So, last year Jonathan and I had the amazing privilege of travelling overseas (first time for both of us!)… and where do you suppose our FIRST EVER trip was to?? You will NEVER guess (unless of course you read the title) :) that’s right…we went to INDIA!
Now India would not have been our first choice of holiday destination, especially for our first ever overseas trip! But thanks to Corporate Traveller I won 2x SAA economy class tickets to Mumbai at their client year end function in November 2013.
Our trip started months before the departure, with planning and researching and saving, and planning and researching, and planning and researching……and saving!! :)
With all my (planning and) research, I came across some great websites with invaluable information that really helped us get ready for our trip (I’ll include some of the links at the end).
The main thing about India is the humidity that hits you as you disembark the plane! It really is something else, and something that cannot be described really…The humidity, together with the smell that becomes synonymous to anywhere in India…the country really has an odd, smelly, muggy smell.
…ok…let me get back on track… I’m just going to give you highlights of our trip (don’t want to bore you with details of every single fort or palace we saw, because we saw a LOT!)
We did the Golden Triangle tour, so that is Mumbai, Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal), we added Jaipur and Goa in as we were there for 10 days.
(in hindsight, we were really grateful to have booked our trip through an amazingly efficient tour company called Gets Holidays. The consultant we dealt with - Mithun Sharma - was fantastic!)
So, first up… Mumbai!
Mumbai is like Johannesburg but 100 times crazier…like by a million percent! Seriously! It’s ridiculous! :) We saw our lives flash before our eyes on numerous occasions! But as bad as the traffic is, they have no road rage or issues with fellow road users (and I say road “users”, because there is not only cars and motorbikes on the roads! There are animals, bicycles, pedestrians, people pushing makeshift wheelbarrow things, you name it!) And hooting… Oh my goodness, do they like to hoot (constantly), but to let others know where they are - not in anger. It was quite something to get used to.
|One of our taxi drivers in Mumbai (the taxi was an ooooold Morris Minor, loads of those around)|
|Wondering if we will get to our hotel...alive! :) We had just had a delicious dinner at Hard Rock Cafe Mumbai!|
|In Mumbai alone there are over 75 000 of these taxis|
New Delhi and Old Delhi were also great places to see. New Delhi is quite commercialised but driving into Old Delhi (it took us about 2 hours to get into Old Delhi because of the traffic due to festivals happening)…is like you’ve stepped back in time! Most of the original buildings are there…and the original electrical wiring - how everything hasn’t burnt down to the ground is a question I’m sure gets asked regularly! :)
|Old Delhi electricity cables between the buildings|
The absolute main highlight of our trip was the TAJ MAHAL! Wow! That is a phenomenal piece of architecture! The skill that it took to build that place in the year 1632 is mind-blowing! Adding the fact that it took about 20 years and about 20 000 workers to complete it…let alone the cost, which was close to £5 million (in 1640)!! We are both so grateful to have seen the Taj Mahal with our very own eyes! The queues of people to get into the palace was cray cray! And not a lot of foreigners, actually mostly locals.
|Entrance gate to the Taj Mahal - the 20 pinnacles on top symbolise the amount of years it took to build (10 on either side)|
|The breathtaking beauty that is the TAJ MAHAL!|
|Biggest highlight - seeing the Taj Mahal with our very own eyes|
Other things we did and places we saw:
Horse rickshaw ride...
|The ride was a little scary|
|We were glad that we got to the end point safely! :)|
The Palace of the Winds in Jaipur, also known as the Pink City:
|Jono and I in front of the Palace of the Winds|
That brings me to another funny thing… the fact that our skin colour is white made us like celebrities there! I’m not even joking… The amount of times I was stared at, smiled and waved at by children, gawked at, videoed, etc is too many to count! This one guy (in Mumbai) as we were trying to get onto a ferry to go to the Elephanta Caves, followed me with his phone (video recording me) as I walked past him! Creepy I tell ya! :)
Another cool thing we got to experience was elephant rides up to the Agra Fort:
|Elephant rides at Agra Fort, Agra|
|Jono and I about to set on our journey...:)|
|Our elephant "driver" made Jono put on his (very sweaty) turbin and insisted on taking a pic! LOL!|
Most of the places we went to also totally ripped foreigners off…such as the Elephanta Caves
we went to - the locals paid 10 Rupees (just under R2) for admission, while foreigners paid 250 Rupees (just under R50)!!!!
Our last place we visited was Goa! OhEmG! This place is like heaven on earth! The Arabian Sea was gorgeous and felt like a bath when you went in and we sooo enjoyed ending our holiday off there. We stayed in Varca, South Goa at a beach resort about an hours drive from the airport. There we experienced shopping “local” style…I say that because at all the other places we went to, our guides would take us to the places that were geared for foreigners and by that I mean people that have come to India with hundreds of thousands of Rupees! (which we didn’t have!) So when we got the opportunity to shop in Panaji, North Goa we had a ball. Hundreds of little stalls in the market selling sarees, shoes, toys, food, etc…
|Local market in Panaji, North Goa|
|Miramar Beach, North Goa|
We were quite sad to leave India at the end of our holiday and would definitely go back if given the chance again!
Let me end off with 7 things we would recommend:
- always drink bottled water and carry with you all the time (you will dehydrate quickly)
- stay at hotels that are 4* or higher
- use a reputable tour company (be careful of scams)
- never eat food from the vendors on the street
- don’t be caught out by shop owners trying to sell stuff at very inflated prices - if you’re a foreigner (ie white) they will take huge chances
- visit during October and February - this is their “winter” months (March to September is monsoon season)
- take enough money for daily expenses - things like tips (you have to pay EVERYONE for whatever they do and it ranges from 100 - 1 000 Rupees depending on the service provided), also monument entrances, waters, lunch, taxi etc (these are not always included in the tour costs) I would guesstimate to take about R200-R250 per person per day extra in Rupees.
If you’re thinking of going or already planning on going - you will not be disappointed! Just keep an open mind and take it for what it is!
Well, that brings me to the end of my first ever blog post! Thanks for reading…
Ciao for now,
Hotels we stayed at:
Mumbai - ITC Grand Central
New Delhi - Piccadily Hotel New Delhi
Agra - Wyndham Grand Agra
Jaipur - Holiday Inn Jaipur City Centre
Airlines we used:
Links to websites I found very useful:Annoyances and Inconveniences