Sunday, May 31, 2009
Parker's visit to India, combined with Preston being out of school, has provided us with the opportunity to do a bit more exploring outside of Delhi.
Last weekend we made a visit to Neemrana Fort for a cultural experience combined with something to get your adrenaline pumping!
Neemrana Fort-Palace was built in the year 1494.....and in the mid - 80's, renovations began to convert the fort into a heritage hotel property. The owners began renting only 15 rooms, but over the past twenty years, renovations have now expanded their inventory to 55 all very unique guestrooms.
Neemrana Fort-Palace now boasts all of the modern amenities one might expect at a 5 Star hotel; spa, health club, swimming pool, conference center, zip line, restaurants......did I just type "zip line"?
Yes.....Neemrana's newest amenity is a 5 stage Zip Line Adventure Course, that at present time,can claim that it has the longest zip line run in Southeast Asia.
Fun for all in the family.....including Ramesh our driver.
After a short trek up the slope of the Aravalli Range formation that the Fort is built on, we settled in for a brief instructional session......and then the fun began.
The most difficult part for the majority of us was the trek up the mountain.....or what seemed like a mountain! After that, it was all downhill.......by zip line....
It was great fun for all of us......and something not to miss!
If I was able to combine my love of history, architecture and my profession, my dream would be to own a place like Neemrana Fort....or something similar....
Hotels like these are known throughout India as "Heritage Hotels", and most of them are found in Rajastan.
Old forts like Neemrana have been turned into some of the most beautiful hotels that I have ever visited. Neemrana falls somewhere in between authentic and restored.......it is certainly not Rambagh Palace! It is quaint, charming, romantic, rustic, .....a "work in progress" that began in 1986......
Here is the story:
Neemrana became the third capital of the descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III, who was killed in battle by Mohammad Ghori in 1192 AD. This picturesque site was chosen by Raja Rajdeo and Neemrana derived its name from a brave local chieftain Nimola Meo, who when defeated by the Chauhans, pleaded that his name be given to his lost kingdom.
Built in 1494 and having gone through various stages of ownership, it is still alive and well some 500+ years later.
Something drastic in my life would have to change in order for a dream such a Neemrana, or any of the other hundreds of places like it, come into my possession.....so that I could undertake the restoration of a place so steeped in history and be able to share it with guests who would appreciate it.
This has certainly become a "favorite" of mine.....and in the meantime, I will come back one day, rent a room with Linda, and sit on one of the balconies overlooking the two billion year old Aravali hills.....and dream!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
When I was growing up, there was a television show called Wild Kingdom that was sponsored by an Insurance Company called Mutual of Omaha.....each week there would be a feature about animals in their native habitat.....it was educational as well as entertaining. The narrator was a grandfatherly looking gentleman with snow white hair and a mustache.....and a voice to match his looks. There would always be a guy in starched khaki shorts and a matching shirt dealing with the animals......I always thought that guy was very cool.
In an earlier Blog Posting, I mentioned that I had to take Preston to the area of Delhi that Ramesh took me too to witness my first monkeys in India......well, we have been here for 5 months and it took a visit from Parker for me to make that statement a reality.
You see, Parker has been wanting a "pet" monkey for some time, so I thought I would help bring him a little closer to his wish....without following through with the ownership part.
So here he is everyone.....Parker in his Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom moment......feeding the wild monkeys in New Delhi India.
By the way, the banana's were courtesy of Ramesh....you can see the fruit vendor sitting in the middle of the woods selling fruit....for people to feed the monkeys! Very resourceful businessmen.....they know where to sell, and he had no competition.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Ramesh our driver is a wealth of information and knows that I am always eager to learn as much about the culture of India as I can.
On the way back from Agra, he asked if I wanted to see what is believe to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna......my reply....WHY NOT!
Exploring India has been an amazing experience for all of us.....this deviation from the main highway to and from Agra produced just such an experience for the entire family to share.
Mathura is a vibrant city and Ramesh took us directly through the narrow streets of the city which was alive with the all of the sites and sounds of the market and market goers.
It is one thing to see India's historic sites from the perspective of a tourist; but it is wonderful to see things that the one would not ordinarily see, unless you immerse yourself in all that India has to offer.
The Mangoe Walla.....with the genuine smile......the young boys sharing the bed of a truck with a water buffalo......the donkey caravan that seem to be leading the way to their destination while their owner follows........the statue of an Indian God that has bitten a woman in the stomach who's identity remains a mystery........the gateway to the "ancient" part of the city that we viewed from the comfort of the car.
I urge everyone who visits India to venture off the beaten path and discover the incredible sites you will see ......the real India, the genuine India.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Yes everyone, the time has finally arrived; the long awaited visit by our oldest son Parker.
He arrived 6 days ago and is slowly adjusting to his temporary home for a little over a month.
Four short days into his visit, still suffering from jet lag, it was time for a road trip.
Last Friday afternoon we packed up the Innova and headed to Agra for an adventure we saved to experience as a family.
The ride down was uneventful, although we saw some unfamiliar sites..roads trips are always fun.
Our plans were simple....Linda had arranged for a guide to meet us at 5:45am, to avoid both the crowds and the heat....we were to visit the Taj at sunrise, head back to the hotel for breakfast and freshening up and then head back to Delhi.......Preston had a Biology final on Monday that he needed to study for.
Although the trip was quick, the Taj did not disappoint in the least...she was magnificent. After a visit, there should be no doubt that it was once one of the 7 Wonders of the World!
It was 22 years in the making.....there were 20,000 laborers per day for those 22 years building it. A ramp was built to assist in the construction that was a minimum of 10 kilometers long....elephants and camels assisted the work carrying the large pieces of white marble used in the construction. Inlaid precious stones were used to share 14 separate chapters in the Koran with those who visit. As a visitor, you cannot help but stand in awe of the genius that went into constructing such a monument with rudimentary tools at best. There is a true "center" line that helps delineate the perfectly symmetrical layout of the site. The only thing that is not symmetrical at the site is the tomb of Shahjahan, the grieving widower who lost his favorite of four wives while she was giving birth to their 14th child.
The Taj is nothing short of magnificent...another must see on a visit to India.....
Friday, May 15, 2009
To all of you who are reading my blog, I would like to extend the offer to you to ask questions or post comments.....anything.
I encourage all of you to leave comments.....on whatever blog entry that you happen to be viewing.....just post. I will do my best to answer each and every one of them.
The picture above is one of my favorites....a little girl who was so beautiful and shy......I felt that it was the perfect picture to illustrate that we all feel a bit shy at times.....I know I did.
I know from experience.......from researching about India before making the decision to relocate......I would read a blog and have many questions.......although I knew the person could help or answer.... I did not want to be a bother......so I didn't reach out. That was my fault....so I just want everyone to feel comfortable and not make the same mistake I did.
Trust me when I tell you that you would not be a bother.....your comments and questions are more than welcome.
Post your comments please...ask your questions......I am here to share our experiences with you.
I am in the process of trying to find a link that will be easy for you to contact me.....something I can place on the blog that will allow you to leave a comment that you may not want the WHOLE WORLD to see. Be on the lookout for it.....in the meantime, I encourage you to post.....There is a feature on my blog that allows me to read the post before it gets published, so if you mention that you do not want your question or comment posted, I will respect that. just mention it.
Thank you for reading......and trust me, this is not an appeal for "ideas" to write about.....India provides all of the opportunities for that......I hope you continue to read...and share the blog with your friends and family.
More importantly, for those of you outside of India, I hope that our experiences encourage you to come experience for yourself what a magnificent place India is. For those of you who are here in India, I encourage you to reach out.....ask a question, make a comment, give me advice......point me in a new direction...set me off on what you consider a "must do" while I am here.....interact.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Here are some of my favorite photographs taken over the past few weeks....From Top to Bottom:
The Nap- I took this photo near our house; we had stopped to get our dry cleaning and this man looked so comfortable resting and it was such a perfect example of how life is here. India has its own heartbeat.....I have seen several men piloting these bicycles designed for delivering items...some times very heavy items like construction materials, pipes, furniture, etc. What time did he awaken to go to work? What time will he end? If he has done this job for the past 10 years or so, I can almost bet that he has traveled more km/miles on this three wheel bicycle with heavy weight than many of the athletes that have participated in the Tour de France.......yest he has found his equivalent of the Grand Prize under the shade of a tree next to a waste bin.
Fences Make Good Neighbors- I took this picture while walking atop the perimeter wall at Purana Qila. We came upon a temple located just outside the wall of the fort....a very busy temple. Many times when I am taking a photograph I am trying to capture one thing and I later discover something more interesting than what originally caught my eye. Here the beggar's have formed along the fence asking passers by from the temple for a handout of anything. What struck me after reviewing the picture is how orderly things are on one side and how chaotic they are on the other. Then it dawned on me that the wall I was standing on taking the picture; built in the 1500's formed a similar purpose many years ago...India is a country filled with contrasts like what is depicted in the photograph. Can they not see how clean things are on the other side of the fence? Do they not wish that they too could walk to and from the temple? Why don't they beg from the other side?
The Specialist- I named this photograph the specialist because here in a market where thousands of items are being sold, this man is selling a single item: what appears to be cranberries from a basket covered in cloth. I watched him set up shop just a few feet from a man who was selling the same thing......look closely at the photograph and notice the bags that he puts the berries in once a sale takes place. The bags are made from recycled newspaper......nothing is purchased that would increase his overhead costs...he works from an open air shop, a sidewalk in the middle of the market. He may sit for hours with his berries baking in the 110 degree heat. Has he always been a "berry wallah"?
The General Practitioner- Again, just a few steps away from the specialist, in the same market, was the GP.....with the fancy store and huge selection. The produce here is so fresh...eating healthy is not a problem in India......the displays are always very beautiful and colorful. Was this shop passed down from his father, who was a vegetable vendor as well as his father?
Mardi Gras Beads- This young girl followed us from inside the market to our car trying to sell us a string of glass beads, which I would have purchased if Linda would have truly needed a pair.....the price she was asking was 25 rupees...., but I honestly took more interest in her than her wares.....she was paid her asking price for allowing me to take her picture. Will she always sell necklaces? Will she become a famous Jewelery Designer one day?
I look for her twice daily as I make my way to and from work
There are times that I wonder if she is only visible to me
When she disappears and I wonder where she has gone
Only to reappear to the same spot she has claimed as her home
Always draped in black her body rarely takes form
When sleeping, curled against the wall she could be anything but human
These are the times when there is no sign of life
No movement; an inanimate object co existing with the chaos around her
She does not beg like others at the corner
Is she less needy than they
Her head is always covered, her face always hidden by the shadows
Yet she sits and stares watching life on the thin pad that doubles as her bed
Her sandals neatly placed before her in contrast to the litter tossed carelessly about
She seems content and not ailing
Although she has moved from the wall to the center of the walk
Does she remain invisible to all but me
That's right......a secret......to soon be shared with the world. Well, I will share the announcement when appropriate on this blog site, which is certainly "open" to the world to see, but not as far reaching as the other media channels. Keep your eyes and ears open everyone......there was a huge amount of hard work that went into securing the brand for the hotel.....a true team effort.
This is exciting.....very similar to the unveiling of a new work of art.....hidden to those who have been anticipating the artist to reveal his/her work......but before the draping is removed, let me tell you a little about it.
The hotel is located in a great location in Jaipur and is perfectly positioned to serve both the business traveler and the many tourists that visit the city.....I have shared with you that Jaipur is Linda's favorite city so far (although it is the only one she has visited outside of Delhi).
Nevertheless, the "Pink City" is a very special place and this hotel is special in it's own way. Here are the "stats"!
Brand: International....one of the most recognized names in the World.....and certainly in India.
Number of Rooms: 115 very well appointed rooms (see photographs)
Restaurants: One restaurant with beautiful views of the Aravali mountains.....that will soon become a favorite "Eatery" in the city as well as a "Deli".....serving those who are on the go, or who will want to have a picnic lunch to carry with them as the tour the city. How fun does that sound...I want one!
Health Club and Pool:these are both located on the 4th Floor of the hotel and have the same great views that the restaurant does.
Banquets/Ballroom: very beautiful....again with those gorgeous views.
The hotel has a boutique feel to it.....very intimate lobby which which will help us create the warmth that a guest expects when they arrive.....the designers have been asked to create a "Family Room" atmosphere on the 3rd floor...just outside of the restaurant; a place for guests to sit next the fireplace to read a book...gather with friends after a fun filled day of exploring the city....walk a few steps to the "Bar" for a refreshing Mocktail or favorite adult beverage of their choice....cozy, warm, relaxed, comfortable...and served by a staff that will be just as friendly and hospitable as I have found everyone to be here in India.
There is no doubt in my mind that the "Blank" "Blank" by "Blank" Jaipur will be a huge success.
The anticipated opening date of the hotel is July 1st......a soft opening.....staff will need to be in place at the beginning of June.....yes.....less than a month away.....we will start training. Things will be extremely busy for me and I will find myself spending a huge amount of time in Jaipur in the next few months.
The great thing is my team is ready....the excitement is building.....the first of several hotels is here for them to wrap their arms around....and embrace as "theirs".
Stay tuned.......when all of the paperwork is complete....I will unveil the name......and proudly announce the property.
For those of you following the blog and have been wondering about the property in Visahakapatnam (Vizag)......it appears that the two hotels will be opening back to back......I will update everyone and take some new pictures on my next visit.
In the meantime.....if there are any interested readers looking for a career.....send your comments.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Excavations at the site of Purana Qila have revealed that the area has been continuously occupied since 1000 B.C.
Yes.....well over 3000 years.
It is also believed to be where the city of Indraprastha, the capital city of Pandava mentioned in the epic Mahabharata,once stood.
Remember my entry on Humayan's Tomb? If not, please go back and read the entry because all of the proverbial "dot's" are starting to be connected.
Purana Qila, is now often referred too as the 6th City of Delhi, as it was on this site that Humayan began to build his city in 1530, four years after the death of his father Barbur.
Humayan lost the city to another ruler who ousted him in 1540......his name was Sher Shah Suri.....who strengthened the fortifications and built a Mosque on the site as well as some additional buildings on the grounds. In 1545, Sher Shah Suri died, leaving his kingdom vulnerable and the dispossessed Humayan saw an opportunity....attacked and recaptured the city he had begun.
Humayan, used a beautiful octagonal building on the grounds for his library, and one day, with several books in his hand, he was distracted by the call for prayer, his foot getting caught in his garments and he fell down the stairs.
His injuries were fatal...this happened on January 24, 1556.....only a few short months after he had regained control of his empire.
The history of Humayan is fascinating......so was Purana Qila.....Preston and I always have a great time exploring these monuments...there is a very well done museum on the grounds that is included in the admission fee of 100 rupees ($2.00).....pictorials of the various excavations that have taken place....displays of the various objects unearthed dating back to 1000 B.C. when the first inhabitants occupied the site..
The perimeter walls of the fort have huge gated entrances where years ago countless of people used to move in and out of the city....while exploring one of these, Preston discovered more bats above his head......and of course, called to me to come and see.
The second time you discover such interesting creatures the more relaxed you are around them.....here is one of several up close shots and just before it the nice place these guys are living...
This is a "must see" on any visit to Delhi....the explorations continue and the adventure is alive and well......Incredible India awaits.