The comments on Facebook ranged from “Arrgh you wouldn’t get me to that place” to “Oh fantastic, you lucky thing!” I was definitely in the lucky thing camp! India was somewhere I had always wanted to visit & experience.
We arrived in Delhi after a comfortable direct Virgin Atlantic 10 hour flight. Our first impression was to think that every one of the 22 million inhabitants was in their car, in a tut tut, on their motorbike or just wandering in the road! Yes there were beggars and rubbish and dogs and shacks but this was real India.
Through the traffic we at last we found solace in the Oberoi Hotel, absolutely beautiful, rich fixtures and ornate colonial timbers adorned the walls. The air conditioned reception and the greeting of a cold towel and sweet chilled lime juice was most welcome. The striking local staff all had huge smiles and couldn’t do enough for you.
Our first full day was centred around old and new Delhi. We saw the Red Fort, The India Gate ( a little like the Arc de Triomphe) and stopped at the Qutub Minar the tallest Minar in India, originally an ancient Islamic Monument and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Next up on our tour was a trip into the foothills of the Himalayas and the resort of Shimla, capital city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and the summer capital of British India. We travelled up the mountain on the Kalka to Shimla toy railroad, constructed in 1906, it immediately added to Shimla’s accessibility and popularity. The route has more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels and was touted as an engineering feat and came to be known as the “British Jewel of the Orient and another UNESCO world Heritage site. Everywhere you look you can see the British aristocracy influence from the former Viceregal Lodge to The Christchurch atop one of the seven surrounding hills and if you like monkeys you’ll love it here!
The following day we started our 5hr drive to Rajasthan and Jaipur, stopping at Fatepur Sikri, a walled town that took 15 years to construct, a series royal palaces, harem courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings. The rest of the journey flew with something to look at with every turn. There were shops and markets selling fragrant spices and exotic fruits. Elegant multi coloured saris and crisp linened school children. Cattle and goats wandering aimlessly, Dogs and monkeys chasing and playing. We saw bearded holy men meditating on one corner, a urinating local on the next. Beautiful valleys, cascading waterfalls and pastel coloured housed clinging impossibly to the hillside.
Jaipur offers us the fantastic site of The Palace of The Winds. We then climb to the Amber Fort atop local elephants and are entertained by snake charmers. This is the real India.
Nearing the end of our Indian adventure and we head to Agra and one of the main reasons for our visit. The Taj Mahal. As you walk through the archways of the preceding building you are suddenly mesmerised by the imposing beauty of this amazing monument. Nothing prepares you for it, you experience the eerie feeling of a tingle down the back of your spine. As Mark Twain once quoted “Twenty Years From Now You Will Be More Disappointed By The Things You Didn’t Do Than By The Ones You Did Do
Gentle people, wonderful food, fascinating sights and opulent hotels. India is a continent that should be on everybody’s wish list.
If you would like more advice on everything from the weather to visas or from inoculations to costing’s please call Mike on 01603 424010 or email mike [email protected]
As an ABTA / ATOL member Skyplane Worldchoice are licenced to organise tailor made trips to suit all budgets and all required standards of accommodation.