Wandering around Yogyakarta

Taman Sari Water Castle

I am still in Yogyakarta Indonesia. I book a food tour after my long day of temples. I head down early to meet my tour leader as I tend to do. Being early I decide to get a soda at a Circle K nearby to the meeting spot while I wait. It is raining hard and it will probably make the tour not so much fun. The tour guide contacts me on WhatsApp and asks if I would like to cancel for the evening and try for the next day. I am the only one scheduled tonight so I decide it is probably better to try again tomorrow.

I contemplate getting dinner somewhere nearby. Because of the rain I sit at a table outside the circle K under the overhang while searching for a place. All of a sudden I hear a boom and a spark. The store goes dark and people are stirring on the block. Around the corner and less than 10 feet from my body an electrical fire has sparked.

I step out onto the sidewalk and away from the building. Yes indeed. The transformer is on fire.

While we are watching the fire a spark appears at the power line above and power to the block goes out.

We watch the fire while we wait for the fire truck to arrive.

I think somehow I must have caused this fire so I walk away. I find a taxi driver around the corner to get me back toward my hostel because it is raining.

Taxi driver does not understand me and drops me off 3 miles from my hotel insisting it is the correct location. He refuses to take me further and it is still raining. I notice a bunch of rickshaws bikes (I find out later the actual name is Becak – Yogyakarta traditional trishaw) with plastic coverings. This will be my ride back to my hostel.

It is a fun ride and I safely make it back to my hotel (dry). I find a place to get a quick dinner nearby and then I’m done for the night.

Exploring Yogyakarta

The next day I do some exploring around town. Because the main town areas are only a couple miles from my hostel and it is a nice sunny (hot) day I decide to get out the map and walk.

My route takes me down a bunch of residential alleys, some with some fun art.

I cross underneath an opening into the walled area that holds the palace and other landmarks. The palace seems to be closed for a special event but I explore other areas inside.

This park and this tree become a lively area at night. During the day it is hot so you only see a few brave playing sports in the park.

Alun Alun Kidul Yogyakarta

Inside the walled area there are colorful walking paths.

I see this car and think it is adorable. I realize later that night what it is for. My next post will include pictures of that.

These pot hole covers are very clever.

Taman Sari Water Castle

Part of the Sultan Palace, Tamansari was a royal bathing location and retreat built in the 1600s. Not being very large it takes me no time at all to explore the grounds.

At short walk later past some cute cafes and more wall art I come to the next big sight in town.

I find signs for the Situs Sumar Gumuling, an underground mosque and well, but it takes me a while to find the actual entrance.

I end up going into some tunnels.

Eventually I reach the very popular mosque with its odd stairs. It is a very popular place for photography.

There is a round like structure around the stairs. It is cooler there and I try hanging out in this area to wait for the crowds to die down but they never do.

As I walk out a band is playing. The drummer is using the bench drum like I saw previously in Bali.

After I head outside there are more men who want to take photos with me and more student groups who want to practice English with me. I talk to a couple student groups and then head back to my hostel to rest up for my nighttime food tour.

I am excited about seeing Yogyakarta at night!

Bangkok temples

Today is a busy day. I am off to see all the temples of Bangkok (or as many as I can see in a day).

First I need to find the boats to get there. It was a while ago but I remember taking the BTS train and getting off at the Saphan Taksin station. It is a short walk to Sathon pier. Online instructions say that you have to take two different boats to get to Wat Arun but I only recall taking one (it was over 6 months ago though).

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

I soon arrive at Wat Arun, a royal temple dedicated to the 2nd reign of the Chakkri Dynasty. The crowds are constant, as usual in South East Asia, but I try to take my time and enjoy the sight.

I head back to the pier to take the boat to the Wat Phra and Palace. I believed my boat ticket to be a full day ticket but instead I had to buy another ticket to continue my trip. It is confusing to know when your boat arrives. Every time a boat arrives I ask the guide at the dock and they do not seem to happy I ask. Eventually my boat arrives and I am able to board.

Getting off the boat at the ferry terminal there are lots of people selling you things. I walk on by and act like I know where I am going even though I do not. Looking occasionally down at my map I head in the correct direction toward the Palace.

Wat Phra

I enter the Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and it is crowded as well. Lots of interesting and ornate buildings to see in the complex. The temple itself is entered with shoes off. I believe it also no photos inside. It will start to rain soon so I don’t take my time while my shoes are waiting outside.

Grand Palace

Also near the complex is the Palace. There isn’t as much to see in this area but the buildings have ornate roof decor.

It rains almost every day here during rain season in Bangkok. Not the whole day but sometimes like 2 or more hours. I mostly use that as an opportunity for downtime to recover from the times I am so damn hot. Luckily I finish the visit of the grand palace right as the rain began. I enter a food store/restaurant to await the rain. I order a soft drink and a snack and luckily find a little bench to sit on. Unfortunately the rain is so bad that water starts leaking in all over the bay window awning. Everyone in this area has to move because the leaking gets so bad. I find another place to sit for a while. Fortunately the staff did not seem to mind us all waiting out the rain in their store.

Reclining Buddha

One thing you will find in south east asia is that are various types of Buddha statues: laughing Buddha, meditation Buddha, reclining Buddha, protection Buddha, etc.

Near the Grand Palace is a very large reclining Buddha and that is where I go after the rain stops.

I don’t take much time to visit the Buddha but I do make time to visit the massage school to receive the best massage ever. You can get cheaper in Bangkok but it is still super cheap by USA prices. It is a long wait but worth the wait. I choose the hour Thai massage. You change into pants and a kimono and lay down on big beds that you share with other customers. It isn’t exactly intimate but if you can let it go for an hour it is worth it. It is relaxing as well as awkward with someone crawling all over you while a stranger lies next to you and has a masseuse crawling all over them. Additionally they cracked my back (Some people are weird about that. I guess tell them ahead of time if you don’t want a back crack. It was my fist time and I guess I’m not broken still but if I would have been asked I would have said no.). I am glad I booked the massage (As my friend says “I did it for the story”).

After massage is over the temples are closing so I make my way back to the boats to head back to my hostel. I catch a glimpse of a luxury mall off the river. Certainly a place I probably won’t visit during my travels.

India: That night we stayed in a palace…..

That night we stayed in a palace…..

We had one more night before heading home so I asked our travel company to suggest where to stay that would be on the way to the airport. They suggested a night in a palace and recommended two. I researched the reviews and decided Samode Palace was the place for us.

We came to find out that it was not really close by to the airport; it was actually a 3 hour drive; but it didn’t matter. We got to stay in a palace.

Upon arrival I received my second blessing and a necklace.

The price was definitely not economy but that is what we expected for our last night. We were pleased to find that they upgraded us to the honeymoon suite.

We arrived to find the large canopy bed. The room was over a walkway into a courtyard so we had two different views to choose from.

Long corridor with seating area.

Our room had two private balconies.

Beautiful tub and bathroom – everything very clean!

We enjoyed looking at the historical photos on the wall of our room.

One of the views from our window.

Right outside our room we noticed a little temple. It was closed when we arrived but later we came back to find it open.

There was also a lovely seating area outside our room.

After placing our bags down we wanted to explore the nearby village. We started on our walk. Almost within minutes we notice a gentleman following us. He wanted to be our guide and help us. We politely declined. We saw some older buildings along the way. We desired to go into the shops to browse but we were constantly bombarded by people wanted to “help” us and following us around. Kids crowded around us asking for candy – I guess most tourists come prepared with candy gifts.  We just had over a week of people constantly asking for money and we had enough. We walked back to the hotel.

This sad donkey and cat were the only two things that didn’t beg us for money in Samode Village. It makes me kind of sad that the tourists cannot sustain some sort of market in the village and they feel the need to beg. I had money to spend but I cannot take the constant harassment.

After whining about our first world problems we returned to the luxury of our palace and explored the grounds. 

Beautiful vistas from the Jacuzzi.

One of the pools

 The Sish Mahal (room of mirrors)

We noticed early in the day that they were setting up for some sort of event.

We took a peak out our window and it was some sort of party.  We got to see some fireworks.

The next morning came and it was time to start another long car ride. As always there is so much to see.

The jeep ahead of us has so many people in it. Some are even hanging out the back. Can’t be very safe with these bumpy roads.

Creepy dolls staring out the window at you at the tollbooth.

We stopped at a rest stop and I get my last Thums up and some yummy cashew chicken. It could have been frozen and mass produced for all I know. I still enjoyed it. I still haven’t gotten Indian food in the US that tasted like the food I had there.

And so is the end of my adventure. I want to go back and hope to get the opportunity to do so. India is such a large country with a treasure trove of culture. I have only hit the tip of the iceberg with this adventure. Maybe again some day India!

India Mini Palace

While staying in Jaipur, India we got the chance to stay in two palaces. The second was booked special for our last night to spend as “royals”. The first happened because all the hotels were originally tried to book were sold out. 
After looking at the online pictures of the Shahpura House I knew it was where I wanted to stay in Jaipur. This two hundred year old “house” was converted into a hotel in the 1990’s. The decor was very ornate and detailed. The hotel oozed character.
Unfortunately we were put on the ground floor which was slightly damp and pretty noisy from the sounds of people in the hallways. We are pretty sound sleepers so could get through the sounds but I didn’t like that all my clothes continually felt damp the entire stay. We also had a mishap with the laundry that had us delayed an hour for our next day of sightseeing. I suggest being very vocal about your expectations with the staff and you shouldn’t have any problems. They were very friendly otherwise and I would recommend a stay here (just not on bottom floor).
Most beautiful breakfast area ever

As with most of India, you don’t want to go wandering around town by yourself unless you really know where you are going. Not wanting to call our driver we decided to have dinner at the lively restaurant upstairs. The food was decent and we had dancers to entertain us.

Upstairs restaurant

Shahi Tukda dessert

Beer of choice in India

India cordial
Rajastan Kulfi Ice Cream
Beautiful light fixtures in hotel

Nice pool but too cold to use
Colorful door to our room

Lounge areas 

Shahpura House is definitely a more authentic India hotel experience.

Agra

Most people visit Agra as a day trip from Delhi or as part of the golden triangle tour of (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur). We stopped in Agra for 2 nights as part of our extended golden triangle tour. On our way we stopped at some rest stops and purchased interesting oregano cookies (above).
Lunch today was at the interesting hotel Bundelkhand Riverside with exotic toilet paper.

We helped ourselves to a buffet meal.

After another lengthy car ride we end up at the train station in Jhansi. Cows can do what ever they want in India. This cow wants to walk back and forth between the trains. No one is concerned that it will accidentally get hit or anything.

Our itinerary says first class. We look forward to relaxing in comfort for our long ride only to find that below is what first class looks like. It is crowded, dirty, and loud. The upside is that it was air conditioning, they serve you a meal, and it is relatively safe – even for female solo travelers.

We are very happy to arrive at our 4 star hotel. We had a nice meal at the hotel restaurant at the top floor. I thoroughly enjoyed my butter chicken and wine.

The hotel was pretty busy. There was a private party going on in the courtyard. It might have been a wedding or a conference.

The next morning we woke up to visit the Taj Mahal for the second time (post about it is here).
After spending some time negotiating a price for a marble plate at a  local vendor, we ended up at I’timād-ud-Daulah’s tomb or what is affectionately called the baby taj.

We ended our tour of Agra with a visit to the Agra Fort.