India 2018 Day 4, 8th December

Breakfast, running late and slow. Raj arranged a driver for me and I went to the Tourist and ticket booking office of the company Ravi, the autorickshaw driver took me to. I was shown the itinerary planned and the booking of the flight. The details included "Refunds available". This was printed shortly after I left and an hour before his slip dated the visa transaction complete. I texted him an hour later, but still time for him to cancelled the plane. He insists that there is a cancellation fee that is higher than the flight cost stated on the slip. He offered to refund me the difference in cash. If I took the money, less the cancellation and Vanquist do cancel the transaction I would have to refund that cash back to him. I signed his cancellation paper and left.

The driver was with me for the day so first stop the Swaminarayan Akshardhan. It is built in a mixture of ancient Indian designs as a tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The 100 acre site is laid out with fountain arches, gardens and impressive stone work. The entrance security is extensive and a very long list of items forbidden to be brought in. This includes no electronics (cameras, phones, laptops, ear buds, cables), no liquids but drinking bottle and no bags, not even a wallet hung around your neck or a bum bag. The driver looked after my bag and I only took passport and my two mini wallets with rupees and credit cards in.

Closer to the temple itself you bag shoes and go barefooted around.

From this position on the road the temple is a mist of fog  over the top. Truly magnificent. The statistics posted in the first entrance room are staggering. They have a separate ticketed entrance for exhibitions, sound and light shows and robotic animation. The fees are up to 170 rupees but do run from 15 to 50 minutes. Gift shop has DVDs of these and CDs of devotional music.

It is wonderful that such a modern building of such immense craftsmanship and beauty and at the same time the cost and effort and then people on the streets with nothing. This is the conflict of Indian. Art and culture, beauty and spiritualism and little girls and little boys alone on the streets.

Upon exiting I was set upon by three over excited school girls who wanted to shake my hand. The ran off to tell their class mates and I was then surrounded by the whole class of girls and next by all the much shorted boys. I guess they were 12 to 14 years of age. An age range I have taught for a number of years. They looked very smart in their green uniforms. I told them I was a teacher of maths and to study hard, which there teacher translated.  

Next stop the Lotus Temple of the Baha'i Faith. Waved into a single line, barefooted and in silence shown into the single roomed temple. Devotees of and religion or race can stay in contemplation for as long as the wish.  

That was enough for my ankle and I returned to the hotel. Whilst still in the lobby and talking to Ali, Raj's father, I and fellow traveller "Mist", from Denmark were invited to their home for a home cooked meal. On the way, by chance we meet his other son and at the flat Ali's wife and daughter-in-law Yasmeen. Served green spiced cinnamon tea and a meal of fresh peas, home made cheese and potatoes with rice.

From the help given to me and other travellers at the Himalayan Hotel Raj goes beyond the normal expectations of a hotel manager and achieves the family atmosphere. 

Ran with frequent stayers from Austraila.

Raj and his father Ali.

 Last updated 10th December 2018