For at least a year I had considered going to India. Having friends there made that possibility even better as it would be a social visit but also an amazing opportunity to explore a country so famed for its culture, food and rich history. Then one day my partner said “We’re going to India by the end of this year. These are the times I can be off and these are general prices. Talk to your friends and we’re going”. And that’s when things snowballed until we were back on English soil.
Having had all our shots updated and the nurse telling us what we can and cannot do as foreigners we went out excited. I’ll admit the nurse made everything sound more extreme then they were. With that all that was left a Visa closer to the departure date and then actually flying there.
Having grown up in the Middle East I was excited to see that side of the world again. Yes I know you can’t compare them, as they are so different, but there are still similarities that made the trip a bit nostalgic.
A photographic album has been created with the best photographs I took on the trip.
We travelled mainly near Delhi but we visited the Golden Triangle of cities: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Our first day consisted of Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Having only seen it in pictures before the sheer beauty of it in person has no words. The architecture, the marble and stones used, the craftsmanship involved plus the stories of its kings and workers were all amazing to learn about. Because we arrived shortly after Diwali the smog and pollution were very heavy so clouded the Taj in fog but it gave it a mythical and fantasy vibe which made it even more unreal. Seeing just how many local tourists there were as well was surprising. Having done touristy adventures in other countries I’ve never seen so many local ones.
After visiting Taj we went to a place where they showed how the Taj’s look was created through all it’s handcrafted stone. They showed us how the gemstones were put into the marble using ancient materials and techniques, all done by hand.
Among other locations we also saw the Agra Fort, well the locations that were open to the public. The size was immense and instead of living in the same place as the royals before, they just extended it. The carvings there are just as impressive. All hand-done and that makes it so hard to imagine what life was like back then compared to today.
From there we also visited Jaipur. There we saw the City Palace, the Observatory, Amer and Jaigarh Fort plus spent a day with Elephants. From Jaigarh Fort we watched the sunset over Jaipur’s city below and it was magical. Watching dusk creep over the city with all its lights turning on from high up was something you don’t experience often.
In Delhi we adventured in sections. We went to the Red Fort, Safdarjung’s Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar, ISKCON Temple, and Lotus Temple to name some big places. Most impressive to me was the Qutub Minar site. It had such a clear link to Islam from the scriptures engraved in it’s stone that the whole tower was a marvel to see. Standing at its base was magnificent to see all the architecture and different styles that were contained per layer. When Arabic is engraved so lavishly and stylistic on monuments they become art on its own and as a typographer I couldn’t get enough pictures. Seeing the structures around it was just as impressive, only sad to see that most had withered away.
I never realised how intertwined India was with its Muslim neighbours throughout history. Every dynasty of rulers was intertwined together in religion and cultures, all of it left in stone for centuries to go by.
Before I was nervous about having food there. We were told strictly no street food, that wasn’t so difficult. But then guaranteeing the same in restaurants was trickier outside of Delhi. I mostly had vegetarian meals but it was more the spice levels I was concerned about, as I’m not a fan of too much spice. But all in all it was mild in that regard, but it was delicious! The food had such flavours and colours that it put the Indian food here in England to shame, but that’s always the case. Spices were sold everywhere and the smell was always wafting through the streets, purely intoxicating. Even the desserts were delectable and so different. How they cooked was so different that it was fascinating to watch and taste.
India has such an expanse of culture it’s what makes it so beautiful in my opinion. Most fascinating was traveling on the road, and the “rules” they adhered by. It seemed to me that general road rules as we Westerners know them just go straight out the window but there is a code that every driver tends to adhere to. As a foreigner first getting into a car and driving off becomes uncomfortably scary with its lack of seatbelts in the back seats and lack of car-bubble awareness, but it soon became an adventure and found myself relaxed in no time watching it all unfold with child-like curiosity. Driving in Tuk-Tuk’s was the most exciting of all, and regretted not taking them more often. We opted in using Uber’s as much as possible (also a new concept to me).
When it came to culture in terms of entertaining guests it was more than hospitable and welcoming. Visiting friends you’re greeted with warm smiles and plenty of snack and refreshment. At one point I just had to force myself to decline just to leave space for dinner. Even snacks there are of a healthy variety and were delicious to eat. Housing compounds are separated into sector’s, with a smaller grid system of named compounds within which made it feel compact, especially with all the cars parked out on the road but there was also a sense of community present making it not seem so cramped. Space was used wisely and the neighbour’s noise merged into the sound of traffic in the background. It was a background noise you soon get used too.
And then there of course are the weddings. During the season we were there it was considered peak wedding-season with Delhi alone having 150 weddings a day. And these weren’t our “tame” European weddings no, these lasted days with everything thrown in. Grooms rode in on horses, brides decorated and dressed so glamorously it was worth royalty. Masses of people attended causing miles of traffic queues. At night the sky was lit with fireworks all over the city, the sound of the celebrations in the distance. This is something I’d love to experience one day in person.
In the end
In the end two weeks passed by quick and it was time to go home again. Though I was glad as I started to miss home and my own comforts that came with it. My feet hurt from all the exploring we did and I was coming home with 100’s of images to share about everything we experienced. I would like to go back one day and see more that India has to offer, perhaps going to the South this time. It’s an experience I’ll never forget that is for sure. The history alone is so rich it was eye opening as to what people have accomplished and learned. I’d definitely go back just for the desserts on offer!