A week back from touring India and I’m still adjusting to the freezer. I’m good with the jet lag (I guess I can say I’m experienced now) but having to adjust to 7*C from 37*C it’s challenging, it’s much easier to do it the other way around (at least for me).
Ok, so I came back from incredible India, indeed incredible is the word as I found myself saying it a few times: when I visited the beautiful Amber Fort in Jaipur, then Taj Mahal, when I took part at the amazing Holi Festival, when I travelled through villages and I saw the most poorly living conditions ever, when I paid a fortune (almost GBP 70 for a night) for a hotel in Mumbai and it turned out to be one of the most basic hotels I’ve stayed in (I have read the reviews, yes), when I stayed in an astonishing hotel in Jaipur and I felt like a royalty and the list can go on…
Other words to describe this trip: adventurous, intense, delicious (food).
We left from London to Mumbai and after a 10h flight we arrived in a very crowded, mad city. When I planned this tour I tried to spend as little time as possible in big cities and it turned out to be a great idea. We’ve stayed in Colaba (best area to stay in) and we were within a walking distance from many attractions. Though, as it was quite hot and the taxi is v cheap (that is if you haggle as they always overcharge you), we took a car to take us in different places.
I have to admit, my priority was to get to a big fabric market and loose myself in the beautiful shops with different saris, shawls and fabrics. It is a dream to see all sorts of patterns and colours…I bought some saris as I couldn’t resist the temptation, they were way too beautiful.
We then flew to Nagpur, which is a city in the middle of India and it was such a big difference, the streets were wider, the traffic was less hectic, there were flowers and green spaces almost on every street.
The reason we went there was to visit a memorial place that has a special meaning for me. It is the place where Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi was born (Chindwara). The vibrations were so strong you felt regenerated straight away; any SPA or therapeutic session in this world would’ve not be able to give me such a peaceful and joyful state of mind.
Jaipur was our next stop.
The hotel we’ve stayed in was in Rajasthani style and we were pleasantly surprised, it was clean and the food was great. We booked a car for the whole day that took us to:
– The Amber Fort: a must see if you go to Jaipur. This incredibly beautiful fort, constructed in the 16th Century is a fascinating blend of Hindu and Mughal architecture made in red sand stone and white marble. As it is on a hill, it was very nice to get there on an elephant (Lucky was her name, 25 yrs old)…
– The ancient observatory, ‘Jantar Mantar’ (means literally ‘calculation instrument’): is a collection of fourteen major fixed observational instruments which are sighting devices that measure the position of the sun, stars and planets. To see they have constructed these accurate instruments so long back, quite fascinating.
– The Albert Hall Museum: functions as the State museum of Rajasthan. This lovely museum has an amazing collection of various items: pottery, miniature paintings, jewelleries, textiles, musical instruments, armoury.
– Jal Mahal meaning the Water Palace
Agra – Taj Mahal
Apart from Taj Mahal and the Fort, there is nothing else worth visiting in Agra, so we’ve tried to reduce our stay as much as possible. We’ve arrived by bus from Jaipur and I will just let the pictures talk (the pictures are from Taj and the fort, no pics from Agra as there was really nothing memorable to capture).
We had a train booked to take us from Agra to Delhi but as it turned out to be 2 hours late, we had to book a car. It was one of the scariest rides ever, that’s all I’ll say…the only traffic rule is that you have to use the horn every 30 seconds really.
After 6 hours (for approx 200 km), we’ve arrived at the Delhi Old railway station to catch the train that took us close to the school I used to teach in 2006 (train ride time: 10 hours).
The school is located the base of Himalayas, around 2000 altitude, in Talnoo – Daramshala and it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. We’ve decided to stay at some locals house and it was an interesting experience to say the least.
I wanted to show my mom and husband where I used to teach so they can understand why I feel so attached to this magnificent place.
In that area, there is also a huge community of exiled Tibetans so you could see a nice blend of two cultures. I admired their handicrafts and their pure yak woollen shawls which were so cheap (about £ 4-5).
After 3 days, we headed back to Delhi as we approached the end of our tour. Delhi is a much nicer city than Mumbai, I wish I had stayed there a bit more. The metro is great and an area with nice shops and restaurants that I recommend is Khan Market.
We’ve stayed in posh hotels, average hotels, with the locals so we had to try one more option: an Ashram. So in Delhi we’ve stayed in a beautiful Ashram, Nirmal Dham…
There are so many other things to talk about but I will resume to this. India can be visited only with an open mind and heart. You don’t have to go to India to look for comfort, on the contrary, your limits are tested and you end up find out more about yourself, so I can say India is a place to discover yourself.
I love to travel and for me travelling is not about going to some posh resort in the Caribbean and lay in the sun, it’s about touring a country, it’s about emerging into that culture, it’s about meeting people, talking to them, eating with them…I’m very happy I’ve been to India; I feel like saying I’ve done my masters in travelling with this tour. And that I’ve earned my degree now 🙂
Some do’s and don’ts:
– Do go with an open mind/heart as you will see lots of shocking things
– We have changed the money at the hotel in most places, it’s less hassle and the exchange rate was ok
– Never book any bus tickets via your hotel as they charge a service fee on top. It’s cheaper to take a taxi/tuk-tuk and go to the bus station; this way you can book the bus you want without any extra charges
– Drink only bottled water
– The best way to travel is (in order of safety and comfort): by flight, train, bus. I’ve booked my train tickets via Cleartrip and even if it looks complicated, it’s not that bad. A full explanation on what it’s needed to register can be found on this site: Seat61. The tickets get released 3 months in advance and I’ve booked my train tickets 1 month before and it turn out to be quite late as I hardly managed to find availability.
– It’s best to keep your money/cards/passport with you at all times (unless you stay in a posh hotel that has a safe deposit box. I bought a travel security pouch that can be worn under clothing, around the waist and I had no problem.
– take as many pictures, it’s a very colourful country.