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One World in One Lifetime

Archive for November, 2017

Henge

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 30, 2017

Wednesday, August 16th – August 17th, 2017

Second Time Around

This was my second time visiting Stonehenge. The first time, it was very cold and I was very young. I made the mistake of going in the winter and not doing any research before seeing the monoliths. I didn’t know much about the site except that it was very old and druids… did a thing… maybe.

This time, I think I got more out of the experience. The ticket price did go up and I could no longer get the student price for tickets. But it was a lot better because of the audio guide. Sure, you can read up on stuff before you go to see the henge, but will you remember all the things to look out for? It is a wholly better experience to have the guide tell you what to look at and why it’s important. Bravo English Heritage, Bravo!

Reality vs Expectation

Because we visited Stonehenge in the summer and not the winter, Mark and I were more willing to do the 1 hour walk to (and another hour walk back from) Woodhenge. I was expecting something awesome. I didn’t look at photos of the thing online; I wanted it to be a surprise.

My first reaction was, “I stepped in tons of sheep poo for this!?” (Note: It is not a requirement to walk in sheep dung to see this thing. There is a poo-free trail. Mark and I just thought we would take a short cut…)

I’m glad I saw it, but I would not recommend it to anyone who didn’t have a car.

I very much enjoyed the exhibit on the Magna Carta. The last time I was in town the Salisbury Magna Carta was out for restoration. This time it was on display. At the exhibit you can learn about how the paper used for old important documents were made. They also explained why this copy has survived for so long. The key was to misplace it for stretches of time when people were not handling old documents very well.

We also got to see and read the Magna Carta. It makes very little sense to modern English readers, mainly because it is written in Latin. (Who learns Latin these days?) But you can look out for some key words. There is also an English translation of the whole document on display and a staff of very knowledgeable people ready to answer any questions.

Sampling local ales

Mark and I also enjoyed the pubs of Salisbury. Not just for their beer, but also for their food. Though, Mark did really like the beer.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Stonehenge

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £17.50
  • You can buy a Stonehenge Ticket & Bus Combo:
  • Cost with the following membership – the membership – cost of membership
  • £5 refundable parking charge

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 19:00

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • It is believed to have been made from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.
  • Mark really loved the Cornish pasty sold at the cafe.
    • He talks about going back their, not to see Stonehenge again, but for the pie.
  • Don’t forget all the other things around the henge.

Woodhenge

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:

  • Was probably still being used around 1800 BC.
  • Remember to close the gate.
  • It’s a 1 hour walk from Stonehenge.

Old Sarum

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:00

Video

Notes:

  • New Sarum is better known as Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • To see the Magna Carta – Free
  • Tower tours cost £12.50
  • It’s free to see the Cathedral but donations are strongly encouraged

Hours:

To see the Magna Carta:

  • 1 APRIL – 31 OCTOBER
    • Monday-Saturday:  09.30 – 17.00
    • Sundays: 12.00 – 16.00
  • 1 NOVEMBER – 31 MARCH
    • Monday-Saturday:  09.30 – 16.30
    • Sundays: 12.00 – 15.45

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Don’t miss the Magna Carta.
  • The fictional Knightsbridge cathedral in Ken Follet’s Knightsbridge series is based on Salisbury Cathedral.

Map:

Posted in Amesbury, England, Salisbury, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Everything in Here is Stolen

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 25, 2017

Tuesday, August 8th – Tuesday August 15th

Hey, isn’t this part of the Parthenon in Athens?

Museum Heaven

Since starting this trip, I have begun a love for museums that I’ve never had before. Maybe it’s because a museum visit takes very little planning. I can show up, stay as long as I like, and even have lunch there. Museums are usually very near to public transportation. It’s just super easy and fun, especially if there is a good audio guide involved.

London has the best museums I’ve seen so far. DC has some good ones too, but London has more. Most of them are free and most come with audio guides. And London has all the best stuff. Some would say, too much of the best stuff.

Mark and I were looking at things in a room in the British Museum when a man walked in with his friend. He tried to whisper, but his words came out a little louder than he expected. He looked around the room and told his friend, “Everything in here is stolen!”

All the Artifacts

There are many people protesting all the things in the British Museum that they feel belong to other countries. They say that Britain received these things by less than honest means. The UK isn’t the only country to do this. You can find Greek statues in the Louvre. You can find Egyptian artifacts in London, Paris, China, the US, Greece, and the list goes on. All the bigger more powerful countries have done this.

This is part of Greece’s Parthenon artifacts.

As you might have guessed, this blog entry was written long after I visited London. I’m actually in Greece writing this. (Of course, by the time you read this I will be in Holland or Texas or… I’m not sure.) A few days ago I was at the Parthenon Museum in Athens. Their collection of Parthenon artifacts was sparse in comparison to what I saw in London.

The photo at the top of the blog is an example of what the museum in London had. London had bigger, more complete pieces. Greece had less and what they did have was very fragmented.

It’s not so much that they have all of this stuff, it’s more of how they got it. Everyone involved has a side of the story, but it comes down to this.

Country A wasn’t taking care of their items. They ran out of money, had a war, or just didn’t care. So some rich guy comes in and offers to buy the items. He buys them either directly from country A or some citizen of country A who has or claims to have ownership of the items. The money is paid. Then the rich guy turns around and donates or sells the stuff to the UK or some other government.

Years later country A is back on their feet financially, the war has ended, or now they have start caring about their past. But, it’s too late. Britain, Paris, or the US have most of their items. They have hired a team of experts to restore and study the items. They have written papers and are learning so much about the past. The items are in museums and people come from all over the world to look at the items.

The items have been gone for so long, it’s hard to track down just how they got to these far away museums. Country A says that along the way, something shady went down. The museums say that not only did nothing shady happened but they saved these items from being destroyed when no one was looking after them.

Who is right?

London

I did enjoy seeing all the items though. I learned a lot from them. Mummies, statues, art, tools, helmets, I enjoyed them all.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Oyster Card

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Oyster Card £5 deposite
  • 7 day pass £33.00
  • You can also pay as you go without a 7 day pass.

Hours:

  • 5:00 – 0:00 Monday to Saturday
  • Reduced operating hours on Sundays

Notes:

  • It lowers the cost of a single fare ticket.
  • This can be used on the subway, buses, trams, boats, and other transport around London.
  • When your vacation is over you can return it at any tube station and get your £5 back. Yes, there is a tube station at Heathrow Airport.

The Tower of London

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £21.50

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:30 Tu-Sa
  • 10:00 – 17:30 Su – M

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • If you are traveling into London by rail, you might be able to get a 2 for 1 ticket.
  • There is a free Beef Eater tour every hour on the hour starting at 10:00.
  • Don’t Miss:
    • The crown jewels.
      • Sees these as early as you can; the line gets very long later in the day.
    • The spot where the beheadings took place.
    • The spot, in the White Tower stair case, where the “two princesses” were found.
    • The chapel where the bones of Anne Boleyn might be buried.
    • The historical graffiti.
    • Traitor’s Gate

Museum of London

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free
  • free wifi

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:


National Gallery

Basic Information

Website

 

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t miss:
    • The Monty Python Foot
    • Venus and Mars – Botticelli
    • Rokeby Venus – Velazquez
    • Sunflowers – Van Gogh
    • The Water-Lily Pond – Monet

The British Museum

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • free
  • £6 audio guide

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:30

Videos:

Notes:


Westminster Abbey

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

  • The audio guide
  • You can download the guide to you phone, but you cannot use your phone in the abbey.
  • An audio guide is complementary with your ticket.

Cost:

  •  £20.00
  • You can find cheaper or combination tickets online

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 15:30

Video

Notes:

  • It’s pronounced “Westminster” like how it is spelled, not West Minister.
  • An audio guide is complementary with your ticket.
  • Buy your tickets online to save time, money, and hassle.

Guildhall Art Gallery

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Audio Guide

Hours:

  • 12:00 – 16:00 Su
  • 10:00 – 17:00 M – Sa

Video

Notes:

  • They were sitting atop a Roman amphitheatre and had no idea until they did some renovations in 1985.

The Imperial War Museum London

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • I’m not a fan of war museums in general, but I like this one. It’s very well done.

Lots of things to look out for:

Notes:

Map:

Posted in England, London, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thwarter of Thieves

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 20, 2017

Tuesday August 1st – Monday August 7th, 2017

This poor guy has been severely robbed.

We got to Paris with a few hang-ups. One, my debit card was taken by a Paris ATM and I had to have a new one mailed to me. This was not too bad. We just used Mark’s bank card until then. Unfortunately, his bank charges him all sorts of fees for not being in the US. My bank, Ally Bank, not only doesn’t charge any fees, but they refund most of the ATM charges I incur.

Second, Mark went to a pharmacy to get medicine to stop his “Delhi Belly”. At first it seemed to do nothing, but after a few days he was as good as new. With everything fixed we were free to enjoy Paris.

Everything about Paris is AMAZING. You have to walk slowly everywhere you go, because even the smallest things are screaming for your attention. Look at the fountain in the photo above. There is so much going on just right there. The color, the gold trim, the expressions on the statues’ faces; they are all begging to be looked at. And this is just a fountain left outdoors for any and everyone to see. Imagine the stuff they keep indoors and charge an entrance fee for!

I was expecting to be completely bored by the Louvre because I don’t have a very high level of appreciation for art. Instead I spent a whole afternoon there. In fact, Mark and I were one of the people the staff had to stop and say, “Okay guys, it’s time to go. Come on… You two, get out.” We went to the Louvre for art and artifacts, but Mark and I kept stopping to stare at doors, ceilings, windows, walls, even the floor.

Look at this ceiling!

Just about every square inch of this city is designed for showing off. We would go out sightseeing everyday and by the evening my neck would hurt from looking up so much. At cemeteries graves and tombs are elaborately decorated. Churches are designed extravagantly. Even some subway stations are spectacular to look at. Paris is in a class of its own. There are no other places like it as far as I know.

This is just the gift shop. The really good stuff is upstairs.

But their is a sinister side of Paris. There are pick-pockets and scam artists everywhere. We saw people jumping the turn-styles at subway stations every time we rode the train. People were always approaching us asking for our signatures on some bogus petition. We knew they would try to steal our stuff, so we never let them stand too near us. But then one day I caught some guy red-handed, trying to rob me.

I was going to catch a train when I felt something odd. At first I thought it might have been my phone, but I did not get a SIM card in Paris, so that phone should not be vibrating with any alerts. I turned around as I always do before I open my purse in Paris, to make sure no one is too close. But someone was. There was a man standing right behind me. This was odd because the place was almost empty of people. He had plenty of space to move; he didn’t need to be right next to me.

Then I noticed the zipper of my purse was slightly opened. “What’s going on!?” I asked the man. He looked guilty. Mark stopped and asked me what happened. “This man tried to pick-pocket me.” I told Mark. Mark demanded that the man empty his pockets to see what he took. The man, who seemed to be in his early 20’s, showed that he had nothing in his pockets. I looked through my bag, but nothing was taken. I left most of my stuff in my locker at the hostel. Seeing the 2 things I had were still there I knew he hadn’t taken anything.

But I wasn’t sure what would happen next. I knew that pick pockets usually work in groups. While we were standing there, the others might come and rob us. So, the only thing I could think to do is to make a spectacle. So I started to shout, “THIS FOOL TRIED TO ROB ME. I CANNOT BELIEVE HE TRIED TO PICK POCKET ME. SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE!?” (I knew the police couldn’t help.)

The guy stood there arguing his innocence until I started shouting. Once my yelling began, people started to look in my direction and come towards us, he felt inspired to run and hightailed it out of there.

After that, I looked at everyone in Paris suspiciously as would be pick-pockets. I know most people think that the pick-pockets are mostly Romany or non-European immigrants, but this guy looked and sounded Parisian. He spoke English with a French accent as he insisted that he had taken nothing. He didn’t look poor, out of place, or in anyway like someone who had to resort to petty theft. He looked like a college student or some French version of a hipster.

I’ve also seen the same thing happen to other tourists. One guy from Spain caught a pick-pocket reaching in his wife’s purse. The Spanish guy grabbed the pick-pocket and slapped him around a bit, yelling at the thief in Spanish. This is the most punishment that pick-pocket will ever see, since the cops don’t do much.

I guard my purse even from Churchill’s statue; I trust no one.

Here are my tips for avoiding pick-pockets:

  1. Carry as few things as possible.
    • If you get robbed, it’s easy to assess what has been taken if you have just a few things.
    • You will also have less things to steal.
    • Leave the really important things in a safe or locker at your hotel or hostel, especially if it’s not really needed.
  2. Don’t use a backpack.
    • Backpacks are kept on your back and you cannot see behind you.
  3. Use only a sling bag, like mine, and always carry it across your body, like I do.
    • It’s very hard to snatch a purse with someone in it.
    • If someone does try to grab your purse, don’t pull on it.
      • Instead sit down. Now the thief will have to drag you and the purse.
      • Or if you fear for your safety, just let go of the purse. Your life is worth more than your stuff.
  4. Keep your purse in front of you.
    • What’s out of your sight, is easy pickings.
    • When in doubt, hug your purse.
  5. Don’t put anything in your back pocket.
    • In fact, don’t put anything in any non-zippered pockets.
  6. When it’s very crowded around you, hold on to your bag.
    • When in doubt, hug your purse.
  7. Don’t be afraid to get loud.
    • People might shy away if they see a robbery in progress, but everyone loves a spectacle.
    • Think of the craziest thing to say and yell that.
    • Thieves hate an audience.
  8. Be aware of what’s around you.
    • You can be pick-pocketed anywhere, even at the Louvre.

Paris is so much more enjoyable when you haven’t been robbed.


The European Union
(France)

How to get there:

You can enter the E.U. and France by land, air, or sea. I’m not sure what needs to be done to get a European visa before hand. Americans are issued stamps at the port of entry which allow up to a 90-day stay.

Phone:

  • Emergency number: 112 for fire, police, and ambulance (for France and most other EU countries)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos: The E.U.:

France:

Don’t get robbed in Paris:

Books:

Notes:

  • In most E.U. countries almost everyone speaks some English and many people speak English very well.

Navigo Decouverte

Basic Information

Website:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 5€ fee for card itself (this can be reused for other travel cards)
  • 22.80€ (1 week) for central Paris and all Zones 1-5
    • or 75.20€ (1 month) for central Paris and all Zones 1-5
  • about 5€ for photos if you don’t already have one.
    • There is usually a photo machine nearby.
  • about 1€ for a pen, if you don’t already own one.

Hours: (subway hours)

  • Mon – Fri: 05:30 – 00:30.
  • Sat – Sun: 05:30 – 02:15.
  • Nights before holidays: 05:30 – 02:15.

Notes:

  • The Navigo Cards work on the metro, buses, and some trams in Paris.
  • Watch out for pick-pockets. The subway is where you are most likely to be robbed!
  • Paris has the most pick-pockets I have ever seen.

Louvre Museum

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • €17
    • I recommend buying tickets online.
    • You don’t save money, but you will save time.
  • Audio Guide is on a Nintendo 3DS
    • € 5
  • Downloaded App
    • Free App (optional in-app purchases from €0,99 to €4,99)
  • I recommend using thier 3DS for the audio guide. Save your battery.
    • But definitely get the audio guide. The Louvre is a nice museum without the audio guide. With the audio guide it will be the highlight of your trip!

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:00
  • Closed Tuedays

Videos:

Notes:

  • Get the audio guide.
    • The audio guide brings the paintings, statues, and artifacts to life.
  • Get there early.
  • Look online and decided what your must-sees are.
  • Stop at lunch or at some point then have a coffee at one of the cafes.
    • Take a break, rest, and go back in.
  • Don’t lose your ticket.
    • You will need it to move from one area to another.
  • Bring a bottle of water with you.

Arc de Triomphe

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 23:00

Video

Notes:

You can climb stairs to the top, but it costs €12.


Lots of things to look out for

Notes:


Catacombs of Paris

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 17 €
  • 5 € audio guide
  • 32€ buying online
    • You get to skip the incredibly long line.
    • Audio guide included

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:30
  • Last admission: 19:30
  • Closed Mondays

Videos:

Notes:

  • I would recommend buying the tickets online.
    • With online tickets you get to skip the line.
    • The line is very long and the line is also held up for people who bought their tickets online to go first.

Panthéon

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 9

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:30

Video

Notes:


Sacré Coeur

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free/ Donations
  • Guide book 5

Hours:

  • 6:00 – 22:30

Notes:

Map:

Posted in France, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Delhi

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 15, 2017

July 29–31, 2017

By the time we got to Delhi, I was still a little sick and Mark was getting worse. Generally, Mark is less of a baby than I am, so even while sick Mark can go out and do things, though he would prefer to sit or lay down and nap. We had 3 days in Delhi, the day we arrive, one whole day, and the day we left. So we decide not to do anything on the first and last day; we would just rest on those days. But the day in the middle we just had to see something or do something in Delhi.

Look at me; I’m the tuk-tuk driver now!

The middle day, we hired a tuk-tuk driver. We weren’t planning to, he just talked himself down to a reasonable price. And, since Mark was sick we thought it would be better to have one guy drive us around all day rather than having to negotiate on each leg of the day’s journey.

(BTW: What Mark had could now be called Delhi Belly, because of his geographical location.)

I’m sure this man thought that he was selling himself short when he dropped his price down so we wouldn’t walk away. But after we asked to be taken back a little after noon and still paid the full day’s fare like we had agreed, he didn’t feel so bad.

 We only went to 3 or 4 places. Most of which, we got out of the tuk-tuk for 3 minutes, took a quick photo, and then got back in. I actually like riding around in the tuk-tuk especially once we left downtown Delhi. It felt good to be outdoors and moving around without having to exert any energy.

Of course our tuk-tuk driver tried to take us to a textile and craft shop, but we refused to go inside. He was in the middle of telling us why we should just go in and look around when Mark made a retching noise and stuck his head out the tuk-tuk. Not wanting any vomit in his vehicle, the driver took us home without any further delays. But, before he left us, he made us promise we would call him so he could take us to the airport the next day. We didn’t.

At the airport trying to make up for all the sight-seeing we missed in Delhi

The next day we went to the airport to get a flight to Paris. We were really looking forward to Paris’ over-the-counter medicine.


India
(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.

Akshardham

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

e-mail:

  • info@akshardham.com

Cost:

  • Entrance is free, but a donation is asked.
    • Some exhibits cost money to enter
    • All the exhibits combined cost a little over 200 rupees.
  • Parking is not free.
    • If you have hired a driver to wait for you, you may have to pay for his parking.
  • The cloak room is free, but there is a deposit.

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 18:00
  • Opening Times for different areas vary

Video

Notes:

  • There are many areas to this complex.
  • All the restaurants inside are vegetarian.
  • There is a long list of things you cannot bring:
    • phones
    • cameras
    • usb drives
    • music device
    • electronics
    • weapons
    • umbrellas
    • luggage
    • toys
    • pets
    • food or drinks
    • tobacco, alcohol, or drugs
  • There is a dress code.
    • Make sure to cover shoulders, navel, forearms, and knees.
    • A short sleeve shirt and Capri pants will do.

Lotus Temple

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • 1st October to 31st March: 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (Last Entry 5.00 pm. For winter)
  • 1st April to 30th September : 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (Last Entry 6.30 pm. For summer)
  • Closed Mondays

Videos:

Notes:

  • You cannot take photos inside the temple, but unlike Akshardham, no one will take your camera or cell phone from you.
    • It’s done on the honor system.

Map:

Posted in India, New Delhi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Agra: Diamonds of the Souls of Our Feet

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 10, 2017

July 25–28, 2017

The view from the hotel

Be Fancy

When we got to Jaipur we booked a stay at the Comfort Inn. It’s an American hotel chain. The Comfort Inn is a nice business hotel, nothing fancy. It’s clean, nice, and dependable.

But the one in India was a 4 star hotel. It was a fancy hotel, yet still a Comfort Inn with a standard Comfort Inn price. …And yet, fancy.

So when it was time to pick a hotel in Agra we asked, “What can I get for about 60USD per night. The answer was… opulence.

These guys played while we ate breakfast every morning

We booked a 5-star hotel and it was nice. But I never felt very relaxed there. One reason was that there was always someone lurking around every corner to make Mark and me more comfortable. For example, at dinner if I were to run low on mint chutney on my plate, before I had the opportunity to pour some more myself, someone would pop out of nowhere to pour it for me.

If I were to drop a spoon or something, before I could pick it up, 3 people would rush over; one with a new spoon, one to pick up the dropped spoon, and another to apologize for the slippery spoons. There was even a guy who pushed the elevator buttons for guests. At first I thought this was nice, but after a day or two I felt like a toddler.

We didn’t realize just how fancy the hotel would be until we pulled up at the gate. The taxi we came in was a dilapidated old junker that coughed as it went down the street. It’s driver was the least shadiest guy hanging out at the train station that night. I made Mark pick a cab quickly because I felt like I was on the verge of tossing my cookies.

When the car pulled up to the hotel and a bell-hop took our back-pack, the shame started to sink in. Then I remembered that we used to live in a very posh apartment in Bangkok and would come home muddy and dirty from camping trips almost every weekend. We would walk through the lobby and staff would run to open doors for us and hand us our mail. If we could afford to live in such an apartment, paying our rent on time, they didn’t care what we looked like when we returned.

So, I acted like I did when I lived in Bangkok. “Yes, this was just normal stuff for people like us who travel adventurously and regularly stay in fancy hotels,” I thought to myself. I have no idea if we fooled anyone. If we did look out of place, everyone was too polite to say anything.

The view from the back of the hotel.

Another reason for my discomfort was food poisoning. I drank a lassi somewhere in Jaipur before getting on the train and was quite sick by the time I got to Agra. I almost didn’t see the Taj Mahal. We had 4 days in Agra and I spent the first 2 in bed… and the bathroom.

The truly sad part, was that at our hotel every breakfast was a buffet of Indian dishes from all over India. I sat and watched Mark enjoy all the food he could stuff into his face. I ate mainly plain eggs, a banana, or milk. On the last day, I was feeling much better and sampled more types of foods. But, by then Mark had gotten sick.

I was so sick, this was the best smile I could fake.

I didn’t feel well enough to go to the Taj Mahal, but I was not going to miss it! I went and just walked very slowly. I was so weak, I kept having to sit down. I also kept an eye out for bathrooms, hoping that I would not have to use any, or worse, end up throwing up on the grounds of the Taj Mahal.

We hired a driver from the hotel. He dropped us off and would come back for us in 2 hours. All I had to do was “contain” myself for 2 hours. I did manage just that. We saw the whole thing, though I did want to stay much longer. My body couldn’t take it and I was glad to be back in bed afterwards.

Tea and Taj later that day


India
(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.
  • When taking tuk-tuks or taxis, use google maps or some other GPS app to make sure the driver has taken you to the correct destination.

Taj Mahal

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 1,000 rupees
    • Includes:
    • Bottle of water
    • Shoe covers
    • a bag to hold the water and shoe covers
    • a ride to the main gate

Hours:

  • sunrise – sunset
  • Closed Fridays

Videos:

Notes:

  • Built between 1632–53.
  • There is no official audio guide for the Taj Mahal.
  • Be careful when hiring a guide.
    • If you don’t want a guide, keep telling the people who harass you that while you walk away.
    • They will follow you.
  • Don’t forget to sit on the Diana bench, if you can.

Map:

Posted in Agra, India | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Jaipur: Buy From Me, No Me, No Buy From Me…

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 5, 2017

July 22 – 24, 2017

Jaipur, the Pink City, had some of the most beautiful photo-opps. Just scrolling through my Jaipur album online takes me back to a place with magical views. But, traveling through Jaipur was very tiring. Everyone is working you hard to buy their stuff.

Our flight into India landed at midnight, so we made sure our hotel came with an airport pick up. On the ride over our driver kept asking us about our plans for our time in Jaipur. Before we had even pulled out of the airport parking lot, he was hounding us to hire him as our driver for the duration of our stay.

We did hire a driver for one day. He too kept asking us about our plans in Jaipur. We couldn’t lie to him and tell him that this was our last day, he worked at our hotel. Instead we tried to change the subject and evaded his questions. But he was a determined guy.

We had a list of places we wanted to see, but he had his own plan. He talked about a restaurant he wanted to take us. We politely told him we already had a restaurant in mind. When we stopped at the Amber Fort, we had lunch at 1135AD which is in the fort. When we got back into his car he was ready to take us to his restaurant.

“We already ate,” we told him.

“When?” he scowled.

“While we were at the fort. Remember, we told you we wanted to have lunch at 1135AD,” Mark replied.

“So you don’t want to have delicious dalh?”

“No.”

We wanted to see a museum and asked the driver to take us there. But he didn’t. He took us to a craft and textile shop instead. We didn’t know what was going on, but once we realized he had taken us to a place where we were expected to buy expensive paintings or statues, we walked out of the building.

“Don’t you want to look around?” he asked.

“No, we want to go to the museum!”

He tried to talk us into staying, but we would not stay. I started yelling that I wanted to go to the museum. He told us that it was too late to go to the museum. We had wasted too much time driving to the stupid shop. (Later, I found out that it was not too late to go to the museum.) We asked to be taken back to the hotel.

“You would rather go home than look in this shop?” The driver seemed surprised.

We were so pissed off at this driver, we never hired him or anyone else who worked for our hotel again.

These women tried to charge me for this photo and only one of them seems happy.

At the Amber Fort we saw these sweeping ladies with their beautiful bright saris. Their job is to sweep the fort and palace. They approached me and asked if I wanted to take their photo. “Sure, why not?” I told them. I pointed my camera at them, but they encouraged me to hand my camera to someone else and get in the photo too.

I handed my camera to Mark, and sat next to them. The one who asked me to take the photo looked really pleased. Her friends, on the other hand, could not hide their disdain. Mark snapped a few photos and then I thanked them. As I got up, all the women, as with one voice, said, “MONEY”.

They had asked me to take their photo. True, I was happy enough to oblige, but I did not know this would require payment. Mark offered them a few rupees, but they wanted more. “Dollar,” one of them demanded. Mark and I walked away.

I saw them do this with many other tourists. Each tourist thought that they had met a friendly lady wanting to be in a photo. No one I saw gave these ladies any money. It’s unfortunate, because had these women put up a sign saying “photo 5 rupee” or something, many people would have gladly paid. No one likes being scammed.

Another day, Mark and I were walking down a street in Jaipur. We were looking for a place to have lunch. As we walked, all the shop keepers called to us to come buy their food, drinks, clothes, shoes, etc. One shop keeper in particular caught our attention. He stood in the doorway of his shop. I didn’t fully understand why he was calling to us.

“Don’t you sell tires?” I asked.

“Oh yes. The best tires! Come in and see.”

“I don’t have a car.” I thought it was necessary for me to point this out.

“I can give you a good deal,” he said and he motioned for Mark and me to enter.

“No thanks.”

I raise my lassi to Jaipur. “To Jaipur!”


India
(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.
  • When taking tuk-tuks or taxis, use google maps or some other GPS app to make sure the driver has taken you to the correct destination.

Hawa Mahal
(Palace of the Wind)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 26.923938, 75.826750
  • Entrance 26.923366, 75.826070

Address:

  • Hawa Mahal Rd, Badi Choupad, J.D.A. Market, Pink City, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302002

Phone:

  • 0141 261 8862

Websites:

Cost:

  • Foreigners: Rs. 50

    2 Composite tickets

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Video

Notes:

  • Included in the 5-monument Composite Ticket.
    • Tickets are valid for 2 days, starting on the day it is purchased.
    • You can buy the ticket at any of the monuments.
    • It’s called the 5-monument composite ticket, but you use it for 5 monuments and 3 other things.
  • You can take photos without having to pay a fee.
  • There is a composite tickets that’s lets you get into several sites.
    • Another benefit of this tickets is that you only have to queue once.
    • The down side is that the officials who inspect your composite tickets take about 5 minutes to scrutinize the paper before carefully punching a hole in the appropriated spot.

Jal Mahal

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket (though, I don’t know why)

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • This is a palace that is sinking in a lake.
  • You cannot go to it; you can only look at it from the shore.
  • It will take about 3 minutes to see it; 10, if you take a lot of photos.

Jaipur Lassi

Basic Information:

  • Jaipur is know for it’s wonderful super thick lassi with a milk skin on the top.
  • It’s served in a ceramic cup.

Website

  • Maybe this is the original shop called Lassiwalla.

Cost:

  • 1-2 Rupee

Hours:

  • If you want a lassi, there will be someone willing to sell you one.

Video

Notes:

  • There are a thousand and one shops called Lassiwala. There was one Lassiwala that became very famous, but then every shop changed their names to Lassiwala, so who knows which one is THE Lassiwala?
  • It doesn’t really matter, they’re all great.

The Amer Fort
The Amber Palace/ Fort

Basic Information

Cost:

  • 200 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 17:30

Video

Notes:

  • Built in 1592.
  • Very near to the Jaigarh Fort.
    • On a good, non-rainy day, you can walk from one fort to the other (no matter what your driver tells you).
    • It is a bit of a hike, being up hill and all.
  • There are a crowd of touts aggressively selling junk you don’t want outside the gate.
  • There are colorfully dressed sweeping ladies who will gladly let you take their photos, then hound you for money.
    • Whatever you give them, they will demand more.
    • Give them money if you want. They probably really need it.
    • But, you can also just walk away since they are not up front that they expect money for photos. No one will force you to pay them.

1135 AD

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 12:00 – 22:30

Notes:

  • The place can be a little hard to find.
  • It is in the Amer Fort, off to the side and in away from sight.
  • It looks fancy-ish. There are many photos of rich and famous people, like Prince Charles, in the restaurant, but the places looks a little shabby these days.
  • It’s still a nice experience.

Jaigarh Fort

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 85 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:00

Video

Notes:

  • Here you can see the biggest cannon on wheels at the time it was made.
    • It was supposedly, used only once as a demonstration. It killed several horses, wounded an elephant, and caused many pregnant women to go into early labor.
    • It caused so much destruction that it was never used again.
      • It’s like they didn’t fully understand the point of a cannon…
  • Built in 1726.
  • You can walk between Jaigarh Fort and Nahargarh Fort.
    • It is a 2 hour walk.

Nahargarh Fort

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 200 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:15

Video

Notes:


Isarlat

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • 200 Rupee
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 16:30

Video

Notes:

  • Built in 1749.
  • Close to City Palace.
  • Just a tower.
  • We really only saw this because it was part of the composite ticket. It’s not that interesting.
  • It does give you a nice view of the city, but I’m not sure it’s worth the climb up and the walking around in pigeon poo.

City Palace

Basic Information

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • 500 rupee
  • 300 rupee for an audio guide

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • The palace was built between 1729 and 1732.

Jantar Mantar

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 200 rupees
  • Part of the 5-monument composite ticket

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 16:30

Video

Notes:

  • Construction was completed between 1724 and 1735.
  • Wear a hat, it’s super hot here.
  • Bring water and maybe an umbrella too.

Map:

Posted in India, Jaipur | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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