My time in India was absolutely incredible. I cannot say enough positive things about this portion of my RTW trip. I was on a Wandering Earl tour and I simply cannot imagine exploring India any other way. Earl really knows how to lead a small group tour and I will not hesitate to sign up for another! Our group (12 people total) quickly became like a family – I could not possibly ask for a better group to travel with. Here’s a quick recap of my time in India after leaving Varanasi:
On our last day in Varanasi, we left at 3:00 to catch our 2nd overnight train – this time to Agra!
The train was a bit better this time. On this train ride, I was laying in my bottom bunk, listening to my iPod. I smiled to myself and I just knew in that moment I have never been happier in my life (with the exception of my time in Ireland, of course). Surrounded by good friends and traveling in an amazing country that I never thought I would get to see. I had many “pinch me” moments and moments where I felt like I was living someone else’s life.
We arrived in Agra very early morning and checked into our hotel, showered and went on the rooftop for breakfast with a view of the Taj Mahal. Monique (she and I quickly became best friends before the tour even started) and I went to drop off some laundry to be done at our hotel. Monique had a bad feeling about doing our laundry at this hotel. The old man took my laundry bag and laid each piece out in full public view and named and counted each item. A bunch of Indian men crowded around to see. Monique and I just about lost it – absolutely mortifying! We then went to see a Bollywood movie in a shopping center which felt apocalyptic. Disappointing movie because there was only one small dance scene! but it was a great experience. We then went to the Taj Mahal at around 3:00 and stayed until sunset. It was a continuous “pinch me” moment. Inside of the Taj is very very small. We had many people line up to take photos with Monique and I – it’s such a crazy feeling to be a tourist attraction. I thought the Taj would be filled with Westerners but the majority of the people were Indian tourists. That night we went to an amazingggg restaurant next to our hotel for dinner and ate on the rooftop. Monique and I got the Navratan Korma which immediately became our absolute favorite Indian dish!! We also got our laundry back and it was WET (yes, after dry cleaning) and 2 of my shirts were stained. Sweet.
We only spent one night in Agra. The next morning, Monique went down to breakfast to get ready to go to the Agra Fort with some of the group and I was going to take a shower. I told her to lock the door and take the key because I would not need to get out of the room (you cannot unlock the door without a key and we only get one key). As soon as she left, I went to shower and I could NOT get the knob to turn to make the water come out of the shower head. REALLY. So I had to put my clothes back on and I paced back and forth to figure out what to do. I didn’t call reception until like 10 mins later. I called reception and asked them to bring a spare key because my roommate had our key. Of course the man who came to my room hardly spoke any English and he was knocking on my door asking me to open. I had to yell through the door. He left and went to find someone in our tour group and then he knocked on my window asking me to open it (didn’t even realize I had a window). I explained to JM what happened – I’m just there hanging out my window with no bra on – hello everyone!! Someone went next door to get my key from Monique – how embarrassing, the whole group quickly knew that Monique “locked her roommate in the room”! We set off for a 5 hour drive (in 3 private vehicles) to Jaipur. It was actually a really nice drive. We saw a bunch of naked men walking down the side of the road – that was an interesting experience!!
The Amber Fort & Palace in Jaipur is pretty incredible. Absolutely gorgeous – I can’t wait to post photos!
Our drive to Bundi was supposed to be a crappy road but it was a breeze – perfectly new, re-done road! We went straight to lunch after checking in to our hotel and the lunch spot (Rainbow Café) immediately became our hangout. While walking to Rainbow, I got headbutted by a cow. Thank goodness only with his head and not his horns. Could have been a disaster. I wasn’t even in his way, he charged me from across the road! I really loved Bundi. Small town. The only negative was it was very hot (desert) and lots of mosquitoes!! Especially at our hotel. Bundi was the only place there is NO begging and shopkeepers don’t bother you – everyone just genuinely wants to say hello. I felt like a local immediately. Children come up and ask for “one pen” instead of money – a pen is a sign of literacy and therefore education, and if they are seen with an American pen – even better!! We “light hiked” up to Bundi Palace and Bundi Fort – “don’t worry it will level off up there” – HA! Quite a steep hike. Well worth it but I got heat exhaustion and quite dehydrated. We then went to buy clothes for Holi Festival.
Holi Festival was absolutely crazy but a LOT of fun! I was so happy that we celebrated in Bundi because it’s small and even IT was crazy – I simply cannot imagine it in Delhi or even Jaipur. Monique and I lasted from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30. “Happy Holi!” Lots of colored powder throwing and smearing. The worst was the buckets of wet color – my chest and stomach was still stained hot pink 7 days later!! We were all invited upstairs to a family’s home. She fed us and we danced – it was so nice. I fell in love with cheese & tomato piranthas and Israeli salad in Bundi!!
Next up: Udaipur, Pushkar & the end of my time in India!