Sunday, March 17, 2013

INDIA - A Trip of a Lifetime

We have been home a couple weeks now from our trip to India and we are still talking about the incredible time we had.  India is an amazing place - a place of sharp contrasts, and so different from America.  With a population of 1.2 billion, tolerance is key, and it seems that anything goes.  One of the first things our guide told us is that there are more mobile phones in India than toilets.  Of course, I've read many articles on the subject of U.S. companies outsourcing IT jobs to India but I was impressed that they had more mobile phones than toilets!  Well, we also learned that about 70 - 80% of the population reside in villages, and that there are no toilets in the villages.  So it isn't that there are so many cell phones, there are so few toilets!  Enough on that topic other than to say that it was an eye-opener witnessing men, women and children doing their "business" just off the roadsides.

One of the things I most loved was the charm of Indian children.  They loved us as much as we loved them.  Driving through the villages we were warmed by the sight of children of all ages running up to the bus and waving at us - ALL of the children!

Prior to the trip I was most looking forward to learning about the food.  One big problem, though, is the issue of sanitation.  We were not able to eat or drink any fresh fruit or vegetables, despite the fact that we stayed in very nice accommodations and ate at better restaurants.   That was a huge disappointment for me since my everyday diet consists of lots of fresh vegetables, salads and fruit.  Even with that caveat, everyone on the tour (25 of us) got "Delhi Belly,"  known in other parts of the world as "Montezuma's Revenge" and the like.   As a result of this restriction, I wasn't able to learn much about Indian foods.

I could go on and on about the trip but you'd probably enjoy a few photos instead.  To enlarge a photo, just click on it.  Here you go!

In the background is the 16th-century Tomb of Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor whose resting place is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This is Qutab Minar, a monument built by King Qutubuddin Aiback after defeating the last Hindu Kingdom in 1199.  The red stone tower is the highest in India at 239 feet.
Market vendor selling a selection of dates.
Jama Masjid was completed in 1656 as the last monument commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal.
 The structure on the right in the distance is India Gate, a 137-feet high arch that stands over an eternal flame to honor the approximately 90,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting alongside the British during World War I and the Afghan wars.
School girls - they loved having their photos taken!
 Nearly all of our meals were served buffet-style.  Here is a nice dessert buffet.  Look out for the fresh fruit though!!!
This is the upstairs patio of the Taj Jai Mahal Palace, our hotel in Jaipur.  The 267-year-old palace was the former home of maharajahs and the prime minister of Jaipur.  It was lovely!
 A snake charmer and his cobra snake.  It is expected that tourists pay to take photos.
 Entrance to the Taj Jai Mahal Palace hotel.  This gentleman plays the flute(?) to welcome guests.  At each place that we stayed, we were greeted with music, a dot on our foreheads, a necklace - usually made of marigolds, and fresh fruit juice.
 The town of Sanganer is known for its distinctive blue pottery.  We toured a local shop.
 Looking into a kiln of the Sanganer pottery shop.
 In Sanganer we also visited a shop that hand-printed textiles using these and many more block stamps.
 We rode elephants up the hillside to Amber Fort outside of Jaipur.  Considered to be the pinnacle of Rajput architecture, the citadel includes a fresco-covered portal, an impressive room of mirrors, walls of jewel-encrusted marble, and royal apartments with fabulous panoramic views of the surrounding valleys.
 A village woman.
We had lunch outside the City Palace in Jaipur.  Entertainment was this boy who danced to his father's music, and the father who showed us how to wrap a turban.
 During free time, a group of us went to a "Women's Craft Cooperative."  We saw women sewing and making crafts, but it was only men who sold the goods and managed the "cooperative."   Hmmmm....
 In Ranthambore National Park we saw tigers and other "critters" in the wild.  Some of us hiked up the mountainside to ruins of old fortifications and the thousand-year-old Ranghambore Palace.  The temple at the top is a sacred site for pilgrimages.  When we visited the temple we received a necklace of marigolds.  These were immediately confiscated by the monkeys who ate them.
 A young street vendor selling marigolds and other flowers.
 Shown are cow pies which have been combined with straw, shaped into disks, and set out to dry.  They are then used for heating and cooking.  This was a very common sight.
 At the Dera Village Retreat we went on a camel safari through the surrounding villages, were entertained by traditional Indian dance and music, and got henna designs.  They lasted for about a week but were gone by the time we got home.
 Dera Village -  a blind woman and two children.
 Beautiful, colorful saris!
 We visited children at a roadside school.  They were so cute and loved getting their photos taken - as did the teachers!  In one classroom the teacher had called in sick.  In that instance, the best student in the class teaches the class.  We were amazed at how obedient and well behaved the children were in that class.  Imagine how that would go over in an American school!!
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, the magnificent tomb of white marble built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved (third) wife Mumtaz, who died in childbirth with their 14th child.  She had asked her husband to build a monument symbolizing their undying love for each other.  Some 20,000 laborers and artisans from around the world spent 17 years constructing the Taj Mahal which was begun in 1632.  It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I hope you have enjoyed this little travelogue.


  1. What a wonderful trip -- can't wait to hear about it!

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