The hard part of sitting still is yesterday’s memories start to feel like a distant past. As we dig through our travel pictures and unseen videos, I swear it was another couple that trotted the globe; they just look like us. Trying to hold on to special moments becomes more difficult with time, so I decided to capture various highlights in a video since it’s something I’ve been messing with. Today, I bring you the 2011 Cricket World Cup in India. I hope this gives you a nice jumpstart to a wonderful weekend. Enjoy!
The day I announced that I was leaving for a trip around the world, I promised my co-workers from Orb Networks in Chennai (aka Madras) that I would come visit them. In keeping that promise, I saved the best for last.
We are starting to be used to the pain of finding a semi-clean hotel in India, but Chennai tops it all. Chennai is the second largest technological center in India after Bangalore and because of that, visitors are usually on business trips and can afford western prices. For us, this translates to decent hotels starting at $100. We are able to find hotels in our $15-$20 budget, but they are just crumbling. We spend our first day walking, riding on rickshaws, visiting hotels, pausing for coffee and then finally at night, we give up and go back to the only nice hotel we found that was willing to negotiate a little.
Our Room At New Victoria Hotel in Egmore
The next day, my former coworker comes to pick me up to bring me to the office. I was wondering if anybody would actually remember me since I left over a year ago, but as soon as I enter the office, it is like everyone is waiting for me and gives me the warmest welcome. It is great to finally meet my colleagues I once worked so closely with: Shami, Deepa, Sanjib, JP, Ram, Pradheep, Suresh and the rest of the great QA team. I catch up with everyone and they take me to a very nice Chinese restaurant in a fancy part of the city. Food is delicious and I have a great time with everyone.
Lunch With Colleagues @ A Chinese Restaurant
On Saturday, JP and Ram bring us all the way to Puducherry (aka Pondicherry). On the way, we stop at Dakshinachitra where we can observe a village that reconstitutes the traditional living of the different ethnic groups of South India. It is incredible how much of a difference there is between people living in the same country. During our time there, MuiMui gets her future read by a parrot. It looks like she will become financial independent by the end of the year. 😉 I take a shot at making pottery and fail miserably.
Traditional House @ Dakshinachitra
Weaving A Silk Sari
Boris Taking A Shot At Pottery Making
Parrot Brings Good Fortune
Next, we go to Mahabalipuram to see temples that were carved straight out of rock. The magnificent carvings are found all over the temple walls and tell a story of the river Ganges. It is definitely worth a stop if you are going there, but be careful, it can be scorching hot!
Mahabalipuram, The Temple City
Finally, we make our way to Puducherry where we stop at a nice vegetarian restaurant for a well-deserved lunch. The city has a nice mix of French colonial and Indian architecture. A visit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a must do. This Ashram was created by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The story is extremely interesting and I invite you to read more about it on the website of the Ashram.
Large Ghandi At The Shores Of Puducherry
In front of the Manakula Vinayagar Temple, we stumble upon a blessing elephant. I get blessed once and MuiMui can’t get enough so she gets blessed twice. It is good to have small change with you for donations when visiting temples in India.
Boris Getting Blessed By An Elephant
On Sunday, we are invited to go with Shami to the Kapaleeshwarar Temple. The temple is gorgeous, but we are more mesmerized by the devotion of the people. Shami explains to us that there is an order in which to pray for the different gods. For some of the gods, we put coloring on our forehead, walk around the statues several times, or even lay on the ground to pray. This looks surreal as we are trying to comply with the customs and observe without disturbing too much.
Moment Of Prayer
A Woman Praying
After the temple, Shami invites us to have lunch at his place. Shami’s wife cooks us a delicious Tamil vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf. I cannot remember everything we ate, but it was all entirely new to us and very delicious. We also had the chance to meet Shami’s son, his mother, and his grandmother (who is visiting). Thank you!
A Tamil Vegetarian Lunch Served On A Banana Leaf
Beautiful Faces Of Chennai
On our last day, we do some last minute shopping. JP brings us to the best shops. Shopping in Chennai turns out to be a lot of fun as we visit a few jewelry shops filled with gold and sari shops with gold-threaded silk saris worth several thousands of dollars. While we do not have a use for a sari, it is still very tempting.
Beautiful Silk Sari
Window Shopping For Gold
We say goodbye to the Orb India team, and from Chennai, we fly back to France.
We cannot thank each and every one of you enough for making our last stop in India an unforgettable one. We are very grateful for your kind gestures and making us feel so welcomed. In return for your hospitality, we invite you all to visit us in San Francisco or in France.
Boris With JP And Ram @ Shore Temple
A Kolam And Flowers Found In Front Of A Home
Painted Wall @ Dakshinachitra
Puppets @ Dakshinachitra
Little Devotee Inside Temple
Chariot Memorial Dedicated To Tamil Poet-Saint Thiruvalluvar
Boris On Local Train In Chennai
Our Takeaway Dinner
What We Paid:
– Jet Airways flight from New Delhi to Chennai
– Train from the airport to Egmore
– Double room @ Hotel New Victoria in Egmore [clean, nice, includes breakfast and Internet, mixed feelings with staff]
– Lunch at Saravanaa Bhavan South India vegetarian restaurant chain
– Take-out food at a local restaurant (chicken, fried rice, Chapathis and parottas, sauces)
Agra was a little too touristy for me so I request to escape to some place quieter, 26 miles away to be exact. Not knowing much besides the name of the city, we find our way on the correct local bus to Fatehpur. Even though it is towards the end of our travels, the experience of a local bus is still a surprise.
Me & Frenchie Riding The Local Bus
Cutest Boy On The Bus
As the bus arrives in the city of Fatehpur, is seems busy with just locals and no tourist in sight. As we walk around in the tiny streets, it feels so real here. There is a man selling spices in his wooden pushcart, a barber grooming a young man in a shop without walls, a baker in the process of cooking a local delight, a boy ironing in the middle of the road, and everyone just stops to look at us, and then smiles.
Arrival Into Fatehpur
Hard Working Old Woman
Eyeliner On Babies For Protection
Minutes later, we have two kids following us followed by five and then they keep coming. It is nice at first, but after following us for fifteen minutes, I start to question what is going on. A young man tells us the children want to know if we have pencils on us. I felt so bad as we didn’t have any goodies on us.
Sophisticated Little Girl
On the top of the hill is the palace city. It consists of two major parts, the sacred and royal complex. The architecture and history here is very interesting and worth the read, but there is still more to be discovered about this abandoned city. We first visit the sacred complex and from the moment we step in, we need to remember to look left, right, up, and down at all times so we don’t miss out any details of the remarkable interior. We visit the numerous tombs and mosque.
Entrance To Sacred Complex
Inside Sacred Complex
Blend Of Different Styles
We continue to the royal complex where there is even more to see including the palace, a five-story pavilion, and various halls. There is a romantic aspect to the overall architecture and the redstone engravings and pillars are truly inspirational.
Five Story Pavilion @ Royal Complex
We thought we finished seeing everything and as we are leaving the royal complex, something catches my eye next door so we go to check it out. The guards at the royal complex are surprised I want to see this section but they give me the ok to enter. Maybe it is the feeling of discovery or abandonment, but I am in awe of this hidden gem. It is mostly ruins here but the remaining arches and roundness of the interior feels very modern. We are by ourselves until we find a local boy just hanging out. We follow him to the rooftop and the curves resulting from the round sections of the structure is a neat detail. Why do we have flat roofs again?
In Ruins But Still Beautiful
Normal Structure From The Side
Pure Inspiration From On Top
If you are coming to Agra, the Taj Mahal maybe famous and something you are going to definitely see, but if you like architecture or want to be the only tourist, Fatehpur Sikri is well worth the visit.
Homes In Fatehpur
Man In Turban
One Smile A Day
Boy Taking A Rinse
New Father And His Baby
Exterior Of Mosque
What We Paid:
– Local bus from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri [1 hour one-way, bus comes every 30 minutes, no AC, can get crowded so not a good idea to catch the last return bus]
– Entrance of the Sacred Complex
– Entrance of the Royal Complex [keep your Taj Mahal ticket since it will give you a discount of 10Rs]
You might not know the city by its name but it holds one of the most recognizable structures in the world. Like many tourists in India, a visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal is a required stop and this is where we are off to next.
In the evening of our first day in Agra, we find a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Taj Mahal. We have never seen so many tourists in India as we did when looking out at the Taj. It is nice just to enjoy the sunset over the Taj with the small company of other travelers.
Rooftop Restaurant With View
Thousands Of Tourists
Sunset In Agra
Taj Mahal At Night
The next morning, it is an early day for us, as we want to avoid the long lines. We learn the hard way that the ticket office is not actually near the entrance gate. When we are finally inside, our first reaction is how much bigger the Taj Mahal is in person.
Entrance To Taj Mahal
Big Day, Visiting The Taj
It Took 22 Years & 22,000 People To Complete
It is a very photogenic building, which we learn is actually a mausoleum built by an emperor for his late wife. Their love story is as famous as the structure.
Khurram was a Mughal prince who knew he wanted to marry Arjumand Banu Begum, a Persian princess, the first time he met her. They had to wait five years and despite becoming his third wife, they were madly in love. When Khurram became emperor Shah Jahan, he gave her the title of Mumtaz Mahal, which translates to the chosen one of the palace. She was more than a wife, she was a constant companion and trusted adviser as she traveled with him all over the empire. She died while giving birth to their fourteenth child! He was heartbroken and ordered his court to go in mourning for two years. He dedicated this memorial to the love of his life, which he seeked to completion before getting ill.
Me & Frenchie
28 Types Of Precious Stones Were Once Inlaid Into The White Marble
When we get on the actual compound, we have to put covers on our feet to keep the place looking clean. We circle the building, walk inside, and forty-five minutes later, we are done.
Inside The Taj Mahal
Boris really enjoyed the Taj or should I say photographing it.
Feeling incomplete, I request for something away from Agra, 26 miles to be exact. Look out for our next post on Fatehpur, filled with wonderful pictures of people and architecture.
Parotta With Lots Of Butter
What We Paid:
– Train 2nd class SEAT from Jaipur to Agra without AC [not recommended unless on extreme tight budget and for short rides during daytime only]
– Private double room at Tourist Rest House [nice common space but very basic rooms, we had a rat run inside our room, no hot water for one day because they did not turn it on, staff is not friendly but the manager addressed our complaints, there are much better hotels than this]
Looking for a hotel seems to be getting more and more difficult for us each time we arrive in a new city. As we consult travel guides, the recommended hotels are conveniently located nearby train stations, but there is no other appeal. In Jaipur, we end up walking for hours looking for a midrange accommodation. Is it too much to ask for a clean hotel that is moderately priced in India?
Exhausted but not willing to give up, I go on my own to look for the best place for my Frenchie. Two hours later, I return with just that. I find a business hotel in Jaipur with a friendly professional staff that is willing to negotiate with me. It is heaven to step inside a nice hotel with clean white sheets, new bathroom, and free wifi. Maybe the dirtiness in India is starting to get to us after all.
Room @ Hotel Le Grand
Bathroom @ Hotel Le Grand
In the mornings, we get breakfast at the hotel next door, owned by the same owner. It is nice to have fresh squeezed juice and sit outside by the garden with no agenda. The restaurant employees are mostly Nepalese. It is the first time we meet a Nepalese and I find myself starting at them in adoration. They look Chinese at first, but their other physical features indicate they are not. I talk to them about Nepal and learn that they still live there, but come to India to work because there are more jobs here. They live in India for most of the year and then return to Nepal to visit their family. They are so friendly and wonderful to meet that it makes me want to visit Nepal even more.
In Jaipur, there are a few sightseeing activities to do, but with the recent loss of my friend, I feel no desire to move. Boris gets me out to go do some walking around in the bazaars and visit the Jantar Mantar to see astronomical instruments built by a lover of architecture and astronomy. Also in this area, there are a few buildings to admire. The pink facade of Hawa Mahal, part of the City Palace, is pretty unique. From afar, you can see Amber Fort.
Architecture @ Jantar Mantar
Beautiful Street With Shops
My favorite spot turns out to be a popular local destination to hangout and admire the Jal Mahal, a water palace. There are lots of families here and we notice the large number of colorfully dressed females walking together in groups. Our rickshaw driver informs us it is a festival for women and we think he is referring to the Gangaur Festival. I recommend coming straight to this part of the city as the air is better, it is more peaceful, and there are many shops, restaurants, and hotels scattered nearby.
Single And Married Ladies All Dressed Up Together
More pictures of Jaipur.
Stairwell @ Jantar Mantar
Planet Locator @ Jantar Mantar
Small Fruit Market
Rickshaw In Front Of Minaret
Vegetarian Thali With Dosas
What We Paid:
– Sleeping train from Jaisalmer to Jaipur 2d class with AC
– Private double room @ Hotel Le Grand [very nice and clean, AC, Wifi, recommend, bargain hard as prices start at 4500 for a double]