A Travellerspoint blog

Indian Summer

Just two days in Delhi – what can you do in that time? Well with the help of a fantastic local driver (with temperatures well over 40 degrees I was so grateful for the aircon!) called Kesore we visited Mahatma Ghandi’s last home – now a museum (this moved me to tears – truly a great man);
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the fabulous Rajpath Government area, designed by Lutyens; Humayun’s Tomb (a Mughal Emperor) restored by the Aga Khan and a World Heritage site, as is the Qutb Minar tower and buildings, Delhi’s 1st Sultanate;
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India Gate and The Bahai Temple shaped like a lotus flower (think floral Sydney Opera House) – we were too bushed to do more than take in the Red Fort from the car!!
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The next day we were up at 5.45 to drive to Agra and – that’s right – the Taj Mahal!!! This is truly stunning, and our guide showed us all the wonderful details of its construction as well as its romantic history and horrible ending :o(
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The drive there took us out of the hectic city and into the dusty countryside, where bullock carts and tractors towing enormous, precarious loads compete with the ubiquitous Tuk Tuk’s for the ‘world’s craziest driving exploits prize’ (if there isn’t one there should be – Indian’s would win it hands down).
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Back home tomorrow – as the song goes “It’s so nice to travelling, but it’s so much nicer to go home” :o)

Posted by colandmand 12:49 Comments (0)

Sitting on top of the world

Well Begnas Lake Resort proved to be everything we had hoped – and more. The room was lovely, with a spectacular view (see pics). IMG_7474.jpg

We almost had the place to ourselves and were spoilt rotten. No TV or piped music, but each afternoon for the 1st three days a truly spectacular thunderstorm which freshens the air and makes the landscape lush and green.
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We swam every day in their spring-fed pool which was pristine and adjusted quickly to having the occasional frog race you to the deep end! We went out on the lake in a simple local boat – Colin gave rowing a go but the young girl who took us out was so skilled we just enjoyed the ride – particularly when without warning, she started to sing a lovely Nepali song – truly magical.
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On our last day we climbed to the temple at the top of the hill for some glorious views of the Himalaya’s. Later I had an Ayurvedic body massage which was so relaxing – and the oiliest I’ve ever been :o)

Posted by colandmand 12:42 Comments (0)

Nepal I

Chaotic Kathmandu

sunny 24 °C

We had been warned that Kathmandu is very crowded and not the best place to see in Nepal. So by the time we arrived I was expecting the teeming streets to be wide but crazy-busy like HK at New Year. Instead the streets are more like alleys – the width of a car, unevenly paved with stones or bricks and full of people crammed onto motorbikes, weaving through all ‘obstacles’ at speed and sounding their horns continuously. The buildings are higgledy-piggledy, with beautifully carved doors and fretwork windows, tiny frontage and rambling up and back at crazy angles. There are tiny shrines everywhere, the occasional bored-looking bullock and not much litter (Nepali’s are on a mission to eradicate the plastic bottle and bag) but very, very grubby. Whatever the photo’s convey, it will not be the tremendous din, the choking smells and the frankly (weird but true) exhilarating chaos of it all. Our Hotel – Kantipur (old name for Kathmandu) Temple House is a serene, utterly enchanting oasis of calm in the midst of all this with a huge variety of (mainly vegetarian Yay!!) meals and great room. It even covers the daily power-cuts with the quietest generator I’ve ever (almost) heard.
Yesterday we took a taxi to a Hindu New Year festival in nearby Bohktapur – this guy makes movie speed-chases look tame! I’m pretty sure the car was a ‘cut-and-shunt’ and as we raced between buses, trucks and thousands of laden motorbikes (how come the Dad/driver gets to wear a helmet, and the Mum has to ride side-saddle, in a sari, holding a couple of small children – all bare-headed?) crashing over ruts with dust-clouds reducing visibility to a few feet, I had visions of our next family reunion being at our graveside!!!
Undeterred, we set out again this morning for Patan and the fantastic Museum and Durbar Square, rightly designated as World Heritage sites. It had its share of persistent stall-holders and beggars all of which we are managing pretty well, but we went to a Nepalese Crafts Fair Trade shop (one of the first in the world apparently) to see the wonderful handicrafts from as far afield as Tibet. Off to our personal Shangri-La tomorrow – to a secluded place overlooking a lake, with the still reflection of the Himalayas and Anna Purna in the water and great massages – bliss!!

Posted by colandmand 09:25 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Hong Kong

A Family Reunion

overcast 22 °C

Hong Kong blog to follow - a hectic but wonderful week culminating in our son Will's wedding banquet. Full story and pictures to come, internet access in deepest Nepal permitting.

Finally, after being incommunicado in the best possible way at Begnas lake near Pokhara, we are back in Kathmandu - so here is the full Hong Kong story.

Hong Kong was always going to be a lynchpin of our tour, because of our son Will (and Denise)’s wedding banquet on the 10th April. It was a big family reunion for both bride and groom since we hadn’t seen any of our family or friends since early January, and Denise’s wider family were keen to celebrate their marriage. So sightseeing wasn’t top of the agenda – although we managed a fair bit of that as well.

First, the wedding banquet (legally Will and Dee were married three years ago in London, but this was the opportunity for a traditional Chinese celebration). The venue was the splendid Peninsula Hotel – surely the grandest hotel in Hong Kong, nestling in its stately way among the high rises of Kowloon. The guests in all their finery were more than a match for the setting, with Denise sparkling in their midst. The centrepiece was a 12 course banquet, interspersed with speeches, a slideshow, and various toasts. Before that we participated in the customary tea ceremony, at which the new couple are introduced to all the family members. As usual when you don’t know exactly what to do, we just followed what others were doing. As is customary, the grooms parents don’t get to make speeches (phew!), but just to put on record that Dee’s parents, David and Eileen Ong, and the whole family, made us feel very welcome, and were the perfect hosts, not just on the wedding day, but for the whole week.

To step back to the beginning of the week, we arrived on Sunday from Tokyo. It was my birthday, but we were unable to blag an upgrade on the flight (how do people do this? It never works for me). Still, they did ply me with drinks to compensate. Family and friends arrived in dribs and drabs over the next few days, so the time was spent meeting and greeting them, and catching up with news. Miss Sophie Pratt arrived Monday, accompanied by her mum and dad, and of course became the centre of attention. Chris and Vicky arrived Tuesday, Mollie and Oggie on Wednesday. In between times we had some lovely meals with David and Eileen and their extended family from the US and Australia. Sophie attended one of these and once again acquitted herself with aplomb – entrancing everyone at the table as well as the hotel staff.

Once (nearly) everyone had arrived, David and Will organised a trip to the huge Buddha on Lantau Island. This must be one of the biggest Buddha’s in the world, and although it looks ancient, was erected within the past 20 years. It is approached by a long flight of steps (think Rocky), and inside the statue is housed a gallery with scenes from the Buddha’s life. Amazing! We ate a really delicious vegetarian meal in a restaurant run by monks attached to the temple.

On Thursday we went to the Avenue of stars in Kowloon (like in Hollywood – handprints etc of famous film stars), and competed to make ridiculous Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee impersonations in the pouring rain. We also went over to Hong Kong Island for the first time, where several of our party went shopping. Hong Kong is a bit of a shoppers’ paradise, with up-market malls full of designer ware, down to street markets – also full of “designer” ware. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, and was also feeling the effects of over-indulgence, so made my excuses and returned to Kowloon where I had a final fitting for a new suit courtesy of Sam’s Tailors, and then retired to recharge the batteries. Just as well, as that evening we went to Mon Coq (I think that’s how it’s spelt) to run the gauntlet of the street markets.

On Friday boys and girls separated to do their own stuff. The blokes took the ferry to Macau to look around the old Portuguese colony and incidentally stumbled on a casino, where we played at roulette and blackjack and were clinically and efficiently separated from our money. The high spot was an all-you-can-eat buffet in the casino for about $10, where I was privileged to see Will and his mates put away quite Herculean amounts of food. I guess they can afford to subsidise the restaurant. We returned to Hong Kong lighter in the wallet, and proceeded to a restaurant specialising in hot pot – bit like a Chinese fondue. What the girls did that day is a mystery, but rumour had it that some kind of exotic dancing was involved. Miss Sophie had her own special day, attended by Vicky, Mandy and Mollie – who had somehow wriggled their way out of the exotic dancing – so to speak- and went for some retail therapy, massage and pedicures instead.

So to the big day…. See above, except to say that Marlene had arrived Friday and joined us for the wedding. She also suggested a rendezvous on Sunday at a tea house in Hong Kong Botanical Gardens – absolutely fascinating, with a huge variety of teas and tutorial on how to make them.

Sunday and Monday everyone split, getting home thankfully before the impact of the Icelandic volcano on flights. We stayed till Tuesday, taking in the Museum of Modern Art and the work of Wu Guanzhong with Oggie, before catching our flight for the marathon journey to Nepal.

Posted by colandmand 09:21 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Good Friday

sunny 15 °C

So our delight in Japan continues. We have visited many Temples and Shrines - the Japanese evidently subscribe to a unique blend of Shintoism and Bhuddism. Most recently we were blessed by a Bhuddist Abbot who said we looked so happy we must be on our honeymoon. This Zen Monastery has lovely raked-gravel gardens, elegant in their simplicity and wonderfully peaceful. Inside the largest wooden structure in the world is this enormous Bhudda. Nearby there is a hole through one of the roof beams. It is said that if you can pass through the hole you will achieve enlightenment. I'm told the hole is the same size as the Bhudda's nostril and some quite large people managed it - now that's one big Bhudda!!
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The Temple was set in a huge park where huge herds of tame deer pursue the unwary tourist in search of tidbits
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Close by is a classic Japanese garden with tiny stone bridges over streams with huge, slow-moving carp, mossy banks and balletic cherry trees in blossom. All set against the backdrop of distant hills (called 'borrowing a setting')
We had tea in a classic Tea Room, served by Mrs Overall's Japanese cousin :oD
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That evening we took the bullet Train again - this time to Hiroshima, where, at 8.15am August 6th 1945, the first Atom Bomb was dropped, causing thousands of people to die in agony and almost totally destrying the city in seconds. Good Friday seemed a fitting day to consider the evils of war and resolve to contribute in whatever way we can to peace and tolerance in the world.
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Posted by colandmand 03:57 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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