Greetings from India! A land with many people, many cars, and even more dirt. The first few days have been quite a whirlwind! The flight arrived around 3pm and we were picked up from the airport by our hostel. The first taste of India from the backseat of a reckless car. He wasn’t the only one. Cars, bicycles, rickshaws and people weaving in and out of “lanes” with no respect for painted lines or direction of traffic (not to mention the occasional cows, dogs and horses). I was just waiting for Donkey Kong to pass us and drop a banana peel! Horns are used as frequently as the gas pedal and resemble crowds of people shouting to each other at the market. In and out of streets winding with no apparent direction we flew! Oh yeah…and the seatbelts didn’t work.
When we got to the hostel, we were advised to book train tickets early because they would fill up quickly over the weekend. We were taken to a tourist office with the intent of getting a train to Rishikesh in the next few days. Those trains were booked, so instead we were talked into a guided tour of the golden triangle (Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra) ending with an overnight train to Varanasi. The final price was a bit more than our intended daily budget, but for the comfort of a private car to show us around these cities and nice hotels along the way, we went for it. Peace of mind is priceless during the first week and we had to get out of Delhi. That’s when we met Mr. Singh, a nice Indian man in his early 60’s.
The next day we were chauffeured around Delhi by Mr. Singh to see all the main sites: India Gate, Baha’i Lotus Temple, Lodi Gardens, Indira Ghandi museum, and Lakshmi Narayan Temple, plus a few textiles shops that we had stop by as part of the tour. I doubt we would’ve seen half of that on our own and most likely would have fallen delirious in the mid-day heat. Mr. Singh gave us a first class tour and even advised us not to buy anything at the shops, but he had to take us by there because they were his friends. Some places we just let them show us everything because they had A/C! We both agreed that the best stop of the day was the last stop, Lakshmi Narayan Temple. The sun was going down and the heat had subsided. The temple was ornate and colorful with many stone etchings and cool marble floors. I was quite excited to see the Baha’i Lotus Temple, but this one seemed more special.
Today we drove to Jaipur. Another hot and steamy day on a 5-hour drive. Here, in addition to the usual cows and dogs, we were dodging camels and elephants. We stopped at another textiles shop, which was better than the others, but still didn’t buy. Then we got Ayurvedic massages. Gabriella got one that included hot oil being poured on her forehead for 30 minutes in a thin stream falling from a bucket overhead. I went for the general massage and left quite slippery from the oils. Tomorrow we are getting a tour of Jaipur, then it’s off to Agra for the Taj Mahal!