At the end of 2013 Julie and Ron headed to the temple of love – the Taj Mahal in India. Read Julies sensory Diary of India and the other places visited along the way.
We’re off to visit our 4th wonder of the world – the Taj Mahal in India! But that wouldn’t be enough for Ron. No way – while we’re in the neighbourhood let’s visit Singapore, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Manila too! 30 days, 13 hotel rooms and too many languages to count, we departed from Dunedin airport late after the plane we were to leave on had been struck by lightning the day before.

Every day while I am away I write a sensory diary. One thing I smell, hear, taste and touch in another land. People often ask me “What’s the point in sight seeing if you can’t see?” This diary is my way of experiencing what the world has to offer that is not tied up in the visual.

Saturday 19 October

Depart Dunedin due to lightning strike 10 am Dunedin to Christchurch and then Christchurch to Singapore.

Smell: plastic heat wrap on ham roll
Hear: fake birds chirping down the air bridge at Christchurch airport
Taste: hokey pokey ice cream
Touch: foam covers for head set

Sunday 20 October

Singapore Flyer and Raffles Hotel

Smell: Wonder buns!
Hear: real chirping birds in the city
Taste: Mutton curry with a very very hot chilli on the side
Touch: my foot on the moving floor of the Singapore flyer

Monday 21 October

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Smell: incense in Chinatown
Hear: waterfall in the gardens
Taste: grilled squid
Touch: orchids

Tuesday 22 October

Santosa Island

Smell: More wonder buns (sweet bakery smells)
Hear: approaching train on Metro underground
Taste: Coconut ball
Touch: the tooth of the Merlion

Wednesday 23 October


Smell: KFC!
Hear: toot, toot, toot!
Taste: tandoori roti
Touch: broken footpaths with my feet

Thursday 24 October

Kathmandu, Nepal: Swayambhu Temple, Patan

Smell: roast garlic
Hear: the beggar refusing a low donation and Ron responding with “Beggars can’t be choosers”
Taste: veggie zinger meal KFC!
Touch: Tibetan singing bowl

Friday 25 October

Kathmandu, Nepal: Kumari Temple

Smell? Incense
Hear: story of the Kumari princess
Taste: bottled water
Touch: Nepalese carved wooden column

Saturday 26 October

Paro, Bhutan

Smell: air at 2280 metres above sea level
Hear: the story of the highest unclimbed peak in the world
Taste: fried eggplant
Touch: the beautiful Bhutanese carved wooden cabinetry

Sunday 27 October

Bhutan: Tiger’s nest

Smell: the air at 3300 metres!
Hear: Kezang my guide saying “small step” big step”
Taste: Bhutanese egg curry
Touch: the uneven steps up to the Tiger’s nest at 3300 metres!

Monday 28 October

Bhutan: Thinpu

Smell: incense
hear: Bhutanese music on car radio
Taste: fried vegetables with cheese
Touch: postage stamps with my face on them

Tuesday 29 October

Bhutan: Thinpu to Paro

Smell: fresh apple from the roadside
Hear: sound of large prayer flags flapping in the wind
Taste: crunchy fried potatoes
Touch: more bloody steps!

Wednesday 30 October

Bhutan: Paro to Kathmandu by mistake!

Smell: terror when we were driving through Kathmandu wondering where this stranger driver was taking us!
Hear: toot toot!
Taste: fried cashew nuts for tea
Touch: the warm water from the shower on my back – first time in two days

Thursday 31 October

India: Delhi to Taj Mahal

Smell: urine, sewerage, wood fire and heat all rolled together outside the Taj Mahal
Hear: the driver saying “mutton” for sheep
Taste: Masala tea
Touch: the semi-precious gems and marbles on the wall of the Taj Mahal

Friday 1 November

Agra Fort and Fatipur

Smell: incense
Hear: live Indian music in hotel lobby
Taste: garlic narn
Touch: the column in the jewel house at Fatipur

Saturday 2 November

India: Jaipur

Smell: elephant poo
Hear: cricket commentator for Australia versus India
Taste: deep fried milk with sugar syrup
Touch: having an elephant underneath me

Sunday 3 November

India: Jaipur

Smell: Indian clothes stores
Hear: laughter
Taste: toast with jam
Touch: my sari

Monday 4 November

India: Jaipur to Pushkar

Smell: fireworks
Hear: fire crackers and Indian chanting music
Taste: banana fritters (yummo)
Touch: the rope of the camel cart

Tuesday 5 November

India: Pushkar to Khempur

Smell: woman cooking on fire with pot
Hear: water buffalos coming up the street
Taste: pass pass breath freshener
Touch: sugar cane

Wednesday November 6

India: Khempur

Smell: urine at the market
Hear: horses sighing, peacocks calling, roosters crowing
Taste: chilli omelette
Touch: the hole in the horse’s saddle for me to hold on to for an hour!

Thursday 7 November

India: Udaipur

Smell: hot tea
Hear: car horns
Taste: char grilled cofta
Touch: a large leaf in the shape of an elephant’s ear!

Friday 8 November

India: Udaipur

Smell: fragrant wind
Hear: water fountains at Botanic gardens
Taste: poppadum
Touch: miniature painting

Saturday 9 November

India: Udaipur

Smell: the smells of India on the Tuk tuk ride
Hear: the sarnood musical instrument being played in the hotel restaurant (like an autoharp but hit with a felt covered hammer)
Taste: vegetable fried rice
Touch: a gentle hand as I played the sarnood

Saturday November 10

Sri Lanka: Colombo
Smell: more fragrance
Hear: boys playing cricket in the park
Taste: French fries and passionfruit juice
Touch: the hand I shook of the man who knew so much about cricket

Monday November 11

Sri Lanka: Kandy

Smell: the pungent tea factory
Hear: Sri Lankan Radio – Sha FM! (sha means good)
Taste: cream of sunshine soup! (Pumpkin)
Touch: the rolling fat and hair on the elephant’s leg!

Tuesday 12 November

Sri Lanka: Sigiriya and Dambulla

Smell: vanilla at the spice garden
Hear: ice cream van music playing
Taste: spiced tea
Touch: rail at the metal steps of Sigiriya

Wednesday 13 November

Sri Lanka: Jetwing Sea Hotel

Smell: sea air
Hear: This is a boarding call for Singapore airlines
Taste: marble cake
Touch: the hotel receptionist when I gave her a bunch of paper flowers

Thursday 14 November

Sri Lanka to Manila

Smell: lavender oil
Hear: someone saying “gidday travellers”
Taste: fried fish on the plane – yum
Touch: the hands of the Pilipino masseuse

Friday 15 November

Philippines: Manila

Smell: flower ring from street kids
Hear: Pilipino singers at the ballet
Taste: pork ribs at Bubba Gump restaurant
Touch: star of David at American cemetery

Saturday 16 November

Philippines: Manila

Smell: sea air
Hear: car horns
Taste: halo halo (the weirdest dessert I’ve ever eaten that included beans, ice and condensed milk)
Touch: manicures!

Sunday 18 November

Philippines to Singapore

Smell: plane fuel
Hear: “Would you like meet and assist”
Taste: coffee jelly
Touch: the air bridge with my cane!

Monday 18 November

Singapore to Dunedin

Smell: plane diesel
Hear: Ron’s brother Clark saying “hello” to us at Christchurch airport
Taste: trumpet ice cream
Touch: hot steaming towels

And so our daring adventure came to a close. And what did I learn from this trip? That it’s the little things that are the big highlights: the Singapore Sling, the elephant ride in India and the touching of it’s leg in Sri Lanka, the French fries in Columbo and the scented flower ring in Manila. The little gesture of brailing out hotel staff’s names and giving it to them was met with such love it was amazing. One female porter said “Words cannot describe how I am feeling” as I placed her brailed out Hindi name in her outstretched hand. It’s taught me it’s the little things that truly count, wherever you are in the world!