India - Oct/Nov 2017


Another year yet another adventure - this time India. I wouldn’t say that we’ve decided to visit India on random basis, it was almost random Wink  We knew that we want to go somewhere exotic, but safe at the same time. Yeah - India and safe, are you nuts? So not totally nuts, because if you compare India to Peru or Bolivia, that we considered at first… it seemed for us like a pretty safe solution.

We bought tickets around May 2017. One person return ticket price was around $615 and we went there in the end of October 2017. We came to New Delhi after midnight and we had to transfer to the hotel. We decided to take a taxi from the airport right to our hotel. In front of Indira Gandhi Airport there were plenty of taxi options, but somehow we figured out that going by a pre-paid taxi would be the best one in fact it turned out it was the worst one. Not only we got a very old car with no seat belts, but also our driver was going like crazy and almost killed us. Just after leaving the airport we saw two crashed cars and it seemed like the crash happened not too long ago. The driver didn’t know where our hotel was and we had to navigate him at the end of our journey, because he warned us that he will leave us in the middle of nowhere with just a bunch of stray dogs and cows (at 3 AM). We thanked God when we finally reached the hotel! Lesson number one: you always have to know where your hotel is exactly (the best option is to have it marked on Google Maps) therefore your cheating taxi driver cannot tell you to go out when you are a few kilometers away from your hotel.

During our first day we decided to visit Red Fort and Swaminarayan Akshardham. We set off early after buying Tourist Ticket Metro card for 3 days (around $5). We were extremely surprised to find out that the Red Fort was closed for visitors due to prime minister arrival at that time… This was another unpleasant surprise. So we decided to go to Swaminarayan Akshardham next. Yet another unpleasant surprise was waiting for us there. It turned out that not only you have to leave your bag and camera behind to visit it, but you also have to give up your mobile phone… this was too much for us and we decided that we’re not leaving all our belongings into some random deposit. Fail number 2 (this day!). The next on our visit list was India Gate. This we managed to see after all and we decided to see it again the next day. Just during that first day we found out that all the stories about India are true. So if you expect there to see: some crazy crowds, begging children, Indian people wanting to take a selfie with you, stray cows and dogs all that you will find for sure! The good part was that we were able to try some delicious, original Indian food in a restaurant just 100m from our hotel.

The next day we came back to see the India Gate again and we decided to walk the whole way up to the Mughal Gardens. We saw Indian Parliament on our way there. Unfortunately when we reached the gardens it turned out that they are open only on February… fail number 3! After that we knew that anything could happen in India, be prepared for the unexpected! Next on our list were Lodhi Garden. We came there and surprise, surprise… no this time they were open! We were so glad that we could see our first tomb Wink surrounded by beautiful gardens. They were full of exotic birds and squirrels (different than those in Europe, gray with three white stripes on their backs, later on we found out that they are very popular in India). Humayun's Tomb was next on our tour list. We were particularly impressed by the architecture in there. In fact it was the most impressive piece of architecture we have seen so far in India. During that day we used tuk tuk a lot. When you use metro as a main mean of communication you can use tuk tuk as a support for around 100-200Rs (round $1).

The following day was challenging for us primarily because it was the first day we were traveling by train in India and we have heard a lot of stories about that so we were pretty scared. Our train - Gatiman Express from New Delhi to Agra was departing early in the morning so we reached the station an hour earlier. We were very surprised because we found the platform very quickly and the train was already waiting for us. People on the platform were very helpful. Inside we found our seats without any problems. We bough the highest possible class, so we got meal and it was pretty comfortable. The train arrived on time!
Agra is a small city about 150 km south east from New Delhi. It looks like the time stopped here in XVIth century, when all the greatests monuments here were build (Agra Fort and Taj Mahal), after that they managed to build nothing significant, there are slums and litter everywhere. During the first day in Agra we visited Agra Fort, which is pretty spectacular and was open! For me the most impressive view from one of the fort’s terraces was on river Yamuna and visible in the distance Taj Mahal.

We started our next day pretty early - at around 8AM because we knew that Taj Mahal was ahead of us. We reached west gate at around 10AM and it wasn’t very crowded. The whole entrance procedure for foreigners lasted not longer than 20 minutes. I was able to enter with a backpack, camera and mobile phone without any problems. They didn’t check our passports. There has been thousands of memories written about Taj Mahal, so let me just say that it is as spectacular as people describe it. Inside we were approached several times by Indian people who wanted to take a picture with us. One time when we sat on a bench the whole families were approaching us to take “just one” photo Wink but it’s never one photo really Wink Next we took a tuk tuk and we went to “Baby Taj Mahal” which is Himad-ud-dauli Tomb. It’s a lot smaller than Taj Mahal and less crowded. We were surprised how cosy it was. From one side of the tomb you can see a spectacular view of Yamuna river. We can really recommend “Baby Taj Mahal” for spending some relaxing time.

It turned out that 3 days in Agra was too much. In my opinion 2 full days for sightseeing would be enough. We had to figure something out for the third day. We decided to go to Akbar’s Tomb which is on the outskirts of Agra, about 15km from the center. Architecture there didn’t surprise us - it was mainly read stone, similar to Agra Fort, however we came across many interesting animals in the garden surrounding Agbar’s Tomb. There were gazellas, peacocks, squirrels, parrots and carnivorous birds, not to mention huge beehives (we were a bit scared of those). We spent a nice afternoon there.

The whole next day we spent in transit. We took Jaipur Express from Agra Cantt to Jaipur. We landed on the railway station very early in the morning at 6AM and we were so happy to find out that our train was already delayed an hour… we waited and waited and when we finally got to the platform in turned out that it was delayed even more - 1.5 hours total. Even though we booked the highest possible class (First AC) it was nowhere near as comfortable as Gatiman Express which we took to reach Agra. First of all there were no meals - so we were starving for the half of the trip, second of all it was simply dirty (but there was soap in the toilet Wink We reached Jaipur with over 3 hours delay.

Our general impression about Jaipur is that it is a bit less wild than New Dehli and Agra, maybe even cleaner a bit. We started Jaipur sightseeing from Nahargarh Fort which is on the top of the mountain. We used one steep and very narrow street to go up - the one which was not occupied by tourists at all and we can really recommend it as being perfectly safe. From fort you can contemplate the magnificent panorama of Jaipur and surrounding mountains. It was the first time we had experienced Indian city panorama. You can compare it the most to Arabic cities panoramas, but it has differences, mainly in the colors of the buildings. Next we set off to see the main attractions of Pink City (this is how the Jaipur’s old city is called): Hawa Mahal and City Palace. I couldn’t find any information if Hawa Mahal has something in common with Taj Mahal… apparently the name of the family - Mahal is the same, but no sources that I found can confirm this. The most important part of the palace is a wall with windows. Hawa Mahal which means Palace of Winds purpose was to protect princesses from being seen from the street while they on the other hand could see everything happening below.

Our last day in north India we spent on visiting two of the most significant forts in Jaipur area. They are located around 15km from Jaipur city center therefore you can go there by taxi or tuk tuk. The first one is Amer Fort which is particularly interesting due to the elephant road that leads to it. We were so surprised to find ourselves around 50 elephants in the foot of the hill that were carrying tourists back and forth to the fort. Amer Fort interior is not very spectacular, the most spectacular is its surrounding - beautiful mountains and defence walls all around. From Amer fort you can see another fort even higher in the mountains - Jaigarth Fort. There is a steep and narrow path that leads to this other fort - so maybe it's the reason why there are so very few people up there. From Jaigarth Fort we saw the most spectacular panorama so far in India, even better than the one from yesterday. It is really worth climbing up to Jaigarth Fort to see it.

Last day in Jaipur was at the same time our last day in north India. We set off to GOA. Our flight from Jaipur through Mumbai went smoothly. When we landed in GOA (Dabolim Airport) at 18.00 the first thing that struck us was humidity. Even though the temperature was exactly the same as in Jaipur due to higher humidity it seemed much hotter. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel in Agonda Beach. This time it wasn’t a ride in a death cab, it was much safer than in New Delhi. GOA is in general much better organised and cleaner than any other part of India that we have seen so far. It’s much less horning and struggle on the streets. Since its ex Portuguese colony it’s the only place in India where there is a majority of catholics and churches are everywhere. Our beach - Agonda is 3 km wide and is very romantic and calm. There are not many people here - exactly as we expected. Our beach resort - Simrose is magnificent (very nice staff and good food). It’s time for chillout!

Agonda allowed us to fully relax after time loaded with visiting monuments and running around in north India. Besides standard things that you can find on tropical beaches this one is unique because you can find there wild cows and horses walking around. Resort owners provide food for those cows so they are willing to stay on the beach. Don’t worry, the beach is not dirty, because every morning there are people cleaning it (from cow’s poo also Wink

During our stay in Goa we took a one day trip to Old Goa and Panjim. In Old Goa we found mostly churches built by the Portuguese. We have never seen churches in tropical scenery so it was quite extraordinary! If you would like to see a beautiful Old Goa panorama you should visit a hill with Church of Our Lady of the Mount. The view from there on Old Goa and beyond is spectacular.

From any beach in Goa there are dolphin trips organised. There are a lot of dolphins in those waters so we can really recommend taking such a trip. We did it too and for the first time ever we have seen wild dolphins. Amazing!

Those 2.5 weeks were very special for us with lots of contrasts and many new experiences. We had our ups and downs but in the end we were returning to Poland with big smiles on our faces!

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