India & Nepal, 3-21 April 2016

April 3, 2016 Sunday;

The adventure begins with an hour and a quarter flight to Atlanta where we meet with Jim and Cynthia.  We have time for a short visit where Jim and Wayne reminisce about their time together in the Navy in the 60’s.  Then there’s the eight and one half hour flight to Paris followed by another close connection and the final eight and one half hour flight to New Delhi.  Arriving shortly before midnight, the airport is still bustling with activity.  The van ride to the hotel accentuates the constant flow of traffic.  Like a beehive, the city never sleeps.  Traveling for two days has us ready for the comfort of the hotel bed.  The night will be short.  Tomorrow, there will be new and exciting sites to see.

April 5, Tuesday.

The world’s tallest minaret, Qutab Minar Tower, looms above the city scape.  Several ancient Hindu and other religious temples were destroyed by the Mugals so that they could use the stones to build this tower and the close by mosque.  The city tour continues past the imposing India Gate war memorial to the last residence of Gandhi, now a museum.  This was also the site of his assassination.

The Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is one of the largest Sikh houses of worship.  Here, they feed thousands daily free.  Donated food is prepared and served by volunteers.  After lunch, touring the National Museum proves very interesting and educational.  It has over 200,000 works of art spanning over 5000 years.  That’s a full day!  You’re ready for dinner and a good night sleep.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

India Gate war memorial

Qutab Minar Victory Tower

Sikh temple kitchen

April 6, Wednesday.

Today, we leave Delhi and travel by bus to Jaipur.  The ride itself is an eye opener.  The heavy traffic is unbelievable with every mode of land transportation sharing the road.  Vehicles just go around the free roaming cows and dogs.  Use of horn is a must.  Without a horn you can’t drive.  They aren’t used in anger, but as a form of communication.  They honk to alert that they want to pass, honk to signal it’s ok to pass and honk to say thank you.  Finally arriving at Jaipur, you see why it’s called the “Pink City”.  The buildings were painted that color in 1876 to celebrate the visit of the Prince of Wales to Jaipur.  The bustling bazaar beckons to shoppers with hundreds of stalls filled with handicrafts and jewelry.

hotel (lunch stop)

interior of hotel (lunch stop)

sacred cow

April 7, Thursday.

Sitting on a hill overlooking Jaipur is the grand Amber Fort with a fusion of Hindu and Mughal styles.  From the fort, you can see the original city walls and the lake below.  The City Palace (a former royal residence) has been converted into a grand museum.  Nearby is the 18th century open air Jantar Mantar Observatory beautifully preserved and waiting for you to use its many stone instruments to make astronomical calculations.  The day is highlighted by a wonderful dinner show.

Amber Fort walls

Amber Fort

dancer

elephant ride

Jantar Mantar Observatory

ladies in traditional dress

 

April 8, Friday.

Near to Jaipur is the small rustic village of Samode surrounded by the Aravalli hills.  Camel ride anyone?  Travel on to Chomu Palace Hotel for a relaxing afternoon in this opulent hotel.  Experience a royal welcome and elegant gala dinner at a fabulous restaurant including dancers, musicians, and fireworks.

camel ride

courtyard of the Chomu Palace Hotel

elegant restaraunt for dinner

elephants in the street

rose petal shower greeting

snake charmer

traditional bread making

traditional dancers

 

typical traffic

April 9, Saturday.

Traveling from Chomu to Agra, we stop at the small ancient village of Abhaneri in northern Rajasthan.  Located here is one of the largest step wells in India, Chand Baori.  The journey continues to Agra and a relaxing afternoon followed by a fantastic show depicting the love of the Shah Jahan for his wife and the lavish lifestyle of the Mugal era.

temple in Abhaneri, Rajasthan

Chand Baori step well

camel cart

April 10, Sunday.

The Taj Mahal, in all its majesty, inspires all who gaze upon this beautiful white marble monument to love.  It took 22 years to build and has stood the test of time.  The rare non-porous marble is unique to this area and as time has proven it doesn’t stain or degrade.  Truly it is a marvel of architecture.  Later visiting the red sandstone Agra Fort, the grandeur of the Mughal Empire is once again center stage.  Nearby stands the beautiful white marble tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah inlaid with mosaics and semi-precious stones.

us in traditional attire

Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah

Taj Mahal

our groups guys dress in turbans

our groups guys dress in turbans

home cooking

cows in the road

Agra Fort

Agra Fort (inside)

Agra Fort (inner area)

April 11, Monday.

After a relatively short bus ride from Agra back to Delhi, take a “cycle rickshaw” ride down Chandni Chowk, the main street of old Delhi.  This narrow street barely has room for you to walk, yet motorbikes and rickshaws meet and pass weaving through the pedestrians.  Nearby is Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India.  The afternoon is spent relaxing and preparing for the trip to Kathmandu, Nepal.

our cycle rickshaw

shoppers on Chandri Chowk

street vendor

the very narrow Chandri Chowk

us at the mini-Taj

April 12, Tuesday.

Today is a travel and relaxation day.  After the flight, there’s time to relax in the beautiful Yak & Yeti Hotel before the Nepal Tour Director provides a briefing on what to expect.

our room at the Yak & Yeti

April 13, Wednesday.

We’re up early for a flightseeing of Mt. Everest.  Everyone gets a window seat in the twin engine ATR72.  The pilot invites us up one at a time to view Mt. Everest from the cockpit.  It’s amazing and exciting to see the highest mountain in the world.

On a hill overlooking Kathmandu, the golden spire of Swayambhunath reaches to the heavens adorned with many colorful prayer flags.  Hundreds of pilgrims, monks, and tourists circle the complex clockwise spinning prayer wheels as they go.  Running amongst the many people are the ever present monkeys.

Continue on to Durbar Square, a complex of ancient temples and palaces including the Hanuman Dhoka, the ancient palace of Nepalese Royalty.  The Temple of Kumari, home of the Living goddess, is also found within this site.  In the afternoon visit Boudhanath, the largest stupa of its kind in the world.  Participate in a prayer ceremony and receive blessings from the Holy Lama.

ATR72 for Mt. Everest flightseeing

Buddha

Dianne spinning prayer wheels

Freak Street sign

Gurka in traditional dress

Hindu Holy Man

Holy Lama statue

Mt. Everest (center peak)

our cycle richshaw

pharmacy

singing bowl shop

temple (small)

temple area

temple monkey

temple repairs

April 14, Thursday.

After a short ride, you arrive at the medieval city of Bhaktapur.  Streets are lined with palaces, temples, statues, and squares.  On the banks of the holy Bagmati River stands Pashupatinath, one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world.  Cremation platforms spread along the river where families wait their turn to cremate their departed loved ones.  From our vantage point across the river, we see several cremations in progress.

cremation fire lighting

cremation in progress

cremation preperations

Hindu Holy Men

Nepalese New Year sign

new year celebrants

Nyatapola temple

sacred bull

sacred Hindu Shrine

street in Bhaktapur

street produce vendor

temple earthquake damage

temple in Taumadhi Square

April 15, Friday.

A long ride on narrow mountain roads plagued by heavy traffic, construction, and traffic jams takes us through Bharatpur and other small villages.  Near the Tharu villages of Chitwan sits the Temple Tiger Green Jungle Resort.  It’s a rustic resort with an amazing naturalist-guide, Ambika.  After time to relax from the long bus ride, we climb aboard elephants for a jungle safari.  The elephants take us across the river into the Chitwan National Park for an up close view of the wildlife.  Several Asian rhinos, red deer, and numerous birds are easily sited.  The tiger eluded us.

asian rhinos

elephant safari

Jim, Cynthia & Dianne on elephant

on safari in Chitwan National Park

our cottage

resting elephant

roadside shops

Temple Tiger Green Jungle Resort greetors

typical truck decor

April 16, Saturday.

Today starts with a jeep safari into the park.  After crossing the river in small boats we have a short walk to our jeeps.  On the way to the jeeps our guide points out fresh tiger tracks.  Again, deer and rhinos are spotted.  A short nature walk and picnic lunch are followed by a familiarization with a mother elephant and her “teenage’ calf.  After returning to the lodge for a brief rest, ox-carts are waiting to take you to the nearby Tharu village.  The villagers, especially the children turn out to interact with everyone.  The Tharu people live traditionally in a protected area.

Dianne with elephants

Dianne with Tharu children

elephant familiarization in Chitwan

ox-cart

rhino in protection mode

rhino mock charge

river crossing

teenager and mom

Tharu girl

Tharu teenager

traditional boat

traditional Tharu hut

working elephant

April 17, Sunday.

The road to Pokhara passes miles of rice paddies and tiny villages.  Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal and home to three of the highest mountains in the world.  It’s the primary starting point for the majority of trekking in Nepal.  It’s also the home of the Gorkha (Gurkha) museum.

Gurkha museum poster

Gurkha's kukri knife

Pokhara from hotel roof

road construction

roadside village

rooftops in Pokhara

wedding celebration in temple

wedding party

April 18, Monday.

Ride across the lake in wooden row boats and then hike up the mountain to the Peace Pagoda.  It’s only a two hour walk up a very steep hill.  The view from the top is fantastic.  The walk down the other side is a little easier and the bus is waiting partway down.

Visiting the mountain museum is educational.  The museum provides information about the climbers who come from all over the world.

boats on the lake in Pokhara

fun sign

Mountain Museum

Peace Pagoda

 

prayer scarf on the climb up to Peace Pagoda

reminder of the hippie invasion

toilet half way up to Peace Pagoda

typical roadstop toilet

view from near the Peace Pagoda

view half way up to Peace Pagoda

waterfall in Pokhara

April 19, Tuesday.

It’s the long ride back to Kathmandu over the narrow mountain road with its ever present traffic, construction, and traffic jams.  Though less than 100 miles, it takes 10 to 14 hours.  At the end of the trip, you’re ready for that comfortable hotel bed.

Annapurna Mountains

Fishtail Holy Mountain

German Bakery

great sign

Kathmandu traffic

our bus and assistant driver

Pokhara rooftop

road sign

roadside hut

rural house

view from hotel roof in Pokhara

village houses

April 20, Wednesday.

The morning is spent with last minute shopping and packing for the long trip home.  We won’t see our checked bags until be arrive back home.  We’ll have our carry-ons for the layover in New Delhi.  Just a few steps from the boarding gates and adjacent to the duty free shopping area is the layover hotel.  After some more shopping and a short nap, it’s time to board the flight home.  This is another long transient with 8 ½ hours to Paris, another 8 ½ hours to Atlanta, connection times, customs, immigration and an hour and a half flight home.

April 21, Thursday.

Back home from another great adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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