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Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Incredible India

Written by Russ and Emily Firlik
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Our journey was memorable in many ways, initially for the 28 hour flight from Portland to Boston to London to Delhi, through 14 time zones, and those delightful economy seats.

 

No jet lag for us. Up at 7:00 for breakfast and a leisure ride in a tuk tuk to have a look around this upscale neighborhood of banking, consulates and embassies in Delhi. Delhi is everything you imagine: chaotic, thousands of people on motor bikes, and as colorful and festive as can be. Yesterday was the festival called Diwali, but it continued today in all its brilliance and illumination. The homes, apartments and shops were decorated with colorful lights, reminiscent of Western societies during the Christmas season. The aroma of incense and marigolds, the sights and sounds of firecrackers last into the night. They tell us “that India has more festival days than days in the year.”

 

For four days, six hours each day, we hired our kind and knowledgeable guide, Darsh, to provide us with an orientation around India’s capital, which comprised Old Delhi and New Delhi, the former consisting of eight different cities built by a succession of empires. New Delhi is the imperial city created by the British and built to the south of the old city during the 1920s.

 

We observed the magnificent Red Fort, Raj Ghat (the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi), the imposing arch of the India Gate, the Diplomatic Enclave, Government Buildings and President’s House. We lingered a long time at the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, and the mighty Qutub Minar complex with its soaring tower. Normally in cities new to us we take the On-and Off bus, but we thought a local guide could give us more history and culture, and provide us with more time to carefully observe the fascinating city. We certainly could have spent forty days in Delhi and only scratched the surface of the bustling and hectic city.

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Darsh dropped us at the Delhi train station to catch the 6:30AM train to Jaipur. The station was massive, with hundreds of people milling about. So many people were hoping for a handout or food. The five hour train ride was a joy to experience, notwithstanding the grimy shadowy windows, as the interior of India’s landscape was replete with forests of vast vegetation, and agricultural fields as we made it to the city of Jaipur.

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At first sight, Jaipur is set against the rugged Aravalli Hills, and was filled with exquisite palaces, many of them made of pink sandstone, hence the moniker of “the pink city.”

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For the next two days, we again trusted the hotel concierge to suggest a guide, named Akash, to enlighten us about the city of Jaipur. We lingered at the City Palace complex, which houses a museum containing rare illustrated manuscripts, paintings, and an armory. We continued with our guide to observe and learn about the history of the Jantar Mantar observatory and the magnificent Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), with its elaborately carved façade. A lengthy stay in and around and the Red Fort, an UNESCO World Heritage site. I wish we had more time in this beautiful city.

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We enjoyed a tour of the Amber Fort with its lavish interiors and panoramic views of Jaipur. Our guide was an Indian-American student home to visit his ill parents. He was outstanding as a person and a knowledgeable guide for us newbies to India.

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I’m thinking, All my bad dreams I had about India have not come true.

 

We were escorted by Akash to the bus station for our trip to Agra. He told us to make sure to stop at Fatehpur Sikri, a small city just west of Agra. He told us that Fatehpur Sikri was the Mughal Empire’s capital from 1571 to 1585. We stopped in Sikri, taxis abounded, and we spent a couple of hours being overwhelmed by this UNESCO World Heritage Site complex of buildings, monuments, temples, and royal palaces, all in uniform architectural form. The highlight was the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. We easily adopted a taxi for the 35 kms ride to Agra and our hotel.

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Last modified on Thursday, 01 July 2021
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