Tuesday, September 8, 2009

...and then I was home again

After 30 hours of travel getting back from Delhi (20 hours of flying & 10 hours in airports before and between flights), I finally made it home last night.

I was in serious beef withdrawal since none is served anywhere in India, so as soon as I touched down at JFK I made my way to the Wendy's in the food court for a burger. And then once I got home last night, I ran up to curbside carryout at Chilis and got myself a big juicy steak :-) After that I proceeded to sleep for 15 hours straight, then just sat for another few hours enjoying the silence (i.e. lack of incessant horn honking) and reflected on the trip as I sorted through all the photos.

I am thrilled to report I did not get sick - at all, in any way - while in India. And believe me, I was prepared for it! I took with me an arsenal of anti-diareah medicine, antibiotic ointments, decongestants - you name it. But in the end, needed none of it. My stomach never even got upset so no need for the Tums either! Others in the group were not so lucky. On the 2nd to last day at least 5 people were hit with something and were pretty miserable on the bus and on the long plane rides home.

I do have to admit I was extremely careful. I brought my own bars of antibacterial bar soap for showering in each hotel, brushed my teeth with bottled water and gargled with listerine after each brushing, used bottle water to wash my fingers before putting in and taking out my contacts, brought swimmer's ear (alcohol) to put in my ears after every shower to make sure any water left in them was dried out, sprayed myself down with a strong bug repellant every morning and used Purel constantly. I also brought chlorox wipes and wiped down the bathrooms in each hotel, tv remotes, phones, etc. And I didn't eat anything uncooked - no fruits, salads, vegetables or creamy deserts. Plus, I was on (and will continue to be on for the next 4 weeks) antibiotics - Doxycycline, which was prescribed as my anti-malarial regimine, but is also useful against a few other bacterial infections one might get.

The fast paced nature of this trip prevented me from posting nearly as much as I wanted while I was in India. There is so much more I want to share about what I observed and experienced that I will be continuing to post here on this blog over the next week, so please check back regularly for updates.

Since I use my blogs as a travelogue of my trips, I will be posting about things on the day they actually happened, so you'll need to scroll down and look for new additions mixed amongst the older posts. I will notate them with "NEW" in the titles to make them easier to spot.

In the meantime, I now have almost all of the photos posted, so feel free to click here and take a look. (Captions to come soon - if there is something you are curious about before I add the captions just ask!)

What an amazing adventure...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Photos from Delhi Now Online

It isn't nearly all of them and they aren't edited or labeled yet, but the first batch of photos from India are now available online to start looking at!

These pics were all taken in Delhi during my first couple of days here. Lots more to come...

Click here to view photos from Delhi, India

Bicycle Rickshaw Ride Through the Streets of Jaipur

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Visiting the Taj Mahal

Sleep deprivation has become the rule rather than the exception. I haven’t had more than 5 hours of solid sleep since I left New York. But this trip is so short and there is so much to see, that getting by on less is an unfortunate necessity.

The wake up call for the Taj Mahal visit came at 4:45am. At exactly 5:30am everyone congregated out in front of the hotel in the darkness and boarded horse buggies that took us to the Taj. The Clarks Shiraz hotel is only a couple of miles so the trip was pretty quick and it was just starting to get light when we arrived.

The tour guide told us that no matter how high our expectations were for the Taj we wouldn’t be disappointed, and he was right. The Taj is one of the worlds iconic structures. And similar to my experience when I first saw the Pyramids of Giza, standing in front of the Taj Mahal was a fairly surreal moment.

After the visit to the Taj, we went back to the hotel for breakfast – a beautiful buffet of mostly Indian cuisine though there were a few standbys for westerners with more delicate tastebuds. I choose to have a freshly made crepe stuffed with a mixture something like Alloo Gobhi (potatoes, cauliflower and ginger) and a portion of Bhaji (potatoes with a lot of spices like garlic, ginger, chilies, tumeric, coriander and cumin) – yum!

The rest of the day was filled to the brim seeing the other sights of Agra – the Agra Fort, Sikranda and Itmad-ud-daulah (sometimes referred to as the Baby Taj).

Today In Agra: Video Speaks a Thousand Words...

What Day Is It and Where am I?

This isn't too far off the mark. To say this is a 'whirlwind' tour of India is an understatement. And our local guide is doing his best to make sure we see and experience EVERYTHING - which is great, but exhausting.

Yesterday morning waking up in Delhi (was that just yesterday?) the guide let us know he was changing the itinerary a bit and that we would be spending the day touring in Old & New Delhi, then late in the afternoon drive to Agra (in other words, pushing our visit to the Taj Mahal to day 2).

We were all over the city and saw all the main sites - the Red Fort, India Gate, the Gandhi Memorial and India's largest mosque, the Jama Masjid. All were impressive but the most fascinating part of the day was when the driver took us into Old Delhi, stopped the bus and we all got out and walked through the tiny alley-way streets for awhile.

I've been to places - a lot of places - but right now words escape me to try and describe what I saw or how it effected me. In the coming days I will post photos and try and speak more about it once I've had some time to process it all.

Those who know my eating habits should be proud - I ate nothing but Indian food today! We went to a great restaurant called Gulati in New Delhi and I had Murgh Tikka (chicken marinated in ginger and garlic, roasted in a tandoor), Jeera Aloo (potatoes with cumin) and awesome garlic Naan bread.

Late in the afternoon we headed off for Agra which we thought was a 3 hour bus ride but our guide informed us was a 5 hour ride. In the end, it took us nearly 7 hours due to traffic (and cows!) in the road. The car and truck horns are incessant and absolutely insane. It is common practice to honk every time you pass someone and there is LOTS of passing. So it was literally 7 hours of non-stop horn honking. Plus, to make it interesting, many of the trucks have specialty horns that play little songs... I think I actually heard the sound of the honking in my sleep last night! By the time we got to the hotel in Agra, got to our room and had a quick bite to eat (Samosas) it was nearly midnight and we had a 5:45am call time today for the Taj Mahal - hope this helps explain why I didn't post last night!

Technical Difficulties: Check Back Today After 2pm (ET)

Sorry about the silence everyone. We got to Agra really late last night and I couldn't get an internet connection, so I couldn't post. And today started super early at 5:30am to go visit the Taj Majal at sunrise :-)

Just having a short break at the hotel before going out again for a few hours. But the good news is I do have an Internet connection now (obviously) so as soon as I get back to the hotel later I'll get the blog caught up and get all the photos I've taken so far uploaded. So check back later today!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Namaste: Welcome to India

It’s almost 1:30am and I’m in my room at the Hotel Lalit in New Delhi – showered, fed and very sleepy. Tomorrow the bus leaves at 8:30am for Agra and the Taj Mahal and I have to have my bags outside my room by 7:45am (reminds me of being on a cruise ship), so tonight my post will be brief.

A couple hours before landing, I put my seatback entertainment screen on map mode to see how close we were. I was a little disconcerted by what I saw. Basically the plane at that moment was over Afghanistan in the corridor between Kabul and Kandahar – and making a path south of Islamabad. I have to be honest, that kind of freaked me out. I don’t know how I thought the plane would get to India if it didn't fly over that region, but I guess I just didn’t put it all together in my head. In any case, as I looked out the window into the pitch black darkness I couldn’t help but wonder who was tracking us and if there were any stealth fighter jets out there...

Before going through Immigration there was a Health Checkpoint you had to go through for the H1N1 virus. Everyone had to fill out a form and get a health clearance after standing in front of a really cool heat sensing plasma screen that I guess picks up on abnormally high body temperatures. There were people throughout the airport in masks – not a lot, but more than a few.

As soon as I cleared customs I went and changed money to get myself some Rupees. $100 US = 4,800 Rupees. And my first purchase? Soda of course - 45 rupees!

Meeting the tour leader was pretty easy and the group was small so we were able to get out of the airport pretty quickly and over to the hotel. This is a BEATIFUL hotel – probably one of the Top 10 I’ve stayed at. Makes me sad that I’m only here long enough to sleep and shower tonight. The last night of the trip I’ll be back here, but again only for enough time to get showered and cleaned up before heading home.

Time to get some sleep - have to be up in 6 hours. Tomorrow the Taj Mahal...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ready, Set..... Go!

The adventure begins Sunday, August 30th when I fly to New York. Before jetting off to India, I'll be staying overnight in the Big Apple to break up the flying time. Some authentic NYC pizza, a Broadway show and a new 'fake' rolex are on the agenda!

Monday afternoon I'll be heading to JFK to check in at Jet Airways for the first of two 8 hour flights. At 6:10pm Monday night it's off to Belgium. After a brief layover (and hopefully a crepe fromage at the Brussels airport), I'll then wearily begin the final leg of the trip - another 8 hour flight - and finally arrive in Delhi, India on Tuesday night around 10pm (Delhi time).

One thing to keep in mind as you read this blog is that India is 9.5 hours ahead of New York (ET). So if you're ever unsure what time (or even what DAY) it is where I'm at, just look at the yellow sticky note in the left rail of this page.

I hope you'll check back often and take this amazing journey with me as I explore the sights and culture of India.

Let the adventure begin...