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Tag Archive: India

15.5K steps and 47 flights of steps – all in a jeep

We both have a Garmin Fenix – Susan has the 5 and Mark has the 5X.  This watch is very accurate when it comes to distance.  When we first got them before we left Colorado, we did a 5K (3.1 miles) and the watch recorded it as 3.12 miles!

On our trip to India, we went Ranthambore National Park to look for tigers.  For all of you thinking “Didn’t you see Tigers is Africa?”. Nope!  Tigers are in Indian; lions are in Africa. To see tigers, you need to go on a safari either for 4 hours in the morning or 4 hours in the afternoon.  We were picked up at the hotel about 7 AM and the fun began. (We actually did 3 of these safaris, two in the morning and one afternoon safari.)  As noted in our blog, the roads are extremely bumpy and the drivers drive like maniacs.

About half way through the one of the safaris, both our fitness watches indicated we hit 10,000 steps and that we’d reached our step climbing goal of 10 flights.  When we finally got back to the hotel after being shaken like a can of paint, Mark’s watch said we walked 15,500 steps and climbed 47 flights of stairs and descended 31 flights.  Susan’s watch had an amazing 104 flights climbed and 132 flights descended.

19116 Steps all while sitting in a jeep

Susan’s 19116 Steps all while sitting in a jeep and bumping across India!

If you want to cheat your fitness tracker, just go on a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park, India.


Jaipur is a lovely – pretty clean, has a great flyover road to skip a bunch of traffic, lovely buildings with uniform signage.  The traffic chaos still exists but the architecture and city layout help.

The Amber Fort was the first stop and it’s lovely.

Amber Fort view through window

This is the view through the screen at the fort into the courtyard.

The fort wall seemed to go on forever.

Amber Fort

Mark and Susan at the Amber Fort

Our guide was good at taking pictures. This is us at the Amber Fort.

Ajay was a good tour guide – took us to the hot spots. We used the ramps a lot that were built for the queen’s wheeled chair when her dress and jewelry were too heavy for her to walk. He gave us options on what to see or skip and told us if we want to shop or see the local block printing, just tell him.  He’s been a guide for 22 years and definitely has the personality for it. We passed on the shopping.

It’s a small world! The guide’s nephew is at CSU. I looked him up in the Student Directory and he’s majoring in Engineering.

parking lot chaos

The parking lot at the Amber Fort was mass chaos when we left and tried to find Sonu.

Palace of the Wind

The Wind Palace. It’s only one room deep and the ladies used it to watch what was going on in the streets. It’s very lacy and airy.

The Jantar Mantar Observatory was fascinating and measures time in India Local time which is not used any more. India Standard Time was started by the British when they needed uniform schedule times for the trains.  The offset is shown every day at the Observatory.  There’s an astrology clock too.

ticket prices

This is a good example of the difference in ticket prices paid by Indian nationals and non-Indian tourist. The exchange rate was about 62 rupees to the US dollar.

We went on the food and market walk in the afternoon from about 3:30 – 6:30 AND we even crossed the streets about 6 times with the guide.  The street crossing rivaled Hanoi! The guide was quite good and we can now find the wedding dress section and the metal pan section in Jaipur.  Had some samosas that were great. People bought them by the big bags full!  The stand sells several thousand a day.

Chilis fried

I’m not sure the name if these but they were tasty chilis.

Samosas along the street

Samosas cooked in front of us.

Fried food in the market

People bought these by the bag full. They sell several thousand a day.

Food tour spices

Some of the spices at the Spice market we saw during the Food tour in Jaipur.


Paneer – it’s fresh cheese and was yummy in all the veggie Indian dishes we tried.

Monkey eating food

He munched on the food he found along the street.

Gin and tonic

Proper gin and tonic by the Samode Havelli – lovely hotel in a historic building that was a palace for a ruler from Samode.


First stop was the Jaswant Thada Memorial to the Maharajas where they are cremated and then a memorial is built over the ashes.


More mausoleums on the same site.

memorial to Maharaja

Jaswant Thada. It has translucent marble walls. They are beautiful when the sun shines through them.

Jodhpur has a current maharaja but he has no power.  It was all given up in 1971. The maharajahs could keep their land and holdings by paying a tax to the government. This maharajah kept the palace (Now a Taj hotel is on the property.) and deeded the Mehrangarh Fort and other palaces to a trust in the same form as in England. He became King at age 4 and was educated in England so likes the UK form of trusts for national monuments.

Amber fort and walls

Mehrangarh Fort from across the lake. We could walk, take an elephant, or have Sonu take us to the top!

Amber Fort

Mehrangarh Fort  Jodhpur

After we finished at the fort, we walked down through the blue city – home to Brahmin caste and jewelry smiths, historically – through the temple area, past the public kitchens, bangle market, wholesale spice market and grain markets.  We ended up at the clock tower where the clock was built using the same type of mechanism as Big Ben.  It was a block from the hotel!

Yes, potato chips can be bought loose. I have no idea what a kilo of these costs. I stuck to finding strange flavors of Lay’s potato chips!


A bangle bracelet vendor. Pick your favorite color!

The country people buy the bangles in wholesale and mark them up a bit, selling them in small quantities.  They come to the same location every day to sell them.  The sari section sells used saris. The people buy old ones and then resell them here for uses as curtains and other items that need large quantities of fabric.

fireworks stand

One section of the market had fireworks stands everywhere.

Michael, tour guide, was great! He’s from around Goa and earned a MS in Tourism Mgmt.  Told us good info and answered questions about India. He’s Catholic so no long weddings for him but he did have receptions on different days from wedding – one for his veggie friends and one for his non-veggie friends.

building scaffolding

Makeshift scaffolding for carrying bricks and mortar from one level to another.

We watched construction across the street – ramps used from one story to the other to move cement and bricks!

We could see this groom on a horse from the rooftop restaurant where we ate dinner. He was accompanied by friends and a very loud music truck!

A procession for the groom came by the hotel so everyone was watching from the roof.  The groom-to-be is on a white horse.

Udaipur – a clean city!

Udaipur was a wonderful surprise!  The streets are amazingly clean – very little trash.  The mayor is adamant about having a clean city and it was very noticeable!

Every city comes with a tour guide and the guide in Udaipur was excellent.  The City Palace sits on top of a hill – surprise!  It was built by the kings and added on to by every king.  We gave up trying to keep all the rulers’ names straight – too many and names are way too long!

City palace balcony

City Palace Balcony

City Palace from lake

City Palace. We were in a boat in Lake Pichola.

city palace mirror room

One of the mirrored rooms in the City Palace

City Palace of Udaipur

City Palace of Udaipur

Two hotels use part of the palace. “Octopussy” was filmed partly at the City Palace and in the streets of Udaipur.  “Marigold Hotel” scenes were filmed here, too.

My favorite part was the window screens carved all from one piece of stone or marble. These allowed the women to see out but prevented anyone from seeing the women.

Carved screens

These carved screens were carved from one piece of stone.

The Queen’s Side of the palace can be rented for parties and weddings now – to the tune of millions of rupees for this site.

Mark and Susan on Palace Island. We needed one posed picture to prove we’d been together on the trip.

We had our own boat out to Palace Island.  The guy who built the Taj lived on this island when he hid from his Dad.

washing clothes illegally

Washing clothes and bathing in the river is technically illegal in Udaipur. They don’t want the soap in the water.

water garden lily pads

Garden of the Maids of Honor

We made a stop at the Water Gardens built for princess with lots of fountains that run naturally.

Mark and Susan with Indian ladies

These ladies wanted their picture taken with us.

monkeys and mom

A few of the many monkeys at the City Palace



Bundi was our least favorite stop In India. It’s a small town with fort and palace – surprise!  The tour guide was terrible – we fired him after about an hour.

Nighttime view of the fort

Nighttime view of the fort

Fort in daytime

Bundi Fort during the day

The best thing about Bundi was sitting on the roof of the hotel and watching the total lunar eclipse.

full lunar eclipse

The lunar eclipse occurred when we were in Bundi. We watched it rise over the fort and then go into eclipse.


Ranthambore National Park is home to tigers along with a variety of birds, monkeys, sambars, but the tigers are the big draw.  Tiger safaris leave in the morning or the afternoon. It was back on safari schedule – 6 AM wake up with coffee and tea, quick showers and off to the NP.  We knew we’d be in a 6-person vehicle but we had no idea with whom.  The first morning we ended up with 3 other people – a couple from the UK and Abeget, an Indian from Cupertino who works for EA Entertainment Arts.

The safari vehicles have no top; they are completely open air.  Khem Villas provided a wool blanket with hot water bottle, 2 bottles of water and 2 sandwiches. We laughed when we read this but, when we hit the road, the blanket with the hot water bottle came in mighty handy!

The driver drove fast, making our heads and faces even colder.  First stop was at the main gate of the National Park so the hawkers could try to sell hats and gloves and fleeces. For some reason, they didn’t bother Abaget!

The park is divided into zones and each vehicle is assigned a zone never to be violated by entering another zone! Zone 2 was ours with the road following along the bottom of the hill with the Ranthambore Fort which is high and VERY large.  Pictures can’t do it justice.

Ranthambore Fort

The walls of Ranthambore Fort

tiger paw print

A tiger paw print in the road.

Victory! We saw two tiger “cubs”. This guy is only about 18 months old.

The tigers blend into the background quite well.

Hawkeye spotting!  A lady in a passing vehicle in the National Park saw Mark’s shirt and said “GO Hawks!”

Sambar deer in the lake

This lake was full of birds and Sambar deer during the afternoon safari

female NP guide

Our afternoon National Park Guide. She is the ONLY female guide in the National Park.

Naturalists are freelance and work on a rotation basis.  She tried really hard to find a tiger for us in the afternoon but to no avail.

sambas having sex

These sambars had some afternoon delight.

The birds were spectacular even if the tigers are in hiding.

owl in tree

The guide spotted two owls nestled in the tree.

Fruit bats

Fruit bats hanging around in the trees!

Agra and the Taj Mahal

This day did not start off well!  Susan woke up at 3 AM with nausea and suffered the effects of food poisoning for 5 hours while Mark slept through the whole thing.  He couldn’t have helped much, anyway.  The Costco version of Immodium and some Indian anti-nausea meds helped!

We had our own driver for this whole India adventure; this gave us the flexibility to put off leaving Delhi for Agra until 11:30 AM while Susan recovered a bit.

AQI hazardous

The smog was so bad it obscured some of the Taj Mahal. I wondered if Corel has a smog cleaning tool for photo editing?

The air quality was Hazardous as we drove to Agra on the freeway. After arriving in Agra and meeting our guide at the hotel, we told him we’d pass on any tours today and meet him at 8 tomorrow morning for the Taj.

The Taj Mahal was built as a love story – you can find the story here – and the building is beautiful in every way you’ve heard described.  We lucked out because the cleaning of the Taj has just been completed and the scaffolding was gone! They still have to clean the dome but that’s a project for another year.

Mark and Susan at the Taj Mahal. Our guide did well with the cameras, thank heavens! Our selfie skills are severely lacking.

No crowds at 8 AM so no lines for security. Speaking of security … every monument we went to had some sort of security.  Our bags were at least checked.  Regardless of the security, men and women go through separate lines all the time.  Since non-Indian visitors pay a much higher price for admission tickets, we also use separate admission lines.  The non-Indian visitors get the faster lines thanks to paying 10-20 times the price that an Indian citizen pays.

high value ticket signs

Different lines for “high value” ticket holders. Translation – foreigners who pay WAY higher admission prices!

 Taj reflecting

Taj reflected. If you look really carefully, the dome is a different color because it hasn’t been cleaned yet.

Taj reflected in the pools.

The fountains at the Taj don’t turn on until about 9. This made for a nice reflection in the pools. The crowds hadn’t descended on the Taj yet, either.

 Itimad uh Dualah Baby Taj

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah is a Mughal mausoleum often regraded as a draft of the Taj Mahal.

The Itamad uh Dualah, also known as the Baby Taj , is a smaller, delicate building on the river with very few visitors and a lovely western toilet!  Somehow, an unwritten rule seemed to be that international visitors also were charged more for the toilets – 20 rupees versus 10 rupees.  If the toilet was clean and western, I was happy!

Driving/Riding in India

Camels, cows, elephants, goats, sheep, trash, shrines, dogs, motor scooters, motorcycles, cars, trucks, push carts, bicycles … you name it, you probably find it on the roads of India. Throw in a few – or not so few –  people along the way and the picture gets more complete.

DIsclaimer: Many of these pictures were taken from the car as we moved along.

street traffic

Bicycles, auto-Rickshaw, people, and motorcycles all share the road.

goats on road

A few goats along the way. I like the spotted one.

Autorickshaws on the strret

Autorickshaws in India are the same thing as tuk-tuks in Thailand. Bicycle powered ones are just called “rickshaws”.

This guy hung out at a busy intersection in Delhi.

cows in road

Where does a cow cross the road? Anywhere she wants!

Camel on road

Camels are used for hauling wagons in the countryside.

cow wants a coffee

She obviously needs her coffee in the morning. We saw this in Bundi, down the street from our hotel.

White Baby camel

Baby camels are pretty cute! This group was walking down the road.

Staying within the lines on any road is completely optional as is going in only one direction on a divided highway.  Want to turn across traffic? OK … just stick the nose of your car out and nudge your way across the road while blocking traffic.

Truck blow horn sign

Telling someone to “Blow Horn” seems pretty unnecessary! Blowing the horn must be a requirement on the driving test.

One day, we had a diversion (British for “detour”)  at some point that took us through little villages that we never would have seen. The road was very bumpy, holey, cracked with a large sample of trash, shrines, cows in the road.  The road took us through small villages where all the men seem to sit in groups outside of shops visiting and drinking coffee and tea, reading the newspapers, while the women do all the work.

Walking along road

Walking along the road and we have no idea where they were going.

This guy walked through the traffic lined up to pay tolls. He was selling snack food.

truck full of grass

Taking grass of some sort to the animals. We never saw one tipped over but it has to happen!

riding in back of truck

An Indian countryside version of a bus. They were all going to the market town near them.  Spelling was a problem!

Indian freeway. The trucks were taking gravel to a road works site. This is the clearest lane I ever saw!

This gives you some idea of the variety you see in the cities. This was Delhi.

Snake charmer

Throw in a snake charmer or two on the sidewalks. The snakes are de-fanged.

Two weeks in India!

We know so many people from India and have heard so much about the country that India made the final list of places to visit on this trip. The Chief Travel Planner (Susan) decided she didn’t really want to try to figure out how to get around India so we did a bit of research on tours. We scratched the group tour idea and decided to go with a driver/guide combo.

After finally deciding on Audley, we gave them the places we wanted to visit, and Bryn put together the itinerary, booked drivers, hotels, and guides.  We just showed up!  Audley did a great job from start – meeting us at the Delhi airport – to end when the rep helped us navigate the lines that are the Delhi airport at midnight.  Sonu, our driver, took care of us and didn’t freak us out on the roads at all. He knew the best places to stop for food and CLEAN bathrooms!

Sonu our driver

Sonu was our driver from arrival time in Delhi until we flew home. He’s from the Himalaya region of India and an amazingly good driver and nice person.

Along the way we saw Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Ranthambore National Park, Bundi, and Narlai.  It was an adventure!

The first 3 days were in Delhi. Because it was National Day (Public holiday) AND the ASEAN conference was going on with leaders from all the ASEAN countries, security was tight with closed roads and many buildings closed.  We saw many of the places from the outside that, normally, we could have visited.

jama masjid mosque

Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi

electric line chaos

This street was pretty normal with electric, phone, TV lines going in all directions.

approaching mosque in smog

The mosque was only about a block away and you can tell how smoggy the air was.

234 Unhealthy Air Quality Index

Air Quality Index – Unhealthy!

May 2017 Planning Update

Thank heavens for Excel spreadsheets!  I use them to keep track of where we’ll be every day, where we’re staying, flights, trains, etc.  Another spreadsheet is tracking costs and what we have left to book. I even have a worksheet to calculate how many days we need to take anti-malaria meds.

The spreadsheet is getting longer and details are added by the week.  We have most of the long haul flights organized and have organized a tour in Jordan for 8 days – seeing Jerash and Petra, the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

The latest detail is setting up a tour in India.  We’ve decided to use Audley Travel with a driver and tour guides in each city.  We’ve been working with Byrn Woodworth at Audley Travel   and she’s been great, so far.  She gave us “homework” to do – check out hotels, make a list of cities we want to see and what we want to see in each city.  Bryn took that information and came up with an itinerary along with 3 or 4 hotels in each city for us to consider.  The tour includes driver between cities and private guides in each city along with admissions and hotels with breakfasts.  Dinners and lunches are on our own.  After some more research on our part, we’ve made that reservation!

Now it’s time to start filling in the blanks – trains, a few hotels, short flights.

Today was pretty frustrating when I tried to book 2 seats on the Indian Pacific train from Perth to Sydney on the Great Southern Railways website .  I made it through the booking process but when I clicked on “Payment”, the website just sat and stared at me for 5 minutes (Yes, I timed it.) with the little message “Payment Processing”.  Finally, I checked my credit card website and, sure enough, they’d approved the transaction.  No booking number appeared, no email showed up with a booking number and I couldn’t log on to an account, even though I’d attempted to set one up.  I couldn’t even get Great Southern to reset my password.  Their site SAID they were sending me an email so I could set a new PW but that email never showed up.

I sent Great Southern Sales and Booking an email. The autoreply announced they are experiencing a greater than expected number of emails and to just hang on and wait for a reply. Wonder why??  Now, I’m sitting on hold with Great Southern trying to get this figured out.  Thanks heavens for Skype!

5/22/Update – Great Southern was really helpful after I got through the hold – a mere 15 minutes.  The booking is done – yeah! Now we have to figure out the rest of the time in Australia!