India on my mind….

Written by Carmen on September 4th, 2010

Once again, I am writing of a country, in a different country, but India still lingers…

Perhaps it is due to the fact I am currently in Nepal, where I find many people from India have moved, as well as the fact they share similar religious beliefs, their writing style (Hindu) but also the same openness & kindness due to their spirituality.

I chose to go through India with a tour for various reasons, the main one being I knew it would be extremely difficult to navigate as a solo female.  I waivered considerably about going with a tour, since my one and only other tour experience was while in Egypt.  That tour left me so exhausted by the end of the two weeks I needed a few days to just catch up on my sleep.  I don’t understand how folks go on “vacation” via a tour.  The itineraries are just unbelievable.  But again, in the end I’m glad I did the tour in India, which I cut in half from the original 15 days I had booked to just 8 days.  It was a great decision.  I saw some incredible places, experienced every possible form of transportation available in that country I think, and met some great people too.

I started off in New Delhi, with a wonderful welcome from the son of a couple I had met while in Croatia.  Ilse & Jurgen are a lovely, gracious pair, who I met in Zadar, Croatia they are from Wolksburg, Germany.  Their son, Marc had just recently moved to Delhi from the Philippines.  Marc and his girlfriend, Lay, greeted me at my hotel the afternoon I arrived into Delhi. They took me on metro ride into the heart of Delhi.  It was great!  Talk about seeing it all from a real perspective right away—we walked around the city center a bit, but everything was so muddy since it was still monsoon weather in India, so we settled in for a happy hour cocktail and appetizer.  We only had a couple of hours to spend together but it flew by.  I had to get back to my group, who were having an orientation meeting at the hotel at that evening.  We said our goodbyes and made plans to meet after I was going to leave the tour at the end of the week, when I’d be flying back through Delhi.

I met the group a bit late, but it all worked out—we went on a metro to see Delhi! =)  It was good since we went to a different part of the city than previously with Marc.  We went to the actual New Delhi, where all the new official government buildings are as well as the India Gate, also India’s presidential palace, all made of the same type of red colored sandstone architecture, at sunset it’s quite beautiful.

The next morning we went via train to the city of Jaipur,…

Jaipur is in the state of Rajasthan, India.  It is also called the “Pink City”, which it is in color due to the sandstone much of the city’s made of, but also much of the city is painted that color too.  Here we went to see the Amber Fort (we saw another palace but it was nothing in comparison).  We arrived via tuktuks, which are three wheeled motorized taxis of sorts.  They are powered by compressed gas and they are a blast to ride in!  I must say I was totally awed by the Amber Fort when we drove up to it.  It has walls surrounding it for many miles that look somewhat like the Great Wall of China in terms of their construction.  The rulers during this time period had really good relations with the Mongolian people, so I believe that had some influence on the design of the walls.  The views though from the Amber Fort were just stunning.  The walls surrounding it just seemed to go on forever. 

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Afterwards the group was going to do some shopping with the help of our guide.  I opted to not go with them, since I had no desire to purchase anything and took a tuktuk back to the hotel.  Along the way back I had the driver stop at The Floating Palace for some pictures, which was the rulers “Pleasure Palace” back in the day.  This palace sits in the middle of a lake, when the maharajah wanted to not be disturbed by anyone this is where he would go to indulge himself.  Talk about hedonism!

We moved on the next day, again via train to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located.  We first went to the Agra Fort, which was the home of the emperor.  We had a somewhat rainy, drizzly kind of day unfortunately, but it actually turned out quite nice.  The reason why is from the Agra Fort you have a stunning view of the Taj Mahal.  It was first covered in a bit of a mist from the rain but then it cleared up as we continued around the palace and when you got to the upper levels we had a spectacular view of what awaited us shortly.

I must admit when we finally did arrive at the Taj Mahal, before I walked through the archway, I stopped in my tracks.  It really is an incredible site to see.  When I cleared the archway and all the people are just standing around taking pictures it really was breathtaking…  I now understand why it is a wonder of the world.

We spent several hours at the Taj Mahal that afternoon, taking it all in from every possible perspective.  I wandered away from the group choosing to just sit by the river that runs behind it.  Watching locals that were floating by using empty plastic containers to stay afloat, laughing as the current took them on downstream.

The next day we boarded a train once again, for four hours to a town called Jhansi, from there we took tuktuks to the town of Orcha, which was about a half hour away.  Orcha was great.  We stayed in this great tent-type of accommodation, with beautiful temples as the backdrop.  Orcha is a small town of only around ten thousand inhabitants.  It was just what the doctor ordered after the hustle and bustle of our last two stops.  India really lived up to it’s reputation the past few days, with its masses of humanity coming at you in every direction, its masses of noise, honking horns non-stop, but also with beautiful, beautiful people smiling so easily in spite of the poverty surrounding them.  So genuine, so kind.

Street Life

The day we arrived in Orcha was also the birthday of two of the folks in our group.  We celebrated by hitting the pool that was on the property and had a bit of a pool party that afternoon.  It felt great to be able to just kick back and relax some finally since the last 4 days were just constant motion.  At this point I knew I’d made the right decision to end the tour early as well.

The following morning I started the day with a private yoga session as the sun was peeking across the temples and the river behind where we were staying.  I followed that with fantastic ayurevedic massage.  Talk about feeling cleansed! =)  Also since India’s diet is pretty vegetarian, I decided to not eat any meat for a few days to take full advantage of the massage and yoga session, as well as not drink any alcohol either.  It felt great really.  It’s been now almost another week since then and I’ve still not had any beef and only a little bit of chicken at this point.  But you all know me well—I did finally have some wine and cocktails a couple of days ago, since the group just met up with me here in Pokhara, Nepal.

I can’t skip writing about Varanasi though, since this is where Indian people come to cleanse themselves in the River Ganges as a spiritual pilgrimage.  It is also where they bring the bodies of loved ones to be cremated.  The Ganges and Varanasi have huge spiritual significance for the Hindu people, through its reigning deity, Lord Shiva.  We went out on a boat at sunset, seeing the thousands of people that come to the riverside for their burning rituals, bathing rituals, and prayer ceremonies.  We did a candle flower lighting ceremony together.  I was given three candle flowers to set afloat in the river.  I said a prayer for myself, another prayer for a friend who was getting married that day, and finally a prayer for others.  It was beautiful seeing those candles float down the River Ganges into the night….   Namaste.


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