A Travellerspoint blog

Villa Tunari

sunny 27 °C

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to update this blog (don’t worry it’s all written down in my diary) but I thought what I would do is keep you informed on the most recent going-ons and I’ll fill in the in-between when I get a chance.

Tuesday the 10th of April; It only took me around 3 ½ hours to reach Villa Tunari from Cochabamba in a minibus. We had to stop a few times for the driver to kick each of the tires but on his thorough inspection nothing warranted further attention so the trip went pleasantly fast. I met a swiss couple on the bus and we ended up getting lunch together when we arrived; it was nice to finally have some company after my brutal, cold turkey separation from Kirby.

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^^ The scenery changes from dry, cold mountains to stinking hot, wet rainforest

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After lunch I headed across the Espiritu Santo Bridge and into the Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) café. I basically sat around until 5pm talking to the odd volunteer that stopped in for a bite to eat. At 5 I took the introductory tour/orientation around the park with 3 other newcomers. The park is really beautiful, apart from the café, administration, and Quarantine areas the rest of the sections are located further back throughout the rainforest; only accessible via unmarked, muddy, jungle walking tracks. Most of the animals in the park are discarded pets or rescued from the black market. Unfortunately this means that a large majority of them are unable to be released, they are here to live out the rest of their lives in an environment as close to the wild as is possible without the danger of injuring themselves or other. There are however semi-wild groups of capuchin and spider monkeys who live free within the forest, they are closely monitored from the ground by a team of volunteers to make sure that no problems go unnoticed.

I found out that the day before I arrived that 11 other volunteers had arrived. This is a great thing for the park but I couldn’t help but feel like all the ‘good’ jobs would have been taken. I ended up being assigned to ‘Quarantine’ – although I’m still unsure as to why it has that name because as far as I can tell there is nothing Quarantined.

It consists of 2 large areas each around 30m square. They are called Earth and Heaven and are the homes to the Capuchin monkeys that are unable to be released or integrated into the semi-wild habitat further in the jungle. Most of the monkeys in Quarantine have fairly terrible backgrounds of mistreatment and abuse and some have been so impacted by their handling that unfortunately they have to live in pens because they are intensely vicious to both people and other monkeys. All of the monkeys in ‘Earth’ are in nice big pens while most of the monkeys in ‘Heaven’ are able to be handled and enjoy being let out into the area during the day on runners connected to collars that fit around their waists.

I was excited to start the next day but unfortunately the on-site accommodation was full so I headed into town and stayed at a hotel – it was super cheap though only 20Bs ($3) for a night. I also bought a pair of gumboots because the place is pretty muddy and it would suck to have wet feet all day.

I’m really excited about what my first day working at Inti Wara Yassi will be like and I can’t wait to start! :)

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 16:47 Archived in Bolivia Tagged monkey animal volunteer minibus puma capuchin quarantine cochabamba yassi inti tunari villa_tunari ciwy wara Comments (0)

Agra - Monkeys, Weddings, Wells, and the Taj Mahal

overcast 31 °C

After breakfast we left Jaipur behind and headed toward Agra, with a few stops in between.

Around 20km from Jaipur we arrived at Galtaji; or more commonly referred to by tourists as The Monkey Temple. It was built in the 17th century and is famous for its holy natural springs, where pilgrims will bathe away their sins. It is also home to a ginormous tribe of rhesus macaques!

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It was like a ghost town as we slowly strolled down the dirt track into the temple complex. The only visible inhabitants were the hundreds of monkeys jumping around everywhere, surprisingly a little bit unnerving – they have big teeth remember!!

When we arrived out the front of the main temple a priest quickly ushered us inside and into a small shrine room where he made us sit down in front of a looming statue of Hanuman; a Hindu deity resembling a human-monkey cross. The priest proceeded to then sing and wave burning incense all around us before tying a small piece of cotton around Kirby and my opposite wrists, which he held together while reciting another prayer. We tried to ask him what this ceremony was for but he didn’t speak any English – he did however say a few select English words and he was either trying to ask if we were married or telling us we were now married. So who knows maybe we just got hitched in India? :)

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^^ Our Priest?!

After our ceremony was complete and a donation was left we started walking further into the complex until we spotted a couple of naked men up ahead; obviously here to bathe in the holy springs. We decided at that point that we had seen enough and turned back to wake up a napping Galoo to continue our journey towards Agra. On the way back to the car we crossed paths with a few young boys who decided to practice their English vocabulary by saying “Hey, you wanna fuck?”; charming little fellas! Haha :)

As we continued our drive we passed through a few towns and it was obvious that the rural life in India or at least the towns surrounding the larger cities are extremely impoverished. The lack of infrastructure, running water, electricity etc. is fairly confronting – hopefully things improve in the future.

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Around 100km from Jaipur we arrived in a small village called Abhaneri, what makes this little town special is the well – it is called Chand Baori and was constructed in the 9th century, it is over 20m deep, has 13 stories, and over 3500 steps, a really beautiful construction in the middle of nowhere.

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^^ Chand Baori

After a few hours we arrived in Agra and let Galoo have his nap before heading off to the Taj Mahal in the afternoon.

Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631 by Shah Jahan as a tribute to his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died that same year giving birth to their 14th child. Construction of the Taj wasn’t finished until 1653 and it wasn’t long after the completion that Shah was usurped by his son and locked in Agra Fort – where he could only gaze at his world wonder from afar.

Holy shit was it busy!!! The entrance into the grounds was like a funnel, pushing hundreds of stinky, sweaty bodies together to create a humid, somewhat comforting, somewhat revolting stench that dissipated as you exploded out the other side into the beautiful open courtyard before the Taj Mahal. Many foreigners travel to India to be ‘born again’ – entering the grounds of the Taj Mahal was in many ways a way too
literal ‘born again’ for me.

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^^ Time to converge

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^^ Inside the birth canal

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^^ There it is!

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Once you disconnect your figurative placenta from the writhing crowd behind you and actually absorb the amazing sight in front of you it’s very surreal. I kept feeling like I was in a movie because it looks exactly the same in person as it does on TV – except bigger. There’s not much else I can say, the photos speak a thousand times stronger than any words I could hope to conjure.

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^^ Me and Kirby

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^^ Getting in all the corny shots for mums fridge magnet haha

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^^ Classic Taj

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^^ Check out how small people are compared to the Taj - HUGE

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^^ The entire Taj Mahal is decorated with painstaking detail

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The weirdest thing for us was that we were at the Taj Mahal and people were still crowding around us to take our photo!!! I mean come on guys, you’re at one of the wonders of the world with its white marble domes looming overhead and you still want to crowd around and take our photo? So that was strange for us, and being hassled constantly sort-of takes away a bit of the magic. But oh well what can you do, Indian’s ‘love’ foreigners, there’s no doubt about that!

Tomorrow we are off to visit Agra Fort to see where poor Shah Jahan spent his last years as a prisoner of his own son.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 18:07 Archived in India Tagged monkeys india priest well jaipur taj_mahal agra monkey_temple driver agra_fort hanuman galoo galtaji rhesus_macaques abhaneri chand_baori giant_well shah_jahan mumtaz_mahal Comments (1)

Jaipur - The Sort-Of Pink City

sunny 35 °C

We left New Delhi at 7:00am to head south to Jaipur, also known as the Pink City. It is the capital city of Rajasthan and received its nickname in 1876 when the whole city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales – although now only a few avenues still retain their pink façade, albeit a faded, dust covered, tobacco spit stained pink.

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^^ Enjoying the view on the drive to Jaipur

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When we arrived it was just after 1:00pm and we were relieved to find that the hotel (which we had pre-booked in Delhi during our moment of weakness) was quite luxurious. We decided to have a shower and let Galoo have a rest before the tour of the city began.

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Our first stop was at Amber Fort. Perched on the top of the hill overlooking Jaipur; Amber Fort provides stunning views over the surrounding landscape. It was built in 1592 by Maharaja Singh and represents Rajput architecture. It is by far the most beautiful fort I have ever seen. It is made entirely with red sandstone and marble with 4 levels, each with their own courtyard. Combined with the opulent palace area and the natural air-conditioning; created by winds blowing over cascading water throughout the palace.
It is a really beautiful and peaceful place and it was nice to see heaps of locals enjoying themselves as well. We ended up getting an audio guide that bombarded us with history and whispered sweet architectural nothings in my ears. If you find yourself in Jaipur you have to visit Amber Fort!

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^^ Amber Fort is BEAUTIFUL!

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^^ Keeping an eye on the pesky monkeys

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^^ Mmmmm sweet architectural nothings...

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^^ Amazing details all throughout the palace

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^^ While Kirby was taking this photo 5 locals were taking her picture

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^^ Camel's can do anything a truck does, just stinkier

On the way back into town we drove past a flooded fort. Don’t know anything about it but it looked cool and mysterious!

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Galoo then took us to a clothing store. We weren’t exactly interested but he insisted – I think he just wanted a cup of chai; drivers who bring customers to stores get perks, also if you buy something they usually get a commission. But we didn’t mind, we knew we weren’t going to buy anything so we just went along with the flow until Galoo had finished his tea, and then we left :).

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^^ The 'pink' city

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We had a big curry feast for dinner which only cost 210 rupees ($4) – good value. We also found out that the stuff that comes with the bill at the end of the meal is actually a mixture of herbs and sugar that you’re meant to chew after you finish – a bit like after dinner mint – but it was hilarious when we found out that’s what you do with it because the whole time in India so far Kirby has been wiping her hands with it to remove the oil and I’ve been rubbing it all over my mouth and face hahahaha. No one fucking told us we were supposed to eat it!!! It was soooo hilarious when we realised – I can’t imagine what they thought when they saw me rubbing the ‘after dinner mint’ all over my face!!

Time for some well-earned sleep, we’ll be up early tomorrow to see more of the Pink City.

Our first stop the next morning was Albert Hall Museum. It is fondly named after the Prince of Wales who laid the foundation stone during his visit in 1876. It has an amazing collection of ancient relics and artefacts. We couldn’t believe how old some of the things inside the museum were; 4th century statues of Buddha, they even have an ancient Egyptian mummy. The only bad thing was the blatant disregard for cleanliness or hygiene that the local visitors exhibited. All of the walls from waist height down were black with tobacco spit and the stairs up to the second level were apparently the toilet. Men were pissing in the corners of the ancient sandstone staircase it was pretty fucked up – especially in such a beautiful old building that celebrates so much history and culture – what are they thinking?

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^^ Albert Hall Museum

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^^ There was a whole room full of ancient armour

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^^ Ancient yoga statues - pubes anyone?

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^^ 8th century Matrika Panel. Seven goddesses who are shown dancing with Virbhadra (emanation of Shiva) who holds a Veena.

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^^ Ivory chariot

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^^ Man and Tiger - a composite form of Vishnu known as Nrisimhavtar - 19th century

The next stop was the City Palace (300r adult / 150r student). It’s a massive complex with several buildings all for different things – basically your typical palace; you know what it’s like! Some of the interesting things are the Chandra Mahal – a huge mansion where the descendants of the Maharaja line still live today (can only visit the first floor).

In the inner courtyard there are four gates that are adorned with themes representing the four seasons and Hindu gods.

The northeast peacock gate – representing autumn and Vishnu. The southwest lotus gate – representing summer and Shiva-Parvati. The northwest green gate – representing spring and Ganesha. The rose gate – representing winter and the goddess Devi.

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^^ Green Door

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^^ Me with the Peacock Door

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^^ Kirby with the Rose Door

At the front of the palace we also encountered a cobra dancer doing his thang – I got a photo for a ‘donation’.

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Next stop on our epic day of epicness was the Jantar Mantar Observatory. The observatory was constructed in 1727 and contains 14 geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, and tracking stars. The largest instrument is 27m high and tells the time fairly accurately – although cannot be worn on your wrist.

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^^ This instrument tracks the zodiac Sagittarius

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^^ It really was all too complicated for either of us to understand what the hell they did

Finally our last stop for the day was at the Hawa Mahal. It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawaj Pratap Singh (say his name 10 times fast!) for the royal ladies to watch everyday life in the street below without being seen. It’s one of the strangest buildings I’ve seen – and its purpose equally weird. It’s degraded a bit these days, some of the little viewing nooks that the royals once used are now a toilet – apparently it’s perfectly fine to have a shit while you look down on the street below. What’s with all the pissing and crapping in the monuments?

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^^ Hawa Mahal from the outside

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^^ Inside the Hawa Mahal

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^^ Lovers

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^^ Kirby in one of the viewing nooks

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^^ The joker in the blue shirt was standing next to me until he saw me taking some photos of Kirby, at which point he sprinted down the stairs to get in the frame - the locals love getting in every photo they can, it's actually a mission to take photos without someone posing in them

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^^ Enjoying the view your highness?

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^^ The royal view

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^^ A building under construction - scary?

Well the last 2 days in Jaipur have been BUSY!! But it’s good to keep moving so tomorrow we are off to Agra...Taj Mahal anyone? But for now time to FEAST :) :)

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Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 08:23 Archived in India Tagged india fort jaipur rajasthan marble amber_fort driver hawa_mahal pink_city galoo 1592 maharaja_singh rajput_architecture red_sandstone flooded_fort albert_hall_museum city_palace chandra_mahal four_gates peacock_gate lotus_gate green_gate rose_gate cobra_dance jantar_mantar_observatory maharaja_sawaj_pratap_singh Comments (2)

New Delhi - Gandhi, Old Fort's, Temples, and Carpark Beedi's

sunny 34 °C
View Travels on KyleMac's travel map.

Day 2 in New Delhi began at 9:00am with a visit to Gandhi Smriti. Now a memorial, it is where Mahatma Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life before being assassinated on January 30, 1948. While we were there a procession of women adorned in colourful saris surrounded a burning flame and prayed before leaving single file. It would have been made more memorable had we not watched the procession while a group of 6 boys took turns sneaking close to us for an unwanted photo opportunity. Oh well that’s the price you pay for being world famous millionaires….oh wait a second.

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After leaving Gandhi Smriti we stopped for a quick paratha (delicious flat bread with vegetables), before heading to Purana Qila. It is an old fort built in 1538. After Humayun became emperor he used the tower in the fort as a library, where in 1556 he slipped down the stairs and died of his injuries!

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^^ Purana Qila

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^^ Mosque entrance

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^^ Beautiful detail

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By this time it was stinking hot so we asked Galoo (our driver) to take us to the nearest air conditioned building. We ended up in a large shopping centre – Galoos first time as well. We just got milkshakes and banoffee pie – the pie was a big let-down as it was just whipped cream with sliced banana on top haha Indian version I guess (my Scottish aunt Yvonne’s banoffee could be the world’s best).

By the time we were all done it was around 4:00pm so we asked Galoo to take us back to the tourist office to collect our train tickets and hotel vouchers. When we arrived the tour agent was not happy that we were back so early and demanded we go back out and sightsee some more! Not wanting to upset the giant, bearded, Sikh warrior-like man we quickly headed back out to visit the Presidential Palace & Parliament House, as well as some Temple that I don’t know the name of. Probably the first time we have been forced to sightsee haha.

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^^ Parliament

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^^ Temple

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^^ Chai and Samosa for afternoon snack

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^^ Having a Beedi in the carpark with Galoo - feeling fairly gangsta at this point

We have pretty much seen everything Delhi has to offer in 2 days so tomorrow we are heading off early in the morning to Jaipur.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 08:06 Archived in India Tagged temple india parliament_house delhi gandhi driver humayun new_delhi galoo gandhi_smriti mahatma paratha purana_qila old_fort banoffee_pie presidential_palace bidi Comments (2)

New Delhi - The Sites, The Tastes, The Smells... Day 1

sunny 34 °C
View Travels on KyleMac's travel map.

We arrived in New Delhi around midnight and were met by our hostel transfer. We chose a hostel called Hostel New King because it was cheap and fairly central, near the train station. Our transfer was a bit dodge because when we had ‘arrived’ it was in the middle of a dark stinking street and when we asked where the hostel was he just put his hand out, our options were to tip him or not be shown where to go. Luckily I had some small notes and it was enough for him to lead us down several alleys to the inconspicuous entrance to Hostel New King. When I say that the location of the Hostel was a bit of a shithole it is no exaggeration. Apparently the public toilets are at the entrance to the hostel and the stench of urine and faeces burns your eyes/lungs if you don’t time your blinking/breathing correctly. I wouldn’t recommend staying here as the advertised ‘hot shower’ is actually just a broken off pipe that spews ice water at you in a bathroom that has never been cleaned before. Also the bed was so dusty that we both almost overdosed on antihistamines trying to sleep. But hey, if you are on a tight budget like us I think it’s one of the cheapest options in town.

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^^ Woo Hostel New King

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^^ Hold your breath!

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^^ View from our room

In the morning we went out to a fast food place called Bangala food – a bit like Indian McDonald’s except curries instead of burgers. We then went to the ‘Tourist Information Centre’ – although in hindsight I am pretty sure it was not the government run one and we were talked into buying 8 nights’ accommodation, 6 train tickets, a 6 day private car tour, and a bus into Nepal. We ended up spending $800 on our first day in India. I don’t know what we were thinking; we have never done anything like this before. It was like we had been hypnotised or something and when we arrived back at our hostel we just looked at each other and were like ‘what the fuck just happened?’. It must have been that world-renowned Indian salesman magic that caught us off guard haha :). Oh well we just have to cross our fingers and hope that everything turns out good – and that we weren’t just severely scammed – only time will tell.

The moment we swiped our credit cards there was a driver outside who was ours for the next 6 days – a bit fancy! So off we went. First stop was India Gate – a memorial arch tributed to soldiers who died in World War 1. The funniest thing was that we weren’t actually allowed to stop and see it. Our driver Galoo just stopped the car in the middle of the road and we took a photo from the window haha! India definitely is different.

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^^ India Gate

Next stop, the Tomb of Humayun. Humayun was a Mughal Emperor in the 16th century, after his death this beautiful tomb was commissioned by his widow, Haji Begum. The style displays early Mughal architecture and it is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal. It’s a really stunning site with over 30 acres of gardens and ponds.

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^^ The tomb has over 100 graves – earning it the nickname ‘The Dormitory of the Mughals’

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^^ Travelling from Mecca to medina, Prophet Muhammed and his follower Abu Bakr were chased by enemies and took refuge in a cave. After they entered, a spider covered the cave’s entrance with a silver web. Seeing the web-covered entrance, the enemies did not search the cave and the Prophet was not harmed. The sculptors of Humayun’s Tomb stylized the ‘magic web’ in stone. ‘Lattice screens protect the tomb of the emperor at the centre of the monument and its deepest mystery: in the Island of the Orient, the central room of mausoleums for sovereigns and saints represents the Cave.’

Next stop, the Lotus Temple. It was built in 1986 and is a Bahá'í House of Worship. It has 27 white marble petals and sort of reminded me of the Sydney Opera House.

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^^ Lotus Temple - we didn't go in though...look at that line!!

Our last stop of the day was at Red Fort. Built between 1638 and 1648 it served at the residence of Mughal Emperors. The fort lies on the Yamuna river and until December 2003 was an occupied garrison of the Indian army. The Australian smart traveller website told us we probably shouldn’t visit because of bomb threats, but we didn’t get exploded so it’s all good!

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^^ Red Fort

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^^ Marble pavilions in the courtyard

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^^ Semi-precious stone inlay decorate the pavilions

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It was our first real day in India and a slight culture shock for us. Everywhere we went a crowd followed taking photos of us like we were Brangelina. Kirby’s long blonde hair didn’t help the situation at all. At first it wasn’t a big deal but by the end of the day we were sick of being followed everywhere with camera phones in our faces. It’s a bit intense really, I’d like to know what the hell they do with all these random pictures of tourists. The second strangest thing of the day was the cows everywhere. The cow is sacred in India and they basically have free reign wherever they want to go. At one point a cow was laying in the middle of the road and the traffic just had to sit there and beep at it until it decided it was going to hop up and walk off.

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^^ Streets of Delhi

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We had a big feast before heading back to the hotel and it was delicious!! Woo Indian food is great. Looking forward to a month of Indian food! :)

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^^ Delicious!

Tomorrow we have another huge day planned so off to bed.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 07:48 Archived in India Tagged india cow tomb hostel delhi bahai driver new_delhi red_fort hostel_new_king bangala_food galoo tomb_of_humayun mughal_emperor muhammed abu_bakr lotus_temple indian_food Comments (2)

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