Tuesday, July 21, 2015

from Jodhpur to Jaipur and Agra, from Delhi to the mountains of Dharamsala: 16 Days in India

It was an exciting, adventurous, scary and wary mix of feelings I had before embarking on a 16-day trip to India. I remember telling myself before that I don't think I will ever set foot on this country but here I am, writing about this on my last day here in this wonderful place. So before my flight tonight, let me recap the last 16 days of this adventurous ride all over the state of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and the endearing capital city of Delhi. We arrived at noon at this amazingly huge airport of Indira Gandhi. It was an easy-through Immigration and a hassle-free baggage collection and to getting to our hotel using the airport express train. We spent a night in Delhi before starting our journey

It felt really scary on Day 1. I kept thinking that anyone who will approach me will definitely just have an intention of getting money out of me. We went to Connaught Place area and Jantar Mantar to find decent food to eat and to begin immersing ourselves in India's atmosphere. But so far we survived except for some scary sights to see on the streets. We flew to Jodhpur the following day and we were greeted by Rishi, our driver for the next seven days. By the way, we got him through Ashok, a highly recommended driving company rated very highly on TripAdvisor. True enough, we did not encounter any problem with him. As a matter of fact, he was helpful all through out our journey.

In Jodhpur, or the Blue city, which is the 2nd largest city of Rajasthan, we visited Mandore Gardens, Mehrangarh Fort, Blue City and Umaid Bawan Palace. In Mandore Gardens, that is where I experienced a child, a little girl, who held on to my thighs, and kept holding while I was walking which looked like I was dragging her. She only let go of my thighs after about 6 steps and when her mother, I supposed, called her. It was scary but I just thought, what if it was an old person who did that to me. How could I have walked away from that. Anyway, Jodhpur seemed like it was not really traveler-friendly as there aren't really much to see when one walks around the old city. Nothing much to explore for travelers . The highlight, and probably highly recommended to do here is to visit the stunning and very well maintained Mehrangarh Fort and then stay at the perfectly located RAAS Hotel. Click here to read my previous article about Jodhpur and RAAS.

We then drove 6 hours from Jodhpur to Jaipur, which is also known as the Pink city, and the capital city of Rajasthan, to see more forts and heritage sites. When we arrived, it looked like a busy city but it was indeed very traveler-friendly. We went to three forts, Amber, Jaighar and Nahargarh Forts. All these three were completely disappointing forts and unlikely comparable to Mehrangarh Fort. It did not have that appeal upon entering its covered walls. We also ventured to different heritage sites in Jaipur such as Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, City Palace and Albert Museum. Among all these, the City Palace is the best place to visit and looked well-preserved. It was in Jaipur that we discovered Anokhi, probably one of the best places to shop for great souvenirs to bring home. They also have a nice cafe serving all organic food. Later on we found out that they also have shops in other parts of India.

After 2 days in Jaipur, we drove for 4 hours to Agra, the gem city of Uttar Pradesh. On our way to Agra, we stopped over Chandi Baori in Anaberi. One of the most ancient step wells in this region often skipped by tourists because of it distance to central tourist attractions. We also dropped by Fatehpur Sikri, one of the best and well preserved forts in Uttar Pradesh. This is a huge fort and magnificently beautiful. The only draw back of coming to this place is when you walk towards the masjid. It was said that this has one of the entry gateways in the world but unfortunately, we did not make it to that part due to so many locals coming to us selling stuff and so on. It was really disappointing.

We arrived in Agra and stayed at Double Tree. A very pretty hotel where you are welcomed with a warm individually-packed cookie but unfortunately, the hallways toward the rooms was just smelly of cow shit. I know it is something every local is so used to but it was just another disappointment about this well established chain hotels. Luckily, it doesn't smell inside the rooms. But Agra is definitely one of the highlights of this trip. Seeing the stunning Taj Mahal was really a great experience. Even though it was raining when we are in Agra, the Taj did not disappoint us at all. It relieved us from all the unwanted experiences we have had. The Agra Fort is also a marvelous creation in this area. It is definitely one of the best places to see in this region.

After 2 days in Agra, we then drove to Delhi to catch our overnight bus to Dharamsala. It was a cool weather i Dharamsala. Completely opposite of what we have experienced for the past 8 days. Check this link to read more about my other article on Dharamsala.

We returned to Delhi on an overnight bus after 5 full days of roaming around Dharamsala. We used the Metro on Our first day of touring Delhi. It was very hot in the morning and then came non stop rains in the afternoon until late. Using the Metro in Delhi was a weird and adventurous experience. You need to brace yourself in a meat and heat-packed tube trains when stopping at key stations and interchanges. Luckily, we survived one day of using the Metro but the next day, we hired a car (from Ashok again) to help us get through the places we wanted to see. In Delhi, we went to see Humayun's Tomb, Qutb Minar, Balai Lotus Temple, Purana Qila, Red Fort, Khan Market and Connaught Place. Qutb Minar is definitely the best place to see in Delhi. Ashkardam Temple, which we visited when we stopped over on our journey from Agra to Delhi, is also a great place to know about Hindi religion. For shopping, you should definitely go to Khan Market and Connaught Place. Just be very careful of your belongings.

Overall, India is literally a melting pot, during this time of year when weather is very erratic. Just be very careful with what you eat. You can check articles of Asher Fergusson for more advise on how to not get sick and what to bring bring when going to India. He has great advise and reading through all his article has helped me a lot. In a span of 16 days, I was fortunate enough not to get sick. Follow his advise and you may save yourself from food poisoning or acquiring any water borne disease.

India is definitely a great country with a long history that is worth-knowing. But to visit India, one has to be wholly prepared to face a different type of culture and norms in order to survive. Visiting one city will not be enough to justify an Indian experience. It has to be more than two cities for you to experience a sensory overload of what an Indian trip is all about. From the bustling traffic to honking of every cars and motorcycles, you will find chaos. From waterborne diseases to the reluctance of eating the local fare, you will find chaos. From being harassed by locals everywhere to hugging you bag while walking in the streets, you will find chaos. From the garbage surrounding the streets to the filthiest open toilets in every road corners, you will find chaos. But to see the majesty of untamed and well-preserved monuments scattered all over the country, you will still find chaos, yet you will fall in love with places like Taj Mahal of Agra, Mehrangar Fort of Jodhpur, City Palace of Jaipur, Gyuto Monastery of Dharamsala and Qutb Minar of Delhi. Places you will find here in India.

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Jaighar Fort, Jaipur

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur

Water Palace, Jaipur

City Palace, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds, Jaipur

Albert Museum, Jaipur

Chand Baori, Abaneri

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra

Mcleodganj, Dharamsala

Delhi, India

Blue City, Jodhpur

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Agra Fort, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra


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