There were two reasons why India was high on my list to visit, one was to visit the Taj Mahal and the other to see tigers in the wild, so when we found a tour company which incorporated both, it was a no brainer!
Golden Triangle (approx) distances: Hotels:
Fortune Select Global
New Delhi to Agra: 105kms - 5 hours Clarks Shiraz
Agra to Ranthambore: 295 kms - 7 (worthwhile!) hours Tiger Moon Resort
Ranthambore to Jaipur: 158kms - 4 hours Clarks Amer
Delhi; the capital of India, mixing Old and New India, the ancient and the modern, founded by the British in 1936. In 2016, it topped the charts for the world’s most polluted City! This is a shame, because when we visited in 2008, they were proud that the city was much greener and cleaner due to the fact that 50% of industries had shut down around 30 years before. We found this noticeable and expected much more pollution, neither of us felt choked in any way. It’s sad that the situation has since worsened. What we did notice, however, was that the sun never really shone and it would take until around midday for it to burn through the polluted haze.
A “must-see” if you are in the capital is Qutab Minar - the world’s tallest brick minaret built in 1193. The adjacent mosque was the first to be built in India but is now in ruins. It is, however, a lovely place to stroll around away from the hustle and bustle providing lovely photographic opportunities.
India is hugely populated, so you can expect to be in the odd traffic jam! We took this as an opportunity to observe Indian life. The tuk-tuks and cars spawn some crazy-arsed driving and kamikaze manoeuvres. Bikes are loaded up as if they were delivery trucks, pick-up trucks double up as public transport packed solidly with people and a motorcycle will carry three or more men with no helmets – crazy stuff! It was interesting to see cows, dogs and camels on the road – we weren’t expecting that!
Everyone appeared to have a job of some sort, this could be sweeping steps or the road, fetching bricks for builders, owning little shops on the side of a road, selling fruits like bananas, oranges or vegetables – even carrots that are red?! Oh yes, we saw that.
We welcomed the culture shock – it humbled us and made us more appreciative for what we have.
Agra … and the Taj Mahal!
Some people view this iconic Mausoleum as just another building, but not us. There are only two man-made structures we have seen to date which have emotionally moved us… one is the Great Wall of China, the other is the Taj Mahal.
For me, it not only lived up to any expectation I may have had… It far exceeded it! We were there for sunrise and watched amongst a silent crowd as the marble exterior reflected rose and gold tints whilst the sun rose gently into the sky. Soon it became the dazzling white colour for which it’s best known. It was very special.
I have so much to say about this place and if you want to find out more, please read my blog entitled “Taj Mahal – Monument of love or just another building?”
Walking away from this spectacular vision was very difficult and left us with humbling feelings we had never experienced up until now. Sy even shed a tear for this wondrous place!!
I am ashamed to say that Agra Fort didn’t hold my interest. Not because it wasn’t big or impressive or didn’t have an interesting story to tell – because it was all of that. No, it was purely because we went there directly from the Taj Mahal and my WOW! Factor had been used up! From a window at the Fort, you can see the Taj in the distance – that just made me want to go back to it even more!
Our guide and tour rep Veejay had been looking after us since Delhi and was a fountain of knowledge. He told stories of rulers having three wives and 901 women in his harem. For breakfast, it is alleged one ruler had eight whiskeys and three women! What an energetic man! Porridge is all I have!
Another Akbar building built around 1584 and made of red sandstone is Fatehpur Silkri. The word “Fateh” originated from Arabic meaning “victory” and Sikri means “thanks to god”. We were there around 1½ hours and by this point, I was more than happy to simply stroll around taking photographs of the magnificent architecture… I’d had all the history I could cope with!
The highlight of our trip was, without a shadow of a doubt, the tiger safari at Ranthambore National Park.
In Africa, I have been on 22 game drives and I didn’t think it would be possible to go on another that would eclipse them all in one hour. No one could have predicted our phenomenal encounter. No one. Not even the game driver who had taken hundreds of tours.
In total we saw six tigers, three on one game drive then three on another, but it wasn’t the quantity of tigers that was so jaw-dropping, it was the experience we had with them.
During our stay, we went on two further game drives which were lovely, but paled in comparison to the first. We had three more tiger sightings but they were from a distance. This would normally be considered a good day, but not to us. We had been spoilt!
Other wildlife encounters on the game drives were Samber which is India’s largest deer, baboon, wild boar and a crocodile chilling on the bank. The routes were very pretty and we passed a couple of lakes which pleased the bird watchers in our group, especially when we saw a kingfisher, parakeet, woodpecker and an owl.
Tiger Moon Resort
We stayed for two nights at Tiger Moon Resort which is in the middle of Ranthambore National park.
Around the camp fire one evening we had local entertainment with music and dancing which included fire! I had a small henna design drawn on my hand – their art really is so beautiful and so intricate.
Camel ride anyone?
We wanted to see more of the surrounding area so took a camel-cart ride into the local village. Our camel was brightly decorated and we enjoyed the relaxing meander.
There was an interesting scenario; we passed a woman with her young daughter and they pointed at the bottle of water I was carrying. I opened the bottle and went to pour it into their hands thinking they wanted a drink, but the mother snatched the bottle and the lid, poured the water on the ground then walked away with it! We can only assume that the empty bottle was more valuable than its contents. Isn’t it amazing how the things people value differ so greatly in different cultures.
Jaipur – The Pink City
We drove to the Hawa Mahal, Palace of Winds which is the iconic photo associated with Jaipur also known as the Pink City. It’s a five storied wonder with spectacular pyramidal facade and overhanging windows which have latticed screens, domes and spires. Its famous pink colour was down to Sawai Ram Singh II, he chose to make the facades of all old city buildings autumnal colours for a forthcoming visit by the Prince of Wales in 1876.
It is unlike me to choose not to visit a place because I do like to make the most of every opportunity, however sometimes you just have to accept that enough is enough.
My need to relax was greater than my desire to carry on!
Our final experience of the tour was a bicycle rickshaw ride and we really enjoyed entering the crazy world of the Indian road system on a bike-drawn carriage! We were amongst cars, motorbikes, pushbikes, horses & carts, cows, camels, buses, coaches and kamikaze pedestrians all battling for their right of way in a noisy, chaotic manner which strangely seemed to work! Lots of horn beeping, daredevil manoeuvres, attempts to squeeze into any gap (however small) but there appeared to be no road rage or accidents. In saying that, a lot of the buses and coaches did have scrapes, scratches and knocks but this could also be down to how old they were!
Experiencing India’s culture opened our eyes to what a colourful, friendly place Rajasthan is, and we opened our hearts to its enigmatic people.
- The national currency is the Rupee. It is illegal for foreigners to take this currency out of the Country!
- There are 22 different languages spoken in India!!
- The national symbol of India is the endangered Bengal Tiger.
- Mahatma Gandhi is famous for the important part he played in gaining India's independence.
- India has the second largest population in the world, with over 1.2 billion people.
- 70% of the world’s spices come from India.
- Almost every city in Rajasthan is colour coordinated. Jaipur is pink, Udaipur is white, Jodhpur is blue and Jhalawar is purple!
This post is part of a link-up in #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust. Feel free to click on the pictures below to read other fabulous travel blogs - perfect for more inspiration!