The idea for India started 7 months ago at the end of my Greek summer. I wanted something to break the 5 months of snow and cold that would follow – it was completely by accident that we stumbled across India.
The flights were cheap – 400euro on CheapOnAir and it was too good to pass up. I had never been to India but it brought up eat, pray, love vibes and I was desperate to experience what everyone says is a life changing trip.
I booked a total of 20 days arriving and leaving from Mumbai and planned to visit Rajasthan, Varanasi, the Taj Mahal, and finish on the beaches of Goa. Here’s my recollection the places I went, stayed, ate and the feelings I felt.
Wednesday 11 January 2017 was a cold snowing morning in Thessaloniki Greece and my teeth chattered as we jumped into the car over crunching snow. We drove the icy motorway road not topping more than 70km per hour. It was early morning, pitch black and I felt sleepy and unaware that today was the day we would arrive in India. After a short stopover in Munich, we started the 8-hour flight to Bombay. Slowly the excitement for the unexpected started to grow. Even though we would arrive during the night and only spend one night in Bombay before flying to Jaipur, I was too enthusiastic to sleep and spent the whole 8 hours watching movies and playing games.
Stepping off the plane the first thing I noticed was the heat – the warm hot air in the gangway from the plane to the terminal confirmed to me “yes Millie you are finally now in India, let the adventure begin…”
Hotel Moon Light Palace roof
Hotel Moon Light Palace
I had done so much research about India leading up to this trip, I had 6 months or so to prepare and this huge country, completely unknown to me was a little frightening and overwhelming. I had so many recommendations from friends on places to go I ended up picking Jaipur, Agra to see the Taj, Varanasi and Goa as our spots to visit.
I used websites like tripadvisor and booking.com and hostelbookers to find all our accommodation, and tried to pick a few days in each place with a longer stay at the coastal city of Goa before our return to Greece.
The first night in Mumbai we stayed close to the airport (a 120Rp tuktuk away to be exact) and then made the trip back to the airport the next afternoon. The hotel was super cheap and nothing but a room with a bed, air con and a shower; not something to write home about. We woke that afternoon slightly confused about which time zone we were in. After a quick cold shower we checked out and ventured out to the street to find a tuktuk. The moment I stepped into the street I felt like I was in a completely different world surrounded by colors and smells.
It was a sensory overload – there were people everywhere; dogs eating rubbish outside the door of the hotel, a man to my left selling fresh vegetables including what looked like candy floss pink carrots, the strong smell of food being fried came from a vendor across the street (he was making small round balls of something that looked ever so tasty), and a line of girls who had just finished school walked past us (hair all plaited the extract same way in their perfect crisp uniforms). The street and all the shops were coated in a thick red dust. Shocked with our heads spinning we made our way to the airport and boarded our flight to Jaipur….
Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan state, home to what is known as the pink city and found in the north of India. The temperature was mild, around 25 degrees, appropriate for long pants and singlet’s with one jumper or jacket to keep you warm at night. We arrived around the time of the kite flying festival, so every night from our hotel moon light palace we witnessed the houses dotted with people of all ages flying kites against the pink hued sky.
We took a personal guide in Jaipur called Moin. We didn’t have many days there and we wanted to see as much of the city as possible. This ended up being a great decision – he knew a lot of history about India so we learned a lot. He also took us to local restaurants and a great silver jewellery shop.
My favorite day was the day we spent at the Amber fort; forts are India’s equivalent to castles and they are usually huge established areas where the royal family used to reside. The detail, beauty, extravagance and size of Amber Fort was breath taking. The roads around the fort are so large you can ride an elephant around them (not something I wanted to do as I worried for the well being of these animals spending their life out of their natural habitat serving a single purpose).
When visiting forts or any place in India there are going to be people. As a sight seeing tourist in India you are never alone, tourists, beggars, food vendors and people trying to sell things, like small trinkets, taxi and tuktuk rides, every person is trying to make money. India is like this, a constant bustling of people.
Below are the places we visited in Jaipur:
- City palace
Huge beautiful palace with lots of stunning places to take photos and observe the ornate decor of this majestic building
- Amber fort
- Hawa Mahal
We didn’t venture inside as our guide told us there wasn’t much to see here but the architecture was stunning and it’s a beautiful pinky color
- Jal Mahal
Floating palace in the middle of a lake, you are not allowed to enter but the point around where you can observe the palace is full of people selling food and flowers and camel rides
- Monkey temple
Yes, these places are full of monkeys. You can buy a packet of peanuts of 10Rp small or 20Rp large to take as you walk up the old path to the top of the temple while feeding the monkeys and the odd goat as you go. At the top of the temple you have a sprawling view of the city and you can also make an offering to the monkey god in exchange for a red stamp on the forehead and a tie dye red string bracelet wrapped around your wrist for good karma
- Albert hall museum
Here they have everything from ancient instruments, and relics from all over the world including Europe
- Lakshmi Narayan Mandir Temple
This temple is made completely out of pure white marble and it’s absolutely stunning to see. You must remove your shoes before entering inside. I was taken in the ornate work on every part of the building.
Another great vantage point of the city, a spiral staircase leads you up to a beautiful 360-degree view of the city.
We bought a general pass for 1000RP which gave us access to all of the places mentioned above, as our driver advised us we saved something like 400Rp. The other places like the Isarlate and Monkey temple you can enter for free.
To be continued…
Local restaurant Jaipur
Kite festival anitcs at our hotel
Goat in jumper