All the beauty of India – Part One

I haven’t written anything in a lonnnngggg time. I guess life just takes over without you realising.

Over this past weekend though, a friend that I hadn’t seen in a very long time was home to visit (she lives and teaches in Hong Kong now and I live at home in South Africa). She told me that she loves following my page. It’s weird; I never really consider that anyone actually takes the time to read what I have to say. Nonetheless, one of the items on my “35+ things to do before 35” is to maintain my blog, even if nobody reads it.

SOOO, thanks Cay for giving me the kick up the butt that I needed. Now I can finally tell the story of our magical journey through India (8 months ago!).

Steven and I took a long winding flight from Cape Town via Doha, to land in the chaos of New Delhi. Tired, hungry, disorientated and dirty, we made our way to our hostel, where we sat and waited for a few hours before we were able to check in to our room. After a shower, we hit the streets to go find some food, check out a market or two, see some sites, ride a tuk tuk in the maddest traffic and book the rest of our Golden Triangle adventure. Delhi is a chaotic place. All you hear is hooting of tuk tuks, taxis, cars and scooters. Dogs barking, people in the streets maneuvering between the cars. More hooting. Hello India!

Top things to do on the Golden Triangle – hire a taxi driver to take you around (it’s affordable if you can split the cost and if you aren’t feeling up for the trains) – Our taxi driver for the trip was called Krishna. A calm gentle respectful man, with limited English, and lots of patience.

Delhi (in 2 days)The Red Fort, (for a long site seeing walk around), Human’s Tomb (a teaser of the Taj Mahal), India Gate (for Ice Cream!), Connaught Place (for dinner and shopping), and just any market you come across.

Jaipur, the pink city, is dirty and beautiful all in one. It was purposefully designed by a town planner, and the locals are very proud of their city. After a good night of sleep in our hotel, we woke up fresh and ready for a full day of exploring. A good Indian breakfast and our first cup of heavenly chai, and off we went, with our new best friend, our driver Krishna. A tourguide also appeared in our taxi. There was a bit of miscommunication as to how we suddenly had a tour guide, and was it included in the price of our whole trip or was this an extra. Do we tip him? Aaah India. Embrace it. In the end we did pay him, I still don’t know if we were meant to, but her was knowledgeable and took us all around the amazing gardens and told us the history of the Amber Fort, The Jaipur City Palace, Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mahal (The Observatory).

The most incredible experience for us was that we had our photo taken while on an elephant ride. The guys then wanted us to buy a whole booklet of photos, though we of course only wanted one or two. So instead of letting us get some, the man huffed away angrily. As the day went by and we moved from site to site, a different man would approach us with our booklet of photos. How did they keep finding us? Eventually after lots of haggling, they finally let us just buy TWO photos, but the men were not at all impressed. Needless to say, if you agree on photos, you’re in for the full buffet.

Don’t get Delhi Belly (like we did…for 10days). A lovely day of exploring in Jaipur, but when we got home, it all went downhill, and there we were hit with the bubbling feeling in our stomaches and a race for the bathroom. Delhi Belly. No matter what we did to prepare ourselves for this moment, no matter how many charcoal tablets we took, or two weeks of probiotics to line our stomaches building up to the trip, it still hit us. Lesson learnt… no chicken in the cities. Vegetarian all the way. When we got to the beach towns further in the trip, we enjoyed a buffet of freshly caught fish. But, NO CHICKEN!

I’m not sure where we got it from though, either this street café in Delhi where we ate before leaving to Jaipur, or in Jaipur itself at this clean beautiful restaurant where we ate…chicken! Luckily though, we had a driver to take us on our long drives from city to city, and also to promptly stop when one of us needed to dash to a toilet.

Our half way stop on the drive at a food/rest stop and I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom. Weak, I stumbled out of the car and puked all over the parking lot, much to my humiliation and the dismay of all the taxi drivers watching me. When we did eventually arrive in Agra, we went to our hostel. It felt good to be back in a hostel environment, with a bonfire, and like minded travelers.

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The meal that may have been the death of us…

Agra itself is a shit hole, and every tour guide is trying to scam you and take you to their friends shop for the best of something, and you feel obligated to buy from their shop otherwise they get upset, but the showstopper… THE TAJ MAHAL. Still sick, we woke up early the one morning from our hostel and got taken to the Taj. by our lovely and ever so patient driver. Watching the smog and the sun rise while sitting on Diana’s bench was the most magical experience. It didn’t matter how many times we had to rush to the grubby toilets in between, the finest details and stories about the Taj made it all okay. Don’t forget to also go see the Agra Fort, a core part of the history of the Taj. Our tour guide tried to steer us away to rather go shopping for “very good bargains” at his friends’ shops, but we insisted on the fort first and the shopping after (we didn’t end up doing any shopping and of course, non of them were too pleased with us).

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All the romantic poses of the Taj Mahal

 

And in summary, that is what we saw on the Golden Triangle. Having a taxi driver to drive us from one city to the next was a huge plus (especially considering our stomaches!). It’s long 8-12 hour drives between cities, so if you can afford a driver, I would totally recommend it for this leg of the trip.

Long drive back to Delhi, where we slept at a hotel near the airport and ordered chicken soup from room service, and rested in a comfy bed and licked our wounds from all this draining sickness.

There are many other beautiful places to see in Rajasthan, but, given our time constraints, we maximised on the three top hotspots, before making our way down to the South of India for some bliss to round off our first trip to these beautiful lands.

Definitely one day when we go back to India, we will head into the desert to do a camel trip in Jaisalmer, we will make our way to Rishikesh for some yoga and soul enlightenment, and lastly, we also need to see Varanasi. India is so diverse, and so vast, that you can only see so much in one trip. Thank you India tourism part one, you were stressful, manic, the roads were crazy, the amount of potential scams were insane, but we loved every moment of it. Glad to finish off the trip on the beach though. (India – part two blog post to follow to showcase the rest of our story). Namaste.

 

 

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