|A window in Tom's universe.
This is more than a website of photos, it is a place to
share photos, adventures, stories, opinions, and
Tom Ballard Photography
For my friends and family who wish to follow along, I am sitting up this page to help you do
just that.. I have tried this model for tracking before, it seemed to work, so I am continuing
to use it...
If everything works according to my plan, the following steps should let you share the trip
There are actually two parts to following me as I travel.. One is to watch my location via a
tracking map. To view the tracking map with my location, use the link below, "Travel
2015".... !!! Second is via my itinerary, which will be shared on this page.
1. While traveling, I will be carrying a SPOT satellite reciever/transmitter which will collect
GPS signals, calculate my position , then share my position on a web page, via the SPOT
network. For the techies in the group, the website for SPOT is www.findmespot.com.
2. I am sharing the daily itinerary that was provided to me by my travel company,
www.smartours.com . This is my 9th trip with this company. First trip was to China and it
was great, except for the guide and the food issues!.. I decided to try some more. Not all
have been as good as the China trip, but for what I get for my money, I keep going. The
worst of these trips has been some bad guides, and difficulty finding food!!!! But, the good
is the package deal. I get air from the USA, I get hotels, and I get ground transportation..
As long as I can get these, I can just turn my head on the other stuff.. Half of guides have
been good, the other half were just horrible.. Not consistent either way!!! FOOD!!! Too
many times, for lunch and dinner, the company just turns you loose and says go find
something to eat!!! In the USA, that might be OK, but not in places where they do not speak
English.... Breakfast has always been provided as a buffet meal, included with the hotel
room. This is pretty much the standard for hotels around the world. And, most of these
buffets are good!!! So, if you can get by on one good meal a day, you will survive!! I still
carry food bars with me, just in case!!! I have had to use them on several occasions!!! And
experience means I carry toilet paper with me!!!.. But in Turkey, LOTS of BIDETS!!! I loved
Turkey!!!! Bidet Toilets in every hotel.... Awesome!!!
To view the information I used to select this trip, check the Smartours link for this trip at:
Select "Itinerary" to see the advertised version of the itinerary..
3. By checking the Smartours map and looking at the itinerary, provided below, you should
have a fair idea of what I am doing at any given time.
4. I am not sure how the map will show the date and the time while I am gone, so, a quick
search of the internet will bring you up to date...
For a map of my last seven days of travel, click this link: Travel 2016
Note: This trip officially starts and ends in New York City
Note... I will have limited ability to share images from the trip as it happens, but I plan to do
my usual trip report when I get back, so, watch for that later!!! .....
Note: The map will only
share the most current
seven days of information.
After a point has been on
the map for seven days, it
is then deleted.
You may have to adjust
the ZOOM to view the
map. Use the slider on the
left side to do this..
To check the date, time,
and GPS coords, for any
given MARKER on the
map, click on the little
balloon at the point, or
click the little "+" sign to
the left of the point, in the
list, called messages.
Also, in the message list,
you can click on the little
orange ball, and the
system will take you to
that MARKER, on the
Remember Mark Twain's Quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-
mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad,
wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating
in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
This site is BEST viewed in GOOGLE CHROME!!!!
If the map does not work well for you, or any other issues crop up that you need help with, please
contact me at email@example.com. I should have email service while traveling!
The shared images for this adventure will be at the bottom of this page,
when they are ready, after the trip...
March 2016! Time for another adventure!
My next adventure starts on March 6, and officially ends on March 21, 2016. The trip officially
starts on March 7, when I get on the flight from New York City, headed to India. To catch that
flight, which leaves around 2 PM, I have to get to NYC a day early, stay over night and then get to
the airport some 4 hours before the India flight leaves. Four hours seems like a lot of lead time, but
I have found that even four hours can sometimes seem a bit tight, depending on how things go..
Seems to depend on the airline!!! Some are way better than others.
There isn't anything special I can say about this trip, except that I am super excited to do it, and I
am in a bit of a rush to get this page set up and published so I can share the itinerary, etc... This
has been a very busy year, for some reason.. And, I suppose it has been for most all people I
know, going on what they have told me!!! But, the plan for this trip is much the same as for the
I put this info here for family and friends, so they can share the trip with me, if they have the time or
interest!!! Below is the basic info, as before. This time I did not do the ESTIMATE for the cost of
the trip, BUT I have found that the total and final cost of all my trips has ended up being TWICE the
advertised price. The advertised price is just the starting price. Throw in the single supplement,
insurance, tours, extra meals, domestic travel and lodging, and the price is doubled! More on that
Gotta run! See trip info below!
More from the road for those on my email list. Could not get my blog to work with android.
The total cost of these
trips are almost always
DOUBLE the advertised
The advertised price
does not include
expenses, tours, tips,
My expected final cost of
this trip will be
near 8000 dollars. The
EXTRAS add up fast!!!!!
March 26, 2016...
The adventure is now complete and I have returned home, as of March 21!!! But, I came home
sick!! Very sick by my standards.. India and Nepal are the two most dirty, dusty, nasty, filthy,
polluted places I have ever visited on one of my adventures!!!!! Never seen anything like it...!!!!!!!!
Started getting sick the second week there. By the time I got home, I was in trouble. Was
coughing really bad and could barely breathe. At 0200 on the morning of the 23, I gave up and
went to the emergency room at my local hospital.. They were not sure what was going on, but
suggested it was a viral respiratory infection.. Not much to do but wait.. Could take about two
weeks to get better!!!! Of the 16 people on the trip, I think 12 or 13 ended up sick.. Some were
much worse than the others.. How the others avoided being sick is beyond me... Probably just
pure luck!!! Some people on our trip had extension plans, and are probably doing those plans as I
write this note... Two went to Bangkok to get well, one flew on to Turkey for a week of touring. I
think the balance of us came home to recover!!!!!!!!!
Historical info below left on this page for reference material....
Photos from the trip will be shared here as they are processed and released for viewing!!!
March 08, 2016... Arrival in India.. Note to Family and Friends:
I made it! 13.5 hours of flying! Am very tired! The good part is that the plane had a lot of empty
seats! So many of us, including me, got a three seat section to ourself! I did not sleep much, but
being able to lay down really helped! I am in an awesome hotel, but am too tired to appreciate it!
Think I will go to bed, then later decide what to do. It is now 5:15 PM. The plane arrived at 2:30 PM.
Supposed to be 16 in our group, if they all show up. The nasty stuff going on over this way has really
hit the tourist business hard! We will have a big bus, but on 16 people! They have to have 15 people
just to run a trip! We barely made it!
Here is an interesting point, people often ask me if I ever see people from past trips, when I go on
these adventures, and the answer has always been no, until last night. In NYC, as I we were lining
up to get on the plane, I saw two ladies that looked familiar! Went over to see if I really did know
them. Before I could say a word, they started hollering HI TOM! Yelp, I knew these two ladies. As a
matter of fact, I had sit with them from some 16 nights on my first TransAtlantic Cruise, from Rome
to Galveston, TX! Actually, one of them is from St Louis, the other is her cousin from Chicago. I had
actually seen them earlier yesterday as they went through security, but I was not sure if I was
correct about who they were, so I guessed I really did not know them, but, later, I realized I had
spend a lot of time with them! That was in November of 2012.
There are supposed to be 16 travelers on this trip, but so far only 9 or so have arrived. The
others should be here soon!
OK, time to get some rest! But, lets see if I can find some images to send along with this
March 15, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
Greetings again from India! One thing about India, time travels fast! In fact it travels so fast I can hardly keep
up with everything. Which is the reason I only do tours! Our guide, Bonita, walks on water as far as I am
concerned! When we first started this adventure, I had my doubts about her, but the further we go, the more
valuable she gets. She has been here long enough, and knows enough people, to make almost anything
happen, when she wants it to happen! This place is a jungle, and if you do not have someone like her taking
care of you, I think you are in trouble! At least I would be. So, tours is the way to go for me. When I do the
big story, assuming I find the time, I will tell you more.
OK, from my mental notes, I can tell you that this was another temple day, topped off with a great dance
show, and candle light dinner, though the candlelight dinner was not supposed to happen, as such. So, how
did it all happen. It started with the usual hotel breakfast, then off to the bus and gone at 0915! It would seem
we were to go to a temple complex of some sort. In my mind it is like all the other old ruins from the temple
building days.. They are in Rome, Greece, Central America, Egypt, Angkor Wat, and the list goes on. Seems
to me there was an invasion of temple builders who arrived there, in the warm areas of the world, from
another universe, built all these places as practice for something bigger, then left to go build something really
cool. And, I am 100 percent sure NASA agrees with me, because they keeping trying to go further out into
space looking for the people that were here, left, and are building the really good stuff somewhere else. How
do I know all this, because if the locals had built it, they would have taken care of it, but these places were
not taken care of and fell into ruin not long after they were built. So, to me this proves they were not built by
people from our earth. Prove me wrong and I will send you a birthday card! Also, the temple builders did not
like to work in the cold! I have noticed they only worked in places where it is warm year around. So, to me,
this proves that paradise, where these builders have gone to, is always warm. But, then I have other theories
as well. One of them is the sand castle theory. I think young kids from another world were brought here to
build these things for fun, just like our kids do sand castles. Maybe there were even prizes for the kids that
built the neatest temple complex, etc. But, to be honest, who cares, they are neat to look at, and they are
good for the tourist business, etc.
About today. Our little gang was given a new day guide, who took us through the maze of street merchants,
called FRIENDS, here. Got us into the temple complex, give us a history talk, then gave us free time to
wonder and take photos. Then he took us to get a blessing of some kind. The best part was on the way
there. I thought we had stopped to see a mercy killing or a sacrifice to the gods! In front of the temple was
ladies holding a young baby on the ground, and a man was washing its head. When the washing stopped the
man picked up a straight razor and started to do his thing on the kid. I started shooting, knowing I was going
to see blood and a dead baby in a few minutes. Probably going to completely remove its head. Then what!
But, about the time the head was to be removed, our guide stepped in and started to explain things in English.
As it turned out, the baby was not going to die, even though it must have thought so, given the amount of
screaming it was doing! Holding the baby was the baby's grandmother! Behind her was her daughter, and
behind her was her daughter, and behind her was the baby's mother! Four generations of females here in
front of us. The baby was a female, and today they had gathered for one of their religious ceremonies! The
kid was now one year old and was to get its first haircut! But it was more than a haircut, it was a head
shaving! This poor kid was going to get its head shaved by a professional barber! Of course, WE had to
watch! AMAZING! Due to our need to go to the next temple, we only stayed and watched the initial part of the
hair being removed, then we were gone. The head shaving would be completed without our help! There were
a lot of little kids around the temple with shaved heads, so I guess this was the official Shaved Head Day, or
Leaving the Head Shavers to their fun, we moved on. Not far away was a temple where we could be a
blessing for a few coins! We all lined up, rang the bell, put our money in the pan, and stuck out our arm. The
blessing man put a spot on our forehead, and tied a cloth string around out wrists. The women got the string
on their left arm, the men got the string on the right arm. It supposed to remain there until it falls off from wear
and tear, or something like that! Just my luck it will be made our of something that never rots and I will be
wearing this thing forever! But, no matter, it looks really good on me! So.
From the temple hop, we were bussed to another factory for more shopping! Actually, refreshments were set
out for our pleasure. Some of us took to the refreshments as a way to pass the time, others got right into the
shopping. When the refreshments were gone and the money was gone, we headed back to the bus! On the
bus our grand leader announced she had a dance show we could attend this evening if we would like. The
price was 15 USA dollars! For 15 dollars, the bus would take us to the show place, wait for us while we
watched the one hour show, then take us to a restaurant she recommended! And, many of us took the offer,
and it turned out to be great fun. The dancers did a great job, and the food at the restaurant was great, but.
On the walk to restaurant, we passed some trees that had bird poop all over the ground underneath. That got
our attention! The local who walked to dinner with us, told us to look up. We did! And what did we see,
nothing but tree limbs with green leaves, just like all other trees. But, then we were told to look closer, and we
did! I even used a flash to test what we were told next! The leaves were not leaves, but thousands of
parakeets, roosting in the trees! All of them GREEN. So many green parakeets that it looked like the trees
were covered in green leaves! Never seen such a thing before in my life!
We climbed a spiral, outside, staircase to get to our restaurant, and got seated! Got our order in, and set
back to relax with our refreshments! Our food arrived. Our food was good. Then, all the lights in this area of
town went out. We were sitting there in the dark, with food in front of us!! Did this stop us from eating, nope!
People just kept talking and eating as if nothing had happened! Then, there was light! Ed pulled out his
cellphone, turned on the cellphone light, held it high with one hand and ate with his free hand! Life was good!
The eating continued! NO PROBLEM! Then, there was romance! Well, sort of! Lighted candles were
delivered to our tables, which made for a really neat experience! We finished our meals, finished our
refreshments, and was starting to pay, when the electricity came back one! Yeah! Then, we headed out.. The
plan was for us to do rickshaws back to the hotel, but the power outage had screwed up our plans, and our
helper called a mini bus thing to pick us all up and deliver us back to the hotel, some three minutes away! Was
a fun day!
Now, for tomorrow, a FEW of us signed on to go on a safari in the morning! Have to be in the lobby at 0600! I
will have to sleep fast as it is near 0100 now! But, after the temple hop and shopping event, today, I took a
nap, so I am good to go! I grabbed some memory images of this day, and have attached them to this little
note! I will say, just in case you might need to know, the people here are not as up tight about sex as
Americans are. On the sides of the temples are a lot of carving that have a sex theme to them. For those who
are not offended, take a look at the FEW samples I am sharing, later I will share a larger collection. For those
who are sensitive to anything that has a hint of sex attached to it, skip the images, or just breeze past them.
OK, I think that is it. Time to get some rest!
March 17... Note to Family and Friends:
Trip Trackers, Happy St Pat's Day to ya, if you are still celebrating such a thing back home! That was
yesterday to us here. This morning I am in Nepal. Got in here at midnight last night, got a little sleep, and will
leave on our first tour here in a few minutes, which be will 10 AM local time. Yesterday was a long, but short.
Hello again! I started my message this morning, then something happened and I ran out of time! So, here I am
back at 7:32 PM, on the 18th, local time! So we celebrated St Pats Day by being on the run, and running fast!
This has been a very fast paced and full adventure!
I already have the images to share picked out and attached to this message, so let me say a little about the
day, then I will send this, and start on the one for today! I have a little extra time this evening as I did not go to
dinner. Our guide stopped and got oranges this afternoon for all of us to try, but I saved mine till I got here,
plus, I had a food bar, etc.
OK, here is the deal on the 17th, they had us up early and gone long before daylight! Since the traffic was lite
at this time of day, our bus got within walking distance of the Ganges River. Once dropped off, we beat feet
down to the river front where the prayer action takes place, and we watched the sun come up, while also
watching the priests do their ceremony thing! Was a lot more smoke and bell ringing! I do not know how they
can stand it, but people here seem to love it. It drove me nuts! And during the course of these visits to the
smokes, etc, I ending up with a bad cough that I cannot shake! But, everything in that town is dirty, dusty,
and ? Makes for hard breathing!
The one thing that was really cool, and was the reason for going to the river this morning, was to watch the
sun come up! We did and it was awesome.. With all the smog and smoke in the air, it makes for great sunrise
photos! Never mind the fact that you cannot breath, it makes for good photography! With the sunrise action out
of the way, we loaded in a boat to do a short tour up the river and back.
We were very lucky to have a great day guide last night and then again on this morning. Most of day guides
are useless, but this one was good. His name was Gene and he arranged the boat ride for us!!! Was big
enough to hold our group, plus our guide and two paddlers. I guess we probably looked like Noah's Ark going
up the river! Maybe we just looked like the refugees we see on TV. But, whatever, we did the boat ride, and
our guide told us what we were looking at. We saw religious people taking baths, we saw people washing
clothes, and we saw the cremation fire where a body was being burned. Looked like the person in the fire was
about half gone! Takes some 4 hours to burn a body.. Once it is cooked down to the least amount of material,
the Chief Mourner for the family comes down, cracks the skull wide open, so that mean people cannot get the
skull and use it for black magic, or something like that! We did not get to stay for that, but we did learn they
burn 24/7 here, and burn about 250 bodies per day! And, this is only one area where this is done! Later I will
show you more! We left the people to their work and we headed back towards our starting point! Was not long
until Gene had the hired help to start lighting the candle baskets we had on our boat! Once all were lighted, we
took the usual tourist photos, we said a person prayer for the basket, then set it afloat! Was fun! Even got
photos of me with my hand in the Ganges River! My hand will probably rot off now, but! After the body is
finished burning, and the skull is properly busted open, all the ashes of the body and the fire are dumped into
the river! But, that was not the strange part! What we learned next caught me off guard. They do not burn
diseased bodies! They do not want the disease to go up into the air! So, what to do! Solution! Wrap the body
in cloth, tie rocks to it, take it to the middle of the river, dump it in! Problem solved! BUT, if one of the bodies
should float to the surface, and drifts to the bank, it is just pushed back into the river and left to drift away!
Nothing like taking your morning holy bath, and bump into a floating body!
After the boat ride was over, we did a rickshaw ride back to the bus, then bussed to the hotel, where we ate
breakfast and set our bags out for pickup, as we are on the move the rest of this day! At noon, we go to the
airport, get though the complications there, and finally get on a plane. The issue this time is that I have to give
up my carry on, and let them take it. BIG MISTAKE, and the reason I try to travel lite and use a carry on, but
in these strange countries, things can not go well. We fly to New Delhi, go though the security stuff again, use
our free time to get some food, and what would it be! Yes, McDonalds! They were serving meal type snacks
on the plane, but many of us were not eating them as they are tooooo strong for our tastes! So, McDonalds is
the answer, and, it was pretty darn good! Just like home, except that since they do not eat beef here, it had to
be chicken! I liked it! At some late hour of the evening, we boarded our last flight and arrived at Kathmandu
around midnight. When we gathered up our bags, I checked mine, it has been damaged badly! The nuts at the
airport had snagged one of the straps on something and ripped it 99 percent of the way off. I had tightened it
really tight before turning it in, but it would seem them opened it. And did not put the straps back correctly. I
grabbed our leaders attention and asked about getting the bag replaced or repaired by the nuts that used it for
a log chain. She did not think anything could be done, but she would write a report. Now to see if she does
that! I certainly hope so, and I hope my insurance covers the replacement! So far I have paid my travel
company 1350 dollars in insurance fees! I think they can afford a 100 bag! If not, it will come out of someone's
tips! Someone is going to pay for it!
When I started unpacking my bag, the liquids bag had a lot of liquids floating around in it! That is not
supposed to happen! All my bottles are Nalgene, and are not easy to open, but, one was! Someone had
opened it and then not closed it! NOT GOOD! Not making a friend out of me doing crap like that! But Life
moves on! OK, as I recall it was near 0200 by the time I got to bed, so the 17th was a long day, almost 24
hours long! Up at 0400, back to bed at 0200! Go figure! I did sleep in until 0730, so. Time to stop this
message, check it, do the laundry, work on the next report, then get some sleep. We are supposed to fly past
Mt Everest on the 19th, tomorrow, if the weather is good, just after daylight! So, stay tuned!
March 16, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
Greetings from Varanasi, India!! It is now about 10 AM, and I am in the holding pattern, waiting for the
clock to run out so that we can leave here and make our way to Nepal. As I understand it, we have two
flights this afternoon, to get there.. More on that later!
I did not get out a little road report yesterday, the 16th, as I was just too sick to deal with it, but am
doing much better now. The last 48 hours or so has just been hell for some of us. For some, the issues
started a couple days ago, for me it started yesterday morning! I think I had been coming down with
something, but it had not gotten the best of me until yesterday when we did the safari thing, which
turned out to be a joke, but the joke cost us 50 dollars. Three of us, my two St Louis friends and I,
were the only ones to sign up for the safari trip to a national park, where tigers were known to exist.
They did say that we would be very lucky if we saw one, but it could happen. So, we went. We did not
see a tiger. I did see a model of one at the NP office, but that was about it. Here is how the trip went
down. The three of us were picked up at the hotel at 0600. We loaded into a jeep driven by a fellow
who would be our driver for the whole adventure. Things started pretty good, and on a smooth paved
road, but here shortly turned into a bucking bouncing ride! That lasted about one half hour, plus it was
on a dirt road and super dusty! At the park, we had to sign in and pick up our park expert, who rode
with us! Then into the park we went. Right off the bat, looked like things were not going to go well.. The
park was super dry and dusty, and the roads were super ruff! But, we stopped along the way to see a
few monkeys, then some deer and some boars, and more monkeys, etc, etc. But nothing of any value.
Mostly it was just a dirty jeep ride out in the country, billed as a tiger hunt. And, at the hotel, we were
given box breakfasts to eat at some lookout. We never found the lookout, and finally at 0900 I asked
the driver if we could take a breakfast break and eat our food. He just stopped in the middle of the road
and said, sure, eat! What was in the box was terrible by my standards. I did eat the banana, and gave
the rest of the crap to the driver and the guide. I expected there would be a picnic table or something
for us to sit at in the park, but not, sat in the jeep seat and tried to handle the box and junk in it. It was
after this that I started getting sick. The bouncing, the heat, the dust, it all finally got to me. The ride
back to the hotel was hard! By the time we got back to the hotel, Judy and I were absolutely sick!
Marilyn seemed to do okay! Once back, I came in and went to bed! I had to have some relief! And, this
is when I had to start staying very close to a bathroom! Made for a long day!
At a preset time, we had to have our bags out, ready for pickup. We would be flying this afternoon! We
went to the new airport in Khajurano, went though their rather odd security process, and got ready to
fly! This was the first time I had to empty everything out of my travel jacket. It is full of stuff, so the
process took awhile, but in the end, it passed inspection. Also, for this flight, there were very strict limits
on weight! This too caused some issues, as people were rushing around shifting weight from one place
to the other, to meet the requirements, without having to pay extra!
Speaking of the events at the airport, some of us kept looking all over for the gate that we were
supposed to use. We knew what time we were to leave, and we saw people lining up at a gate near us,
but there was no number on our boarding pass, and we could not find anything to help! At last, I found
a security person and asked them about the gate issue! He laughed. Then said, there is only one gate
and only one flight this afternoon! So, we got in line to the mystery plane and loaded on! After about 45
minutes of flying, we were in Varanasi, boarded a new bus and was taken to our hotel, where I am
sitting now. On the bus we were told that we would be going to the Ganges River this night to see the
praying and other oddities going on in town tonight. But, I was not sure I would make it. I used all the
meds in my travel kit, nearly, and went to bed. When the alarm went off, I was a bit better and chose to
join the rest of the team for the night run to town! Which is not something a person should do when
they are sick, but I did and I managed, but was not fun! For some people, I think the exposure to the
events downtown was quite entertaining, but not for me. There were millions of people in town, on the
streets and gathered around the waterfront where the praying would take place. Between trying not to
step in cow poop, not be pick-pocketed, trying to avoid the thousands of beggars and sellers, plus the
horns, just about got to me. The real killer was the ringing bells! When we got to the waterfront, we
were given 30 minutes to wander around. I did not wander anywhere. I just found a fairly safe place to
view the praying, then stayed there until it was time to leave!
Here is a note about the trip downtown last night. The local guide, named Gene, I think, did a wonderful
job for us! First of all he hired about four deaf boys to come along with us, and help keep us together!
And, they kept us out of the cow piles on streets! They did not keep the beggars and sellers away, but
they were super valuable in just the fact that they kept us together! In a group of people that number in
the thousands, walking fast, side by side, it is easy to get separated from your group, and maybe never
to be seen again! Also, in getting to the Ganges River, for the praying event, the bus could only go so
far. At that point, we were put in rickshaws for the rest of the trip. This was for the coming in and going
out both! Worked really well! But, while at the river, we watched the praying ceremony, which consisted
of a lot of smoke and 30 minutes of continuous bell ringing, Then on the way back, the horns from the
scooters and the cars were blowing all the time! By the time I returned to the hotel, I was wasted. I
rinsed off, and went to bed! I had endured enough for one day, maybe two!
OK, I think that is enough for the 16th. It is now the 17th, and we have been up and going since before
the sun came up! I could tell you more about the 16th, but it would be just filler details. So, I will stop
here, check the share photos, etc, and send this out! Some new people have joined to the readers list
since this trip started, so WELCOME to the new Trip Trackers!
This morning we watched the sun come up on the Ganges River, and saw people there burning a body!
Got lots of photos, so watch for those soon.
March 18, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
Greetings again from Kathmandu, Nepal. We actually did some tourist activities here today! From the
previous email you might remember we did not get to this hotel until after midnight, and with all the odds
and ends that have to be taken care of, it was near 0200 this morning when I got to bed, but, we did not
have to be on the bus until 10 AM! So, I got to sleep in until 0730. Did the morning usuals, got to breakfast
after 0800, ate, got my stuff together and was on the bus well before 10!
Right up front, there are a few things to share. One is that the new day guide that was assigned to us last
night is useless. He can barely speak English, and breath smells like a dead animal. Most of us can only
understand about 1 in 47 words he says! The other 46 are lost to the gods, or something. By comparison, I
met some kids that said they were 9-12 years old that could speak great English! And, on our walk later in
the day, I met a home owner that spoke good English! So, I have to wonder were the heck does our travel
company come up with these losers! Must have checked them out of a ward somewhere! Probably have to
have them back in 72 hours! Second is that today, we had our second loser optional tour! That is now 2 for
2! First one cost 50 dollars, and was horrible. This one today was 30 dollars and was just about as exciting
as walking around the block where you live! What is spooky is that a bunch of us have signed on, and paid
for, a plane flight, that will take us by Mount Everest. The plane is a prop job and is not rated
for elevations high enough to see down on Everest! Hopefully our third optional tour will be a winner! To find
out, we had to pay, this evening, 229 dollars for a one hour fly-by! Better be a damn good fly-by for 229
OK, the images for this day have been selected and attached, and here is what you will see if you find time
to look at them. First, there is breakfast!!! Not too good here, but should get us by!!! Second, we got on the
bus at 10 AM, and headed over to a heritage site that I think is being rebuilt after the famous quake here..
Like I say, I cannot understand the day guy, so I am short on info here! But, I do have photos of the area..
Next, we bus over to another place, along a nasty little creek, where they burn bodies! Looked to me like
they had burning platforms enough to have about 26 fires going at once! But, on this day, only one! In fact,
just as we arrived, the body that had just finished being burned, was being swept off into the creek. A few
feet away was two more bodies, wrapped in white cloth, and waiting to be cremated! We did not have time
to see them start the fire on one of the next customers! Maybe later!
From this location, we bussed over to a place where we could see some of the real damage done by the
quake! Looked like it had messed up things pretty good, but not as bad as I had imagined. At one point, a
12 year old body came to visit me and find out where I was from, etc. I asked him about the quake. He said
his family was not hurt, nor did he know anyone who was hurt seriously. There was small damage to his
home, but it had been repaired! I toured the area they were sharing with us, then joined some of my people
at a third floor, open air cafe, for lunch. I had chicken noodle soup and a brew, which cost, with tip, 10 USA
dollars! Was good!
Shortly after lunch, our group went back to the bus, at which point, some people did not want to do the
optional tour. Smart move on their part! The bus took us paying customers to a parking lot, let us out, and
walked up a paved road past a few buildings. Some were new, as they were building guest houses in the
hills! We reached an overlook. We over-looked, and started back to the bus. USELESS trip! What the heck
were they thinking! They actually cheated us on this deal. Back at the bus, we drove through heavy traffic
getting home! The plane riders paid for their ride tomorrow, got their instructions, and turned in for the night!
We are supposed to be ready to bus out of here at 0545, if the flying people say it is a go! If the weather is
too bad to fly, then we try again tomorrow! So.
OK, there you have it. Was a full day of being a tourist! I have limited space for words and photos, so it is
time to close up and ship!!! Hope you continue to follow this adventure. That said, it is about over. I think we
leave here on the 20th and arrive home on the 21st!
March 19, 2016... I could not find a report for this day. Maybe I did not write one. Our
internet was too bad.
March 21, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
Trip Trackers, I made it! After 15 hours of listening to about 4-6 babies cry almost endlessly, I am
finally back in the USA! But, even in the USA there are challenges. I got my bag at JFK, went to the
shuttle desk, paid my 14 dollars to go to Laguardia, got on the shuttle, told the guy that I wanted off at
Southwest. At Laguardia, the driver called out American. People got off. Went to the next stop, called
out United or something! I was the only one left on the bus! I asked the driver if Southwest would be
next! He said no! Southwest was the first place he had stopped! Sadly, he did not mention Southwest!
He had to start his rounds of picking up other people, then he brought me back to Southwest, and set
me free! Communication 101! He will probably ask for the raise at his next evaluation time!
The flight was a non event except for the crying babies! I have never seen one plane with so many
babies, and all of them wanted to cry all night, non-stop crying babies for 15 hours! Never did get used
to it. Did keep the headphones on and the sound cranked up about as loud as I dared! I have to
wonder why soooooo many babies were on this trip! Was something spooky going on? At first, one
mother and her baby were sitting by the window, next to my middle seat. The plane was almost full, but
she asked for a re-seat if there was one where she could have more room. Turns out, the guy behind
her did not have a middle person sitting next to him, and he was willing to trade, so. She moved back
one, the fellow behind her moved up one
Extra note. We were flying on Air India, so most everyone on this flight was Indian! Seeing all the dirt in
India and Nepal, I was thinking that the trash and the filth, and the mess must come only from the poor
people who do not know better! Well, I must be over looking something, but, on the first flight, the one
that took us to India, the seats were dirty and old and worn out! I wondered why they did not at least
clean the seats, even if they were not going to replace them. As we were leaving the plane, I got some
clues about letting the plane stay dirty. The passengers, Indians, had totally trashed the plane. It was
the most trashed out plane I had ever seen. Then, almost the same thing was repeated when we got off
the plane here. As I walked off the plane, I looked it over pretty good, and it was trashed again! I guess
the Indians have no idea what clean is! The plane looked like a mix between a food fight and a war
zone! Go figure! Speaking of food, they fed us every 6 hours, and the food was 100 percent Indian! We
Americans are not cut out for their type of food! It is sooooo strong I do not know how they can eat it,
but, they do! I nibbled on the fruit and bread, then had to pass on the other stuff.
My flight from NYC to STL is today at 3 PM. Once inside the terminal, I went to Southwest check-in and
tried to find an earlier flight, so I would not have to wait about here so long! The nice lady at the counter
told me I already had the best deal going, there was another flight leaving earlier, but it went through
Chicago, and it was OVERsold! She said I best hold on to what I had now! And, I took her advice! So, if
all goes well, I am out of here around 3 PM. Then get to STL around 4:30! This is one time when I am
REALLY looking forward to getting home and away from the places I have been visiting! What was
really cool when I got off the plane here was that I could go to the bathroom with someone standing
there watching me! It happens nearly all the time at airports, but happened every time I went to the
bathroom in New Delhi. These airport people, stand at the restroom entrance and wait for you to go in.
When you do, they follow you and stand guard over you or something! When you go to wash your
hands, they run turn the water on, then hand you a bunch of paper towels! Along with all the other
crazy stuff going on over there, you cannot even go to the bathroom in peace there! Very glad to be
back! Got to go to the men's room without someone watching me! Then wanting money when I leave!
Almost all of us got sick on this trip. Some had bathroom issues, then others, like me had chest
infections, or something from all the dust, dirt, and smoke! After several hours of being back here, my
condition is improving fast. I just do not understand how those people can stand to live in the dust and
dirt! It was about to kill me!
I am told I have about 30 minutes of free wifi here at the airport. If I do, I will send this. If not, it will go
Stay tuned, I am still trying to get home!
March 20, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
This little note will most likely not get to you for a couple of days, as my internet time here at the hotel
has run out, but, not to worry, I will start putting this together, then when I have the proper connection, I
will share with ya! Right now, it is 10:52 AM here in Kathmandu. I, along with the other travelers on this
adventure, am doing our final packing, etc, in prep for leaving! One of the things we have to do is
prepare our tips for the leader of this trip, the local guide, the bus driver, and the driver's assistant! I did
not give the leader as much as was suggested by the tour company, because she let some of us go on
useless trips. First was the god awful safari thing, then later the walk in the village. Charged us 50
dollars for the safari and 30 for the stroll in the hills on a paved road! Both trips were horrible, for the
dollars. I think the bus driver is the only one on this trip that should get a tip! But, I went less than
recommended on the leader for letting us get screwed. I did not give the local guide anything, because
I could not understand what he was saying, so nothing above his paycheck should be given. The driver
did a great job, except that his bus was a rolling junk yard! The brakes screeched so bad, that it drove
us nuts! And, there were no shocks or springs on the bus! Try that sometime on a rough road. And,
here, all roads are rough! As for the bus assistant, I have not a clue what his job was. He sold water,
and he helped us older people on and off the bus! I gave the driver and the assistant the recommended
amounts for tips!
The one optional tour that some 10 of us took, and loved it was the Mount Everest Fly-By. And, it was
a fly-by! We were not even close to the mountain! It was way far away from where our plane was. But,
we got some great views of the mountain range, and even got a glimpse of Everest! Oddly enough the
pilots, two females, let each of come to the cabin area, view the cabin, and see Everest from their point
of view. Was a little extra fun! The flight lasted one hour and cost each of us 229 dollars. Seemed a bit
high but was fun! Got a glass of champagne on the way back! Once back we returned to the hotel for
breakfast, then headed out for more touring. Like most days, touring here means going to see more
temples! Needless to say, most of us are templed out! The bad part about the temples is that
something is always being burned there. The smell and the smoke got to us a long time ago. I could
not have taken another day of smoke, etc. And, the temples have rice and wax all over the place! They
burn candles here and they offer food to the goods, etc. Seems the food offering is always rice! Thank
god for the birds and monkeys at the temples. They eat up most of the edible foods left at these places!
Right now I am at the Nepal airport, waiting to fly to New Delhi, then on to JFK. In the holding area
where we are I have some free internet, but we might be leaving any minute, so let me tell you what in
the photos, then I will see if I can send this from here!
In the photos is our visits for a few temples, our lunch spot for the day, a sewage creek, one of the
many people who sleep on the streets, and some of the horrible India food we were served as our
going away dinner. I think only one person was able to eat it! The food here does not agree with people
OK, think I will stop here, try to send this out, then be ready to fly to New Delhi! Most of are sick from
all the dust and dirt and temple smoke. We have to get home to get our lungs working again! I do not
know how the people here can stand all the dirt, dust, and smoke!
See ya back home! Will try for a wrap up when I am back!
March 14... Note to Family and Friends:
Greetings again from India! Am not sure where I am in India. In fact I have no idea where I am in India, but,
based on the material laying here on the desk, I am in Khajuraho. You can look that up on Google!
It is well past midnight here in our new home for the night, in fact this will be home for the next two nights! And, I
think that will be good, as we have enjoyed our stay so far, even if it has only been a few hours! Got here a little
after 7 PM, ate a buffet dinner, then sat in the social area and visited a bit, then to here!
Since it is late, I do not think there is time for a big story tonight. Actually, there s no bog story to tell, now that I
think about it. I am already use to everyone pooping and peeing wherever they feel like it. In fact I was gonna
suggest that instead of us going to a comfort station with our bus, we should just stop on the side of the road and
do our business there, like the natives. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Maybe the roadside stops for the
bus will start tomorrow! I think we should try it! What the heck, we are here and it is accepted, so! TRY IT!
This was a long day, but a short day, if you can think that is possible. I was up at 0445, ate at 0630, was on the
bus at 0715, an then got on the train at 0800! Our guide knows how to move us fast and easy! Without her and
the people she hires to move things, we would still be in New Delhi, trying to get out of town! But, she is making
things happen and we are getting it done, on time! The train ride was really a non-event. I sat next to one of my
friends from home, and we found more things to chat about than you can imagine! We never stopped talking for
the full 2.5 hours, or so, that we were on the train.
Then, it was time to get off, get on the bus, and start being tourists again! I have sort of forgotten the order of
things, but at one point, we stopped and visited another palace, or two. Then, somewhere along the way we ate
a buffet lunch, which was good! We toured the resort area a bit, looked at some unusual plant things, then, got
back on the road for the four hour drive to here! And, made it we did. Had a good driver!
OK, it is near 1 AM, so I am going to try for a send on this and hope it works better than last night! I have
grabbed a few sample photos from our adventure today, and attached them to this message. If you have time,
check them out. Nothing really wild in these images, but gives a glimpse into our day! Time for me to go!
March 9, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
Good Morning from India!! This little note is coming to you from our new hotel in Jaipur, I think
is the name of the town we are in... Yesterday, March 10, we loaded up and did a long bus ride
from New Delhi to here!!! Got here around 5 PM, I think.. And, here we are, and already, we
have been making our mark on this town!! It all started rather calmly, then moved up from there..
After our night on the town, last night, the 10th, I was too tired to share much of anything, so
this note was put on hold until this morning... And, even now, I am going to be a little short on
time... This morning we go ride elephants!! It is now 0635.. I am up, showered and shaved, etc,
but, still have to go eat and then be on the bus at 0800! There is NO internet service here in the
room, only in the lobby, and even there, it is not so good.. I will hope I can get this sent out
before we leave!!!
OK, now for my little road story!! We loaded up yesterday, after a big breakfast, got on the bus
and headed out.. It was not long until we discovered that being on a bus did not take away the
excitement of living on the edge in India!! Heavy traffic was a starting point.. In one place we
counted 22 lanes of traffic, and all were full!!! At one point, we had to stop in the traffic, then wait
until our bus assistant ran across 6 lanes of traffic to a tax station, pay a travel tax, then run back
through the traffic to get back on the bus!!! That would be certain death for anyone doing that
back home.. !!!!!!!!! We thought we were going to watch someone die, but he made it!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Back on the road, we started seeing almost anything you could think of.. There is not enough time
to tell you all the stuff we saw, but is was wild... When I do my story for my website, I will
plan to write about it.. But, it was amazing.. It was a like driving in a zoo!!! An outdoor zoo!!
Moneys, camels, donkeys, cows, people driving the wrong way on the freeway, elephants,
dressed up horses, poor people, naked people, peeing people, rich people,.. There are no speed
limits here!! Well, there is but nobody uses them!!! It is nothing to have people coming down the
highway going the wrong way, or to have a cow walking around on the freeway, or an elephant,
or whatever!!! Check the photos!!
We got here alive!! But that was not good enough for us!!! Someone suggested we go out on the
town and eat dinner.. There were 15 or so, of us, that met at 7 PM, hired something like 5
TUKTUKs, and off we went on a near death ride to get to the place we had chosen to eat.. I will
try to say more about this later, but you have not lived until you have done heavy night traffic in
India, in a TUKTUK!! Several times we thought we were gonna die before we got to the
restaurant!!! BUT, we LOVED IT!!! We are SICK!!! We made it there alive, we had a good
dinner, we got involved in a wedding parade, etc.. Then, we loaded back in the TUKTUKs and
headed back.. WILD!! Our driver was awesome. He was a daredevil!!!! GREAT FUN!!! WE want
to do it again tonight!!! :-))
I just checked my watch.. Gotta run to breakfast, then to the bus.. Will try to send this before I
go.. Hope you enjoy the few memories I am sharing!!!
March 10, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
Good Morning from India!! This little note is coming to you from our new hotel in Jaipur, I think is
the name of the town we are in... Yesterday, March 10, we loaded up and did a long bus ride from
New Delhi to here!!! Got here around 5 PM, I think.. And, here we are, and already, we have been
making our mark on this town!! It all started rather calmly, then moved up from there..
After our night on the town, last night, the 10th, I was too tired to share much of anything, so this
note was put on hold until this morning... And, even now, I am going to be a little short on time... This
morning we go ride elephants!! It is now 0635.. I am up, showered and shaved, etc, but, still have to
go eat and then be on the bus at 0800! There is NO internet service here in the room, only in the
lobby, and even there, it is not so good.. I will hope I can get this sent out before we leave!!!
OK, now for my little road story!! We loaded up yesterday, after a big breakfast, got on the bus and
headed out.. It was not long until we discovered that being on a bus did not take away the
excitement of living on the edge in India!! Heavy traffic was a starting point.. In one place we counted
22 lanes of traffic, and all were full!!! At one point, we had to stop in the traffic, then wait until our bus
assistant ran across 6 lanes of traffic to a tax station, pay a travel tax, then run back through the
traffic to get back on the bus!!! That would be certain death for anyone doing that back home.. !!!!!!!!!
We thought we were going to watch someone die, but he made it!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Back on the road, we started seeing almost anything you could think of.. There is not enough time to
tell you all the stuff we saw, but is was wild... When I do my story for my website, I will plan to write
about it.. But, it was amazing.. It was a like driving in a zoo!!! An outdoor zoo!! Moneys, camels,
donkeys, cows, people driving the wrong way on the freeway, elephants, dressed up horses, poor
people, naked people, peeing people, rich people,.. There are no speed limits here!! Well, there is
but nobody uses them!!! It is nothing to have people coming down the highway going the wrong way,
or to have a cow walking around on the freeway, or an elephant, or whatever!!! Check the photos!!
We got here alive!! But that was not good enough for us!!! Someone suggested we go out on the
town and eat dinner.. There were 15 or so, of us, that met at 7 PM, hired something like 5
TUKTUKs, and off we went on a near death ride to get to the place we had chosen to eat.. I will try
to say more about this later, but you have not lived until you have done heavy night traffic in India, in
a TUKTUK!! Several times we thought we were gonna die before we got to the restaurant!!! BUT, we
LOVED IT!!! We are SICK!!! We made it there alive, we had a good dinner, we got involved in a
wedding parade, etc.. Then, we loaded back in the TUKTUKs and headed back.. WILD!! Our driver
was awesome. He was a daredevil!!!! GREAT FUN!!! WE want to do it again tonight!!! :-))
I just checked my watch.. Gotta run to breakfast, then to the bus.. Will try to send this before I go..
Hope you enjoy the few memories I am sharing!!!
March 11, 2016... Note to Family and Friends:
Gooood Morning from Jaipur again!! It is now 0800 on the morning of the 12th, but again I was too
worn out to share any notes from the road last night!! So, had to wait until this morning!! Plus, we are
staying in the FOUR POINTS hotel, which is not at the bottom of the hotel chains, but is way down
there!! We are leaving this morning and headed to a new town and property!! Even that will not be
soon enough!! This hotel is pretty poor by the standards we have gotten before... No internet in our
rooms, very poor food at breakfast, along with very poor service. What internet we do get is in the
lobby, and even that is bottom of the line.. So, we will be very happy to get out of here this morning!!!
YEAH! Hope the food I had this morning does not make me sick.. The lettuce I was eating at breakfast
still had sand in it!! That could mean it was not washed, which could be a serious issue!!!
OK, now for a bit about yesterday, the 11th.. Once I get a little note written, I will add some memory
images from the day, then send the message when I have internet.. That might happen in the lobby
before we leave if I have time.
For those people who are in India, have been in India, etc, they will understand when I say this
country can and will give you a headache, if you try to figure out what is going on here. It is soooo
hard, if not impossible for people to figure out the system here! There are the rich and the poor, with
trash in the middle. There is high and low, left and right, top and bottom, in and out, North and South,
and the list goes on, but between all these extremes is the trash! They are extremely religious here,
but at the same time, they cannot built up their cities and country due to corruption, and related crime.
Have never been to any place before that has so much trash, everywhere! Everyone just throws their
trash in the street or along side the road, or in ditches, etc, etc. If it gets piled up too high, they just
shove it off to the side and do it all over again! You see cows, hogs, dogs, etc, everywhere, eating
trash, or at least part of it! Of course cows are sacred here, so they go and do as they please, but
they are sooo poor, they look starved. I have never seen cows eat trash before I came here! WILD!
OK, enough of the trash, but this place could be helped a lot with a trash cleanup system, and a bath!
I don't think anything is ever washed or cleaned here! At the toll booths on the highways, the area
around the toll booths is covered in pigeon poop and dirt. Does not look like the toll booths have been
cleaned since they were made, years ago! I have photo of this to share later. The contrast is that
everything is dirty here, however, the women dress in the most colorful clothes you could imagine!
Dirt and color! What a combination!
We had one super busy day on the 11th... Started the morning with some heavy traffic, to include all
the zoo animals on the highways and streets. Open Air Zoo, everywhere! We arrived at a palace
where we rode elephants from the lower elevations to the top. Once there we toured the palace, then
took a jeep ride down. If I had time, and I will later, tell you about the HIGH pressure sales people
selling their goodies at all these tourist places! The sales people are a show in themselves. Amazing!
After the tour, we took a jeep ride back to our bus and got back on the road. In a short time, we
stopped for photos of a palace in a lake! They built them everywhere!
At some point we went to a palace for women? I think it was called Palace of the Winds? I have long
ago lost track of the names of these places. But, I have photos!! At some point, we stopped and had
lunch in a palace!! Was fun. Then, it was off to tour again. Somewhere in all this touring, we went to
another rug factory.. Then a jewelry factory, then a cloth printing factory, etc, etc.. We are sure our
guide is getting a nice cut from these places, if anything is sold, etc... Most would agree, we are
seeing toooooo many of these shopping places! But.
After one of our tours, we were all loaded into rickshaws and took a street ride back to our hotel. Was
a fun ride, but not as exciting as some we have done! Guess we are getting use the life and death
action here!!! Back at the hotel, some of us 9 agreed to once again meet in the lobby at 7 PM, for
another TUKTUK thrill ride to dinner and back. As it turned out, we had 9 people go, which meant we
hired 3 TUKTUKS. The place we ate was Niros, I think!!! Was nice. Not sure what else to say about it,
except that food here is ordered ala carte? If you do not order it, you will not get it.. Back home, most
places have side items on the plate, but not here, and most meals here are STEWS!! At least back
home we would call the food stew, such as chicken stew, beef stew, etc. That is how they prepare
everything here. When you look at the food, it all looks alike.. Chicken, beef, lamb, veggies, etc, all
look the same. MUSH!! To know what something is, you have ask!
The photos I am sharing is another collection of images from the day.. They are just a mix of
everything we saw.. Since I cannot title them here, you will have to just guess what is going on. But,
the main point is to just let you see a sample of what tourists see while here! AMAZING experience!
Challenges all your thoughts and emotions! Makes your head spin! And, to that end, I will close here
and add the images. It is now 0830. I set my bag out for pickup a few minutes ago. At 0915, we are
to be on the bus and gone. If I do this right, I might be able to send this from the lobby before the bus
March 12... Note to Friends and Family:
Trip Trackers,Trip Trackers.. Having many issues with internet here. Has taken more than 6 hours to
get this message to you, and even then, it looks as if the photos will be in one message and the
words in another.. Sorry. May try to put the two together later, but for now, you will have to read this
one, and look at the other. Please let me know if you do not get both messages for March 12. Thanks
Greetings from Agra India! At last we are back in a good quality hotel! Actually here, they call it a
palace, but, for our conversation, it is a hotel!!! And, from what I can see, it is a good one! But, I have
had to get help about 3 times since I have been here! First I could not find my room! Looked all over.
Even the baggage delivery person took my bag to the wrong room!!! Finally, with help of the front
desk people, I made it to my room, and later my bag arrived! Next, I wanted to make sure the
message I tried to send this morning would finally be sent! To do this, I had to log onto the internet,
using the password they gave me. It did not work!! After many tries, I gave up and called the front
desk.. They transferred me to the technical assistance!! When it was all sorted out, the issue was
that the front desk had given me the wrong code! With the new code in my tablet, everything worked!
Then, I wanted to catch up on the home news by watching CNN, but could not operate the TV!! Had
to call the front desk again. This time they had to send someone up to show me how to operate the
TV.. It is quite complex, given there are TWO controllers for this set-up! One for the TV, on for the
DVR or whatever it is! But, no matter, the person set everything up for me, explained the issue, then
put me back in control of the entertainment equipment in the room!!!
What should be mentioned here is the this hotel has four places to eat.. All of them are supposed to
be good.. Thinking I would join my friends for happy hour, then decide on a restaurant there, I came
to my room, checked things out, got the internet and the TV working, then just about the time I should
be going to happy hour, I elected to skip it, do my laundry, catch up on my emails and other house
keeping items. Cookies had been put in my room, so I ate those, then I ate half of a protein bar!!
Having had a big breakfast and a big lunch, I figured I would live until breakfast! Speaking of
breakfast, lets talk about today!! Which by anyone's standards has been a strange day, starting with
breakfast, or I should say the leaving to go to breakfast, but I will save that for a few minutes, and
you will see why...
There was no internet service in my room at the hotel, so to check emails, I had to be in the dining
hall or the lobby. Breakfast is served in the dining hall, so even I can make a good choice on that
issue! Once I am done with my usual stuff in the room, I rushed off to the dining hall to eat!!! Nothing
new here, food was poor, service was even more poor, but I did manage some food and a cup of
coffee. Not sure what was going on, but the staff was not firing on all cylinders!! But, I check some
emails, etc. And, wanted to rush back to the room and do my little travel story, of sorts. I think this is
how it happened, but the point is that when I got back to my room, the door was wide open, and the
lights were out in the room! SPOOKY! What was going on! Was the hired help doing some work in
my room, etc? I saw nobody in the darkness, and I heard nobody inside. So, I was sure someone
had broken into my room, and probably cleaned me out! I stuck my room card in the wall slot, to get
the electrical things going again. The lights came on, and low and behold, all my stuff was still there..
So, what was the issue? I checked the open door! Why was it open? Then, I saw the issue!!! I had
not been careful enough when I left, and the result was that my door had been open to the public or
near 45 minutes! How did this happen? What had happened was that as I left the room, I did not
check to make sure the door snapped shut, and I did not listen for the clicking sound you get when it
self locks!! But, why did it not close! As it turns out, when I checked, there was a flaw in the floor!!
When I swung the door open, it hung on the floor, and did not close. When I got back, there was the
door, stuck to the floor, in the open position!!! So, from me to you, ALWAYS remember to test the
door before you walk away! I got lucky on this one!
In case you have not thought about it, postcards do not tell you all there is to know about the area
around the point of interest in, or on, the postcard!! That is always true, and is one of the KEY
reasons I travel, to see what is not reported on the postcards, and then to share what I learned with
people who might like to see what the postcard does not show! Sometimes finding the extra
perspective and sharing it is just a simple see it and share it, then move on, but there comes the day
when you run on to something that is so far from what you expected, you just cannot grasp the reality
of what you are seeing, and you cannot decide how to share it in a few words, or share it in a few
photos! Finally, I found that place. It is India! Never in my wildest thoughts would I have guessed I
would find here what I have found.. And, I doubt that I can share it with you in such a way that you
will feel like you have a grasp of it!! In my mind, based on photos of the palaces and tourist places
like the Tajmahal, which I will see tomorrow, this place would be like paradise, filled with palaces and
green fields, and mountains with streams of clean water, etc, etc.. That is what should go with
palaces and places like Taj!! But, as it turns out, the opposite is true. Inside the fancy hotels, you are
in a fantasy world, outside the hotel, you are back in time some 4000 years, or something like that.
Dirt and trash are everywhere!! Nothing is clean and nothing has been cleaned in a hundred years or
more! Animals of all kinds are roaming the streets, pooping in the streets, eating trash, etc.. There
are no traffic signals, no speed limits, etc.. And, you have to wonder if anyone has a job!! All I see
men doing is sitting around drinking tea.. The women walk around in VERY bright clothes, the kids
barely wear clothes. There does not seem to be any crops growing here, the ground is dry as a
desert, and the poor goats and cows and camels are bone poor, and they look to be eating dirt, as
there is no food for them.. As for working, a real job here seems to be watching a goat try to eat !!! I
see people sitting around doing nothing but watching a poor animal try to find something to eat.. The
camels were trying to tear down some trees to get some nibbles of leaves for food!!! I never saw
clean water anywhere!! Having said that, truckers are not suppose to drive on the highways during
the day!!!! So, during the day, they park their trucks all over the sides of the highways and wait for
darkness... While waiting, they wash their clothes, take baths, etc. All this happens in things that look
like the big stock tanks on farms back home!!! The surprises here just never end!!! What did we see
today!!! I made a list that sort of matches the photos I am sharing... Some of the images are very
graphic, so if you are a little week in the tummy, you can skip these!!! I did show the dead animals
that I saw today.. Must have been about three in town, two along side the edge of town, and what
looked to be two rotting camels just recently drug out into a field, near a house. But, I start with
breakfast, then share the first palace hotel we went to.. Nice place out in the country, but it has NO
GUESTS!!! Try to figure that one out!! It was spooky, like a ghost hotel!!! We saw signs of some
farming activity, though I have never seen a real crop yet. They sell lots of veggies at the market, but
from what I hear, these veggies are shipped in!!! Something really interesting in one area is the
HOMEMADE TRUCKS!! Check these out in my photos!!! Then, there is cows, camels, and brick
making!!! Then the really good one is cow pattie making!!! Never seen so many cow patties in my
life!! They gather up all the cow poop and make patties out of them.. They dry them everywhere,
including the tops of the houses, and all out buildings!!! You have to see it.. I could only share a few
images on this..
At some point we visited another palace or fort, not sure, and we had to deal with the beggars and
high pressure sales people who are hawking their junk at all the tourist places!! Everybody is in on it,
kids, women, men, etc.. Everybody wants a handout.. You cannot even go pee without someone
standing there watching you and wanting to charge you one dollar for a paper towel or something!!
As we travel along, we see lots of little market shops, etc.. In one place the industry must have been
shoes, as we saw shoe boxes everywhere!!!!!!!!!! Hundreds and hundreds of shoe boxes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then, we get into the good stuff, the people here pee and poop just about anywhere the mood strikes
them.. So, just to prove my point, I added proof shots for these acts!!! And, then, I added a image of
????? I think it is potatoes on trucks, but not sure!!! But we passed some trucks loaded with
something that looked like potatoes!! Maybe a million potatoes, or more!! Whatever there was in the
sacks, there was a lot of it!!! And, I want to add this, our guide tries to help the local merchants, so
she lets them come on our bus and try to sell us stuff!!!!!!!!!!! Today, we had the biggie!! A spice
salesman got on our bus and left town with us, carrying two duffel bags of spices, etc.. He rode along
with us, telling his story and showing off his collection. After the show and tell, he started selling!!!
Once the women stopped buying, he packed up his bags, we stopped the bus, he got off, with plans
to hitch hike back to the town where we picked him up!! He probably rode with us for an hour!!!!!!!!!!!
It is now midnight and time for me to get to bed, but I leave you with this, it is WEDDING SEASON
here!! People are getting married all over the place!! Everywhere you go, there is wedding
decorations up.. Lots of wedding activity here, and MOST all the marriages are arranged!!!! The
story we heard about that is quite interesting! Will share that later!
We checked into this VERY nice hotel, with internet! I have the laundry drying, and I have the share
images attached, so I think it is time to check my spelling, then hit the send button!!! Tomorrow we
see the famous Taj, I think!!! STAY TUNED!!
March 13... Note to Family and Friends:
Greetings from Tajmahal Country! Today was Taj Day! Pretty much everything we did today was in
someway devoted to the Taj, or connected to it in some way!! And, there are NO wild stories to share
from the day!! The Taj is so famous and has been photographed sooooooo many different ways, and
under as many conditions, there is little more I can add to what you know or have seen, every day
here is a different day, so I tried to think along these lines as I went about collecting my memory
photos! I have already selected the 50 images my system will allow, so lets talk about the day. The
most important thing was that all our group arrived in the parking lot on time, and healthy and happy!!
To prove it, we started taking memory shots together by the beautiful landscaping work outside our
hotel. I include an image of me a couple off the babes!! Once the guide FINALLY got us to give it a
break, and get on the bus, we were gone!
Our guide is very savvy about times and places, etc, so today she made sure we arrived very early
for entry into the Taj complex, and it is a complex. It is a huge place with significant other buildings,
etc, on the property! These are the things that the postcards do not show! The Taj is SOOOOOOO in
contrast to the Carnival life outside the complex. The vendors are all over the place trying to sell their
goodies to you as soon as you step off the bus. There is also the many shops along the path leading
to the big gates going into the complex, and then there is the security issue!! It was way worse than
the security at any airport you have ever been too! By the time they got though with me, I am
surprised they did not have me strip down naked for inspection! Our guide had told us, just before we
arrived that ONLY cameras and water were allowed through the gates!! This would include flash lights
and mini tripods, etc.. I started searching my pockets! I found four lights that had to be left on the
bus!!! I also had my GPS, my SPOT transmitter, and the list goes on.. Once cleaned up for entry, I
borrowed some space in one ladies day-bag to store my stuff, and off I went.. It was not long until it
was my turn to go though security!! They wanted to see everything in all my pockets, to include my
bandanna and little sun cap! What they did find that they wanted me not to take in was my voice
recorder!! I think the security guy just did not know what it was... So, my day guide, who had been
watching all this, came over and talked to the security guy, but the guy did now want the recorder
going into the complex! My day guide told the security fellow that he would take the recorder and hold
it outside while the rest of us went in. The security guy approved. I gave the recorder to my guide,
who put it in his pocket! Then, five minutes later, we ALL 8 walked in together, recorder and all. Three
hours later, once we stepped out of the complex gates, my guide handed it back to me! Go figure!
Once inside the actual Taj viewing area, the cameras started buzzing! Thousands of people in lines to
go through the process. The process is, that you get in everybody's way, trying to get the perfect
photo, as fast as you can! Then, you have to share in getting the group photo, by a professional, then
you listen to your guide tell you the history of the place. The story is good, but goes on forever! When
it is over, we are lead to the Bootie Machine! You have to see this. I think I included it in the share
files, but, they have a machine that you put your foot in, and when you pull your foot out, it has a
bootie on it! Too funny! Had to have these on to go in the Taj!
Since we are EARLY, and have missed a lot of the crowds, we get INTO the Taj fairly fast!!! People
go in and out pretty fast!!! So what am I talking about.. For those who have not been there, this place
was built for a man's wife, who died during child birth!!! He built this as tomb and memorial for her..
She is buried in it.. Later he too is buried in it.. So. You stand in line, go though the front door, where
there is a sign telling you NO PHOTOS inside! The inside is small, has the two tomb things in middle,
with a marble fence around the tombs.. You walk around the fence, you peek in where you can, then
you leave through a side door. Once out the back, you are free to remove the booties and tour the
rest of the property, which I did. On one side of the Taj is a mosque, and on the other side is a ???
But, it is neat! When our time was up, we met at the assigned meeting place and did the exit
together.. Outside the complex, we climbed into horse pulled buggies, which took us to our bus!
Once on the bus, we take a short ride and stop at an in-lay place.. We got a demo of how in-lay is
done on marble, the old way.. Was interesting. Then we were shown the for-sale stuff!!! I am
guessing from the looks of it, all of it was done by machine!!! Looked good, but nothing there that
most people could use!!! That said, some women did buy stuff, and had to shipped back to their
From the marble place, we were off to lunch! Was good, but a little odd, in that is was served
family-style. I think this means it is more of a social event than a body feeding event!!! Seems these
family style feedings always come up short!! WAY short by my standards!! But, it was good and we
are still alive! Even got ice cream and coffee at the end.. Was included, I think!!! And, was good... My
bill for lunch with tip was just over 12 US dollars! Not bad, but not as cheap as you might think! Food
is actually fairly expensive here, compared to back home!
From lunch, we darted over to our last stop, which was a fort, I think, where the man who had the Taj
built, was confined by his own son, as a prisoner for eight years! I think I have that story straight! If I
am wrong, you can tell me! But, there is this fort thing that we visited, and it was neat!! I do not know
what to say about, because I do not know much, but I do know that I could see the back side of the
Taj, from the backside of this fort! So.. There was a relationship!!! I will leave it up to you to study up
on it. I just thought it was neat to see. I am sharing some photos taken there!
OK, our visit in this town has almost come to an end. So has my story! We are moving tomorrow, and
we are doing the first three hours of our move by train!!! And, I know we have to catch the bus at
0715, meaning we will have to be up very early to clean up, go eat, catch the shuttle bus, etc. Should
be another fun day in India! So, check out the attached images, then stay tuned for more adventure in
the upcoming days!