The morning Hindu ritual during sunrise boat ride on the Ganges River...Cremation...

Sunrise over the Ganges River.
The amount of history and information flooding our minds is astounding. We've learned an incomprehensible amount about the culture and history of India than we ever dreamed possible, even on this extended tour.
There were numerous narrow alleys to navigate to arrive at the Ganges River. 
Our guides have been articulate and knowledgeable accompanied by a passionate sense of pride about their country, its rich history, and its special people.
Many open stalls are located in the narrow alleys.
We feel safe here except when walking on the streets with volumes of vehicles trying to make their way around us and us around them. We don't have a sense of impending doom as we may in some areas of the world with large populations but we still proceed with considerable caution.

Having a local as our guide each time we step outside the doors of our hotel, provides an added layer of peace of mind as we work our way through one heavily populated area after another.

Walking down these alleys is dangerous when motorbikes come whizzing while honking their horns. Our guide Avi and Tom kept me safe from being run over.
Varanasi has 3,676,841 people and covers an area of 43.28 square miles which is relatively small compared to the size of many other cities in India, thus, the density of the traffic and people on the streets.

From this site: "Varanasi, also called Benares, Banaras, or Kashi, city, southeastern Uttar Pradesh state, northern India. It is located on the left bank of the Ganges (Ganga) River and is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its early history is that of the first Aryan settlement in the middle Ganges valley. 
Cows are sacred animals in India. Hindu people do not eat any meat. The cow is revered for their milk, for making and other dairy products, and for their dung used to build fires. They are sacred and adored, well-fed and nurtured well into old age. They often wander the streets during the day always returning home to their owners at night.
By the 2nd millennium BCE, Varanasi was a seat of Aryan religion and philosophy and was also a commercial and industrial center famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. Varanasi was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi during the time of the Buddha (6th century BCE), who gave his first sermon nearby at Sarnath. 

The city remained a center of religious, educational, and artistic activities as attested by the celebrated Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang, who visited it in about 635 CE and said that the city extended for about 3 miles (5 km) along the western bank of the Ganges."
One of several cremation sites along the Ganges in Varanasi. Women prepare the bodies while men attend the cremation for however many hours it takes. Bodies are cremated within six hours of death when possible. The fee for cremation is typically INR 14306.31, US $200 and most families have enough funds to cover the cost. The ashes are pushed into the river. Note the firewood in this scene.
These stunning facts resulting in yesterday morning's enthusiastic visit to the Ganges River. Most of us have heard about the significance of the Ganges River with preconceived notions of what it's actually like. 

Having the opportunity to take in all the wonder of this mystical place and to learn about its history and its people left us reeling with excitement. At precisely 6:00 am our guide Avi arrived at the hotel to escort us on foot through the meandering narrow alleys and roads, already packed with citizens preparing for their day.

Local workers sift through the ashes in hopes of discovering some treasure they can resell.
That walk to the Ganges River was an experience in itself. We wandered past cows that had to move to let us pass, stray dogs awakening from the night's sleep atop carts and tables, and goats meandering in the doorways of their places of residence.

There were countless puddles and slippery areas from the residents washing the cobblestone walkways overnight in an attempt to reduce the dung produced by all the wandering animals. We never saw this much dung while in the bush in Africa.
Centuries ago maharajas built many fine buildings and palaces along the river most of which are currently occupied regardless of their condition.
The shopkeepers had begun to set up their various wares hoping early morning passersby on the way to the river might partake of some of their offerings. Already the smells of incense and spices wafted through the air.

The uneven and sketchy walk transpired over no less than 20 minutes as we carefully observed every footfall along the way. It would have been easy for me to fall down when I'm still not as stable as I'd like to be, while Tom hung onto me, so surefooted himself.
The evidence of architectural expertise and creativity remains today. 
We walked up and down no less than 20 total flights of steps. Although I don't get too out of breath (no more than anyone), my legs aren't steady especially heading down steps as opposed to climbing up. 

I felt like a puppet dangling my legs over each step in an attempt to avoid falling while heading down the steep stairs of the ghats. But, I continued on with nary a complaint with Tom and Ari offering a firm hand to guide me along.
The many stairways down to the river are called "ghats" as described here: Ghats in Varanasi are riverfront steps leading to the banks of the River Ganges. The city has 88 ghats. Most of the ghats are bathing and Puja ceremony ghats, while two ghats are used exclusively as cremation sites. Most Varanasi ghats were rebuilt after 1700 AD when the city was part of the Maratha Empire. The patrons of current ghats are Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas). Many ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many ghats are privately owned. Morning boat rides on the Ganges, across the ghats is a popular visitor attraction.
Once we arrived at the river, getting onto the rowboat was tricky when we had to step from one of the last steps directly onto a little wooden platform that was hardly secure. A molded plastic chair was awaiting me and we situated ourselves for good photo ops. 

Of course, there were no life jackets on the boat but we didn't worry. With so many boats near the bank of the river, should a boat begin to sink, plenty of helping hands would reach out in the need of a rescue.
Shiva, the Goddess and Vishnu the God, of many, are represented in blue on these two structures.
We were on that boat no less than 75 minutes while the boat owner continually rowed. The experience was more significant being in a rowboat as opposed to a fancy motorboat. This was an authentic experience.

As shown in our photos, there was so much to see. It was fascinating to hear how the locals wander to the river each day to bathe. They disrobe enough to maintain a certain level of dignity, but not entirely as we witnessed each bather tugging at their sarongs and other clothing to avoid embarrassment.
We purchased these two offerings to light and place them into the river with a prayer. The cost was INR 40, US 56 cents for the two. Of course, after the lengthy rowboat ride, we generously tipped the driver.
After the women bathe, there are curtained areas when they can change into dry sarongs and make their way back to their designated areas of the city for the day. Most of the street workers and vendors are men, although women are seen in some of the more upscale women's clothing shops.

The priests were engaged in the morning sunrise ceremonial rituals, enacted specific decorated areas which we'll share in tomorrow's post about the evening ritual at the river, again a unique and fascinating experience, one we'll always remember.
Two dogs, most likely siblings, are checking out the scenery. Stray dogs are often fed by the locals. They don't bark and are gentle around people.
But, there we were sitting in a small rowboat scouring the shores of the Varanasi side of the Ganges River, where people were bathing, priests were chanting, deceased bodies were being cremated and the sun was rising on the horizon. 

Tom looked at me as he often does with a wide grin and says, "Who would have thunk?"

Yes, and in my usual manner, I said, "Pinch me. Is this really happening?"

Tom and the sunrise over the Ganges River.
We smiled at one another knowing in our hearts that continuing on our journey to see the world was what we were meant to do. And, there's so much more yet to come. Please stay with us as we share India with all of you through our eyes, through our hearts, and through our minds.

Varanasi...Adaptation, once again...

Yesterday we met this lovely Indian couple at the airport.
In a perfect world, of which there is no such thing, every travel day, every tour and every hotel would be to our liking. But, as we so well know, the world is an imperfect place and our world travels are no different.

Last night we checked into a hotel, Ganges Grand Hotel, located midtown Varanasi that wasn't of the caliber of the hotels in which we've stayed during the first 10 days following the Maharajas Express week long train excursion.
When we arrived at the hotel by our assigned driver Ojuh, the hotel staff met us a few blocks away to collect our bags. No parking or stopping was allowed in the direct vicinity of the hotel. 
Last night during dinner we noticed this cow entering a dress shop.
Fortunately, we only had a five-minute walk through the outrageous honking of horns from tuk-tuks, cars, trucks, and motorbikes, as we darted in and out of the traffic on uneven ground in an attempt to avoid getting hit or tripping and falling. This was the most traffic we'd seen in India thus far.

Finally, we reached the hotel to climb a steep set of uneven stairs to enter the lobby. The small reception area reminded me of "motels" from many decades past when as a child I traveled across the country with my parents. 

We were welcomed and handed the box from Amazon India, containing my new laptop which had arrived earlier in the day. I am preparing today's post using it and so far, I'm quite impressed. 

We were escorted to our room on the second floor. As soon as the door was opened, our hearts sank. This couldn't hold a candle to the other hotel rooms of days (or years) past.
Lanterns and fabrics were carried on the heads of locals in preparation for a wedding.
The bed is hard as a rock; the room shows considerable wear and tear; the bathroom and shower are all-in-one. In other words, the bathroom sink is in the same spot as the shower. 

Water covers the floor and doesn't drain well, leaving the bathroom a slippery danger zone with the potential for falling on the marble floor. We asked for extra towels to cover the floor in order to prevent falls while in the bathroom and when stepping outside the bathroom. 

After getting settled as best as we could in the room, we headed to the dining room for dinner. We hadn't eaten a thing in over 12 hours. We giggled when we commented that it felt as if we were in a movie centered around international intrigue and espionage in the 1930s.

In our situation, I must be able to get food befitting my way of eating. There was literally nothing on the menu I could order. I asked for the chef (cook) and he kindly prepared a roast chicken and vegetable dish that met my criteria and tasted fine. 
Bleary-eyed and tired from a long travel day, we shared a few beers (no wine available). Since alcohol isn't allowed in many Indian cities, this restaurant covers its beers with tin foil. Go figure.
Once again Tom had chicken and egg fried rice. It looks like we'll repeat these same items over the next two nights until we leave for our next location that online appears to be more suitable for our desires and expectations.

Yes, I know, this is India and yes, we're adaptable and accepting of cultural differences, but we paid a lot of money for this tour and didn't expect to stay in this particular type of hotel.

We looked up all the hotels booked over the next few weeks and it appears this particular hotel was out of character for our 55-night tour of India. We breathed a sigh of relief and settled back into the reality we so often pursue, "love the one you're with."  We'll be fine.

I suppose our tour guide selected this hotel due to its convenient location to the Ganges River and other points of interest. This morning at 6:00 am we met with our Varanasi tour guide, Avi and proceeded on a tour of one of the most exciting and unusual tours we've done to date... a rowboat ride on the Ganges River at sunrise.

Need I say, we have some stunning photos to share tomorrow while today, in the short time we have left until our next outing, to continue to set up my new laptop with all the apps and files I typically use.

We'll be back with more tomorrow. Have a peaceful day and evening.

Travel day...Amritsar to Varanasi...Two flights with layover...Excitement at the India-Pakistan border...

The soldier prepared for the big event.
As I write here now its during our original two-hour layover in Delhi which after the first flight on Vistara Airline (owned by Singapore Airlines) was late by 40 minutes, the wait to board has been greatly reduced.

We boarded the flight in 35 minutes after check-in at the airport so my choice was to rush through today's post or try to finish this tonight after dinner. Since we didn't arrive at our hotel in Varanasi until around 7:00 pm, I tried to rush through to get this post uploaded so we could have a less hurried evening and  leisurely dinner but it didn't quite work out that way..
The bleachers were packed with enthusiastic Indians.
With our driver Prince arriving at our hotel in Amritsar at 9:30 am to take us to the airport (our final contact with him), we wanted to have breakfast in the hotel, after we'd packed everything and were ready to go.

At 9:40 the van was loaded with our bags and we were on our way to the Amritsar International Airport. Arriving two hours before our flight left plenty of time to kill.
Note the headdress o the performers/soldiers..
We met a lovely Indian couple who now live in Australia and had come to visit family in India. The lively conversation with this special couple made the time fly while we awaited our flight. Before we knew it, we were boarding the first of the two flights.

I'd preferred to spend more time preparing today's post about the exciting visit to the ceremonies at the India/Pakistan border but this schedule is the "nature of the beast," as we spend two very busy months of travel through India, staying in each new location for two or three days.
Aligned and ready to perform.
Is this pace tiring us? Surprisingly, it's not. Sightseeing for one or two days with one day of rest in between is working perfectly for us. We're rested, well-fed and enthusiastic as we continue on.

This is not to say we'd do a tour such as this again. This scenario in India is unique. Most likely such an extended private tour such as this in any other country would far exceed the cost we paid for these extra 55-days over and above the Maharajas Express seven day tour through India. 
The crowds roared, particularly from the Indian side.
Below is information regarding the extraordinary experience we had being a part of the electrified festivities. 

The Indian people are dedicated to protecting their borders and this was evidenced by their loud and enthusiastic participation during the ceremonies, dancing, chanting and reciting their national expressions of love and patriotism to their country.
The soldier lined up to perform their classic high kicks.
We couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces during the almost two hours we sat in the tiered seating in the bright sun in the VIP/foreigner's seats only about 8 rows up from the performance.

Unfortunately, my photos aren't as good as I would have liked. The sun was in my eyes and it was impossible to see the subjects of the photos. I could only point and click.
Military police from either side of the border.
We are sharing what we were able to come up with during the ceremonies. Now as I write again, close to bedtime, we've arrived at our hotel in Varanasi. The city is beyond description. We'll share details in the next few days.

We have to be in the hotel lobby at 6:00 am tomorrow to head to the dock to board a boat for the Ganges River for the sunrise and more. We had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. Its not quite the caliber of the hotels we've stayed in so far in India but we'll make the best of it. 
Military guards protected the perimeter.
Time to wind down for the night. We'll be back with more tomorrow. Hang tight. Thanks for traveling along with us.

Here's information on the ceremonies:

"The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959. The drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid dance like maneuvers and raising legs as high as possible, which have been described as "colorful". It is alternatively a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation between the two nations. Similar parades are organised at Mahavir/Sadqi border near Fazilka and Hussainiwala/Ganda Singh Wala border near Firozpur."

Every eye in the stadium was focusing on these professionals.
We're going to give this ultra hard bed a try and see how we do. Nighty night to all!

Amritsar...Many treasures to behold...The Golden Temple...

The Golden Temple as seen through a decorative archway on the religious grounds of the historic Sikh location.
Yesterday morning, our highly competent Amritsar guide Amit, met us at our hotel to begin a walking tour of the historic city with a focus on the world famous Golden Temple of the Sikh people.

India's Sikh population is approximately 24 million, which is only 1.72% of the country's total population. Out of the total Sikhs in India, 77% are concentrated in state of Punjab, where we are now located.
We didn't go inside the Golden Temple when the queue could easily have resulted in waiting in the line for four hours. This photo is only a small portion of the queue.
Sikhism may be found predominantly in the Punjab state of India but Sikh communities exist on every inhabited continent, with the largest emigrant population being in United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

For a comprehensive view of the Sikh principles, which are too detailed for us to include here, please click here. We were fascinated when Amit explained the Sikh ideology, so far removed from the perceptions many possess about this and other religions of the world.
There are many rules surrounding the reading of the Holy Book, one of which includes, once the reading begins it cannot be stopped until completed. There is a 17 year waiting list to receive a copy of the sacred book. This and many other priests sit quietly day after day reading the sacred book written in a language few Sikhs are able to translate.
There is so many aspects to this faith, we could spend years attempting to explain it. However, the purpose of our posts is share our travel and daily life experiences, leaving little time or space to elaborate. The web provides literally millions of entries to further explain details and answer questions curious readers may possess.

In any case, Amit provided us with an overview that undoubtedly enhanced our experience of seeing the Golden Temple, its people and it exquisite surroundings.
Shoes are not allowed in the area of temple and women must wear scarves and men must wear some form of a turban.
Below, we've including history of the Golden Temple which may appeal to those fascinated with religious history.

From this site: "Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Sri Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple, (on account of its scenic beauty and golden coating for English speaking world), is named after Hari (God) the temple of God. The Sikhs all over the world, daily wish to pay visit to Sri Amritsar and to pay obeisance at Sri Harmandir Sahib in their Ardas.
Amit helped Tom fashion a turban. I thought he looked good with it!
Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Earlier the planning to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the Third Nanak, but it was executed by Guru Ramdas Sahib under the supervision of Baba Budha ji. The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Guru Sahibs on payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages. The plan to establish a town settlement was also made. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570. The work on both projects completed in 1577 A.D.

The land for the site was bought by the Guru Ram Das Sahib on payment from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages.

Building are being renovated on the grounds of the Golden Temple.
Guru Arjan Sahib got its foundation laid by a muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore on 1st of Magh, 1645 Bikrmi Samvat (December, 1588). The construction work was directly supervised by Guru Arjan Sahib himself and he was assisted by the prominent Sikh personalities like Baba Budha ji, Bhai Gurdas ji, Bhai Sahlo ji and many other devoted Sikhs.

Unlike erecting the structure on the higher level (a tradition in Hindu Temple architecture), Guru Arjan Sahib got it built on the lower level and unlike Hindu Temples having only one gate for the entrance and exit, Guru Sahib got it open from four sides. Thus he created a symbol of new faith, Sikhism. Guru Sahib made it accessible to every person without any distinction of Caste, creed, sex and religion.

Two Sikh men standing at the edge of the holy body of water. Men and women bathe separately in this man made lake for its healing powers.
The building work completed in 1601 A.D. on Bhadoon Sudi 1st, 1661 Bikrmi Samvat (August/September,1604). Guru Arjan Sahib installed newly created Guru Granth Sahib, in Sri Harmandir Sahib and appointed Baba Budha ji as its first Granthi i.e. the reader of Guru Granth Sahib. After this event it attained the status of ‘Ath Sath Tirath’. Now the Sikh Nation had their own Tirath, a pilgrimage center.

Sri Harmandir Sahib, is built on a 67ft. square platform in the centre of the Sarovar (tank). The temple itself is 40.5ft. square. It has a door each on the East, West, North and South. The Darshani Deori (an arch) stands at the shore end of the causeway. The door frame of the arch is about 10ft in height and 8ft 6inches in breath. The door panes are decorated with artistic style. It opens on to the causeway or bridge that leads to the main building of Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is 202 feet in length and 21 feet in width.

During the year but especially during the heat of the summer months, metal glasses are used to serve tap water to visitors. The glasses are washed by these women using a trough of ash, not water.
The bridge is connected with the 13 feet wide ‘Pardakshna’ (circumambulatory path). It runs round the main shrine and it leads to the ‘Har ki Paure’ (steps of God). On the first floor of "Har Ki Pauri", there is continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib.

The main structure of Sri Harmandir Sahib, functionally as well as technically is a three-storied one. The front, which faces the bridge, is decorated with repeated cusped arches and the roof of the first floor is at the height of the 26 feet and 9 inches.
As we walked down a road toward the temple.
At the top of the first floor 4 feet high parapet rises on all the sides which has also four ‘Mamtees’ on the four corners and exactly on the top of the central hall of the main sanctuary rises the third story. It is a small square room and have three gates. A regular recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is also held there.

On the top of this room stands the low fluted ‘Gumbaz’ (dome) having lotus petal motif in relief at the base inverted lotus at the top which supports the "Kalash" having a beautiful "Chhatri" at the end.

We walked through the old part of the town of Amritsar on our return to the hotel.
Its architecture represents a unique harmony between the Muslims and the Hindus way of construction work and this is considered the best architectural specimens of the world. It is often quoted that this architecture has created an independent Sikh school of architecture in the history of art in India."

Of course, we're excited to share photos we'd taken at the temple. Excessive photo taking is frowned upon, and thus we were discriminating in choosing what appealed to us most. 

Although not maintained many of these old apartments are still occupied, a few centuries after they were built.
Our few hours at the palace was enhanced by the knowledge and expertise of our guide, who works extensively with visitors of the US Embassy. We were truly honored to have him to ourselves for the day.

After the Golden Temple he walked us through back roads and narrow alleyways to further enhance the scope of our experiences. For us, seeing famous landmarks is certainly a huge plus but the ins and outs of "where the people live and interact" is equally important to us.

We were fascinated by the historic architecture.
In the early afternoon, we took a short break from the tour to allow us time to prepare and upload yesterday's post. By 2:15, Prince, our driver arrived and he and Amit took us to our next adventure, witnessing the closing ceremony of the equivalent of the "changing of the guard" and the nightly closing of the gates at the India and Pakistan border. Fascinating! We'll be back with photos and story in tomorrow's post.

Tomorrow morning, we're heading for the airport for a full travel day with two flights and a 2¼ hour layover in between. We don't expect to arrive at our hotel, the Hotel Ganges Grand in Varanasi until after 7:00 pm where we'll stay until February 20th when we'll fly once again Khajuraho. More on that later.

Back on the busy street we reveled in the strong cultural influences.
We had a fantastic day yesterday and we're enjoying a quiet day off today to work on our zillions of photos for today's and tomorrow's posts. 

Have a spectacular day, dear readers!

Thursday's missed photos from Shimla and Kufri...Jakhoo Temple...

This giant 108-feet-high idol of Hanuman was unveiled at Jakhoo Hanuman temple in Shimla on November 4, 2010.
"Jakhoo Temple is an ancient temple in Shimla, India dedicated to the Hindu deity Hanuman. It is situated on Jakhoo Hill, Shimla's highest peak, 2.5 km east of the Ridge at a height of 2,455 m above sea level. Each year, a festival is held on Dussehra. Before 1972 the festival was held at Annadale.  

According to the Ramayana, Hanuman stopped at the location to rest while searching for the Sanjivni Booti to revive Lakshmana. A giant 108-feet-high idol of Hanuman was unveiled at Jakhoo Hanuman temple on 4 November 2010. 
At 108 feet, it surpasses the statue of Christ the Redeemer, which measures at 98 feet, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The cost of construction was Rs 1.5 crores (US $209,711.31). The public unveiling was officiated by Abhishek Bachchan. The temple is accessible by foot, horse, taxi or rope way. 

The great statue of Hanuman is larger than Christ the Redeemer in Rio.
The Jakhu Ropeway is an aerial lift that links a point near the centre of Shimla to the temple. It was developed by Jagson International Limited and opened in 2017."

We realized, based on my computer crash and a poor Wi-Fi signal in Shimla, our posts are a little out of sequential order. Now that we have a better signal in Amritsar, we'll attempt to get a caught up as much as possible.

With all we'd experienced on the Maharajas Express, it could take several more weeks to get caught up. With the lack of time with so many daily activities and again a weak signal on the train, we've yet to share many important and interesting experiences from the past few weeks.

The grounds at the temple are neatly kept but surrounded by monkeys. Tom had to wait in the car since monkeys in this area are known to tear glasses and sunglasses off the faces of visitors. Since Tom can't see without his glasses, it made no sense for him to join me and Prince on the tour.
Over this next 47 days of touring in India, we'll occasionally have an opportunity to share some of these missed events, all of which is important to us to have documented along with sharing it with all of you.

At our next location in Varanasi, my new Chromebook will be awaiting me when we arrive on Monday (on a flight from Amritsar). It will take a few days to set everything up which I will do in between our arranged tours. But, I'm confident it will all work out.

The exterior of the steep walkway to the statue. I stayed behind and batted off the monkeys while Prince made the hike to take the photos of the statue.
On Thursday morning, our guide Prince, picked us up at the Radisson Hotel Shimla for a day's outing. The plan was to drive the the mountain town of Kufri to check out the scenery and head back to Shimla or more sites.

The drive to Kufri was again on treacherous mountain roads filled with trucks, motorbikes and cars all honking their horns simultaneously. Following any expected passing courtesies was out of the question. Everyone just took crazy chances.

There were monkeys everywhere at the Jakhoo Temple, most likely waiting for possible tidbits of food from tourists.
Prince, our highly competent driver, made us both feel as much at ease as possible under the circumstances. What a wild ride! That's India, for you! One exciting moment after another while not only driving on the narrows road but also when walking.

Kufri was relatively uneventful other than the drive, with the exception of a few scenic overlook spots. We enjoyed people watching along the way as well as seeing the surprising amount of snow.
Even newer buildings maintain the integrity of the varying cultures of India.
On the return drive, we stopped to visit the above mentioned Jakhoo Temple and a few other temples in Shimla. As the day came to an end, we were happy to return to our hotel, freshen up and head to dinner in the restaurant. 

We'd both found items on the menu that appealed to us but nothing as spectacular as last night's dinner here at the Ramada in Amritsar. Most certainly, we'll have these same meals this evening, again with no cocktails since they are forbidden anywhere near the Golden Temple. 
The roads on the way to Kufri often included shops with colorful items for sale.
But the lack of a glass of wine or cocktail with dinner was a small sacrifice based on that wonderful meal shown in yesterday's post here. Tom equally enjoyed his chicken fried rice.

We are looking forward to sharing tomorrow's post after an indescribable day of touring here in Amritsar and tonight's special ceremony taking place at the India/Pakistan border. Wow. That's exciting! We'll be back!!
Happy day to all!

Eight hour car ride from Shimla to Amritsar...No delusions, rose coloured glasses...

My spectacular dinner made by the thoughtful chef at the Amritsar Ramada where we'll stay for three nights.
It was quite a day. Our good driver Prince drove perfectly on the treacherous roads as we made our way down the Himalayas. The traffic, the horn honking, the weaving in and out between cars, trucks and motorbikes was quite a sight to see as well as many other stunning scenes along the way.
As we entered Amritsar after an eight-hour car ride.
India is known for its pollution, skinny stray dogs and rundown structures as a part of life in many parts of country.
A herd of sheep moving on down the road.
Sure, we tend to sugarcoat these rampant realities with our often rose colored glasses in an attempt to paint a colorful view of our nonstop world travels. But what shall we do? Whinge about the fact we've yet to see a bright blue sky or totally clear day? Hardly.
Historic building as we drove through crowded town after another.
This country of over 1.3 billion people belongs to its people and they are proud and grateful for what they do have as opposed to what they don't. We are humbled by their acceptance and their kindness, no, not by everyone, but by most.
It's easy to see how India had 1.3 billion people. They are everywhere and little land is reserved for countryside or farming.
And, what do we gain by exposing ourselves to these challenges? Exactly what we intended seven years and almost four months ago when we left Minnesota to explore the world.
Color is everywhere.
It was never about hedonistic pleasures pumping our veins with luxurious comforts. It was always about filling out hearts and minds with a new appreciation, a new perspective of life outside the box we so freely occupied all of our lives.
Every area, every town is congested with people and "stuff."
The meaning, the purpose and the scope of our past experiences was limited to a tight circle around us. Today, it's the world.
Shops are packed with colorful dresses worn by the Hindu women.
Why, "they" may ask? Originally, curiosity. Now, this blissful opportunity has become about sharing this adventure with all of you; for those who traveled, for those who dreamed of travel and for those who continue with their own goals of exploring the world.
People, cars and more shops.
Each and every day we plot, we plan and we share the peculiarities, the nuances, the joys and the challenges we encounter along the way. Not always pretty. Not always heartwarming and enchanting. But always, as real and concise as we can be from this long acquired perspective.
On a rare occasion did we encounter a more modern building.
Yes, in time it will come to a close. In six days I will be 72 years old with a precarious heart condition. Tom, five years younger will only be able to haul the bags for so many years to come.
As we came down the mountains, we encountered snow.
But we'll carry on, slipping on those rose colored glasses from time to time to soften the blows of the many harsh realities we encounter in the world to share each perspective with all of you.
Dirty snow piled up on the side of the road.
We just returned from a fantastic dinner on Valentine's night sans alcohol. No alcoholic beverages are served in Amritsar in the close proximity of the golden temple which we'll see tomorrow morning with our new guide. We don't mind forgoing happy hour for three nights in order to savor the local treasures of Amritsar.
Town after town became a picturesque view as we wound our way down the mountains.
Tomorrow evening holds quite an adventure, we'll share the following day.

Thank you dear reader/friends, for your inspiration and your loyalty. You are always with us.

Happy Valentine's Day to all the lovers out there...