Steve Watson


      Information: Travels: India: Diary







So here I am, in CALCUTTA


The flight was no problem, though it took 1:40 by train into town. Then by taxi (for a pre-acceptance negotiated R210) to the hotel. Unfortunately, the driver drove like a crazy man and took me to Sutter St (‘of course’, he says,) even though I took the time to question all the drivers at the pick up point about whether they knew where my hotel was and could get to the street it was on. Apparently he just lied and thought he’d dump me in some random street in a strange town at night with piles of bags and he’d get paid for that. He was quite wrong. I refused to pay or to get out until he took me to Middleton street (he had to ask someone how to get there) and to drop me in sight of Sikkim House. (He had to ask about that too.) Nasty little man.


Quite a reasonable hotel when I got there. They were having an interruption to their power when I arrived, so there were no lights; but it was 10:30 so I was quite happy to just crash in the dark.


Map of Calcutta

The name Kolkata is a piece of ridiculous nationalist rebranding, 'supported' by a pretended pre-British history of the place. It's very silly.

My hotel was very near the Maidan. Just one 'block' east of the green on the map above.







Walked around the Maidan and across to Chandipat Ghat to get the ferry to Howrah . It’s quite a hike – the street signs are incomprehensible and rare.


I had the most appalling difficulty getting a ticket out of Calcutta. I stood in queues in front of 4-5 counters and each time I was told to go somewhere else. (Actually, these could only barely be described as queues. They were semi-ordered mobs of pushing and jostling people. Quite chaotic.) Eventually, after being sent to another building and standing in the women/cripples/freedom fighters/VIPs row, I found that the seat I wanted was sold out. By then I’d been taken into an office for special treatment. After 2 hours I eventually got a 3A/C ticket leaving Cal at 8:35 pm arriving Gaya 5 am (R540.)


Ferried back to Chandipat and walked to Sutter street where I had a chicken soup and a 7up. The walking was also an adventure, because I was pretty much navigating by the sun. The street names, where they appear at all, are illegible or irrelevant. It also began to remind me of Cairo, in as much as it was close to impossible to read the signs from as far away as just across the road. It also makes it very unpleasant to walk around when everyone stares at you openly and the beggars sometimes grab hold of you. Anyway, back in the Red Panda bar in Sikkim I had a bit of a sit down and a couple of unpleasant sweet teas.


Taxi into Howrah. (Cost R54 – very reasonable, I thought.) Onto the train with little drama and away. The seating was quite comfortable once I received my bedroll. The only real difficulty is that there’s no announcement before arrival at stations, and one can’t see out the windows because there aren’t any, so a Canadian traveller and I were alert all night. I set my alarm all the same.


Victoria Monument in Calcutta


Toilet/Bath/Laundry day at the ghats in Calcutta


Ferry to Howrah


Howrah Station







The alarm worked and the old Canadian and I negotiated swarms of touts at 5 am trying to take us onward from Gaya. He was getting a hotel here (checkin at 9 am) and I was going to wait until the sunrise, so we both sat in the lobby of the hotel for a while. 


Then I moved on to BODHGAYA


I autorickshawed in (R100) to the Tathagat, which really is an overpriced dump. For R1200 I'll get a very shoddy room. There's barely any hot water and the beds are rock hard. Is this normal in India? The Sikkim beds were hard too. The room stinks and is only bearable with the fan on.


After a bit of a snooze I wandered about a bit. There's really nothing much to see here. There are plenty of processions because Nov-Feb is a time of Tibetan and other Buddhist celebrations - but celebrations of what I never did find out. The archaeological museum was a great disappointment, but at R2 can't be called an extravagance.


Map of Bodhgaya

 A somewhat stylized map. The Tathagat hotel is beside the Mahabodhi Society and across the road and up from the Archaeological Museum. The Deer Park is beside that museum, but not shown here.  


Welcome to Bodhgaya

 Note the presence of the Dalai Lama.


A Korean procession in Bodhgaya

 There are represenatives of most of the world's varieties of Buddhism here: it's like a more orderly version of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem


The same Korean procession in Bodhgaya


A snake god in Bodhgaya

 When the British arrived the place had been taken over by Hindus who would not acknowledge the true identity of this place. When the British discovered what it was and publicised it, especially to overseas Buddhists, its modern fortune was made.


Went to the ATM at the State Bank of India and surprise! I was able to get out R2000. (It looks like I've got R¼ million left too - that sounds good.) A great relief to see that the cards actually work here.


There are a lot of bookshops here and I'm seriously considering buying some and posting them home. Or maybe reading them while I'm travelling.


To the Meditation Park in the Mahabodhi grounds. It's very pleasant to sit in shade and meditate (but not really meditate.) There weren't that many people here either: they must have all been watching the Dalai Lama doing a Q&A here. I tried to listen later but it was too far away and I couldn't understand him. In the Hindustani Times of 15/2 I saw a picture of him with the caption "DL releasing the complete text of the Pali Tipitaka published in Sinhalese script on the campus of Mahabodhi Mahavihara at Bodhgaya, on Monday." That's today, so that's what he's doing.

The temple undergoing renovations in Bodhgaya

The mahabodhi complex includes a much revered distant offshoot of the original Bodhi ('enlightenment') tree (ficus religiosus) under which the Buddha reached enlightenment in this place. Note that the temple is only a XIXth C replica of an ancient temple.


Now I've got a headache and there's a fuss about giving me dinner in the Swagat (restaurant attached to the hotel.) The meal, chicken paprika, was awful; but at least it took my headache away. It looks like I haven't been eating properly; I'd better change that.







Banana pancakes and fruit juice for breakfast. Good.


Wandered about the Deer Park, but it was pretty desolate. At least there was a cool marble seat to rest on.


Tried a couple of times to book tickets on to Benares at the railway office in Bodhgaya, but it was always crowded with Buddhist monks (bhikkis) and pilgrims, so I gave up. That was a mistake, since Gaya station was even worse. I managed to buy myself a general class ticket. It was unfortunate that trains today only go to Mughal Sarai, which is still about 20km out of town. Anyway, I got the same autorickshaw guy that I used yesterday: he must have been waiting for me. I had to enquire at the tourist office about what to do with the ticket: what train, platform, class, when, etc. I had heard so much about the Indian train system, but it seems to be a shambles. I can hardly believe this is the system that the British set up.


Having put up with endless beggars on the platform, I finally got on the train and found a seat next to a Japanese girl who was also going to Mughal Sarai. She was pleased to have a person she felt she could trust to put a dampener on the enthusiastic engagement of the Indian males. The train left at 2 pm and took 3½ hours. These were not pleasant hours. It was cramped, the guy next to me thought he'd use my leg as an armrest - and then some weird women came aboard, clapped their hands in all our faces and demanded money. Why? I have no idea.


I couldn't find the bus at Mughal Sarai so I got another autorickshaw. It was a dreadful ride and the driver tried to make me give R2 to some random guy at the side of the road. Why, again? Then he tried to abandon me somewhere in the crowds in Benares, because he wasn't making very fast progress, but I refused to get out until he called over a cycle rickshaw to take me to the hotel. This guy took me a little further but then he also decided I had to get out in the middle of nowhere. Again, I sat tight until two boys offered to actually take me to the hotel. Jesus, what is wrong with these people? As these boys took me on some narrow winding route through darkened areas of the city I began to worry that they were setting me up for a mugging, and I was rather looking forward to having the opportunity to thump someone; however, my suspicions did them an injustice and they got me to the Ganpati safe and sound. 


And so I got to BENARES


Had a curry and naan and a coffee on the rooftop restaurant, (where you could not use a light or sit under it because of the really amazing numbers of moths that would be attracted to you - the air was thick with them.) then a shower, and then to sleep. What fun.


Map of Benares

The Ganpati is near Godaulia on Mir Ghat (not marked.)







Did very little. I just wanted to catch my breath a bit. The day started well with breakfast at the upstairs restaurant (still a bit buggy.) It really is quite peaceful and pleasant here in the morning. 


Checked emails - nothing of note. Borrowed Asimov's 'Foundation' from their bookshelves and read that in the courtyard while lazing and lunching on pakoras and naan bread. 


Didn't move much until I went upstairs for dinner. Rice and onion curry was quite tasty, but I'm finding that Indian food isn't something that I want every meal time. It's just a bit strongly flavoured for that.


I also read 'Foundation and Empire;' and went to sleep very early.


Ghats in Benares

An early morning view. The air is clear and still and it is still cool in the sunshine.


The Benares hotel atrium

A nice place to relax: cool, and quiet and fresh air. And the staff will chat if you want them to.







Making up for the laziness of yesterday, I walked a fair bit today. Beginning with a walk up Dashaswamedha ('Sacrifice of the Ten Horses' - referring to a Vedic-period ritual I think) and to the State Bank of India to get some money. I also visited the Indian Bookshop, which had a lot of good stuff. There were plenty of temples to see and little shrines on the roadside. Mostly, however, I was impressed by the filth, and the cramped-ness of the streets in the Old City.


Sent some laundry off today. I hope it returns ok. I've also given the desk a list of trains that I want them to get tickets for. They offer this service in most hotels it seems, and my experience in Indian Stations so far is not such that I wish to have any more of it. It'll be interesting to see how t works out for them.


Daring the bugs, I've opened the big window doors which lets in a lot of air. And here come the monkeys. I think I got some interesting photos of them feeding. I missed the one who was eating the buttons off a shirt. That didn't endear him to the management.


OK, I'm over the bloody monkeys now. I've just had to chase one out of my room - he was heading for my wallet and camera when I shouted at him, and he tried to steal a bin on the way out. I mentioned tis to the guys at the desk and they were a bit anxious The monkeys can be dangerous, so don't get too close to them. Gawd, the last thing I need is to be bitten by a rabid monkey in India.


Benares monkey

Not really cute at all


Boats in Benares on the Ganges


Dashaswamedha ghat in Benares







The tickets were ready and quite acceptable. I notice there's a R75 fee applied to each ticket, which I think is a bit cheeky; however, if it means I don't have to go through the hassle of queuing and querying at the doubtless disorganized train station, then it's a good deal. The laundry was also well done.


Spent most of the day reading the 'Contexts' section of the Rough Guide, but also went out a couple of times for walks along the ghats. The first walk, in the morning, was a quick trip to the 'burning ghats' of Manikarnika where I was accosted by an offensive young fellow who wanted to talk about how he liked to 'try' tourist girls. I bet. I got a lecture from a chap about how 'cremation is education' just as the guidebook promised, but he disappeared as soon as I said that donating to support cremations would be meddling in affairs that were none of my business.


In the evening I walked to Dash again to see the prayers and ceremonies, but I just missed them. I'll be sure to go earlier tomorrow night. 


I have also discovered that these swarms of insects that make meal times such a chore are a very transient problem. They appeared a few days ago and they'll disappear in a few days. Even the staff find them unusual. I suppose I should consider myself lucky to have witnessed this amazing natural wonder.







The power was off again last night, and it's off now. This seems to be normal. It must make it terribly hard for any industry to operate since they'd need to invest in a generator as well as paying whatever the electricity rates are.


On a different note, I seem to be expelling about as much as I'm taking in, which would explain, I guess, why I seem to be hungrier than at home despite eating rather more. Also, I have rather offensive rumbles. I also wish I'd started a course of anti-malarials before I left. The doctor thought I'd be in no danger, but I'm worried all night by mosquitoes and have taken to sleeping in long sleeves and trousers and socks and completely under a blanket. And with all the extremities DEETed. But it's hot and I then need the fan on, which is annoying.


OK, one last thing: the beds are so hard they're barely better than sleeping on the floor. Sleep is thus unsatisfactory.


Went out to SARNATH


It was easy enough to get out to Varanasi Cantonment station - as long as the driver knows where it is: mine had to stop and ask the way. Naturally, the people he asked were keen to tell me where I should be going instead. Also note, they don't pronounce the whole word, they just call it 'Cant'. 


At the station the going rate is R75 each way. We agreed on this, shook hands, etc. but he still asked for R50 more when we got there. Jiminy, these people.


Benares cantonment station


Sarnath was a bit of a disappointment, actually. They try, but everywhere always looks like a tip. The zoo is a bloody disgrace. Those poor animals in their small bare cages. I now realise I forgot to go to the small museum nearby, where the Ashokan lion pillar capital is kept (along with a lot of other Buddhist art from the site.) Bugger.


Map of Sarnath

The Deer Park of this place is outside the temenos on the north side. In that park Buddha rejoined his former companions in asceticism and gave his first sermon in the new teaching, the famous Dhammacakkapavattana - 'setting in motion the wheel of law' in Pali.


The Dhamekh Stupa in Sarnath

Also known as Dharma Chakra Stupa, it's one of the several places that claim to be the exact site of that sermon. 

Nearby is another of the offshoots of the original Bo tree.


Temple at Sarnath


Went back to the Dash for the evening celebrations (I feel like I'm become pretty familiar with this area.) It was all smoke and fire and chanting and bells and wailing and sadhus on their cellphones. Quite spectacular, but my photos of it were all useless. In fact, it did all come to seem a little bit unvarying and was mostly incomprehensible to me - but the Indians certainly seemed to enjoy it.







Paid the bill at Ganpati. Quite acceptable and no surprises or dramas. (R2700, including R700 for my various purchases in the courtyard.) They very kindly allowed me to hang around the place until it was time for me to go. I just lazed in the shade.


At first I thought the train was going to go smoothly and with no dramas too, but that was not the case. Despite the carriage having S3 clearly written on the side when we got in, and despite it being between carriages S2 and S4, as we noted, we were later told by the ticket inspector that this was S7; so we all, 2 Germans, the old Canadian again, and I had to eventually trek through the carriages to our new seats. 


I'm afraid the old fellow is hating north India more and more, and while I sympathize (I really do,) he is sounding a lot like Abe Simpson and it's becoming embarrassing to be associated with him. 


The trip was actually pretty hellish: there was absolutely no way to get comfortable and the noise of the coughing and hawking from all around (including me) was deafening - not to mention the train noises and the unceasing rocking back and forward of the carriage. Since I've got some longish train journeys coming up, this is making me reconsider some of those plans. 







Arrived about 7:30 am in AGRA


We'd been scheduled for 6:04 am, so the late arrival is actually more convenient. Got a taxi without fuss to the Sheela, along the only decent roads I've seen so far in India. Unfortunately that hotel was all booked up, but the owner very kindly allowed me to use the toilet in one of the rooms that hadn't been made up yet - which wasn't actually too flash I have to say. And how are you supposed to use these hole-in-the-ground things anyway? How can you clean yourself afterwards? And do you really have to take off your pants entirely if you don't want to drag them through your own or others' waste? Anyway, nice of him to allow me to do that.


Map of the Taj Mahal in Agra

 The Taj Ganj district is just south of the monument's grounds, and both the Sheela and Shanti are there.


Walked to the Shanti Lodge as my second choice and waited until 10 to book in. Tried a lassi on their rooftop restaurant but didn't like it much. When I tried to have a shower there was no hot water so I climbed back into my dirty clothes and went down to see the man. He said he'd have some sent up by bucket. That was a bit of a surprise. Also, when I spat my toothpaste into the sink it wound up on my foot, because it is not connected to a drain: it just pours straight through onto the floor. After half an hour and further urgings, I got a wash. 


I had intended to go to Fatehpur Sikri, but the idea of another 90 minutes each way is just too appalling. so, cancelling that, I'll do the Taj Mahal tomorrow (R750 for foreigners, R20 for Indians.) Rested in the room for a good part of the day, but went out to the Sheela for dinner. (Surprise! A power cut. Followed by the sound of a generator lumbering into life, and light again. And flickering from that point on.) The meal was great. The best I've had for a long time, and certainly the best in India so far. Fresh lemon soda and vegetarian spring roll with crunchy/soft (!) pastry and slightly tangy soy vegetables inside. Then I had a chocolate fruit crepe. Absolutely yummy. I'm thinking of repeating this tomorrow.


The Taj Mahal seen from the hotel restaurant







Spent a good part of the day at the Taj. It's most impressive, in that they seem able to keep the gardens reasonably clean and tidy. I'd guess this is because there's quite a hefty charge for entry so you don't get the beggars and panhandlers that infested Sarnath or parts of the mahavihara in Bodhgaya.


Took the time while lazing in the gardens to write postcards to Jamie and Jason, Mum and Dad, and Sarah. I hope they'll enjoy them The parents, especially, I think will be amused.


I've had every meal so far in the Sheela. It's a much nicer environment, with nice lawn and shades and a dog hanging around. I showed the owner the erroneous entry in the Rough Guide for this place, so perhaps he'll have it fixed. So far I've tried their tomato omelette, banana milkshake, potato chips, and egg spring rolls, and they've all been good. Only the chips were a little soggy.


Checked my email. That was painful with the snail-speed connection at the hotel. At home, even dial-up in the busy periods is faster than this.


The Taj Mahal site and an elevation and cutaway of the tomb



Plan of the Plain of Assembly on the Day of Judgement

This sketch from ibn-Arabi's Futuhat al-Makkiya may have been an inspiration for the tomb's design


The Taj Mahal seen through the main gate

"A tear on the face of eternity," says Tagore.


The gate to the Taj Mahal

Chowk-i Jila Khana


The gate to the Taj Mahal


The gate to the Taj Mahal


Ladies on the Taj Mahal


Mowing the lawns around the Taj Mahal







Breakfasting today at Shanti Lodge, and I'm amazed at how slow the service is. I've been waiting for an omelette for ¾ of an hour and there's still no sign of it.


Took a cycle rickshaw out to Agra Cantt, and the guy was making really heavy weather of it, puffing and wheezing while drivers with heavier loads strolled past him.


I had to help a girl across the tracks when the train pulled in to the wrong platform. One has to be very careful where one puts one's feet on such a walk. Indian railways are like an open sewer. I saw two respectable-looking girls (aged about 2 and 6) marched to the edge of the platform by their mother, where they dropped their pants and urinated (almost) over the edge in the full view of everyone on the platform and in the train across the tracks. 


Also on the platform, I had to push away a shoeshine boy who was particularly insistent. He sat down at my feet and continually poked and prodded my feet - presumably he thought that I would eventually give up and let him wreck my shoes. Instead I took him by the arm and led him away up the platform to a guard. My hand stank afterwards.


On the journey I sat with some Indian Army guys going north to Jammu and Kashmir. Lucky them. I swapped email addresses with one of those Army guys, but it's unlikely that I'll hear from him. They seemed better fed and happier than most of the Indians I've seen. They also named those strange women whom I'd seen before who get on trains and demand money. This time one of them was poking one fellow in the testicles and punched him in the back as she left. They are 'hijras' - eunuchs. But that doesn't really explain why they beg for money or why they're allowed to behave the way they do. I note that they looked at me, but because I didn't look at all amused by their antics (and was getting ready to thump them if they tried it on me) they left me alone. Or perhaps it was just the privilege of a foreigner. 


Foreigner privilege didn't stop another irritating beggar on the train from poking me with his finger repeatedly until I eventually had to push him away too. This does get very wearying.


When the train got to DELHI


I walked to the Hotel Ajanta with no difficulty at all. It's beautiful and relaxing.


Map of New Delhi

The Ajanta is on Desh Bandhu Gupta Rd about 5 mins walk from the New Delhi Station.

(Or was it the next street north, Arakshan. I can't remember.)







Made reservations in Bombay using the hotel's phones. Checking the timetable for the rail connections down south I find they seem to have a 2A available, so I went down to the train station to try to change the ticket. While searching the premisses I was twice accosted by touts who, though they seemed to be helpful, ended by directing me across the road to some crap agencies. By the time I'd got to the road the second time I was pretty bloody ropeable. The next one gets a boot in the bum, I swear. Anyway, I couldn't get any joy from the person at the counter - who was going to wait-list me - so I gave it up Perhaps I'll try again tomorrow asking for a 3A, which was the Doon Express class.


Walked to Connaught Place and explored the bookshops. They were ok. I bought Collins and LaPierre 'O, Jerusalem!' as desperately needed reading material. 


Got chatting to a chap there who seemed interesting, but started to lead me to crap shops. Eventually, I just had to cut him off and walked back through the Main Bazaar of Pahar Ganj, which is just north of Connaught Place. There's not much of interest in these bazaars. I just don't understand the appeal of these places: they're full of shit merchandise and shit for real. On the other hand, the small and reasonably well-kept cemetery in the middle of the area was quite interesting. I thought Connaught Place was much better; though the central maidan, which could have been a fine public space, was just a dump. 


I think I've about had it with this restaurant too. I can't get service. They walk off while I'm ordering or paying, they took an hour to get a tiny spring roll and cold coffee.


Posted cards: buy stamps, go to glueing stand and glue them on, return to counter to be franked. I'm surprised I didn't have to fill in a form.







Last night I had a bout of mild diarrhoea. Very inconvenient and unpleasant, but if that's the full extent of my Delhi-belly then I'll be well satisfied and count myself lucky.


The toilet had stopped flushing properly last night - it would fill quickly and then drain verrrry slowly - and so I requested that someone come with a plunger and fix it. The girl at the counter seemed vague and asked when I was checking out and was the room ok. By 9 pm that night I felt I had to insist on either a plumber or a new room, so I asked again. This time it was the usual bloke on the desk and he sent two people to my room immediately. I don't think the fat, stupid cow had done anything at all.


Pretty much stayed in my room all day, since I don't want to get caught in the open streets with this problem, which is now non-trivial. I'm not that annoyed about this, since there's not that much that's urgent for me to see in Delhi, and I consider it lucky that this attack occurred here rather than in a one night hotel or a bad hotel. Delhi itself is not as complete a toilet as some other places I have seen, but it's still not a nice place to walk around in.


There's only the Lal Quila (Red Fort) that might be interesting, so I might try to see that tomorrow. It's in walking distance too.







Hmm. Still incapacitated. We'll have to see how it goes, but my urge to see the Red Fort is less than the desire not to soil myself in public.







Still no good. And tonight I'm leaving - and carrying stinky unlaundered clothes with me. I've taken a couple of Imodiums for the trip tonight.


Yet more bureaucracy at the checkout desk, and the dopey girl can't even tell me why I'm waiting.


Poor old Delhi. I really didn't get to see much of it. I hope that I'll be able to get back here some day.







On the train. A long long trip to AURANGABAD


I arrived and found the hotel without much difficulty. I impressed one girl by knowing how to find some local business and was able to guide her to it. How can you know that if you've only just arrived? she asked. I had to confess that I'd been studying the map on the train for ages and that I'd walked past the very place she was after on the way to my hotel. Her admiration was fun while it lasted.


Map of Aurangabad


Map of Maharashtra

Map showing relation of Aurangabad to the two cave temple complexes. 

Almost nobody comes to Aurangabad except to travel to Ajanta and Ellora.







Up bright and early this morning for a bus tour to AJANTA


The drive out (and back, of course) took hours (8:30 - 12:00 outbound) and was made a bit of a trial by my inquisitive seat neighbour, who questioned me interminably about trivial matters. 'Those are sheep. Are there sheep in New Zealand? Is your seat hard? Where are you going in India? ...) I tried to stop the flow by asking him questions in return, but he just didn't respond. (The Indian gent behind me was laughing and he later spoke to me to say he sympathized. Would I like to sit by him on the way back? I thought that in itself was quite amusing.) 


The guide through the caves was quite useful as he helped make sense of some very dark and confused pictures. I have to say, I didn't find the frescoes anywhere near as impressive and beautiful as the pictures of them I've seen in books - though they're still pretty good, and I'm glad I've seen them. (This reminds me of my disappointment with the renaissance paintings in Italy.) Altogether, worth the money, I think, though it's still a little galling to be charged R250 where natives pay R10. The heat doesn't help everyone's tempers either. Luckily I'm unaffected by it.


Map of Ajanta Caves


The Valley of Ajanta


Walking into Ajanta


A Monk in Ajanta


Frescoes in Ajanta


I met a couple of nice people on this tour, and they'll also be on the tour I'll be doing to Ellora. One of them is a German girl with good English called Katrina. We were going to have dinner together tonight, but we got separated at the departure - she's on a different tour from another hotel - and that fell down; but we'll talk again tomorrow.


The other is a Bangladeshi-American girl called Tamana. It was nice to be able to talk normal English for a change. And we're both at the Shree Maya. She recognised me from breakfast on the covered rooftop restaurant, but I didn't remember her. It turns out she's going to Bombay tomorrow night by bus, so we thought it'd be nice if we went together. Arranged that at the MTDC office for R400. We'll pick up the tickets tomorrow. Had dinner with her at the Tandoor. That was good too, especially the kulfi (pistachio ice cream.)







Up again earlyish, packed and ready to go. Tamana and I walked to the bus point and I detoured to go to an ATM. That had no power, so I tried to change some money and was sent off in a taxi with a Russian woman. They had no money so she and I shared what they had. Back and away at 9:40 am.


Most of the sights were pretty crap, but Daulatabad and the Ellora caves were good. It was hot again, and Tamana wore a handkerchief on her head to signify that the sun was too much, but the lunch was a little more satisfactory than yesterday's.


Map of Daulatabad

 About 13 kms out of Aurangabad on the way to Ellora caves.


Tower at the Old Fort


Tamana at the Old Fort


Map of Ellora Caves


At Ellora

The guidebook notes the devastation wrought by fanatical muslim iconoclasm in the XIIIth C - especially at the hands of the famously 'moderate' Aurangzeb.


When we got back, Tamana and I went to an internet cafe for a while, sat around in cafes for another while, and then went back to ask about where the bus left from. This having been clarified, we had a very unsatisfactory dinner at the attached Kailash restaurant. The chef was off, they said, and the waiters were trying to cook things. They weren't really very good at it. After that we met Katrina walking out of the hotel and went with her to another, much better place. We all got our cameras out and got the waiter to take photos of us on each of them. They must get a lot of that sort of thing.


Tamana, me, and Katrina in Aurangabad


Back then to Shree Maya, gathered our bags, and went by taxi to Manmandir (the pickup point.) Naturally, the taxi man tried to cheat us, even though he knew that we'd been told the price before we left by the hotel management who'd arranged the ride. I'm afraid I rather lost my temper and shouted at him. If he'd continued I might very well have hit him. These people just make me so angry.


Onto the bus and away. Quite comfy, but we did tend to slide off the seats. I was very glad when the infernal Indian gangster movie finished. 







Said goodbye to Tamana at her stop, which was some way out of Bombay. She was taking a tonga to her aunt's place. 


I continued on to BOMBAY.


The bus stopped at some place called Borivali, which was a surprise - though I suppose it shouldn't have been. I had specifically asked for Central, and they'd written a big C on my bag, but I guess they couldn't really be bothered. Bloody halfwits.


Luckily, I got to a local train by walking along some  tracks that I saw from the road until I came to a station (that's how I know where they dropped me.) From there I could get to Churchgate, which is pretty good. But that local train was a real eye-opener! What a mad scramble to get on and off. And so insanely packed. I've never experienced anything like it. I eventually worked my way into the middle out of the doorway, and some guy actually gave me a seat. What a marvellous gesture, I thought. And I'd just been cursing the entire population as barbarians. It turns out he is a chef at the Taj (surely the most famous hotel in India) and we went together to the esplanade by taxi and he even insisted upon paying for it. The most generous random acquaintance yet in India I think.


Map of Bombay

'Mumbai' is another silly nationalist invention. Bombai is Portuguese for Good Harbour, a name that they gave to the place when they set up a colony here. The attempt to make that out to be a corruption of the name of some locally insignificant devi is just pitiful.


Walked to Sea Shore hotel and arranged to share a double sea-room with Hannah, a Korean-kiwi girl from Oz who was desperately seeking a room in the building. It's an unusual arrangement, I suppose, and not one I'd usually volunteer for, but after hanging around for a while with Tamana I realise the value of having someone around that I can talk to, and Hannah seems a friendly sort.
We chatted and snoozed in the afternoon, since we were both tired from our trips in, and then went for a walk about the town - well, about Colaba, anyway. Had a few coffees and drinks and cakes, Chatted to a lady in an antiques shop. All rather pleasant. This part of Bombay seems more user- friendly than I had heard. Probably the best city so far.
For dinner we had a nice grilled fish in a decent restaurant just up the road on the Esplanade. All very satisfactory.


From my hotel in Bombay

That's the Gateway to India in the background









Woke up pretty early with the sun streaming in. Hannah looked pretty grumpy as she woke up: not a natural morning person, I guess.

We went off to Elephanta at 1, which involved a bit of a wait, since we'd got to the Gateway to India at an optimistic and enthusiastic 11:15 am and there was no boat until 12:30 and that boat was then delayed by naval exercises. There was, of course, pointless pushing and shoving at the gangplank of the boat preparing to board, when it suddenly left and moved to gate 2. Then the pushing and shoving turned into a stampede and a clumping at the other gate and eventually another stampede onto the boat. The ride itself was, however, quite pleasant.

Walked about the caves for a while but I don't think they are really anything special. I was hoping that Hannah wasn't too bored by it, but she didn't seem to be, or at least she didn't say anything about it. I took a lot of photos, but since they were all in dark caves, none of them really came out.


The Gateway to India

 To the left is the Taj International hotel. Built by an Indian entrepreneur to cater for wealthy Indians who were not able to use the same excellent hotels as the British.



The ferry arrives at the long quay in the north and it's a longish walk along it - unless you take the toy train. The steps to the great cave are lined with hawkers and peddlers and tourist trinket kiosks.


At Elephanta

 In the Great Cave


When we returned, we rested in the room for a bit, and after that at 8 pm we really couldn't face an excursion to Chowpatti Beach, which is supposedly the main party scene, so we just went back to the Sea Palace again for dinner. Then we sat on the sea wall overlooking the cityscape of Bombay until two officious tourist police wallahs asked us not to do that because it was too dangerous. Well, fiddle-de-dee, I reckon.







Sorted out the bill amicably with Hannah. She'll be staying on and her overseas trip is going to last another six months. She gave me an affectionate send off and I do hope that well be able to keep in touch. She was a really nice girl.

I leave as I began in India, with the taxi-driver trying to rip me off.