A Travellerspoint blog

Day 17

Agra

Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India was the capital of India under the Mughal (or Mogul) Empire. Along with Delhi 204 km North West and Jaipur in Rajasthan, Agra is the third apex of the ‘Golden Triangle’.

In the taxi on the way to the train station going to Agra, we passed another beautiful Sikh temple and stunning buildings which I was disappointed to hear were private government buildings. From the window the countryside looked rather British until I witnessed water buffaloes in a watering hole.

Last night I gave my leftovers from dinner to a beggar on the street and felt delighted when on the train, others from the group decided to collect discarded food to do the same. Whether this was influenced by my gesture last night or the teachings of the Sikh community, it felt good on my soul to have made some tiny influence to the poverty surrounding us. I hoped that this act of kindness would continue throughout the trip and even back home.

The first stop was the incredible Red Fort, where the sandstone walls made up wonderful archways and carvings which were simply mesmerising.

I saw more mogen dovid symbols and asked the guide about these. He said that it is not the Jewish symbol as it has a dot inside the star. (Although I did continue to see more without a dot!). It was in fact a Hindu peace symbol and an ancient Iranian symbol also. The wildlife here was interesting too with a chipmunk looking squirrel that I held and fed, beautiful birds and monkeys that greeted me at the entrance. In the distance from the Fort I could see the Taj Mahal for the first time. The haze hindered the view as many challenged their cameras for the preferred shot. Unfortunately the haze made it appear as a vague line amongst the grey sky. Fortunately later on this day I did look closely enough and even inside the spectacular Taj Mahal.

The next stop was a factory shop, where I saw a demonstration of how hand knotted carpets are produced and the final stop was the Taj Mahal ....

Posted by Odeliah 07:49 Comments (0)

Day 3

Conoor

Time to travel to my next destination. The train was very comfortable with leather seats and air conditioning. The scenic route and admiring fellow travelers in their local attire kept me occupied throughout the journey. Looking out of the window the countryside was beautiful, possibly the prettiest I had ever seen out of a train window. I saw many kinds of trees surrounded by quaint cottages.

I continued my journey through Coimbatore, where I witnessed ‘real’ India for the first time. This city has a population of 2 million. It is an industrial city famous for providing cotton and especially for exporting Tommy Hilfiger clothing. Here I went on a private bus. It was less humid here and I felt a lovely light air on my face as I continued excitedly on my adventure. 30 degrees and only 40 degrees humidity. The roads were what can only be described as ‘manic’ with lots of beeping. The honking was to tell other motorists that they were overtaking, rather than through impatience.

Out of the window, I saw dramatic statues of Hindu gods which I soon learned were the roofs of Hindu Temples. There were goats roaming the streets. I saw Cream Mountain/Blue Mountain to the left and the banana plantations to the right. The
signs being displayed in English took me by surprise as I watched random cows and goats walking along the winding roads. A sight I would soon become accustomed to.

Through the lean trees that followed into a forest with a trail of monkeys and African tulips, I saw Morning Glory flowers for the first time. This was a name I had only previously associated with the Oasis song. On arriving in Conoor at the Tiger Reserve Cottages, the view was simply breathtaking – grand, private and tranquil, overlooking the surrounding countryside.

Posted by Odeliah 06:39 Comments (0)

Day 30

Departure day

I was sad to leave Dehli , but as the girl who liked dogs and ruby slippers once said. "There's no place like home." and inspite of my intrepid adventure coming to an end was happy to come home to Israeli comforts, such as friends, Shabbat and familiar breakfasts ( no more curry for breakfast and well needed Israeli salads).

I said goodbye to the wonderful hotel staff who gave me the days’ newspapers to read on my flight and I did some final research on some of Dehli's history. With a heavy heart and fond memories to treasure forever I headed to the airport.

My final only in India moment was on the motorway (highway) when I laughed at a "Don't drink and drive safety" road sign. As an English teacher I thought to myself punctuation matters.

Oh India how I will miss you. Thank you for all the memories, experiences, and many moments that made me smile. I will always remember Indian people as being exceptionally kind and appreciating them for their love of Israel.

The colours, the craziness and pure love of life will continue to inspire me. India I hope its see you soon and not goodbye. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for what I learnt, saw and experienced over the last month and hope that I have grown spiritually and mentally from this exhilarating experience.

Posted by Odeliah 11:53 Comments (0)

Day 24

Bijaipur – Rural Heritage Day : On this day Prince Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle

I spent the morning listening to birds and petting rabbits and saw a fischer palm tree and lots of marigolds before going on a jeep ride from the camp site to the heritage hotel. A man stepped onto the back of the jeep for a free ride without asking . I thought to myself ( once more ) “Only in India” and I couldn’t help but smile to myself.

Before being taken on a tour of the organic garden, I saw a fischa palm tree, custard apple, tomatoes, eggplants, jack fruit, cauliflower, guava, turmeric, coriander, chilies, ginger, basil, lemon, fenugreek, garlic leaves, corn, sugar cane, ocra (ladies finger), yam, courgettes, spinach, onion and pumpkin.

I stayed at the sixteenth century palace (which has been converted into a hotel) in the village 35 km south of Chittorgarph.

I was greeted by the castle staff with another garland and drum and organ music. I enjoyed the castle grounds and researched India in an old edition of ‘The Lonely Planet’ in the castle’s library. It all looked very quaint and authentic. The perfect place to relax.

Here I took a massage, facial and henna tattoo in order to unwind after a hectic month of travel and sightseeing. I felt that I deserved a bit of pampering and relaxation.

The castle hotel was expanding with a lot of workers, builders, engineers and plasterers. This included a group of beautiful ladies in sarees working with spades and other heavy tools, I thought ( yes you guessed it) “Only in India”.

The room was very grand with exquisite wooden furniture, marble floors with painted murals and archways. It looked like a modern version of the other places I had visited and I had no problem in feeling like a queen for another night, before going back to India’s chaotic life style!

Posted by Odeliah 11:48 Comments (0)

Day 29 - The Final Day

Final day in New Delhi

I took an Urban Adventure tour for a sightseeing day. Before another and my final busy day, I lay on my hotel bed, embraced the silence and meditated into a nice state of relaxation.

To my surprise, I was the only one booked on the tour, so I felt like royalty! I had my own guide (Anit) and driver.

The first sight I saw from the car was an enormous orange statue of a monkey. It was the reincarnation of Lord Hamaurn, the god of power. The roads were very long and I realised that this was the wealthy area of New Delhi. We passed the modern shopping area of Conaught Place and I looked out for Marks and Spencer (as I knew there was one there). I however did not see it!.

We stopped at Humayaun’s tomb. This is known as the mini Taj Mahal and as soon as I laid my eyes on it, it was obvious why. It is almost the exact shape of the Taj with water in front and surrounding beautiful gardens. It is a pretty reddish pink colour and obviously not as grand as the Taj but enough to make me happy that I stayed an extra night to be able to see it. Anit told me about the history of the place and happily took photographs. It was a glorious sunny day and perfect for taking in the view and peaceful gardens.

Humayun Bana Began had many wives and his second wife built the Emperor Humanun’s mausolelum (like the Taj Mahal in reverse). It stands on a platform of 1200m. It is 47m high, built in 1565 and took almost nine years to build. Costing 1.5m rupees. I looked inside at the octagon shaped rooms where the tombs were kept and walked in and out. I was much more interested in the beautiful grounds and the “mini Taj” outside! There was another building close by that looked almost identical. I learnt that this was once a mosque. It was destroyed and is now a monument. The views of the two “mini Taj’s” made a very elegant sight.

The next stop was Gandhi Smriti which was where Ghandi spent the last 144 days of his life before his assassination. In the pretty garden stood the world peace gong with all the flags of the world and religious symbols all over it. I couldn’t help but think about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as I thought ‘If only’. The exhibition was stunning and unlike anything I had every seen before. There were canisters of clay figurines each playing apart of his life story. As I learned about his life and philosophy I felt saddened that a man who stood for good, should suffer such persecution and death. It made me wonder if good really can conquer evil. It also made me think of modern day dictatorships and abuse of power. Abbass and Kim Jong-un came to mind. In spite of these heavy thoughts I had the juxtaposition of calm and peace of mind. I then viewed Ghandi’s home with his possessions on display. There was a wonderful hallway filled with quotes of his inspiring words with corresponding pictures of different stages of his life. I took photographs of the quotes that were most meaningful to me. I then followed an extremely sad set of footprints that demonstrated the path to his assassination surrounding a monument. The final part of the Ghandi Smriti was the temple where he prayed. This was a small colourful collage of paintings depicting various stages of his life. This place was a powerful and moving testament to his life and I felt was a lot more fitting than the one in Pondicherry that focused on the politics at the time and not on the man himself. It was also nice to be able to discuss my deep thoughts on Ghandi and politics with Anit.

The car collected us and then drove past the vast grounds of the president’s house. (Rashtrapati Bhavan). Where the parliament also stands. It was massive and I could not help but think of one man having so much and the beggars and the underweight children I had seen who had nothing! Although it was very interesting to see, I could not help but feel the injustice. I asked Anit if the government was doing anything to help the poverty in India and he told me that they really were but it takes time. This made me feel a little better as I viewed the estate. We didn’t get out of the car as the public do not have access to go inside. We drove all around the complex taking photographs. We also drove past India Gate were I took a closer look (than where the bus drove past two weeks before) and took more photographs.

I then got out of the car at Rajhat Samadhi which was the memorial and location of Ghandi’s cremation. He was cremated the day after his death as he died in the evening and Hindus believe that if you are cremated in the evening you will be blind in your next life. This was also located in beautiful grounds. The ashes were by a lovely black marble table with five pretty rosettes of flowers in circles around it. Here a man cleaned the area and he did a good job as it sparkled. To the south of the memorial were rows of beautiful fountains and to the north exit were more quotes on his life’s philosophy. It was a moving and heartwarming tribute to a man who wanted to make the world a better and just place.

In the car we passed Puranan Quila which were the remains of a destroyed fort and the last stop was Agrasen Ki Baol which was a stepwell that some say is haunted as people have sadly jumped and committed suicide here.

On the way back to the hotel I passed Conaught Place again and took a very close up look at the temple with the monkey god. It was huge and looked more like the top of a theme park than a temple!

Driving around New Delhi (which was also built by the same Emperor who built Agra) I could understand why it is known as the combination of cities. The long green streets were so different to the broken pavements and areas of poverty on the other side of my hotel, one corner to the government buildings and wealth and the other were beggars knocking on the car windscreen. A young girl even did a handstand in the middle of the road so long it resembled a slip road.I think this represents the whole country and why my eyes were constantly peeled. Each turn was a new adventure.

I returned to the hotel happy with my fun packed day as I relaxed and prepared for my flight back home the following morning.

I would have loved to have seen more of what Delhi had to offer but felt pleased to have experienced and learnt so much over the last month. I had covered a handful of lifelong memories and moments to treasure forever. I have genuinely fallen in love with colourful sparkling India that made me go “Wow” at least once a day!

Writing my journal reflecting on my days and feelings has given me so much pleasure that I truly hope reading it can inspire others to fall in love with India and to spread a little joy.

Posted by Odeliah 09:13 Comments (0)

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