, largely thanks to C4’s “100 greatest pop videos”….. )

Delhi to Kathmandu – interim report from Varanasi

I’m sitting in Varanasi in the internet cafe in the hotel we’re in – the first time I’ve managed to get online so far. At 50 rupees for 90mins works out at less than 1p/minute and as today is a free day, I’m making the most of it. Oh yes – before I forget, Elke also showed me the Clinic Beaucare website.

But back to Varanasi….

We were up at 5.45 to go on a boat ride on the Ganges to see the sun rise over the ghats (the steps where people come to wash/pray/cremate) …. but all we saw was lots and lots of rain and about 5 people instead of the hundreds shown in the postcards, the magnificent palaces built by kings and princes, which rise majestically above the ghats, looked rather rundown and forlorn in the daylight.

We’ve been really unlucky at times with the weather – overcast and cold in Delhi and Jaipur where the morning fog made it cold too, and not so good for taking photos 🙁 That said, Jaipur and the Amer/Amber Palace still managed to impress, as did the camel carts and colourful local life as well as the buildings and scenic settings of Rajasthan.

We’ve just had 2 hot and sunny days, in Agra (so good pics of the Taj Mahal, which is every bit as amazing as you’d expect, and the Red Fort, which was equally stunning), and then travelling on an overnight train to Allahabad (11pm departure, 5am arrival, confluence of 3 sacred rivers, and lots of pilgrims). After three hours of recuperation in an Allahabad hotel (not sure why we needed 3 hours…) we continued on by coach through sunlit rural villages, and in one we had an impromptu stop at the village school (which proved to be less voyeuristic than I initially feared), in addition to the programme’s scheduled stops at a temple (where I felt we weren’t really very welcome…) and the old fort at Chunnar. The rest of the day was spent relaxing on a tranquil 4 hour boat cruise down the Ganges to Varanasi, where we arrived under cover of darkness and so were able to see the evening prayers in full effect.

I will confess that so far I am disappointed with the trip, and that’s in part due to the fact that I’m used to a bit more independence when I travel with Hazel and on the last “organised” trip we did with Intrepid. I don’t think I’d do another Exodus/Explore-type holiday in a hurry. I know that the poor weather, l-o-n-g flight out (exacerbated by terrible scheduling) and hectic travel from day 1 onwards hasn’t helped generate a terribly favourable impression of India, but there are other small annoyances that together put me off somewhat.

The group are all nice, and there is a fair spread of ages and interests, but we’ve got a not terribly experienced local guy, Avtar, as our tour leader. His english gets a bit muddled at times, and he does ramble on when explaining cultural or religious things. Plus he’s not good at explaining the options to us, and then gets all funny when we ask questions to clarify the “programme”, and sometimes his answers don’t match up to the question. He does try hard though.

We’re eating in tourist/”international” restaurants, which in the main have proved pretty souless and devoid of any other diners, and although we are staying in nice (on occasions, very plush) hotels, they are usually far from the centre of things. Avtar isn’t at all keen about us going off on our own, which I’m finding really frustrating.

On Sunday, we couldn’t visit the Red Fort, Masjid Jamal or the old town in Delhi, as per day 2 of the programme, because of the Republic Day rehearsals. I would have expected our local guide / organisation to have been aware of the date and impact of rehearsals, and to have re-jigged the programme accordingly.

To make matters worse, we were taken to a carpet co-operative “workshop” in Delhi and a marble inlay “workshop” in Agra – aka hard sell of expensive souvenirs tacked onto a 5 minute explanation of the craft, which is about as far from my idea of a holiday activity as I can imagine…. we mutinied in Jaipur when Avtar and our local “guide” Bharat tried to take us to a second carpet workshop in less than 48 hours, and negotiated a 45 minute spell exploring the centre of Jaipur’s Old City under our own steam. I think that I would have found it less irritating if we had spent any time so far in “normal” shopping streets and markets, but we’d not!

Tomorrow we drive to Nepal. Hopefully things will pick up there….