Also on 14 Feb we visited Agra Fort, where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son for spending his inheritance. Then we spend an hour waiting for sunset on the river bank opposite the Taj Mahal. The sunset and the time spent in the beautiful moon park was wonderful but be warned the Taj Mahal does not change colour at sunset - well not this evening anyway!
Visit a shop to buy a sandalwood necklace and leave with the necklace, orange pashmina, gorgeous blue and silver sari, blue Ganesh statue, wooden fan and a new Indian friend. I should state I only bought the necklace, pashmina and sari and at a very special Valentines price! Joking aside Unique Handicrafts Agra owned by Sanjeev and Geeta Gupta was a nice shop, owned by lovely people and they had nice chi tea.
Tonight we are travelling to Varanasi via train, air conditioned tier 2 sleeper. Basically its seats that fold down into beds with four people in an area and probably 40 people per carriage. The toilet is, well not really a toilet but a hole onto the train tracks. Keith also encountered either a very heavy cockroach or a train mouse who climbed over him in the night [KB - I was just dropping off and felt something scurry across my back. Rolling over to see which native was trying to touch me up, I saw a little object scurry away across the floor, followed by a couple of his mates. That was me sleeping with my mouth closed!]. Icky - I am not a fan of rodents and slept on the top bunk happily till sun rise. Breakfast was roti and salted crisps.
15 Feb Arrival Ancient and Holy city of Varanasi.
You not getting what you asked for and nobody tells you till you arrive!
Indian culture is very "yes, ma'am/sir" - they do not like to disappoint. We arrived in Varanasi and Keith noted the hotel had different details to our tour notes on email. After brief discussion at the hotel I believed we were staying in, we are taken to Hotel Pradeep. I am not impressed, the hotel had changed but nobody bothered to tell me, so I could approve the hotel. The Hotel Pradeep has more of a hostel feel, the rooms are not luxurious and our's over looks a busy road, honk-honk-honkity-honk.
Feeling annoyed we embark on a trip to Sarnath. The gardens and ruins are considered a palace of pilgrimage for people of the Buddhist faith because they believe that Lord Buddha gave his first sermon here. It's interesting to see the monks chanting in the elaborately decorated temple. Our tour guide is interesting, in that he displays the India male trait of only really addressing the male in the group. It's very annoying, questions through Keith then. [KB - worst part of him only talking to me is that everyone knows I glaze over after a few minutes anyway! Hope there's no exam at the end of this!]
Back at the hotel we discover a nice roof garden. Unfortunately we have brought the rain from the UK and will mainly be inside this evening as it is monsoon conditions outdoors. From the bedroom window we see a wedding parade. A marching band is playing the parade music, there is a guy setting off giant fireworks and people with fluorescent light tubes on their hats dancing.
Stacey and Keith