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ps [Feb. 28th, 2017|06:08 pm]
James
ps - I've decided that now Jessica has arrived it's not fair to disappear for an hour or two every day to write up this journal. I'll be keeping notes and will write my trip up when I get back.
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Mumbai [Feb. 27th, 2017|08:47 pm]
James
After a 4.30am alarm call I did my last minute packing and was waiting in reception at 4.50, wishfully hoping that my taxi driver was early. He was 15 minutes late, despite me emphasising twice the importance of leaving on time so I could be at Mumbai airport when Jessica walked through Arrivals. I needn't have worried, it was Sunday and the roads were much quieter than usual, so the three and a half hour journey took less than three. It cost 3500 rupees but was worth it as it meant I got to see the final day of the test and guaranteed I'd be at the airport in time.

I was actually waiting 50 minutes before Jessica finally appeared. I gave her the flowers, smooth operator that I am, and we caught up as we took a taxi to our hotel. It's funny, when I arrived at Mumbai's domestic airport five days ago, the taxi took me through a rather shabby part of town, past Dharavi slum. Taxis from the international airport are obviously keener on creating a better first impression though - we took a long sweeping toll-bridge that gave spectacular views of the skyscrapers that dominate the skyline, towards the Southern tip of Mumbai.

Our hotel, The Ambassador, is in a really nice area, just a short walk from Marine Drive, a long curving promenade. A doorman opened the glass doors for us and we walked in to a plush lobby of polished marble and glimmering chandeliers. Piano music played, always a sign of a nice hotel. Our room is excellent, with eight pillows on the bed and complimentary slippers. I'm not used to such extravagance with my hotels! Jessica hadn't slept on either of her flights and I was tired after an early wake-up call, so we slept for three hours.

Mid-afternoon we woke up and went on a walk from my Lonely Planet guide. Starting at 'The Gateway of India', a large Arc de Triumph structure overlooking Mumbai harbour, we passed the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel before getting ourselves an ice cream. It was extremely hot. Various people wanted their photos taken with Jessica and I - we were like the Posh and Becks of Mumbai. Interestingly they were mainly women or girls. When I'm on my own it's usually always men who want 'selfies'.

The route took us up Mahatma Ghandi Road, past the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, to Regal Circle, a roundabout surrounded by spectacular European looking buildings, including Majestic Hotel. It could be London or Paris if it wasn't for all of the people playing street cricket. Play would stop as cars and motorbikes zipped past.

We went through an arty district, where people sold art spread out on the pavements in front of a National Gallery of Modern Art, then turned right to a quiet park called Horniman Circle. Five muslim girls sitting on a wall wearing colourful hijabs wanted a photo of Jessica and I, so I got one of them in return.

I really like Mumbai. I'd heard negative things but the place is surprisingly green with wide streets and some fantastic architecture. It's probably the most European Asian city I've ever been to, perhaps the perfect stepping stone for Jessica as she samples India for the first time. No stray cows here, monkeys taking over buildings or rickshaws buzzing around.

The swanky district we were exploring was Colaba, which is where Bollywood scouts often pick up extras for the next days filming. They often target foreigners to add a touch of international flare to their production but sadly we weren't head-hunted this time. It's a shame, I've got some cracking Bollywood moves to show off.

Incidentally, I love the TV here. There are hundreds of channels and dozens of them are Bollywood movies. There is a channel dedicated to Bollywood action and another for Bollywood romance. I reckon a Bollywood horror would be a good watch - the characters bursting in to song and dance whenever they see a ghost.

The walk continued through Oval Maidan, a not-at-all oval park that stretches 1 kilometer through southern Mumbai. There must have been at least 50 games of cricket taking place on the stretch of grass and hundreds of people watching. Tennis balls were flying everywhere and kids walked past holding well-worn cricket bats. Lining the park was a stretch of art deco buildings on one side and Rajabai clock tower on the other. The walk ended at Eros cinema, another impressive building shaped like a wedding cake and conveniently close to our hotel.

We ate at a restaurant highly recommended in my Lonely Planet called Samrat, which specialises in all-you-can eat thalis ("the calvacade of taste and textures will leave you wondering what the hell just happened" said my book). It was packed inside but we were soon called to a table and ordered a thali. There were four curry sauces in metal bowls, five types of bread (included an inflated one that needed to be popped), relishes, potatoes, onions, cucumber, spicy sauces, cucumber yoghurt and edible seeds. It was a riot of unusual tastes. I particularly enjoyed one curry that had cashew nuts in and was very sweet but wasn't able to get its name off the waitor as there was a language barrier. Afterwards we went to a bar called Mockingbird near our hotel for cocktails.

Today has been more of the same. After a lie-in to counteract Jessica's jetlag, we had a late breakfast at Mockingbird and then went back to our hotel for dessert... in the lobby is a bakery with rows of beautiful looking cakes. We both went for the pineapple cake which cost 85 rupees each (it would have cost five times that in England).

We took a taxi to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the biggest train station in Asia and surely the most beautiful. The gothic building looks Parisian and is massive. Inside it is almost cathedral like. From here Jessica and I wandered Crawford Market and the surrounding bazaars. We went through sections with lots of small stalls selling vegetables, immitation jewellery and colourful clothes. We got lots of hello's from men sitting on stools outside their stall but not too much of a hard sell. We kept wandering and got completely and utterly lost but it was fun and a real snapshot of everyday life. Men walked around with huge bulky packages balanced on their head, restocking their stalls.

We passed men ('dabba wallahs') carrying stacked metal tiffins to deliver food to office workers around the city. Lunchboxes each day are picked up from restaurants and homes and transported to a centralised sorting station. A system of numbers of colours (many wallahs are illiterate) ensure the right lunch gets delivered to the right destination. More than 200,000 meals are delivered daily and on average there is just on mistake per six million deliveries.

After a while the chaos became a bit claustrophobic, so we headed to Girguam Chowpatty, a curving stretch of beach with great views of skyscrapers across the bay. Who knew Mumbai had a beach?! It's often referred to as Chowpatty Beach here which confuses locals as that means 'beach beach'.

It was a nice beach too but definitely not a place to go for a swim if my Lonely Planet is anything to go by - "don't even think about taking a swim, the water is toxic". We bought ourselves an ice cream each but finding shade to eat it in was problematic. We tried to sit on a few plastic stools but a particularly cheerful fellow shooed us away as we hadn't purchased our ice-creams from his stall. We found some shade next to a tree further along the beach but a guy in a security outfit sat nearby said "no picknicers" waving his hand (presumably worried litter might be an eyesore for whatever establishment he was employed by). Indian generally is a very hospitable country but some people lack common sense.

So we headed back towards our hotel along Marine Drive. We passed the not-at-all comically named Wankhede Stadium, a huge cricket stadium which has hosted world cup finals. It's completely surrounded by tall hotels, so all you can see are the floodlights and the occasional glimpse of its rusty steel frame down shady streets.

We have one more full day in Mumbai tomorrow and then we fly inland to Aurangabad.

ps - I haven't got time to re-read this, so sorry for any spelling mistakes.
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Last day in Pune [Feb. 25th, 2017|08:30 pm]
James
This stage of the trip hasn't panned out at all how I planned but I have absolutely loved it. I expected to go on a few long walks to hilltop forts, but ended up spending three days at the test match between India and Australia instead.

And I've loved it too. It's fair to say that the press and Indian public didn't give Australia a chance, so it's been a bit of a rude awakening for them to be beaten so heavily on home soil, especially getting bowled out so cheaply twice. I loved watching all of the wickets fall from my lofty vantage point in South Stand Upper, and hearing the cacophony when Kohli, the pin-up boy of Indian cricket, walked out to bat. He walked back two balls later to virtual silence after a duck!

A lot of Indian spectators came over to chat with me. Yesterday three young boys bombarded me with questions for the first two sessions. It was like a four hour job interview. They were nice kids but I found myself another seat for the evening session to give my ears a rest (one of them also had one of those annoying plastic horns!). A man came over with his cute little girl, so she could say hello to me. I got the impression given her facial expressions that she'd never met a westerner before. Her dad prompted her to shake hands with me and she took great interest in my freckles and blue eyes.

Countless people wanted their selfie taken with me. I always find it a bit odd but I'm a novelty factor and Indian people love their selfies!

Vendors walked the aisles selling Pepsi, samosas and my particular favourite, sweetcorn in a cup, topped with chilli. Underneath the stands, stalls handed out free water, much needed given the heat. In the afternoon a faint breeze picks up but it's swelteringly hot.

My initial plan had been to stay in Pune for three nights and then stop at Lonavala for one night en route back to Mumbai, where there is a spectacular hilltop fort. But I decided to extend my stay by one day so I could get another day of cricket in, such was my enjoyment. To enable this to happen I'm taking a taxi from Pune to Mumbai early tomorrow morning, to make sure I'm at the airport for when Jessica arrives (her flight arrives at 8.25am). It's a three hour journey but I'm setting off at 5am to make sure I'm not late.

Last night I decided to have some street food for dinner from one of the stalls near my hotel. All four items were deep-fried and if I'm being honest I don't really know what any of them were. Two of them were potato with spices and another was deep-fried vegetables of some variety. The fourth one was flat and had a really off-putting texture so I didn't finish it. A tasty meal for just 40 rupees (about 40 pence).

Although I enjoyed the cricket, I think some of the organisation leaves a bit to be desired. Each day I have got up at 7.30am and taken a rickshaw to Deccan Gymkana, the ticket office in Pune city centre. Queues of people are lining up but the staff don't arrive until 8am and then it usually takes them time to sort out their computers and get paper to print the tickets on. Given that the Balewadi stadium is 45 minutes away, it means that almost everyone in the queue will miss the start of each days play. On day one I missed the first three overs, day two I also missed three overs (including a wicket) and today I missed five overs - all because the ticket office opens too late.

Another minus is that there is absolutely no infrastructure for tourists at the stadium. I imagined it would be easy to find public transport or a taxi stand but when I asked a parking attendant he just laughed and said "no taxis!" Luckily I teamed up with a British Indian guy called Rav and an Aussie called James and they were able to book a taxi using an App on Rav's phone. They told me that they'd had their suntan lotion confiscated at the security check on the way in to the match - I'd have fried if that had happened to me!

Today Rav and James weren't at the match, so after watching India collapse like a pack of cards to defeat, I waited near the car-park pondering how to go about getting back to Pune. Streams of Indian supporters walked past me and several of them graciously said "well played", mistaking me for an Aussie fan. I corrected them "I'm English!" which they found hilarious for some reason.

I saw a middle-aged man with pale skin so asked him how he was getting back to Pune. He turned out to be a rather well-off Brit staying at the Marriott, with his own driver, who was more than happy to let me jump in with him. Result.

Interestingly he told me that he works for a multi-national company that sells engines and he's spending a lot of time working in India because the Indian government is launching new legislation about exhaust emissions. I never thought this would happen in Asia but it's great news as their cars, lorries and rickshaws chug out ridiculous fumes.

Since the cricket finished a few hours early today, it gave me chance to spend a little time in Pune. I consulted my Lonely Planet but there was nothing I really fancied doing, so I just went for a wander instead. I stumbled upon a nice park with an old fig tree in the middle, all twisted trunks and dangling vines, and behind it was an interesting temple cave carved from stone. Mainly I just enjoyed walking past old ladies with their wares spread across blankets across the pavement, or carts selling street food.

I found a few electronic shops where I tried to get one of my memory cards fixed (it has picked up a virus) but didn't have any success. I did however spot a small flower stall. Since I was in India when it was Valentines Day a few weeks ago I wanted to be a bit of an old romantic, so I bought Jessica a dozen red roses (or whatever the Indian equivalent is - they look like roses but don't smell like them). I'll give them to her when she wearily steps through Arrivals tomorrow. Smooth. They only cost 100 rupees (1 pound) but it's the thought that counts.

Amusingly I got lots of smiles as I walked back to my hotel, clutching a bouquet of roses, especially from the old ladies selling stuff on the pavements. Each time I held the flowers out towards them and said "these for you" which made them laugh.

My stomach is telling me that it's time to eat and I'll need to have an early night tonight, in readiness for my taxi tomorrow morning.
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Pune [Feb. 23rd, 2017|07:57 am]
James
It was a long day of travel from Udaipur to Pune, from sunrise to sunset.

I got up bright and early and felt sad to say goodbye to Udaipur. What a great place. The taxi ride to the airport took 45 minutes (past 'panthers: beware' signs at the side of the road) and I finished my first book of three as I waited for my flight. It was just a one hour hop down to Mumbai and the scenery looked superb with lots of rugged peaks as we began our descent.

Mumbai has numerous railway station and I needed to get to CST. My Lonely Planet said it was possible to take a rickshaw to a nearby train station and then a train in to the city but it also warned it may be very crowded. Normally I quite like the adventure but not when I'm carrying all of my luggage and valuables. I booked a pre-paid taxi instead.

The taxi-ride was interesting and busy with traffic. Almost as soon as we left the airport we passed Dharavi slum, the biggest slum in Asia and setting for Slumdog Millionnaire. It houses over a million people in less than 1.75km squared. As we passed the shabby lean-to buildings I saw a tour group of about 15 people walking out of one of the alleys. I'd be interested to see the place myself but think that going on a tour is disrespectful and somewhat patronising. I remember doing something similar, completely by accident, when I got chatting to a smartly dressed man at a small road-side bar, who gave me a tour of his 'barangay' in Cebu and it was a brilliant place - kids played in the street, men huddled together betting on cards and women sat on steps chatting. It wasn't a sad, deprived place at all. I watched a brilliant documentary about Dharavi and it's not a place to be pitied. 100% of children go to school, there is 100% recycling, almost everybody has a job, there is a 0% crime rate and they now have health clinics and contraception advice too. Furthermore there is a sense of community that is now disappearing in the western world.

All of that said, I kinda wish it wouldn't be Jessica's first sight of India when she arrives in a few days time!

I arrived at CST, or Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus to give it its full name and wow, what a building. It's a huge Victorian colonial building that is listed as one of Mumbai's main tourist attractions. It's also Asia's busiest train station. I clutched my wallet tightly as I entered and gave short shrift to a man who approached me to ask where I'm from. Train stations are prime locations for pickpockets so I'm always ultra-cautious. I went through the security (X-ray machines like airports) and saw on the big screen that my train left from platform 9 in 45 minutes time. Perfect.

Feeling hungry I decided to get some street food from a stall. I got two paneer breadcrumby things and a round ball of potato and something green which was a couple of bars over my spicy limit. My lips were burning. A group of about 12 women were sat nearby and a little toddler kept peeking at me from behind her mothers knees. I kept waving and he kept hiding. After about 15 minutes of this I got a big grin from him.

I love traveling by train but the four hour journey to Pune was disappointing. I found my way to my seat - cabin C5, seat 59 - and my heart sank. The windows were so dirty I could barely see out of them. As we sped along I couldn't see a thing - it was like looking through frosted glass. It was particularly frustrating because I got a sense from the murky outlines we were passing some great scenery. I always think travel days are fun as you get a real snapshot of everyday life, but not when you can't see out of the window! From a practical point of view it wasn't ideal either as the train didn't announce which station we were coming to and since I couldn't see for myself it was an added stress.

Inevitably I drifted off to sleep and had a strange dream about droids from Star Wars. When I woke I realised I wasn't dreaming - across the aisle was an elderly man who was using one of those vibration devices on his throat to communicate. I ordered myself a chai and started my second book of the trip. As I did so, the 'Chief Ticket Collector', a small man with a thin moustache, sat down on the spare seat next to me, picked up my Lonely Planet and began reading. He was sat there for over half an hour (soundtracked by lots of oohs and aahs) and even bought himself a packet of crisps at one point. A bit unprofessional I thought.

We pulled in to Pune as the sun set. I flagged down a rickshaw and the journey to my hotel took about 40 minutes due to heavy traffic. I'm not a fan of arriving in new places at night as you never get the best impression. Eventually we pulled up in front of my hotel and I was impressed. I've chosen to stay at Centurion Hotel, purely because I'm hoping its name will be a good omen for my batting form next cricket season! The hotel is four star, has parking attendants, bell-boys and smartly dressed young men on the reception desk. It made smile recalling arriving at Ranthambhore a week ago, the manager greeting me in his tracksuit with a dubious "only the best room for you my friend" like a market dealer.

My room is very spacious too although one minor criticism, it has two single beds instead of a double. Oh and the pillows are a bit thin. And the shower floods the bathroom (I know Asian showers are usually meant to do this as the water all runs down to a plughole but this one wasn't, so I had to mop up the puddle with one of my towels). But I'll forgive that because it was hot and really good pressure, like a power-shower. I needed it after a long day of travel.

Disappointingly I chatted with some of the guys at reception and it seems that my plans for Pune aren't practical.

I had researched Pune using a website that it now seems thinks something 4 hours away constitutes a 'day-trip'! It meant sadly I'd miss out on the spectacular Raigad Fort but there are always other things to do.

I consulted my Lonely Planet and it seems the number one tourist endeavour in Pune is to attend a world renowned meditation resort! Not my cup of chai at all. It's controversial too, detractors pointing to its commercialism, marketing a phony version of the mystic east to gullible westerners. Yet it's hugely popular and people pay huge prices. The guru behind it, Osho (also self-styled guru of sex), commented that no-one should be poor, yet despite the huge success of his enterprise, not one rupee has been donated to the disadvantaged.

My first impression of Pune wasn't too favourable but I really enjoyed wandering the streets around my hotel. It feels very local, especially after all of the tourist shops of Udaipur. I didn't see another foreigner as I walked along the busy pavements near my hotel, lined with food stalls (lots of smaller-than-usual eggs for sale). It felt alien and exciting. I love the smells, the sights, the noise and exchanging smiles with people. I found a sticky internet cafe and updated my Facebook.

And then someone left a comment that has changed my outlook of Pune completely.

Starting the day after was Pune's first ever test match, India v Australia, right here in Pune! I've always wanted to watch a cricket match in India and now I'd get chance. I couldn't believe my luck. My disappointment of missing out on Raigad completely evaporated.

I ate at the hotel restaurant. The food had a fine dining flare to it. The paneer jalfrezi was spicy with crunchy green capsicum and shredded ginger. The aloo ghobi (my fave) had a spicy kick and lot of herbs sprinkled on top. I also was given my first ever poppadoms in India! The food was spectacular but I was the only person in the restaurant so a waiter stood over me and spooned food on to my plate after every few mouthfuls.

Today I went to watch the cricket.

Firstly I took a metered rickshaw (a meter that works!) to Deccan Gymcana, a rather affluent looking sports club. I opted for a 600 rupee ticket (6 pounds) for the 'South Upper Tier' as I knew it had a roof and therefore shade. There were more expensive tickets closer to the action but I always enjoy elevated views. I shared a 45 minute taxi ride to the match with two well spoken Indian guys, one of whom was beside himself with excitement when he discovered I'm a Manchester United fan.

Pune's Balewadi stadium looked massive from the outside. With play due to start shortly, I was frustrated when the security guards refused to let me enter with my bag. As I was fretting about where to leave it, a senior security guard came over, gave it a cursory search and waved my through.

My seat was in the heavens, on the top tier and directly behind the bowlers arm. The stadium had one of those form-over-function roofs that looks like lots of curved sails and I felt sun on my neck through one of the gaps. The block I was sitting in was sparsely populated so I got a seat at the very back, the highest view possible, and settled down for a day of test cricket.

Australia bossed the first session and into the afternoon were sitting pretty on 119 for 1 (at about the time people in my stand ran for cover when a swarm of bees came). But India stormed back, the ball turning sideways (on day one of a test!) and reduced the visitors to 205 for 9. I enjoyed watching Warner playing on to his stumps, the keeper Saha took a superb diving catch and Yadav was on to a hat-trick in the final session. The atmosphere was really good as India got a strangle-hold on the game with lots of Indian flags being waved. I bet its deafening when the IPL is played and the stadium is sold out. Starc smashed it around a bit at the end and the day finished 256 for 9.

It's strange though that in a country where people are always trying to sell you things, or rather always looking for opportunities to part you with your rupees, that nowhere in the stadium sold ice-cream. And apart from the free cups of mineral water (available to all fans - a nice touch I think), the only drink available was Pepsi, presumably as they sponsor the match. No hot drinks, no beer, just endless sugary coke. The food is provided by vendors walking around. I bought a few tasty samosas and a cone of popcorn.

Aside from the cricket and the food, I enjoyed chatting with some of the Indian fans. Most mistook me for an Australian fan at first, despite the fact I was clearly wearing my Saughall CC T-shirt. I shared a taxi back with an Aussie called James and an Indian brummie guy called Rav.

Such was my enjoyment, I've decided to go to watch the cricket again tomorrow. India will be batting and I bet the atmosphere will be electric, especially when Kohli is batting. But not just that, I loved a day of relaxation. Backpacking can be tiring at times so to just do nothing, except watch a sport I love, was blissful.
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Udaipur [Feb. 21st, 2017|05:59 pm]
James
Udaipur is the kind of place I love. There are lots of great views and interesting places to visit and the streets are quirky and narrow, easy to get lost in. My hotel is in the 'old town' area with heritage walks and many restaurants on the haveli rooftops, offering views of the lake.

Yesterday I went on a one hour boat-trip around Lake Pichola. As I stood in the queue, looking like the Michelin man in my life jacket, I noticed a rather foppish looking man behind me without a life jacket. "Life jackets are over there" I said helpfully, as we were just about to board. "I know, I know" he snapped irritably at me. He looked like a university professor with patches on the elbows of the jacket he was wearing. He waited in the line stubbornly for a while, pretended to check the lens on his camera, then went to get his life jacket. I made sure I gave him a smile as he walked back to the queue.

The boat circumnavigated the lake, passing the City Palace and my hotel next door, then looping around Jagniwas Island, which is entirely covered by a palace that was used in the film Octopussy. It has now been converted in to a five star hotel with luxurious courtyards, lotus ponds and a pool shaded by a mango tree. Rooms start from 350 pounds a night. Unsurprisingly they don't allow visitors so we headed instead for Jagmandir Island which also has a palace (Udaipur isn't short of palaces). This one was built in 1620 and has stone elephants each side of the small jetty. It has also been converted in to a luxury hotel and if the cost of the Sprite I purchased (180 rupees) is anything to go by, rooms must be expensive here too. We had half an hour to explore it but there wasn't much to see really, just the gardens. I found a shady spot and read up on Udaipur.

I always enjoy boat-trips but was disappointed there wasn't any kind of a commentary as we passed the interesting islands/buildings. On the bright side we didn't capsize, as the lake is home to crocodiles.

One of the quirkier tourist attractions in Udaipur is the Vintage & Classic Car Collection. It's a circular courtyard of garages containing 22 old cars. There were lots of old Fords, the Rolls Royce Phantom that was used in Octopussy, grille shining brightly in the sunlight, and the Cadillac convertible that the Queen and JFK have both used when visiting Udaipur. In one of the last garages were some solar powered rickshaws. I found this quite interesting as tuk-tuks chug out so many fumes in Asia, a solar-powered option would be a giant stride forward for the environment. Sadly I've yet to see one on the road.

My rickshaw driver drove me back to the old town, swerving between oncoming motorbikes, cows wandering lazily and sleeping dogs. I never get bored of rickshaw rides in India - they're a lot of fun. Every ride I spot countless brilliant photo opportunities but we're always past them before I have chance to take a picture.

We stopped in front of Jagdish temple, which is entered via a steep flight of steps flanked by two elephant statues. Shading underneath one of the elephants was a rather eccentric old man, so I asked if he'd mind if I took a photo. He agreed and adopted a strange pose, holding a stick with his right hand and making a 'halt' signal with his left. I gave him some rupees for his troubles.

Jagdish is one of the taller, more impressive Jain temples I've visited on this trip. Inside a group of ten old women, resplendent in colourful saris, chanted in unison as the eldest in the middle clanged a small cymbal. I enjoyed watching them, cooling down in the shade.

At 5pm I took a rickshaw to Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace) which is perched on a hill overlooking Udaipur. The palace itself is in a rather dilapidated state, almost left in ruin, but the views from the walls were spectacular. From one side I gazed over Lake Pichola, picking out my hotel and the places I've visited so far, and on the other side the view was even better, of the greyish blue hills disappearing off in to the distance. I waited for the sun to drop in the sky, took lots of photos (becoming alarmed at one point when the 'battery low' icon flashed red on my screen) and then made my way back down.

I ate at the rooftop restaurant of my hotel, the various palaces illuminated brightly on the lake. Music was playing loudly from somewhere across the water and fireworks occasionally lit up the sky. I read my book by candlelight, which I've really enjoyed and is brewing up to an exciting climax.

When my food arrived it was delicious, the best of the trip so far. I had green and red capsicums stuffed with potato, raisins and spices, served in a curry sauce, as well as palak paneer, the tastiest spinach paneer dish I've had in India. I asked the waiter whether the capsicum dish had an Indian name, so I can seek it out in future, but it seemed to be an invention of the young cook, who was bought to my table smiling proudly.

After I had polished off my food I got chatting with an American guy on the next table, who has retired and is now in his second year of traveling around India (he's been in Udaipur for a month). His name was Hunter (!), he had exactly the same voice as Harrison Ford and he somehow managed to mention the word 'allergies' three times in our short chat. He was good company though.

I love my hotel. It may be down at the waters edge which means a very steep two minute walk up to the main street, but that means that it's blissfully quiet at night. For the first time on the trip, there are no horns to startle me as I'm drifting off. I had a fantastic nights sleep and marveled at the view from the foot of my bed when I woke next morning.

Today I went to a tourist information shop and booked some trains and flights that help join the dots for the rest of my trip. Tomorrow I go to Pune, but there are no direct flights so I land in Mumbai. To get to Pune I'll take a four hour train. I also booked two flights for both Jessica and I for later in the trip (she will be joining me in five days time). As much as I love traveling by train the distances involved mean very time consuming journeys, and by booking two flights it means I've saved us both being stuck on a train for approaching 20 hours. It's strange that you don't need your passport to book a flight in India (just your name and date of birth), yet you need it to book a train!

I also booked a hotel in Pune via Agoda, got my travel adaptor fixed and picked up my first laundry of the trip. A practical morning.

For the second day running I went to Cafe Eidelweiss, a swiss bakery, for lunch. This time I had two slices of my favourite apple pie. Just a short distance away was Bagore-ki-Haveli, built in the late 18th century. It's a very traditional old haveli, with lots of narrow staircases leading out in to balconied courtyards. It's now been converted in to a museum to give a snapshot of the buildings life. Incongruously I thought, it also housed the worlds biggest turban, almost 2m in width. Afterwards I walked around Udaipur for a few hours, across a bridge to the other side of the lake, happily getting lost.

I've absolutely loved Udaipur. I'd definitely put it up there with any places I've visited in Asia. One slight down side is that its streets are lined with many souvenir shops selling really nice stuff, and men sit on the steps trying to cajole you inside. "Hello my friend, where you from?" It can be quite tiring at times. The trick is to answer them politely but keep walking. It's funny, whenever I answer "England", the more wheeler-dealerish of them answer "ah, lovely jubbly". There must be some kind of online sales manual for Asian street-sellers because I often hear this exact line.

Tomorrow will be a long day of travel to Pune. From there I have some good walks planned.
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Arrival in Udaipur [Feb. 19th, 2017|07:31 pm]
James
I feared the worst when I got to the ticket counter and asked for a ticket for the 8.35am train to Udaipur. The smartly dressed man looked surprised and said "local class? You not want express train?" I paid my 25 rupees (25 pence!) and waited on platform 2. I thought it might be a rugby scrum for whatever space was available but in fact when the train pulled in, more people got off than on, so I got a window seat.

A breathtakingly pretty girl sat opposite - a Bollywood actress in waiting, glimmering in her blue and gold sari - along with her family, three generations of women and wide-eyed kids. The woman were all so colourful in their saris I regretted not asking to take a photo but it felt intrusive. When they got up to leave they all waved. We continued to rumble our way merrily along and I marveled at how green the scenery was. When we slowed at the platforms of small towns along the way I returned the waves of kids. The journey took 2.5 hours and I felt excited as we pulled in to Udaipur.

I took a rickshaw to my hotel and can honestly say I've never been so entranced by a place as we sped through the narrow cobbled streets of the old city, catching glimpses of Lake Pichola glimmering in the late morning sun. Udaipur was living up to its billing as India's most beautiful city.

The elderly rickshaw driver stopped at the brow of a hill in a narrow alleyway and told me "can go no further - hotel on left" pointing ahead. I got out, paid him and it took two minutes to walk down a steep hill to my hotel, The Shaharkot, right next to the water’s edge. It's a beautiful building and my room is sensational. It could be a honeymoon suite with two walls completely windows overlooking the lake, the pale blue Aravalli hills stretching away in to the distance. It cost a little over 20 pounds a night. I unpacked and then lay back on the bed, enjoying the view. I drifted off to sleep for two hours.

In the afternoon I went for an explore. It turns out that my hotel is right next to the palace, a pretty exclusive spot at the side of the lake. I wandered through the crooked alleys, overlooked by grand looking havelis and colourfully painted hotels, restaurants and gift shops. For the first time on this trip I saw lots of tourists.

It seems a great place to get lost in. I’ll turn a corner and walk up a cobbled hill to find myself facing a Jain temple, or venture down another alley and find a great view of the lake. I felt hungry and decided I couldn’t resist my first lassi of the trip and a pastry from Edelweiss cafe. I have only eaten curry so far on this trip, so the apple pie tasted spectacular.

I decided to visit the City Palace, Rajasthan’s largest palace. It’s nearly 250 meters long and construction began in 1553 by Maharana Udai Singh II, the city’s founder, after his defeat in Chittorgarh. It’s a grand building, full of courtyards overlooked by balconies, towers and cupolas and has lots of great views of the lake. My camera trigger finger was kept busy.

It also had the most interesting museum I’ve ever visited. Near the main entrance were tiger cages (just like mouse-traps but bigger) and next to Tripolia Gate is where elephant fights took place. Inside the palace were the usual rooms full of curved sabres, colourful gowns and glimmering silverware. What I liked most about the museum is that there was a clearly sign-posted route, through extremely narrow corridors and down steep stair-cases, the stone polished so smooth by the number of visitors you could see your reflection in it. The route opened out in to beautifully ornate courtyards and small rooms decorated brightly with coloured glass and marble flooring. It really felt like I was exploring the palace.

I stepped in to a pretty central garden which offered dramatic views over the lake. Legend has it that Maharana Bhim Singh’s daughter drank a cup of poison in this courtyard to solve the dilemma of rival princely suitors from Jaipur and Jodhpur, who were both threatening to invade if she didn’t marry them. It was tough being a beautiful princess in those days. Nearby was Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard) with beautiful mosaics of peacocks, the unofficial symbol of Rajasthan.

I absolutely loved today and can’t wait to explore Udaipur further.
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Chittorgarh [Feb. 18th, 2017|09:38 pm]
James
I woke at 4.30am and groggily did my last minute packing. When I walked past the reception desk the manager, who I suspect got up especially, told me that my train ticket was now confirmed. It was a relief. Although I'm sure I would have got to Chittorgarh one way or the other (slipping the ticket inspector a 'tip' as the manager suggested), I could imagine it being stressful.

I took a chilly rickshaw ride to the train station and waited on platform 2 for my 5.25am train. It arrived half an hour late, my first delay in India. My sleeper berth was in the middle, with one person above me and one person below and a bank of three bunks opposite. I used my backpack as a pillow and after about half an hour, fell asleep. It's surprisingly easy to sleep on sleeper trains - the rhythmic swaying of the carriage is almost cradle like. I slept for five hours on the six hour journey and I noticed a cow had fallen asleep on an adjacent track as we pulled in to Chittorgarh station.

I'm staying at Hotel Shiva Fort Palace, which does indeed have views of the fort, in the far distance. My room is excellent, the bed is spotlessly clean and comfortable and the room boasts perhaps the best hot shower I've experienced in India. Home comforts. The toilet is a little confusing though. There isn't a chain, just two knobs on the wall to the side. A logic puzzle. I turned the one closest to the toilet and a jet of water shot out from under the seat, soaking my crotch area. I should have turned the other one.

But enough of that, I had some serious sight-seeing to do. I bartered with my rickshaw driver to drive me around the fort for the day. It cost 700 rupees which is a good price for me (7 quid) but also a good price for him - his face lit up like he'd won the lottery. On top of that I'd also need to pay 250 rupees to enter the fort.

Chittorgarh undoubtably is the daddy of all forts in Rajasthan, which is saying something given the grandeur of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer (the three J's) I visited last year. It is 6km long and stands on a rock with 180 meter cliffs on all sides.

We zig-zagged our way up the side of the fort and entered through Ram Pole, one of the main gates. Inside is a village of about 4000 people who live inside. Our first stop was the crumbling Rana Khumba palace, which was like a level on Tomb Raider and easy to get lost in. Nearby are three Jain temples, all with intricate carvings and statues, mainly of busty ladies and elephants. It was nice walking on the cool surfaces in the shade inside.

My favourite stop was 'Tower of Victory', which is a symbol of Chittorgarh's glorious and tragic past. Three times the fort has been invaded - in 1303, 1535 and 1567 - and three times they were defeated. But despite impossible odds, their men bravely charged outside the walls to face certain death. When defeated, the women inside committed mass 'Jauhar' - self immolation - by throwing themselves on to a fire. 13,000 women died this way after the 1535 invasion. The soldiers and the women considered death as a better option than dishonour in the face of surrender to invading armies. The tower rises 8 floors and is a symbol for nationalism and courage.

Outside I bought myself a cold drink and a packet of crisps. It was a silly mistake. There were dozens of langur monkeys and when they saw my crisps, a few raced over. Langur monkeys are really friendly, playful monkeys but they looked quite menacing bounding towards me! I realised what they were after so raised the packet high in the air, but they jumped up, grasping for them. It must have made a funny sight, two monkeys trampolining desperately in front of me to get my crisps.

The grounds contained lots of temples, a photogenic stretch of wall and one of the things that makes Chittorgarh unique from other forts I have visited, deep reservoirs full of water. It's possible to feed the fish but I preferred finding a way to the other side of the pool (up two flights of steps, around one Jain temple, through some ruins and down more steps) and sitting peacefully on my own, watching the fish splashing in the water.

The fort had many other interesting places. Padmini's Palace was quite a pleasant retreat from the sun, low-rise with beautifully tended gardens full of roses. The legend is that Ala-ud-din Khilji beseiged Chittogarh in 1303 in order to capture the beautiful princess Padmini. He apparently was visiting Padmini's palace and saw her reflection in a mirror, of her sitting next to the lake. It's amazing to think that all of the lives lost following his invasion - including that of Padmini who committed jauhur - was because of one kings lust.

I visited lots more temples, footwells and stretches of wall, each offering great views of the blue-tinged city. On the other side I visited East Gate which had great views over the green plains. I drank freshly squeezed lemonade in a lovely shady spot on the 'Tower of Fame' and I played cricket with a group of boys in a courtyard inside Udai Singh's crumbling palace.

Over the two days I must have posed with close to 100 people. Chittorgarh doesn't get the visitors of Jaipur and Jodhpur so I felt a bit like a movie star people coming up to me, saying "excuse me sir, can I have picture with you".

I have really enjoyed this part of the trip and the fort was superb, with loads of places to visit inside. I had a little blip yesterday, a splitting headache when I got back from the sight-seeing - not surprising given my neck position on the sleeper train and the bumpy rickshaw ride around the fort - but now I'm fine and I've got my appetite back. I've just eaten an experimental meal of a pea curry with hara bara kebabs as a side dish. The kebabs were in fact fried veg with cashew nuts and were tasty.

Tomorrow I leave Chittorgarh, taking a short train ride to Udaipur, supposedly India's most beautiful city.
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(no subject) [Feb. 16th, 2017|09:14 pm]
James
The beds have been fantastically comfy so far on this trip. I was sleeping like a log last night when I was woken at 4am by some strange horns coming from somewhere in the distance. They were a series of different pitched long notes - like whales singing to each other (I think they were from a train arriving but they went on for about half an hour). Sometimes I wonder whether I over-romanticise my trips in this journal but it should be pointed out that at least once a trip I'll be sat miserably on the toilet in the middle of the night, like last night, wondering whether I'm about to throw up. I didn't but I felt like a zombie when my alarm went at 6am.

I got down to the reception five minutes early, at 6.25am. It was a chilly morning (mornings and evenings are cool until you start heading towards South India). The receptionist bought me a cup of tea, which I was grateful for as the jeep didn't come to pick me until nearly 7.30am. An hour wait wasn't what I needed after my lack of sleep!

I was sharing a jeep with two Australian girls, Samira and Michaela. It was an open-sided jeep and it was cold as we sped our way through quiet streets, despite the fact I was wearing three layers and a blanket over my knees. We entered Ranthambhore National Park and drove down dusty tracks, over a ridge and on to a plain where we saw some deer lazily chewing leaves off a branch. The 4x4 stopped and the tour guide said something in broken English. The sun slowly began to poke above the hills and the temperature dramatically rose as we meandered through the valleys, spotting herds of various animals.

We saw sambar deer with huge reindeer-like antlers, gazelles hopping along in packs and even antelope. The females looked quite drab compared to the males, nicknamed blue bulls due to their appearance. For a while a dog started following our jeep ("to protect itself from cheetah" the guide told us) which was amusing at first but annoying when it chased any animals we slowed down to take a good look at. At one point we saw a jackal, which are vicious little things, and yet it ran for its life when the dog ran its way! So did the antelope, aka blue bull. Yellow-bellied bull more like.

We didn't see any tigers but we saw tiger prints (and sloth bear prints) next to the dust tracks. The guide explained that tigers use the tracks to navigate their way around as it means they can creep up silently on their prey - usually sambar deer - without rustling grass or breaking twigs.

There were plenty of birds in the park, including lots of pea-cocks, something of a national emblem of India. At the halfway point the jeep stopped at a hut, where the girls went to the loo, and a bird with a bright yellow chest landed on the jeep. I managed to get a few good photos before the tour-guide came back. He told me that they are very tame and can be fed by hand, so I picked a biscuit out of my backpack, crunched it up and watched as three of them swooped in and clawed painfully at my hand. I won't be doing that again.

On the way out we stopped next to a tree and it took me at least three minutes to work out what the excitement was... there were three small white owls sitting in a row, like Chinese dolls. The guides have amazing eye-sight to be able to spot wildlife like that.

I got back to my hotel and immediately booked a place on the evening safari, for an another 2000 rupees (20 quid).

While waiting for my next pick-up I booked a train ticket for 5.25am tomorrow morning to my next destination, Chittagarh. I say 'booked', it's an 'unconfirmed' ticket, which means I won't know I've got a place on the sleeper train until I get to the station. However, the guy at my hotel says that even if I don't get a bed (which he thinks is 50/50), I should just board anyway and slip the ticket conductor a few hundred rupees ("money solves everything in India" he told me with a smile).

I also booked hotels in both Chittagarh and Udaipur. It was a productive afternoon and means the next six days are nicely mapped out.

The second safari of the day entered the park from a different side. The track was rockier, the road steeper and the view better as we climbed to the top of a tall hill, overlooking a spectacular valley. We held on tight as the 4x4 surged down steep slopes, the wheels slipping and sliding on the loose rocks. I held on tightly like I was on a roller-coaster. I wondered what would happen if the jeep overturned. Not the best place to be stuck!

We saw most of the same animals as the first trip, including macaque and langur monkeys, the latter running along on all-fours, tail high in the air like a periscope. Often tigers can be found near watering holes (low at this time of year) but none were forthcoming today. Neither were the cheetahs. A few times the jeep stopped and we waited in hushed silence, listening out for the surprisingly high-pitched warning call of the sambar deer, to alert others a tiger was in the vicinity.

Again it was sad to miss out on seeing the tigers but in a strange way it's quite nice to think that they're so elusive. It would have felt a bit easy if we'd have seen five of them on the first safari. But despite not seeing them, I loved today. Only two days ago I was in Delhi - the noisiest place I've ever been - and today at times all I could hear was complete silence. These safaris have been the perfect antidote to the claustrophobia of Delhi.

On the way back to my hotel we drove through a bustling little town, little more than one busy street with a food market on the corner. We passed probably a dozen camels pulling stacked wooden carts, cows on every corner and a group of wild boars with punk rock spiky hair, sniffing around the rubbish. You see wildlife everywhere in India.

An old Indian man with a jumper wrapped over his head has just walked in and asked for the key for room 202. Time for an early night I think.
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Train to Sawai Madhopur [Feb. 15th, 2017|09:38 pm]
James
As I was feasting myself on dinner last night (aloo ghobi massala - my new fave - plus tandoori vegetables) I heard a commotion on the street below. A brass band was marching past. It reminded me of a sleepless night I had on my last trip when I got woken by a similar thing. A smiling Indian man told me that it was a wedding parade and that the man in the middle, on the horse, was the groom. Ah, now I know.

As I was finishing my meal two young men asked whether I'd mind if they joined me. Go ahead I told them. I'm always a little defensive when this happens but it turned out they were just touting their tour guide business in Kashmir. One day I'd love to head to north India, to see the Himalayas.

Next morning I packed and hailed a rickshaw to take me to the train station. As we were waiting at a busy junction the driver asked me"do you have ticket?" When I confirmed, he asked me where I bought it from. I explained that I had booked it from my hotel. You pay a commission doing it that way but it ensures you get exactly the ticket you want. "Ah, not good, maybe they sell you bad ticket. I can take you to government tourist office to confirm ticket?" This seems to be a common Delhi scam in which unsuspecting tourists get taken to a not-at-all official government office to pay inflated prices for their ticket/tour (I assume the rickshaw drivers get a cut). "No thanks" I told him as a little girl did handstands in front of the rickshaw, her sister holding her hand out for a tip.

I arrived at the train station and made my way to platform 7, a slight grain of doubt in my mind that maybe my ticket wasn't valid after all. I needn't have worried. After a while the huge 30 carriage train pulled up and hundreds of people spilled out. It made for a chaotic scene, people crowding down the platform, pushing trolleys, carrying bags on their head, as the same amount again tried to barge their way on to the train. I walked three quarters the length of the train before I found 'coach class' C3. I settled down to my window seat and felt relieved when we began to pull away, exactly on time.

I love travelling by train. It's a really nice, relaxing way to watch the world go by. We soon left the tall buildings and slums behind (almost every corrugated tin roof had a satellite dish) and sped through flat and featureless countryside. It maybe wasn't the best view but it was lovely to be out in the open, green fields as far as the eye could see, the sun shining brightly. Whenever I leave the capital, it always feels like the holiday is truly beginning.

The journey to Sawai Madhopur took five and a half relaxing hours. I had four chais - hot sweet tea - and a packet of massala crisps from passing vendors. The sunset was dark red and purple, like an angry bruise, then we pulled in to the train station. I shared a rickshaw in to town with an Australian couple with possibly the most Australian accents I've ever heard. They ended every sentence with a high note, like they were asking a question. They were on a four week honeymoon in India. We said goodbye but I reckon I'll probably end up seeing them tomorrow in Ranthambhore National Park, one of the few places in India its possible to see wild tigers.

I checked in to my hotel - Vanraj Palance - and booked myself on a jeep safari at 6.30am tomorrow morning. It's not guaranteed I'll see tigers but if not, another trip leaves at 2.30pm. If I don't see them on the second trip, I can always extend my stay.

I went up to my room - a piano version of 'My Heart Will Go On' was playing in the lift - and my room seems very nice. I didn't linger though, I was hungry, so headed upstairs to the restaurant that was recommended to me by the receptionist. It was completely empty - probably 50 seats and no customers. I was tempted to creep back down (not so much the thought of eating alone which doesn't bother me, rather a nagging doubt that a restaurant as quiet as this can't use the freshest ingredients) but a man I assumed to be the chef sprang to his feet and said "hello sir" with a big beaming grin.

I'm glad I stayed. I ordered paneer laziz, which had crispy paneer with a tomato gravy but the star of the show was the aloo dum kashmiri which had stuffed potatoes. The stuffing had lots of nuts and herbs. When I ordered it he asked "spicy or medium spicy?" I went for the spicy version and it was absolutely gorgeous. All washed down with a Tuborg beer two months out of date.

The staff here are very friendly. When I asked if they have internet they said I could use a computer behind their reception desk, where I'm sat now. It means people walking in probably think I work here. I noticed a man perusing the menu as he checked in and couldn't resist recommending the spicy aloo kashmiri. I wish I was on commission because he ordered it!

Early night tonight and hopefully tigers tomorrow...
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Ghandi's house [Feb. 14th, 2017|07:33 pm]
James
After I wrote my last post I went back to my hotel and with trepidation had a shower. Last year in both hotels I stayed at in Delhi this meant a dribble of lukewarm water followed by a cold shower, but not this time - I had as much piping hot water as I wanted. On the down-side it did mean the mirror steamed up which made shaving problematic.

I went up to the restaurant on the top floor for dinner. I was feeling hungry so ordered a spectacular Aloo Ghobi Massala dish along with a smoky chicken curry, four paratha to mop it all up and some paneer pakora on the side. I liked my spot so when I had finished eating I bought a massala tea and read my book. I slept like a log, largely thanks to my ear-plugs.

This morning I needed to fill in some more of the gaps for the weeks ahead. I plan to head through Rajasthan towards Udaipur, which will comprise of various three or four hour bus-trips, depending on where I plan to visit. But from Udaipur I need to get to Pune, which takes 20 hours by train. So I decided to book a flight instead at the tourist information counter at my hotel. There weren't any direct flights, so I'll have to fly to Mumbai and then take a train to Pune (2 hours). It cost 5800 rupees (58 quid) but at least it's now sorted.

Last year the government decided to withdraw 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, to tackle counterfeiting and illegal operations. It means that whenever I spend one of the crisp new 2,000 rupee notes, I get a bundle of 100's in return. The conversion rate between pound sterling and rupees is easy to calculate as 1 rupee = 1 pence, so imagine if we decided to get rid of 5 and 10 pound notes back in England? It would be exactly the same. You'd pay for something with a 20 and get loads of pound coins in return!

I decided to start my day by visiting Akshardham Temple, which looked majestic on the photos I'd seen online. I walked to the nearby metro and managed to work out that I needed a 15 rupee token to take me to the other side of the Yamuna river. After queuing up to pay and going through the security scanner, I climbed the stairs and jumped on to the next train. It was a fun fifteen minute ride.

It was bad news when I arrived at Arshardham though. There were signs saying that you couldn't take bags, cameras or pretty much anything inside with you. For a while I stood in the disorganised 'cloakroom' queue but felt jittery about leaving my camera, especially when I saw a sign 'property left at owners risk' (surely the whole point of a cloakroom is to look after people's stuff!). I decided to leave. It was a shame - the temple looked spectacular from the approach but I later learned that it's practically a new-build - it was only completed in 2005! It was also marred in controversy. Not only is it a hugely ostentatious statement in such a poor area, it angered environmentalists for a variety of reasons.

I flagged down a rickshaw driver outside.

"Lotus Temple, you know? How much?".

"Ah yes. 200 rupees" he replied.

It was the tourist price but I expect to pay more and judging by the distance it seemed fair. I jumped in to the back. We'd barely navigated our first pot-holes and betel-splatters when he turned to look over his shoulder.

"200 too small. Cost 300 to Lotus Temple".

People in Delhi are always trying to upsell! I stuck to my guns and told him that we'd agreed on 200 before I got in. We drove for about half an hour in the baking heat. Rickshaws are open-sided so I was blasted with hot fumes from the chaotic traffic (always worse when you're unfortunate to pull up alongside a big lorry). After a while the driver looked over his shoulder again.

"200 not good. Traffic busy! 300".

You'd think a Delhi rickshaw driver could predict traffic. I told him "We agree 200", hiding the weariness in my voice. 200 was more than enough for the fare. An Indian person would have probably paid less than half that. Ironically I'd have tipped him had he not tried to up his price.

I quite liked Lotus Temple. It is shaped like a lotus flower, which gives Indian people - the kings and queens of selfies - the ideal opportunity to take pictures of themselves. The temple allows people of all faiths to pray inside together, a nice philosophy I thought. I'm not a particularly religious person but I enjoyed entering the cool marble interior and admiring the architecture.

I flagged down another taxi driver outside. He was a talkative chap who insisted I call him 'Mr Singh'. As we were waiting at a junction I saw something I never thought I'd see in India... a woman driver! Admittedly she stalled in the middle of a busy junction to prompt a cacophony of beeping, but it's progress! Joking aside, India has justifiably received a lot of negative press for the role of women in society and I noticed a large poster on the wall at the metro telling people 'treat women with respect - they are our equals'.

Not only that, I saw an advert on TV discouraging people from smoking in public. The day that happens in Asia I will eat my hat!

Next I went to Gandhi Smitri, where Ghandi lived until he was shot by a religious zealot on 30th January 1948. The exact spot of his assassination is marked by a small shrine in a pavilion in the gardens (incredibly a group of Japanese tourists were taking selfies in front of it). The building and gardens were beautiful but Ghandi's room was very modest. His meagre possessions - including pocket-watch, sandals and circular-rimmed spectacles - were in a cabinet next to the mattress he slept. A few kilometers away is a small platform alongside the river to commemorate the spot where Ghandi was cremated, alongside a plaque showing his final words 'hai ram' (Oh, God).

It was a stop-start day of sight-seeing. Mainly 'stop' because of the crazy traffic. Sadly I didn't get time to visit the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets.

Right, I'm hungry. Tomorrow my train to Ranthambhore leaves Delhi at 1pm, which means a nice leisurely morning before the next leg of my trip begins.
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