Brett and I spent two weeks in India at the end of September. It was an amazing and unforgettable trip. I’m going to highlight some of our favorite things over three posts since there are too many to squeeze into one!
Packing was really tricky for me – the advice that I was given was to cover up while out and about to not draw attention, but wear whatever I wanted within our hotels and restaurants, etc. During the day I wore loose pants and t-shirts or mid-length dresses with a pashmina covering my shoulders. At night I wore normal vacation-y dresses 🙂 It was generally pretty hot (and sweaty), so I hand-washed a few t-shirts that I wanted to wear twice.
We were really lucky and didn’t get sick at all during the trip – no “delhi belly” for us! We were pretty careful about what we ate and drank (we used bottled water to brush out teeth, avoided ice unless we were in a nice hotel, and didn’t have any salads/raw veggies) and we also took activated charcoal pills every day (a tip from a friend who grew up in Delhi). I also ate yogurt almost every day, something I swear by in the states too 😉
Day 1: Layover in Doha
We had a twelve hour layover in Doha on our way to Delhi. We landed around 7am, showered and changed in the arrivals lounge at the airport, then headed into town. We took an uber to the main souq/marketplace, but not much was open so early. It was 108 degrees so hard to be outside for too long — we ended up taking another uber to the Villagio Mall to cool down. The mall was so heavily air conditioned that I had to step outside a few times to warm up! Similar to the souq, nothing was really open yet even though it was noon. Some stores finally began to open around 1/1:30. While we waited, we watched an ice hockey game (yes, there was an ice rink int he middle of the mall) and we had chicken fingers at TGIFriday’s (::cringe::). At 2pm we headed to the Museum of Islamic Art, which was by far the highlight of the layover. When we left the museum we walked back to the Souq, which had more hustle and bustle than earlier in the day. We checked out a Falcon Souq — which had falcons for sale ranging from $500-$5000! Eventually we made our way back to the airport for dinner and drinks in the lounge. Looking back, we wished we had booked a hotel so we could have slept through the morning and used the afternoon for the museum and the souq.
Day 2: Old Delhi
We finally landed in Delhi at 2am local time. We were exhausted and so happy to finally crawl into bed. We let ourselves sleep until 9am then made our way north to Old Delhi. We hopped in a rickshaw and drove through the streets of Chandni Chowk – the oldest and busiest market in Old Delhi. It was really crowded with people and traffic (rickshaws, cars, motorcycles, bikes) but despite the hustle and bustle, people seemed pretty calm. During our ride we drove by many Hindu Temples, Muslim Mosques and even a Baptist Church! After the drive we visited the almost 400 year old Jama Masjid – one of the largest mosques in India. For a few dollars you can climb up on of the mosque’s four minarets and take in a great view of Delhi from above. After Jama Masjid we went to The Red Fort, which was the main residence of the emperors for 200 years. We spent about an hour walking around the huge property reading the history behind each of the many buildings. After our Old Delhi morning, we went back to the hotel for a nap and a shower, then went to Haus Khas Village – a very hip, young and social neighborhood with lots of bars and shops. We went to Social and sat outside overlooking a lake. We had drinks and a few really great appetizers – including vegetable “momos” (dumplings). The narrow, winding, pedestrian-only streets reminded me of Positano. Eventually we headed back to our hotel for a nightcap before bed.
Day 3: New Delhi –> Agra
We woke up early and went to Humayun’s Tomb – a really pretty red sandstone tomb from the late 1500s. We spent about thirty minutes walking around the gardens then went across the street to The Hope Project – a non-profit organization that offers tours of the slum it’s located within. A 21 year old who grew up and still lives in the slum was our guide – he was really sweet and smart and we learned a lot about the community and its history. India is filled with hidden treasures and this neighborhood was no exception – one of the most interesting stories we heard was about the poet Mizra Ghalib whose tomb is in located in the neighborhood. After the tour we met up with a friend’s sister for lunch at Basil & Thyme – good food and great company! We even got to meet her two kittens after that she rescued from the street. Back to the hotel to pack up then we hit the road for the three hour drive to Agra. We arrived in Agra in the early evening, had a drink in the hotel then went across the street for dinner. Crossing a street in India as a pedestrian is terrifying – you just sort of have to go for it, and hope that the drivers swerve around you. Eek! We ate at Pinch of Spice – a crowded and lively restaurant. We had paneer masala and chana masala and, of course, rice and butter naan.
Day 4: Agra –> Jaipur
Our guide for the Taj Mahal met us in our hotel lobby at 5:45am so we could be at the Taj for sunrise. Our guide was great – we learned a lot about its history and construction (took 20,000 people 20 years to build it and then 5 years to clean up from building it!) He also insisted on taking advantage of every photo opp — we must have 50 posed photos of us from the visit! Went spent a while walking around and experiencing the building from all different distances and views — it was crazy beautiful and super detailed up close. After the Taj, we had breakfast at our hotel and spent a bit of time relaxing at the pool. Then back in the car and back on the road for the long drive to Jaipur. Seven hours total, included a one hour stop for our driver to eat/rest and a one hour detour to visit the oldest and deepest stepwell in India. The highway we drove on was perfectly nice — but the craziest thing is that people don’t seem to use their mirrors at all! Instead, drivers honk constantly at each other to let them know when they’re changing lanes/passing/etc. I spent 15 minutes of the drive counting the number of times our driver honked the horn — 33 times! In 15 minutes! Omg. We finally arrived in Jaipur around 5pm, tired, hungry and happy to be out of the car.