Travelling India 1996
See also: Goa 1994/5/6 & 2003 - India '96 - Goa 2009 - Goa 2012 - Goa 2013
I visited Goa ten times but travelled India proper three times. See the conservation blog for 2012 and 2013.
From Goa to Goa via Darjeeling.
The 1996 journey took three months.
|My travel map|
Pune - Northern Maharashtra - Was a staging post for me, hotels are thin on the ground. The hotel Ritz was out of a Dickens novel Get away: Took an early morning luxury bus: 7 hours
Aurangabad - Northern Maharashtra - And here we arrive at the Taj already, well no actually, this is the Bibi-ka-Maqbara built in 1679 the 'poor mans Taj', still: a pleasant place to be. The Panchakki (water mill) is well worth a visit, very calming in a hectic city. Aurangabad is a nice place and the locals are friendly. Try roadside omelette with chilli powder, divine. The hotel Natraj is thick with mosquitoes, but good value
|Bibi-ka-Maqbara - Aurangabad|
|Panchakki - Aurangabad|
|Ellora Caves - Buddhist temples|
|Ellora Caves - The Kailasa|
|Ajanta Caves - Northern Maharashtra - Same style at Ellora, though more about frescos than carving, in my opinion no where near as impressive. Ajanta is more about painting the walls rather than carving things out of them Getting there: Local bus from Aurangabad (3 hours daytime). I then went on from Ajanta to Jalgaon by local bus (short daytime journey). Tip: The hotel at Ajanta seems to be always full, and expensive. It is not really worth staying there anyway, you can see Ajanta in a day|
Indore - Western Madhya Pradesh - Had a mad ride with a rickshaw walla after getting off the bus at 6:00am, he took me to far to expensive hotels or ones that looked like squats. In the end I decided to pay out for a nice place at 300 rupees. The hotel Tulsi, which I would recommend. TV, hot water, soft bed, good resturant, well I needed a splurge. I managed to get a long time here for only one nights payment due to arriving early in the morning. I saw a film that became very important to me: "Girl on a Motorcycle".
Next day I moved to the Hotel Shalimar at 45 rupees a night. Indore is a good place to have a walk around, the local museum is interesting.
The picture is of the Rajwada: the gateway of the old palace, there is not much to see beyond the gateway, only a courtyard, as the palace has burnt down many times. Even so it is a quiet refuge.
Disapointment awaited at the Lal Bagh Palace. The place was in a bad state of repair and the features were unviewable due to being hurded along a set narrow route around the building. As the actual building is whitewashed and quite modern looking is was less than eye candy. The saving grace were the quiet gardens. Even these were thin but quiet.
I tried to get to Mandu from here but it is impossible to travel through, it would have meant returning to Indore afterwards
Get away: Taking a lux bus (10 hours overnight) I found myself being violently sick at each stop, had a bad Thali in Indore: nice
Bhavnagar - Gujarat - A cute quiet town with inquisitive locals! Probably they see very few foreigners Get away: Took a local bus to Una (near Diu) 7 hours daytime and then a rickshaw to get into Diu
Diu - Gujarat - Diu is supposed to be another Goa, it isn't. Interesting but mostly unremarkable, it is a little island tacked onto the side of Gujarat state. The fort is very good though (The dark bit to the right of the picture). Nagoa beach is worth a look but not very exciting. Best way there is by rickshaw. Food is a hit or miss affair in Diu Tip: Arriving late at Diu you may well find the hotels full. Get away: 9 hour daytime lux bus (well they called it a luxury)
Bhuj - Gujarat - Interesting town, quite in the back of beyond. The Kutch Museum is interesting but unfortunately full of stuffed animals. Also the Aina Mahal (old palace) is good but you get a warehouse feeling as all the exhibits a laid out in rows. You also have to take of your shoes for all the palace museums here, and I hate walking barefoot. They had earthquakes after I was there too, and I worry for what happened here as well. Get away: Actually very hard to get away from, as transport from here is a little shady, the trains are no good and the station is hard to find. Took a overnight lux bus back to Ahmedabad! Could find no other way. Then on to Jodhpur on a lux bus 10 hours overnight
Jodhpur - Western Rajasthan - The only two interesting things about Jodhpur are the amazing fort and the name! The Mehrangarh Fort towers over the city a really fine lump of bricks. In the streets here it is not unusual to come face to face with the odd working camel. And the place is where those funny trousers come from. Here I fell into a tourist trap. The Lonely Planet book said goto this place and have the best Lassi ever. I did and it was super disgusting! Get away: 7 hours early morning lux bus booked from the tourist bungalow
|Jaisalmer - Sam Dunes|
Bharatpur - Eastern Rajasthan - The Keoladeo National Park: a bird sanctuary, one of the most amazing places I have ever been, the birds are there because they want to be and
there are so many it blows your mind. Best time is early morning, but I spent all day from dawn to dusk there. Painted Storks, Cormorants holding out their wings to dry, Vultures, Deer, Crested Great Tits, Kingfishers diving into the water, Pelicans at a distance, Coot and the constant calls of thousands of birds. Stunning. I heard after I was there that the lakes dried up as the farmers wanted the water, I never heard if this was resolved. The town is not worth a look. Get away: 3 hour daytime lux bus
|Keoladeo National Park|
Gwalior - Northern Madhya Pradesh - I came here to look at the Jai Vilas Palace Museum, it was interesting, but perhaps not worth the diversion. 'Leda & the Swan' is very kinky.Lucknow - Central Uttar Pradesh - The old British residency. Beginning place of the 'Indian Revolution' a spooky ruin. The picture shows the cannon ball shelled gateway. Get away: Daytime train
Seeing how the Raj used to live is the experience to be gained here. Gwalior is another nice place to simply walk around I was taken on a mad ride with a rickshaw walla here. I told him the hotel I wanted and we went round and round. There was some sort of carnival going on with load bands with lights walking the streets. My rickshaw walla kept showing me dreadful, cheap, hotels. I thought he was going to fleece me. But in the end we arrive at the hotel I had asked for anyway and he charged me very little. Odd. Get away: Daytime train 9 hours
|Leda and Swan - source|
Only cycle rickshaws are allowed closer into the ghats. So a motor rickshaw will quote you a price and then half way there say he can go no further. Then you pay again for a cycle rickshaw!
Shame I neglected to use the camera!
Get away: Booking a way out is very hard. There is a tourist quota on the trains but the tourist lounge is always packed. I went to a travel agent in the end who did all the hard work for me. Got a daytime train 12 hour journey
Patna - Bihar - A town with a very British feel to it, and the best museum I saw in India. A good place to walk around and see the Ganges again. The railway retiring rooms are a great place to stay, very British Raj. The picture shows the Ganges taken from on top of the Golghar (grain store) Get away: Tricky. There is no tourist quota on the trains. In the end I booked a lux bus for Silligri the closest stop for Darjeeling.
|Patna - Golghar|
|Patna view of the Ganges from the top of the Golghar|
My favourite restaurant was the Dekevas restaurant. They do great breakfasts and it is a really cozy place to relax before a day exploring.
Snow Leopards: If you come here you must see them at the 'special' part of the Zoo. As the actual Zoo was too harrowing for me, with Indians teasing animals and some cramped conditions. The Snow Leopards have their own part of the Zoo a little distance away and have a permanent caretaker. I was lucky and at the time there were young cubs. They say that they are disinclined to breed, so I think I was lucky to see the them. At one point I heard someone doing very bad cat meow impressions, until I realised is was a Snow Leopard meowing. they say that Snow Leopards in captivity loose their spark, but the ones here were certainly in high spirits gambling about and having cat style games with each other.
Pictures include: The Windamere Hotel for posh people, Gymkhana Club for the faded Raj feel, Oxford Book Store still stocking a good selection
Tip: Be careful of the 'strikes'. All the shops close and you cannot get any food!
Get away: I avoided that toy train and went down to Silligri on the bus, from there I took the train to as I was advised that the roads were too bad for the buses, and it would be a journey from hell. The night train took 12 hours
|Darjeeling - Windamere Hotel|
|Darjeeling - Gymkhana Club|
|Darjeeling - looks like England!|
|Darjeeling - Oxford Book Store|
|Victoria Memorial - Calcutta|
Bangalore - Karnataka - Very cosmopolitan and has an English language cinema and a KFC! There are also many really nice and almost gone wild parks here Get away: Night Lux bus to Panaji and motorbike taxi into Anjuna took 15 hours Note in 2015: I have been back to Bangalore and Madras since 1996 due to my conservation in 2012/3 and they are both very changed. Bangalore being the center of their IT is a mad city now, so busy in places it is untrue, even for India!
Anjuna - Goa - Back in Goa. From Calcutta to Anjuna it took me 5 days! Whereas going the other way had taken just under three months.
The circle was complete! Anjuna to Anjuna via Darjeeling.
Additional travel notes in 1996:
Bombay to Goa
I found my best way was to take a taxi from the international airport to the domestic airport. Then book an internal flight to Goa. From Goa airport to take a taxi to Anjuna. To have waited for an overnight bus when feeling jet lag would have been too much I think. 2015 note: things are much easier now and Bombay airport is much changed.
Goa to Bombay
On my first visit to India I flew back to Bombay, but the second time I fancied trying the bus. Taking a night bus fitted with bunks for 17 hours which leaves from Mapusa. Arriving at the Colaba causeway to hang around until the evening. The Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel to look at made an interesting day. Before my flight I took a taxi to the airport, beating the taxi drivers down on the price. That journey was one of the journeys of my life. The road cuts along by the bays on which buildings thrust out into the sea. At night with the lights reflecting on the water of the bays it was an amazing sight Then onto the plane and wave goodbye to India, probably for ever. 2015 note: as we know, this was not the case, since 1996 I have been in India further 8 times, who knows how many more to come? None or many, who can say? India will always be a part of me.
|Gateway to India|
|Bombay - Taj Mahal Hotel|