I'm not at all religious, but...

… here is a goddess that I am happy to worship…

On the trucks around town ...

Anyone who has spent some time in India is sure to have noticed the slogans painted on the back of trucks, autos, and other vehicles advising “we two, ours one”. This is part of India’s “family planning” efforts–efforts which have had a pretty bumpy history that included a forced sterilization program. Originally, the slogans were “we two, ours two”, or at least that was the catchy English version–regional languages usually had a slogan more along the lines of “one family, two children”.

Sat. Jan 27 - In Delhi, living like royalty...

What an interesting morning. We all woke up very well-rested from our comfortable business hotel, but nevertheless, were dissatisfied with the pricing, location, and so on. We were most dissatisfied by their treatment of our driver, however. They wouldn’t provide a room for him (most hotels make some form of accommodations for drivers) and when he asked for a blanket so he could sleep in his car, they wouldn’t give him one! Since they hadn’t confirmed us for two nights anyway, we decided to open up our options.

Henny went to Amy, and speaking in part for Karin, but I think more for herself, said she wanted to stay somewhere nice for this, our last night of traveling. She put out a very luxurious budget that had Raj scratching his head in confusion. Raj was even more confused when we finally settled on our hotel for the night: The Imperial. Well, with a name like that….

Fri. Jan 26 - Driving to Delhi... and a little bit of tourism....

Good roads really do make a difference. The drive from Jaipur to Delhi was totally painless and quick. However, it seemed to be very disconcerting to Henny, who really didn’t like all the big trucks. She actually said at one point how terrible it was, and how she would much rather take the small bumpy roads than this highway with all these 16-wheelers…. I can’t quite figure out where this emotion is coming from….

We first checked in to our hotel, which, while very nice in terms of cleanliness and modern-ness and whatever-else-ness, was really inconveniently located far away from central Delhi. Essentially, it was a business/conference hotel—located close to the airport and catering to those types of customers. But what can be done, right?

Thurs. Jan 25 - Jaipur forts and shopping

Henny wanted to know the whole time in Jaipur, how can people who built these impressive forts and who were so smart still be taken over in battle? I don’t think I was paying enough attention to the guides or reading enough of the stuff at the sites we visited to find out, but they did really build some pretty impressive forts.

The first place we went today was all the way up a meandering road up into the mountains. From there, we could get some beautiful views of the city that is if the city weren’t obscured by the pollution below. Raj tried to point out where our hotel was and I nodded confirmation though I couldn’t really tell buildings apart too much when covered in the haze of grey.

Wed. Jan 24 - Forts and Observatories in Jaipur

Axle’s not feeling too hot today. She seems to have a pretty horrible cough and just sounds generally groggy. I’m actually somewhat surprised that she is the first to get sick, but I don’t know if it’s a stomach thing or a chest thing. She thinks it’s just a chest thing, which may actually be more reasonable. Seeing that Henny and Karin are smoking, I guess the pollution and the dust won’t really bother them much….

We start off our adventures for the day by going to the Amber Fort. To get to the fort, we get to ride some elephants—two people per elephant. So, we have Axle and I on one elephant, Henny and the guide on another, and Amy and Karin on the third. It’s a pretty bumpy ride to the top—seems strange for royalty to pick such an uncomfortable ride, although I guess their platform would be laden with cushions and so on, right?

Tues. Jan 23 - Where are the tigers?

We get up extremely early and head out to find out if we have managed to get a Jeep for ourselves. After waiting for some time, we find out that Amy’s pressuring got us one, and that it would be here in a few minutes.

It’s freezing—even for me—and being in an open Jeep doesn’t really help any. Still, it’s a good adventure, and bundled in the wool blankets provided by our hotel, we venture into the forest keeping our fingers crossed that we would get to see a tiger lounging around somewhere.

Part of me can’t figure out how realistic the experience is. We have a driver and a guide. Every so often, they stop and listen for either a tiger’s call or the call of some other animal. A particularly still area indicates that the tiger is likely to have been in the area, and thus, has frightened the other animals away. Another telltale sign, supposedly, are the tiger footprints on the side of the road—apparently tigers like the soft sandy road better than tromping through the bushes.

Mon. Jan 22 - Fatehpur Sikri and a bumpy ride to Ranthambore

This morning, we found out that Mr. Lucky wouldn’t be able to join us on the rest of our trip. We had just begun to break him in! Anyway, his replacement, who went by either Bakshi or Raj, seemed to be a lot of fun from the start, so we weren’t too worried about anything.

Our ultimate destination for the day was Ranthambore, where we would be staying the night and trying to see a tiger in the forest the following day before continuing on to Jaipur.

On the way to Ranthambore, we stopped at Fatephur Sikri—the abandoned city. Again, it was a good chance to see some pretty impressive architectural skill. We hired a guide again—Henny likes having one and it saves Amy from having to lug around our Lonely Planet all day—and he seemed to be a bit better than the guy we had at Ellora. This guide also had his “G-O-D” oversimplification, but in his case the definitions were slightly different. Nevertheless, it was amusing. He also had another saying which seemed to be enjoyed by Henny and Karin: “No hurry, no worry. No chicken, no curry.”

Sun. Jan 21 - Agra, Agra Fort, and the Taj Mahal

Just as Ajanta and Ellora was the “must see” for Axle, the Taj Mahal was the “must see” for Karin. So, after pulling in some two hours late and being greeted by our short, very tidy and courteous Sikh driver—Mr. Lucky—getting some breakfast, and checking in to our hotel, we wasted no time going out to see what Agra had in store for us.

As with yesterday, I had to take some time away from the vacation to go to school, so I skipped out on the Agra Fort. I knew I had lots of forts coming my way in Jaipur, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much….

Sat. Jan 20 - Ajanta (and studying) and a train to Agra

Although I really wanted to go to Ajanta, I had to do some homework. It turns out that my timing was off somewhere along the line and I thought I had a few more days to work on one of my assignments and it wasn’t until looking over my calendar to see what else was coming up did I realize that my assignment was actually due very soon.

I pretty much spent the day in the hotel, ordering cup after cup of coffee (well, actually, I usually just ordered two cups at a time…) and doing my work. It as a bit of an adventure in power supply since there were both scheduled and unscheduled power outages, so I found myself having to do a bit of manual writing instead of typing…. Oh, the horror!!! (At least I now know that my penmanship hasn’t gotten as bad as I thought it would have….)