There are some trips that just have to be taken in your lifetime. I had been questioning for a number of years why I had not made time for myself to explore India. You know, hit the Taj Mahal and do all the ‘exotic’ things like ride an elephant or play Holi. Let me get this straight, there is more to India than snake charmers and bindis. What my heart really ached to see was this mausoleum that a man had created in memory of his beloved, late wife. What I really dreamed about was exploring Rajasthan with all its colour and hospitality. It finally happened.
I went for the Golden Triangle India tour and picked various parts of Delhi and Jaipur I really wanted to see. Itinerary ready, I had hired a car to take me from Delhi then Agra -where the Taj Mahal is situated – and then finally Jaipur where I stayed for a few nights. In Delhi, my favourite attraction was Humayun’s Tomb, the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. As I reached the place early in the morning, there were very few people and the air was crisp. Delhi is quite clean in places and the gardens are taken care of. The Mughal empire has left behind signs of its existence in the form of architecture to be savoured by history buffs. Humayun’s Tomb is breathtaking and an atmospheric place to be in the morning. Visually, it stays with you forever.
Then of course there was the war memorial, India Gate, which for me represents the political Delhi today.
The next stop was the Taj Mahal in Agra which is about 4 hours away from Delhi. I remember the moment I saw the Taj Mahal on the south bank of the Yamuna river. I squealed in excitement and I am not embarrassed to admit this! It’s intriguing how such a thing of beauty lies in Agra which is chaotic and dirty. Making your way to the Taj Mahal as a tourist is full of traps. You will find kids harassing you with all sorts of things, warning you to do x,y,z before you enter. This means you will end up coughing up money for things which were not even needed but for a few rupees, it will not hurt you. Do be careful though. If your gut instinct thinks something is a scam, don’t give in. Entry to the Taj Mahal for foreigners is 750 rupees and you will have to go through a security check (bag scan an’ all). Queues to get in are just like any other queue for famous attractions across the world. So grit your teeth and enjoy your surroundings while you wait.
I think the best way to describe the moment I entered the main area and saw the Taj Mahal in front of me is surreal. It’s a postcard picture right? It’s the reason why people go to India luring travellers in from far and wide. Its status as a wonder of the world is justified. The history behind it is to be known. You will find people from all walks of life land up at the Taj Mahal. The rich and the poor, the locals and the foreigners, everyone wants to tick this off their bucket list. Seeing people take selfies from whatever brand mobile they had, summed up how the old and new have blended in today even in a place as remote as Agra.
Will you just look at the below!
After an hour and a half of exploring, it was time to make my way to Pink City, Jaipur. This is quite a long road trip but worth it. On the way, you will find the ghostly city of Fatehpur Sikri, founded by Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. I didn’t have time to stop by as I had accommodation booked, but you should take a look if you fancy it!
Jaipur is a vibrant city and with so much colour! Every turn of the head reveals an eye catching facet. I stayed at the beautiful Suryaa Villa, tucked away from the main road. The hospitality, food, rooms and service was splendid and I cannot fault the place one bit. I mean, imagine hearing the sounds of peacocks during your stay! Top of my list of things to see was Amber Fort, a 16th century hilltop fort and palace. The palace has been used for shooting scenes or songs for Bollywood movies and I was super excited to explore it. It was by far the highlight of my trip! It was a sensory overload sort of experience. The smells, the sounds and the sights were overwhelming and boy was I happy to embrace it! There is a lot to get around at Amber Fort and my tip is go with the flow and just follow your where your senses take you.
Next up, I stopped by the main road to catch the Jal Mahal, a palace literally built on water. Now I thought there might have been a way of me entering the palace by boat or something, but apparently, it was closed off to the public. Still, it’s another magical attraction in the capital city of Rajasthan.
Following lunch, my itinerary took me to Jantar Mantar, a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments. This place is slightly overrated because physics was never my thing, but still cool to check out quickly.
Getting around in India is a tough job – you need patience but also speed to be able to handle the people and the traffic. I think jumping in an auto rickshaw allows you to soak up the city as you go from attraction to attraction. So definitely do this! I also found travelling in an auto rickshaw made me see some things that I would otherwise might have missed. Simple things like entrance gates or city walls that exude history.
One of the days I spent in Jaipur consisted of shopping and as a girl who loves handicrafts and jewellery, I was adamant on buying a few things for myself and friends.
Conveniently, the Hawa Mahal was located across the bazaar I was shopping in and I was able to have a look around. It is a palace that is basically a high screen wall built so that the women of the royal household could observe street festivals while unseen from the outside. The salmon coloured building is beautifully placed as you shop around.
Finally, I had decided to end my Golden Triangle trip somewhere serene and holy. I decided to visit the Birla Temple, a Hindu temple made of pure white marble. It’s unlike any other temple I have visited in India before because it contained beautiful pictures and idols, almost like a museum depicting important mythological events. I really do believe in finding a moment to yourself in such religious places to clear your head and truly appreciate and respect another religion.
Very rarely do you get the time to explore the world. Being an Indian, touring the Golden Triangle had to be done. I also wanted to learn about India myself because as a born and bred Londoner, there is so much to know. I am so grateful and glad to have spent that month in India learning and reflecting in my hometown in Punjab and touring the Golden Triangle. Here’s hoping you can tick this off too!