Welcome to my tour of India, finally! North India, specifically. India is way too big for 1 trip. I previously posted about what to expect when traveling to India. I did highlight some negative stuff that you will inevitably come across in India, especially if you’re traveling like me, without a guide. (For most people–in other words people not quite as adventurous as I am–I’d actually recommend a tour guide. And I normally would never do that!) Challenges notwithstanding, India is such an awe-inspiring place. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, including a guided tour!
Without a doubt, there were 2 highlights to my trip that stood out from the rest. The first, unsurprisingly, was the Taj Mahal. I had an emotional reaction when I first laid eyes on it. Photographs don’t do it justice. (But I hope my photos come close.) The second was Rishikesh, a holy city on the Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas. That description alone should be enough to convince anyone that Rishikesh truly is a very special place.
I’ve also got a very honorable mention. I quickly lost track of how many ancient forts I visited on my trip. But one of them was my clear favorite–Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Mehrangarh made more of an impression on me than more well known forts that I visited–the Red Fort, Amber Fort, and Agra Fort. Seen from below, Mehrangarh appears as an enormous, impenetrable hilltop fortress. That sight in itself is impressive. But quite unexpectedly, a beautiful palace is hidden within the imposing walls of the fort. Add in stunning views of Jodhpur’s Blue City, and you’ve got yourself an easy highlight.
Taking in the absolute chaos of Old Delhi was an experience worthy of a special mention. I have never in my life seen any place on Earth so completely teeming with humanity. Delhi’s urban area contains about 25 million people. And I’m fairly certain they were all trying to get through the center of Old Delhi simultaneously the afternoon I was there. It was utter bedlam. And I loved every minute of it.
And monkeys. Lots and lots of monkeys. I couldn’t get enough of India’s monkeys. I’m sure my photos will be evidence of that. Monkeys, and of course cows too.
More than any place I’ve traveled to, India comes with its challenges. But I hope my upcoming pictures and travelogues will convince you that India is a place you need to check out. Because it is. And I need to get back myself. After all, I’ve still got East, South, and West left to go! Of course, you’ll also be able to follow along with my adventures in Indian cuisine. Indian food has always been far from my favorite. Very, very far, in fact. But I survived. And I managed to eat quite a bit of good food that I actually enjoyed. Was it spicy? Oh, you bet it was!
Here’s a quick story about my arrival. I had a very pleasant pair of flights on Asiana Airlines. (I’m looking forward to flying them back to San Francisco from my trip to Seoul later this year.) Not unexpectedly, things were a little hectic at the airport when I arrived in Delhi after 1 in the morning. Still, I made it through immigration pretty unscathed. Naturally, countless taxi drivers were eager to shuttle me away from the airport. But I had plans.
I planned to take a shuttle bus to a different terminal and from there, take a bus to a nearby neighborhood where I’d find my hotel. I checked with a guy at the airport who seemed to know what he was doing and didn’t appear to be out to rip me off at all. He did his best to convince me that the bus I wanted to take only stopped at my destination on trips to the airport, and not from. Well, I had researched this in depth ahead of time, of course. But it was close to 3 in the morning by then, and I didn’t want to risk it. So I took a taxi.
It soon became clear that the taxi driver had no idea where my hotel was. I gave him a map I had printed out, but that didn’t help him. He drove around for a while, and then seemed to give up. He got on the highway and started to head to central Delhi, quite a ways away from my airport-adjacent hotel. I realized it was time to take matters into my own hands. I snagged my map back from him. On the map, I recognized the name of a hotel that was at the corner of the side street where my hotel was. We had driven past this hotel while fruitlessly searching for my hotel. I told the driver I knew where we had to go.
He still seemed unsure as he rolled to a stop at every corner. Each time, I held to tell him to keep going. We finally came to the landmark hotel. I told him to go down the side street. It turned out to be a dusty alley and a little scary at 3 in the morning. Nevertheless, we got to my hotel. I was so glad I was able to show my driver around the neighborhood. Welcome to India!
As always, here’s a goofy picture from my trip. I got bamboozled into getting a guided tour of a particular mosque. Of course the tour ended up with the very hard sell for junky trinkets. During the tour, my young entrepreneur had me do cheesy tourist poses I never like to do and always scorn. (My regal photos from Beijing notwithstanding.) Here’s a real goofy one.
Actually, that one didn’t turn out as goofy as I was expecting. So try this one.