I was told ‘Expert’ means Ex is an unknown quantity and also spurt as a drip under pressure
Gill’s Ramblings on Dec. 2018 Golden Triangle Tour and Indian Ocean Cruise.
I should have been travelling with a friend but sadly she had an accident shortly
before the due date and had to cancel. Thereafter I had a stressful few days trying
to get paperwork transferred to me and also to deal with new rulings for Airport
Assistance which involved Dr. appt. for him to sign a Fit for Travel form. The TA
insisted without this, I may be denied boarding! (Never had to do this before, just
requested buggy for long trek from Departure lounge to Gate – perfectly capable in
every other area). Problem was, it was a new doctor who didn’t know me, didn’t
speak any English – my unlike previous doctors – and had never seen this form before.
I did have a Spanish version to hand, and so took both, but he was reluctant to sign
as he thought that be doing so he would be held totally responsible for me on all the
forthcoming flights! Now this was Wednesday and I was leaving home on the Fri.
In the end he signed – stating no, I wasn’t being accompanied by a doctor, no, I didn’t
need a stretcher, no, I didn’t need oxygen, no, I didn’t need help going to the toilet, no,
an ambulance wasn’t waiting for me at the other end, no I wasn’t booked into a hospital
at the other end, and so on and so forth. Bloody bureaucracy!! I was ready to grab
the form and run, but he said wait there, went out, came back, and wrote ‘no valido’
all over the form. Cue for hysterics! In the end he wrote me a letter saying yes I
was fit to travel as of that day (which is what I tried to tell him was the relevant
factor). I was a bit miffed that apart from including a list of my meds., which was
fine, he also included all my other medical issues, which made me seem like a
complete physical wreck! Anyway, dashed back home and scanned the forms and sent
them off to the TA and crossed everything!
But the day dawned for my departure and as usual we had an easy trip to the airport,
the flight was more or less on time and on arrival I transferred to my overnight hotel.
Then I had a catalogue of small problems, fairly minor in themselves, but annoying
when quickly adding up. Firstly my Credit Card was declined at the hotel, but as
usual I had a back-up Debit Card, so that was fine. Then the new universal travel
adaptor I had just bought didn’t work, so couldn’t charge up my phone, and next my
alarm clock didn’t work. Also hadn’t been able to book seats online as the booking
was classed as a block booking. However, undaunted I went back to LGW next day
and checked in unchallenged. It was a quite a long flight to Delhi but with 2 meals
and 2 movies, it passed quite quickly (although I did have to change seats as my
individual TV screen wouldn’t work. Hey ho). But that was the last incident of
anything going wrong and I could now look forward to a trouble-free holiday!
We were met in Delhi by our guide for the Golden Triangle, and had to wait for quite
a while for another flight to come in, to get everyone together before transferring
to our respective hotels. There were to be 36 in our group. That first night a lady
came up to me and said did I meet you on a Thomson cruise in 2000. I didn’t
recognise her, but said yes, I was on that cruise, but puzzled as to how she could
remember me from 18 years ago! Maybe I was a wrinkled old hag back then also!
The tour was brilliant, but very tiring, most days having to rise at 6.00 am – unknown
for me under normal circumbstances. The first morning we toured Old Delhi and
visited Raj Ghat, or Gandhi Gardens, which had a stature of him, carvings of his many
sayings on stones, and a memorial. Next came Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques
in India, built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan (he of the Taj Mahal fame). We
learned that India had been invaded many times but each invader made Delhli the
capital. It is the 3rd largest city, after Mumbai and Kolcuta, with a population of
17 million. The main religion, 78% is Hindu – and Ganesh being the main god – and
the first language is Hindi (of which there are 1632 dialects) with English being the
second. After a curry lunch we drove past the Red Fort and the huge Parliament
House, and Rashtrapati Bhawan – the absolutely huge, spectacular mansion that is
the home of the President of India. Then on to India Gate which is a memoral to
soldiers killed in WW1. Next we visited Humayan’s Tomb which was built in 1570,
followed by Qtub Minar Minaret in the grounds of a ruined mosque. Whilst stopped
at some traffic lights, a young woman and child danced and did a series of acrobatics
in the middleof the road, in the hope of a few rupees.
An early night ensued and the next morning we set off from New Delhi, admiring all
the huge roundabouts in the city which were like miniature parks, and very well kept.
The journey to Agra took 5 hours and on arrival we checked into our hotel and had
lunch. Then followed a visit to the wonderful Taj Mahal, which is every bit as
splendid as you would expect. I’m sure most of you are aware that it was built in
the 1630s/40s as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz – there is lots of
info. available for those who wish to know more. We all did the obligatory ‘Diana
pose’ and took lots of photos, as well as having some taken by a professional photo-
grapher who came with us, and also took group photo. Next we visited the huge
Agra Fort, which was more like a walled city. There were lots of lovely chipmunks
running around the grounds.
Next morning we set of for Jaipur, a 7 hour journey, and on the way visited Fatehpur
Sikri, a huge palace built in the second half of the 1500s, with lots of inner courtyards.
It was built on the site of a house of a local ‘Wise Man’ who gave Emperor Akbar
the good news that he was about to become a father, after years of yearning. There
was a harem for 500 women, although not all were nubile beauties, as the widows of
soldiers killed in battle were allowed to join. It is very unlikely that they were
summoned to the royal bedchamber! Reminds me of a little ditty:
King Solomon had a thousand wives.
He serenaded them daily.
But what’s the good of a thousand wives
When you’ve only got one ukelele.
During the journey we learnt 40% of the gold sold worldwide is in India. Apparently
they don’t trust banks (see their point!) and any spare cash is converted into jewellery
for their wives. We had enquired about the sight of swastikas on various buildings
and were told that this was a very old symbol of prosperity, and nothing to do with it
being ‘hijacked’ by the Nazis. There were also Star of David symbols, again not
connected with the Jewish religion.
I enjoyed hearing more about the Hindu religion from our knowledgeable guide,
Kapil, who said it is a philosophy, rather than a religion. The main gods are Bramha,
Vishnu and Shiva (also 35 million minor gods and goddesses). And of course, they
believe in Karma, where every single act is taken into account throughout your life.
We went straight to our hotel, had dinner and an early night. Our first port of call
was to the Amber Fort, by jeep, with a photo stop for the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the
Winds, 5-stories with a pyrimidal facade, overhanging window with latticed screens
and lotsof domes and spires. The Fort is on the crest of a hill overlooking Maota
Lake, and the historic old town. After a buffet lunch we explored the Amber City
Palace, rather a complex of palaces, built by the Emperor Akbar who was unusual
in that he married a Muslim Princess, Jodha and allowed her to follow her own faith.
Next came the Museum full of original Rajhasthani costumes, armory, etc. Then
a visit to the Jantar Mantar Observatory a stone and comprising 19 astrological
and astronomical instruments built in the 18th century and the sundials of which
are said to be accurate to within 2 seconds. A visit to a textile and jewellery store
On the way back to Delhi next morning Kapil gave us an interesting talk on the
caste system. Although officially it no longer exists, unofficially it is still very
much in operation. Brahmin is the highest caste, 2 others, and the lower, which
is no longer called Untouchables. Your status was originally defined by your
profession, and you were assigned by birth and stuck with it, no matter what
your personality or achievements. Very unfair! Early next morning we made
our way to the airport for our flight to Dubai, and coach transfer to Abu Dhabi
to join our ship – Celebritiy Constellation.
Although asking for 2nd sitting, I was assigned to first, which was at 6.00pm,
rather too early, but the 2nd was 8.45, rather too late, and neither sitting was
condusive to attend the theatre shows at 7.30 and 9.30 respectively. The first
couple of nights included a family of 3 but they left to use the buffet facilities,
and so thereafter our table comprised Peg, a retired Arab horse breeder from
Colorado, now retired to Las Vegas, Elaine and Frank, a couple from Canada,
and Sophia and Albert,a Dutch couple, and me. We all got on together very
well, so all mealtimes were very enjoyable. The meals were good and our
waiters, Konstantin from Romania and Sunil from India were pleasant and
efficient. The cabin was fine and kept in good order by I Wayan. I didn’t
attend the show that night, but the following evening was a comedian/singer
who was OK, but most of the jokes I’d heard before.
My first stop on the ship was to visit the library, for books to read whilst
sunbathing, but the choice was abysmal and there seemed to be more written
in German or Scandinavian than English. And speaking of Germans,there
can’t have been many on the ship as there were always plenty of spare sunbeds
except around the immediate are of the pool and indoor pool, which I avoid
anyway. A pleasant day followed out on deck all the time, apart from going
to 2 quizzes in the afternoon (there were 2 in the morning also, but enough is
enough. The first was always a music quiz and the second general knowledge.
Most ships have teams of 6, but here the antendees were either couples or
individuals. No prize per quiz either – you got a point for attending and 5
points for winning, these being accrued until the end of the cruise – tight sods!
so, attending 24 and winning 4 times, I amassed 44 points and awaited with
bated breath (NOT!) the array of goodies to be at my disposal. The top prize
at 20 points was…..tada, wait for it…….a coffee mug! Then a tee shirt at 15
and odds and sods like a lanyard and pack of cards. Oh joy! The show
that night was an X Factor contestant, not very good, to me.
Another 2 sea days followed pleasantly, with the evening shows being a good
pianist and a Phil Collins tribute act which, although he sang the appropriate
songs, didn’t particularly sound like him. He said his luggage had gone elsewhere
and therefore he didn’t have his props, but what the hell has that got to do with
actually sounding like someone???
Our first port of call was Cochin and with two friends we visited the Santa Cruz
Basilica, a Dhobi House, (a collection of individual open-fronted ‘rooms’ where a
guy up to mid-calf in water beat the …. out of laundry by bashing it on a stone
table. Then there was a huge warehouse-type room where scores of people
were ironing, some with charcoal filled irons that weighed a ton. Next came the
St. Francis Church and a quick look at the Chinese fishing nets (done that before)
and had a mooch along the market stalls all selling the same stuff. Then a Jain
Temple and Jew Town, a series of shops lining a cobbled street with a Synagogue
at the end. Had visited that before but Ann, who was Jewish, really enjoyed it.
Next came New Mangalore. I had previously arranged via people on a Forum
to go on a tour arranged by Toby and Zoe, a couple from Switzerland, making
up a group of 8. We visited Sri Gokarnath Temple, St. Aloyisius Church – which
didn’t allow photographs, a fruit and veg. market. After that we went to a
Guthu house, which is a huge house with many small rooms with large verandahs
situated around a huge central courtyard. This was a dwelling for a big extended
(and obviously wealthy family) and had many artifacts from when it was in it’s
heyday. The others went to an artisan village, but as it was quite a long walk, I
declined. Finally we saw the Gokarnatha Temple, dedicated to the Lord Shiva.
All in all an interesting day. The evening entertainment was the Phil Collins
guy and the pianist – again – which is rather cheating, I think, so didn’t bother.
Goa came next and we visited the Basilica of Born Jesus, St. Catherine’s Cathedral,
a Spice Plantation and local markets. That evening the entertainment was a good
singer, for a change.
The last Indian port was Mumbai and a taxi tour took us to Mani Bavan, a house
where Gandhi used to stay and which was now converted to a Museum and very
interesting. Lots of photos and tableaux depicting various stages in is life. We
passed the ornate Post Office and Victoria Terminal and dipped into Crawford
Market. Then a ride along Marine Drive (known as the Queen’s Necklace)
In Goa we took a taxi and had a general tour around, visiting the Basilica of
Born Jesus and a look at Malabar Hill, with it’s posh residences. A quick look at
the city park with it’s ‘Hanging Gardens’, and of course the iconic Gateway to
India. That night’s show was a Production Show – very loud with the singers
trying out shout each other, but with some very good acrobatics being performed.
That was preceded by a ‘New Guests’ Cocktail Party’ (though why I was included
having being previous passenger I don’t know). Not too free with the drinks, and
it was pretty much all over within half an hour.
Two relaxing sea days followed, happily spent sunbathing and reading, the first
night a good show featuring a saxophonist/singer/comedian, and the second a
good singer who covered all genres very well. Met up with our tour group for
lunch. Went to the casino to convert my OBC into hard cash.
Then came Muscat, Oman. As I had previously visited the main attraction, the
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, we opted to walk along the promenade into town
and had a mooch around the souks – hundreds of shops packed into rabbit warrens.
Almost all were selling the same things – souvenirs, jewellery, and pashminas.
There was supposed to be a free wi-fi area, and there were dozens of passengers
standing around trying to get connected, but in vain. Finding free wi-fi was very
difficult – usually all port terminals have it, but not in India or Oman, so the
only times I could make contact was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The ship kindly
offered wi-fi so why, you may ask, did I not avail myself of it? Call me tight, but
I thought it a wee bit dear at $28 an hour and $332 a week!!! There was another
Production Show that evening, but to me it just seemed a mishmash, without a
real theme, and again very loud, so didn’t enjoy it, but too polite to walk out!
We reached Abu Dhabi mid afternoon, so apart from getting wi-fi in the cruise
terminal, did not venture off ship. Last show as a good comedian, and then had
to do packing for early disembarkment the next morning. It was all very chaotic
and we had to hang around ages before our coach arrived to take us back to
Dubai for our flight home. I had to hang around in my overnight hotel for a few
hours before going back to Gatwich for my afternoon flight back to Spain, but as
long as I have a book, crosswords, and sudokus, I’m fine.
To summarised, the Golden Triangle tour was brilliant although tiring, but well
worth it. The ship was fine, not too big. Cabin good, meals good, except the
choice of veg. was limited, almost always carrots and French beans. For me,
the entertainment was mediocre in general. The daily activities seemed ok on
first glance at the daily schedule, but a lot were ‘jewellery or perfume or handbag
’presentations’ – just an excuse to get you in the shops, and a large number of
activities had the dreaded words attached ‘Fee applies’. Sunbeds aplenty and
all the staff were cheerful and friendly. Pluses were free icecream, tea, coffee
and lemondade available all day long. As mentioned, the quiz prizes were
practically non-existent, and when you bear in mind that we were basically
entertaining ourselves, with out the expense of flying in acts, I though it was
very ‘cheap’ of them.
As usual, I had a good time as always, and now looking forward to the next one.