Thursday, December 8, 2016

Observations on India

Every country and culture has its unique elements. This is a few observations on India from over the past few days
Currency Crisis: India is in the midst of a currency crisis with the abolition of the 500 and 1000 R notes. Everyone is caught up in this. Since our arrival we cashed a few Australian dollars at the airport and just $40 US at our hotel. There are long queues at any ATM’s that hold cash and deaths have been occurring while people wait both from exhaustion and from being crushed.
Many tourists have cancelled trips and business and commerce is impacted. Even politicians have had to cancel weddings! The old notes cannot be used. We were able to legally use some for entries to major tourist venues. We were also able to pay for a few tuktuk rides at an inflated price. Those remaining are next to valueless. We are enjoying our included breakfasts and have been to some restaurants where it is considered safe to use credit cards.
Traffic chaos: Delhi has incredible traffic, more extreme than Bangkok or Cairo! If the road comprises 3 lanes they manage to fit at least double that number of vehicles across those lanes. Shortage of cash does not seem to have kept cars off the road.
Poverty: People are shocked at the level of poverty. Street gangs of kids begging in the Slumdog millionaire do exist! We have seen levels of a similar nature but the difference between the very poor and the very rich is extreme.
Media Reports: In addition to reading of the people who died in the ATM lines there have been different reports to those we see every day at home. There have been several reports of elephants and tigers killed by trains. Also one of a baby elephant who will not leave her mothers side after she was killed trying to rescue her in a trench. Also a report of the killing of 3 tigers and three leopards as the people had been told that this would double their wealth. In return they gave the “sharman” the paws.

Lots more and might send some more in a few days! A few photos:

Cows are able to walk down amongst the traffic with immunity!

  Advertising on the back of the tuktuk in front of us! It is the farmers and their traditions like burning crop stubble that also results in the smoke in the air and the high pollution levels.

Another Delhi Day

We set out into the Delhi smog. After driving across the city to Old Delhi we couldn’t even see the Red Fort when we passed! Our first stop was the Shahi Jama Masijd or Jama Mosque. Built in 1656 by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan it is the main mosque in the city. Unlike yesterday when our visit was cut short by the call to prayer, today we were able to stroll through this huge complex. We decided against the tower as we could hardly see the top of the tower and presume that the view would not have extended across Old Delhi.

This is a photo of our rickshaw driver's fingers. This is an Indian version of giving you the finger!

There wasn’t much room on the rickshaw after the two of us climbed on board but it was the only practical way or seeing the narrow alley ways of the Chandni Chowk. Clothes abound but we saw spices, butchered animals with others waiting their turn, live birds, auto parts, jewellery, fruits and vegetables of every description and much more. We went on to Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Ghandi. It is located on the spot where his body was cremated. A moving site!

No cameras were allowed in the mosque and this was the case again at the Burla Temple one of the largest Hindu Temples  in Delhi. There were separate temples for the different deities and they were very elaborate and colourful. This is a huge complex.  We drove to the newer sections of the city and stopped along Embassy Row for lunch at the Ethiopian Embassy.

                                        They were very strict. Nothing made from leather could be taken inside the temple and no cameras or mobile phones! They didn't seem to mind that our pants nearly fell down after removing our belts but at least no one stole the leather wallet that was locked away.

                            Rob tending the outdoors bar at the Ethiopian Embassy restaurant.

Many of the major Government offices have no provision to stop outside as a way of reducing terrorist risks. We saw the President's Palace, Parliament House and many official administrative buildings. Later we drove past the India Gate War Memorial that is on a grand scale.

Our final stop for the day was the highlight of our visit so far. The Qutb Minar and the complex of buildings is a spectacular sight. The Qutb Minar is India’s highest brick minaret and the complex also houses an old mosque built from materials taken from 17 different Hindu Temples. We also saw the incomplete Alai Minar, A significant tomb and the delicate Alia Darwaga. We could have stayed for a few hours but were also pleased to be back at the hotel in the late afternoon. 

                                                                 The two of us!

                                       It is very tall and straight....despite this photo. It was the only one where the sky looked blue!

                                                 Close up of the detailed stonework.

If you look at the bottom right hand corner you will see a jet in the smog. I hope the pilot could see the tower better than we could see him!

                                       Gail at another structure on the site, the Alai Darwaga

                                   Detail in the stone work at the section between the tower sections.

                                                         Rob at the Alai Darwaga.

 Gail at the Alai Minar. This was left incomplete and was to be covered in facing stone of red sandstone or marble.
This was a very enjoyable place to visit and a spectacular collection of buildings.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

First day in Delhi

We arrived in Delhi last night but by the time we negotiated our way through immigration and customs, exchanged a little currency and took a taxi to our hotel, there was little to be seen beyond the blank of smog. Our hotel is superb, one of the best in Delhi.

We woke early as our body clocks are still adjusting.  After a wonderful breakfast of western and Indian foods, we set off for our first day in Delhi.  Our first stop was at the bank adjacent to the hotel.  The ATM was dry (so are all the others in Delhi) and we could not deposit our old currency into our foreign bank account.

We took a tuk tuk to the Red Fort and entered by the Lahore Gate and through the Chatta Chowk or covered bazaar.  The first major building was the Naubar Khana or Drum House where musicians welcomed dignitaries as the Red Fort was the home of the moguls including the one who built the Taj Mahal.

We saw the Indian War Memorial Museum, reception halls and royal apartments, towers, mosques, palaces and gardens.

                                        Gail at the Naubar Khana or The Drum Hall

                                                    Gail at the main Audience Hall

                                        Rob at the Red Fort Walls. The moat was once the main river bed.

We headed down the Chandni Chowk that houses a huge spice market, markets for clothes and household goods.  We planned to spend time at the Jama Masjia, the great mosque built by Shah Jehan but not long after we arrived, the call to prayer went out so we continued to Humayun’s tomb  built in 1565.  This was a huge complex of tombs with the main one being the forerunner of the Taj Mahal at Agra.

                                      The walls of the Jama Masjia mosue.

                                      The Isa Khan Tomb. Dating from 1547 AD it predates the Humayuns tonb.

                                                  The tomb of Bu Italma.

                                     Gail at Humayun's Tomb built in 1565

After a short stop at a market, we went on to the Lodi Gardens, a green oasis in the urban jungle.  This was the oldest architectural site we have seen today and it included tombs, mosques and extensive areas of gardens.  The garden was named after the Lodi dynasty who reigned from 1451 to 1526.

                                      The Bada Gumbad A gateway to the gardens and tombs.

                                                The Bada Gumbad Mosque

                                           The Shish Gumbad showing traces of its original colours.

                                                               Our transport and driver

Today has been an excellent to the history of India and we will revisit several of the places again tomorrow.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Homeward bound

Our last night in Vilnius was one of the best. We had dinner for two in an upmarket and modern restaurant. We were aware that the next morning would be our final sightseeing and after that we would be homeward bound.

                                                      The lights go out on Vilnius!

Our dinner was excellent. Great cheese platter and wonderful mains. No dumplings!

For our final morning we visited lots of churches. Seem to remember that there are 48 or was that in Riga. We started at the Presidential Palace. As we approached we thought..fancy putting a bus depot right in front of the palace! There was a ceremony about to start and the President was giving a bus to each of 40 different schools. There were schoolkids in special dress and lots of fun. Some Australian Premiers could adopt this model!

                                        The dignitaries mingled.We nearly ended up with a bus!

                                                              Balloons and Bands

                                View of the Palace from the University courtyard

Finally we returned to near our hotel and for only the second time returned to a restaurant for another meal. We started with a cheese platter again as it was just the best!

It was a long flight. Our departure in Vilnius was delayed and we had hours to wait in Helsinki. When we arrived in Singapore our bags were delayed by the severity of an electrical storm.

It is next morning and out time is only 2 hours ahead of those in Eastern Australia. We have morning tea with a friend and tickets to the Qantas lounge so the wait for our final flight will be painless. We are back in Australia on Saturday morning. Till our next trip!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


We have explored Vilnius over the past three days. There are 48 churches but will not put on three photos of each. There are lots of restaurants, cafes and bars and we have tried most! The most popular food in Lithuania today is actually pizza.We settled for the more traditional foods.

 The St Anna's  church with the brick Baroque face and on the right the Bernardine Church. These are close to our apartment.

The gardens of Bernadine Park. We are between these and the Cathedral Square where all the best restaurants are located.

              The wall in Literatu Street with plaques from authors, poets and artists.

                                                         One of the plaques on the wall.

                                       The Bastion of the Vilnius defensive walls.

                                            The Cathedral Bell Tower. We climbed to the top.

                       The view from the top to the Cathedral and beyond that to Gedminas Tower.

                                                          The view the other way.

         The Stebuklas tile. In 1989 an estimated 2 million people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania formed a continuous human chain across the 3 Baltic countries to protest Soviet occupation. This marks one end.

                      The most famous Lithuanian dish. We shared these potato dumplings!

                                                      So that you will know what to order!

The Republic of Uzupio

Up to now we had only visited two new countries but an unscheduled visit to Uzupio added a third.
Uzupio is located within the city of Vilnius. It has 7000 residents, 1000 of whom are artists and boasts a special constitution that could become a model for our troubled world.

                                                                  Rob at the border.

We kept to the entry rules. We smiled a lot even when it rained, we didn't walk over 20 kph, we loved the art and we didn't drive a car into the river.

                                           Gail couldn't work out how to get onto the swing.

                                                      Rob kept to the speed limit.

                                                                   We smiled a lot.

                                           Gail drank like a local. Prosecco and elderberry.

The small community has lots of street sculptures some that don't meet the G rating for the blog! The community tried to be bohemian but didn't fully convince us. The streets were quiet and people far too normal.

The constitution was especially interesting. It was displayed in 25 languages on mirrors along a wall.
Hard to photograph but will put it on as this is the way to go.

There you go another interesting country.