We started off our last day in Nepal with the news of a flight delay, which gifted us with a few more precious hours in our dear Kathmandu. Despite our woes, we were granted one last opportunity at our favorite café, Himalayan Java, where we feasted on cappuccinos and eggs. With both great excitement and anxiety, we then proceeded to the airport. Upon arrival however, we began to experience some setbacks.
We were hit with our first few cases of violent Delhi belly. The poor timing of this was uncanny, as we were standing in long, monotonous lines in a busy airport. Dread soon began to set in, even on our healthy company members, and though the airplane provided gorgeous views of high, misty mountains poking their heads through the clouds, we were sadly yanked from our high and forced headfirst into the crowded streets of Delhi. Exhilarating as it was, the company retired straight to its rooms upon arrival at lodging.
The next few days were spent exploring the crowded streets of Delhi. The city’s congestion was only mirrored by that of our own nasal passages, a result of the extreme smog, no doubt.
The group made visits to the Red Fort, Jama Mashid (the largest Mosque in India), Jantar Mantar, (a historical astrological observatory), the national history museum, and more.
Days were rounded out with glorious feasts of masala and naan, and with full bellies we managed to get some much needed rest.
The following step in the group’s journey was to visit Agra for a chance to see the Taj Mahal. By noon of our travel day we were stuffed into our first sleeper car on an Indian train, an event the group had been anticipating for quite some time. Though crowded and stuffy we made it to Agra with ease, and after a sunset visit to Agra Fort, we set off to bed in preparation for a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal.
We spent hours contemplating the capacity of Shah Jahan’s love for his deceased wife. His passion was undoubtedly immense, as he spent more than 15 years and his entire family’s fortune on the construction to her tomb: a perfectly symmetrical masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture.
After a quick breakfast, the group then boarded a bus for Jaipur to meet our new host families and to commence the next leg of the journey.
After a 5 hour ride in a nicer-than-expected tour bus, we arrived in Jaipur to meet our new home stay families. Their air-conditioned homes and marble floors were greatly appreciated after standing in the hot sun. It was great to meet the home stay families, and everyone was very excited for the events of the coming days.
We started each morning with a rooftop yoga practice, followed by a survival Hindi language lesson.
Each evening, we spent time with our host families, either hanging out at home or going on adventures around town into the late evening.
To occupy ourselves for the daytime, we took numerous excursions to explore all that Jaipur had to offer.
Our first day was jam-packed to say the least! We visited the Amber fort, a massive fortress built up the side of a hill overlooking Jaipur. Among the thousands of other foreigners, we toured the fort with a guide who shared a bit of the history with us. That afternoon, we toured a paper-making factory, a pottery workshop, and a block printing factory to see these artistic processes firsthand.
On our second day in Jaipur, our group went to maa mansa sakti, an astronomy park. The instruments were amazing, scattered around the concrete courtyard like pieces of a broken labrynth. It must have been amazing when the instruments were in use hundreds of years ago.
Later that day, we paid a visit to the theater and saw the latest Bollywood flick, Namaste England. What a show!
We had more opportunities to explore on our third and fourth days. I’m sure the tuk-tuk drivers are living in luxury with all the money we’ve spent ferrying ourselves to cafes, bazaars, hotels, etc. Lunch was spent with the host families, followed by an impromptu excursion to a rooftop pool at a 5-star hotel.
We completed our night with a fantastic rooftop sitar concert with one of Rajasthan’s most well-known prodigal families. It was a beautiful way to end the day.
Our adventure on the fourth day was a visit to an artisan colony in a less affluent part of town.
After being greeted by an entourage of loud drums, colorfully dressed men, and a swarm of village children, we took part in demonstrations of various artisanal practices in the village. Although we felt slightly uncomfortable and out of place at times, it was an experience we won’t forget anytime soon.
A small group visited another hillside Fort for the evening with fantastic views across all of Jaipur.
On our final day, we spent the morning at the art museum in Jaipur, followed by a nice lunch at the cafe.
A free afternoon left us some time to prepare for the 8 hour overnight train ride into Udaipur.
Saying goodbye to the host families was difficult of course, but by 10:00 pm we were squished into the buses on our way to the train station.
Goodbye Jaipur, we’ll miss you!
Charlotte and Simon
And more photos from our first ten days in India………………..