Category Archives: India

Agra & Taj Mahal!

We arrived in Agra at the wonderful Coral Tree homestay; it’s very nice and comfortable and we had the 2nd floor that we shared with our Australian friends (we met back in Jodhpur). Plus, the owners, 2 brothers and their families live there too. One night they cooked a homemade Indian dinner for all of us with the most amazing dahl I have ever had. They also served us an awesome dessert called petha that is unique to Agra and delicious.

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A homemade dinner with friends is always a nice treat!

Why was the TaJ Mahal built?

It was built for the king’s dying wife after she gave birth to her 14th child. She made the king promise to build something massive and amazing for her, and clearly, he did. Did you know that unlike most royal marriages, theirs was truly one in love? Yes, now that is a Prince Charming! Unfortunately, this love story doesn’t have a fairy tale ending as King Shah Jahan was in the process of building his own burial palace across the river but one of his son’s overthrew him from power; the King was imprisoned in the fort and sadly, he could see the Taj from his cell.

We woke up at 5:00am the following morning to go to the Taj Mahal and it was definitely worth getting up early for. We walked a very short distance from the Coral Tree and were in the first group of 50 people to get in, so we got some nice photos before the crowds. The Taj looks infinity times more beautiful in person than in photos, and so much bigger! We went inside but spent most of our time outside. We walked around the beautiful garden next to the Taj and mostly took and endless amount of photos that it would take years to upload all of them for you to see! But one unique story happened when we were walking about…

The Monkey story

Background knowledge to know before reading ‘The Monkey Story’: A few days ago when we were in Jaipur, we wanted to visit the Monkey Temple there and asked our driver if he could take us. He said that he could, if we wanted to, but it may not be a great idea because a couple years ago he had a Canadian customer who visited the Monkey Temple and got bitten by a monkey! He immediately went to the hospital for rabies shots! (My dad says Canadians attract monkeys and tigers – see earlier blog on Tigers!)  That, without a doubt, convinced us not to go.

So back to the Taj Story: Mom and I were walking around the Taj when we saw a stampede of monkeys running and jumping along a fence. We kept our distance not getting too close because of the earlier incident that our driver shared. But suddenly a monkey came up from behind and grabbed my skirt! A large papa monkey, not a cutesy little baby one. I immediately started running, crying and screaming, “MOMMA!! Get it off of me!! MOMMA!!”  I was still running to my mom and the monkey was still hanging on tightly to my skirt. When I finally got to her, he let go and went off in his group. I had no scratches and he did not touch my skin so the worst that happened was all the other tourists around me saw my undies! But it took us both awhile to calm down and was super scary considering the rabies shots alternative!

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Family Photo

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Jump shot!

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After what already felt like a full day, we came back to the house and ate a yummy Indian breakfast. The Aussie family arrived later that morning from their overnight train ride from Udaipur. We played lots of games that day and also went to the Agra Fort in the evening (where the King was jailed). The two teenagers, Jasmine and Sebastian, were sleeping so the tweens, Isabelle and I, went with the parents to the fort. We had a ton of fun running around and taking jump shots.

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It was so fun to hang out with our friends again and we got to see them one last time before we left when we were in Delhi; one of the highlights of our travels has been meeting and playing with new friends like Jas and Issy – I hope we get to see them again soon either in Florida or Australia!

Next up: New Delhi – where we only chilled out at the JW Marriott with our Aussie friends. 🙂

Tracking Tigers in India

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Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds and yes, we disregarded my sister’s advice not to go. Word on the street is that you spend a small fortune and get to see a bunch of antelope and small deer but we had a few extra days to spare in the Rajasthan.

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We camped on the edge of the park in “Swiss” tents; these are perma-tents with running water. You’ve most likely seen them in African safaris and they look swank; for me, umphh ok average but we’ve certainly had worse on these travels.

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While we weren’t modeling by the pool or playing championship badminton, we did get up early for a sunrise safari tour to track the wild tigers of India. We woke in a groggy state of mind having overindulged the night before on yet more Indian food; seems we are gaining weight rather than losing it here!

Traveler Note: Did you know that we haven’t gotten sick but our Indian driver got food poisoning as did a friend of ours that lived in India?!                                                                Perplexing but true! 

 

Ranthambhore sunrise

Ranthambhore sunrise

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Super duper tiger protected jeep!

Back to Tiger tracking…unlike the balloon over Bagan that served a nice coffee and cookie snack before departure (not to mention champagne upon touchdown), we bypassed that and hopped into a MASH jeep.

An hour later with some Canadians on board (always good to have Canadians because they taste much better according to the “Tigers Eat Meat” cookbook), we enter the park via a small dirt backroad.

Note that all the other jeeps/canters went the opposite direction to the main gate entrance – yes, my doubts rose and Sarah was going to be correct all along.

But…low and behold…

No more than 15 minutes later our driver spots a tiger! This is BIG news especially when your driver goes crazy happy over it too. We stop and driver is first to pull out his camera. Are you getting the feeling that we are in for a treat?! Or maybe that our driver needs to document it for evidence after we become a breakfast? I don’t know which but it is exciting, especially when he turns off the engine and I’m now thinking, “Ok, I’m out of shape and the chances of me climbing that tree are not good…but we do have the Canadians on board and if I can outrun granny then I’m in the clear.”

The really cool part is that we spent a good half-hour tracking her track breakfast (small deer). In the end, she spared the deer (probably for Louisa’s benefit) and spared us (the Canadians are thankful too) while we got some super fantastic photos. Here is a sampling; you can find the rest on National Geographic whenever they see the light of my photographic skills to publish them:

Tiger tracking...

Tiger tracking…

...breakfast

…breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turns out that those in the know (local Indians) knew exactly what entrance we used (it’s called something like 6Q for obvious reasons) and everyone in our Swiss tent complex and beyond exclaimed that we were very lucky to see tiger.

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Instead of answering your questions individually by email, I am providing you with the FAQ for this experience in advance.

  • Did the lion roar for you? First of all, these are tigers but to answer your question, no. Our driver kept saying “Shhh, be quiet” and I think the tiger listened. 
  • How close did you get to the tiger? Great question! Close enough that you could get a first down in football – 30 feet.
  • Why do the baby deer have antlers? They aren’t babies. Chital deer have spots for life or until eaten by Tigers.
  • Have people been attacked by Tigers? Only Canadians (see note above about Tiger cooking).
  • How much does it cost? Please, it’s not about the money honey! We had exhilarating fun paying for a near death life experience. Does that not not make sense?!

Jaisalmer to Jaipur

After we returned from the camel safari at the Thar desert, we got back in the car (did not mention yet, but we hired a private driver – Vicky Rai – who met us in Udaipur and stayed with us for 2 weeks, highly recommend him if you plan to visit Rajasthan) to our next destination, Jaisalmer, the Golden City. We found a new hotel – Golden Haveli – that had a lot of potential and a very refreshing swimming pool. At a 45° degree weather, the best thing one can have in Jaisalmer is a swimming pool after a day of sightseeing. We also met again with our Aussie friends from Jodhpur and all 4 kids had a lot of fun together. We visited the Jaisalmer Fort and Jain Temples, and the old havelis in the city, which was very interesting to see how the rich people used to live. It was bloody hot and back we were at the swimming pool whenever we could. After 3 days in Jaisalmer, our next stop was Pushkar.

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We spent 2 nights in Pushkar, which we had to stop there because the drive was too long from Jaisalmer to Jaipur. Pushkar is a holy city because it is one of the 5 pilgrimage sites for devout Hindus, and it is on the shore of Lake Pushkar where there are several ghats where pilgrims descend to bathe in the sacred waters. Pushkar is also famous for the annual Camel Fair, when the town gets completely packed. It appears that it is also a destination for backpackers as we saw several around…

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After Pushkar, we headed to Jaipur, the Pink City and capital of Rajasthan state. It is certainly a big and noisy city but nothing like Delhi or Mumbai. We stayed at the lovely Madhuban Hotel, which is an old house that belongs to the Patan family. It was a great place, with excellent service, and we ended up extending our stay there. Also visited the amazing City Palace and Amber Fort, in between some delicious meals.

Next stop – Ranthambore National Park

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