Wow! It has taken me nearly two months to process my experience in the Golden Triangle of India. Lots of visual, emotional, mental and even physical digestion occurred during this time.
Try not to visualize that!
First, let me confirm the alleged reports to you; There are sooooooo many people in India! That country is as congested, loud, overwhelming and flabbergasting as you all warned me it would be.
Well, good thing I arrived there prepared, right?
Fellow travel blogger Nadia Masood commented on the post in which I announced the trip “Just go with an open mind and heart, then embrace every color, sight, smell, and sound. Take in both the good and bad, and then make friends and learn……”. Glad I decided to take her advice seriously, for there was so much to take in at the 3 overpowering cities in 7 short days.
Our India adventure started in Dubai International Airport. Our morning flight was cancelled due to thick fog that prevented take off in Dubai and landing in Delhi, very characteristic of Feb/March in both cities!
9 hours and too many sprinkled donuts later we were finally on our way, off on the wrong foot I worried.
On the plus side, Emirates Airlines courteously compensated us for the unexpected delay with a complementary flight ticket to Delhi, hopefully a punctual one next time.
I should’ve known right then that we were up for a highly contrasted journey ahead.
By the time we made it to our first hotel in Delhi I had learnt my first lesson about India, nothing can prepare you for it. It will give you and take from you as much as you’re willing to exchange, and that is an affair that should be carefully governed.
The night was dark, the air damp and fuzzy. It didn’t prevent India from eagerly greeting us.
The driver spoke to us in at least 4 languages, including Spanish which I spoke more of on this trip than I would normally do in Spain! the Spanish speaking market seems to be a big target for tourism in India right now, so everyone wanted to practice the language with Angel.
I wasn’t that pleased for the lack of opportunity to show off my modest Hindi.
Traffic increasingly soared and roared, children stuck their stained hands and faces on our vehicle’s windows every single time it stopped, and shot us painful begging glares.
Not sure I was ready for it that soon, or if I will ever be…
Few meters ahead of the hotel we were hurdled by a wedding procession, the first 5 minute were fairly amusing. It was certainly refreshing to finally see some smiling faces.
The rising exhilaration made me snap happy of course, which poured steadily into my Instagram feed. All I wanted to do was just share, share, and share the special moments with the world.
Since day one I had for some reason decided that Delhi was going to be my favourite leg. I know, that sounds like a bunch of bogus considering that the Taj Mahal was coming up next; however I am the kind of woman who gets friendly with places on first impression basis. If it feels like I could potentially live there one day, then I am totally in love.
To be absolutely clear I approached Delhi with extreme cautiousness given its preceding belly pumping tarnished reparation. Despite that and all its other rough edges, it felt like we could get along just fine with time, Delhi and I.
Speaking of the belly issue, I don’t know how anyone expected me to be watchful about eating with all that Desi yumminess on offer! I have never eaten so much Indian food in one week in my entire life. Although, not much street food went down since Angel won’t allow as much as thinking about it.
I wasn’t that paranoid about the water neither, didn’t have to seal my lips shut in the shower or anything like that, but defiantly stuck to drinking bottled water all the time.
Ghandi Memorial, Delhi
My husband treats the “Let’s forget about everything and move to India” comment like I never uttered it. Not sure why since we both had plenty of reasons to place Delhi high on our favourite wacky Asian cities list. Fine maybe a notch higher on mine than on his, but we did have some of the most memorable moments of our lives there.
Old Delhi swaddled us in historical dust of several important eras. My imagination was particularly tickled inside the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque.
New Delhi, on the other hand, sports a fine contemporary dining scene that we had a single chance to experience with a dear Indian friend. We winded down at the bohemian chic Olive Bar and Kitchen after a final heavy dose of architectural exquisiteness at Qutub Minar.
Our time in Delhi was nearly no time at all. The initial delay in Dubai literally killed half of my seeing and doing in Delhi plans. Yikes!
I wasn’t entirely done with the place when we left the next morning, but we had to move on schedule. That complimentary ticket might come in handy after all.
I was completely convinced that Delhi’s traffic is the world’s worst; I even considered getting stuck in it an enriching (once in a lifetime) experience that one must have in order to better appreciate the fact that one doesn’t have to drive there every day, until we arrived in Agra.
Kanwar Yatra was on full swing; Shiva devotees balanced decorated water pots hanging from each end of a thin bamboo stick on their shoulders, and ran the streets. The grumpy pilgrims dressed in mostly bright orange ropes dominated centre stage in the roads of the city and its outskirts.
Between them, holy wandering cows and the sea of speeding tuktuks, road privileges were snatched away from cars. As we approached the city center our drive turned into a slow crawl compared to the cheered worshipers, hurrying to deliver the Ganges offering to their local temples.
We spent the night at the marvellous Oberoi Amarvilas. I can never get enough luxury in a hotel, but this place was on another level baby.
Its most prominent feature is the stunning view of the Taj from all the guest rooms.
More about it in a separate future post…
The one thing I’d do differently if I could in this trip would be spending one more night in Agra. Whoever told me “There was nothing to see here but the Taj and the fort” Thanks for nothing!
The 20 hours we had there, including 6 for night sleep, were not even enough to realize what just happened to us. A major travel bucket list item just got checked, we saw the Taj Mahal, as in the real one, in India, but we didn’t have a break to reflect on it.
When you’re looking at something so beautiful that you forget to breath, the last thing you want to be told is, its time to go, now….
Agra is vivid and buzzing. I am not sure at what point everyone missed its pulsing heartbeat! People watching in one of its busy side streets alone will change the way you view life forever.
On the way to Jaipur we checked out the former Mughal capital, the fortified ancient city of Fatihpur Sikri. This UNESCO site where Akbar lived with his 3 favourite wives is truly standing the test of time, I wouldn’t have known if the Mughal’s had abandoned it 3 months ago.
I met my first snake charmer here. He worked not one, but two snakes at the same time, a Cobra and something significantly larger that thankfully was masked with a tight rope across the mouth. I worked all my camera’s and phones around him, imagine my excitement.
You wouldn’t care much if I told you that he was a total crook with terribly poor flute playing skills though, would you?
I never thought I’d ever sympathise with a Cobra, but that poor animal was wacked several times on the head before it started swaying from side to side, probably from dizziness. It certainly wasn’t warming up to those painful tunes.
Queue a burst of colour, chaotic traffic featuring camels and elephants on top of everything else , a pungent blender of history and modernity in an acquired setting, you’ve arrived in Jaipur.
The Rajasthani capital is where a more translucent India experience kicked in for us. Eventually, once we assumed the amused spectator’s role, the majority of the organized chaos made better sense.
The moment of truth finally arrived, and it was time to brave the markets. Guess who got down to business and pretty dirty when it came to bargaining hard? I don’t normally do this, but pretending to be interested in buying a $10000 handmade Kashmiri carpet made me realize how overpriced these things are.
But don’t you worry about me, I got some skills.
At the end of the day give this Dubaian a market, wherever the hell in the world it is, as long as there is shopping to be done and street snacks to be munched,not much else matters.
Bapu and Johari Bazaars beyond the Pink city gates specially satisfied my purchasing demons.
Ascending to Amber Fort on elephant back was our most prized experience in Jaipur.
Commercial, controversial, cliché or overrated, call it what you want, I will probably agree with you at some point especially after witnessing how appallingly the animals are treated there. It still was an inspiring experience that left us with a strong aftertaste of the city’s inherent history and culture.
Back in Delhi, we managed to squeeze in a special culinary experience in our final hours in India. I impatiently awaited getting this special taste of colonial India since we left few days ago. The lavish high tea we had at the Imperial Hotel in Delhi was the perfect end to our amazing first visit to India.
Have you been to the golden triangle of India? What was your favourite experience on the route?
When you’re travelling, are you obsessed with sharing your special moments with the world on Instagram too?