India 2 – Vrindavan
Vrindavan, a three-hour drive from New Delhi, was our home base for the Lath mar Holi Festival that are celebrated in the small villages. Nidhivan was considered to be the best hotel in the region, though it requires a 1-1/2 hour drive to the festival. As a dry run for the festival, we dressed in our Holi clothes and put protective gear over our cameras to protect them from the fine color powder that would be prevalent for the upcoming festival of colors. Some members of our group used simple plastic bags with duct tape, while others (like ourselves) were enveloped with an underwater camera casing. Trying to focus and change the zoom turned out to be quite a challenge in that underwater housing.
For the dry run, we took tuk tuks into the Banke Bihari Temple neighborhood of Vrindavan. We were warned to NOT wear our eyeglasses, nor any shiny jewelry, as the monkeys in this neighborhood were quite acquisitive. One member in our tour decided that it was more important to see where he was going, and was confident that he would be watchful. Not for long though, as an aggressive monkey simply jumped from behind, reached out and snatched away his glasses and ran away.
We even witnessed monkeys jumping onto other tourists, and stealing glasses that were tucked inside pockets. On two other instances, we saw monkeys scamper onto tuk tuks, steal a pair of glasses, and scamper up the walls. One enterprising monkey dropped a pair of glasses after a tuk tuk driver threw up a banana, in exchange for the pair of glasses.
Walking through town, several times the guide yelled at us to walk into a store, as bulls would not deter from their path, and would have gored us. Several times, the bulls followed us inside the stores, as that was also their destination. Cows are sacred in India and not to be touched.
We still have a few days until the scheduled March 2nd Holi Day. However people are already preparing to play "Holi", with lots of dancing, singing, and tossing of colored paint powder.
The faces in India are fascinating, and most people are more than willing to have their photos taken. In fact, it is hard to walk down the street without someone shouting "one photo!"
Evelyn (left), Mukesh (our local guide, 2nd), Bruce (3rd),and Burt (right) were looking forward to playing Holi. None of us, with the exception of Mukesh, had any idea of what was really coming...