Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fathepur Sikri.

At Fathepur Sikri, the 5 story Panch Mahal in the background.


It's mid afternoon on September 30th. So far, I've spent the day visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and shopping. I'm getting tired, I'm quickly beginning to reach sensory overload and am ready to call it a day......

The Incomparable Agra Fort.

Me, sitting on the steps of the Hall of Public Audience at Agra Fort.

You go to the Taj Mahal. You "ooh" and you "ahh" and you say to yourself that you've never seen as anything as beautiful as this building standing before you. Then you remind yourself of the romantic tale - the one of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who emptied the coffers of the country to build this great monument in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal - and your heart melts.

The World's Jewel Box. The Taj Mahal


Surely, there can never be a more memorable experience than waking up and seeing the Taj Mahal before breakfast!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Delhi. Culture - Heritage and Pop.


Performers at Dilli Haat Bazaar, Delhi, India.


Yesterday, my day started at 8:30am and I didn't get back to my hotel room until almost 10pm. It was go, go, go - no time even to recover from jet lag. So by the time I got back to my room, I had just enough energy to take a shower, find my pj's and get into bed. I slept well that night :-)

It's my second day in Delhi and thankfully, I had planned for a fairly easy day. My alarm went off at 9am. I got dressed, went down and grabbed a quick breakfast and waited outside the hotel for Rajeev to arrive......and he did, promptly, at 9:45am.

View of the street outside my hotel.


We took a few minutes to map out my itinerary for the day - National Museum, lunch, Dilli Haat and then a change in game plan. I had originally asked Rajeev to arrange for me to go see a classic Indian dance performance but I decided I wanted to end the day seeing a Bollywood film in an Indian movie theatre....or as they call them here, cinema. Rajeev looked a bit surprised at my request but I am the client so I get what I want :-)

With the itineray agreed upon, the first place we had to go to, believe it or not, was the cinema house to buy the movie ticket.



Chak De India









Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 1. More of Delhi.


Aren't I the fashion queen? No,I've not joined the Hare Krishna! You'll need to read on if you're curious about why I'm dressed this way.....and what happened to my shoes?

Day 1. Delhi, India.

Me, standing in front of Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, India

Before I left for this trip, I had arranged to go on a tour of the city - covering all the major highlights, including Humayun's Tomb. The plan was for me to meet with the tour guide at 9am in the lobby of the hotel. Well, my watch was incorrectly set an hour behind and the guide was 20 minutes early so my 1st day in India started off with a mad dash out of bed, in/out of the bathroom and down to the lobby. No time even for quick breakfast! There, the guide introduced himself as ??? - with his multi-syllable name masked by a thick Indian accent, I, for the life of me could not catch his name so he told me to just call him "J", which I gratefully did for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'm off to India, Nepal & Tibet!!

Today's the day!

I was up late last night doing last minute stuff for the trip and was physically exhausted by time I fell into bed.....but as so often happens with me, I just couldn't turn my brain off - half filled with excited thoughts of the trip and half worried that I forgotten to do something or pack something.

Eventually, I drifted off and then awoke well before the alarm clock went off thanks to a small battalion of helicopters hovering above the Beltway which is just a stone's throw away from my house. I found out later on on the morning news that there was a 4 or 5 car pile up and all lanes were blocked but one so I presume the copters were hovering overhead to get a good vantage point to report on the accident. Whatever the case, the whirring of the rotor blades was not the way I wanted to woken up!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

T minus 5 and counting.

I leave in just a little over 5 days and I'm pretty much set to go.

My final week of preparation began with packing my backpack this past weekend. I had to do it 3 times to get it packed the way I wanted to.

The good news is that I got all my stuff packed in crammed in and there was A LOT of stuff - more clothes, medicine and food than I've lugged along on my previous trips. Not to mention a winter weight sleeping bag, down vest and other "acoutrements" for trekking through Tibet.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Prayer Wheels and Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum.

Prayer Wheels. They're an integral element of practicing Tibetan Bhuddism and before I join the pilgrims in circumambulating the monasteries, I thought I ought to know what they represent so that I can more fully appreciate the experience.

Simply put, a prayer wheel is a device for spreading spiritual blessings and well being. Rolls of thin white paper, imprinted with the mantra (prayer) "Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum", in ancient Indian or Tibetan script, are carefully wrapped and placed inside the wheel and then the opening of the wheel sealed. Typically, the mantra is also inscribed onto the exterior surface of the wheel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Itinerary. Rongphu, Lao Tingri and Zhangmu, Tibet, China.

Oh boy. Best I can tell, when we leave Sakya, we pretty much are entering the wild, wild west of Tibet. First stop. Rongphu which is known for its monastery and for the fact that it's the launch point to Everest Base Camp.

Situated at an elevation of 4980m (16,338 ft), Rongphu Monastery holds the distinction of being the highest monastery in the world. According to the Lonely Planet guide, Rongphu once served as the center of religious activity for around a dozen neighboring religious institutions but is now experiencing quieter times with only about 20 nuns and 10 monks in residence. With Mt. Everest serving as the backdrop, the Monastery and its chörten in the foreground should provide for some spectacular photo ops.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

How many रुपया for a dollar?

It's time for me to buy some currency for the trip - specifically, Indian rupees and Chinese yuan. Nepalese rupees are not available outside of Nepal. As usual, I was curious about the different currencies so more reading.

Indian Rupee.
As of the date of this posting, the exchange rate (according to xe.com) is 40.6 Indian rupees to one US dollar.

The Indian rupee is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). The ISO 4217 code is INR. Locally, the abbreviations Rs and Rp are frequently used. Banknotes worth Rs. 5, Rs. 10, Rs. 20, Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 500, Rs. 1000 are currently in circulation.

All notes are issued by the Reserve Bank of India. The current series, which began in 1996, is called the Mahatma Gandhi series and can be easily identified as the obverse face of each note has a watermark image of Mahatma Ghandi and differing images on the reverse.






Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Itinerary. Shigatse and Sakya, Tibet, China.

Shigatse.
Continuing on a southwest path from Lhasa to Kathmandu, our next stopover after Gyantse is

to the town of Shigatse. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and the seat of the Panchen Lama, traditionally based in Tashilhunpo Monastery.

The Panchen Lama,is the second-highest-ranking lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.