Something about girls

I’d seen very few women up until today, and had started to wonder where half the population were, when I met Madhuri Kalal and crew filming on location at the hotel. Madhuri reports for Kashmiri News and she told me about “Hello Kitty” parties where women hang-out. Though I don’t think they’re generally absent from public spaces…

150 dusty miles

The Enfield had been left standing for a few days and was a bugger to start. Being such a simple beast, it lends itself to tinkering, and resuscitating it soon turned into an international party game which ended in a close draw: England 1, Germany 1, India 0, Japan 0 In the process we variously…

Taj Mahal

I waited at the West gate of the Taj Mahal for 45 minutes before it opened. Should’ve realised that just because Lonely Planet says dawn’s the time to visit, doesn’t mean the gate staff are following the script. But it was worth the wait, and being first in meant the acres of garden, red sandstone…

Ashes to ashes

I got lost again when I wandered off Agra’s well worn tourist trail and found myself down by the river at an open air crematorium. The ghats at Varanasi are India’s most famous crematoria. Their enduring popularity partly due to the belief that exiting via the Ganges breaks your cycle of reincarnation. But hopping off there is expensive. Here by the water’s edge,…

On the road to आगरा

On Google maps, the route out of Delhi looked straightforward; it was anything but. So much backtracking, so many bewildered looks from random folk. Why can’t they comprehend their own anglicised place names pronounced in a native English accent!  Call me old fashioned, but India was the bloody jewel in the crown, maybe one would do better shouting…

Next to a humming substation, blessed by bird poo

For a western tourist it’s easy to be shocked, and hard to both talk and not talk about poverty in India. For all the Indians’ great toil: peddling carts stacked high with office furniture mending cars in bare feet on busy broken pavements, the infrastructure is often derelict along with standards of health and hygiene. I’ve…

New Year: more smog than snog

New Years Day 2016 I woke late and then didn’t do much except pack and tuk-tuk across town :0) Then something unexpected, an odd little happenstance, saw me being shown a bewildering variety of shawls. Surrounded by the most exquisite pashminas, I was reminded of the ancient link between trade and hospitality. Whether fabrics, spices or news, it’s good to…

Little kisses, a friendly cow, just a minute

It’s hard to adequately convey what Delhi’s roads are like. Being driven around looking for Ganesha confirmed first impressions. There are few rules. Even the unspoken one of ‘no touching’ was twice ‘relaxed’ by my taxi driver who was completely sanguine about “little kisses”. Though he knew the size of his car down to the inch, others weren’t…

Beauty, Vitality, Delhi

In the older, northern half of New Delhi, the streets are full of life and enterprise: a busy roundabout transformed into a cricket pitch by a column of bricks hosts a dozen lads’ game, strangers spotting and intercepting you in the street to propose a tourist tour. Though some advances are without agenda, just friendly and kindly intended,…

Bike Hire in New Delhi

“All smooth and no bumps makes a ride dull”

Unlike its nefarious namesake, India’s golden triangle is tipped by Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, and cultivates tourism. From Agra and the Taj Mahal it’s 250 miles to Haridwar and the foothills of the Himalayas: 2 days ride to the mountain leg. Rajesh who runs Tony’s bike shop in Delhi says: – “Agra towards Haridwar the roads are in mixed condition…