Well, we are now well into our round the world trip.

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This topic contains 118 replies, has 24 voices, and was last updated by  canucklad 24 Sep 2018
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  • Charles-P
    Participant

    Observations of motorcycle riding in Delhi. In two words, terrifying and fun !

    I have ridden motorcycles in London, in Paris, in Brussels and even Rome but nothing prepared me for the assault on the senses that is riding in India. It felt as though every other road user was determined to see me crash as soon as possible combined with the joy of the bike, a Royal Enfield Bullet 500, what is basically a 1930’s design albeit with fuel injection to replace the Amal carbs. Although my first bikes were as agricultural as the Bullet, years of riding modern machinery has made me soft. My current BMW R1200RS is light years away in terms of chassis rigidity, tyre grip and power delivery.

    Having said all that I had a whale of a time and have returned to the hotel with that mark of the happy biker – fly splattered teeth ! The Royal Enfield has massive torque at low speeds, a nice comfortable riding position and suspension ideally tuned to the Indian roads. Once one learns the pecking order on Indian roads and the power of being assertive at all times the fun begins. For any regular biker who wants to take a step back to an older more simpler form or riding I recommend the experience.


    capetonianm
    Participant

    An extract from something I wrote after a visit to New Delhi :

    We were travelling in one of India’s ubiquitous Hindustan Ambassadors, a 1930’s design which has barely changed over the years, and which, to misquote Henry Ford, is available in any shade of grey. The horn never stopped blaring as we wove our way past, or rather, through, the whirling maelstroms of ancient cars, rickshaws, unlit but garishly decorated lorries looming out of the dust and belching evil smelling smoke blacker than the surrounding night, cows, and suicidal pedestrians. The rule of the road is driving on the left. What this means is ‘drive on any part of the roadway which is left free’. The only order to Indian driving is chaos, the closest I have experienced being the dodgem cars at the funfair. Most vehicles have a sign on the back, the commonest being ‘Horn Please’, and ‘Keep Distance’. The constant hooting is not aggression, but a reflex more natural to Indian drivers than breathing. The miracle is that there are so few accidents – sadly those that do occur are usually serious. Overtaking, or just getting into any vehicle on the overcrowded roads, is simply an act of faith in God – there is no other way to explain it in a country where a two lane road contains four or five lanes of jousting traffic. Skill and judgement do not enter the equation. So few vehicles have tyres with visible tread that I wonder if somewhere there is a factory producing slicks for the Indian market. Lights are a rare luxury, the most important piece of equipment on any vehicle being a powerful and strident horn. When I once needed a really vicious horn for my car in Europe, I made a point of buying it in India.

    In the large cities, most of the modern vehicles are locally produced versions of popular small Japanese models, but one sees the occasional Mercedes, usually with diplomatic numberplates, cruising serenely through the chaotically gyrating streams of traffic without a scratch on its immaculate gleaming paintwork. This proves that there is some divine force at work protecting the innocent and the foolish.

    The first time I saw three people on a motor scooter, I gave a second glance. They looked happy and comfortable. Then I saw four. Not long after that I started counting. Up to now, I have seen three adults, two children, and a baby all perched, balanced, or hanging on to a scooter. I still look, but somehow can’t visualise this record of six being broken. No doubt, somewhere, not far away, there are seven people on a two wheeler. In the meantime, five doesn’t merit a turn of the head.


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    Off now on a rented Royal Enfield for a blast through the local countryside.

    You’re a braver man than I am, Gunga Din! (With apologies to RK).


    ASK1945
    Participant

    A lifelong ambition achieved yesterday with a trip to the Taj Mahal.

    Again taking the advice of a BT forum contributor (thank you) we went for the fast train private tour which left from Delhi’s Nizamuddin Station we were met on the train by our allocated steward who led us to our cabin and arranged breakfast. The train is a very relaxed way to travel to the site and much less stressful than driving. At arrival we were met by our guide who drove us to the site and arranged entrance by a private gate to avoid the crowds. We have all of course seen pictures but the building is simply stunning when seen for real. The marble has a curious luminous quality that catches the sun’s rays and reflects multiple colours back. We had a short monsoon rainstorm which was very welcome in reducing the temperatures and keeping the dust down. I suggest a visit needs at least four hours to see the entire site. It’s worth noting that because of work done by the Indian authorities overthe past few years the entire Taj Mahal site is now fully wheelchair accessible.

    Later as part of the tour we visited the “Baby Taj” of the Etimadud -Daulah and watched the sunset over the Taj Mahal from the Mehtab Bagh. After the tour finished board the train back to Delhi where we were served dinner on the return journey. A truly magical day to a building that is perhaps the greatest testimony to the love of one man to his wife.

    I have been to Agra twice, the second visit being in March. A visit to the Red Fort there is also a must, so really an overnight is recommended. In comparison with UK/EU prices, 5-star hotels are not expensive. If going from or to New Delhi, I certainly agree that going by train is sensible and 1st Class on the fast train is good value.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip.


    Charles-P
    Participant

    Have now landed in Sri Lanka for a few days before moving on to Vietnam. Despite all I had heard Air India not too bad although flight was over an hour late landing. Cloudy and a few showers but already we are enjoying it. Staying at the Taj Samudra hotel where we have an ocean view room ( was told this was best option).


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    Have now landed in Sri Lanka for a few days before moving on to Vietnam. Despite all I had heard Air India not too bad although flight was over an hour late landing. Cloudy and a few showers but already we are enjoying it. Staying at the Taj Samudra hotel where we have an ocean view room ( was told this was best option).

    It’s a lovely hotel Charles, with 7 restaurants I recall catering to all tastes. On evening we had a 4 course meal, taking each course in a different restaurant. Great fun.
    It’s also lovely watching the kids (and adults) flying kites on the green in front, and if that becomes tiring, then a visit to the Galle Face is an absolute must. It’s just a few minutes walk away. In fact if you can, stay a day or two there, I know it’s been renovated since I was there but i had the Queen Margrethe suite, directly on the ocean with the most delightful breezes coming in to remove the sticky heat of outside.

    If you have the time a visit to Kandy is a must (though a bit of a trek by car) and the botanical gardens are amazing. On the way there is an interesting tea estate though I forget its name. I lunched at the Swiss hotel which was excellent, but I see now there are mixed reviews. Still it’s full of history.

    I love Sri Lanka and the people and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time there whatever you do.


    Charles-P
    Participant

    LuganoPirate – you are quite right, seven restaurants and we are now unsure of where to eat.

    We shall be taking a stroll along the Galle Face tomorrow morning and I intend to display my aeronautical knowledge and aviation skills with advanced kite flying.

    We also have a trip planned to the botanical gardens for the pleasure of Mrs-P who delights in all things gardening (she was upset to miss Chelsea Flower Show this year) and we shall also spend a day and night at the Wasgamuwa National Park.


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    Mrs. P will love the gardens Charles.
    I’m curious, when I was last in Sri Lanka everyone was driving Morris Minors. Do they still drive them or are they now driving more modern cars?


    Inthesandpit
    Participant

    Charles P – I am hooked on your travel diary and welcome back.
    A few years ago well just after the tragic Tsunami, the war office an I visited Sri Lanka. We had intended to take my father as he spent a lot of years there in the RAF at the end of WW2, sadly he passed away before we could take him. Instead we took his photo album on our visit to Kandy and it was spooky and emotional to stand in the same spot as he did taking a photograph of sights that had changed little. Kandy is a beautiful place, our two day trip from the south (Saman Villas) took us to the elephant orphanage, a beautiful tea plantation, Kandy and next day up Siguria via the drivers ‘brothers’ spice garden. Vietnam a few years ago we found charming, I remember the Vietnam war on the news in the 70s and Saigon was our base for a few days, we stayed in the Rex Hotel famous for the 5pm news broadcasts when the US military were telling us all how they were winning the war against ‘Charlie’. We then went north to Nha Trang, the airport is now on the former huge US base at Cam Ranh bay, the Visual Approach gave a great view and scale of the former base and we stayed at the Evasion Ana Mandara resort in Nha Trang, with a final few days up the coast at the L’Alyana Ninh Van bay hotel. We found both countries and their people utterly charming – enjoy. Beware the Ruskies have found Vietnam and bring with them their unique brand of rudeness.


    Charles-P
    Participant

    LuganoPirate – yes remarkably there are still a surprising number of Morris Minors on the roads here, I understand there is a thriving industry in keeping them going. That being said like most places in Asia South Korean and Japanese cars now dominate.

    InTheSandPit – as a former RAF officer myself it was interesting to read your story. So many great stories of those of served around the world. My wife and I will raise a glass to your father this evening and take a moment to remember his service here.

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    Inthesandpit
    Participant

    Charles P – Thank you so much for your kind words. It was not until my father died I found out the true extent of his RAF service, he started off as a rigger on Hurricanes with 85 Sqn at 18 and evacuated from France at Dunkirk, then 105 Sqn again on Hurricanes and ended up as and engineering officer on Sunderland Flying boats towards the end of the war which took him to Ceylon as he insisted on calling it. I have some amazing pictures of these monsters at Negombo and Trincomalee. My RAF service was not so exotic and restricted to overseas postings in Belize, Norn Iron and Norfolk 🙂 but I was just a simple ATCO.


    PeterCoultas
    Participant

    I believe the Morris Minor Centre in Bristol still source some parts for their repair work from Sri Lanka


    Charles-P
    Participant

    After some ‘lounging by the pool time’ yesterday, as recommended by a number of BT contributors, we visited the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens and undertook the Kandy private tour.

    An early start as we left the hotel at 0630 and on the suggestion of the tour company we had our hotel make up a breakfast (fresh fruit, bread and some cheese with a flask of coffee, all in a lovely old wicker basket). At 0930 we arrived at the surprisingly named ‘Temple of the Tooth’ Thought (and believed by some) to be a tooth of Buddha, local superstition states that whoever holds the tooth holds the country. Like most religious stories a combination of lies, folklore and opportunism but interesting all the same. Mrs-P remarked that as usual with this type of thing my cynicism meter was in the red zone. The building itself is an architectural gem and worth visiting for that alone.
    At mid-morning we moved on to a local craft area in Kandy where some magnificent carving was displayed and I took the time to talk with an elderly man whose work was superb, he had been carving for over fifty years and although his son now did the ‘heavy’ initial work he completed the pieces and applied the final touches. I purchased from him a hand carved elephant which courtesy of Fed Ex is now on its way to our home in Belgium.
    We had lunch at the Villa Rosa Restaurant on the advice of our hotel concierge and it was excellent. Stunning views over the valley and mountains, food very much in the Sri Lanken style with excellent vegetable pancakes and fresh salad.

    In the afternoon we traveled to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya, a real treat for Mrs-P (a very keen gardener). In a word – enourmous ! Their collection of orchids is of particular note and better than I had seen anywhere before. We also saw the famous Cannonball Tree and Giant Javan Fig trees. A tiring day with a lot of walking but satisfying all the same. We both fell asleep in the car on the way back to the hotel utterly exhausted but happy.

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    Charles-P
    Participant

    ‘Inthesandpit’ – my father also still used the old Colonial names all his life. Sri Lanka was always Ceylon, Malaysia was Malaya and of course our home country was never Zimbabwe but always Rhodesia. I never thought I too had this trait but my wife reminds me that I routinely refer to the airport in Johannesburg as “Jan Smuts” something it has has not been since the early 1990s !
    I have no idea if this is some sort of repressed racism or simply habit on my part but I did take my last secretary an while to get used to it (she was 26 years old).

    One last thing – no such thing as a ‘simple ATCO”, after all who else gets to tell FJ aircrew where to go on a regular basis 🙂


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    Charles and Inthesandpit, what amazing stories which I so enjoy reading. Thank you. They could almost come from another world. I remember on my journey’s through Ceylon in the early 80’s on finding I was English, so many elderly Ceylonese would regale me, full of pride, as to how they served under General this (can’t remember the names or ranks but no disrespect intended) or General that and then tell me all sorts of stories. I listened intently, often missing the tour as they were so fascinating, and I’m sure some were somewhat embellished but none the less the stories were amazing and made more interesting when they would add some scandalous gossip. I loved it 😉

    Sadly those old men have most likely passed on now but what secrets they took with them to the grave!

    PS. Charles, coming from Rhodesia as you did, did you by any chance know Vernon and Olive Lindsay? They were very successful and have sadly passed on, and though unlikely, it is a small world so perhaps you came across them?

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