Friday, May 10, 2019

May 6 to 9th, 2019,  Tour of Cochin, Jaipur, Taj Mahal, Delhi, Mumbai, 115,6,7,8 / 183

 We cruised into Cochin with a certain amount of trepidation, thinking about insects, disease, poor food and general chaos.  Our concerns were is short-lived as we  begin to experience India. The first order of business was a tour of Cochin with a visit to a Chinese fishing system using cantilever nets which was developed in the 1350s.  No longer very effective as offshore fishing factories are stripping the oceans of fish before they can return to local rivers. Next was a visit to the church of Saint Francis, the first church built in India, followed by a visit to a Jewish synagogue, the only one left in Cochin, which has just three members left.

 Our group of eight then proceeded to the airport for a direct flight to Jaipur for a stay at the Marriott Trident hotel. Jaipur is a normal city, modern appearing and actually quite clean.

On May 7 our first stop was at the Amber Fort (Amir) built in the 16th century by one of the mogul kings as his residence.  This massive residence was built solely to house the king, 1500 troops and his 500 person harem. This harem consisted of 12 wives and all their support workers.  The fort where the soldiers lived is higher up, as can be seen in the photographs. There was a secret tunnel  connecting this fort and his palace which is about 12 feet by 10 feet, big enough to handle two horses a breast.  By the way, the perception that the king had access to all these women is a fallacy because there’s no way his wives would allow their servants to have a relationship with their husband.  Sorry boys, but he was limited to only 12 wives!

Over the centuries, these various kingdoms were expanded as the rulers made deals with neighboring kingdoms, usually by inter marrying and developing stronger relationships. As they got bigger they had more access to larger armies and more wealth.

This is where we rode the elephant ride up a long ramp to the Fort. then toured the Fort.  Our elephant Sophi definitely recognized her name, as she signalled with her ears and head.  Beautiful stone work, extremely lavish finishing, originally with gold and jewels.  See photos.

Next was a picturesque drive to Agra to the Agra Fort, another massive personal residence of a Mogul King, built around 1565.  We got our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal here.  These kings called themselves Moguls even though they were Mongolians, because of the negative connotation associated with Kublai Khan and Genghis Khan. See photos

Our hotel was the ITC Mughal, Agra.

May 8:  Up at 4:00 AM in preparation for our per-dawn trip to the Taj, so we can observe sunrise
              create a changing panorama of the tomb.  Shah Jahan built the Taj after his wife died, to satisfy a promise he made to keep her memory alive for her children. They were married for 19 years, and she died just after giving birth to their 17th child. He employed numerous architects and engineers from afar, to accomplish this 22 year long task.

We saw only one mosquito, (Drew blood from a friend) so the malaria meds went into the waste, as our livers clapped and cheered!

Next, we drove 3 hours to Delhi, on a modern 6 lane freeway.  Guess what?  Once again, we are amazed by the economic development happening.  I lost count of the new apartment buildings under construction after reaching 200 during the last 20 miles into the city.  Keep in mind these are not speculative projects, as individual investors are shouldering the financing.  India too is still booming.
Now here we see truly chaotic traffic.  Most cars sport dozens of scraps and scratches because driving by 'feel' is the norm.

We took a rickshaw ride through the bedlam of old Delhi back streets, with its organized chaos. Any and everything you would ever want to buy was displayed in groups of similar merchandise.

Dehlia is the fastest growing city in the world.  India's GNP has grown at least 6% per year over the past 16 years, after their economy was opened to FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), starting in 1991.  Singapore and Mauritius are the largest sources of investments.

Attended Gandhi's last residence and the site where he was assassinated, on Jan 30, 1948, just four months after India's independence.  (See footprint photos)  Three Hindu extremists disguised themselves as Muslims in an attempt to turn the population against Muslims, but the killers were immediately overpowered and their treachery exposed.

Hotel was Le Meridian, Delhi.  5 star, great food.

May 9:  Transfer to airport for flight to Mumbai.  Very relaxing having a local person (Our guide
               Shaw) quickly escort us through the maze.  Half of our group of 8 decided they wanted to go directly to the ship in Delhi, so Joyce, Craig, Merrilynne and I had the bus to ourselves for the  Mumbai tour.  I was sure this city would be less vibrant, but lone behold, there were the array of building cranes working to 'keep up with the housing demand'.  Amazing to see the world famous outdoor laundry with clothing being wash in questionable facilities. Extreme poverty of the hovels contrasted by the luxurious new buildings provides another startling panorama.

Lunch Box Service Story:  The train systems are so crowded that people cannot carry a lunch to work. (If you raise your arm, it is difficult to put is back down)  Industrious people have developed a lunch delivery service whereby 200,000 lunches are delivered to offices each day from the workers homes using the train system after the rush.  Accuracy rate is almost 100%, with maybe one lost per day.

Delhi is known as the greenest capital city in the world, which is believable.  Lush vegetation abounds with beautiful parks and green spaces.  Generally very little trash is evident, except on the slums.  Note the contrast between the towers and the slums in photos.

Third world, right?  Well, many of the highway pedestrian crossovers have escalators to the walkways!

Caste system is still very much in effect here.  Just a few months ago, a couple were nearly beaten to death for walking on a road used by a higher caste.  Also, if an untouchable worker happens to brush a higher caste member, he may and can be beaten to death: the person touched will burn his clothes and go through a purification process.  Outrageous but true.   I suspect this may be the next catalyst
for extremism as anger and frustration builds in these downtrodden people.  My blood boiled listening to this nonsense!

Our 4-day land tour, booked through Cruise Connections, and conducted by Muzaffar Shaw, Explore India, was excellent.  Many people took the Oceania tour with significantly less satisfaction.

Scene as we cruise into Cochin

Tour of Cochin

Pride of ownership

Sacred cows have the right-of-way over everyone and all traffic

Crazy fool in the center of highway.

Chinese fishing systems, originally designed around 1350


Visit to Amber Fort, Elephant ride

See the elephant climbing the ramp in the background

On our way up to the Amber Fort and Palace

Only purpose for this garden was to please the King from this vantage point.

Millions of mirrors set into the mortar throughout the palace

Intricate inlaid work.  Originally covered in gold leaf to enhance lighting in the rooms.  Gold was scraped off by an invading King.


Entrance to the Agra Old Fort - Function was to house and protect a Mugal King and his entourage!  They were built almost as frequently as modern apartment towers.

Just for fun

Intricate craftsmanship

Our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, from the Old Fort

Examples of brick kilns seen by the dozen, on the drive from Agra.  100' natural draft chimneys

Beautiful gardens in the area of Fort

ITC Mugahal Hotel, Agra.  

Excellent buffet, no worries!

Taj Mahal

Entrance gate to the Taj

Mosque beside the Taj Mahal

Another view of the gate.

Reason we came!  To give some perspective, the metal spire on top of the main dome is 30 feet tall.

Rickshaw ride in Delhi Through Street Bazaar 

Lunch on way to Delhi

Example of a marble screen used extensively as windows in castles and palaces.  Two inch thick marble is perforated by what must have been a tedious process.  Imagine if you were on the last one and it shattered.

Gandhi's last steps, Jan. 30, 1948

Location of shooting

Honey bees outside hotel window

Le  Meridian Hotel, Delhi

View looking down from the 20th floor, inside balconies, Le Meridian Hotel.

Example of a dented road warrior in Dehlia

Trip to Delhi Airport -  Bedlam

Boarding in Delhi -  Note the soldier, ( Only see helmet) behind the bullet proof cage with a machine gun.

Mumbai skyline

Contract - Housing in Mumbai

Old versus new, with development in background!

World famous Outdoor Laundry, even lower level hotels have laundry done here.

Typical market in Mumbai

British administration building

Arch build to commemorate Empress Queen Mary visit in 1911

Shaw dropping us off at the ship - Craig, Joyce, Merrilynne and Howard.  Steve, Barbara and the other two fools got sick and went home early! 

Departing Mumbai

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