Jamie Sinz in India

Postcard from Udaipur, India

October 11, 2008 by Jamie

Lakeside Udaipur

Lakeside Udaipur

We arrived safely in Udaipur on Thursday, despite a pretty rough bus ride. Just imagine the worst public bus you have ever been on, and the worst “paved” road and you will have a vague idea of our trip. It was an experience, and hopefully we won’t have to do that again!

Udaipur, however, is fantastic. It is a tourist town, but it is extremely mellow. We have met several fellow travelers, and the locals are great. They do try to get us to come into their shops, but it’s almost comical rather than annoying. Perhaps we are used to it, or perhaps they just aren’t as pushy?? Since we have arrived we have witnessed a pink-powder celebration, paddle boated around the lake, walked through the grounds of the palace and had several meals at the best rooftop restaurant in town. Hopefully we will see Octopussy, the James Bond movie that was filmed here years ago tonight and we’ll make it to the monsoon palace or the other lake a few kilometers away.

We leave tomorrow afternoon on a Volvo semi-sleeper bus. It is air conditioned and we have been assured that the trip will be better than the last one. Keep your fingers crossed for us!!

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Postcard from Osiyan, India

October 8, 2008 by Jamie

Camel Safari

Camel Safari

Today we are in Osiyan, India which is about 40km north of Jodhpur on a camel safari!! We decided to change our plans and skip Jaisalmer, but we still wanted a touch of the desert, so we came to Osiyan. We stayed with a fantastic farming family, rode camels into the sunset, drank chia on a dung floor and slept under the stars. I even saw one shoot across the sky…Make a wish!

Tomorrow we go back to Jodhpur, then we will take a day bus to Udaipur.

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Postcard from Jodhpur, India

October 5, 2008 by Jamie

First of all, I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to all of the Hindu families that lost husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and uncles in the trajic event that happened at the Jodhpur Fort this past Tuesday, October 1 where over 200 people were killed in a stampede during the religious festival of Navratra.  You can read more here.

Jodhpur...the Blue City

Jodhpur...the Blue City

In our travel news, we arrived safely in Jodhpur early yesterday morning from an exhausting 12+ hour train ride from Agra.  So far we have walked through the streets, ventured up to the fort and taken a 5 hour Indian cooking class.  The cooking class with a Saphron Lassi has been the highlight so far, and I’ll tell you all about it later.  I hope you are doing well!

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2 days, 2 nights in Agra

October 3, 2008 by Jamie

2 Travelers

2 Drivers

2 Drivers

Nik and I spent two days and two nights in Agra, saw two places, rode in two rickshaws, and met two groups of two people.

For two hours on October 2nd, the Taj Mahal was free to all visitors. The unexpected generosity (that saved us 1500 Rs) was due to the end of the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan. I don’t know the religious significance of this month long period, but when I have the opportunity, I would like to do some research.

South Gate of Taj Mahal

South Gate of Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

We took advantage of this time to see the beautifully built memorial and watch our first Muslim prayer. There were thousands of men standing in rows at the mosque with the leader’s voice broadcast over loud speakers. They began in a standing position, and in unison bent at the waste, stood upright again, knelt and bowed their heads to the floor, then stood upright once more. This sequence was fascinating and beautiful, and I feel very fortunate to have been a witness.

Devotees walking to prayer

Devotees walking to prayer

Prayer

Prayer

Prayer

While their fathers and brothers prayed, the children circled around the shoes at the back.

While their fathers and brothers prayed, the children circled around the shoes at the back.

Other than that, the Taj Mahal was nice. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The masses of people were distracting, and I only had a few fleeting moments where I felt one with the architecture. The details of the marble were impressive, especially the colored inlays and carved light screens. I have heard that the emperor cut the hands off the stone masons that built the memorial so that they could never replicate it. I hope it is not true, but if it is then I am sad that so many people suffered because of this structure.

Children in front

Children in front

Sanscrit set in marble

Sanscrit set in marble

Marble detail

Marble detail

View towards the Western Mosque

View towards the Western Mosque

Minaret

Minaret

Gardens of the Taj Mahal

Gardens of the Taj Mahal

The River

The River

On our second day we had breakfast on our guesthouse roof and met another couple that is traveling through India. Marie and Thomas are French Canadian and French, respectively. We chatted through breakfast and then they joined us on our trip to the Red Fort.

Rooftop at Shanti Lodge

Rooftop at Shanti Lodge

New friends

New friends

The entry fee is steep, 250 Rupees, but well worth it. The complex is a rambling series of outdoor rooms made of red sandstone and white marble sprinkled with dry fountains and bizarre niches. A lot of the detail has been restored so imagining the grandeur of the place is not hard.

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Sandstone Detail

Sandstone Detail

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Details

Details

View towards the river

View towards the river

Inner Court

Inner Court

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Corner

Corner

Inner Court

Inner Court

Marble Detail

Marble Detail

Scalloped

Scalloped Arches

Carved Marble

Carved Marble

Fountains: Many of the fountains were detailed with this black, grey and white marble zig-zag.  I wish we could have seen water run over it though.

Fountains: Many of the fountains were detailed with this black, grey and white marble zig-zag. I wish we could have seen water run over it though.

In Ruins: The front area is in a state of disrepair, but is still beautiful.

In Ruins: The front area is in a state of disrepair, but is still beautiful.

A Romantic Moment

A Romantic Moment

The most unfortunate part of the visit was the young Indian men that would come up to me every 5 minutes asking to take my picture with themœ. Nik’s theory is that they hang around the fort because this is the only place they can get close to a girl. He suggests that they probably don’t even have film in their cameras. He is probably right, and after the first 10 I did start to feel violated. I often had to leave a room because they would not leave me alone when I told them I wouldn’t pose for a snapshot. If they hadn’t been there, I could have spent all day at the fort and I would have taken a lot more great photos, but because of the annoyance, we left after a couple hours and enjoyed the solitude of our hotel room for four hours before our night train to Jodhpur.

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Postcard from Varanasi, India

September 30, 2008 by Jamie

Men preparing to bathe in the Ganges River at Assi Ghat

Men preparing to bathe in the Ganges River at Assi Ghat

We are in Varanasi, India!!!  We arrived Sunday, September 28 and leave tomorrow morning.  It is an amazing city….boat rides, ghats, cows, new friends….if you’re anxious, check out Nik’s blog.  Otherwise I will post more later.

Nik’s Blog:  Sir! Sir! A post on Touts and Varanasi, India

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