Category Archives: Aurangabad

Shop With Shakeel!

Pink scarfSo as I said in an earlier post, I missed out on some major souvenir shopping because I left my money and credit cards in Mumbai before traveling to Aurangabad. Fortunately, I had the bride’s gift on me as this is what saved me while I was in Aurangabad. That and the Taj hotels were tremendously understanding and helpful.

At the Ellora caves, there were tons of hawkers, all wanting me to buy their things. It was overwhelming, sort of like turning instantly into a famous movie star and having paparazzi surround you and not let you go.

It was exactly like that.

Which is how I met Shakeel. He was the most persistent and as a result I wound up hiring him to keep the rest of them away from me.

plain blue scarfThis was a brilliant plan except he wasn’t allowed to go inside the caves with me. Within the caves lurked the cave masters. Ok, so that’s not what they’re called, but they are park employees wanting tips, and since I was low in cash, spending through the bride’s gift, I wasn’t my usual understanding and generous self. Do the math. Thirty four caves at at least 100 rupees a cave equals 3400 rupees!!!

In U.S. dollars that is approximately $53. And I didn’t have it. But anyway, I digress.

Shopping is what I wanted to talk about. Silk scarves in India are to die for. I love them. What a great way to feel and look like a girl. Yippee!

The catch is that they aren’t cheap. The ones I’m talking about are hand woven on the loom with intricate patterns. I swoon still just to think of them.

That’s when Shakeel stepped in and saved the day. I was able to work with him to buy the souvenirs I would have bought, but didn’t. We handled these “negotiations” via WhatsApp with him sending me countless photos of scarves and me asking, uh, do you  have anything else?

orange scarfPoor guy. He had the patience of a saint. The best salesman I’ve ever met.

So, check out the treasures of Aurangabad and Ellora though Shakeel. Let him be your personal shopper.

I got my scarves today! And they are lovely. I’m not the greatest scarf model in the world, but you get the idea.

To learn more about Shakeel and what he can do for you, check out his website at www.shopwithshakeel.wordpress.com and Shop With Shakeel! 🙂

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Ellora Caves: Best ways to see

Tips: People tell me the best time to go is in November. This is for lush greenery and nice temperatures. They also say the rainy season is good for the waterfalls that run right past the caves. So that means June on into November. Take shoes with good tread for the rainy season because these rocks can get slick, and I personally would take a walking stick for this weather.

The posh experience: For luxury in India, it is my bet that you can’t beat the Taj hotel and its affiliates. Just be aware that you get what you pay for. These hotels can be as expensive as nice hotels in Seattle and New York City. But their service is phenomenal.

Authentic and more affordable Ellora caves experience: For much lower prices but to still get a safe and enjoyable experience, I have a couple of people to recommend. These guys are “hometown” men and know the region better than anyone. I have full confidence in them and they are who I would contact if I ever decided to return to the region. They can get you an affordable hotel walking distance from the caves! If you want to support local people, this is a great way to do it.


Mr. Sadeek speaks fairly good English. He knows everyone who is anyone in town. People go to him to get their problems solved. In other words, he’s the man.

The other person I met I don’t have permission to share his name and contact number simply because I didn’t ask. This person took me on a wonderful tour of Khaldabad, the resting place of Aurangzeb himself, and he too knows everyone. Younger and less experienced than Sadeek, this man is highly honorable. If interested, contact me via this blog and I can ask him if I can share his contact info.

For the finest cloth I have ever seen, hand spun on looms, you must visit this place. It is fairly close to Ellora caves.

I will be shopping with them online and possibly via WhatsApp.

And for great, trustworthy, knowlegable cab drivers, my choice is:

Late Night Delhi Belly Ponderings

Well, they said it would happen and it has. As I sit here at 2 am waiting for the next attack, I find myself tracing my culinary steps. When did it happen? Was it the water today at Ellora caves? I thought the bottle was sealed? Or, was it the spicy Indian food tonight at the hotel. Was it a little too spicy? Do I in fact feel like vomiting or is that just residual disgust from the cave attendants today at Ellora? Or, at my driver because he obviously wasn’t there when he was supposed to be, as I figured out while sitting with my new found friends, the hawkers. Or, is it the result of the multiple mosquito bites I’ve been getting?

I give up. India, you win this one. You are actually more overbearing and in my face than Russia. You actually beat Russia! I’ve never felt so watched and monitored in all my life. 

If I tell one person that I need the ladies room, five others will know and not just at the hotel, also at the caves.

I’ve stopped chasing down white people, who will make excuses for the constant needling for cash.

If an Indian asks you if you would like to have something, they mean would you like to buy something. They have no interest in any kind of cultural exchange. They want you to buy something from them, their friends, their friends’ friends, etc. They are not offering you a gift. And when they see you coming and you are white, they don’t see a person, they see a pile of lose bills theirs for the pulling. 

I can’t decide at this early hour who is worse, the hawkers or the cave attendants or my driver or the hotel. They obviously are all in league with each other. Forget about those beautiful Hindu and Buddhist values. Just forget about them. They are as cold and silent as the cave statues that depict them.

The culture here is take it if you can get it. Otherwise move out of the way and let someone else try.

Yep, that’s real nasea. I’ve broken out the Pepto Bismol. 

I’m bummed too because I had a full day planned for tomorrow complete with a trip to the “mini Taj Mahal,” the Bibi Ka Maqbara. This masoleum is dedicated to a son’s mother, while the big one on Acra is dedicated to a favorite wife. Then, there was to be a trip to a banana farm followed by some fresh coconut juice.

It was suggested that I return once again to the Ellora caves, but I just can’t stomach the cave attendants. I worked out a deal with the head hawker to keep the others off my back, and this has worked wonderfully. But once I get into the caves, where the hawkers can’t go, it’s nothing but chatty Kathys. They chew your ear off while you ponder a painting and then they want you to pay them.

I’m supposed to feel sorry for them for forcing themselves upon me and ruining my experience of this magnificent art. I don’t.

Maybe I could if we were not standing directly in front of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist statues and carvings.

As a white American woman traveling alone in hopes to see a World Heritage site, I feel nauseated. I don’t want to go back to the caves and that’s a shame. They are truly magical and awe inspiring. During the rainy season they are surrounded by waterfalls.

So, I am scratching Ajanta off the list. It’s a three hour drive just one way to be chased around by more hawkers and cave attendants while trying to see and appreciate some of the world’s most historic and magnificent art. No thanks. India, you have won. If you can’t be better to your tourists, I suppose you won’t have that many.

But out of the various groups, the self deprecating hotel staff, the smarmy and tone deaf cave attendants, my robot like driver, and the enterprising hawkers, I find myself sitting with the hawkers, the ones who seemingly caused me the most trouble. I think this was because an understanding could be reached. We could eventually cut the crap and just sit together as human beings.

Maybe. Or, maybe I’m just kidding myself.

Lost my credit cards, bank card, driver license, dollars

Yep, that’s what I discovered on my friend’s wedding day. I frantically tore through all of my luggage, and it was gone.

The driver was coming in 15 minutes and I had to face down the reality that I didn’t have the card to pay for the hotel or the cash to travel around Aurangabad and quite possibly I would miss seeing the caves.

Was it stolen? Did I drop it? Where was I not keeping an eye on it? When was I apart from it? When did I last see it? Think!

I spoke to the hotel manager while the driver waited. I gave them things to do, research bank numbers, etc. No time to cancel anything and besides I could dispute charges. The main thing became:how was I going to pay for my room?

The wedding was beautiful. The bride was radiant. The groom was handsome. It was fun being around everyone and taking part in the action. It was such a happy day.

I knew that somehow my problems would all get solved. I still had my passport. I still had some money though certainly not much. All of a sudden I had friends and I knew I had a place to sleep in Mumbai if I needed it.

After the wedding, I checked my email and the Taj had found it! I think the Taj just may be the greatest hotel in the whole world. When you dare to dream of unsurpassed customer service, it has to be the Taj. The Vivanta Taj in Auragabad is quite spectacular too with its beautiful garden oasis and exceptional customer service. My room is lovely with high ceilings and an attached terrace.


I won’t bore you with the details, but we got things all figured out. I feel like an idiot of course, but I am very glad and sincerely grateful to both Taj hotels.

Journey to Aurangabad

This was a really fun bus ride for me, and the bride’s friends were lovely, just like the bride. 

Interesting things for me:

People drive on the highway just like they do in the city, loosey goosey.

Few more mosquito bites

The terrain in between Mumbai and Aurangabad is like a cross between Texas hill country and Clarkston, Washington.



In Aurangabad there seems to be a large and devout Muslim population. I can hear the beautiful calls to prayer from my hotel room.

Upon arrival, there must have been some big festivity going on.




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