Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bye bye 'Cormie

As a side note...I've had to re-home McCormick. Someone who lives in my neighborhood has complained that McCormick has no boundaries and keeps sitting on his window looking at his parrots. And if he sees McCormick again he will take him to be put down. Now, he CAN'T legally do that...but with this guy, he'll just take it into his own hands and kill the poor boy. So, I've had to make the really really hard decision to find him another home. I did, and he'll be leaving for his new home on Sat. Sigh. So sad. But it's what's best for him. I'll miss the big galoot!

Off to India!

I seem to just use this blog now when I go somewhere! :) This time I'm off to India, Nepal and Tibet for 3 weeks. HOORAY!!!!! I'm so excited. I'm going with my parents, which is going to be super fun. My dad's hip has been bothering him, so we chose a tour that has limited walking. Good thing too, since I seem to have tweaked my knee last week and am hobbling around. But no worries, I'll take pain-killers every day if I have to so I can have fun!

Anyway, I leave this weekend...I'll update and post pictures as much as I can. Below is the tour itinerary so you can see where I am when. I'm not doing the Turkey leg though...I'm meeting them in Delhi (so are my parents) on Nov 1. It was going to cost me almost as much to fly to Toronto to join them to Turkey as it would for me to just fly to Delhi. And besides...the fewer flights the better for me! :)

The Journey of a Lifetime
(22 Days/21 Nights)

Day 01: Saturday 29 Oct. 2011 DEPART TORONTO, CANADA
Board Turkish Airlines to Istanbul, Turkey to begin your adventure.
TK 18 flight departing terminal 3 at 23:50

Day 02: Sunday 30 Oct. 2011 ARRIVE ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Arrive in the exotic city of Istanbul straddling the continents of Europe and Asia the cross route of the ancient Spice Route, home of the magnificent Ottoman Empire one of the greatest rules in history. Be met and greeted and with time permitting visit the Hagia Sofia, or St. Sofia, the famed basilica, built by Constantine the great in the 4th century and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, is one the architectural marvels of all the time and an icon of the city. Overnight at the Ottoman Hotel Imperial located in the antique Old City area.

Day 03: Monday 31 Oct. 2011 ISTANBUL
This morning you explore this historic city. Visit the Sultanahmet Imperial Mosque built in the 16th century by the architect Mehmet, is known as the Blue Mosque because of its astounding interior decoration of blue Iznik tiles. Later we see the Roman Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races, with the three monuments; the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine. Return to the airport to board your Turkish Airlines flight TK 716 18:40 to India.

Day 04: Tuesday 1 Nov. 2011 ARRIVE DELHI, INDIA – AGRA
Meet and greet upon arrival in Delhi and drive to Agra. Breakfast at Midway Restaurant. Upon arrival, you are met, greeted and escorted to the hotel for check in. After noon we leave by Tonga (Horse Carriage) to the gates of the world famous Taj Mahal , built by Shah Jahan in 1630 for his queen Mumtaz Mahal to enshrine her mortal remains. This architectural marvel is a perfectly proportioned masterpiece fashioned from white marble that stands testimony to the sill of 20,000 craftsmen brought together from Persia, Turkey, France and Italy and who took 17 year to complete this 'Love Poem in Marble'. We tour Agra Fort built by Emperor Akbar between 1565 & 1573, which reveals the Mughal talent for combining defensive architecture with beauty and design. This fort palace was begun by Akbar as a purely defensive citadel and was subsequently completed by two successive generations that added the delicate mosaic and magnificent marble palaces. The fort is the history of Mughal life in Agra and offers a magical view of the Taj Mahal.
We return to the Clarks Shiraz Hotel for your overnight stay

Day 05: Wednesday 2 Nov. 2011 AGRA – JAIPUR VIA FATEHPUR SIKIRI ( 265Kms / 07Hrs)
Check out from the hotel after breakfast and drive to Jaipur. We stop en route to visit Fatehpur Sikri, located 40 Km from Agra, the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri was built by Emperor Akbar in 1569, in honour of the great Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti who blessed Akbar and prophesized the birth of three sons to the heirless Emperor. Akbar used Fatehpur Sikri as his capital and the city was fully occupied for 14 years but slowly became deserted and ruined after Akbar left the city. Scarcity of water was the prime factor for the abandonment of this beautiful city. Visit the remarkably well-preserved, graceful buildings within the 'Ghost City' including the Jama Masjid, tomb of Salim Chisti, Panch Mahal Palace and other palaces that speak of the grandeur and splendour of the Mughal empire at the height of its power. Continue drive to Jaipur. Check in at the hotel on arrival. The evening is at leisure to explore the colourful markets of the pink city. Overnight is at the Fern Hotel.

Day 06: Thursday 3 Nov. 2011 JAIPUR
After breakfast we leave for excursion to Amber Fort. A major attraction at Amber is the Elephant Ride (subject to availability) all the way up to the Fort entrance. This journey on caparisoned elephants is bound to enrich your memories with the Royal lifestyle of the Maharajas and leave you with a truly unforgettable experience. Amber is a classic, romantic Rajasthani Fort Palace. The rugged, time-ravaged walls of the Fort may not look beautiful from the outside, but the interior is a virtual paradise. Miniatures painted on the walls depict hunting and war scenes, apart from festivals. Precious stones and mirrors are embedded into the plaster. Inside the Fort visit the Jag Mandir or the Hall of Victory. En route to Amber Fort from your hotel, you will have a brief photography stop at Hawa Mahal - the Palace of Winds.
In the afternoon, we tour the city of Jaipur. We first visit the Maharaja's city Palace, the former Royal residence part of it converted into a museum. A small portion is still used by the Royal family of Jaipur. Built in the style of a fortified campus, the palace covers almost one-seventh in area of the city. The main entrance leads to the courtyard at the center, which is the Mubarak Mahal. One of the major attractions in the museum is the portion known as Armoury Museum housing an impressive array of weaponry-pistols, blunderbusses, flintlocks, swords, rifles and daggers. The royal families of Jaipur once used most of these weapons. On the first floor is the Textile and Costume Museum, which is the fine example of fabrics and costumes from all over India. Later visit the Jantar Mantar (Observatory), which is the largest stone and marble crafted observatory in the world built by Jai Singh from 1728 to 1734. Situated near the gate of the city palace, the observatory has 17 large instruments, many of them still in working condition. We return to the Fern Hotel for overnight stay

Day 07: Friday 4 Nov. 2011 JAIPUR – BIKANER (335 Kms / 07 Hrs)
Morning after the breakfast we drive to Bikaner. Check in at the hotel upon arrival.
In the afternoon, we visit Junagarh Fort, begun by Raja Rai Singh in the 16th century, but palaces were added to it over the next three centuries. The outer wall, built of light red sandstone is surrounded by a moat, and within are beautifully designed palaces with balconies, kiosks, fine jali or lattice work screens with richly decorated interiors. The Badal Mahal in the fort has walls covered with stories from the life Krishna, whilst the walls of the oldest palace, the Lal Niwas, are elaborately decorated in red and gold. Overnight at the Laxmi Niwas Palace Hotel.

Day 08: Saturday 5 Nov. 2011 BIKANERJAISALMER (330 Kms /06Hrs)
Leave for the desert town of Jaisalmer after breakfast. Check in at the hotel upon arrival. Get a break from the sightseeing and spend the rest of the day to explore the city on your own. Overnight at the Rangmahal Hotel.

Day 09: Sunday 6 Nov. 2011 JAISALMER
After breakfast in the hotel, we spend the day our day to explore the city with our guide. Jaisalmer founded by Prince Jaisal in 1156, was a major staging post on the trade route across the forbidding Thar Desert. The first glimpse of the honey colored walls of the fort, rising out of the hot and barren desert is magical. Untouched by time, Jaisalmer, with its golden crenellated walls, narrow streets lined with exquisite havelis, has a medieval ambience. The fort, often referred to as the "Golden Fort' because of the color of the stone, encloses palaces decorated with delicate jali or lattice worked screens, carved doors and flora carvings, and elaborately carved 12th to 16th century Jain temples. The havelis in both the fort and the town are exceptional. Similar in style to the homes of Venetian merchants, the havelis were the mansions of wealthy traders. The houses are decorated with beautifully carved facades, screens and windows. Each haveli has an inner courtyard surrounded by richly decorated apartments. We walk through the narrow streets of the fort to see the Nathmalji-ki-Haveli with its beautiful arched roof with carved brackets in the form of peacocks; Patwon-ki-Haveli, the most elaborate and magnificent haveli and best known for its latticed façade and Salim Singh ki Haveli. Outside the walls of the fortified town is the small oasis of Gadi Sagar, which led Prince Jaisal to found his city. It is well worth visiting to see the large number of shrines around it and the migratory birds, which it attracts. Later in the day we proceed for excursion of "Sam", 45 km away is known for its enormous sand dunes that make a surrealistic landscape patterned by the wind. This excursion also includes the unique experience of Camel Ride. Later, we enjoy a local tribal dance performance on the sand dunes followed by dinner. We return to the Rang Mahal Hotel late evening for your overnight

Day 10: Monday 7 Nov. 2011 JAISALMERJODHPUR (300Kms / 06 Hrs)
After breakfast at the hotel, we leave for the medieval town of Jodhpur. Check in at the hotel upon arrival. In the afternoon explore the city of Jodhpur. The tour starts with visit to the Mehrangarh Fort, an impregnable fortress towering above a 10km wall with soaring archways leading into the center. The fort has a series of spectacular palaces, each decorated with exquisite engravings, lattice and mirror work. The museum displays an unusual collection of miniature paintings, glided palanquins and solid silver "howdah" presented by a Mughal emperor to the Maharaja. Next stop is Jaswant Thada - a cluster of royal cenotaphs in the white marble built in 1899 AD in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh-II. We finish our city tour with the stop at the Clock Tower and the nearby Sardar Market – a historical local trading market for Spices. We return to the Ranbanka Hotel for overnight stay

Day 11: Tuesday 8 Nov. 2011 JODHPURPUSHKAR (235Kms / 05Hrs)
After breakfast we drive to Pushkar. Ancient myths have said that the god Brahma dropped a lotus flower on the earth and Pushkar, then floated to the surface. Upon arrival check in to your desert camp. Today you will attend and spend time at the famous Pushkar fair where you see how beautifully decorated camels are paraded and traded in the dessert. The Pushkar Camel Fair is one of the most traditional events to be ever witnessed in India. Each November, the sleepy little township of Pushkar in Rajasthan, India comes alive with a riot of colors and activity focused around the trading of upwards of 50,000 camels. Very few, if at all any, fairs in the world can match the liveliness of Pushkar. For the visitor, it is unparalleled and unforgettable experience to capture the vibrancy of the entire historic state of Rajasthan in one place. Herdsman from various tribes with very interesting histories, origins customs and social practices welcome you today. Some of the tribes you meet today are far distinct from modern society and a few are medieval in their origin, and date their origin back to the one of the oldest prehistoric civilizations in the world, the Indus valley civilisation. Listen closely as you learn about the legend of the sand and dessert from a friendly stranger.
Become immersed in the striking colours and tradition s of Rajasthan. From jewellery items for cattle, ranging from saddles, saddle-straps, beads, strings and cowries, Silver ornaments and bead necklaces from the Nagaur region, patchwork, to printed textiles as well as the famous tie and dye fabrics from Ajmer, are all major attractions, to items specifically exhibited visitors, the vast array of artefacts exhibited are just endless. Overnight at the Aagman India Camp.

Day 12: Wednesday 9 Nov. 2011 PUSHKARUDAIPUR VIA RANKPUR (300Kms / 06Hrs)
Early in the morning you walk through the Pushkar lake and nearby temples, Pushkar lake is believed to be mark the spot where a lotus thrown by Brahma landed. Ghats lead down to the water to enable pilgrims to bath. There are 52 ghats around the lakes and dozens of other temples, most of which are close on 1200 to 1600. The Brahma temple, at the far end of the lake, is a holy shrine & draws pilgrims throughout the year. After visit, we drive to drive to Udaipur enroute visiting the Ranakpur Temples, built in the 15th century, situated in a valley on the side of the Aravali Range. Ranakpur is amongst the five holiest places of the Jain community and exceptional in beauty. Over 1444 marble pillars, each differently carved in exquisite detail, support the temple. It is also said that it is impossible to count the pillars. Not to be missed in this temple is one carving out of a single stone with 108 heads od snakes and numerous tails. We continue our drive to Jodhpur after the visit and check-in at the hotel upon arrival. Overnight is at the Sheraton Udaipur palace resort and Spa.

Day 13: Thursday 10 Nov. 2011 UDAIPUR – DELHI
After breakfast at the hotel, we tour the city of Udaipur. with its lakes and palaces, cradled in the hills of the Aravalli range is a very romantic city. The name itself "The City of sunrise" evokes a sense of romance. We first visit the City Palace - the focal point of the city and has several areas of interest like the Suraj Gokhada, Badi Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Mor Chowk (the peacock courtyard), and the Zenana Mahal. Next we visit the Jagdish Temple, located close to the Palace with its imposing sculpted figures and heavily ornamented interiors. Finally, stop by to visit Sahelion ki bari Gardens or the ‘ Garden of maids’ ; built under the express guidance of Maharana Sangram Singh II, it is believed that the garden was constructed for 48 maids who accompanied the Maharana's wife as dowry. In the late afternoon take a boat ride at lake Pichola , 4-km long and 3-km broad, surrounded by splendid hills , palaces ,temples, bathing ghats and embanksments. Visit the island palace, Jag Mandir that is beautifully set in the lake.
In the evening we drive to Udaipur airport to board the flight to Delhi BY IT 4302. Depart at 19:40Hrs Arrive at 21:15Hrs. Meet and greet on arrival by our representative and transfer to the Justa Residence Hotel for check -in

Day 14: Friday 11 Nov. 2011 DELHI – KATHMANDU, NEPAL
Breakfast is at leisure in the hotel. In time transferred to the airport for flight to Kathmandu BY AI 213. Depart at 07:30Hrs Arrive at 09:00Hrs
Meet and greet on arrival by our representative and transfer to the Shangri-La Hotel for check in. Afternoon we visit the ancient capital of Patan and Tibetan Handicrafts center. Patan Durbar Square, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Patan Durbar Square has been acclaimed as one of the finest urban streetscapes in the world. Most of the monuments seen today were built between the 16th – 18th centuries. It is known as the centre of fine arts and for the superb craftsmanship of its artisans. Essentially a Buddhist city, historic inscriptions establish Patan as an important town from early times (said to have been founded by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C., although no historical proof exists). We also spend some time in Tibetan Handicrafts center. Bhaktapur Durbar Square (listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO) : A former capital of the valley, it was once a flourishing city on the trade route to Tibet. It has preserved its traditional character better than the other two cities, due to its more isolated location. It is regarded today as a classic showcase of medieval Nepalese town life. It is situated in the east of Kathmandu valley about 14 km. away. It today retains much of its beauty in ornate woodcarvings and in the famed Golden Gate. We return to the Shangri-La Hotel for overnight stay

Day 15: Saturday 12 Nov. 2011 KATHMANDU – LHASA, TIBET
After breakfast we drive to Kathmandu airport to board the flight to Lhasa. Depart by CA 408 at 10:45Hrs Arrive at 14:20Hrs. Upon arrival check in to hotel, rest day is free to explore the city by own. Overnight stay is at the Jardin secret hotel.

Day 16: Sunday 13 Nov. 2011 LHASA
After breakfast we visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Bharkhor Bazaar.
Potala Palace: The Potala Palace, a pearl on the plateau, the construction of the world famusPotala Palace was started in the 7th century during the time of the Tubo King SrontsanGampo on the top of Mt. Putup, it is looming over the whole Lhasa city. The Potala Palace cosist of two palaces the Red and the White Palace with over 1000 rooms. The Palace stands up so high that itt resembles a mgnificent castle in the heaven. It takes itself a good example of the ancient Tibetan cultureand architecture. It was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after a failed uprising in 1959. In 1648, the PotrangKarpo known as White Palace was completed, and the Potala became the winter palace of Dalai Lama from that time. The PotrangMarpo or the Red Palace was added to the complex between 1690 and 1694. It was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. Jolkhang Temple: This temple is one of the most sacred and important temples in Tibet. A part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace" and a spiritual centre of Lhasa, it is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. It was built by King SongtsänGampo probably in 647 A. D. Both Bhrituti and Wencheng, the Nepalese and Chinese wives of SongstenGampo brought important Buddhist images (sitting statue of Sakyamuni) to Tibet as part of their dowries, which are housed here. The famous Buddhist Master, Atisha, taught here in the 11th century and it has been considered the most important temple in Lhasa ever since. Bharkhor Market: The circular Barkhor Street is the oldest street of old Lhasa city. Found in the heart of Lhasa and circling the Jokhang Temple it is the trading as well as religious center of the city. It means 'a pilgrim's inner circuit'. It dates back to the foundation of the Jokhang Temple and is an essential pilgrim route. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into deep night to reach Jokhang temple. It is also called 'the window of Tibet' as it typically reflects the Tibetan life and culture. We return to the Jardin Secret Hotel for overnight stay

Day 17: Monday 14 Nov. 2011 LHASA
After breakfast we visit Drepung Monastery: It is situated to the west of Lhasa city and was founded in 1417 by one of the disciples of TsongKhampa. Literally means the 'Rice Heap' monastery', Drepung is also one of the "great three" Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. Drepung is the largest and richest of the three major yellow sect monasteries in Lhasa that houses over 10000 monks and governed over 7700 subsidiary monasteries and indeed at its peak was the largest monastery of any religion in the world. JamyangChojey, who was a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelukpa school, founded it in 1416. It is located on the GamboUtse mountain, 5 kilometers from the western suburb of Lhasa.
Sera Monastery: Sera Monastery once it ws the second largest of all monasteries in Tibet. 'Sera’ literally means 'Enclosure of Roses', is one of the 'great three' Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. Set on the foot of the Wudu hill , 5 km North of Lhasa city, Sera comprises of a great sutra chanting hall, a college and 32 sections. Once it was the second largest of all monasteries in Tibet. It was founded in 1419 by a disciple of Tsong Khapa. As its peak it housed over 7000 monks and was famous for its warrior monks, the Dob-Doa. Although badly damaged, it is still standing and has been largely refurbished. It now houses a few hundred Buddhist monks. The Sera’s library houses some of the valuable prayer books. Prayers books in Sera's library Graduates of Sera Jey College who are known in the west include, Lama ThubtenYeshe, GesheKelsangGyatso, Lama ThubtenZopa Rinpoche. Like the
Drepung and Ganden monasteries, it had three colleges, namely Sera MeyDratsang, Sera JeyDratsang, and NgagpaDratsang. We return to Jardin Secret Hotel for overnight stay

Day 18: Tuesday 15 Nov. 2011 LHASA – KATHMANDU, NEPAL
After breakfast we drive to Lhasa airport to connect the flight to Kathmandu. Depart by CA 407 at 10:45Hrs Arrive at 09:45Hrs. Upon arrival, our representative will meet and transfer to hotel. Rest day is free to explore the city by own. Overnight stay at the Shangri La Hotel.

Day 19: Wednesday 16 Nov. 2011 KATHMANDU
Kathmandu Durbar Square (listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO is one of the popular places due to its exquisite architecture and artistic embellishment. This complex of palaces, courtyards and temples, built in 1200 to 1768 A.D. with hundreds of erotic carvings used to be the seat of the ancient Malla kings of Kathmandu which epitomizes the religions and cultural life of the people. Swayambhunath (listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO): Atop a green hillock west of Kathmandnu, stands the great stupa of Swayambhunath; a site that is over 2500 years old marking the point where the legendary patriarch Manjushri discovered the lotus of the ancient valley lake. Constructed to specific rules each with a symbolic meaning, the stupa of Swayambhunath is a model of its kind. Pashupatinath Temple (listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO): Located 5Kms east of Kathmandu valley on the banks of sacred Bagmati River, this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world. Thousands of pilgrims visit this temple every year during Shivaratri, the birthday of Lord Shiva. Entrance to the temple precinct is forbidden to non-Hindus. The Large, gilded triple-roofed temple was built in 1696 A.D. though 300 years earlier this was a structure on this site. Boudhanath (listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO): This is the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the largest in the world located east of the valley was built by the Lichchhavi King ManaDev in the 5th century A.D. The Rinpoches who reside here have established Boudhnath as one of the most flourishing centres of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. The colossal ancient stupa is 36 metres high. The evening is livened with a Nepalese Dance Show followed by authentic Nepalese Dinner. We return to the Shangri La for overnight.

Day 20: Thursday 17 Nov. 2011 KATHMANDU
After breakfast full day is free to do own things and explore one of the most culturally astute cities in the world. Overnight stay at Shangri La Hotel.

Day 21: Friday 18 November KATHMANDU – DELHI, INDIA
After breakfast we drive to Kathmandu airport to board the flight to Delhi AI 214.
Depart at 10:00Hrs Arrive at 11:25Hrs. Upon arrival, our representative will meet and transfer to the Maidens Hotel. We leave for city sightseeing tour of Old Delhi & New Delhi.
Old Delhi came into prominence when Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra to Delhi. You visit 300 year old Chandni Chowk market, a maze of lanes crowded with shops selling an extraordinary variety of items and food, the noise and crowds are a quintessential part of any Indian market. From here you continue to the Jama Masjid or Friday Mosque.This is India's largest mosque designed by Shah Jahan, and was his last architectural legacy. Originally it was called Masjid-I-Jahanuma, which means "mosque commanding a view of the world". In complete contrast to the noise and crowds of Old Delhi, is Raj Ghat, a simple and stunning memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the main architect of India's independence. You pass through the Red Fort that dominates this area is the landmark. Built in the mid 17th century by Shah Jahan, it was plundered by the marauding armies of Nadir Shah and later by British soldiers.
Afternoon, we take our tour of New Delhi, visit Qutab Minar, the tapering monument begun in 1199 was built to symbolize the supremacy of Islam. This structure was eventually the prototype of all minars or towers in India. With time allowing our next stop is Humayun's tomb, built by his senior wife and mother of Emperor Akbar. This is the earliest example of Mughal architecture in India. It is believed that it was this mausoleum, which inspired Shah Jahan to build the Taj Mahal. We drive pass the India Gate, Presidential Palace and Parliament House. Overnight is at Maidens Hotel

Day 22: Saturday 19 November DELHI – TORONTO, CANADA
After breakfast we drive to Delhi airport to board the Turkish Airlines flight back home at 05:10 taking with you treasured memories of this amazing adventure.