Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 Myanmar-India trip

January 20, 2016 (Monday):  Leaving NYC

I left New York City around 9:54 pm Monday night and arrived in Paris around  4:51 am Tuesday morning NY time.  This was about a 7 hour flight.

January 21, 2016 (Tuesday):  In the air mostly

Tuesday morning around 8:22 am New York time, I hopped on another plane and flew from Paris to Bangkok, Thailand and arrived around 7:06 pm Tuesday night, New York time.  This was almost a 11 hour flight. 

Cruise Day 1:  January 22, 2016 (Wednesday): Mandalay, Myanmar

From Bangkok, I flew Wednesday morning around 12:05 am New York time to Mandalay, Myanmar (aka Burma), arriving around 1:55 am Wednesday New York time.  This was almost a two hour flight.

Once in Mandalay, Myanmar (starting Wednesday night) I started a 10-night river cruise from Mandalay to Pyay on the cruise ship AmaPura.  The AmaPura is a 56-passenger, 188 feet in length and will travel south on the Ayeyarwady River (also spelled Irrawaddy River).  You can see what this ship looks like (inside and outside) at the following URL, <>.

There will be essentially no WiFi or cell phone service in Myanmar, so text and photos will be sketchy at best, so some days there will be no reporting.  I may try and fill in missing text and photos later.

I boarded the ship at Mandalay and spend Wednesday night on the ship.  I met my fellow travelers at a Welcome Dinner aboard the cruise ship (the AmaPura), cruising on the Irrawaddy River (Myanmar's largest river).  

Below is a photo of the AmaPura from the Internet.
Above:  AmaPura (from the Internet)
Cruise Day 2: January 23, 2016 (Thursday):  Mingun, Mandalay and Amarapura

We cruised the village of Mingun, the city of Mandalay (second-largest city in Myanmar) and Amarapura (a township of Mandalay).  See map below.

Above:  Map showing cities cruised on Cruise Day 2
Mingun:  In the village of Mingun, the main attraction is the ruined Mingun Pahtodawgyi, which is one of the famous monuments in the world. It is also known as the world's largest unfinished pagoda. The building of Mingun Pahtodawgyi started in 1791 and was intentionally left unfinished.  If the construction had been completed, it would have been the largest in the world.  Also at Mingun is a famous 12-foot high bronze bell, the Mingun Bell, which weighs 90 tons and is the largest ringing bell in the world. 

Mandalay:  The Mandalay city tour includes some of the city’s top sights, including the bronze Mahamuni Buddha and a visit to the workshops of craftsmen making thin sheets of gold, a stop at Kuthodaw Pagoda (said to contain the world’s largest book, Buddhist scriptures inscribed on 729 marble slabs) and the Shwenandaw monastery, an architectural masterpiece filled with woodcarvings.

Amarapura:  In Amarpura is one of Myanmar's most photographed sights, the U-Bein Bridge, which is a teak bridge stretching close to 3/4 mile across Taungthaman Lake. It was built in the mid-19th century and is the longest teak bridge in the world.  

For those of you that have a few minutes, there are several YouTube video tours of the AmaPura ship, see the following URLs.

Amapura ship tour 1 (2.5 minutes)   Note, at 2 minutes & 20 seconds you see the ship has a swimming pool!

Amapura ship tour 2 (2 minutes)

Amapura 3 ship tour (2+ minutes)

Cruise Day 3: January 22, 2016 (Friday):  Our ship cruises to Sagaing and Inwa

No report due to no WiFi or cell phone service

Cruise Day 4: January 23, 2016 (Saturday):  Yandabo-Bagan, Myanmar:

No report due to no WiFi or cell phone service

Cruise Day 5: January 24, 2016 (Sunday):  Bagan, Myanmar:

The first photo below was made in Bagan, Myanmar and show some beautiful pagodas.  The one on the left is the Shwezigon Pagoda and was built in 1087 and is covered in gold leaf.  The fish-eye effect of the photo is because I was using the olloclip attachment I purchased earlier for the iPhone.
Above:  Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar
The next photo was also made in Bagan, Myanmar and is of a Buddha in the Ananda Temple.  The Arnanda Temple was built in 1091.  I thought this Buddha was the most beautiful of all the ones I've seen. 
Above:  Buddha in the Ananda Temple
Cruise Day 6:  January 25, 2016 (Monday): Scheduled: Tant Kyi Taung (Mountain excursion), Salay (City tour)

No report due to no WiFi or cell phone service

Cruise Day 7:  January 26, 2016 (Tuesday): Scheduled: MaGwe (City tour)

The following photo is of a statue of General Aung San made in MaGwe, Myanmar.  Aung San was responsible for bringing Burma's independence from British rule in Burma.
Above:  Statue of General Aung San made in MaGwe, Myanmar
Cruise Day 8:  January 27, 2016 (Wednesday):  Scheduled: MaGwe (Trishaw ride & local market visit), Minhla (Historic fort visit)

This photo was taken at a local market in MaGwe, Myanmar also.
Above:  Market in MaGwe, Myanmar

Cruise Day 9:  January 28, 2016 (Thursday):  Scheduled: Tha Yet Myo (Golf Course & Post Office, Pha Hto Village visit)

No report due to no WiFi or cell phone service

Cruise Day 10:  January 29, 2016 (Friday): Scheduled: Pyay (City tour)

Today I am in Pyay, Myanmar and this is my 10th day of the river cruise, today we will do a tour of the city.  I will spend the night on the boat, the AmaPura, and this will be my last night on the boat.

The following photo was made after our river boat stopped in Pyay and I left the boat ending the river cruise part of my trip.  Beautiful pottery.
Above;  Diane with pottery in Pyay after leaving the ship
Today I left the river boat (AmaPura) and my river cruise in Myanmar is now over, I am now in Yangon, Myanmar and tomorrow (Sunday) I will leave Yangon and fly to Kolkata, India (via Kunming, China).

January 30, 2016 (Saturday):  Long bus ride to Yangon

The next photo is of me on the bus from Pyay to Yangon, a 7 hour ride. 
Above:  Diane on bus from Pyay to Yangon

The following photo is a place where the bus stopped and we had lunch.
Above:  Where we had lunch
The next photo is in Yangon, Myanmar, of the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is over 2,500 years old.  It is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top is encrusted with 4,531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond.
Above:  Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
left the boat in Pyay and travel to Yangon and later catch a flight from Yangon, Myanmar to Kunming, China to Kolkata, India.  I will be spending about 12 nights in India and should have reliable cell phone and WiFi connections.  I will arrive in Kollkata, India around midnight Sunday night (New York time), I'll be staying the first night at the Tollygunge Golf Club.

After India, I will spend a few days in Qatar and Oman, and will return to New York on February 16th.

The following map shows where I have been so far (the green dots).
Above:  Map showing where I've been so far

January 31, 2016 (Sunday): Flying from Myanmar to Kunming, China to Kolkata, India

The flight from Yangon, Myanmar to Kunming, China was almost 3 hours and the flight from Kunming, China to Kolkata, India was another 2 hours plus.  Both flights were on Boeing 737s.  I finally arrived in Kolkata, India late Sunday night, just after midnight Kolkata time. 

February 1, 2016 (Monday):  Kolkata, India

From Schedule: Spending the day in Kolkata with friends Sunanden Sen and his wife Nargis; staying in Tollygunge Golf Club

Going through immigration took another hour and on the way to the Tollygunge Golf Club (where I will stay the first two nights in India) we hit a traffic jam, a herd of goats were in the road and they didn't want to move over. The Tollygunge Golf Club is nice and the room is good, the breakfast was Indian yum!

My friends Sonny and Nargis Sen (see next photo) picked me up with a car and driver and we drove all over Kolkata looking at the remains of the British days mostly, including some great architecture.
Above:  Diane with friends Sonny and Nargis Sen in Kolkata, India

The following photo is of the Kolkata High Court, it is the oldest High Court in India and was established in 1862.
Above:  Kolkata High Court in Kolkata, India

We went to a fancy restaurant for a great lunch, maybe the best food so far on the trip, but don't tell the god folks on the AmaPura river boat in Myanmar that I said that, as their food was very good also.

After lunch we went to a really cool art gallery with some inspired work ending up at the Queen Victoria Memorial (next photo).  The memorial is a a large marble building that was complete in 1921.  It is also a museum but we didn't get to go inside as it is closed on Mondays, so we walked around the gardens with the locals.
Above:  Queen Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India
The photo below is of one of the statues of the British Lion near the Victoria  Memorial, it looked to me like the lion was taking a selfie (notice the left front paw).

Above:  British Lion statue near the Queen Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, India  

After our tour of Kolkata, we headed back to the Tollygunge Golf Club for gin and tonics and a light supper.

It is now late Monday night (Kolkata time) and I'm packing for a 7:00 am Tuesday morning departure to the airport for Delhi. 

so far so good. 

February 2, 2016 (Tuesday):  Flight from Kolkata, India to Old Delhi, India

From Schedule:  Afternoon/evening, meet in Old Delhi at Hotel Bukhara, near Gate 3 Jama Majid (Jama Masjid?).
Stay: Hotel Bukara in Old Delhi

I had a great day yesterday (Monday) in my tour of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), my friends Sonny and Nargis Sen took good care of me while I was there, they were wonderful hosts.

I left Kolkata today (Tuesday) to catch a flight to Delhi.  They said to avoid traffic I needed to leave the Tollygunge Golf Club by 8 am (Kolkata time). I normally like to be a bit early but the pickup car arrived really early and I left at 6:45 am to be at the airport by 9 am for a flight scheduled to leave at 10 am.   We arrived at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport at 7:45 am to learn the flight was delayed, so I had to hang out for several hours.   But the airport had WiFi so it worked out fine. 

Earlier on the way to the airport I saw 3 cows waiting at a stoplight just like they knew it would turn green and they could go.  I didn't have my camera out so I didn't capture that picture, but it was a funny sight.  Imagine cows and people together at the pedestrian cross walk.  Later we passed a guy riding a motorcycle with 10 bags of onions,  they must have been 20-25 pound bags.  Needless to say he was going very slowly.  

My new Panasonic Lumix ZS50 Super-Zoom Travel camera is having problems with the optical zoom.  The zoom sticks and I get an error message that tells me to turn the camera off and then back on.  Plus I dropped my iPhone and cracked the lens, so I'm in a mess with taking photos.  I may look for a Panasonic shop in Delhi and an iPhone repair shop as well.

Did I say the flight was "delayed several hours?"  The flight finally took off from Kolkata 3 hours and 47 minutes late and we landed in Delhi 4 hours and 8 minutes after the scheduled arrival.  But as a note of humor about my travel travails, in addition to the unnecessary early arrival at the airport and the flight delay, the flight attendant rearranged the passengers and I ended up with a wailing kid in the middle seat next to me, who only stopped wailing when he was grabbing for my pen control box or iPad.  I just have to laugh.  HIs poor mother was so stressed. 

The flight from Kolkata to Delhi (Indira Gandhi International Airport ) lasted about two and a half hours, but it was on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, which is a very nice aircraft.  For all my engineering friends out there, the 787 family is the first airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction (approximately 50 percent). 

I am normally an organized and well prepared traveler, so this is strange to have many things go somewhat wrong, like the camera problems, the flight delay, the screaming kid, losing earrings, sneezing, etc..   But I'm still having a great time and feel so blessed with capital letters that I have such a wonderful life.   I love India!  

I may use the names "Delhi," "Old Delhi" and "New Delhi" in my emails. Basically, Old Delhi is the old part of Delhi & New Delhi is the new part of Delhi.  Old Delhi is the most historic part of the metropolis, with its origins dating back to the time of the Moghuls. In contrast, New Delhi was designed by the British during colonial times.  New Delhi is the area of Delhi which has all the Government bodies.

While in Delhi for the next few days, I will be staying in Old Delhi at the Hotel Bukhara, which is right across the road from Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India.  The mosque has three main gates and the Hotel Bukhara is close to gate 3 which is the north gate.  But after a few days, I will be moving to the Has Khaz Guest House in New Dehli.

I hope none of you find the following topic offensive, but in India they use water to wash after using the toilet instead of toilet paper. In Indian culture this is considered a cleaner practice. But some toilets are fitted with both a water spray hose and toilet paper (for tourists).  The following photo shows one such toilet at the Kolkata airport.
Above:  toilet at the Kolkata airport
I am also attaching a photo of a room deodorizer at the airport.  It cracked me up for some reason, it is electric and constantly stirs a liquid that must do something to the air.  Note the decorative green leave on the top.
Above:  Toilet at the Kolkata airport

Below is a Google map showing the places I've been in the last few days, from when I left Yangon, Myanmar (after my 10-night river boat cruise and a long bus ride), flew to Kunming, China to catch a flight to Kolkata, India and then on to Delhi.  On the map shows two other cities I will be visiting later in February (Alwar and Agra).
Above:  Map showing where I've been in the last few days

We finally arrived at the Hotel Bukhara in Old Delhi. The hotel advertises that they are the "Best Budget Hotel Near Jama Masjid," ...and they have Wi-Fi!.  As I mentioned in yesterday's email, Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India.  The mosque has three great gates (Hotel Bakhara is at gate #3), three domes covered with gold, four towers (one at each corner) and two tall spires that are 130 feet high. 

February 3, 2016 (Wednesday):  Old Delhi and New Delhi, India

From Schedule:  Autos to the Craft Museum and nearby Matka Pir, and wander Old Delhi. 
Stay: Hotel Bukara in Old Delhi

Wednesday morning, I took the following photo of the Jama Masjid from our hotel, Hotel Bukhara Inn.
Above:  Jama Masjid
Leaving the hotel, our first stop was at Jama Masjid where I took the next photo from inside the courtyard, on the south side.  The courtyard can accommodate 25,000 worshippers.
Above:  Jama Masjid
On the internet, I ran across this great aerial photo of the Jama Masjid mosque that I mentioned in my last two emails.  I obviously can't get any photos like this from the ground, so I thought I'd forward this one on so you can get a better view of what the mosque looks like.
Above:  Jama Masjid
In this view you can see the four towers located at each corner, the three domes and the 130 foot spires.  You can also see the 3 gates, the one in front of the photo, and the two on the sides,  Gate #3 close to the Bukhara Hotel (where we stayed) is the gate on the right side of the photo (or north side).  I've marked the gate number on the photo.

To enter the Jama Masjid, you can use the gates shown on the left and right side of the photo. The gate in front of the photo (east) remains open only on Fridays.

The photo I took from inside on the courtyard with the fish-eye lens on my iPhone was taken by the gate on the left of the photo.

Leaving Jama Masjid, we stopped for cardamom chai, which is a spicy drink of black tea with cardamom (seed pods in the ginger family).

Then we toured the local market where they sold electrical and mechanical items and saris.  The next 2 photos were taken in the Meena Bazar near Jama Masjid.
Above:  Photo from Meena Bazar near Jama Masjid

 Above:  Photo from Meena Bazar near Jama Masjid
After touring the local market, we went to the famous Crafts Museum and had lunch.  The Crafts Museum is about 3 miles south of Jama Masjid and is in the section of Delhi known as New Delhi.  It is one of the largest crafts museums in India and is set up like a traditional village, the purpose is to preserve the traditional crafts of India.  Some of the crafts that are on display at the museum are pottery, wood carvings, metal-ware crafting, image, toys sculpturing, folk paintings, tribal textiles and handmade jewellery.

After visiting the Crafts Museum and having lunch, we went to the Dargah Mosque nearby, for a Sufi saint by the name of Matka Pir.  They have clay water pots in the trees there, I got some photos but they were with my other camera (the new Lumix ZS50), which I can't email at this time.  There is a legend that goes with the pots, about some traveler that was cured completely of a disease which apparently did not have any cure.

Later we went to a spice market which is basically a busy intersection where they dried fruits, nuts and tea and spices.    Then I had my first lassa, a traditional, yogurt-based drink in India. 

All of our traveling Wednesday was in unbelievable traffic in either tuk tuks (small type 3-wheel motorized vehicles, slightly more powerful than a golf cart) or we traveled by rickshaws propelled (pedal like a tricycle) by skinny Indian men .  Hysterical both funny and scary.  Below is a photo of one of the tuk tuts.

It's been a full day so far.  Tomorrow the potters village.

February 4, 2016 (Thursday):  Old Delhi and New Delhi, India

From Schedule:  Metro to Uttam Nagar East:  Travelling with us today and for the country tour will be Shirley Bhatnagar English/Hindi speaker, potter, has taught in Jaipur lived in the US for many years now living in New Delhi:    Visit the Prasad workshop Chanakya Place then to Kumhaargram to the home and workshop of Manohar Lal ( Manori Ji) and family and visit  several other  family workshops:  Opportunity to have a turn on a wheel:  Lunch: with family of Manori Ji:  Stay: Hotel Bukhara,"

The Delhi Metro is a metro system serving Delhi and its satellite cities.  It is an all electric rapid transit system that operate on exclusive right-of-ways and can be underground, at-grade or elevated stations.  There are 6 different lines and all have colors for their names, the Blue Line, the Yellow Line, the Red Line, the Green Line, the Violet Line and the Orange Line, all going to different places.

Thursday at the pottery village was an amazing day for me.  Our tour leader Sandra also organizes pottery workshops in Australia, that some Indian potters attend, so she has a personal relationships with many of the potters that we visited with Thursday.  

Some potters are uneducated and for the most part illiterate and learn everything by trial and error.  They have never read (duh) or learned from anyone about firing, clay composition, glazes, etc, yet they are amazing at what they do.

They buy their clay from various sources, some outside of Delhi, and sometimes they buy it locally from Delhi when new construction excavation hits a layer of clay.  The clay is mixed by hand with other materials by the women and then when the water is mixed in, it is wedged (like kneading bread) into mounds of clay they then put on a wheel or sometimes used for coil pot building (like maybe you did in the 3rd grade?).

They are all family businesses with the women doing the prep work and sometimes the decorating.  The poorer families (and poor is a relative term, they are all poor by even Indian standards, unless they do something unique or special and get picked up by a gallery or representative. Sounds like painters in the US, there are a few that are very successful) fire their kilns with sawdust and the more affluent with wood.  They don't fire to high enough temperature to actually glaze their pots as we do in the US.

Many of them make small pots (kulhar) that are used for cardamom chai (a spicy drink of black tea which I mentioned Wednesday) which is made and sold on the streets, the kulhars are then throw away.  They make larger pots for lassi (a fabulous yoghurty drink which I also mentioned Wednesday) and even larger ones for biryani (a rice-based meal) all pots thrown away after one use.  The group hurts to think of the waste.  

One potter can make between 1500-2000 kulhars a day, he fires many in a kiln (see 1st photo attached) as he gets orders.  Most of this is done outdoors subject to heat, cold and monsoons.  They all seem to have enough electricity to run a wheel, which is basically an electric motor with a fan belt and a wheel head about 12" to 14" in diameter.  They squat on the ground in front of the wheel for hours (see 2nd attached photo).  It is a very hard position to work in, most of us wouldn't be able to stand up after an hour, much less a whole day. 

They fire for 7-8 hours constantly putting wood and/or sawdust in the bottom of the kiln.  The kilns (see 3rd attached photo) are handmade of bricks in a round column maybe 6 feet in diameter and as tall or taller. Underneath there is a floor of some sort and under that is where the wood and/or sawdust goes.  When the kiln is full they cover it with shards or larger broken pots for several layers.  The color of the smoke tells them when the fire is the proper temperature.  

I hope this is narrative enough that non-potters can follow.  For me it was all fascinating.  

We visited 5 or 6 pottery families.  These are all family businesses, sometimes it is several generations in the business.  The more successful they are, the more sophisticated they get.  The family life is interesting, when a son marries there is pressure to marry a girl from a potter family to keep the caste clear.  One family we visited, the son married the daughter of a man that irons, an ironer, This new wife has not been accepted by the potter family and the other daughter-in-laws don't speak to her.  The wives do all the housework and take care of the parents.

We had a nice lunch of the equivalent of vegetable tempura and I noticed that none of the Indian folks were eating.  It seems the parents and men eat after visitors and the wives after that.  The wives had their faces covered because the father was there and it was a sign of respect, and his wife had to sit on a shorter stool that he.

The sons for the most part stood and the ubiquitous children stood, sat, squatted and stared.  They were very cute, dusty and loved having their photos taken. I took oranges to give them as they can't afford to buy them.  As the fathers did demonstrations of their throwing techniques, the children crowded in front of us to watch, as though they hadn't seen it before.  That was amusing.  And all the neighbors came to stare through the doorways or even to join us as though they hadn't seen it before either.  We conjectured that maybe they didn't realize it was interesting before.  

We traveled to the pottery village on the west side of Delhi on a variety of transportation modes, first we rode rickshaws to the Metro (electric rapid transit system).  On the Metro the two front cars are for women only, designated by pink signs stating this.  At one stop a female in fatigues checked to be sure that there were no men.  After riding the Metro, we moved to multi-passenger motorized 4-wheel carts. They are designed to hold 6 Indian people but we could really fit only four of us.  We took the same type vehicle two more times, slowish speeds but lots of horn honking and close passing of other vehicles including motorcycles, so close it almost felt like an intimate experience.  Then we took the forever available 2-passenger rickshaws, and some 4-passenger, 3-wheeled tuk tuks that they call autos.  Once in the pottery village we walked from house to house.  

Because Sandra has a personal relationship with these men, they were very welcoming and each family served us chai (black tea).  We were pretty chai-ed out and tried to refused, but that didn't work so we drank it with gusto.  

When we got back to the Hotel Bukhara Inn, we were dusty and hungry.  Our dinner choice was again in the Muslim quarter and turned out to be the answer to KFC.  Tasty with roti (flat bread), but their roti is different from what we know.  The meal was tasty with lots of onions and a very spicy sauce.  One was supposed to wrap it all in the flat bread and eat it, as there were no utensils.  

Friday night we will be staying in a different hotel, the Haus Khaz Guest House in New Delhi.  Saturday we will be traveling to Alwar.

Below are 2 photos of some pottery seen today.

Above:  Pottery in the outskirts of Delhi

Above:  Pottery in the outskirts of Delhi
Above:  Pottery in the outskirts of Delhi
Below is a map that illustrates where I've been yesterday and today.

February 5, 2016 (Friday):

From Schedule:  Move from Old Delhi by 9am
Visit contemporary  studio potters with Reyaz Badaruddin, a Delhi potter, traveller and teacher.
Vasant Valley School; Gallery Lado Sarai (including ceramic show by Vineet Kacker)  Deepali and P R Daroz  in  Aya Nagar;  Vineet Kacker   in  Gurgaon and maybe one other potter in Gurgaon.
Lunch:  Reyaz’s suggestion
Dinner:  Haus Khas  Shirley’s  suggestion
Stay:  4 people: Green Meadow Guest House C-23 Green Park Ext  +919811472005

February 6, 2016 (Saturday):

From Schedule:  Leave for Alwar Rajasthan, on the way visit Sanskriti Kendra Terracotta Folk Museum 
Stay: The Hill Fort Kesroli in Sariska, Alwar, Rajasthan

Saturday morning (India time) we left New Delhi and traveled to Alwar, India, about 100 miles further south. 

Saturday morning, we had we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel (Green Meadow Guest House in New Delhi), and all of us worrying about Claire Atkins, who had "Delhi belly" (aka upset stomach) as I mentioned earlier, fortunately she was feeling much better before we had to leave for Alwar, India.

After breakfast we packed up our Tempo Traveler (Tourist Transports) and went to see "Hauz Khas" (for royal tank), a mile or so from our hotel,  Hauz Khas is named after an ancient water reservoir by the same name.  Hauz Khas is basically a walled area containing a reservoir (called Hauz Khas Lake or Royal Tank), several schools, a mosque and a tomb with a mogul buried in it.  it was built and rebuilt a few times during the many years of mogul reign (Khilji Dynasty).  The guy who built this was a clever one as he had the water supply there for his court and the village.  Now it is a place for young couples to get away from the supervising eyes of their parents.  The young people are not supposed to touch each other.  Even at 10 am there was plenty of cuddling.  We also went into the village with lovely ships and stopped in L' Opera (high-end French pastry and bakery products) for a cappuccino and chocolate croissant, a nice change from parantha (a flatbread and a staple of the area).

We hung around Hauz Khas for a while before heading to the Sanskriti Art Center and Museum.  Vicki Grima, Exec. Dir. of the Australian Ceramics Association was to give a talk at the Delhi Blue Pottery Trust Lecture Series.  We wandered through this amazing outdoor/indoor history of terra cotta pottery since 3000 B.C.  It took each region custom by custom, it was fascinating in size and scope.  We also visited the pottery workshop where both Shirley Bhatnagar and Reyaz Badaruddin had worked before.  Shirley said it was mostly hobbyists now so they can't go there as there isn't room to spread out like professionals need to do.  Vicki's talk was very good and they served us tea and samosas and sweets.

Here's a side note, the crop we are seeing along the way is mustard.  I think the yellow flowers are harvested to make oil and seeds for cooking.  Later the greens are harvested for eating and the straw is used to feed cows, water buffalo etc.

Speaking of cows, while walking in the villages many cows are encountered in the streets sauntering about foraging for food.  Some are very good looking, some with horns, some with enormous ears or both.  I usually tell them how cute they are, fancying myself a cow whisperer.  Well, no more, one of the ones I had spoken very sweetly to, lowered her head and started toward me.  Given her size I abandoned our conversation.  Then later, feeling discouraged about my newfound psychic skills, I didn't do anything and a cow on the side of the street turned and butted me.  She had decided she's wanted to cross that street and I gather I was in her way.  We've seen lots cows and water buffalo, plus many pigs, dogs, a few cats, a monkey, but no cobra snakes or mongeese.

After the visit at the museum, we drove to the Hill Fort Kesroli in Alwar where we will stay three nights (Saturday, Sunday & Monday).  We arrived at 9:30 pm, they held the buffet open for us. 

Blow are 2 photos, the inside of the room where I am staying and the outside of the hotel where the room is.
Above:  Room at Hill Fort Kesroli

Above:  Outside of Hill Fort Kesroli
This fort was built in the 14th century and has been restored beautifully as a hotel.  The rooms don't have television (which is fine) but the hotel does have WiFi (which is nice).  We will be staying here a total of three nights (Saturday, Sunday & Monday, all India time).  India is 10.5 hours ahead of New York and Florida.

After three nights in Alwar, we will spend two nights in Agra, India before heading back to Delhi.

The attached Bing map shows some of the places we were Saturday.

February 7, 2016 (Sunday): 

From Schedule:  Visit Alwar potters and wander Old Alwar, visit City Palace etc. 
Stay: The Hill Fort Kesroli in Sariska, Alwar, Rajasthan

One of the things we did Sunday was to visited a wonderful potter by the name of Om Prakash Galav (at the Ramgarh Clay Pottery) about 10 miles from our hotel.  He does traditional terra cotta pottery, beautiful Kagzi pottery (paper thin and unique to the Alwar area) and also miniature pottery that are very special. 

Below are a couple of photos I took with my iPhone.

Above:  Kagzi pottery

Above:  Miniature pottery
February 8, 2016 (Monday):

From Schedule:  Drive to Bandikui visit potters cluster and Abhaneri Step well 
Stay: The Hill Fort Kesroli in Sariska, Alwar, Rajasthan

I'm a little behind in my emails so I'm going to try to catch up a little in this email.  Today is Monday the 8th and although I am in Alwar, India, I'd like to write about a few days ago when I was in Old Delhi, India.  

But this first paragraph is not about pottery.  When we were at the Hotel Bukara near the Jama Masjid mosque, I wanted to learn the phrase "thank you" in Hindu.  The hotel manager said to me, "I'd rather you say it in Urdu as we are closer to Pakistan than India."  Now this was in the middle of Old Delhi (which is inside India) mind you.  I let it go sort of over my head and learned the Urdu (normally associated with Muslim) phrase and now know the two versions are both used just about every where.  Well, later at the hotel where we stayed Friday night in New Delhi, I was talking with the owner and he asked where we stayed before.  When I told him we had been in Old Delhi, he responded, "Why would you stay there?  People go into that area and never come out.  When I go there which I try never to do,  I take two extra allergy pills.  And the garbage strike is making it worse.  You never know what is in the air there.  In our section of town we pay our garbage collectors,.." and he went on and on.  I realized I was hearing the Muslim-Hindu tension played out in my small tourist experience.  Interesting heh? 

Anyway, back to the main subject of pottery, last Friday (February 5th) after we checked out of the Hotel Bukhara Inn in Old Delhi, we headed south to our new hotel in New Dehli.  One of the places we visited on our way was the Vasant Valley School, a co-educational private high school in Vasant Kunj, Delhi, India, which was about 5 miles south of the Hotel Bukhara.

At the school, we met a wonderful potter/teacher, Reyaz Badaruddin, who showed us around.  The school emphasizes the arts in the early years (25%) and as the students progress, it becomes more academic but still retains 15% arts.  The school has an amazing design as it is very open and airy and many places for students to perform which they do 3-4 times a year.  There are several pottery rooms and multiple visual, arts rooms.  We didn't see the performing arts labs.  They don't have a film department.

Reyaz accompanied us beyond the school when we went to see some of his professional potter friends.  First we went to a gallery in Gurgaon to see the work of Vineet Kacker. a very accomplished potter who was very generous in describing his concepts and processes.  An interesting show and they served us coffee (yay) and a walnut cinnamon cake yummy.  Kacker's theme was "Beyond Time and Space."   He talked my language about how one must move from always horizontal in one's thinking to vertical which is more spiritual.

Shirley Bhatnagar says Vineet Kacker is a class by himself, that no other potter in India can come close to him in skill and exposure.  His work isn't as commercial as P. R. Daroz (who we would visit later).  Kacker orders his clay a million pounds at a time as it is a special stoneware.  He mixes his own glazes and applies them in a spray booth using a vacuum cleaner on the reverse cycle.  He throws and molds and distresses just about everything.  He likes how the vacuum cleaner puts the glazes on kind of blobby like.  He started as a functional potter and ultimately changed as he thought that there were enough mugs and feng shui turtles in the market.  His turtles were cute but commercial; he sold thousands of them.  His pottery wheels did not have belt drives like all the wheels we know, they were direct metal to metal access and noisy.  His father-in-law built them.  I have a photo of them if anyone wants to see them.  He has a kick wheel too. 

We were an hour and a half  late that day so our plans changed somewhat from our itinerary.  We had lunch, then on to another famous potter, P. R. Daroz in Aya Naga .  Daroz's father had been a famous potter as well.  P. R. Daroz works on a large scale while his wife Deepali makes smaller hand built sculptural things.  Daroz was interesting saying  Picasso and Peter Voulkas from the USA were his influences.  Daroz's work is in many hotels and sheik's homes. He is currently working with print on clay.  There is a factory in the western part of India (Gujarat) that prints your design on 2' x 2' tiles.  Daroz takes photos of small work, enlarges it and prints on those tiles making installations as large as 40 ft x 40 ft.    

We left the workshop of P. R. Daroz very late and spent 2 hours in traffic arriving at the Green Meadow Guest House (there was no meadow that I could find any where) in New Delhi, near the Hauz Khas Village.  One of our members (Claire Atkins) had "Delhi belly" (aka upset stomach) and had been taken there earlier whilst we were at the gallery.  We checked on her and walked through, guess what, more traffic to the only restaurant open, it had a wedding going on and a disco bar.  It was a 30 minute walk due to the various vehicles I've described before honking at us and each other, not a very comforting experience, but the biryani (a rice-based meal) was delicious.   We got home at midnight (India time) Friday. 

The attached Bing map shows some of the places I mentioned in this email.  I will write some more later about last Saturday when we left New Delhi and headed for Alwar.

February 9, 2016 (Tuesday):

From Schedule:  Visit potters in Nagar (a small town).  Lunch and wander in Deeg. Visit Fatehpur Sikri, then on to Agra.
Stay: Hotel Shahjahan in Agra

 I mentioned the other day about seeing water buffalo, well by now we've seen hundreds of water beaucoup goats (3rd goat traffic jam today) and parrots (wild green ones.  It seems there is a thought here that birds should not be in cages, so they have let them go).  And we've seen lots of sheep and now many working camels.   With all this live stock, there is a fair, no, abundant, amount of pooh. Pooh is a very important part of rural life.  They use it for fuel to cook with, heat with, fire their kilns, make their home, stucco inside and out mix it with sand for the floors.  The women gather it and make patties about 14 inches in diameter, then dry it in the sun and stack it.  They also build houses around it to preserve it for winter.  It is so precious that they even mark it as pooh from their cows in the fields.   The following two photos show a pooh house and some pooh patties.  These pictures were taken Monday (8th) just south of Alwar, India on our drive to visit some potters.
Above:  Pooh house

Above:  pooh patties
In the Alwar area, we have been to several pottery villages and met the families.  They are all unique but different techniques and nuances.  Some more prosperous than others.   We've seen them throw miniatures and regular pots, where they fire them ad the process.  The women work with the clay to sift out the debris and mix it with the other materials and wet it and dry it to make into the big logs they throw from.  This seems to be universal and very dirty work all done in colorful saris.
The oldest male seems to be the spokesman and takes all the credit even though his brothers do as much or even better work.  When asked how long their families have been doing this they say 100 years when in reality what they do has been done pretty much the same way for 1000 years or more.  Even if they want to quit, and many do, they are for the most part stuck, due to the caste system, which is illegal but still practiced in the rural areas.  

When we go into a village, we are a parade and everyone comes out to gawk and they want to have their photos taken with us.  Not just the children, the teenagers and the women and the men will allow photos but you have to ask them.

The roads are bumpy and have all manor of conveyances so there is a lot of honking as the speedier vehicles pass the slower ones including the camel carts.  Many times things grind to a total halt, then it gets sorted out.  Today they served mountain dew before the chai (tea).  So much for my careful diet.

Today (Tuesday, the 9th) we checked out of the Hill Fort Kesroli in Alwar and headed for our next stay in Agra, India, where we will spend two nights (Tuesday & Wednesday) at the Hotel Shahjahan.  The last four attached photos were taken on our drive to Agra.  The photos are of a brick kiln and another pottery village (notice the working camels in one of the photos) and the family, plus one photo of the fort at Deeg, India.  The Deeg Fort is a massive structure, surrounded by a lake and was built about 1730 A.D.
Above:  Brick kiln

Above:  Pottery village

Above:  Family at pottery village

Above: Deeg Fort

Many, many of those kilns dot the country side.  They mine the clay from the local fields, make 100,000 bricks a month and each location lasts about 3 years, then they move to a different location.  Each step of the process has specialists.  The loaders, the fire makers, etc.  and they live with their families nearby.  They were very friendly and wanted our phone numbers, asking if we were all married.  That was after they were told we were potters, meaning we were in the same caste. Whew, we got away before we received any marriage proposals.  

We went to another potters village and had chai (tea) after Mountain Dew and had a similar reception with the locals and had to make another quick escape with the marriage proposals coming our way.

It was good as we had time to stop at the really beautiful Fatehpur Sikri.  Fatehpur Sikri is a fascinating ghost city built in the 16th century; about 20-25 miles west of Agra. When it was built, it was intended to be the joint capital with Agra, but was soon deserted because the water system could not support any residents.  Fatehpur Sikri is said to be the best example of the culmination of Hindu and Muslim architecture.

Shirley Bhatnaga likes this site better then the Taj Majal.  It is a huge complex in pretty good condition.  Huge Mosque and the palace attached.  The haram sara (room for wives) covered a lot of ground for all the wives and their attendants that bathed and applied fragrant oils.  At another palace on a former trip I heard that the women gambled to determine who got to spend the night with the Shah.  I could not verify that at this palace.  The Fatehpur Sikri was beautiful.  
After our two nights in Agra (where we will visit the Taj Mahal), I will be heading back to Delhi, and then on to the countries of Qatar and Oman, before returning to New York on February 16.

We got to our hotel in Agra, the Saniya Palace, with views of the Taj Mahal from the terrace restaurant. The rooms were small and dirty with no sheets or towels.  It was such a let down that Scott King and I discussed calling our friend Yogi to find us a new room.  When we went to dinner we learned the others were equally disturbed.  The leader was surprised because she had chosen the location because of its proximity to the Taj Majal, which we would visit the following morning (Wednesday).  She agreed to find a new place the next day.  Only one person was brave enough to use the shower the next morning and Tuesday night two of the women in single rooms doubled up so they wouldn't be alone in that creepy place. 

February 10, 2016 (Wednesday):  Agra, India

From Schedule:  Visit the Taj Mahal and then other sites. Evening auto ride to the other side of the river to see the Taj Mahal.
Stay: Hotel Shahjahan in Agra

About the Taj Mahal, one of the top man-made wonders of the world.  I just did a little googling and came up with the following few basic facts.  "The Great Mug hal emperor Shah Ja han commissioned the building in memory of his wife Mum taz Mahal, who died during childbirth.  She died giving birth to the couple's fourteenth child in 1631.  It took 20,000 workers 20 years to build."

Wednesday morning we met at 7 to go into the Western Gate of the Taj Mahal. It was foggy so we went inside the tomb so the sun could burn off the fog for our photos.  It cleared up briefly and we took our photos (see 2 photos below).
Above:  Diane and Joti in front of the Taj Mahal

Above:  Diane and Joti in front of the Taj Mahal
We then went back to the terrace with the view for chai and breakfast.  We were told to pack we were moving.  The new place we stayed Wednesday night was lovely.  The owner is a friend of Yogi's and that is where he said he would have sent us.  It worked out, but we'll never forget leaving the Hill Fort and going to the Hell Hole. 

A little more about my last day in India (Agra).  We didn't follow the group itinerary for Wednesday in Agra as we were whisked off by our friend Yogesh (Yogi) Sharma, whom we met on our last trip to India, many years ago.  Scott King had kept up with Yogi via email and I kept up with him on Facebook. After our visit to India, Yogi had gotten married to Joti and they had a baby girl Samaria.  Yogi took us to his home to meet his wife Joti and their baby.  Guess what...  first thing Chai (tea)!   We chatted with them and oohed over the baby for a while, then went for a delicious lunch.  I recognized the street from our last trip to Agra, even after all these years, amazing eh?  It was a new building and I could see where we had eaten before on our last trip.   Lunch was great and so was the Kingfisher beer.  But the lunch and beer made me sleepy, so Scott and I took a walk around Yogi's neighborhood.  

The neighborhood was more upscale than the other places we had been.  It was a Jain community (followers of Jainism, a religious group) for the most part and they seem to be pretty well off as the houses were at least 2 stories with elaborate fences and gates.  Lawyer and doctor were the labels on the gates. We past a park with no grass and trees with no leaves, as it is winter now and the dry season.   One tree had at least 50 green parrots in it.   I tried to take a photo but the tree and parrots, but didn't do it justice.  Then we on to the main drag.  It was a busy street lined with mechanical repair shops for tuk tuks (those 3-wheel vehicles) and rickshaws and motorcycles, so it wasn't too much fun.   We did pass some cows and I didn't get butted this time, so I guess it was only the one village in Alwar where cows don't like me.   

When Scott and I returned from our walk, we visited some more with Yogi and Joti, then Joti's son came home from school and practiced his English a bit.  Then we went to dinner  Although I wasn't hungry,  the dinner was very tasty.  After dinner we went back to the Maya Hotel where our group was supposed to be having a nice dinner, only we couldn't find them.  The Maya Hotel is were we stayed Wednesday night after moving out of the Saniya Palace.  As I mentioned in an earlier email, the Maya Hotel is very lovely and is only about a 10 minute walk from the Taj Mahal (which I sent a photo of a day or so ago, with Shirley Bhatnaga.  

We went to breakfast early the next morning (Thursday, the 11th) so we could leave at 8:30 am for Delhi.   Yogi agreed to drive us to Delhi.  He had a tour leaving the next day and could go to the office that afternoon, Finally, about 10 minutes before we had to leave, the Australians from our group showed up in the breakfast room so we got to say our tearful goodbyes.  I had gotten very fond of all of them, even the harder ones to like. 

We had some interesting discussions on the drive to Delhi.   We also stopped for chai in disposable clay cups (kulhars). We saw pigs running all over the place, eating out of the ubiquitous piles of garbage,...  they belong to the "untouchables" (low-caste people in Indian )who cannot afford to feed them, so the pigs run loose in the daytime to forage for food wherever they can find it.  Yogi says if you go back to the area at night, the pigs will be gone as they go home at night.

I asked Yogi about the cows.  It seems cows are useless once they stop giving milk, so they are turned loose to wander around and find good.  No one claims the cows and when they die, the government picks them up and takes them our to the country somewhere to decompose.  UGH!  Bullocks on the other hand are used to pull carts and are useful until they drop dead.   Water buffalo are the best as they are used for milk and to plow the fields and are the most highly prized live stock.   There is a non-talked-about-industry that butchers cows and bullocks (what we call Brahma bulls and water buffalo) and sell the hides to leather companies including Italian shoe and purse makers.

On our drive to Delhi, we also talked about politics.  India is going through something similar to the US as the current prime minister (Narendra Modi) is very very conservative (like our tea party). I read in the paper that Modi thinks Donald Trump is the best candidate for the USA president .   We also talked about Pakistan and Yogi says Pakistan is in such a mess,  The elected government which would like to have good relations with India and the US, is blocked by the military which prefers war, but the military can't control the terrorists, so basically no one is in control in Pakistan.  Bangladesh is fine with India, but we had already learned not so fine with Burma.  Wild, eh?  

Yogi also told us that guides like Americans as Americans appreciate the service the most, and of course Americans tip the best.  Europeans are not good tippers and Indians don't tip.  Yogi says Australians are very nice but tip less than the Europeans.   Yogi can make more in a day with an American couple than a week with 12 Australians.  

Yogi dropped off to go to his office and a friend of his took us to the airport.  We checked our suitcases and back packs in a luggage facility and took the Metro to the Dilly Haat, a crafts market.  Scott needed to buy a few things including a gift for his niece.  So we bought three scarves and I bought a water buffalo purse.  It was fun as we haggled with the Kashmiri vendors,  who were all selling pashmina (a fine type of cashmere wool) scarves, booth after booth.  We were befriended by one guy who took us to a crummy section market and we found some vodka in small bottles that we could get through airport security.  We stayed in an airport transit hotel Thursday night (11th), so had to conform to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules about liquids.  The airport transit hotel was a Holiday Inn Express. Really clean! and quite sterile in ambiance as well as sanitation.  Dinner was expensive and not too good, but what does one expect at the airport.  

One more random comment about India.  Everywhere you look in India, there is laundry hanging and you see women washing clothes in the rivers, beating the garments on rocks etc. On the way to  Delhi we crossed a bridge over a very icky river and saw huge pieces of fabric drying on the river banks.  I asked about that and Yogi said the fabric was for tents and other ceremonial events and were not clothes or table cloths, and that the people washing them were men called dhobes (the Human Washing Machines of India).  I remembered seeing washing areas in Mumbai  (formerly Bombay) on a prior visit to India, where each dhobe had a bathtub sized tank and washed everything, clothes, linens, etc.  Yogi said they were pretty much out of business because of the availability of tap water in the cities, so people washed their own clothes, although some still send out the linens. Our friend in Mumbai, said that every time you sent your laundry with a dhobe, it came back with something missing or something that wasn't yours.  

A side comment, the following is not about the day we drove to Agra, I'm a bit confused about the sequence of events, but here are a few random thoughts (in no special order).

Did I tell you about the stepwell (aka baoli) near Jaipur from my previous visit to India?  I hope so, the stepwell is called Chand Baori, simply awesome!  The steps were so neatly places it looked like an Escher painting.  Anyway, we saw another smaller stepwell on the way to Agra, but not so dramatic.

At the Hill Fort Kesroli in Alwar, I walked through the local village, in which each home had a water buffalo and a goat, some had several of each.  It was a fairly affluent farming community with some of the local men working at the hotel.  

February 11, 2016 (Thursday):  Return to Delhi

Thursday morning (India time) we are headed back to Delhi for one day and then off to Doha, Qatar and will visit with Scott King's niece.  There has been a change in plans, we will not be going to Muscat, Oman for a couple of days, instead we will be staying in Doha, Qatar.

February 12, 2016 (Friday):  Leaving India, flying to Doha, Qatar

We got up Friday morning at 5:00 am as we were told we had to check out by 6:30 to make our 8:45 flight to Doha, Qatar, even though we were already in the airport.  We basically had to check in after all so we only had a half an hour to go to the Qatar Airlines club and grab a bite to eat.  We had business class tickets so it was pretty nice.  4 hour flight and a 2.5 hour time change.  They fed us breakfast again and I slept on the flight.  I was happy I had my morning nap as I didn't have any jet lag, but Scott King did.

Scott's niece, Jodi, picked us up and took us back to her apartment in the Marriott Hotel, it was very nice with stunning views. Now, I can tell you this was CLEAN!  And so is all of Doha as far as I've seen.  We went to one of the developed areas with apartments, shops and restaurants.  We had lunch and talked and walked around.  It was fun to see the locals, especially the men in thobes (a male garment), similar to robes but spelled with a "th" instead of an "r."  And the women in abias with varying styles of head scarves and face coverings.  There is quite a variety of ways for the  men to wear their head scarves as well.  And I think the back band they have to hold the scarves on are called camel bands.  The robes the women wear are over regular clothes, so they can take the robes off when they go inside a home or a safe place.  The men however are wearing their thobes as their main clothes, and only have on tee-shirts and underwear under theirs.  I'm sure you feel totally enlightened by that.

February 13, 2016 (Saturday):  Doha, Qatar

Doha is all about wealth and they are building everywhere in anticipation of the World Cup in 2022.  So the contrast is almost shocking to the system to come from rural villages in India where the people go to the wells, and then to come to Doha, Qatar.  Sterile is a good word to describe this city. I am currently sitting on the deck of the Doha Golf Club club with Jodi, Scott and MIke, Jodi's husband Mike plays golf. Mike works for Pratt and Whitney (P&W) and we think it is funny that I used to work for P&W maybe before he was born.  I designed parts of an engine that is built by Rolls Royce, although Mike doesn't have anything to do with that equipment.  He runs the maintenance division here in Qatar.  After they finish golfing we are having lunch with their friends and then we are going to the souq (an open-air marketplace).  That will be interesting to see how it compares to the Dilly Haat in Delhi, India.

The following 2 attached photos were taken at the Doha Golf Club.

The next 2 photos were taken in Doha.  The building in the first photo that looks like a cross between a banana and a narwhal whale is a high-rise office building called the Doha Tower, it is in West Bay of Doha, the photo was taken from Sheraton Park.  The following photo was taken a little further north.

 The following photo is a shot of the Doha skyline taken from the Doha Bay.

We took a boat (see photo below) that looked like a junk from Hong Kong called something like a "dao," across the bay to the souk, think kasbah.  

The most interesting things there were the animals, after of course, the people in the garb described in the earlier missive.  There were parrots and puppies, and rabbits in dresses, yes in dresses. but most of all were the falcons. Falconing(??) seems to be a national pastime.   I'm fascinated by raptors so it was very cool to see them for sale, some with their little hoods on and some calm enough they didn't need them, there was even a falcon hospital.  Jodi had been to see it in action with this is a new thing to me "feather grafting" and all sorts of expected bird care.  My photos don't do these magnificent birds justice, they are totally wonderful. 

Saturday, Doha.  It was Country Club and golf for the others.  I sat in the sun and wrote the last 2 missives and enjoyed just being still.  They had a good round and I learned I shouldn't ask about scores especially if they were over a certain number, which I gathered some were.

Lunch at the country club then back the Jodi and Mike's for them to shower etc.   Jodi and I went to the biggest Carrefour store I've ever seen.  Makes Costco seem like a mini mart.  All sorts of spices I'd never heard of and labeled by country.   And the vegetables, the same way, eggplants locally grown or from Jordan or Lebanon,  things like that and the meats the same New Zealand lamb or Australian, etc.,  all different prices too.

We went back a couple of days later and I bought Za'atar from Lebanon and Black seeds from Nigeria, I think.   These were added to my collection of things I didn't think would make it past the TSA as in India I had taken some mica like powder to use on raw clay to make it shiny.  The X-ray machines might have trouble with it. 

February 14, 2016 (Sunday):  Doha, Qatar

Sunday was a treat.  A golfing friend of Jodi's does some travel guiding and took us on a cultural tour of Doha.  We started with Katara Cultural Village which housed a huge amphitheater, galleries and 2 mosques.  On the premises in two places were these huge for lack of a better word, clay phallic structures with holes and perches for pigeons, only white pigeons were allowed. I think I saw a gray one, but I didn't report that.  In the gallery there was a display of art and technology which blew me away.  On big screens (not huge) maybe 2 feet wide by 4 feet tall, 6 of them side by side, the artist had drawn Japanese style sumi ink paintings.  Then he had programmed birds, butterflies, rain, snow and other things to pass through from one screen to the other.  it was magical.  Google  to see images of this.  I haven't uploaded my photos yet and didn't take pictures with my iPhone there so I don't have any to share.  The guide talked non stop and we learned all about the origins of Qatar and the pearl fishermen and so much.  This isn't a history lesson so I'll leave it up to you to google if you are interested. 

Then to the Fire Brigade Gallery.  Yes, it was an old firehouse with interesting items including machetes of the statues in front of the Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art which we saw before we went to the being built Education City and the Museum there.  The crown jewel however was the MIA.  The I.M. Pei designed Museum of Islamic Art.  It is worth a google  You may have to work through it to find English, but the photos are the important part.  The windows on the tops are supposed to look like the women looking out from their abayas, and they do.   And we drove by, several times, the National Museum of Qatar, which is being constructed to look like a desert rose which is a crystalline formation found in the dessert formed from the wind and silica.  I know it wasn't a very personal journal, but it was wonderful to see art from such a different perspective.  Especially the pottery from thousands of years ago and the glass and the carpets among other things.  

Dinner:  Jodi cooked a most delicious dinner of a much appreciated salad... we had been in India, remember?...salmon and a surprise dish made of cauliflower. I would never have know it was cauliflower instead of a grain if I hadn't seen her make it. (I've never been a huge cauliflower fan, but this I really liked). She is sending me the recipe if you want it let me know.  but don't tell anyone what it is.  Surprise them. 

February 15, 2016 (Monday):  Dune Bashing near Sealine Beach Resort, South of Doha, Qatar:

The last day of another trip of a life time.

Monday... the big surprise.  Mike took the day off and we were downstairs at 8:45 to meet the driver from Gulf Adventures.  We went dune bashing!   It was a thrill. Hold On..  we slid down the sides of huge dunes in a land cruiser and then climbed to the top to do it again.  Being sure all the time that we were going to tip over and roll down instead of drive or slide down.  We wondered why all the hold-on points in the back seat had padded covers, we quickly learned why.  The trip went far enough Southwest for us to see Saudi Arabia across the inland sea.  The desert was very interesting.  There were damp places where the high tide from the Gulf came in twice a week and then further inland there were damp places that was just the humidity from the underground water coming to the surface.  The vegetation logically was close to those places.  We were all spent from holding on, so naps were in order then drinks atop the Intercontinental and dinner at a local restaurant with the middle eastern food, delicious.  

Jodi and Mike were such great hosts; Jodi even got up to send us off in the morning as we left at 4:45 a.m.  Now that is a hostess with more than the mostest, would you expect that from me? 

When you look at the photos of the dune bashing, can you see the car?  The driver couldn't see either, and it felt much steeper than it looks.  EEK!

February 15, 2016 (Monday): Back home in NYC

It was really nice to end this trip in clean luxurious surroundings as the 24 hours it took to come home considering the travel to and from the airport and the connection layovers wasn't so much fun as dune bashing.  

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