I kept this diary of things we have done in Singapore for 2 years. I have now moved some of it to other travel pages but you can still find links to many of our activities here. I have also created a reading list of books we have read about the region.

Western Japan

Birds in Singapore

Kuala Lumpur stopover

Thai Diving

Singapore Liveaboard

Local Residents

Beijing Summer

Diving with Sharks

Shanghai Heatwave

Taiwan Tourists

An Indian week

Where U bin?

Island hideaway

Steamy running

A Trip to the Zoo

Gardens by the Bay


Singapore walks

Mind the bus

Flower power


Early weeks


Vicky's Blog


Ajanta CavesAurangabad is now a fast growing city north east of Mumbai. It is home to VW and other European manufacturers as well as Indian media plcs but has a rich history. A British cantonment during the Raj it was also a centre of power and was briefly the capital of India when Daulatabad or Devagiri Fort took over from Delhi in the 14thC. Aurangabad is known as the City of Gates as it has 52 of them in its fortified walls, still mostly complete, and also has an interesting copy of the Taj Mahal, the Bibi-ka-Maqbara. Most famous are the nearby Ellora caves and, 100km away, the Ajanta caves.

Ajanta paintingAjanta is remarkable for several reasons. These spectacular Buddhist caves from the 2ndC BC to 7thAD were carved into a rocky gorge but covered up by vegetation for a thousand years before a British officer found one while on a hunting trip. The subsequent excavations revealed fabulous architecture, rock carving and 6thC frescos. While the paintings in Ellora were almost entirely destroyed over the years the sealed caves of Ajanta still retained detail and vibrant colour. Sadly exposure to the air and tourists is taking its toll and they may soon be closed for protection.

Reclining buddhaThe caves are hugely popular with Indian tourists with over 300,000 per year visiting. It is not hard to see why. Each cave has been carved into the basalt cliffs and every pillar, carving and doorway is hewn out of the native rock with hammers and chisels rather than being constructed. Monks' cells, ornate pillars, and buddhas in inner sanctums have all been cut from the bedrock. I had mistakenly thought that this was the origin for the Malabar caves in "A Passage to India" but although I find that these were the Barabar Caves in Bihar in the far North East of the country Ajanta is still a place to capture the imagination.

Ellora cavesOn a main trade route from North to South the Ellora caves, 30 km from Aurangabad, have never been undiscovered. They take up where Ajanta left off with Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves dating from the 7th to 10th centuries. The site spread over 2km is cut into the Charanandri Hills and it draws big crowds - I visited on a Sunday and the place was full of local couples, school trips and big groups of indeterminate origin. However the place is so vast that you can enjoy each cave in relative peace. With a friendly driver you can also move the car from one end of the site to the other saving a considerable walk.

KailasaCentrepiece of the caves is the Kailasa, cave 16. This enormous temple complex involved excavating 100s of thousands of tons from a single rock to build this multi level marvel. It represents Shiva's mountain palace and each of the statues, carvings and temples are works of art. A gallery runs around the back of the complex with huge panels depicting scenes from Shiva's life. Many have become classic works of Indian art as has the massive carving of Ravana shaking Mount Kailash.

stormReturning from Ajanta I am caught in an extraordinary freak storm. We have heavy rain and lightning but I miss the worst of it. We come across fields covered in huge hailstones, uprooted trees and huts and houses that have lost their rooves or been blown down. There is chaos on the roads as many of the eucalyptus trees have falled across the road, bringing down cables and blocking the traffic. Sadly we hear later that 8 people were killed, either struck by lightning while working in the fields or hit by falling buildings or trees.

The slideshow below has more on the caves and other sights around Aurangabad.