India is magical. It has exceeded my expectations by far. I was told to beware of the dirty streets, the relentless beggars, and to expect utter culture shock. Maybe it’s because I braced myself for insanity, but the characteristics that I was warned to watch out for are the last things I noticed—that’s not to say that they don’t exist. Instead, I saw a country that built outrageously beautiful monuments and a people that are kind, hardworking, and content with what they have. I believe that the unconventional beauty of this country is unlike any other, and captivates its audience in a completely unique way. I find it to be charming without being charming at all. Cows literally roam the streets next to people and cars, garbage is widespread, and foul smell is not uncommon, but I am mesmerized by this place.
Delhi is shockingly clean and green. Where I stayed, the Oberoi, is fantastic; Delhi has many great hotels to choose from. It is definitely more metropolitan than most other Indian cities. Apart from the must see architecture, a rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi is a must do. Old Delhi can’t boast cleanliness, however. Seeing this city’s everyday life is fascinating; crowded, narrow streets filled with so much in such close vicinity that the rickshaw driver actually has to weave side to side to avoid bananas, juice stands in the middle of the “road”, and people who don’t seem to mind that a rickshaw is about to hit them. Stores are tiny and hectic, while tangled wires hang in the middle of the air outside, rather than inside walls. The system works for those living in it; everyone seems genuinely satisfied.
Agra, the location of the enchanting Taj Mahal, is a three-hour car ride away from Delhi. This city is significantly dirtier and less developed. But in all honesty, after the first couple of cows, goats, and pigs you walk next to, you get used to it. You forget all about the people following you around in an attempt to convince you to buy their silly trinkets as soon as you stand in front of the Taj. The marvelous beauty of the tomb provides the necessary explanation as to why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Nearby stands Agra Fort. While it can’t compare to the Taj Mahal, it has its own wonderful attraction and history.
Jaipur is a five-hour car ride from Agra. I stayed at the Oberoi Rajvilas hotel, which is an experience in itself, and its restaurant is delicious for both lunch and dinner. It’s absolutely shocking that such large, luxurious hotels exist just around the corner from, for lack of better term, extremely underdeveloped areas. It stands outside of the city, however, and if looking to stay closer to the center the Rambagh Palace hotel is a fabulous choice, although its restaurant can’t compare to Oberoi’s. After exploring the Amber Fort and Palace in old Jaipur, known as Amber City, we moved towards the City Palace in which the Royal Family resides—called so out of respect rather than actual power, as India is a democratic country—discovering why Jaipur is called the Pink City. Years ago, the town was painted a shade of pink by a previous city ruler in anticipation of the arrival of the then Prince of Wales’. The architecture and color is lovely.
My day ended with a Daniel Silva spy novel by the pool with a glass (or bottle) of Chardonnay. After being on the go non-stop, my four hours of relaxation were well deserved. I think I’m in need of a vacation after this Indian vacation.
Stay tuned for the second part of my travels in India!