Mumbai

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“Welcome to Mumbai” the sign on the wall that we see from the ship says, “who on earth is going to get their photo taken there?” I wondered.

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Oh well, might as well while we are here!

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We had berthed in the main dock in Mumbai which was also shared with the Indian Navy……..

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The Southern Naval Command (one of 3 such commands) is based here, which explains why there are more ships on show here than when I last sailed out from Portsmouth to France!

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Mumbai dock seemed very busy when we were there…………….

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Frigates letting of a bit of steam………….

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Taking a break whilst refitting a submarine!

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Flying the flag!

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From our ship we can look over the top of the navy ships to see the skyline of the city in the distance.

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The building in the foreground is what’s left of the slowly crumbling ocean terminal which is now being rebuilt……….

 

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We were in Mumbai quite early in the day so we were able to experience a big city rush hour……..

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This the Chhatrapati Shivaji station, formally known as the Victoria terminus. This station was built in 1887 and is now a World Heritage site and is considered by many to be the most beautiful railway station in the world.

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There is no easy way to get around Mumbai and you certainly have to be blessed with patience if you want to drive!

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The bus lanes were very few and far between.  The bus pictured above is a luxury bus, as at least it has 1/2 windows! But then again with the high temperatures that they experience here, no windows at all wouldn’t really be a problem!

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This is the Gateway of India built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911 (which is when the foundation stone was laid – the actual building wasn’t completed until 1924).  This arch was used afterwards as a symbolic ceremonial entrance to India for Viceroys and the new Governors of Bombay.

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This is the Taj Mahal Palace hotel which is just across the road from the Gateway of India. It first opened its doors to guests on 16 December 1903.  It is widely believed that Jamsetji Tata (Tata Steel) decided to build the hotel after he was refused entry to one of the city’s grand hotels of the time, Watson’s Hotel, as it was restricted to “whites only”.

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Mad dos and Englishmen go out in the midday sun………so they say, this one was just looking for a bit of shade!

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These colourful ferry boats are just some of many waiting to take passengers to Elephanta Island to see the caves. The caves are rock-cut temples dating back to the second century BC.  This is one UNESCO World Heritage site that we didn’t get to visit as we just didn’t have the time. Next year’s cruise will spend 2 days in Mumbai as there is just so much to see, and this would have definitely been on our list of things to see. Maybe next time!

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When you see the amount of tourist ferry boats you get a feel for how important a place Elephanta island is!

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On the way to our next stop I saw this bike parked beside the road, you certainly need nerves of steel to cope with the busy city traffic and carry 20dz eggs on the back of your bike!

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Next stop Churchgate station, to see the dabbwalas in action as they move the 1,000s of tiffin lunchboxes each day.

P1020238The tiffin lunchbox is a great idea.  It’s a homemade lunch, delivered to office workers who can’t go home for their midday meal, which formed the beginning of the humble lunch box.

Also known as dabbas, the delivered lunches come in large circular metal tins that more closely resemble small milk pails. They’re often made by family at home, which is not only to avoid expensive eateries, but because many prefer what they’re used to and often there’s a fear of getting ill from other food. Each dabba comes in two, three or four tiers; the bottom is the largest, with rice, while the others include a curry, a side of vegetables, dal and flatbreads and a dessert.

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Just as the Indian railways are insatiably busy and incredibly complex, so is the dabba’s delivery system, ferrying out an estimated 80 million lunches a year. And no better example of this intricate system shines through than in Mumbai.

The delivery system uses dabbawalas – the people who deliver the pails – which literally translates to “one who carries a box”. They’re identified by their white kurta (smock style) uniforms, topped off with the traditional Gandhi cap, and will often ride bicycles.

Most of the dabbawalas even come from the same village, Pune, which is just over two hours south-east of Mumbai.

Dabbawalas collect the tiffins from the people who made them at around 10am (often a wife or mother – as India still adheres to gendered roles), where anything up to 30 will be taken on crates and via bicycles through the busy roads to the nearest train station. They are labelled using a system of symbols and colours, denoting where the tiffin is picked up, which station it will be sent to, and the final address of the owner, all hand painted. The tiffins then travel on the city’s train network where at the other end the local dabbawalas pick them up for the last leg of the journey – the lunchtime delivery, which is never late.

Every day in India alone, some 200,000 dabbas are moved by an estimated 5,000 dabbawalas. It’s a system of mathematics, carried out by people who are most likely illiterate, but who have made the process an efficient breeze for the last 127 years, feeding thousands daily. But it’s not a simple operation.

And what’s the financial cost for this time-saving exercise? Around 450 rupees a month (£5.40) – depending on distance. That’s about the average for a sandwich and a packet of crisps in a city, let alone a delivered meal. And on the other end of the deal, each dabbawala is self-employed and paid the same, around 8,000 rupees a month, translating to about £95. It’s seen as a job for life, where the workers live by the philosophy, “Anna daan is maha daan”, translating to “donating food is the best charity”.

 

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And so efficient is the system that the president of the Mumbai Tiffinmen’s Association claims that dabbawalas only make a mistake once in every six millions deliveries, translating to about one going missing every other month. It works so well that it has been studied by Harvard Business School and is reportedly the envy of FedEx.

(Just to let you all know I took the pictures, but  I did copy some of the text from an article in the Independent!)

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After seeing the dabbwallas in action it was our turn for a ride on the train………….

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Mike and Sue were really excited!

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As was Bruce Forsyth!

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The train was nearly empty but hanging on seemed to be the thing to do!

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Oh my god there’s that shirt again!

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Next stop the Dhobi Ghat

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Dhobi Ghat is an open air laundromat in Mumbai, India. The washers, known as dhobis, work in the open to clean clothes and linens from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals. It was constructed in 1890.

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It’s very hot work in the blazing sun!

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Outside the Dhobi Ghat it was time for some more serious bartering……..

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Good news, a deal has been struck……

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Let’s see if Jane can do as well!

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Maybe not!

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Wherever we travelled in this country, let alone this city, whenever there was an opportunity or the space, a game of cricket was being played!

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Next stop on our whistle-stop tour of Mumbai was Gandhi’s house.

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A very interesting place to visit telling the story of his life. He lived a very spartan life as can be seen by his bedroom!

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I mentioned earlier about how the road was delivered for lunch, the Amazon delivery service here is not quite what it is at home!

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So as the sun sets on a really fascinating day……

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We sail out of the truly lively city……..

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With time to reflect on our day!

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Goa

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Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 17th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda. (I might have copied this from wikipedia!)

Our trip from the ship today took us to the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The Basilica of Bom Jesus or Borea Jezuchi Bajilika is located in Goa, India, and is part of the Churches and Convents of Goa UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. The church is located in Old Goa, which was the capital of Goa in the early days of Portuguese rule.

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After another exciting drive (all drives in India are exciting!) we arrived in the historical city of  Old Goa, or Velha Goa as it is sometimes referred to.

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This far into the holiday we were both getting a little “churched and templed out”.   They were all very beautiful but you can have too much of a good thing!

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So the plan for the afternoon was to go to a beach, sit and chill. On the way our coach passed some locals who were drying their rice on the hard shoulder of the motorway!

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Quite an ingenious use of a major roadway! I hope it gets fully checked before it gets packaged, as I wouldn’t want a bit of tyre in with my dinner to add to the spare tyre I already have!

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At last the beach! Bogmalo beach to be precise. It was so hot here that it was difficult to walk on the sand, so Jane thought it would be a good idea to visit the Coconut Grove Beach resort and sit in the shade and drink cocktails all afternoon. Well that seemed a fine idea to me, and as they had free WIFI a carefree time was spent in the shade of a tree catching up with our emails and watching the goings-on the beach.

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Well to be honest there wasn’t a lot going on just the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore…..

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The local dogs knew the best way to spend a hot afternoon!

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We did manage a stroll along the road behind the beach to search for a geocache (which was hidden in a bar, so that was handy) and on the way back to the coach this smiley young lady convinced Jane that she needed a few more new tops.  She didn’t need too much persuading………and I have to say they all look lovely!

 

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New Mangalore

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My first impression of New Mangalore wasn’t great.  We were berthed in a commercial port and the view from our cabin was one of rusty ships and large mounds of coal and iron ore, so not as picturesque as some of the ports we have visited!

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We decided that a stroll around the port area wasn’t  going to be high on our list of things to do today in New Mangalore!

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So we were glad that we had planned a trip to a Temple (well it’s been a couple of days since the last one!) and a spice farm.

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As soon as we were out of the port area everything got a lot brighter and the colours that we have come to expect from India were everywhere to see!

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Even the tuk-tuk rank was under some colourful posters, and soon the rather grim start to the day was forgotten!

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After  hours of “hairy” driving we arrived at the 1,000 pillar Jain temple at Moodabidri……also known as Saavira Kambada Temple.

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Jane was very interested to find a religion in India called Jainism and is now looking at ways of resurrecting it and introducing it to Hampshire!

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The 1,000 pillars of the temple were all intricately carved and the details are amazing, considering these were all hand carved many many years ago!

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This temple was built around 1430AD. This gold statue is in the middle of the temple and you are not allowed to get very close.  This photo was taken at full zoom on my camera and although its a little blurred you get the idea!

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Here is Jane wearing one of her new Indian tops, leaning against one of the 1,000 pillars, I managed to lean on the other 999, it was so hot!!!

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This temple was quite a long way from any large towns so we were thankfully saved from the constant hassle of hawkers and beggars, and we were able to enjoy the peace and tranquility of our surroundings.

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Jane loves elephants and was in her element at this place! (Jane is the one in the blue!)

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A rare picture of us together as generally it’s me taking the pictures.

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The next stop was at a spice farm…………these were cashews drying out in the sunshine, it drove me nuts trying to get a good picture!

It’s unusual to see star fruits growing on trees and rows of pineapples in the fields, along with many other erotic fruits, or should that be exotic?

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I got told off as I walked off the path to get a better picture…”watch out for the snakes under those leaves, they are poisonous”.  I took heed of this advice and made sure that I stayed on the straight and narrow!

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It was lovely to see all the bright colours on the plants this early in the year, we had left the UK in late February and everything at home was a little bit dull and drab!

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Did I tell you it was sooooooooo hot!!! This headwear is a little reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia don’t you think?

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Our tour guide on the coach today was a lot of fun; he showed us how to put on a sari, which must be difficult enough to do at home let alone on a coach travelling at 50mph around windy roads!

 

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Cochin

Cochin (also known as Kochi) is a city in the southwest of India’s Kerala state. it has been a port since 1341, when a flood carved out its harbour and opened it up to Arab, Chinese and European merchants. The Cantilevered Chinese fishing nets in the photos above have been used for centuries.

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This ferry was taking people to work as we sailed in to our berth; I’m not sure that they could fit anyone else on!

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We had chosen a trip from the ship to see the canals of Kerala………

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Kerala is famous for its houseboats which for many years have been home for the locals, though these days more of them are used as floating hotels.

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Although some of the locals have still got their houses moored to the river bank………

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There are many smaller tributaries leading off from the main canal, which look very inviting, but our boat was way too big for us to go and explore!

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All life can be seen on the water – here they are off to do a bit of shopping after having picked up the kids from school……..

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There is plenty of parking available available at the side of the main canal………….

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…… which is just as well because it’s busy on the main drag!

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But there are still places where you can find a bit of peace and quiet and cross from one side to the other….

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I’m not too sure if its legal to row and talk on the phone at the same time but with that hat on I’m sure the police won’t see him!

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There are many ways to get picked up from school, you can go in the minibus …………

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Or get your grandad to pick you up……………

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Or if you are one of the older girls you just walk home!

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Well that’s the last of the kids on their way back home “just sit down mum, or we will tip over!”

 

Why have a washing machine when you have a river running by your back door?

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It was obviously washing day as we cruised by on our pleasure boat………

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And if you haven’t got a washing line there is always a handy tree!

Everywhere you looked there was either someone doing the washing or getting it dry!

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What a good looking bunch cruising down the canals of Kerala, that’s Mike and Sue in the background.  They are the couple who showed us how to make the most out of an all inclusive drinks package!

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Now those of you who know me would never have thought you would see a photo like this – me eating a curry and drinking a beer………….both things I don’t really like but when in Rome……. (what do you think of the new shirt?)

Alongside the canals are paddy fields and the rice here has been harvested and left out in the sun to dry, then bagged and loaded aboard a boat ready to go to the market.

 

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When you live on or around the canals everything you need has to be readily available to you, especially medical services !

As you can imagine there were photo opportunities at every turn, so here are just a few more random shots!

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Well if your husband has taken the boat to work then you just have to walk to the shops!

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More tourists!

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A friendly wave from a fisherman on his way home with a full catch!

 

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One last look at the Chinese fishing nets before we head back to the ship!

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One last thing to negotiate before we get back on board and that’s the market…..can we avoid it????

 

No chance….. after a bit of haggling everyone got what they wanted at the right price!

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Oman

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The face you first see when you arrive at Muscat in Oman is that of Qaboos bin Said al Said who is the current Sultan of the Sultanate of Oman. You can tell by the size of the cars and coaches in this photo that the mural on the wall is absolutely HUGE! He is obviously not a shy and retiring leader and this is one of many images that can be seen around the city of Oman.

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Oman is one of the most conservative of the UAE states, you won’t see any of the high rise buildings that are prevalent in Dubai. Old and new seem to blend quite comfortably together………..

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Dhows, cruise liners and navy ships are all on view in the main port, as are small fishing boats.

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While on the ship you really notice the dry rocky hills that hug the coastline………..

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You also see buildings old…………

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… and new, like this one perched up high with a lovely view of the bay below!

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These forts are strategically placed along the coast to safeguard the port.  I wouldn’t want to climb these steps during the heat of the day!

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The city is all at low level and in my view this makes it far more attractive a place to visit than that of its neighbour Dubai.

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The infrastructure that we got to see was all top notch, modern and clean and tidy. Apparently it is illegal to have a dirty car in Oman, there is a fine but generally you are let off if you clean it immediately!

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Colourful flowerbeds are prevalent in the city and add a well-needed touch of brightness to the greyness of the rocks and the whitewashed walls of the buildings.

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And in one of these lovely flowerbeds I got to find my first geocache in Oman

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Hidden under a rock…………

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So another cache to add to the list……….

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Followed by a very pleasant walk beside the sea back to the ship.

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Apparently feeding  seagulls and other small birds and animals is an act of karma, “Spread wheat on the tops of mountains so it cannot be said that a bird went hungry in the land of muslims…..Just a reminder to have respect for all. Even the smallest deeds could be our saving grace!”  Umayyad calph Umar bin Abulaziz

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After our long walk it was time for a drink.  Jane wanted her normal glass of dry rose but this wasn’t to be as Oman is a dry country, so no alcohol can be sold from bars.  You can apply for a licence to buy alcohol for consumption at home, but Jane thought on this occasion it would be too much trouble, and she settled for a milkshake whilst I had a delicious blend of fresh fruit juices!

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But good news was at hand as when we got back onboard we found that we had been invited for cocktails on the helipad as we sailed away from Muscat…..

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We got a prime position right at the very front of the ship as we left the port.  Jane wanted to reenact that scene from Titanic, but surprisingly enough I was too shy to indulge her…… as if!

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The officers who were there to greet us were a little more extravert………….

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So off we sailed in to the sunset.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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Dubai

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The first port of call on our two week cruise around the Middle East and India was Dubai. We had landed here less than 24 hours before on our mad dash to catch the ship, so we had already had a taste of the high rise city.

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The road system in this mega city was, as you would expect, far more organised than we had been used to in the past week. The coach driver told us that the speed limit for his vehicle was 80kmph, with large fines for going just 1km over the limit!

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We took an open-top bus tour to get a feel of this futuristic city where it appears that no expense has been spared to get the biggest and “supposedly” best buildings in the world. The largest indoor skiing centre in the world is situated here in one of the many huge shopping malls. We heard that they even have an M&S, and Jane was a little disappointed that we didn’t manage to find it!

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We have ridden on quite a few open top buses whilst we have been travelling, but this one was probably the warmest and at one stage I had to put on my jumper  to avoid my arms getting burnt from the blazing sun.

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The Burj Al Arab is the world’s only 7 star hotel and has been designed in the shape of a dhow’s (Arabian boat) sail. So if you feel like treating yourself you could try a suite for about $19,000 a night.  Disappointingly for us we had booked a table on board our ship and didn’t want to let them down so we decided not to stay here!

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You can see this hotel from a long way off so you would always find your way home, mind you that wouldn’t really be a problem because the courtesy cars are Rolls Royces and if that doesn’t suit there is always a helicopter on hand to meet your travel needs!

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The Burg Khalifa is the tallest building in the world at 160 storeys high, and if you fancy a cocktail there is an outdoor terrace in the world’s highest lounge which is at a height of 585 metres from the ground!

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The Frame is fast becoming one of Dubai’s main attractions for tourists and residents alike.  It is 150m tall with a bridge connecting the two towers and one of its unique features is that the bridge is made from opaque glass with underlying liquid crystal which becomes clear when a visitor steps on it………not for me!!!!

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I think one of the best jobs in this city is to be a window cleaner…………

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I thought the best part of Dubai was the old part.  With the dhows moored on the quayside loading their cargo the atmosphere felt more “alive'” than the clinical feel of the modern city……….

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This part of the city seemed more real and I only wish we had started our tour of Dubai here because I would have liked to spend more time here to explore.  Mind you I wasn’t too disappointed that we didn’t get to the gold souk…….it might have cost me dearly!

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I don’t think I will be rushing back to Dubai as I found it a rather soulless place.  (I hope I don’t get arrested for cyber crimes if I do have to change planes there again!!!) The old quarter would be my only reason to explore further!

 

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End of Golden Triangle, Start of Cruise

Whilst we were on our tour of the Golden Triangle there were the obligatory stops at factories and some shops along the way. The one that I found the most interesting was the fabric factory. They showed us how some of their carpets were made and then showed us some examples.  The prices that they charged for these beautiful rugs worked out at several thousand of pounds less than they would have cost us back in the UK. Several people from our party bought some to be shipped back home, but I couldn’t remember the dimensions of our caravan so we had to give it a miss! I did however succumb to having a shirt made to measure, probably the one and only time I’ll be able to afford that luxury! Jane told me she felt sorry for the guy with the tape measure as he was struggling to get his arm around me!

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They gave us a demonstration on how they do the block printing on the material.  It looked very time consuming but the end result was well worth the trouble!

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We had a pit stop for the loos on the way back to Delhi, at a motorway service station, and we stumbled upon a wedding ceremony in full swing…………..

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The guests looked wonderful and colourful dressed up in all their wedding finery!

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Back on the road again and Sue piped up from the back seat that she knew that road…..I had to ask Jane what she meant!!!

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Just trying to be arty!

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Buddha course I’m the one on the right!

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After what seemed like an epic coach trip we were back in Delhi.  Jane and I decided to go out for a walk to stretch our legs. We could see a park from the window in our hotel room so we went out to explore. It was a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed, and on every conceivable space there was a game of cricket going on.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many fiercely contested games going on in such a confined space!  We were the only white people in the whole of the park and did feel slightly conspicuous, but never unsafe or threatened (why would we?).  It was just that I was a little out of my comfort zone really!  The military jet in the background was ironically appropriate due to what had been going on in between India and Pakistan whilst we were there with the Air force plane that was shot down !

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This is a photo of Mike and Sue, and Mike and Sue at Delhi airport.  It was so easy to remember their names!

Now you remember me telling you about Pakistan shooting down an Indian jet, well the knock on effect of that was that all the planes were delayed and we couldn’t now fly over Pakistan and would have to fly the long way round to get to Dubai to start the next leg of our trip.  More of that later…………

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Dubai airport loading our suitcases on to the coach for our drive to Abu Dhabi.  At this stage of the journey we weren’t aware of the slight panic aboard our cruise ship wondering where their remaining 32 passengers were! (I like Sues new Indian top!)

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We passed by the world’s tallest building as we headed to the port. The Burj Khalifa is 823 metres tall and looked great against the setting sun…………

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We also passed this building under construction, it will be the Museum of the Future in the future!

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If we had known (and if the driver had known) that everyone was waiting for us onboard the Celebrity Constellation we wouldn’t have taken quite so much time in the motorway services!

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When we arrived at the cruise terminal ready for our embarkation we were all very surprised at the lack of people waiting to take our baggage and to check our paperwork.  The place was eerily quiet so we made our way to the embarkation gate and onto the dockside, where we were greeted by a member of crew who quickly took our passports, gave us our boarding cards and pointed us towards the one remaining gangplank where all our cases were being manhandled onboard.  As soon as the last of us was through the door the ropes were cast off and we were on our way………..time for a glass of wine to help us calm down!

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And so the sun finally goes down on a rather long and rather hectic day, but at least we are safely on board!

 

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The Amber Fort – Jaipur

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The coach wasn’t allowed up the narrow roads to the fort………..

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So instead we were taken there in 4X4s, which were driven as you would expect – at breakneck speed through the back streets!

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Quite exciting really as you hang on to the framework of the jeep as you swerve to avoid the odd cow that gets in the driver’s way!

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Or even a “not quite” so wild boar that is scavenging for food!

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The Amber Fort, also known as the Amber Palace, was built in 1592 by Raja Man Sing, it is set amongst the hills overlooking the Maota Lake.

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There are four main courtyards within the vicinity of the Fort, and there are various other buildings within these courtyards – the palace of Man Singh 1, The Garden, Tripolia gate, Lion gate, Diwan-i-Aam, Sheesh Mahal and Sukh Mahal.

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Some of the visitors don’t do their sightseeing in the normal way!

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You can get an elephant ride up from the town if you are not brave enough for a jeep drive!

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Mind you it does look an awfully long way up……..

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The elephants only work the mornings and then it’s back home for a well earned rest and a bit of pampering!

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Not all the bright colours in the garden come from the flowers!

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There are on-going renovations and this place looks like it needs a bit of attention!

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We are certainly clocking up the UNESCO world heritage sites on this trip, and the Amber Fort is another one to add to our list!

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The ornate marble work is absolutly stunning

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As are the intricate carvings on the top of the pillars!

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The pictures don’t really show this place off in its full glory!

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When you need to take a break you need to take a break!

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A panoramic view is the only way to try and capture the magic!

 

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These very ornate windows are designed like this to capture the breeze and try and keep the palaces cool.

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Just checking the mirror to make sure my hair isn’t messed up!

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After our visit to the Amber Fort we stopped off for a photo opportunity of the beautiful Jal Mahal Palace whose name translates to ‘water palace’. This Palace was built 300 years ago and was built for Maharajah picnics and duck hunting soirees. It is now being transformed to a restaurant.

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Apparently I was wasn’t the only one who had stopped for a quick look!

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A quick stop off for lunch before we carry on with our tour, don’t the Indian bouncers look a lot smarter than the ones we have at home?

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This is the Hawa Hahal and it was built in 1770 as an extension of the womens’ quarters in the city palace. It has 953 windows from which the Royal women used to sit and gaze at the city below without being seen!

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Just around the corner in the same block you see this kind of poverty, not some of the worst that we have seen but this is so close to two palaces!

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They must have been a lot smaller in those days, and no it’s not because I’m getting a little bit bigger!

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These two look like they are the bench men from a Disney film………

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Where as these two look like ******!

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The national bird of India is the Peacock………………

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…. not the pidgeon, although this one might think differently!

Jantar Mantar is, yes you guessed it, another UNESCO world heritage site.  It was completed in 1734 and contains 19 architectural astronomy instruments……………

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But Jane and Sue couldn’t work out the time so they used their watches instead!

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Handy things those umbrellas, useful for sun and rain!

 

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Fatehpur Sikri

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En route to Jaipur (after our “quick” stop at the marble factory) we stopped off at Fatehpur Sikri, an uninhabited ancient city built by the great Mugal Emperor Akbar as his capital in the late 16th century.

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This is another World Heritage site that we can tick off our list, and we are lucky enough to be visiting quite a few more sites on this trip.

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The English established an administrative centre here in 1803 and it lasted until 1850.

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In 1815 the Marquess of Hastings ordered repairs of the monuments at Sikri

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When you visit a place like this you are amazed to think that this was built in the 1500’s. I was having a field day taking photographs, so much so that Jane was always having to check where I was in case I had wondered off somewhere and was going to miss the coach!

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Jane also tried to get in to the act with an unsuccessful attempt at hide and seek!

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This place has had extensive renovations but there are still a lot more to do!

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We were lucky on our visit here as there weren’t too many people around when we arrived and we had the place almost to ourselves!

 

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I had to wait for the local Faqir to move out of the way so that I could take this photo  He took ages to get out of shot, he was probably the most awkward Faqir that I have come across so far this holiday!

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You can just about make out the views through the archways – you can see the countryside for miles around!

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It’s nice when you travel abroad this time of year to see the trees in leaf and the flowers in full bloom!

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This deserted city is the ideal place to find a bit of peace and quiet and some solitude…….and catch up with your facebook!

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Agra Fort and Taj Mahal

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An early start to beat the traffic in Delhi was required today as we were off to Agra to see the fort and the Taj Mahal.  I had always thought that the Taj Mahal was going to be the highlight of this trip so I had very high expectations.

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Driving in India requires the nerve and reactions of a fighter pilot (that turned out to be rather apt later in the holiday) and sitting on a coach you need a steely reserve so that you don’t shout “look out” every 10 minutes or so! The road system and driving requires a separate episode of the blog on its own, and I have enough photos of the strange things you see, so watch this space!

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We were dropped off by the front entrance to the fort and were immediately mobbed by beggars and hawkers.  It was slightly unnerving to have to battle through the crowds towards the gate of the fort and to get to the relative peace and quiet of its confines.

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Once we got inside, not only was it beautiful but everything was a lot calmer. There were still a lot of people around but there was a sense of order and all we had to do was look out for Sunil’s black flag and we knew we were all going in the right direction!

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Jane couldn’t wait for her lunch so she had a quick snack while she waited for every one to catch up!

Agra Fort was built between 1565 and 1573 by some 4000 builders who worked on it every day until it was completed. Shah Jahan was probably the most famous resident and it was he who built the Taj Mahal for his favourite wife…………..

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And here is a picture of my favourite wife with the Taj Mahal in the background!  This picture was taken from the top of the fort at Agra and it looks great from here so I can hardly wait for this afternoon’s visit!

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Well, we have booked in to our hotel, had our lunch and its now nearly time for the main event!

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It’s getting closer, now if only these people will move out of the way then I can take a photo, or two or three, or maybe more!

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Here is a shot of the motley crew that we shared our coach with.  Well when I say motley, I really refer to myself I suppose!

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Oh how lovely……..

Well you can’t have too many photos in front of this majestic building…………

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I was just overawed at the sheer spectacle of this place, and from whichever angle you looked at it, it was all in perfect symmetry.

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The colours of the many other visitors added to the brilliance of the day.

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Well if its good enough for Princess Di!

I took so many photos it seemed a shame to waste them!

So to sum it all up then, this place far exceeded my already high expectations.  It truly is one of the 7 Wonders of the World!

(Not too much history to read, but plenty of photographs to view!)

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