Monthly Archives: June 2015

Taj Mahal

Week 52 – Dreams do some true! – Agra & Jaipur, India

‘The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.’ – Walt Disney

[How this works is, each week, I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach its destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page).]

Wow, that’s all I can say about this week – Wow! I’ve managed to do 52 weeks of letters with this being the 52nd – I did it! It took a while at first to figure out how to do this while travelling, but this letter makes it official – I’ve completed my goal! (Brief moment of patting myself on the back and…) There will be a few ‘extra’ letters, as we don’t, actually, fly home until the 18th (July), so there will be some bonus posts.

Taj Mahal

John and I infront of the Taj Mahal on the ‘Diana’ bench

Plus, I have seen the place that inspired this trip – the Taj Mahal. It was a great day, as we got up early for the sunrise, did our tour and went back, in the evening, for the sunset. It used to have diamonds on the central roof to reflect the light of the sun and moon – now that would have been amazing! It was a beautiful sight.

Then we went off to see an old fort near Agra which was the most intact of the forts, so far, we’ve seen that use the red soil to build them.

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri Fort

(I’m inserting some extra, which wasn’t in the original letter, as I missed this when I was writing it on the train).  Our day was quite full when we went to the Taj Mahal, we also, went to the Red Fort

Red Fort

This is the balcony which the husband who built the Taj for his wife, sat on in his prison, as his son didn’t like his spending habits!

and the Baby Taj – Itmad-ud-daulah in Agra.

Itmad-ud-daulah

Itmad-ud-daulah – Baby Taj

Both of these places were great to see, but I, particularly, liked the later, as it had some features which led up to the building of the Taj Mahal, hence, why it is called the Baby Taj. (Back to the letter…)

Umaid Bhawan Heritage Hotel

Umaid Bhawan Heritage Hotel

After this, we took my first Indian train journey to Jaipur – the pink city. We stayed in a very characterful place which looked like an old palace itself. In Jaipur, we saw the pink buildings,

Hawa Mahal - Palace of Wind

Hawa Mahal – Palace of Wind – one of the many ‘pink’ buildings

an astrological park from the 18th Century,

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar – 18th Century Astrological Park

the Amber Fort (huge beautiful fort from the 12th Century,)

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

the tombs of the Raj’s,

Royal Gaitor Tumbas

Royal Gaitor Tumbas – Raj’s tombs

a more recent fort from a Raj with 9 wives,

Nahargarh Fort

Nahargarh Fort – palace for 9 wives

the Albert Museum

Albert Hall Museum

Albert Hall Museum

and I went to and did a workshop on making a block print scarf – a traditional way of printing a scarf made with natural dyes and fabric.

Scarf

The scarf I help make – my design choice at Jai Textart

We are still well and healthy, as the food we are eating is mainly vegetarian Indian and delicious. I’ve found a food, which I can only get in India, it is paneer. Its cottage cheese, but they process it here differently, which you can’t get outside the country.

(Once again, I forgot to put something into the original letter, it’s been a busy week!) I made it to my first ever Bollywood movie at a very famous cinema in India – Raj Mandir Cinema where I saw ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns‘ – a story line which would suit any opera! (Back to the original letter…)

What an incredible week! Looking back on it, I can’t believe we’ve done so much in such a short time. Fantastic! Now, we are off to Jodhpur to, hopefully, ride my first camel! (There were just too many photos for me to add, so when I get my next videoblog up for June, I will add the link and you can see them there, but just for a taster, I’ve added some which have not been put up from the places we’ve seen!)

So, I’m curious, what is your dream that you are doing or want to do or have done?

Love Debx

Extra Photos from this amazing week:

Week 51 – Land of Extremes – Delhi, India

‘Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.’

[How this works is, each week, I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach its destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page).]

Red Fort

Red Fort – red tile

Ack! In less than a month I will be back in England and this years’ adventure will be over. Thank goodness that isn’t today and we’ve made it to India!

India is proving to be a bit more of an enigma to me, as to its movement or vibe – might be a better word? In other words, my time in East Asia was easier to get my footing on arrival, here, its taking me a bit longer and I can’t quite put my finger on it? The biggest thing so far is it’s a land of extremes – very poor and very wealthy; cutting edge to power cuts. The in-between’s are there, but can get over shadowed by the extremes.

Still, it’s great to be here and have this incredible experience. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Taj Mahal!

Prayer Flags

Prayer flags

First, we arrived in New Delhi and, yes, there is an Old Delhi. We arrived quite late to a lovely little boutique hotel which had the feel of the ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, if you haven’t seen it, you have to go to both – really enjoyed them! Our first few days, we had the entire hotel to ourselves, including multi-lounges on different floors – my favourite was the reading lounge, while John enjoyed the TV lounge (no TV in the room).

Restaurant

Dinner at the roof top restaurant – stellar!

Our first day in the city, we went to the Red Fort

Red Gate

Red Fort Gate

(more photos of Red Fort are at the end of the blog) and Humayun’s Tomb

Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

both places I’ve never heard of and both from the 17th century (more photos of Humayun’s Tomb at the end of the blog).

One thing that was advised to me was to purchase some more acceptable Indian style clothing, so that was a trip to Fabindia at the Khan Market, so I could acquire some very comfy, cotton and ethically made clothing (a friend had recommended it). I’m now all set for the 40 degree heat and possible monsoon rains!

Me

Me sitting at hotel’s roof top restaurant in my new Indian Salwar Khameez.

Of course, a huge change for us has, also, been the food. This is the part of our trip we bought the ‘special’ travel pack of pills to deal with any ailments, but, so far, it’s all good and the food is fantastic. In the afternoons, I’m getting into masala tea

Masala Tea

Masala Tea

or, we know it as, Chai tea. I’ve, even, found a lovely little book on tea and its history, which I’ve already read.

Would love to know about your favourite travel discoveries – what are they and do you still indulge in them?

the story of tea

The Story of Tea by E. Jaiwant Paul

Soon off to Agra and the Taj!

Love
Debx

Red Fort Photos:

More photos of Humayun’s Tomb:

Week 50 – One Week in Bangkok

‘Love like you have never been hurt.’

[How this works is, each week, I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach its destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page).]

John's new friend

2 Kindred Spirits

Now if you all didn’t know it already – seeing as my writing paper for these letters features ‘cats’ on them, you will know it now – I love cats!  So when we found a ‘cat cafe‘ near out hotel, I had to go.  These guys are just beautiful and very friendly.

Hello

Hello

A real joy to someone who misses all the fuzzy friends I’ve been able to adopt over our year away.  Really looking forward to starting our next fuzzy family – still would love to have a dog!

beautiful

A real beauty

We are now in Bangkok, Thailand.  John and I have been here a few times, so we aren’t seeing the main sights, but others we’ve not been to.  We started with the National Museum.  It’s under huge renovation, but we did get to see some really nice stuff and look forward to going back again once the work is completed on the museum (more photos at the bottom of the blog).

Buddha

2nd most important Buddha statue in Thailand is housed at this museum

We made it to the movies to watch, ‘Spy‘, which is a great comedy film, I can highly recommend if you need a laugh!

Nanta

Nanta

Then we went to a show called, ‘Nanta‘.  It’s very popular in Asia and accessible to anyone as its mainly about physical comedy and drumming rather than dialogue.

For some more live entertainment, we’ve been out to some live music nights at local restaurants and a jazz club.

duo

Local restaurant duo

The performers are excellent and face all the same problems as any jobbing musician in the world.  Still, we’ve really enjoyed it and I even sang a few songs at the jazz club.

Jazz Club

Jazz Club

In a few days, we’ll be off to India, which is really where this trip began.  I had a desire, many years ago, to travel around the world and, specifically, go to India – well that part is soon to come true.

I have loved South East Asia and have seen and done things I never knew about.  My biggest hope is it will not be long before we can return again and discover even more of what there is here.  What part of the world would you like to travel and know more about?  Have you had the dream to take a year off and go round the world?

Love Debx

More photos from the National Museum:

Lanterns

11th month – May Video Blog

Below is my video blog on our travels round the world on you tube from May:

Sunrise

Week 49 – Temple Raiding – Siem Rep, Cambodia

‘Lord, I can’t say it in words…can you please just listen through my heart?’

[How this works is, each week, I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach its destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page).]

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

This week has just flown by.  We’ve been raiding temples in Siem Rep, it’s like a huge temple historic park.  More temples than we could possibly cover in our time.  These are just the ones we saw – something  like 17 to 20 temples over 3 days, plus a sunrise at Angkor Wat – the biggest and most well-known.  We’ve learned that there are temples all over Cambodia, it’s just mainly concentrated in Siem Rep and surrounding area.

Phare

Phare – the Cambodian Circus

Our week didn’t start out with temple raiding, we started slowly and went out to a local physical circus troupe (Phare).  It was a high energy show.  Then we went off to some local Artisans d’Angkor to see how they are training young people in the local arts and crafts – some really nice stuff, but some of it you need to have a container to carry it.  These same artisans are the ones working on repairing a lot of the temples, so they are going to be busy for quite some time.

Artisans d'Angkor

Artisans d’Angkor

Then, we went off to a local jazz night which was nice.

Jazz Night

Jazz Night

After that, it was raiding temples time.  Don’t worry, I didn’t ‘raid’ the temples, it’s just one temple was made very famous because of a film that was done here – Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie.

Te Prohm

Te Prohm Temple – Tomb Raider was filmed here

This site is really mind-boggling as to how much can be seen.  Temples are over 1000 years old! The sun rise over Angkor Wat was a beautiful way to get the day started.  We’ve, also, learned the secret juice of coconut is the best thing to drink to renew all that is lost in the heat.

coconut juice

Coconut Juice

It’s just about to be their rainy season, it’s a little late, but great for us to see these ancient sites without getting caught in the rain and mud. I can’t possibly explain all the temples I’ve seen or the history I’ve learned in this short letter, suffice it to say it’s been a joy and a real adventure (more photos of temples at end of blog).

Today we went to a temple (Ta Nei Temple) tucked away from all others and we were the only people there, so I did one of my singing videos.  It was so atmospheric!

What wild and crazy things have you done in an unfamiliar place on holiday?

Ta Nei Temple

Ta Nei Temple

Love Debx

Angkor Wat Photos:

Bayon Temple:

gibbon monkey

Week 48 – Bugs, Killing Fields and Shadow Puppets – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

‘Sing as if no one can hear.’

[How this works is, each week, I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach its destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page).]

Mural

Mural of lady who founded Phnom Penh

This has been an awesome week in Cambodia.  I’ve eaten things I never thought I would and seen the famous Killing Fields of Cambodia. It’s all here in Phnom Penh.

Our first stop this week was at the Bophana Centre

Bophana Centre

Bophana Centre – art exhibition

– a film archive.  We went here to give us a good start to understand what happened here under the Khmer Rouges.  In less than 4 years they killed approximately 3 million of their own people.  Then, there were years afterwards of starvation due to politics on the world stage.  Many charities and governments of the UN refused to give aid due to the fact that they didn’t agree with the side of Communism Cambodia was on – they were aligned a little with Russia/Vietnam rather than China.  To be honest they aren’t under any umbrella – very sad history.

Offering table

Offering Table at hotel

Still, this is an incredible place and the people are so friendly and kind.  Our staff at our hotel (Double Leaf) are extremely helpful and speak English well.  Our Tuk Tuk driver – Chamnam (tuk tuk #008) is a very hard-working young man.  Very reliable and drove us all over – long days for him.  This is a country where $15 a day means you can eat and live.  Many here earn a lot less.

Eating bugs

Eating bugs

We, then, went onto a food tour (Urban Forage) and ate bugs of all kinds and I tried my first frog legs – all very tasty!  There was a delicious dessert with lentils – over all – yummy! (More photos at end of blog.)

Sunset

Sunset River Cruise in Phnom Penh

We did an evening cruise (Memorable Cruises) on the Mekong River, went to an amazing behind the scenes tour of a local Wildlife Alliance (Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center) – so  many beautiful animals from such sad backgrounds: pet trade, torture and zoos (more photos at end of blog),

Golden Monkey

Golden baby monkey, his Mom would have been killed to get him for the pet trade.

the Genocide Museum (S21),

Last 14 victims

Last 14 victims at S21

a cultural show of the shadow puppets

Shadow Puppets

Shadow Puppets

(Sovanna Phum) and, then, our final stop was the killing field near here (more photos at end of blog).

Grave site

Grave site for victims of killing fields

One more new experience was at the local 4XD movie theatre, where you watch a movie with actual effects of the wind, moving chair, etc.  A bit like riding a roller coaster while watching a movie.

Such an incredible week of learning, having fun and finding understanding of the past.

Love Debx

Food Tour photos:

Wildlife Alliance Photos:

Killing Fields Photos: