Trip to India
Because my son visited Nepal for a month, we decided that I would travel to Delhi where we would meet an have a 12 days visit to a small part of India. I think I have been to India 5 times and I wanted to see part that I did not see before so this was the whole trip:
Obviously we started in India, I arrived around 6 am and after the obvious visit to ATM and Airtel I started to look for an Uber. With no local data I needed to pay attention to my data but booking a ride was ok but finding the care took a little while, I discovered that Uber cars are waiting at Ola parking, leaving the airport to the right and than cross the street.
I arrived at Defence Colony where I met up with Ravi and Dorothea where I had staid before and it was good to reunite after my first visit in 2006. I took a rest and walked around Defence Colony and practised my streetcrossings and saw some parts where people were preparing the Holi festivities. Later that day I went back to the Airport to get connected with my son and together we went back to Defence colony.
The next day we celebrated Holi with the usual preparations, white clothes, a shot of Wodka and company. We did not dive in big crowds but enjoyed the festivities around the house:
Later that day the trip to Agra started as planned, after my visit in 2006 I think being in Delhi and you have time visit the Taj Mahal (in short: finished in 1643, tumb for Mumtaz Mahal) this time we decided to add Jaipur to the trip as well.
The driver arrived at 3 and we were cleaned from Holi paints more or less, the car was very comfortable and the driver, Justvinder, seemed to be a nice guy. Holi is a great day to travel, there were not many cars on the road just a few drunk motorbike riders.
When we arrived at Agra, Jusvinder stopped and got a guide from his company in the car who started to bargain about visiting the Taj which we did not appreciated as I already book a Guruwalk guy for the tour. The usual "no problem, Ji" and we checked in to the hotel, after checking in the Guide wanted us to show Agra and promised us beer. So we drove off again and did only visit a tourist shop where we indeed got a beer and looked at some handicrafts and other things you can expect in such places but at least not thing we wanted to see so with the beer and without buying anything, we ditched the guide and asked Jusvinder to bring us back to the hotel and never invite somebody else in the car again.
The hotel we stayed in is called Hotel Taj Resorts and it had a nice rooftop restaurant and is actually close to the Taj Mahal but that are the only plus points, at least we only stayed there one night.
The next day I ordered a tour from Guruwalks, an app that I used before in Zambia and Kenya, and I like it. The first bookings I did on my own and now we were together but the price of a tip times two seems to be a little expensive as well. While the other guides were kind of amateurs (in Lusaka and Nairobi) this one was a pro and than you actually wonder what the difference is among all those tour offers. Mohammed helped us to enter the Taj and get through security and explained part of what was going on around the Taj, very efficient and useful. The big difference with 2006 was that the surrouding areas around the Taj are autofree more or less and while I remember the chaos back then, this time entering the Taj was very easy, to be honest you do not need a guide anymore.
Back to the hotel and Jusvinder and on the road to Jaipur, but before going to Jaipur we had lunch on the road and stopped at Fatehpur Sikri (in short: supposed to be the Capital of the Mughal empire in 1571) but because of the lack of water it was never finished and moved to Agra. Inside it also hosts Tomb of Salim Chishti which we visited as well, the story is that you can make wishes if you leave something behind that you bought outside or leave some rupees, we did not wish anything.
Justvinder already called another guide who was waiting for us when we arrived and I enjoyed his company as I did not know anything about this place before and he was one of the best English speaking guides we had along the trip. Obviously he brought us to a shop as well where I bought a very unique handmade candle that you see in every tourist shop.
Later we arrived in Jaipur, it was already dark and the navigation of Jusvinder took an interesting route where the roads got smaller and smaller but around 8 pm we arrived at Hotel Bissau Palace, the room is great and spacious, the food was not so good. The next day it was time for the fort's around Jaipur:
After the two days we visited at least most of them, we started with the Amber Palace and before we arrived Jusvinder already called a friend of a friend so another guide entered the car. The 3 forts we visited:
Amer fort (around 1592)
Jaighar fort (around 1726 build to protect Amer fort)
Nahargarh fort (around 1734)
Also the Jal Mahal (1699) and Hawa Mahal (1799) needs to be mentioned and shown:
After finishing the fort's Jusvinder took us to a good restaurant and after lunch to a Elephant zoo where we were invited to feed, paint and ride an elephant for a real good price special for us for 130 dollars per person. We declined and made Jusvinder drive us back to the hotel just to drop him and get to walk around Jaipur ourselves without forced visits, so we visited the Pink City from our hotel and enjoyed walking again:
Upper right is the Hawa Mahal and we walked all the way to Little Italy the best Pizza place of Jaipur and after that to Starbucks (sorry) and back to the hotel 18.199 steps in one day.
Next day (Saturday) we actually did the Nahgarfort had a last lunch in Jaipur and on the road to Delhi and returned safely in Defence Colony again where we prepared for the trainride to Benares/Varanashi on Sunday night. We did it by visiting Humayun's Tumb (1558 and inspiration for Taj Mahal) and a neighbouring park, a very nice place to hang out at Nizamuddin with the Fabcafe by the Lake. At the park they showed a lot of bulletin boards where they showed the before and after and remembering my last visit it actually improved how Delhi takes care of these places. Later that day we went to a Sketcher shop and Domino's for obvious reasons.
The night train to Varanasi was a great experience, getting a ticket is still not easy for foreigners but with some help we got two upperbeds along the corridor, it was a 10 hour ride and we actually slept. We arrived at 6 in Varanasi and already planned to walk to the Ganges, have breakfast and meet arount 9.30 with our guide and we did according to plan, it was a long walk but in the morning it was still quiet and easy to go by, at the Ganges it was already crowded:
At 8 we had a great breakfast at Aadha-Aadha Café with an Indian-French couple running this place, a very pleasant surprise. After breakfast we met up with Badal and he showed us Varanasi places not discovered by tourist yet, Badal is a great guy and he is also a Guruwalker and his tour is called Hidden secrets of Varanasi: Vibrant tradition and this indeed what it was.
Later we checked in our Hotel which was called Dwivedi Hotels Palace On Steps, but to be honest next time I will take another one. We had a balcony at the Ganges site but the room looked as if it was never finished. We did lunch at a Dosa place because whenever I get the change to eat Dosa I will eat it. Later we walked up and down the Ganges and were watching several cremations which happen in public and are impressive to watch. Later that day we had dinner at a place where Hindu ceremonies took place and we slowly walked back to the hotel with a absolute all time record 26.840 steps in one day.
The next day we visited a Boedist temple for a change and met up with Badal again for a tea ceremony and a boattour on the Ganges.