Postcards from Abroad

Whether your dream is to stay in a colonial-era bungalow in the middle of a tea plantation, an Indian princely palace, or to cruise in luxury the Irrawaddy to Mandalay, we never tire of searching for your next great travel destination. This is the place to share with us your most recent adventures.

Hello again from sunny India.

Bhubuneshwar TemplesBhubaneswar and Puri are a breath of fresh air in comparison with crazy Kolkata, equally busy but the traffic is not quite as bad. Having said that imagine this strange but true scene.

We are making our way to the zoo to see a white tiger and are on a three lane road with each section clearly marked with white lines. Traffic hectic, all lanes full, much hooting. Driving quickly towards us the wrong way on one of the lines is a motorbike and the passenger is totally oblivious to any danger as he is engrossed on his mobile phone! Mad!

 

 

White Tiger

Bhubaneswar is crowded with temples, 500 out of 7000 remain but visiting some provided a tranquil break from the bustle of the town. We looked at a FEW 7th to 11th century temples with tall graceful towers set in lovely grounds. Sadly some of the temple priests were quite grasping and contemptuous of a reasonable and fair donation. Certain temples we found we could not enter but a lot of money was required for an exterior view and/or photograph. We understand the culture of tipping and this is something we have not encountered in India before.

Bhubuneshwar Temples

We loved the Vishnu Ananta Basudeb temple where we watched the priests busily preparing and cooking food in large pots; this was offered to the God and later sold at market. Another favourite was the Mukteswar known as the 'gem of Orrisian architecture' with its unique torana (gateway arch). The smaller temples were best as you could get close up.

the textile village Nauapatna

 

the textile village Nauapatna 2

We spent an hour wandering around the textile village Nauapatna and it was brilliant. Watched the thread being spun from the cocoon, the dyeing process and weaving on the loom. Amazingly skilled job, very labour intensive. Many children would rather work than go to school or should I say the parents probably prefer it that way! James was waiting for the big sell and was disappointed when he found he could not even buy a kurta.
Village life is basic, water collected from wells, body and clothes washing done in the river. Salesmen on bikes selling pots, pans, buckets, each one piled high with goods. Women cleaning the floor with cow dung, few sitting around as they were busy preparing food or looking after children. Many men seemed to sit or stroll about and watch the women at work! There were exceptions, the fish seller rode a motorbike with a vast pot on the back filled with water containing live fish and some men were involved with the weaving process. We soon had a following of inquisitive children who wanted their pictures taken; the results acknowledged with smiles, giggles and excited chatter. We just realised how lucky we are and how much we take for granted in the west. Everyone can have an education, sadly not always appreciated. Everyone has to work.

Lovely Nauapatna village

Our visit to the tribal village of Dokhra was a very different experience from Nuapatna, here the villagers are known for their bronze casting. Some of them were quite surly which made us feel slightly uncomfortable. We also found ourselves in the middle of a domestic tiff.
The husband had apparently been out drinking and his wife was venting her ire by beating a large stick and shouting. His response was to grab an even larger stick, wave it about, beat the ground and shout back before seeking refuge in a nearby tuk tuk. We snuck past keeping our eyes averted to avoid making the situation worse. Later we sampled the best ever vegetable Thali in a local restaurant, we luckily only ordered one and shared it as there was ample food for two. We were astonished when the bill came to 90 rupees! (80 rupees to the £ ) Final excitement on one day was coming across a group of men, rather than the normal women, at work in a rice field, quite a rare sight. 

the tribal village of Dokhra

 On the way to Puri ( one of the 4 holiest pilgrimage centres for Hindus )we visited Pipli, an appliqué village with wonderful arrays of bright bags, bedcovers and lanterns. All very popular with the locals. Our WOW moment was being taken to the guide's old school, completely unexpectedly and not on the agenda. He knew that I had been a teacher and thought we might find it interesting.....

On arrival we spotted hundreds of old bicycles in open ramshackle sheds, 3 cows sat in the sparse school grounds. All rooms were shockingly basic containing a blackboard and old desks. We got such a warm welcome, and were promptly invited to join a class; all boys stood to attention and would only sit when we insisted upon it. We chatted to the 15 year old boys who were quite shy but soon warmed up. There was much hand shaking as we could not speak their local language but our guide proved to be a brilliant interpreter. A coconut was prepared for us as a welcoming drink and many boys and staff watched as we drank. We were then taken to the staff room where we met all the teachers. Outside we had photos taken in front of the founder's statue with the boys and staff. It was a humbling experience as they had so little yet value education so much. They proudly showed off their ICT unit which contained 4 computers! I was in my element and will remember the visit for many years to come.

Our guides old school in Pipli 

We later strolled along the beach in the Bay of Bengal watching people setting up stalls for the evening; fishing, swimming, hawking goods and there was even a cremation ghat where the fires burn day and night! You could clearly see parts of the bodies being consumed, and it was being watched by several as if it was a perfectly normal part of life and death. (Photos are not an issue here, unlike Varanasi where it is not acceptable).

Bay of Bengal 

Konark, which Mark Twain described as 'one of the wonders of the world', was intriguing and had some unusually erotic carvings, one of which, for a bit of fun James, posted on Facebook. The temple was dedicated to Surya, the sun god, and was built to resemble a war chariot on 12 great wheels, being pulled by 7 horses towards the dawn.

 

Kornak Sun Temple

 

Chilika Lake, Asia's largest lagoon was a disappointment, it is famous for its migratory birds and for Irrawaddy Dolphins but we saw nothing. The sensible dolphins probably kept well away from any boats as many sadly meet their deaths in the propellers of the motorised boats and the birds similarly visit other areas away from the noise and bustle.

 

Next stop is Varanasi, the holiest of India's cities where Hindus come to bathe in the sacred Ganges. A place to live but the place to die.........

 

 

Location (Map)

Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
Crazy Kolkata India 2
Venerable, virtuous and vivid Varanasi
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