India, October 2010

Itinerary:

24-25 Oct       Delhi   Hotel Parkland  www.hotelparkland.in   Qutab Minar, India Gate(War Memorial), Humayun’s Tomb, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, drive past President’s House, Parliament House and Secretariat Building. Also visit Raj Ghat- the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, Jama Masjid and drive past Red Fort and Chandni Chowk – shopping centre of Old Delhi.

25 Oct.        Overnight Train Shiv Ganga Express Delhi–>Varanasi
26-27 Oct          Varanasi and Sarnath.  Varanasi is one of the holiest pilgrimage centres in India.  Prayers at Ghats,  burial services, dip in holy Ganga. Nitetime and morning boat rides.   Sarnath is the buried Buddhist city where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon.  Sarnath was a  renowned school of learning from 6th century B.C. to 12th century A.D
28 Oct          Varnasi–>Khajuraho by Plane  JET 9W 723  Overnight Usha Bundela  www.ushalexushotels.com.  Visit the temples for Vishnu, Brahma, Yamuna and Adinath,  evening folk dances.
29 Oct        Khajuraho–>Jansi by car.  Visit Orchha medieval city on river Betwa
29 Oct        Jansi–>Agra by Train.   Overnight The Grand Hotel  www.grandhotelagra.com
30 Oct        Agra The Grand Hotel  www.grandhotelagra.com.  Visit Taj Mahal at Dawn, Agra fort,  various markets.  
31 Oct       Agra–>Fatehpur Sikri—>Jaipur by Car.    Overnight Jaipur Palace www.jaipurpalace.in  
01 Nov       Jaipur  Overnight Jaipur Palace www.jaipurpalace.in  Capital city of Rajasthan — the “pink City.”  Visit Amber fort (delivered by elephant) and royal palaces.  Afternoon city tour covering  Maharaja’s City Palace,  Hawa Mahal, Royal Observatory and Albert Hall.
02 Nov         Jaipur–>Ajmer by Train
02 Nov          Ajmer—>Pushkar by train.  Overnight at Hotel Raj Shree         www.hotel-pushkar.com.  500 temples and the site of the only Brahma temple in the world.
03 Nov          Pushkar—>Udaipur By Train  
03 Nov          Udaipur    Overnight Paras Mahal www.hotelparasmahal.com
04 Nov        Udaipur     Overnight Paras Mahal www.hotelparasmahal.com   City tour of Udaipur covering the City Palace, Jagdish Temple, Folk Art Museum, Fatehsagar Lake etc. Afternoon boat cruise on Lake Pichola.        
05 Nov        Udaipur—> Mumbai by Plane  JET 9W 2502   Overnight . Hotel Heritage www.comfortinnheritage.com  Diwali celebration in Gateway to India and Marine Drive.
06 Nov        Mumbai Hotel Heritage    Meeting with Metasys Software.
07 Nov        Mumbai—>Trivandrum/Kovalum JET 9W 335  by plane

JHI CONFERENCE and PRESENTATIONS  07 NOV—14 NOV
Leela Kempinski Beach Hotel
Kovalam Beach Road, Kovalam, 695527 India

15 Nov        Kovalam – Alleppey (176 km / 4 hrs)  www.rainbowcruises.in Embark on a Houseboat for an overnight cruise through the palm-fringed canals of Alleppey. All meals on board.                                                    
16-17  Nov        Alleppey – Kumarakom [No Transport]   Eastend Lakesong for 01 nights. Rest of the day free to relax by the backwaters. www.eastend.in
17 Nov        Kumarakom – Cochin (88 km / 2 hrs)

Open to see a Map
Open for Pictures

________________________________

26, 27 October

Well, everything seems to be in increments of 14. 14 hours (plus a little) flying time to get to Delhi. 14 hours (plus a little) overnight train from Delhi to Varanasi. 14 nights touring. We are nothing if not “well travelled.” Well. Travelled. Anyway!

Spent Monday touring Delhi a bit (in addition to fighting jetlag). A LOT of Hindu Temples (imagine that!). But also an interesting mix of colonial and Indian influence, For reference, “New Delhi” refers to the part of Delhi inspired by the Brits. So, not all that sooper “new.”

Traffic is mayhem, but to be honest not worse than China or Vietnam. I guess there is no degree of chaos, it merely exists. And, while it is true that cows have the right of way, they are usually better behaved and more predictable than pedestrians or other drivers.

Our Delhi guide was a Sikh. So we got some special focus on that division of Hindus. Perhaps he was trying to convert us, but in any case, the visit to the huge Sikh temple was quite interesting with a believer as guide. The detail we learned was pretty, well, confusing. Detail down to the type of underwear prescribed by the prophets for Sikhs (totally true, I could not make that up!) and the pounds of Lentils served each day to the over 30,000 homeless/helpless/??? who turn up at the temple we visited. We are definitely gonna need to a scorecard to keep track of all the Hindu Gods and their various incarnations. Not that I would know much about it, but it seems those of a monotheistic persuasion have it pretty easy in comparison! Only one God and a just a few incredible stories (aka burning bush, red sea parting, etc.) to remember.

We also learned that Sikhs are allowed to take their ritual daggers on board Indian Domestic Flites. That is very comforting.

Internet access is a bit of a problem here. WiFi not readily available, the guy in our Varanasi hotel had to ask the manager what “Internet” was. Tried to buy a Pre-paid data adapter (Cellular) for my PC. Indian Gov’t requires an address good for 2 days that they can verify. That is a problem for us, as on this tour, we will not be ANYWHERE for 2 days until we are at the JHI conference near the end. So, although I write this email TUESDAY, it may well not reach you right away, and in a bunch with some others.

Tonite and tomorrow early AM we attend some rituals at the Ganges river. More on that later.

__________

A visit to the Ganges last nite and today.

Varanasi is a mystical place where all Hindus hope to come to die. Dying here allows you to skip the 8000 or so incarnations otherwise in the cards for everyone and go directly to nirvana. Sons with shaved head and white robes to lite the Pyre. Families gathered to watch their passing, and ashes mix with the Ganges.

Varanasi is fully the theological and mystical equivalent of Jerusalem as the root place of and as old as at least 3 religions. Just not the three religions we’re familiar with. And pretty hard to describe in either words or photos.

Hindus also hope to make a pilgrimage here at least once in their life to take a ceremonial bath.

They say if you believe, swimming and drinking the river makes you pure and cures disease. They sell jugs and people take home water to drink and share with family who could not afford to make the pilgrimage.

If you don’t believe, it is surely one of the filthiest in the world. Part of the reason: the 24×7 crematoriums/open air pyres (many) that we would not photograph out of respect. And dead bodies not allowed to be cremated for special circumstances (i.e priests, children under 10 etc.). And the laundry people doing shirts just DOWNSTREAM from the pyres. If you don’t believe, you DEFINITELY would not drink.

Although we leave Varanasi tomorrow, we’ll contemplate what we saw here for quite awhile.
________________________________

28 October

Today (Thursday) we visited a small town called Khajuraho. From 15 Million (Delhi) to 3 Million (Varanasi) to 14,000 people. A much quieter place, for sure. Internet “seems” available at this hotel, however I cannot connect properly. So as I mentioned before, this email might arrive in a bunch with others. [FINALLY DID. Server Down. I wonder if anyone here knows a good IT guy?]

The Hindu temple area @ Khajuraho (the only reason to visit) was absolutely astonishing! Representing 2 religions, Hindu and Jansi and built mainly in 9-1,100 A.D. these temples were constructed on a freak of geology (for India): a Granite slab. This has kept the temples more or less intact from earthquake assault. And the temples were abandoned for awhile — overgrown by forest. This prevented the Moslem destruction that happened in the 12th century to temples at Sarnath and elsewhere. The result: the most exquisitely preserved and carved examples of dozens of temples big and small.

The temples originally were within a 40 sq/km artificial lake, so they were approached by boat. Today, the lake has disappeared to just a small vestige and the temples are surrounded by well-manicured lawns and gardens.

I realized as I was uploading pictures today that I took 50+ of these temples. I guess I figured I would edit and delete leaving just a few. I could not find many to delete. Every corner, every brick and every view of every temple was memorable.

Tomorrow it’s on to Agra. Now people say that The Taj is what you should and must see in India, but frankly I can’t imagine being more impressed than by Khajuraho.

________________________________

Oct. 29

There is not much to report today. We drove from Khajuraho to Jansi with a stop in a little old town (Orccha). Along the way some small villages and some large bats hanging from trees.

I don’t know if it’s a reliable sample, but so far, we are batting 1.000 — both trains and our plane considerably overdue. No worries, though. A nice hotel offering us an overlook of the river Batwa, where the laundry men are beating what look to be the hotel’s sheets on the rocks.

Our guide yesterday said he used to have his clothes done by the laundry men @ the river…until he saw one of them wearing his shirt! Since then he bought a washing machine and does his own! Old traditions cannot completely resist the new.

 

________________________________

Oct. 30

Sometimes when you hear a glowing description complete with wild claims and fantasy, reality can disappoint. I can say with certainty this is not the case with the Taj Mahal. It is not possible to exaggerate…the fact exceeds any fantasy.

We spent 2 hours @ dawn. Mostly sitting and appreciating.

I will keep this email brief and let the pictures do the talking. Of course they are pale ghosts of what we saw and experienced.

Today we also saw another form of transport: Camel cart. At the major roundabout in the center of town. Just flowing with the rest of the traffic.

Tonite, we will eat at a local Mughal place. Our tour guide instructed us what and how to order: Mutton Afgani Chetpada. The latter is loosely translated as “freakin’ hot.” As in: “Do you like your food spicy?” “Yes, Chetpada.” Another way to answer is “Indian Style.” Otherwise no matter how much you insist you like spicy, it is assumed you are a western tourist. Which of course we are. But we’re try’in!

________________________________

October 31

Today we drove from Agra to Jaipur. Distance of about 200 km with a stop @ Fatehpur Sikri. Mostly road scenery to observe. Satellite dishes on buildings that look like they have no power or running water; camel carts in the passing lane on the freeway; jeep-like vehicle with 16 people in it…no exaggeration I was not fast enough with my camera to get the photographic proof…broken-down truck that, far from pulling over, just stopped in the MIDDLE of the freeway, blocking both lanes. All pretty routine stuff. That I can say “routine” about these shows how quickly one becomes accustomed to the pace and sights in India, where the unusual is usual, and the downright bizarre pretty common as well.

The Fatehpur Sikri was a palace built in 1569 by the third Mughal Emperor Ackbar. The Mughals subsequently lived there for only 12 years, and the place has been abandoned since. Very well preserved and cared for these days.

Yesterday’s hotel in Agra was pretty awful — worst of the bunch. Maybe it just seemed so in contrast to the Taj Mahal? Nah…it sucked! The hotel in Jaipur is quite exquisite. We survive it all!

Tomorrow we visit the Amber Fort, where we approach riding elephants. Another form of transit in Incredible India, but these days reserved just for tourists. Other stuff like the City Palace, the Royal Observatory etc.

We are working our way south towards Mumbai next weekend. In Mumbai we will have the double pleasure of the Diwali festival (a round-the-clock party we are told) and Barack Obama’s visit. The latter may have the city locked down pretty tight, which seems in contradiction to what we have been told about Diwali. But India is all about contradiction, so we shall see how that all works out.

You can find our pictures here —>
http://picasaweb.google.com/StrategicGeek/India2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCK2Om8jczrn-KA&feat=directlink

(New ones added to the end as we go!)

__________________________________

Nov. 1 and 2

Yesterday, Jaipur. More temples, More Camels, more traffic. I suppose the “best” thing we saw was the Royal Observatory. This was built in the 17oos to allow very accurate calculation of horoscopes, which are very important to Hindu culture. I was especially impressed with the world’s largest sundial…which can tell time accurate to TWO SECONDS.

Jaipur considers itself to be the party capital of India (at least according to the less-than-objective local guide) …and preparations were well underway for the Diwali festival. Lots of lights, and millions of little clay oil lamps for sale. People apparently buy and lite as many as they can afford (actually, again according to our guide, a few more than they can afford).

We did for sure see some sights you wouldn’t find in Illinois. For example, the camel parked next to the makeshift, outdoor barber — driver had popped in for a shave I guess. And the Snake Charmer.

Today we travelled by Train to Ajmer, and then by car to Pushkar. Pushkar is a very holy place for Hindus… the only Temple for Brahma in the world — and a dozen or so more for other Hindu Deities. The Lake in Pushkar is another place where Hindus take ceremonial baths. For a town of about 20K, over 100,000 pilgrims per year. Apparently last year the Monsoons failed and the lake was completely bone dry.

Another famous Pushkar factoid; home of a HUGE festival featuring Camels and horses and other livestock from all over…30,000+ animals. Or was that people? I get so confused! Lots of contests…best mustache, best rider, camel races, etc. Tourists come and stay in luxury tents. Anyway, it is two weeks from now, sorry we will miss it.

After our tour of Pushkar, the local guide acted AMAZED that we had not been offered a “Camel Safari.” Said he could rectify that transgression for the princely sum of INR 350 (each camel). So, for both of us, INR700. In case you are wondering, that is about US$15 and OF COURSE we went on a camel safari. Not really a “SAFARI”…more a walk around the Pushkar fairgrounds which are pretty desert-dune like if you can ignore the power and water treatment station and the Gypsy Camp nearby. But, we did add the camel-thing to the resume… Apparently, people come for TWO WEEK camel safaris and cover 500+km. I can’t imagine…my ass (both titanium and natural sides), was protesting after 30 mins.

Our hotel in Pushkar was on a very primitive street. Cows and goats and thatched-roof house next door. At that house, an Ox was turning a wheel to grind flour (I think). Hotel did not have much “curb appeal” (see photo).

Just goes to show: don’t read a book by its cover–especially in India!

Inside, the most delightful proprietor. Rooms I would characterize as “funky-chic.” One of the nicest hotels yet! And, get this: FREE WIFI! Tonite we might call Liz’s folks as my cellphone can use the wifi to make free UMA calls. Of course, the free WiFi is somewhat tempered by more than occasional power outages. No worries, though, our room is on the first level and it is winter in Rajasthan (70 vs. 130• F. Summertime temp)

The proprietor took great pains to point out that he could serve us meat, eggs and, yes, BEER as his establishment is just outside the holy city of Pushkar, where no alcohol and only vegetables are allowed. Very excellent restaurant…and CHEAP! This may not be nirvana, but I can see it from here!

Tomorrow its more training…to Udaipur this time.

You can find our pictures here —>
http://picasaweb.google.com/StrategicGeek/India2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCK2Om8jczrn-KA&feat=directlink

(New ones added to the end as we go!)

___________________________________

Nov. 3 and 4:

Part 2 of our Pushkar visit.

Hotel: WiFi worked well when the power was on, which seemed to be every alternating 10 minutes. The generator that every hotel has (because power is overall unreliable most places) will not power the elevator or the a/c. The mattress was very very hard, and the shower had no hot water. But still on the whole, better than our hotel in Agra due mainly to excellent restaurant and friendly manager. And proving the point: everything in India amazes…positive and not so positive all at once!

Speaking of the hotel restaurant, a new experience @ breakfast today: “Hookma.”. I suppose it could be described as Indian oatmeal. Made from coarsely ground rice meal, fruit, nuts and vegetables mixed in, spices (some hot ones, but not too hot) and a little water and a little oil. Stir-fried. EXCELLENT! I shall look for that as we continue our travel!

And the ox next door was grinding roasted peanuts to peanut oil. India is a civilized place…people BUY their flour (but apparently some do still use their ox to grind their own oil!).

We spent some time on our own in Pushkar today. Trying to get the (only) ATM machine to work along with an Israeli couple. I think finally the problem was corrected by a ceremonial application of incense. All I know is the machine was about to get a ceremonial dip in Pushkar lake. Made a good excuse as we walked through the market, though, “no money. ATM broken.” A knowing look, like we weren’t the first with that excuse with that machine.

On to Udaipur City by train…

Liz described boarding trains in general, but especially our train to Udaipur as “frightening.” 7 minutes to let everyone off, get everyone on and situate luggage. As with everything in India, there is no “system.” People pushing and shoving as boarding passengers try to push past folks getting off. Luggage of all sizes. Didn’t see any cows, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the third class cars…today almost a real fight as someone pushed on in the face of an elderly gent trying to get off. I thought of the Sikh’s and their ceremonial daggers and wondered if boarding a train could ever be fatal?.

And speaking of trains, still batting .750. 4 trains, 3 late. Today’s only by 45 mins or so.

As I read the above, it sounds a little negative. Not meant to be. It’s just the way things work here…and they do seem to work. Just don’t try to impose a western-style order or expectation on anything and suddenly its all ok.

Thursday in Udaipur City. Seemed more like a “Western” city. I guess I should define that: few cattle, no camels. Stoplights that people actually stop for. Sometimes. Shops that seemed inviting and successful. On the other hand, if we had dropped into Udaipur first, our reaction might have been: UTTER CHAOS. Cows, vendors, pushcarts, colors, temples, Tuk Tuks… cacophony. In other words, we have been in India long enough now to begin to perceive differences in the feel of places.

Visited the Maharana of Mewar’s Palace, which is now mostly the City Palace and a great museum. Built in several stages, from late 1500s to 1800s. The current Maharana still lives in one area. Quite a famous line of kings…Mewar was one of the leading of some 580 Princely States that comprised India before independence in 1947. This Maharana’s horse Chetak was even more famous for saving his master from Mughal battle injuries while giving his own life to do so. Now there are “Chetak” monuments, statues, roads, buildings, even cars and motor scooter models named after Chetak.

For lunch we ate Samosa and some other things whose names I don’t remember from a shop one grade up from street vendor. I am sure some of you are wondering…It’s been a couple hours and no repercussions. Then we visited a temple (of course) and the tour guide’s own hotel and house in the center of the old city. Hanging in the doorway was an offering of sorts — chili peppers, a lemon and a piece of coal to capture bad spirits. Once a week a vendor comes and replaces with fresh and tosses the old (with contained bad spirit) into the street. Our guide was genuinely proud of his enterprise and his hospitality was evident — he said he spent his parents retirement fund and views this as a legacy for his children and family — who will all be engaged in operating it. I kinda wish we weren’t committed to the tour company hotel (which is also nice, but not “homey”).

The lake in Udaipur (Lake Pichola) is artificial..one of three that were built by one of the line of Maharanas of Mewar. In the past few years with monsoon failures, the lake was dry. This year it is full to the gills and quite striking. I still don’t think I’d bathe in it…though many people were. Tonight a boat trip at sunset on Lake Pichola. On an island in the lake is Jagmandir Palace, parts of which date to 1569. Current Maharana is restoring and it is a VERY high end hotel. Boat stops, we can have a nice tea or soda. No way we can afford to STAY there! I did ask as we were organizing the tour…the cost of one nite at this hotel about doubled the cost of our 2 weeks touring here.

You can find our pictures here —>
http://picasaweb.google.com/StrategicGeek/India2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCK2Om8jczrn-KA&feat=directlink

(New ones added to the end as we go!)

 

____________________

Nov. 5:

We arrived in Mumbai by air this morning. With Obama in Mumbai tomorrow, the security at the airport was extreme. I usually get very personal attention as my titanium hip sets off all the alarms. Today, they also removed and examined every single cable in my kit. And, as you can imagine, when I am a long way from home to give a presentation, I pretty much have every possible cable, USB device and attachment, plus a spare. Never happened before. Despite the ominous automatic weapons, security folks were quite cheerful as they chatted in Hindi about what they were finding.

Today, after we settled in, we were met by a colleague from Metasys Software…a company I have done business with over the years. Although I have met Sunil, one of Metasys’ principals, a couple of times in the USA, I had not met Bako except by SKYPE. He was very gracious, bringing some rice dishes made by his wife and some sweets for Diwali (we were starving, having left Udaipur before the hotel breakfast started). He then “toured” us.

Bako took us to the Gateway to India, which is right in front of the Taj Hotel (bombed by terrorists 2 years ago). The Taj is where Obama is staying tomorrow night, so security was TIGHT. The open space between the Taj and the Gateway had been cleared and barricaded. I am guessing Obama arrives by helicopter and will land there, though Bako said Metasys had arranged a private viewing for us. Not sure why, but we were allowed to walk past the barricades into this area. Perhaps Bako wasn’t kidding! Though I wonder, what the little red point of light right in the middle of my chest was….

We also visited the Leopold Cafe for a beer. This cafe was also attacked by the terrorists…you can still see some shrapnel blemishes in the plaster.

After the Gateway, we visited the Chor Bazaar….loosely translated as “Thieves Market.” Like Maxwell Street on steroids (remember, Mumbai has 19 million “official” residents). Arrive by car and you will soon have to buy your hubcaps back. I did learn one thing while there: all remote controls lost in couches mysteriously appear here, waiting to be reunited with their rightful owner. How else could you account for the huge pile of orphans at one booth?

All of this getting around occurred by old-style Fiat Taxis. These are about 1960 vintage. Somehow they keep them running. One of ours had to be turned off while stopped at every traffic jam as it was in serious danger of overheating, if not actually bursting into flames. Quite an adventure, but in the traffic we flowed into, with and around, you would not want a bigger or better vehicle. Rather, one that has a few dents and wouldn’t show a few more is the right steed.

All of that notwithstanding, Mumbai “felt” like a big city. That is not so much “Indian” as just frantic and congested. Well, except the Chor Bazaar…

Speaking of Diwali…we spent this evening walking on Marine Drive. Think Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, except on the Arabian Sea. And 19 million people in the metropolitan area. With that picture in mind, imagine July 4 impromptu fireworks multiplied by 19 million…since everyone legally shoots them off! It’s loud, bright and over the top! We tried to eat dinner at a hotel with revolving restaurant…closed for renovation. The Intercontinental had a nice rooftop bar, and the rockets-red-glare from just in front was pretty good — almost worth the expensive beer! Later, near our hotel we watched as kids were gleefully setting off Roman Candles and HUGE ROCKETS in the middle of a 3-lane very busy street. They would wait for a break in trafiic, run out into the middle, set up and light several “crackers.” We did not wait around to see the first rocket that launched into the undercarriage of a car or bus. Frightening.

_____________________________

Nov. 6:

Sunil, our friend and colleague at Metasys, gave us a list of things to do in Mumbai. We in turn handed the list to the driver provided by the tour company. He embellished the list with a few additional things. Basically, we spent most of the day today running into roadblocks and security for Obama’s visit. Our driver said that traffic was “lite” which I suppose was a good thing considering the diversions the roadblocks produced. But it didn’t seem all the “lite” to me!

We did visit some pretty interesting things:

— Dhobi Gaht: a really unimaginably large outdoor laundry.

— Malabar Hill: Where the Indian upper class, politicians and others with big$$$ live. A 27-story skyscraper that was built as houses (to the tune of a billion $$$ if I heard the story correctly) by the Ambani family. THREE FAMILIES live there. Probably a few servants as well! Our driver wouldn’t even stop for a moment (worried about security) for a proper photo, but I managed one from the moving vehicle. Check it out!—> http://www.indiasummary.com/2010/10/13/antilla-mukesh-ambani-antilia-mukesh-ambani-house-mumbai-worlds-first-billion-dollar-home/#more-13979

— Zavari Bazar and Mangaldas Market. The former another outdoor “wholesale” market (which seems a cousin to the “Thieves” market seen yesterday). The other a HUGE indoor area devoted to fabrics of all kinds.

— A “Hanging Garden.” This is actually a delightful, peaceful place built on top of one of several water tanks used as reservoirs for Mumbai’s municipal water supply.

— The Victoria Train station.

— Prince of Wales Museum and Dr. Bhau Daji Museum (City Museum of Mumbai). The latter was really interesting…dioramas, handicrafts and other materials that described Mumbai’s history.

— We tried to get to the Taj hotel to greet our friend Barack. No such luck.

Jeez. Sounds like a busy day! No wonder we’re tired!

Tomorrow it’s off to Thiravanathapuram (new name for “Trivandrum”) where the business aprt of the trip begins. I am extremely hopeful of being able to pronounce the new name properly before we greet our hosts there. Liz has elbowed me more than once at night as I have apparently taken to muttering it in my sleep.

You can find our pictures here —>
http://picasaweb.google.com/StrategicGeek/India2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCK2Om8jczrn-KA&feat=directlink

(New ones added to the end as we go!)

HINT: Go to the end, and go backwards if you want to see the new additions without going through photos viewed already!

 

_______________________________

16 November 2010

We’ve just spent a week of business at the Leela Resort. A little bit of an upgrade from our previous hotels. How do we know? Sting and Bob Geldof were also staying there. My guess: They don’t stay @ 3-star places since they started in their garage.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/8132805/The-Hay-Festival-Bob-Geldof-joined-on-stage-by-Sting-for-festival-finale-in-Kerala.html

The JHI Conference was really a good event. Started with a “bang…” Elephants and traditional Kerala Temple Music (for good luck and prosperity). Never been to a meeting that started this way, and it will be hard to “top.” Business sessions were excellent, and the presentations I did on Disaster recovery planning were well received and have lead to some interesting inquiries.

Our hosts, Roy and Elizabeth, really went out of their way to make sure everyone from 6 continents and 30 countries had the right things to eat, drink and do. For example: Shopping (of course) but at really nice local textile, handicraft and jewelry places. Indian Dance and Music Expositions. Saree wearing and Bollywood Dance lessons. The final dinner had a local band equally facile at Johnny Cash, Perry Como, Village People (so far the same as EVERY banquet) , Bollywood and traditional Indian Temple music. The latter seems to have a beat almost for Cha-Cha, but not quite! Musical instruments not quite like any I have seen. The social experiences were excellent. And of course, seeing old friends makes the place more special.

After the Leela, we embarked on an overnight backwater cruise on a “Rice Boat” with JHI friends from Montreal. This was a one-star, at best. HARD mattresses, no hot water in the shower, etc. Not a problem…very relaxing. The crew cooked lunch, then we stopped and bought some “Freshwater Prawns” (looked like lobster) from a stall along the river. Dinner was delicious. Breakfast pretty good, too. All meals served family style. Thinking of our Montreal friends, we did not ask for food spiced in traditional Kerala Style, which is considered the spiciest in India.

At night, they turn on the generator, allowing for A/C in our cabins. At midnight the A/C abruptly went off. Stuffy instantly. Thinking that the tour included only 2 hours A/C, I went to see the captain about an “upgrade.” Fortunately, he was already busy changing the gas can on the generator. Problem solved. By morning, the rooms were 60 degrees and the windows completely fogged on the outside. The residents FREEZING under the single light blanket.

After breakfast, the boat dropped us at a backwater resort for a last day of R&R. Unfortunately not OUR backwater resort. Ours: Kumarakom LAKESONG Resort. Wrong: Kumarakom LAKE Resort. I can see how the mistake would be made, but unfortunately the boat had pulled away before we realized no rooms for us at this resort. We waited a bit, then the tour company arranged a taxi for the short trip to the “right” resort. Also unfortunately, the LAKE resort is 6+ stars. Probably Sting will be staying here tonite. The LAKESONG…more like 3 stars. Perfectly adequate, would have been exceptional relative to the boat. But unfortunately, not compared to the LAKE resort. It’s nice to see how the other half (actually, probably in India the other .000001%) live.

Tomorrow we leave for Kochi (formerly Cochin). There we get 1/2 day tour of a few interesting things (12th century Synagogue, fishing nets, etc.). Then on to the airport to begin our journey home. Liz and I are quite ready to be home, despite having a GREAT time here. We have already planned our first meals: #1: Burrito. #2: Pizza. #3 Cheesborger. I wonder if we can have them all on the same day?

You can find our pictures here —>
http://picasaweb.google.com/StrategicGeek/India2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCK2Om8jczrn-KA&feat=directlink

(New ones added to the end as we go!)

HINT: Go to the end, and go backwards if you want to see the new additions without going through photos viewed already!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *