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Travel Image After nearly ten years in India, we can nearly call this country home!!! We arrived here after finishing three years in Singapore, landing up in Calcutta the "City of Joy!" I am asked all the time what bought us to India, well it was just across the water the Bay of Bengal that is! Overall it has been a very rewarding time for us, with a variety of cities and a variety of jobs taking us from one end of India to the other. Some of the positions have been very rewarding and pleasant, while some others have been very difficult and trying, but the balance would definitely be towards the more pleasant side. India, an ancient land full of mystic and temples, philosophies and beliefs, people and heritage. A land of desert, mountains, scrub and forest with one of the most varied climates and topography around. A subcontinent, it stretches from Burma and the Himalayas south to Sri Lanka and the oceans. Surrounded by water, and yet not a water craft people as such, the oceans are left to the fishermen while the farmer is present on the land all the way through the country. Tea plantations are synonymous with Darjeeling and Assam, Agra is known for its Taj Mahal and Delhi for its Red Fort and the Moguls. Alexander the Great was also here, coming down through what is now Pakistan and up to the Indus River. Rajasthan has its hill forts and palaces, now grandly converted into Hotels so we can see some of the splendour, while other palaces are still used by the princely families that once ruled India, but were displaced once independence arrived. Calcutta of course is the Black Hole of Calcutta, but also of the Maiden, and Madras gave its name to that famous mix of spices called the Madras curry!

eeElephants are there for the riding at a lot of places, as well as thousands of people all willing to try and make you part with your hard earned money! (Our India travels above).India is also full of contradictions and disparity. Some of the richest communities with a grand way of life in the various cities, and yet, there are communities of people so poor that it sometimes beggars belief. Right is the opulent lobby of one of the starred hotels in Bangalore! Hindi is the main religion, with Islam, Christian, Jian and Buddhist teachings coming after.It prides itself on being a secular state, and the wish is there for it to remain so, but fundamental groups of all sects do sometimes cause problems. Vegetarians make up a large portion of the population, with the food culture changing from the fiery chilli dishes of the south to the tandoor preparations of the north, the mustard dishes of Bengal and the coconut flavours of the west provinces! Marg and I have seen some of this wonderful country, which has included a trip from Madras to Bombay, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Pushka, then across to Calcutta before heading into Burma, taken in 1986 and then again once we arrived back in India to work in 1987. We have seen some of West Bengal and Bangladesh, which was part of Bengal before partition, visited Bangalore and Kerala, Goa and Chennai again, worked in Bombay, and visited New Delhi a few times in conjunction with the various hotels I have worked with. There is a lot more of the country that we would like to see and hope at least to get up to Simla and the hill stations before we finish with India.

Travel Image The people of India we have always found to be extremely courteous and friendly, always willing to stop and help you or ask if you have eaten yet! Even with some of my late night expeditions to various watering holes, there has never been any sign of trouble or of anyone looking to cause it. OK, the traffic and the number of people around is always over powering, the streets are often falling apart and piled with rubbish, but even in the last seven years that we have been here, there have been sometimes quite dramatic improvements in a lot of areas. Sadly, not everywhere this is happening, as Tamil Nadu appears to be reeling under the strain, and will take a long time to get ahead a bit more. (Pictured right is the Madras Art Gallery, showing Moghul influences). Shopping is often extremely good, with a lot of overseas labels producing there goods here, and these and many that have been rejected for whatever reasons, can be found at a fraction of the cost overseas.

Travel Image Food can sometimes be difficult with what we may be used to, electronics are more expensive, imported alcohol can be taxed through the ceiling and transport can be often be in Ambassador cars, based on a 1960s Morris design and not changed much at all through the years. The country is opening up though and many more imported car labels and designs can be seen cruising the streets, along with thousands and thousands of motorcycles! India can also be a land of frustrations, bloody obstinate bureaucracy processes and mindless paperwork that is sometimes asked for. But it is also quite free and easy to live in if you have the facilities given to you and the touring and seeing the history and cultural sights is not to be missed. There are temples, shrines, palaces, tombs and forts around nearly every corner that you turn, from small wayside shrines right up to the Taj Mahal itself, from Mysore Palace to the Red Fort of New Delhi. The beggars can also give you a hard time and can be quite pestering as well, once they see you are a foreigner. Not all beggars are what they seem, with organizations running the street beggars and little will actually get to really needy people. Babies are for hire, and ?patches? are on rent where to ply the trade! You soon get to know the deserving causes, and are willing to give a 5 or 10 rupee here and there, but I must admit, that you do get somewhat desensitized to the poverty that is all around you. (Buildings like the High Court and Old Lighthouse at left are found all over India!)

Travel Image Luckily, none of our travels around India has been by the cart on the right! These are quite common sights on the roads around the country and can make driving here interesting to say the least! The roads are used by all manner and means of transport, but there is always one rule, - the bigger you are, the more right of way you have! On the other hand, if you are ever in an accident, then it is always the smaller party that is classed as in the right! There are now getting some good highways around India to travel on, but over-all you will find the roads pot holed, unordered, crowded and congested. I asked one of our drivers why the trucks in India only traveled at 20-30km per hour, and his answer was that at faster speeds, when suddenly stopping, one front wheel goes one way, the other disappears in the other direction and the truck ends up somersaulting down the road!

We did see some bad accident results and also many overloaded trucks there, but they do not have any time schedule and will cruise from New Delhi down to Bombay in anything from 4 days to two weeks! It is a similiar scenario in the Post Office when we tried to post a couple of packages from New Delhi, and were still trying 1 1/2 hours later when they closed, to try again in Calcutta, and to end up carrying the packages back to Singapore by hand! In Chennai alone, 400 - 500 vehicles of one type or another are being placed on the roads each day! Travel any of the country roads, and if there is a camel or buffalo or oxen near by, you get a photo just like the one above right! The boys are more than happy to pose for a photo if asked, along with bullock drivers, tea stall customers, truckies and so on. Most times the people are extremely pleasant and helpful - just do not have an accident with one! On all our travels around India and the living within the country, we have never felt ill at ease or unsafe and have made many friends and acquaintances during these times. Bargaining is the way of life and sure, everybody is out to make a dollar, but when you consider the equation in money terms of what the prices differences you may be actually bargaining for, it makes you stop and think sometimes!

Travel Image Madras or Chennai is at present our home, but while we are here it can also be included in the travel pages, so, while there is not a lot do actually do and see here, if you dig down, there are some very interesting photographs to be had and a few places that are worth visiting. Check out the markets, a very good museum and art complex, Thomas Mount, the temple town of Kanchipuram outside Chennai and other bits and pieces that we have unearthed so far like the museum, the markets and more!

Travel Image We had planned to go on holiday to Kenya in October 2001 as part of a long standing desire to go "on safari!" After Afghanistan and the missiles may have been flying, we decided to stay closer to home, so a trip to Kerala, Mysore and Bangalore was the result. The Palace at Mysore is certainly spectacular and the trip was great! Next time for safari maybe!

Travel Image Kerala and Cochin was the first part of the trip above and well worth going to! A place with a long history, plenty to see and the famous back waters! Of course, Kerala is also the home of Auyervedic medicine, and while we indulged in one of these massages, did not really enjoy it but in all other aspects we loved it. The page is at Kerala.

Travel Image Bombay or Mumbai was it is called now, was our home for a while until business dropped out of the market after September 11th and the position finished. We were quite familiar with the place before living there, as it was also an international gateway plus the stepping point into and out of Goa. You can find anything in Mumbai, plus there are also hidden places like the tiger parks and the bat caves.

Travel Image Mamallapuram was a day trip which we took in January of 2003, being just 1 hour south of Chennai - you actually pass it to go to Pondicherry. A temple town which we visited first in 1995 on holiday here, it is well worth a visit to see the temple carved into the hillside and all the rock carvings that are spaced around the place. Check it out at Mamallapuram!

Travel Image We took a small break to Pondicherry, which is about 2 hours south of Chennai on the 10th to 12 March. Staying in the LOrient Hotel, it was a quite a good holiday, even if too short, but we thoroughly enjoyed looking around Pondicherry. Check this out on out Pondicherry and Auroville and Villiannur pages, as we also dropped into here on the way home, plus some photos from our previous trip there!