Golden Triangle Tour – Amber and back to Delhi

Woke up in Jaipur quite early and had my first indian breakfast served to my room. Quite spicy!!! Don’t know how they can eat this for breakfast, haha.

Indian breakfast - Aloo Paratha. Spicy!!!

Indian breakfast – Aloo Paratha. Spicy!!!

Then for the first time my driver Mahender was staying at the same hotel, so we met up about 7.45 to drive to the city of Amber.

I noticed the first time that neither motorbikes have rear windows installed at all! I know cars and tuk tuks pull them in, but yeah… must be difficult! The horn is the law here! Haha. Another thing I’ve noticed is that nobody has GPS, not the taxis, the drivers or the tuktuks. It’s like in South America, they often stop to ask people along the way, or they call ahead to the place they are going to get directions. I wouldn’t survive without GPS anymore I think, I’m so used to always have it with me in the phone.

We drove past Jaipur, saw plenty of monkeys running around the pink walls!!

I also saw my first roadkill here in India :( I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen more, you always pass by some pore dead animal in Sweden but our animals are often smaller and it’s usually on roads close to the forest. Here I’ve seen thousands of cows cross the road slowly without getting harmed, even in rough traffic. Also donkeys, sheep, elephants, camels, dogs, horses… They are just in the middle of town crossing the streets!

We got up in the hills above Jaipur, to visit Amber (Amer, apparently it’s called both). It’s about 11 km north of central Jaipur. It’s beautiful around there!

My below Amber Fort and Palace

My below Amber Fort and Palace

My guide told me though that the vendors up there work for the Jaipur mafia, if I understood it correctly, and since he didn’t want to get any problems with them because he is there everyday, he said that he will be quiet in front of them. I understood what he meant later, they are on to you sooo much, like trying to sell things up your face all the time, you had to be quite rude to them for them to understand!

If you get to the bottom of the hill early in the morning you can take an elephant-ride up to the fort. It was quite expensive, 1100 INR ( 15€/USD) but I think it was worth it, it was my first elephant ride and I enjoyed it. It was super tranquil and nice smooth ride, you just kept moving from one side to the other slowly, having a beautiful view over the sunrise over the Maota lake.

Such a nice view! Just dangling from side to side watching the sunrise!

Such a nice view! Just dangling from side to side watching the sunrise!

It’s a quite touristic thing to do though, so you have to be there early if you don’t want to stay in cue for hours. I’ve read many bad things about the elephant rides, that they treat them bad and all, but my guide told me that these elephants belongs to the “driver”, and they treat them as a part of their family. They actually have a whole elephant-village where the families with elephants live. They work, eat and sleep together. I’d love to visit that village! Along the way up there are many photographers too that takes your picture and then sell it to you (yes, I bought it, but bargained it down from 1500 rupees to 500)

Me on my elephant ride!

Me on my elephant ride!

Oh, another thing about elephants. They are only female elephants! There is only one male elephant in whole Jaipur, and it’s only for breeding for new elephants (haha, he must have a good life :). Earlier they had male elephants doing the rides, but they often got into fights with the other elephants, and many tourists died! So now it’s forbidden to use the male elephant for it!

Anyhow, when we came up to the entry gate of the fort, the Sun Gate, I had to little money with me, the entrance was 500 INR, I had misunderstood the guide that said that the car was going up too, but apparently it was after the visit. So the guide borrowed some money from some of his friends up there that also comes everyday, and they arranged to borrow me money. So sweet! They always help each other out here. The same earlier when I was going to tip the elephant-driver, he exchanged a 500 rupees bill to hundreds with the help from 5 other elephant drivers along the way up, haha.

The Sun gate and courtyard

The Sun gate and courtyard

Amber Fort is a massive fort-palace complex built with a mix of Muslim and Hindu architecture. It’s constructed of red sandstone and marble. It’s on 4 levels with different courtyards, palaces and gardens. It and has a lot of history, definitively worth to have a good guide there!

The fort is originally believed to have been built by Raja Man Singh, The king of Amber, during 967 CE. The structure was expanded by his descendants and successive rulers over the next 150 years, but when the population grew the Kachwahas decided to shift capital and make a new city lower on the ground were it’s easier to expand and have water and food for everyone , so that’s why Jaipur is the first planned city (1727).

My Guide in front of a building with a mix of Hindu and Muslim architechture

My Guide in front of a building with a mix of Hindu and Muslim architechture

Love the valves!

Love the valves!

View over the bay and the Maoka Lake!

View over the bay and the Maota Lake!

The main sight within includes the Shees Mahal (“Mirror palace”), a saloon adorned with thousands of mirrors on the walls and ceiling. During winter they put up a curtain around the saloon and light up many candles, so it reflects everywhere, and they had a dance there under the sparkling lights :)

The Mirror Palace

The Mirror Palace! (You can’t really see the mirrors in this pic, but everything is of small small mirrors!

Hello form one of the mirrors in the mirror palace :)

Hello from one of the bigger mirrors in the mirror palace :)

 

I was surprise of how complex the construction was in the fort,  everything was so well planned! They had a winter house and summer house, created in different ways, for it to either get hot or cooled down.

Like the Sukh Niwas (Hall of Pleasure) – it has marble inlay work with perforations looking down, because they know that the heat goes up, so the heat will leave the inside to go out, but it will not come back. It also has a piped water supply that flows through a open channel that runs through the room, going out to the garden just cross the hall. It’s aircondition, old style!

Antique AC with leaning perforations so the hot can go out

Antique AC with leaning perforations so the hot can go out

The water came through there on the other side and through the channel in the floor into the garden

The water came through there on the other side and through the channel in the floor into the garden

The Garden in front of the Pleasure Hall

The Garden in front of the Pleasure Hall

Along this they also have a hall of public audience, private audience, a jacuzzi, a part where all the Maharajans 12 wives lived in – they had different apartments, all with own entrances from the corridor so that the Maharajan could visit them without the other wife knowing of it. They have their own system for taking up water from the lake, and also they have this nice kind of closed balcony with honey comb windows, and just beside that there was so many beehives!!

Me in front of the honeycomb windows :)

Me in front of the honeycomb windows :)

Water coming up!

Water coming up!

Photo exhibition

Photo exhibition

 

After the Amber tour we went back to Jaipur to drop Gaurau of  (my guide). I forgot to tell you in the last entry, but he does yoga every morning at 4am in front of the water palace! Then he walks around the lake for about 1 hour before starting working around 7am. So cool! Yoga is so incorporated in everybodies life here in India!!

His wife called yesterday just when the tour was about to end and asked where he was, because she was waiting for him for the afternoon tea. Haha. So sweet. Maybe that’s a custom that still remains from the British rulers? Wouldn’t surprice me :)

We said goodbye to our great guide and me and Mahender started the journey back to Delhi. I’m surprised that there are so many hotels, motels, restaurants and kiosks – everywhere! In the middle of nowhere. But there are so many Indians on the go, so I guess some people stop there to sleep and eat.

Like this place we ate at just along the high way- Sagar Ratna. It was really great food and cheap and superb service! It’s like a great road-restaurant! How many customers go there? I don’t know. I hope they get a lot!

Pesarattu Mla Dosa - made with whole green gram and stuffet with nutruios upma.

Pesarattu Mla Dosa – made with whole green gram and stuffet with nutruios upma.

I had a Pesarattu MLA Dosa, made with whole green gram and stuffed with nutritious upma. To that I had a lassi – delicious!! Total price about 4 €/USD. Across me I had a businessman that seemed very wealthy, he was eating with sunglasses, had like 5 different golden rings on EACH hand, expensive clothes and was talking in his Iphone 6 plus all the time.

That’s one thing that feels good here compared to South America – that I can bring my iphone here without it being weird. Almost everyone has smart phones here.

Mahender asked me what I did last night, I said I watched some TV. He asked me if I watch Discovery Channel. Yeah I do, he said “My kids watch Discovery Channel” I said “That’s good if they watch that instead of crappy tv!” he says “Yes! I say: No movies, no cartoon, only discovery channel! They can watch for it for 1 hour only, and my sons loves it” . Oh! I’m gonna miss Mahender :)

We arrived around 17 to Delhi and I checked in at my hostel, Stops Hostel. Great hostel! Quite much security, had metal detectors, tv cameras everywhere, security gards. They have their own bar, a biljard hall, a outside terrace with ping pong, a quiet room area, they arrange tours on different days of the week, they had 3 dogs :) And the staff was so friendly and helpful!!

Cute hostel doggies! :)

Cute hostel doggies! :)

After fixing my stuff I was hungry and asked for recommendations for a restaurant. They had one a few hundred of meters from our hostel, a nice vegetarian indian restaurant. On my way there I had to step out in the traffic because the whole pavement (that has roof) was filled with people sleeping under. Hurts my heart.

Punjabi Khana, the restaurant, was great! I had some Dal (Lentils) and Garlic Naan bread. Next to me there was a big big indian family, about 15 people, from babies to grandmothers. It was lovely to watch them. The restaurant was packed with indian families this Friday night. :)

Sneakpic of the indian family, but can't see the lively children though :(

Sneakpic of the indian family, but can’t see the lively children though :(

Then I got back to the hostel and tried to sleep, but one of my roomies (I was in a 4-dormitory) was snoring soooo loud! The rest of us 3 woke up plenty of times and knocked on the guy and threw pillows on him, but he wouldn’t stop. Luckily he left 4 am in the morning. Haha.

 

Golden Triangle Tour – From Agra to Jaipur – The Pink City of India

I slept fantastic well in the confy bed in Agra. I had the breakfast in the restaurant, it was a complimentary breakfast buffet. But I must say I was a little disappointed, the only thing I didn’t like about this hotel. They had some indian food, but the continental breakfast was just plain white bread, butter and jam. Then there was some juice and hot water for instant coffee. Ah, they had papaya to. But nothing else, and such a luxury hotel. I would have liked some cheese and tomatoes or something for the toast.. and maybe other bread than white :/ But but. I’m in India! Haha. Also there were eggs, but I opened one, and the yellow was a kind of white with a turn to the grey side, nothing yellow at all, so I didn’t feel to eat it.

Not so nice egg. No thank you.

Not so nice egg. No thank you.

We left at 8 in the morning again. Agra is also more beautiful in the morning, as Delhi was. I think it’s because it’s less people and the city is sort of awaking, and there is always a special morning light. It’s nice to see all the people going to their jobs or schools, and they are really dressed up. I’m surprise to see people in nice dressing pants and shirt or with school uniform, it’s like a big contrast from the dirty streets, like they don’t belong or are totally unaware of the chaos around them. Everyone is very proper dressed (only the really really really poor people have old and dirty clothes). Indians do care a lot about their looks. Even the poor people always have short newly cut hair. You see outside “hair dressers”, you often se a man in a stool in the street with a small hand mirror, and someone behind cutting his hair.

So once again there were about 250 kms from Agra to Jaipur. But this journey went a lot faster then yesterdays, which was shorter kilometer-wise. The surrounding scenery on this road was much more beautiful, I expected to see the same as yesterday, but this was filled with green areas, forest, lot’s of yellow raps mark.  Also the road was great, seemed new and with no bumps. My driver Mahender is happy. “The Rajastan road is very very nice”. 

We passed by quite many factories where they do altars in marble and pink stone. There were like 100 of them along the way! They export to the whole india from there.

Also a lot of brick factories, in one burning they do about 10.000 bricks, so that’s what almost all the houses are made of. You see people building their houses along the road everywhere. They have long tree sticks/poles for scaffolding. Doesn’t seem all that safe, haha.

Raps mark

Raps mark

Many pink altars and temples and other statues along the road!

Many pink altars and temples and other statues along the road!

Brick factory with a camel (dromedar probably though)

Brick factory with a camel (dromedar probably though)

 

We drove by less villages and cities then yesterday, but it’s still surprising to me that people build their houses a stone’s throw from the big thoroughfare. Why not build the house at least 20 meters from the road, just to avoid a little bit of the traffic noise and dust? Don’t know. Almost every house also had a few cows outside. They use them for milk, since the cow is holy here.

The trucks are quite loaded!

The trucks are quite loaded!

My Driver Mahender is very keen on his car, always washing it and taking of the dust.

My Driver Mahender is very keen on his car, always washing it and taking of the dust.

Mahender asked me if I like to cook. I answered and asked him the same question. He answered “Yes I like, but I can only 3 dishes. Omelette, rice and chicken”. I said “oh really, so you eat that every day?” “No, only Sundays, it’s my cooking days. Me, my daughter and my son eats, my wife doesn’t like my cooking” hahaha. He is very sweet, has a very big heart. He told me that he doesn’t take any vacation either, because he works whenever he can. This trip is a short trip for him, usually he is out for longer than a week, then when he has some days off he comes home to look after his family and house, that everything is ok.

Mahender told me that his wife called him when we were in Jaipur and asked where he is.  “I say I’m in agra, on my way to Jaipur – My wife got very happy” “Why happy?” “Because, she says now I can buy her bangles, and she sad many, for at least 1000 rupees!” Hahah. Jaipur is famous for their bangles (bracelets).

We arrived in Jaipur around noon. Finally a city I like!! Jaipur is the largest city in the state of Rajasthan and was built in the 18th century by Sawai Jai Singh as India’s first planned city. Every building within the walled historic centre is painted a terracotta “pink” colour and there are few exceptions to this uniformly colour scheme. It is so much cleaner here, the traffic isn’t that dense, and the city itself is much more beautiful since it’s all more uniform.

In the center of Jaipur

In the center of Jaipur

We met up with the guide Gaurau Bhatt and he was great, he started directly telling me the history of the city. He spoke very understandable English

Jaipur has about 6 million habitants.  It is known as ”The pink city of India”.  The city has enforced this color under local law, it’s illegal for buildings to be painted any other colour than Jaipur Pink.  It is said that the city is pink because the king of Tejpur, The Maharaja, was going to have a visit from the Prince of Wales in 1876 and wanted to impress him. The colour chosen was a terracotta pink as this colour historically represents welcoming and hospitality. But my guide actually told me that the Maharaja chose this color because of his religion, because he worshipped 2 gods – and this ”pink” is a mix of both of the colors these gods represents – the yellow from the hindu god Shiva and the red (I think) from hindu god Brahman.

We started with the Palace of Winds, Hawa mahal, which is Jaipurs most distinctive landmark. It has 5 floors and 953 small  honey comb windows. It was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh so that royal ladies could watch the life and processions of the city, because during that time women always had a face cover were not allowed to show their faces in public. The intricated lattice works lets cool air through the Palace, even during hot summer, and that’s why it’s called Palace of Winds.

Palace of the wind

Palace of the winds

 

Then we went into the City Palace, what a place!  It’s from the 20th century and has a striking blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. It has a welcome palace, hall of public audience, a lot of gates and the private palace. The private palace is the only building that is not Pink in Jaipur (“Everything should be painted but my palace!” he said because the king was above the prince, so to show that, the whole city except for his own home was painted in pink).
The palace has a lot of small galleries inside where you can see clothes, armoury, wagons, portraits of old kings, carpets, paintings etc.
I loved my guide, he told me the whole history of each and everyone and thing and I learnt a lot. Very interesting! You are not allowed to take pictures in the proper galleries, to bad.

There were many cool photographs there from where India had about 50 kings, a mix of indian, brittish and pakistanian kings. The ceiling was also painted in natural colors, meaning that it is painted with the dust that comes from forming gems out of stones for example red is ruby, green is emerald etc (some almost as expensive as diamonds), then that colored stone-dust is mixed with glue and painted. So it’s quite an expensive paint!!

The presidential palace

The privat presidential palace

In one of the peacock doors in the palaces courtyard

In one of the peacock doors in the palaces courtyard

The maharajan only drank holy water - so when he visited Brittain for 6 months he brought his holy water with him in 2 of these jars - the biggest silver jars on eart

The maharajan only drank holy water – so when he visited Brittain for 6 months he brought his holy water with him in 2 of these jars – the biggest silver jars on eart

Just across the Palace we have the Jantar Mantar, an astronomical and astrological observatory. It is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments that allow the observations of astronomical positions with the naked eye. The monument expresses architectural innovations, as well as the coming together of ideas from different religious and social beliefs in 18th century India.

It was built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh, and completed in 1738 CE. It’s in the Guiness record book because of the world’s largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The monument features instruments operating the horizon-zenith local system, the equatorial system and the ecliptic system. SUPERCOOL!

me in front of the world's largest stone sundial

me in front of the world’s largest stone sundial

How to see in what zodiac we are in

How to see in what zodiac we are in

Many cool big astronomical tools, and in the back you see the Palace of Winds

Many cool big astronomical tools, and in the back you see the Palace of Winds

Me in front of my zodiac monument - the Sagittarius :)

Me in front of my zodiac monument – the Sagittarius :)

After that we visited a fabric place where they color fabrics, they have wooden stamps for it. For a fabric it can be minimum 4 colors and maximum 8 colors for this technique. They have different stamps, like the outer contures of an elephant, then they have for example 3 another stamp with some parts of the elephants. They wet the wooden stamps in colour and press it on fabric, let dry for 48 hours and then wash it. After that it never fades. Everything is handcraft!!!

by hand they stamp the fabric with in between 4-8 colors

by hand they stamp the fabric with in between 4-8 colors

Colouring an elephant!

Colouring an elephant!

After 4 different stamps, one black that does the contures, then the red, yellow and blue. You see the stamps in the back!

After 4 different stamps, one black that does the contures, then the red, yellow and blue. You see the stamps in the back!

I was a little hungry after so we went for a snack. I said that I wanted to go to a local place and not a touristic place, at first I thought the guide took me to a touristic place anyways because it was only 2 tourist there, but then about 10 indian men entered, so I was happy haha. I was suggested the “Rajhastan plate” that is from this area, but it looked like a lot, I said to the guide that I don’t eat that much “It’s a small plate!” he said… Haha. He went out and I ate alone. My waiter was the cuuutest man with a big big smile. He also asked about my hair. Haha. I ate up about 90% of the food and then asked for a doggybag to bring home. “Yes yes, no problem!” the waiter said. I paid and then I waited. And waited. Then I asked another waiter about the doggybag “Yes yes, wait there, yes yes”. So I waited. Then I asked again. Hm, they had thrown my food, they hadn’t understood. Whaaaaaat a disappointment.. Well well. I told the guide about this and then he disappeared for a while and came back and say that they will make new food for me to bring home, haha. Oh so sweet, now I feel bad about that I was a little bit angry about that. He said that people in Tejpur and Rajahstan are famous for their hospitality, that it is no problem. I felt bad anyway. But happy.

Rajasthan thali!

Rajasthan thali!


We went down by the water, a nice kind of ramblas along the lake.
Before it was a big forest, except for a little part of the valley where there was a small lake. The king of Jaipur used to go here for hunting, and he said it was a beautiful place, I should build a summer palace here, so he did. But then after a while then they cut down the trees for the wood and the lake extended and covered the palace, so now it’s called the Water Palace.
It’s a very nice place where the people from Jaipur enjoy a walk and can buy some food or jewelry and watch the river and the palace. And the wild rats along the coast! Haha.

Me in front of the Water Palace

Me in front of the Water Palace

People walking along the lake

People walking along the lake

So here you are either muslim or hindu (or christian), depending on what family you come from. I had written in my notes that I’m surprised there aren’t any beggers here, when I was in mexico I couldn’t walk one meter before someone asked me for money. Here it hasn’t happened to me in Agra or in Delhi, but now in Jaipur, while walking by the water, there were about 3-4 kids in different occasions that came and asked for money. I commented that for the guide, and he said it’s usually muslim-children, they have more custom to have many many children which they later can’t support or don’t even take care of, so they have to find food for themselves. Horrible.

He also told me that in India, you are allowed to have 2 children, if you have a third, then you can’t work within the government. So if you have a government job, they fire you if you have a third child. If you don’t, well you can never have a government job then. It is legal to make abortion, but not that common. Before, a lot of women did abortion when they knew that the gender of the baby was a girl. Man have more power, education and work here, women cause more problems to have. But that kind of abortion is forbidden now, and a doctor who does that abortion can have very serious consequences, so doctors generally only make abortion if the couple already have 2 kids. Hm! Interesting!

We rounded up quite early, since we have a half day tomorrow to but in Amber (will write a separate post about it). Me and Mahender went to look for bangles for his wife on the market, but it was bad for him that I was with him because it was much more expensive when they saw me. So we went to the hotel, quite far away! It wasn’t that good hotel, I got spoiled in Agra. No internet, no normal sheets (!), hard bed, no desk.. but enough. I had my doggybag-dinner, watched tv-series and relaxed.

There has been quite much to take in these days, but I think that once you get to know the city you are in it must be kind of great. There’s always something going on and lot’s of people around. I wish I spoke Hindi haha. The English is limited for conversation if it’s not someone who is very educated and have studied English. But everybody understands a little bit at least, and everyone is very kind. 

Anyhow. Jaipur is definitively my favorite city of this golden triangle-tour.

 

Golden Triange Tour – From Delhi to Agra and Taj Mahal

I woke up 7am and called for breakfast, which was included and they delivered to the room :) I had ordered toast, coffee and orange juice. I got warm toasts (I think it was melted butter on it), good orange juice and not sure if I got coffee or tea, because I asked for coffee, but it was very very sweet and with lots of sugar, so it was difficult to say, I think it was indian tea, but it was good.

At 8am a new driver, Mahender, picked me up at the hotel and we begun our journey to Agra. I’m a little bit disappointed that I’m doing the tour alone, because we were supposed to be a group of 3-4 people, and it ended up with only me… :/ Well well. Btw, no, sorry mum, they don’t have belts in the car here. Or they have the strap on ”the wall of the car”, but not the belt knuckle in the seat. I have one arm in the strap all the time. Haha.

Mahender told me he was married since 10 years back and had a daughter and a son (7 and 8 years old). The daughter goes to a government school and the boy in a private school. Apparently the private schools are only for boys! And there are no mixed schools here.

Delhi in the morning is a little bit calmer, the traffic is still chaotic but there are not so much people on the streets. It is very foggy, apparently this is only during wintertime, but I wonder if it’s not because of pollution as well.

Agra is about 200 kms away from Delhi, but the journey took 6 hours. We had a quick stop at a place to go to the toilet, and the driver had some breakfast, and then we kept driving.

It was very entertaining to just look out of the window to all the cities, villages and people we drove by. Sometimes Mahender said “This is city blabla” “this is bla bla”.. But I really can’t see where a city ends and starts, everything look the same. Brown dirty road along constructions, people and lots of vehicles. But sometimes there is a bigger town entry.

 

The high way just goes through everything, sometimes you can drive a km without any hustle, but most of the times there are jams because someone has to make a left turn to get into the city we are driving past. It’s crazy that it’s all in the same way and that they don’t have any slip road or anything. I must say I admire all the drivers here in India, they need to be so focused all the time.

I’m impressed by what I saw people carry in their vehicle along this road. Like one bicycle, he had about 20 pcs of 4m long burton tubes mounted on his cycle. Another one had about 15 big 20 kgs flour packs on his bike. And the big trucks carry a lot of wood or cementary or colliflower – and they don’t have any “door” on the end of the truck, it’s just open! So if they have a bad bump and you are just behind you can probably get some of that on you. You better wish for it to be the colliflower then.. ;)

When we got into another state you have to pay a tax, and just after the toll, it was a little little hovel where it said something “tax”. How the heck are you supposed to know you have to stop there to pay tax? Haha.

Paying taxes when entering a new state. Only taxis have to do this.

Paying taxes when entering a new state. Only taxis have to do this.

 

We passed by university areas (luxurious and modern!), green fields of wheat and rice, industrial areas with lots of fabrics etc… but mostly brown soil and fallen down houses. Sometimes there was a big hotel resort or touristic resort (who would like to live in a resort in the middle of nowhere with just brown dirty fields around you filled with chaotic traffic? I don’t know…) or a luxury banquet/palace for like weddings. Or some big monument (like a mini taj-mahal) or something. Very weird. All though all the gasoline stations are like the European ones, and the mc donalds, the wolksvagen and Honda shops etc… they all look the same everywhere! And just beside; another hovel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Along the motorway. Nice boardwalk to their house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wedding banket places

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Driving along cities and people

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fixing tuk-tuks :)

And yes, guys to stare at you. Women too. While I was sitting in the back seat of the car, all the tuk tuks and buses with people inside do really stare at me. I just ignore. Don’t know how long time they stare but I can see them in my periphery.

But maybe it’s not because I’m a woman, and white, because apparently my hair is quite remarkable here. I get a lot of stares and questions about my dreads, didn’t think it was going to be so special about it. It’s not known for being hippy here. They treat me as if I were a queen and had a million dollars here.

Another remarkable thing is that all the woman sit with both their legs on one side of the motorcycle. I think it’s because of the dresses and skirts, but still, it looks so easy to fall of, especially in these roads!

Woman with both her legs on the other side, and a kid there inbetween her and the driver

Woman with both her legs on the other side, and a kid there inbetween her and the driver

So.. Agra then. It’s in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and has a population of about 2 million. As my hometown Stockholm! We picked up our guide from here. Danish is his name. I could not completely understand what he said, hes English was very broken compared to yesterdays guide, Soni.

English is the second language here. Almost all the signs are in English, and everybody speaks some English. They mix Hindi and English. For example they always count in English, and some words are easier in English so they use them instead. But there isnt’ that many that can actually speak fluently haha. “Yes mam” is something I here all the time. Everybody says “Yes mam”, even if they haven’t understood what I had said or asked. It’s funny.

Anyhow. Once again we started the tour before checking into the hotel. We went to see one of the seven wonders of the world, Taj Mahal, and there was no cue or anything. We bought tickets and then we had to take a special car up to the taj mahal, because they don’t allow any vehicles that runs on gasoline up there, only electronic cars, because the pollution colors the white marble to yellow and makes it ugly.

Taj Mahal is a mig mauselium of white marble from Northern India, beautifully built. It is one of the Indian Muslim masterpieces of architecture.

There are very nice details in the stone that you can se up close, like florals made with inlaid stonework, completely made of natural colored stones, not painted. So there are stones from Afghanistan, Africa, Belgium etc that they hat cut out and very nice ornaments.

The Taj Mahal was built between 1631 and 1648 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife because she died to early. They are both buried there inside. The wifes name was Mumtaz Mahal, and Taj Mahal means Crown Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me in front of Taj Mahal in Agra

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0142.

Up close to Taj Mahal. Is huge!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoying the gardens and the view

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From Taj Mahal  to the other side

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About 60.000 indians visit Taj Mahal every day

That’s about what I learnt from my guide. He seemed quite tired and not so interested. He did not have so much empathy for what he was telling about, didn’t really seem to enjoy his work, he just rushed through things.

After the Taj Mahal we saw the Red Fort, it’s really huge and can’t fit into any photo (Did not even see it completely from anywhere, just red walls). We didn’t go in, my guide said about 70% of it is closed to the public due to military is occupying it, so it didn’t seem worth to go in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red Fort in Agra

Then we visited a marble factory, where they make marble like the one in Taj Mahal. It is very typical from Agra, and it’s such a niiiiice handcraft. Omg. So they get the stones, and then they hand grind them into the shape of for example petals. Every every single piece, on a wheel with water sort of.

They paint the white marble with red color, so it’s easier to see the engraving they do, and they do a pattern. Then they hack out the rest and glue in the stone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carving out the marble where the stone petals are going to be inserted

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Grinding petals of natural stones with this tool

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What the man in the picture earlier is doing. Each piece have to fit and is handgrided into different flowers and shapes!!

They have some really precious hand craft work there. For a big table, it costs about 700 euros. Not so much after all the work behind it. It takes about 6 months to make on of these tables!! I asked if they have a factory there, but it’s made in the neighboring hand crafters houses, since the tools are so easy, they have it themselves at home. A total of 120 families in the area works with it. I couldn’t buy a table, but I bought some smaller easier items, as a memory, and also to contribute to the families. Once again they invited me for tea, asked about my hair, and presented aaall their stuff… I was there for almost one hour, and of course I felt guilty if I didn’t buy anything. The manager was also very sweet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of these tables takes approximately 6 months  to do and costs 700 euros.

Then we visited another place like the ones I visited yesterday in Delhi. This time I did actually find a nice ganeisha silver pendant for my collection around my neck. Then they wanted me to see the fabrics, the paintings, the elephants, the glasses etcs… But I was quite tired of it, but I ended up buying indian tea and spices from there..

After that the guide asked me if I wanted a snack or something, and I said sure (we hadn’t had lunch), I said something typical indian, not touristic. I thought he would bring me to a street corner or something.. but he brought me to a big restaurant, where I saw a big tourist bus leaving from. Hmm… Inside was totally empty. Such a typical tourist place. They showed me the menu, but I said that I didn’t want to eat eat, so I had something called “Pakoda”, that’s like some bread thing and inside it’s cheese, or onion, or cheese. It was quite good, but I also had a doggybag with me home with it. I had some coffee too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pakoda – a snack – inside them there was either cheese, onion or colliflower

Then once again, another shop.. this time a jewelry shop. I said I don’t wear jewelry. “You don’t need to buy anything, you can just see the work from here”… well… I ended up buying a ring tailor made for me. They also wanted after that “come and see our fabrics, come and see our paintings”… but no thank you.

I’m sure the guides have some kind of arrangement to bring the tourists to these places. They are all super luxurious and “very good quality”. It’s weird that I can actually afford to go to this kind of place, it would be like to go to a Gucci store or something in Sweden and be able to actually afford something there. But still, I don’t like these shop-stops. The first time was fun, because it was the first, but the rest is all the same. For me, a tour should be visiting something local, but not enter a store. I’m getting fairly tired of being treated as a big spending tourist (even though I really am this two days in India, but I would have rather done that on my personal time). Also since I’m the only one in the tour, it feels very personal, like that I need to buy something. But now I really don’t want something. If they bring me tomorrow to another place, I’m just going to say no, I don’t want to enter. I have to send home a fucking package with all I have bought here now.

After the last shop we had some drive through around Agra, Danish showed me apartments they are building, nursery schools, villages etc. Just passed by with the car. We actually passed by a street that looks like a regular street to me, quite empty, no trash, nice houses. It was a little bit of a surprise. But yeah. I think my guide did want to go home. Haha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Around in Agra, a guy sitting in the sunset with his cheep

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A ”normal” street for me, clean with uniform houses!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They are building new apartments in Agra

Anyhow. Agra is a quite ugly city, as everyone had said to me earlier. It doesn’t really have anything more then Taj Mahal, and if it weren’t one of the 7 wonders of the world, it would not be worth the trip. The Red fort I could only see one little piece of from the motorway.  I enjoyed to see how they do the marble work, but not the feeling of obligation to buy something from there afterwards.

I did the check in at the hotel which was in the center and it was really great! Polite English speaking staff, really good shower, big tv with many channels, nice temperature, clean room, a desk, big nice beds… Top top! It’s called Amar Yatri Niwas. Very happy!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0155.

Very happy and spoilet with my good big room at Amar Yatri Nawas in Agra!

 

Golden Triangle Tour – 1 stop – Delhi

Delhi is the capital of India and the home of executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the Government of India. Delhi is a large metropolis. It’s the largest city in India in terms of geographical area – about 1,484 square kilometers. It has over 16 million habitants, making it the second most populous city in India and the third largest urban area in the world.

Delhi has been inhabited since the 6th century BC.Delhi is said to be one of the oldest existing cities in the world, along with Jerusalem and Varanasi. Legend estimates it to be over 5,000 years old. Over the millennia, Delhi is said to have been built and destroyed 11 times.  Through most of its history, Delhi has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires. It has been captured, ransacked and rebuilt several times, particularly during the medieval period, and modern Delhi is a cluster of a number of cities spread across the metropolitan region.

Street of Old Delhi

Street of Old Delhi

So as I said in my other post with my first impressions, I had bought a Golden Triangle Tour for 4 days. First day was in Delhi. We started out in the Old Delhi part, that’s of course the old part of Delhi, where the streets are narrow and crowded with people, stores, food. The houses feels like they are going to fall apart anytime, and some already have. It is very very dirty and dusty and there is literally trash everywhere. And sounds and smells. It was somehow nice to see some tourists there, like I’m not the only one here, haha. I’m surprised there are so many children walking by themselves there in the middle of the traffic. Like a bunch of 6 year-olds.

Here is a video I captured out from the window of our car, please take the minute to see:


We visited the Jama Masjid, is one of the largest mosques in India. It was built between 1644 and 1656 at a cost of 1 million rupees. I was surprised it was an open air mosque. The courtyard can accommodate more then 25.000 people. It is used everyday and we were the last ones to enter before the close for prayer (which they do about 5 times a day). It is constructed of red sandstone and white marble, has 3 gates and 4 towers. It’s free to go in, but if you want to bring your camera it costs 300 INR (about 4 euros/USD). From there you have a view over the Red fort.

Jama Masjid Mosquee

Jama Masjid Mosquee

Muslims at the mosque Jama Masjid

Muslims at the mosque Jama Masjid

Then we went to New Delhi, where we visited the India Gate. This monument has been built as a memorial for the Indian soldiers who died in World War I. There is also a fire (”eternal flame”) burning for all fallen Indian soldiers all year around.

While I was looking at it an indian couple asked me if I could take a picture, “yes sure!” I said, thinking that I was going to take the picture of them in front of the gate, but no, they meant take a picture with ME instead, haha. That was sweet and funny. I wish I had taken a picture of them too, they were so sweet. :)

The India gate

The India gate

We visited the Raj Ghat, it’s a memorial to Mahatma Ghandi, he was cremated on this place. Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) was the leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world employing nonviolent protests like hunger strike etc.

Soni, the guide, said he liked this park very much because it’s green and beautiful and fresh. It’s really like any other park for me, except for that Ghandi is cremated there, but I understand it’s very special to have a green peaceful area in Delhi for them. It’s not very common.

In the gardens of Raj ghat with Ghandis memorial stone behind me

In the gardens of Raj ghat with Ghandis memorial stone behind me

Ghandis memorial stone where he was cremated

Ghandis memorial stone where he was cremated

 

When we got out of the park it was super crowded outside, apparently there was a protest going on. It was packed with nurses and doctors, and a man had a speech there with a monophone, there were tv-cameras and the police and everything. Apparently the government haven’t paid the nurses their wage in 3 months!!! “Because there are not enough funds for it”…Poor them! The medical care is free in India. I don’t think so much people pay taxes here, only the legit businesses, but I wonder what the government really does with the money, since there is no street that is clean or even complete.

Protest of nurses who haven't gotten paid in over 3 months

Protest of nurses who haven’t gotten paid in over 3 months

Anyhow, took a while to get out of there with the car since it was packed. Then we went to have some lunch, but we had to wait a little to get a table, and meanwhile, I hanged out with a man who played the flute for his snakes. He had a cobra and a boa snake, which I got around my neck and got to chill with them. It was a little bit scary “they don’t bite!” yeah sure… ;) Haha, but it was an experience!

Me making aquiantences with a cobra and another snake

Me making aquiantences with a cobra and another snake

We had lunch at a restaurant called Pindis. the guide said it is very famous because it’s good northern indian food. For starters they always have like tapas of onion marinated in vinegar, which you eat with mint sause, and then picel which is quite a salty snack. For the meal we had mixed vegetables, paakak panir (panir and spinach), chana nasala (chick peas), garlic naan (indian bread), raita (yoghurt sas). It was really delicious.

I’m so happy about all the vegetarian food here, the menu always contains a whole vegetarian side. About 70% of the indian population are vegetarians. So it’s really no problem for me here, I can just point on something and say “vegetarian?” and if they say yes, it really is. I’m not going to find a bit of ham or tuna or something there. Such a relief!

After the meal we had some anis and sugarcane, apparently that’s something you always have after the meal. Our waiter was Indian, but he really looked Japanese. He is from the side of india close to china. Apparently there are many different looks here in India, in some part of India they are whiter than me. That’s one thing TV doesn’t show ;)

Some Indian tapas. Onion with vinegar, mint sause and some salty something

Some Indian tapas. Onion with vinegar, mint sause and some salty something

Having lunch at Pindis

Having lunch at Pindis with my guide Soni ( in the mirror  you see the japanese-indian guy and the photographer)

The "shot" you take after have eaten

The ”shot” you take after have eaten

 

One thing I found weird, that was not mentioned, is that I had to pay the whole thing, the guide didn’t say anything about sharing the costs, just the food. Maybe that’s something you do if you have a guide, don’t know..

The cost was about 1700 INR, which to me sounded quite expensive for being India, but it was my first meal here and it wasn’t that much for 2 people compared to Indian restaurants in Sweden. (Note: a couple of days later I definitely noted that was an very very expensive restaurant. Good quality meals are around 3-500 rupees.) Also since I’m not a very big eater, it was more than half of what we had ordered left after both of us had eating, so I got it in a doggybag to bring home for dinner. You can always ask for a doggybag here if you leave food. That is great and common! :)

After lunch we went to see the big Bahá’í Lotus Temple, it’s shaped like a lotus bud with 27 petals, it’s really stunning, probably one of the most magnificent monuments ever made from concrete. We didn’t go in because it was a very very long cue and I’ve also heard there is very little to see inside. It’s nice because all the religions are welcome there.

The Lotus temple

The Lotus temple

Then we went to a fabric industry, where they have many many fabrics of all kinds and sell to other stores. I started looking at some stuff, they sell tunica, scarf and pants all together for 1500-3000 INR (around 20-40euros). Since I’m not that into sparkling things I had a cheaper one, very good quality. Then I saw some harem pants that I had to buy. And then they let me try some Saris on, and one of them was beautiful, made of silk.. it was 5000 INR (65 euros)… VERY expensive but beautiful. They also sewed up a matching blouse to it after my measurements and delivered it to the hotel later (!). Then they wanted to sell me more scarfs but I said stop, I can’t buy more, they tried and tried to make me buy more but no haha. I had already spent my whole weekly budget only on this day. Damn India and all those nice colors and damn me for being a stupid tourist. But I’m not regretting buying anything, that’s good ;)

Me in my sari

Me in my sari

After that we visited yet another house, actually looking for a silver pendant to my necklace collection (I have one pendant from every country I visited), but they didn’t have any tiny silver pendants. Instead I ended up buying some really nice scarfs made of silk, cashmere and cotton. One is really cool with “windows” in it, the attendant told me “This is a mix of silk and cotton, you see the windows here are in silk and the rest is a mix, it’s completely unique here in India because it’s an invention of my family”… What? Your family? Ok, give me one! Haha. (Had not learned to say no to pretty things here yet). I also bought a handpainted elephant. They always offer you some tea or something to drink, and they are really good sellers, let you sit on a bench and they show you different fabrics and things.. It’s hard to not buy anything, you feel a little bit of obligation too... and now I can’t fit everything well in my backpack. It fits, but it’s messy.

My scarf with windows in silk and with handprinted colours

My scarf with windows in silk and with handprinted colours

Close up of the scarf

Close up of the scarf

Around 8pm we were done and I finally did the check in at the hotel. It’s called Omega residency. It was a nice double room, but it was quite moisty and a little cold due to that. I didn’t get any towels either, even though it looked like a really fancy room. Only one of three power outlets working, so I put everything to charge through the computer, had a shower, ate my doggybag and chatted a bit with my boyfriend and mum. I had wifi :)

 

Finally in my hotel room!

Finally in my hotel room!

So yes, this first days have made a quite big impact on me, it’s a lot to take in, but I could probably manage myself here after a while. It reminds me a lot of the chaos I saw in some places in Peru and Bolivia, the difference is that I don’t understand any Hindi or know how the customs work here.

Then I finally went to sleep. About 20 minutes after I fell asleep, the reception called my room and said that my sari had arrived, haha. Then I fell asleep again. Ahhh :)

 

My first impressions of India – I arrived well…

Namasté!

I arrived in New Delhi safe and sound. The flight here went well, no mayor problems.

I flew here with Emirates. Such a luxury! Everything was great. We had truly HDTV on the tv-screens, and over 2000 channels to choose from, film, tv-series, music, games… anything. And it was such great quality compared to for example Brittish Airways. Another thing I like is the diversity of the staff. On my flight there were people from 14 different countries speaking 22 languages together. Very Cool. We also got hot towels a couple of times during the flight, and they had plenty of different vegetarian choices for meal. So yes, it was perfect, and I even wish the flight was longer. ;) And I was in the economy class.. guess how business or first class must have!

lacto-ovo-vegetarian meal at emirates :)

lacto-ovo-vegetarian meal at emirates :)

When arriving in New Delhi Airport, first thing after getting my bag and customs, was to buy a sim-card, which I did at the airport (everything by hand, no computers there..;). But they had nano-simcards, cool. Weird thing is that even if I had bought it there and everything was set (it was 9am), it wouldn’t get activated until 14.00. Then to activate my internet package, I had to call a number and give my passport digits to activate it.. Well well.

I had earlier arranged through City Linkers Tours & Travels a 4 days tour for the Golden Triangle, which is Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. So I had a driver who greeted me at the airport with my name on a sign :) Then we went out in the traffic… and jesus. First, they have left-side-traffic here, which I had no clue about. But it’s all the vehicles and the noise and the chaos that just make you drop your jaw.

Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, tuk-tuks, cars, busses, horses, donkeys, even camels and cows…. Everyone uses the same road! If there are 2 lanes, there’s nothing stopping you from crossing over to the other side, or drive 4 vehicles (let’s say 2 cars, 1 tuk-tuk and 1 motorbike) along side each other, or even driving contra-traffic. The cars even take in their rearview mirror so it won’t get smashed by another car, while driving! And most tuk-tuks and motorbikes don’t even have rearview windows! Basically, there are not really any rules. The most important thing is the horn though, that’s your way of telling the other vehicle that you are coming on the side or that he is in the way, since they can’t see without the mirrors. Haha. I’m surprised over that all the cars look so new, and they are barely scratched or buckled. I’ve been driving around in car for 2 days now and I have not yet seen any accident or anything, so they know how to drive after these crazy rules.

So after the airport we went to my tourist agent office/home, in Saket. There I put on my contact lenses and freshened up myself a little because we were going straight for a tour around Delhi, without checking in at the hotel first. Mr Vinay was very polite and a nice man, he gave me my trip itinerary. I remembered that I hadn’t let my mum know I was ok since my simcard wasn’t yet activated, so I asked Vinay to send her a whatsapp telling her I had arrived. Apparently she replied to him in Swedish, thinking it was me who sent the text. Haha.

Streets of Old Delhi

Streets of Old Delhi

Me and the driver picked up the guide in the city center, and he gave a very good impression with a big open smile. His name is Soni, and he knows his way around this city. There are about 16 million people living in Delhi, so yes, for me, everything was chaotic. In the whole Sweden we are only 9 million, and very well organized. Delhi is HUGE, and there is people and smells and noises everywhere.

It’s a very dirty city, Delhi is the most polluted city in the world and according to one estimate, air pollution causes the death of about 10,500 people in Delhi every year.

I wanted to take a lot of pictures, like when you see a bicycle with 9 gas cylinders hanging from it, or when you see 8 people in a tuk-tuk for 4, but I didn’t dare first, but then the Guide Soni said “Take as much as you want and on everything you want, you are with me, everything is ok!”. He made me feel very much more comfortable. I’m very happy I took this Delhi introduction, mostly because I would never have managed to get the hang of the city and see so many different places in one day if I had to think and plan everything by myself.

Streets of Old Delhi

Streets of Old Delhi

Our driver waited in the car all the time while we went out to do or see something, and he had the doors locked. Felt safe to leave my backpack and everything there while we were touristing (I had not yet made the check in at the hotel).

One thing I noticed is that there is construction work going on everywhere. Delhi is making more metro-stations, which is good for the city, to get more people below ground and easy the traffic and pollution. But I saw much more constructions sites then construction workers. It’s like 30% made and abandoned and causing a lot of traffic problems. They will probably get back to it, but they don’t seem to have much of a schedule here. You can see some workers painting the lines in the street while there is traffic around them – no cones or anything. Also you can see “construction workers” like a woman with a nice dress, men and children without shoes etc, digging a dike along the road. I don’t know if they are doing it for themselves, or if the government contracts them. Anyhow they don’t have much clothes-ethic here. So… I’ve started to get a bit of interest about construction now because my boyfriend work within that, so I’m noticing more differences in that specific field then before.. Sorry ;)

A place under construction. (This picture is on our way to Agra taken one day later)

A place under construction. (This picture is on our way to Agra taken one day later)

Ok.. this post is going to be too long, so I’ll write another post soon about Delhi itself :)

Sintra & Cascais

Note: This post is from April 2015

We might not have waken up as early as we had planned, but there is only 30 minutes to Sintra with train, so there was no rush. We took the train to Sintra from Rossio station.

From the train station in Sintra we walked up a zigzag-road along the hill. It’s magically green, and there are artisans along all the way to the center. I bought some nice photographs of Lisbon from traveling Photographer, and Duilio bought some leather bracelets.

Sintra is high in the hills above Lisbon. It’s a small town that looks like a fairy tale, it has romantic parks and mysterious trails through the forest. Sintra is known for it’s 19th century aomantic architectural monuments, and it has castles, lot’s of nature, medieval buildings…  it’s just adoring.

It has been a tourist magnet for a while, it’s on UNESCO World Heritages Site since 1955. The ancient kings usually had their summer home here, since it’s not as hot as below and the coast. If you are in Lisbon this is a city you must visit.

Once we arrived the center of Sintra, we visited the tourist office to get a map. We already knew what we wanted to visit – Quinta da Regaleira.

View from Quinta de regaleira

View from Quinta de regaleira

The entrance fee to Quinta Da Regaleira is 6 euros and it was totally our favourite place to visit in Sintra.

The facade of the palace is characterized by Gothic pinnacles and an impressive octagonal towel. It was 5 floors and you can walk around inside it and see all the rooms (dressing room, office, kitchen, bedrooms, living room, billiards room etc) and furniture just as it was with the previous owner!

The land that is now Quinta da Regaleira has had many owners over the years. It’s from somewhere in the 18th century, and it was a private residence. It didn’t open up to public until 1997!

We love Quinta de Regaleira :)

We love Quinta de Regaleira :)

In the highest balcony in Quinta De Regaleria

In the highest balcony in Quinta De Regaleria

The property is romantic and has a palace, a chapel, and a luxurious park with lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and many exquisite constructions.

It’s really huge! It has four hectares of land in the surrounding and a treed park with myriad roads and footpaths. The coolest thing is the extensive system of tunnels, which have multiple entry points that include the grottoes, the chapel, Waterfall Lake, and ”Leda’s Cave,”. The ”Initiation Well”  connects to other tunnels via a series of underground walkways.

In the gardens

In the gardens

They have their own chapel in the gardens!

They have their own chapel in the gardens!

Crossing over a small river to get into a cave in Quinta de Regaleira

Crossing over a small river to get into a cave in Quinta de Regaleira

Discovering the caves in Quinta de Regaleira

Discovering the caves in Quinta de Regaleira

Well, hello there boyfriend!

Well, hello there boyfriend!

 

The Initiation Wells are two wells that are more like underground towers with stairs. They have never been water sources, they were used for ceremonial purposes that included Tarot initiation rites. The tunnels connect to these wells, aswell as vaces and other monuments around the park. The length of the “inverted tower” and the number of steps in the stairs are somehow connected to tarot mysticism.

In one of the wells

In one of the wells

The initiation well

The initiation well

 

After spending a couple of hours around this mansion and tunnels we were starving. We found a little restaurant on our way from Quinta da Regaleira to Castelo da Pena, which had a nice view. The cheese here was great! We sat outside and yes, I burnt my shoulders, haha.

Eating lunch in the sun!

Eating lunch in the sun! Well, Duilio was in the shade…

Our plan was to walk up to the Castelo de Pena, the big colorful castle you see in the top, but we gave up that idea, it’s yet another zigzag road up about 45 minutes, and the sun was gazing so….. Instead we walked to the bus station to take a bus up, I think it was about 5 euros for a 2 way ticket, but we met a woman and her family there who had walked down, so they had one way still on their ticket, which they gave to us :) So we got up and down for free!

Castelo da Pena, colorful!

Castelo da Pena, colorful!

The entrance in Castelo de Pena

The entrance in Castelo de Pena

The entrance fee to Castelo De Pena was 14€, quite expensive, but since it’s sort of the landmark of Sintra we wanted to check it out. The palace stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra.

The castle itself is super cool from the outside, so colorful and majestic. And the view from the castle was fantastic – you could see everything! But the inside of the castle wasn’t that special, and neither the gardens which were nothing more than forest and a lake with a cute tower… so yes, I enjoyed Quinta da Regaleira more :)

In Castelo Da Pena!

In Castelo Da Pena!

Spectacular views!

Spectacular views!

Sitting in the archs watching the beautiful view

Sitting in the archs watching the beautiful view

Walking in the gardens of the National Palace Da Pena

Walking in the gardens of the National Palace Da Pena

In the gardens of Castelo da Pena

In the gardens of Castelo da Pena

Around 8 in the evening we took the train back, the time really flies in Portugal! We bought some wine, cheese and bread on the super market on our way home and sat in the hostel kitchen and relaxed.

On Sunday we got up early to take the train to Cascais, but when we got to the station there was a strike going on in the public transport! …So there were no buses or trains or trams.. We were supposed to meet up a couple of friends I made while I was in Brazil who lived in Cascais in the evening, and we really wanted to go there.

So we rented some bikes, it costed 25€ (there was quite a line there since everyone thought as us;) – and then we biked about 30km along the coast until we reached Cascais.

Selfie while biking! Haha

Selfie while biking! Haha

It was very windy, but the sun was burning, so we managed to get a really nice tan with nice marks of our clothes and watches, haha. We made a few stops along the way on some beaches. In Carvahelos beach we had some milkshakes and food and we also wanted to check out the water – so we put our feet in the water to see how it was – and it was COLD!!

Checking out the water.... conclusion: Not bath-season!

Checking out the water…. conclusion: Not bath-season!

Along the coast

Along the coast

Cascais is a lively summertime town where lot’s of local people go for the summer. Before it was mostly a fishing village.

There was still a few hours left until we were supposed to meet up with Miguel, so we found a place in leeward on the beach and ate our sandwiches we had brought with us.

Enjoying some beach in Cascais :)

Enjoying some beach in Cascais :)

The sun was shining at it last hour and we were a little bit worried about our way back, since we had a dinner-date with Miguel and Leonor, and then we would need to bike back 30 kms again… But fortunately Miguels car was a big combi, where our bikes (after some struggling) actually fitted, so he could drive us back. So sweet! :) And such a relief! Haha.

We visited Miguels home, he lives in the center in an old apartment with his family, I would say that’s a very typical Portuguese home, very cozy and filled with stuff and memories. They let us try som Pastel de Pascua (easter-cake) and we talked with his family who speaks Spanish, and they helped us in how to go to Porto.

Leonor came after a while and we went to eat dinner at a local restaurant with very good prices.  Duilio had his third kind of Bacalhau here, “Bacalhau de crema”. I had a vegetarian omelette made for me. I also ordered a first course “vegetable soup” – but it didn’t look to vegetarian, it had some meat in it. What I enjoyed most, beside the company of course, was the desert – I tried something called “Baba de camelho” and that was truly delicious, like a caramel mousse.. Yummi!

Having dinner with Miguel and Leonor :)

Having dinner with Miguel and Leonor :)

Then we had some drinks at another place and we tried some Moscatela – another good local wine/liquor. It was quite smoky inside haha.

We wandered around Cascais, it’s a very cozy and pittoresque small town with cobblestone streets and shops, I can see how lively it can be during summer. We passed by the enormous big Casino and then visited Eleonors house in the outsides of Estoril, completely different from Miguels typical city-apartment, her house was super big with a garden and the whole basement was just a saloon with billiards and everything just to have people over for parties or get together :)

Walking around empty Cascais at night

Walking around empty Cascais at night

We rounded up the night and Miguel drove us back all the way to Lisbon even though he had to get up early next morning for university, we are truly grateful for that!

Next morning, on Monday, we went down with our bikes to the place where we had rented them. Then we did the check-out at the hostel and took the subway to Oriente where the train to Porto left. On our way there it started raining – buh, we have had such a good luck the whole week with sunshine and between 20-30 degrees everyday! I think it was raining to make it easier to say good bye ;)

There was off course still strike and plenty of cancelled trains and busses – but we managed to jump on the first train that left – we bought our ticket 12.04 and the train left 12.09!! YES, we ran like crazy! Haha!

 

 

Discovering historical Belém and Lisbons nightlife

Note: This post is from April 2015

After breakfast we walked down to the station Cais do Sodre. We bought a so called ”Zapping card” – 5 euros, and you can travel with every transport within Lisbon, even to Sintra and Cascais. Today we were going to Belem, so we took the Tram 15 to Belen. There were SO LONG cues and the tram was completely filled. Poor people that lives there and have do deal with all us tourists!

So Belém is famous as the place from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their discovery voyages, like to India and Brazil. It is also a former royal residence and features the 17th–18th century Belém Palace, now occupied by the President of Portugal.

In the gardens and fountains in front of the Jeronimo Monastery

In the gardens and fountains in front of the Jeronimo Monastery

The cues outside the Jeronimo Monastery

The cues outside the Jeronimo Monastery

Once there we saw some very long cues at Dos Jeronimos, were we wanted to enter. So we thought, maybe a little bit later. Instead we walked down to Torre de Belém.

On our way there we passed by some big monuments, like the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of discoveries).

The Belém tower was built as a fortified lighthouse from the 1500 and made to guard the entrance to the port. It’s been a military outpost built to protect from Pirates and enemy attacks.  It’s a beautiful little tower on a small island in the Tagus-river, attached to the mainland with a small bridge, but the cueues were also sooo long…. So we just watched it from outside and walked along the path and the port. More people tried to sell us weed and stuff again.

The Stone of the discoveries. Huge!

The Stone of the discoveries. Huge!

The Tower of Belém, from the 1500, a military outpost to protect from pirates and enemies

The Tower of Belém, from the 1500, a military outpost to protect from pirates and enemies

Cute turquoise house down the port

Cute turquoise house down the port

We walked back to Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos again, and there were not fully that long cues now, but enought. While Duilio was in the cue I went to buy us some really nice sandwiches, some beer and some pastel de nata. That’s the good thing about being 2 who travel.

Inside it was a quite fantastic place. The Tower of Belém was party built to defend this place. There are so many details, I loved the roof.
There are different saloons with history and it was a pleasant stay. All though I do not recommend to visit the Chapel, which you have to make yet another cue to go in there, and is definitively not worth it, just a dark room.
Both the Belém-Tower and the Monastery is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Inside the Monastery. Really cool!

Inside the Monastery. Really cool!

The roofs around the monastery are spectacular!

The roofs around the monastery are spectacular!

We enjoyed our first Pastel de Nata inside the Monastery :)

We enjoyed our first Pastel de Nata inside the Monastery :)

We walked around a bit and found a nice park where we watched people and then took a siesta. It was a nice park with a lot of people around, we were asked about 2 or 3 times from different kids sport teams if we wanted to buy some lottery or something. Cute :)
I made some macramé bracelets and Duilio got together with a bunch of guys playing fotball. :)

Duilio joined a team and played some fotball

Duilio joined a team and played some fotball

We took the tram back and walked up the hill to Bairro Alto. We went into a coffee shop just beside our hostel and hade some ”fika” – Pastel de coco, sandwich of mortadela and 2 coffees for 5,6 euro. Totally ok, in Sweden it would be around 17 euros :)

Went home and showered again after yet another sweaty day, and then we met up with my mothers friend Filippa who is now living in Lisboa with her Portuguese ”boyfriend”Jose or ”Ze” as they say to all the Joses here.

We walked to the Alafama area and ate at a restaurant, we sat outside which was a little bit chilly actually (and no seat cushions), but it was ok :) We had some Vino Verdhe for the first time, really good wine!

We all talked in ”Portuñol” – which is a mix between Spanish and Portuguese, since all of us didn’t speak the same language. We talked about the traffic, politics, the differences between Portugal, Spain and Sweden. It was a very interesting and pleasant evening. We also brought them a swedish ”Påskägg” – a big egg filled with Swedish candy, which was appreciated :)

Dinner in Alafama with Zé and Filippa

Dinner in Alafama with Zé and Filippa

My vegetarian dinner

My vegetarian dinner.. not o much to brag about, but no meat, thats good ;)

After we said our goodbyes me and Duilio walked back to our hostel, we made a stop at Cafe A Brasileria in Baixa/Chiado area , it’s one of the oldest and famous cafés in the old Lisbon. It opened 1905 :) We had some Vermut there.

Having some Vermut in Cafe A Brasileira

Having some Vermut in Cafe A Brasileira

Then we walked to Bairro Alto and went higher up to visit the lively night neighborhood. It has small streets, it’s full of people and it’s packed with a high variety of bars. On weeknights bars close at 2 am, weekends at 3 am. There was people literally eeeeeverywhere!

It’s like a big street party, you go in to a bar and order something, and then bring it out and drink it out on the streets. Haha. We first sat down in a place and tried some more local liquors like ”Licor de Beirao”, but then we just ordered from some bars and took it with us around the streets and some people-watching. One Moragnoska and one beer costed 8 euros. Totally ok once again :) (swedish price would be around 20 euros).

In the lively streets of Bairro Alto at night

In the lively streets of Bairro Alto at night