Note to self…add map at start for kids + final recipe (Indian corn fritters) on return home.

Greetings from Northern India!…now in Jaipur – the pink city…

Many of the buildings both old (like this 1 – facade of City Palace) and new are a pink/peach colour

We have been busy taking in the sights of Jaipur (our last of 3 x 5 night stays in India), although yesterday was quieter as just outside our hotel the street was closed due to an annual “special Hindu celebration”. Here are 2 of Tony’s photos…women carrying “holy water” from the Ganges River.

Accidental tourists again with this special Hindu procession – 52000 women they said

Tony went to watch the procession to the temple but I preferred to enjoy the beautiful hotel facilities (including our room…photo below) for a short while. I’ve found some of the drives on this trip physically challenging at times due to my back problems, so we’ve changed our plan and instead of doing a 5 hour drive back to Delhi (to complete the Golden Triangle) tomorrow, we’re taking the 1 hour flight.

I’m very pleased that all the Oberoi hotels have been so spacious and comfortable – the traffic in India can be intense so we often go out for the morning and then have the afternoons at the hotels. Here’s the room in Jaipur…the first when we had just arrived and I was feeling totally exhausted but managed a smile – the complimentary drink helped!…

Feeling exhausted but relieved to arrive in Jaipur after hard drive from Agra

Like many of the wealthier Indians, one can’t help feeling very fortunate and if anything like me…uncomfortable, about the huge divide between those with the capacity to afford so many luxuries and those living in poverty. However, compared to some super rich guests at this resort (there are some very costly “upgrade options”), we’re careful about managing our finances so we can continue to contribute to helping family and those in our/others’ communities.

We enjoy that voluntary work at home plus it does help to ease my social conscience… a little!…although when I see food carelessly wasted (as I saw just today with some young people at breakfast) it does still bother me a lot (my Mum often reminded me of Depression years)…especially when you occasionally see very young children trying to make a few rupees in between traffic jams – awfully sad.

We’ve also seen some joyful moments along the roads that our children in Australia would never get to experience like the horse drawn trailer below…

Wondered why the young boy I saw a few times in the day wasn’t at school

So this trip has had me often thinking a lot about how unfair life is for so many and part of the reason for showing images in this post of the struggles in India, is to help our grandchildren (and perhaps other children?) understand how very lucky they/we often are in Australia. It’s also so important that Australia sticks with the egalitarian principles valued by so many…since Federation really in 1901 eg. Fair funding for our public schools, so we don’t go further down the road of the super rich and extremely poor divide.

Not that I’m saying that hard work and dedication (in our case dedication to Education/Employment in Australia) shouldn’t bring incentives and rewards like it’s done for us after our 45 year careers. Here’s Tony enjoying one of those moments…

2 cosy alcoves like this in most rooms it seems at Oberoi, Jaipur

My life hasn’t been completely lucky…I’ve lost 5 members of my childhood family with only 1 younger sister left now (I won’t talk about that on my blog as the grief is sometimes still hard) + I’ve struggled with pain management problems + spinal surgeries I’ve mentioned before. In Australia, I occasionally hear people say “my family and I have been blessed with good health”…such insensitive words I feel, no matter what your religion/non religion might be.

I’ve been writing for an hour now so I’ll go for a swim in the pool to stretch out my fused spine/body – even though the temperatures have been in the low 20s (pleasant for tours to the historic sites), the water is heated (pool photo below).

Many middle income earners (like we were) in Australia have pools in their backyards, especially in Queensland and parts of NSW eg. Sydney. However, in our family homes we decided not to spend our money on a pool at home and decided to invest that saving instead so one day we could stay at places like this! So we’re making up for all those hot Canberra days now!…although the rivers, quite close to the centre of Canberra, are a delight on a hot summers day as the water stays cool, even during heatwaves.

Back to our journey over the last few weeks

has taken us from Bangkok (last post) to Delhi (5 nights) to Agra (5 nights…highlight was Taj Mahal…photo below) and we’re now in Jaipur for 5 nights. We’re returning to Delhi tomorrow – staying at a hotel close to the airport for a flight to Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Highlight of our stay in Agra…more on Agra in a future post

Tony has loved the whole journey; I have found it all fascinating and mostly enjoyable, except for the 5 hour drive between Agra and Jaipur (hard on my back/body), although it was great to arrive at such a luxurious place after so many hours on the road…

Golden Triangle Itinerary options...

We note that the travel company we booked through, Luxury Escapes, has now modified the trip somewhat to make the journey through “the Golden Triangle” a bit easier ie. a couple of short flights and fewer long drives; although we note the current itinerary has no over night stay in Agra – something we highly recommend – maybe at the end of 2-3 weeks around Golden Triangle could be added on if time/budget permits??

The staff at Oberoi in Jaipur have been very helpful today as I don’t want to go through an even longer drive from Jaipur back to Delhi this Friday. The road has had many improvements over recent years, but at the moment there is a lot of construction work + trucks slowing things down and they estimate that the usual 4-5 hour trip could be more like 5-6+ hours.

So the 1 hour flight from Jaipur to Delhi will make things easier. It was about A$170 (for 2 of us) so worth it as we hope to have drinks or dinner with a friend also staying in Delhi before we leave. If we had travelled by road, I would probably be too exhausted for that + sometimes I even find the next day a struggle as well. So happy to be retired now so we can often make the pace a lot slower and interesting as there’s often more time to see lots. The pace of teaching could be very intense, often with playground duties, long meetings into the evenings (with staff/parents et al), etc.

Now for reflecting on the positive side of road travel in India, particularly if you have no back/neck problems etc…it was fascinating to see so many different forms of transport in and around Jaipur. This included carts, cows and even camels!…

I was surprised to see so many horse/carts (photos above & below)…of course the touristy type (especially near the Taj Mahal in Agra) but once away from the tourist areas, many locals use them for everyday work and transport, even around the small city of Jaipur. Tony even took a photo of 2 elephants lumbering down a busy road today!…

The elephants often have faces painted…children might find that interesting?

I liked the typical Indian architecture in the background of this one as well
Another cart…some horse drawn; some with cyclists or tuk tuk etc.

Sadly, some of the horses looked quite thin and listless, unlike the cows that mostly looked healthy (of course in Hindu religion cows are sacred…interesting info on Net about that). So cows are everywhere and sometimes even wander out in front of the traffic; our driver swerved around a few on this trip. When I asked, he said he’d never hit any. We kept our seatbelts fastened tight!

Family next to their lean to dwelling in background.

As can be seen from photos above and even more so below, some of the local people live in extremely difficult circumstances (photo above of “temporary” dwelling…plastic “roof” held down with bricks etc); perhaps not as crowded and extensive as similar low income shelters we saw in Africa and South Africa? However, still incredibly challenging for them at times (I can only imagine), especially during times of heat and cold of course. Overnight temperatures, even in the shoulder season now, go down to single digits (Celsius). I read that in places like Delhi, where the air pollution is bad as well, life expectancy is 63 at the moment.

Along some streets near the centre of Jaipur, there were many, many dwellings similar to this….

Here’s a photo of two forms of transport that children take to school…

With the photo above, my guess is that these children might be at private schools?…some of the poorest children (even very young ones), particularly in Delhi, sometimes begged on the streets, in the middle of traffic/smog – mostly trying to sell cheap items.

The photo below (taken from one of the historic sites we visited) is of old Delhi (“the Muslim area” our guide explained). She is Hindu so she walked us through that part of old Delhi…not quite as congested in the Hindu area and I’ll include some photos in my next blog post.

The clear divisions between areas (based on religion), surprised us but the guide seemed to accept that this is just the way life is in India…not sure if that happens all over India? A question I’ll ask my friend who frequently visits India.

There are many beautiful/historic parts of Delhi as well – here’s a couple of photos but I’ll do another post in the future with more…

School excursions from the outer regions Pratima thought as they found Tony and I rather fascinating!

Tony with our guide Pratima – Delhi Magic was the tour guide company we used

I loved all the nasturtiums at this historic complex/garden; quite a few salads in India have included nasturtium flowers. I have them growing really well in Canberra so reminds me to use them in salads too – very nutritious as well as beautiful!

Back to much smaller city of Jaipur…

Sometimes the small/old buses, like the one below, were full of school children, and at other times not as crowded like this one…

When driving along the road (we always had a driver), it’s a bit like being on a dogem car ride (a long 1 on drive from Agra!), with drivers weaving in and around slower vehicles and some even driving up the wrong side of the road as can be seen with motor bike rider in one of the photos above! Not such a problem with motor bikes but we did notice a few cars and trucks occasionally do similar…with the horn honking loudly – something which is expected and even written on many trucks…

Most small and large trucks have this message or HONK HORN on the back

So after that fascinating but frantic/noisy journey to our current stop, it’s been wonderful to rest up in such a tranquil setting and be greeted by warm and hospitable people. Most of the locals, particularly the women wear colourful clothes…

The iconic Taj Mahal…Indians dress up in their best colourful clothes for a visit
The Amber Fort…just outside of Jaipur
The pink City Palace in Jaipur…many of the women visiting dressed in pink
Local Muslim women…some had full face cover and most didn’t in Jaipur
One of my favourite photos at the Red Fort in Delhi

Indian women of the Hindu religion also dress conservatively as can be seen in photos above and below; similar to many Muslim women in some ways, but they rarely cover their faces that might be different in the more remote parts of India/Asia? A question I’ll explore later. Always something more to learn of course!

Now onto one of our big interests…food!…

Included at the Jaipur hotel were evening drinks at the bar + a dinner at their gorgeous Indian restaurant (more details in a future post). They served a corn based traditional flat bread with a moderately spiced tomato spread. We only put a tiny bit on the flat bread…

I enjoyed reading/looking at the coffee table book about this region…Rajasthan.

When I get back to Canberra I’ll add an authentic Indian corn fritter recipe (with turmeric) from one of my favourite Indian cookbooks as I noticed that corn, both fresh and dried, is very popular in this part of India – the photo below was taken at a highway road stop between Delhi and Agra.

The food on offer at the highway road stop was mostly traditional Indian fare and even the fast takeaway eg. Tubs of corn, so different to what we have at our road houses on major highways (MacDs/KFC etc) although if you pull off our highways into small country towns, there are often some lovely cafes, small restaurants and pubs, depending on what part of country you’re in of course.

What a great idea for schools I thought…particularly if corn served natural

One of the many local street food markets we saw on our travels