The Long Road to Mumbai

Another early start to catch a taxi to the airport at 6:30am. The taxi driver was a maniac, zooming through intersections and honking his horn. We all feared for our lives but, thankfully, arrived in one place. Even if a little shaken.

To get into the airport we needed to show a ticket and our passports. We had our passports but not the tickets. Luckily I was able to show something that showed we had a booking, but the blank looks from the person I showed it to suggested she didn’t really understand it but let us through anyway.

Check-in was slow but we got through without much trouble, and then through security where bag tags were put on our hand luggage and then stamped to show they’d been screened.

We then sat and waited for our flight. And waited. And waited. It was over an hour delayed. I started reading a new book, The Loney. When the bus arrived to take us to the plane, we then showed our boarding passes and baggage tags to security…although there wasn’t one on my small bag.

I then had to be taken back to the x-ray machine…only to find that it had already been screened. I got rolled eyes and ‘geez-you’re-dumb’ looks from the people involved. We boarded the plane. The flight took about two hours and then we landed in Mumbai.

We walked to our hotel which was opposite the airport. We arrived at 12 and checked-in, which took a while, and then were told we’d be notified when our room was ready as check-in is usually at 2. We sat. And we waited.

At 1 we checked if the rooms were available. No, they weren’t.

We waited again.

At 2, I checked if it was ready. No, they had high occupancy and the rooms weren’t ready yet.

We waited again. And then went for lunch instead.

I came back up about an hour later. Rooms still not ready. They’d be ready in 15 minutes.

They weren’t.

Then they’d be ready in five minutes and they’d notify us.

They didn’t.

But eventually we were given rooms.

Although Christine couldn’t get into hers. Twice. No, I think three times.

No apologies. No attempt to sort this out quickly. They were useless. It was not a good start to getting in the hotel.

Then there were problems with the rooms so overall we weren’t impressed with the start of our stay. However, what was good was the buffet. Some delicious food.

I went to the gym, which is in the open air of the hotel, which is humid and not air-conditioned. I sweated, which is unusual for me. I felt better for having gone though (once I was sure I wasn’t going to pass out). I think I’ve put on weight during this holiday. Not good.

In the evening we went downstairs for dinner at a Lebanese/Moroccan restaurant, which was nice, and enjoyed the ambience. Not a bad way to end a bit of a trying day.

Two more days to go before going back to India.

 

Tigers of Ranthambore

I’m always amazed when I think that we saw polar bears and beluga whales in Churchill. Our luck at seeing ‘big’ natural things doesn’t always come through. We tried many MANY times to see moose in Canada, all to no avail. We tried to see the Northern Lights in Iceland three times, again with no success. And we’ve even tried to get a good look at the Grand Canyon, only to be disappointed the first time because of snow whiting it out, and the second because of a broken knee. Because of this – and the fact that we were trying to see tigers which are especially reclusive and rare – we didn’t set our hopes high when we went to Ranthambore.

The six-seater jeep picked us up just after 6am. A man from Bangalore was already in the car with us, and we then picked up a German couple who had booked three seats because of all their camera equipment. The guy from Bangalore also had impressive lenses. I had camera envy with my much smaller lens. Glen had an iPhone.

We were given Zone 1 to explore for a few hours, getting into the park just as the sun came up. We were soon rewarded with the sight of sambar deer to our right, and then two hare on our left, before seeing a group of spotted deer. So far, so good.

No tigers though. As we drove on and saw more deer, we passed another jeep who told us about a tiger footprint they’d seen. We soon found it too, making out a vague shape of a footprint. I suddenly felt electrified seeing it, certain our luck would come in and we’d see one. Especially hearing that the zone had a female with three cubs in it. We continued on.

I shouldn’t have got my hopes up though, and considering the man from Bangalore had been out five times previously and not seen anything, I kept reining in my expectations. This was the first time for the Germans, but they had another five trips to Ranthambore planned with a total of 21 tiger safaris booked across India. They REALLY wanted to see a tiger.

I had to keep reminding myself that while it would be so awesome to see one in the wild, I have been up-close and personal with tigers (including cubs) on a number of occasions when I worked at the zoo. Still…in the wild…

Anyway, we saw plenty of deer, stopped by a waterway and watched for birds, seeing osprey, cormorants, parakeets, two types of kingfisher (the sacred kind and the stork-billed kind, a rarity that got the others very excited), other types of birds and even a crocodile floating down the middle of the river. THAT was cool.

We also heard deer giving out their alarm call, a sound that echoed around the hills and made us all stop, hopeful of seeing, if not a tiger, then perhaps a leopard. Hyena and sloth bear also live in the forest.

We saw none of them.

Considering the large number of deer we saw everywhere, we were hoping that they’d be enough to entice some predator out, but alas, no. Glen even got out to go pee at one stage behind a tree, but nothing attacked him either. Disappointing.

After a few hours we returned to the main road, hearing from the guards that people in Zone 3 had seen a tiger that morning. Good for them.

On the way out we saw lots of black-faced langur sitting around, many with babies and young, so we all went gaga over them. It was a nice way to end the safari. While I’m disappointed we didn’t see one, I’m not surprised. Sixty tigers live in Ranthambore which is pretty big and the chances of seeing one are slim, as our friend from Bangalore understood very well. I hope the Germans have better luck, at least once out of their 21 planned visits.

Will we try again? I’m not so sure.

One thing that struck me about Ranthambore was how most of the town is built around the tigers and eco-tourism. There are many ‘wildlife’ or ‘eco’ resorts outside the national park so that provides a lot of employment for the locals, as do all the guides and drivers required for the tours themselves, which run twice a day. I’ve never seen a place so built around capitalising on people’s desire to see wildlife, in this case, tigers. When it comes to poaching, it’s easy to see that poaching serves the interest of only a few people while preserving them (hopefully) benefits a whole community. It’s making sure that people feel like they have enough that’s the tricky part.

We were dropped back at our hotel, had a quick breakfast, packed up and got in the waiting car for Mr Singh to take us back to Jaipur. I left one of my favourite t-shirts behind, somehow, discovering my stupidity only once we’d got back to Jaipur. Shame.

Three-and-a-half hours of driving later we arrived back into the madness of Jaipur afternoon traffic. We picked up our suits and shirts from the tailor. We look very sharp though my jacket feels a little tight under the arms. If I stand up straight and hold my shoulders back, it’s not so back, but I slouch. Maybe it’s time I learned not too. I do look pretty good in a fitted suit though. We were very tempted to order more but sanity prevailed.

In the evening, after we’d had a rest, we went for dinner at a nearby restaurant and bought a suitcase from the bazaar. We should have got a bigger one but oh well. I returned to the hotel, my headache still not gone and not feeling like being hassled to buy things, while Christine and Glen went and bought stuff. On to Mumbai in the morning.

Jaipur to Ranthambore

We had the morning to see more of Jaipur but when Mr Singh suggested going to the City Palace (again), none of us were too enthused. Instead he suggested getting a 90-minute ayurvedic massage. Christine and I were sold, and after a little more time, Glen agreed too.

The place itself was not much to write home about. Dark and dank rooms in a rundown building with the staff using their mobile phones at the reception. No soft relaxing music or scent of rose and jasmine here. It all felt a bit grimy.

We were given our options with all three of us choosing a 70-minute basic ayurvedic massage and then each added a different 20-minute experience. I went for a hot poultice back massage thing; Christine for a face beauty therapy thing; and Glen for a sinus clearing thing. We were then shown to our rooms.

Glen and I shared the same room, a curtain drawn down the middle. We were told to disrobe then a flimsy loin cloth was put on us. Definitely no use in being coy about being naked in front of clothed men here. At least it was dimly lit.

I then sat and had oil massaged into my scalp for about ten minutes, the experience invigorating for the head, while at the same time feeling like a roly-poly white lump sitting on the edge of the massage table. Perhaps needless to say, I didn’t exactly find the whole experience relaxing.

I then lay on my back while he massaged my legs, arms, torso and belly; then I turned over and he worked again on my legs and my back. Strangely, he missed my neck which really could have done with some attention.

I’m not much of a fan of massages unless they’re therapeutic and really going for a particular knot. The relaxation kind makes me uncomfortable and leaves me feeling oily, unsatisfied and uncomfortable. On the whole this was no different. There were times when I felt relaxed but there weren’t many.

The hot poultice thing was a bit strange as the poultices had to be the right temperature or else they’d burn my skin. They weren’t always cool enough so I hissed a few times. Mostly the hot pouches smelt like chapattis so they made me hungry.

At the end of the 90-minutes, I was towelled down and then I dressed, the residual oil making my clothes stick to my body. The knot in my shoulder that has aggravated me for weeks loosened a bit so that was a bonus. I was happy to get home and shower.

The Drive to Ranthambore

There weren’t many things I desperately wanted to see on this trip to India. In fact, there were only two must-dos: the Taj Mahal and an attempt to see tigers in the wild. I’d organised for Glen and I to go to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, a three-to-four-hour drive from Jaipur. Christine chose to stay behind and go shopping.

Mr Singh picked us up at 12:30 and off we went along terrible roads into country Rajasthan. While I spent most of my time reading (the roads unfortunately too bumpy for me to do any work without getting car sick), I occasionally looked out the window at farms and hut villages.

Despite the obvious poverty and subsistence living that these people had, there was something soothing about these simple dwellings. They weren’t part of the hustle and bustle of the cities with their mountains of rubbish, constant honking of horns in chaotic traffic, or the buildings in various states of existence or destruction. Instead there were fields of greenery, cows and other livestock, thatched roofs and mud huts that, even though I’d struggle to live in, had something wholly satisfying about them.

We zoomed past them and arrived in the town of Ranthambore, driving through it to our hotel. Mr Singh dropped us off and we checked in, seeing a few black-faced langurs hanging about in the gardens.

The hotel was fine. Nothing too fancy, but it was green and spaced out. Very attentive staff, including the manager who wanted us to put in a TripAdvisor review the minute we arrived, and then asked again after dinner. I told him, politely, to back off.

We dumped our luggage, I finished off some work for a client, Glen wrote some reviews on TripAdvisor. A group of tourists arrived and the wifi disappeared. We eventually went to join the ‘cultural’ program which was a bit  of bad singing and tabla playing. I didn’t mind it so much as I was reading my book and enjoying being outside in the evening without the chaos we’d had over the past week. Glen, however, couldn’t stand it and went and hid in his room.

We had dinner, more overly attentive staff. Glen couldn’t eat much because of all the capsicum. I made do with what was there, and then we went and hid in our room until it was time for bed, both dreading and looking forward to our early morning safari to see the tigers of Ranthambore.

The Sights and Suits of Jaipur

After what was a pretty crap night’s sleep – jet-lag, Glen’s sniffling, noise in the halls – we got up at 7:30, had breakfast (me and my stomach were a bit over Indian food, plus I’m having so many carbs I’m feeling guilts) and then met Mr Singh at 9am to go sightseeing around Jaipur.

The streets of Jaipur were pretty quiet at this time of the morning, what with most of the shops still being shut. The paths in front of the shops, however, had all been swept. Jaipur is a planned city and as such looks a bit more like a city I’m used to. It’s still chaos but there’s a bit more order to it and it’s not as disorienting as Agra or the outskirts of Delhi.

Our first stop was the Hawa Mahal, which was a fly-by visit. We pulled up in front of it in the car and Glen and I jumped out to get some photos before getting back in. It’s where the king’s harem would sit and watch the bazaar below without being seen. Despite being five storeys high, it’s only one room deep. A beautiful building.

Amber Fort

We were then taken to the Amber Fort, getting out of the city and into the countryside, where we could see the ‘Great Wall of Jaipur’ that cuts along the hills. There are a number of forts along the way but we were going to what is the most popular one, the Amber Fort.

Mr Singh asked if we wanted to go by elephant but not knowing how they’re trained, how they’re looked after or anything about their well-being I wasn’t keen. Apparently they only do five rides a day each, and there are 120 elephants, but I’ve since heard they’d not suited for Rajasthan weather and they’re not well looked after. Nevertheless, it was a thrill to see elephants wandering about.

Mr Singh drove us to the fort entrance, gave us the standard tourist warning, and in we went. It was busy with tourists but there were areas where they didn’t congregate and because there are so many walls and nooks and crannies, you could find these moments of quiet that were really lovely.

Glen and I climbed to the top floor and poked our heads out the window to Christine below. The three of us then stopped and had a coffee and tea – really good coffee apparently – before leaving the fort to find Mr Singh.

On the way out I was again called Ali Baba, something the kids at Fatehpur Sikri had called me. I asked Mr Singh about it and apparently he’s a famous movie star in India who has a beard. For some reason I, as a white guy with a beard, remind people of him. At least I know now.

One striking thing I’ve noticed on this trip is occasionally seeing young men holding hands. At the fort there were three all holding hands, and at other times there have been two. While I’m pretty certain they’re not gay, it’s such an unexpected thing to see, this way of men showing their friendship. It’s really nice.

After the fort, we stopped at the Water Palace to take some photos. This is a palace set in an artificial lake that, when the water is still and the light is right, creates an impressive display. The water and the light were not right when we were there but it’s still an interesting building and would make a great place to visit – or stay.

Tailor-made Clothes and Knick-knacks

With some sightseeing done, Mr Singh then took us to a textile shop. We saw how they did the block printing, which was cool, and then were shown into the shop, which sold tailor-made suits and shirts, saris, table cloths, bed linen and scarves.

Glen and I immediately started choosing fabric for new suits, which was fun, as the cost for getting a tailored suit was very reasonably. I was a bit uncomfortable having to take my shirt off in the store, but that’s not uncommon for me, and I caused a bit of a fuss by having one shoulder higher than the other, or one arm longer than the other. Anyway, we chose our fabrics – 100% kashmiri – and then they said they’d be ready by Sunday.

I also chose fabric for four fitted shirts, and then also a tablecloth and a bedspread. It was easy to get swept up in wanting to buy lots of beautiful things. Christine also did very well and we came away with bags of stuff. I’m not sure how we’re going to get them to Mumbai and then home. Might have to buy another suitcase as Glen and I only brought carry-on. Glen and I will go back on Sunday to have any last minute alterations made to the suits.

And Judi Dench had also been there. (There was a photo on the wall of her with one of the staff.)

After we’d spent a lot of money but were happy with the value, we went to a souvenir shop. Christine bought a few things and I resisted buying a singing bowl. I love them but they’d only collect dust on a shelf back home.

From there we were to the big outdoor observatory – Jantar Mantar – and looked at these centuries-old instruments used to tell time and the movement of heavenly bodies. The geometric shapes made it look like a cross between an Escher painting and a giant child’s building blocks. It was hot and open to the sun so we didn’t stay long. We also skipped the City Palace, having been saturated with history for a while. Instead we sat at the gate and ate a pomegranate. Delicious.

By then it was about 3pm so we opted to go back to the hotel and chill for a few hours. In the evening Mr Singh drove us to a restaurant where we ordered and ate far too much food. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the gym properly and working off all this eating.

It’s a Long Way to Jaipur

We left Agra on Thursday morning at 9am, Mr Singh there waiting to drive us the five or six hours to Jaipur. It took a while to get through the bumpy, crowded streets of Agra but eventually we were on the longer, quieter roads, stopping after an hour to visit Fatehpur Sikri.

Fatehpur Sikri

Mr Singh recommended stopping at this palace, built in the 1500s, and I vaguely remembered it from a very boring Salman Rushdie book I’d read years ago. The emperor was only there a short while, about 14 years, before the water dried up and he was forced to relocate.

Mr Singh gave what has become the standard warning. Don’t say anything, even no, to the street sellers, because they’ll follow you. Don’t accept a guide because they’re not real. He dropped us off at the parking lot and then we ran the gauntlet past these people who want to sell you things until we got to the bus. Then the bus took us to Fatehpur Sikri where we were accosted yet again.

I really hate having to ignore people like they don’t exist. I think it’s rude and it’s really difficult and unpleasant. The alternative, however, is worse. I switch between thinking that they’re only trying to make a living and then to wanting to be left alone. It’s made visiting sites in India a bit unpleasant.

Fatehpur Sikri was another fort type palace. We wandered around. Took some photos. Thought that if they employed all the people touting out the front as interpreters they could make the whole place come alive. Seeing the difference between experiences back home and those here is really interesting. I was imagining gift shops and live interpretation all over the place. Would be nice.

Afterwards we walked towards the mosque but didn’t go in and then waited for the bus to take us back down. It stopped halfway down the hill, picked someone up, then reversed all the way back so they could get off and pick up a load of Koreans. It would have been quicker to get to the bottom and come back than reverse the bus but hey…

Chand Baori and Beyond

We continued our journey, stopping at an 8th century step well called Chand Baori in Abaneri. It was sadly devoid of water but rich in architectural wonder. Quite something to see.

We then continued on to Jaipur. I finished my book, Elizabeth is Missing, which was excellent and I was sad to finish. We got into Jaipur and Mr Singh dropped us at our hotel in the city, Comfort Inn Sapphire. It’s not as nice as the others we’ve been staying in but the room is clean, the shower works and it’ll do us for a few nights.

In the evening we walked around the block, stopping in at a few shops and stalls. Christine bought some things, I tried on a shirt but didn’t buy it. We had dinner at the hotel which wasn’t all that good, and then went to bed early. We’re all exhausted by 8pm for some reason.

Taj Mahal and Dancing Bears

Mr Singh picked us up at 9am on Wednesday morning. We’d eaten our fill at the breakfast buffet, expecting to have a long day driving about and seeing things. First stop: the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal or Bust

As we approached the car park, Mr Singh told us what to do with the whole buying tickets and getting in to the Taj Mahal thing. Again, it was much like yesterday at Agra Fort. Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t even say ‘no’. Don’t listen to anyone offering guide services or to buy your ticket for you or anything. We got out of the car and were instantly approached and sold to on the way to the ticket office. Mr Singh bought our tickets for us and then saw us onto the coach.

At the other end, we walked the gamut past the tourist shops and the offers to act as a guide and joined the queue to get in through the gate. One line for women, one line for men. We past over our tickets, got patted down (security is a big thing everywhere here – metro, hotels, tourist stops) and then we were through.

Being ‘early’ in the morning, the Taj Mahal wasn’t heaving with people. Definitely nowhere near as many as we’d seen the day before from across the water. We took our photos, laughed at all the people doing their poses as they tried, with varying levels of success, to ‘pinch’ the top of the Taj.

When we finally got to the Taj Mahal, we put on our shoe covers and entered the mausoleum, did a loop, and came out again. It’s a beautiful building and it’s amazing that it’s stood the test of time (helped now by conservation work that was going on while we were there). I loved the intricate pattern work on the walls, something that was easier to comprehend than the giant building in front of me.

Like the Mona Lisa, it’s something everyone’s familiar with. Seeing it in person is worth it, but it’s also not an awe-inspiring moment, at least not for me. Perhaps because I’m already familiar with it, having seen so many photos etc. I contrasted it to the step well we’d seen in Delhi and how thrilled I was at seeing this new and impressive thing. Don’t get me wrong, the Taj is great, but I’m not sure what I was expecting to feel by seeing the real thing.

I enjoyed taking photos of different angles of the Taj and its minarets, and like the other paintings in the Louvre, once most people have seen the main attraction, they lose interest and wander away. The two side buildings had barely any people in them, which is a shame as the sides give a great view of the Taj.  We wandered around the whole complex and then took the shady path back to the front, stopping to pose with some beautiful and soft Brahman bulls. I couldn’t get over how soft and still they were. Lovely animals.

When we reached where we came in, we decided we’d go back to the hotel for a rest. Christine was developing a headache and Glen and I were a bit over buildings for a while. We got back to the car, accosted again by street sellers, and then Mr Singh returned us to the hotel until 1:30pm.

The Rescued Dancing Bears of Agra

Rather than see more buildings – Akbar’s Tomb for example – Glen and I asked Mr Singh to take us to the Agra bear sanctuary on the outskirts of town. I’d read about this place briefly in a guidebook and then a friend on Facebook reminded me of it.

The drive took about an hour and a half because the traffic was so bad. Mr Singh had never been to the sanctuary, which is inside a forest which has a bird sanctuary also, so it was a new experience for him. And one which required a stop to ask for directions.

If you’re going to the sanctuary, don’t bother paying the 1000 rupee ‘photography’ fee. You can only take photos in the wild, forest part, not inside the bear rescue centre. We paid the fee, without realising, but as long as the money goes to helping the sanctuary, I’m fine with that.

We were given a guided tour through the sanctuary, which is home to over 200 rescued Sloth Bears. They used to be dancing bears but it’s illegal and now the bears have been given safe homes to live. The sanctuary is built into the forest with electric fences and some cement holding areas, but otherwise the bears live on soft ground with trees and climbing frames.

They such interesting looking bears, a bit like a person wearing a bear costume. Their shaggy hair makes them look so huggable, and their 7cm-long claws seem so ungainly. They’re beautiful bears though. We saw quite a few, getting up close to one in particular called Johnny. There were also a lot sleeping in the sun, or in a hole they’d built or lying down and grabbing their toes, or climbing about, or digging for food. So good to see them being bear-like, rather than with a metal ring through their noses and forced to dance.

In addition to the bears, there were a lot of deer living there too. Beautiful animals with such striking markings. There were also a lot of free-roaming macaques. Our time there lasted an hour, part of that including watching a video about where the bears have come from.

It’s definitely not on the tourist track but it was well worth the visit and they could really do with support from tourists.

Mr Singh then took us back to the hotel. I went to the gym and had a massage. Christine had a massage too. Glen broke the screen on his laptop and thinks he’s coming down with a cold. In the evening we had buffet again and had another early night.

Off to Jaipur tomorrow.

Advancing on Agra

Tuesday we left Delhi for Agra. We’d booked a car to drive us the three-four hours to Agra, rather than hassle with the train. I’m glad we did. The driver met us in the hotel lobby at 9. We checked out of our luxurious hotel and then hit the road…along with millions of other New Delhians.

The traffic was bad to start off with but once we got out of the city, it eased up a lot. Plus we used toll roads, some of which are took expensive for locals to use. We saw our first major car accident, a taxi that had spun to face the other way, slammed into the sidewall and was pretty much totalled. No ambulance was yet on the scene but there was no one in the car when we got there. I hope the people involved are ok.

The drive to Agra was easy and passed through the countryside where there were mustard seed and potato fields, as well as brickworks. I was struck by how the city suddenly ends and then we were into countryside. Cities are weird things.

We stopped for a snack and a toilet break but otherwise shot through to Agra, making what seemed like good time. Our driver, Mr Singh, drove us into Agra, a city that seems unfinished, or in a state of decay or perhaps its all fine and my Western sensibilities are too delicate. It looked like chaos to me.

He dropped us at our hotel – the Courtyard Marriott Agra – which was a lot nicer than I was expecting. The rooms are great. It’s another oasis. We checked in and rested for about an hour and a half before Mr Singh picked us up at three and drove us to Agra Fort.

Agra Fort

Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t even say no if they offer you something. Just ignore them and keep walking. If anyone offers you their services as a guide, don’t accept. They’re not guides. Any of them. Watch out for pickpockets.

These were Mr Singh’s words when we arrived at the fort. It’s the same for all the tourist places apparently but I suddenly felt I was going to be under seige. In the end, it wasn’t so bad. I ignored everyone, bought the tickets from the counter, and we went into the fort. No more hassles after that.

Agra Fort is huge, and stunning, and a treat for the eyes. It consists of many different buildings built out of different coloured stone used depending on function and age. The carvings in the walls are all unique and all beautiful. We could see the Taj Mahal in the distance too, as well as monkeys and parrots and squirrels. We wandered about, unfortunately unable to see all of it as part of it, the mosque I believe, is under repairs.

It was a beautiful place and well worth the visit.

Our Second Taj Mahal Experience

Having seen the Taj Mahal from a distance and with the sun beginning to set, we mentioned to Mr Singh that we’d like to see the Taj from a different viewpoint in the sunset.

He drove us to a garden which is on the other side of the river from the Taj Mahal. There were a few other people there, but not as many as that who were actually at the Taj Mahal across the way.

Unfortuantely the fog was still hanging around and the sun was setting not where I thought it would be (mistaking how the Taj was aligned) so the ‘look’ wasn’t what I expected, but hey, we saw the Taj-freaking-Mahal. I can’t wait to see it close up tomorrow.

We took our photos anyway, plenty of silly ones too, and then went back to the car. On the drive earlier we’d also seen the ‘Baby Taj’ across the way, and got to experience a bit of Agra-the-City outside the window. Lots and lots of monkeys. Squads of them all sitting in the ruins. Plenty of cows and goats, even pigs too!

We were glad to get back to the hotel. I realised I had no idea where we could get dinner if we weren’t going to eat at the hotel, but luckily, Glen had heard the word ‘buffet’ when we checked in so that was our dinner sorted.

The hotel also had a few bits of entertainment on around the place. A puppet show was set up near the pool – the ‘cobra’ scaring Christine half to death – as well as a musician in front of the fountain in the foyer, and a man with a magic act and shop.

We went to our rooms and to bed relatively early, the large amount of food we’d had at dinner added to our tiredness. Tomorrow will be another busy day.