Saturday, 26 December 2009


Sunday 20 December: Portuguese enclave until 1961 the island retains tax-free status so local spirits, beer, port and even wine is relatively inexpensive. Surrounded by the strict Hindu state of Gujarat which operates prohibition laws it's a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, especially at holiday times.
Set in the Arabian Sea, Diu has an imposing Portuguese fort with huge bastions, a double moat and range of bronze and iron cannons. Not quite a tropical paradise, the beaches are sandy, the town's quiet, hassle-free and the locals are friendly - Sunset beach the most popular with foreign travellers.
Dinners mostly at O'Coquero Music Garden Restaurant which specialises in Portuguese fish dishes. No Turkey this year but delicious king fish, squid, sea eel, tuna and pomfret served plain-fried or in a variety of sauces. Midnight Mass at the elaborate, whitewashed St Paul's, billed by the tourist board as an annual festival, was a joyous affair with music and song.

Celebrated the New Year at O'Coquero's with
Canadian-Gujarati hippy guy, elf-like Bavarian redhead Sonja, hot Swedish Kristina, a young Argentinian guy heading down to Kerala, shaven-headed Paul, a Belgian cyclist spending three-and-a-half years peddling his way around the world to Alaska and, of course, nice to see, once again goaty-bearded Kevin from Tullamore.
Photos of Diu.
Friday 1 January 2010: Great to be on the road again - 7:30 pm double-decker sleeper bus with beds (37th mode of transport) for the 11 hour ride to Ahmedabad to catch the 11:55 pm Howrah Express sleeper to Jalgoan on Saturday.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Thursday 17 December: The most romantic city in India with a beautiful lake, palaces and temples.
Island Palace is best viewed from the the northern shore of the lake which is inhabited by exotic waterfowl like Wigeon, Dollarbird, Egret and the Common Kingfisher - seen throughout India on beer bottle labels.
The lakeside City Palace complex is the largest in Rajasthan and the only one of the three on the lake open to visitors.
All white marble, Lake Palace, now a five star hotel, is famed as the film-set for
'Octopussy Island' in the movie of Ian Fleming's 1966 short Bond story. A British film to the core it's screened nightly in most hotel restaurants to the cringing enjoyment of most diners.
Unbelievably, in such a large country, bumped into Kevin again who had cycled here via Delhi, Agra and Bundi.
Picturesque Udaipur.
Six-hour bus ride to Amhmedabad for Somnath Mail sleeper train to Vereval and early morning three-hour local bus to Diu for a seaside Christmas and New Year.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Jaisalmer and Jodhpur

Sunday 13 December: Seven-hour bus ride from Pushkar, via Ajmer, to Jodhpur for 11:00 pm Jodhpur–Jaisalmer Express (No 4810) sleeper through the dusty red desert to Jaisalmer and the delights of the Golden City Hotel, it's en-suite rooms with cable TV, rooftop restaurant and swimming pool.
Bastioned hill-top fortress town of golden sandstone with intricately carved palaces and Jain temples in the heart of the Great Indian or Thar Desert - Jaisalmer is my sort of place. Ignore the hassles from camel safari vendors and it's a great place to wander and enjoy even without the exotic fare offered at the bhang cafe. At long last got my expensive karrimor sandals neatly repair-stitched by a street trader for few rupees. Cute animals in the fortress town and bird life amongst the temples at Gadisar Lake which is alive with not-so-cute cat fish grappling for food. Carved penthouse of Salim Singh ki-Halveli and Tazia Tower - just fantastic, but the cenotaph cupolas are a quiet, restful place away from the bustle of town.
Day trip to Sam Sand Dunes, once a place to watch the desert sunset - now a place to watch the, mostly Indian, camel-riding tourist hordes watching the desert sunset.
Wednesday 16: Jaisalmer-Jodhpur Express (No 4809) sleeper arrived at Jodhpur station 5:15 am. Waited for daylight to look at the clock tower, sturdy fort and for the 7:30 am bus to Udaipur. Drank Chai (masala tea) while sitting next to four street children, asleep and curled up together for warmth, like puppy dogs, on the station floor (no photo).
Jaisalmer and Jodhpur scenes.

Jaipur and Pushkar

Monday 7 December: Gateway the desert state of Rajasthan the 'pink city' is a relatively clean state capital. Built by warrior-astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II, the old Mughal walled city is entered through great pink gateways revealing the busy streets and bustling bazaars.
The city icon is the Palace of Wind or Hawa Mahal but the weird looking ancient observatory, is more interesting and, a short bus ride away, the honey-coloured Amber Fort is far more spectacular. Jal Mahal set in the lake is also a pretty picture.
Wednesday 9 December: A prohibition on alcohol, kissing and non-vegetarian food, even eggs, makes Pushkar sound a little uninviting. But, with numerous temples clustered around the sacred lake it is a pleasantly pedestrian, laid-back centre of Hindu pilgrimage with a nice feel to it.
Wedding season celebrations bring the streets alive with brass bands and fireworks right into the early hours but the drought conditions make for a dry lake and less picturesque views - imagine cool blue water! Hotel Everest is pleasant enough with reasonable en-suites and a rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view.
Jaipur and Pushkur photos.


Thursday 3 December: Agra Fort alone would put this small riverside town on the tourist map, but add to that the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Jadlah or 'Baby Taj' on the north bank of the Yamuna river and Agra is unmissable. A bicycle rickshaw (36th mode of transport) tour across the chaotic bridge is a fascinating way to see street life - from bikes piled high with tobacco leaf to fruit and veg laden hand-carts.
There is also another, larger monument to death - not disappointing in any respect . . . the Taj Mahal. Built by emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for second wife Mumtaz Mahal, his son imprisoned the old emperor in Agra Fort overlooking the Taj, presumably for squandering his inheritance on such a grand project - but aren't we all glad he did.
Day trip to the fortified ancient, short-lived, capital of the Mughal empire, Fatehpur Sikri.
Chilled beers in the local Jaiwal Bar accompanied by piping hot freshly-roasted peanuts with onion and herbs is how salted peanuts should be served.
Agra views.