India 07.08.2014 Fiona
I had spent many months planning my itinerary, booking trains and hotels, and generally trying to perfect my three week trip to North India. I wanted to fit in as much as could, without losing any quality time in the cities and towns I would visit. India, being so huge, inspiring and diverse is not a place where you can do everything in three weeks. With this in mind, I decided to focus my time mainly in Rajasthan, full of old forts and palaces, teeming with colourful arts and crafts, delicious food and stunning views.
My plan was simple; I was going to travel, mainly by train, from city to city. The trains in India are such an experience in themselves, full of life, where you befriend the many people sat around you, or relax and watch the ever-changing landscape slowly pass you by. Shouts of 'Chai, Chai!' or 'Pani, Pani' repeatedly heard as men, selling snacks, tea and water will walk up and down the aisle, or run to the windows at every stop, trying to tempt you.
I began my trip in Jodhpur, the blue city, with its many small and winding alleyways asking to be explored. A buzzing market at the clock tower; where you can pick up probably the tastiest Jalebi I found during my entire trip. Sit with the famous Omelette man, and relax, watching the life at the heart of this city as they haggle, barter, buy and sell.
Next, I moved on to the Golden City - Jaisalmer, which I found to be the most magical little city in Rajasthan. This is the perfect place to buy yourself some of the stunning handcrafts you can find in India, from rugs and leather bags to beautiful letter sets and old patterned printing blocks. The fort is magical and the people were charming. I took a one-night camel trek into the Thar Desert from Jaisalmer and watched the sunset over the sand dunes and enjoyed a basic, but wonderful meal cooked over the fire.
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and the famous Pink City came next. A city with so much to explore, Palaces with their enchanting stories from their royal past, rides by elephant back and Rajasthani Thali that is up there with some of the best meals I had in India. A short visit next, to the busy and intense city of Agra to visit the incredibly stunning mausoleum - The Taj Mahal. It takes your breath away to see it in person, and to sit and watch as the sun sets behind it.
To finish my time in Rajasthan, I went to try and spot tigers in the vast, national park - Ranthambore. An absolute highlight of my trip - not an excursion for the impatient! The game drives were thrilling and intense, as you venture out into the park to witness India's impressive wildlife - the tiger being the ultimate animal to spot. Ranthambore is a brilliant place to relax too, I did morning and evening drives in the park, and spent the rest of the day relaxing by the hotel pool, drinking refreshing Limca and getting used to a slower pace! And if you do spot a tiger, which I was lucky enough to do, it feels like an honour to witness the big cat and to really see what magnificent creatures they are.
Before heading back to London, I took a short internal flight to Amritsar. A destination that has long been on my 'to do' list, solely to visit the incredible Golden Temple. I covered my head, took off my shoes and washed my feet, then spent a good part of the day awestruck and fascinated at the rituals, the people and the atmosphere within the temple. I adored my time there so much I went back and did it all again the next day!
To round off my North India trip, I took an early morning train to Haridwar, to witness the holy Ganges ceremony in the evening - the Aarti ceremony. Hundreds come, at dusk, and sit along the river, watching and praying, lighting candles and sending them down the river. It really is a beautiful and sacred ceremony. Following my time in Haridwar, and all the other amazing, inspiring and enjoyable experiences from North India, I departed home, back to the UK, full of many happy and unforgettable memories.