India travel is not for the fainthearted or shy amongst us. India travel will not take you gently by the hand – not by any stretch of the imagination. We love to travel and have ventured to many places.
This throwback post to my favourite India travel destinations has happened as a result of me trying to get organised. Over the last few weeks I have been trying to organise my photos. I have been getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated at my sub-par organisational and filing skills, including finding I have photos stored in at least three digital filing spaces – as well as icloud. WTF?! Anyway, the upside of this process is I have also been rediscovering photos which I had thought had been lost a long time ago.
In one of my stockpiles I found photos from my trip to India in 2007. As soon as I started going through the photos I was back in India in a very vivid way. So even though these photos and memories are nearly ten years old they connect so much to the travel choices and journeys I am now making. India travel is such a broad topic though, I am really only focusing on the tour we did with Intrepid – and how incredible it was.
India was the first place I had been to which was ‘out of the box’. Don’t get me wrong I had travelled before but it was mostly in well supported ways (AFS to Greece, UNESCO Fellowship to Japan, work trips to Europe and Hawaii) or with friends and family to Australia. India travel is not comparable in any way to those other destinations. It is so much more intense on every level.
The trip to India was a first in so many ways: travelling with a tour company and a group of strangers, being exposed to such wealth and poverty, seeing so much chaos but also finding moments of peace, calm and solitude.
My Aunt initiated the idea, so a group of us planned to go. As it was a new part of the world for us we decided to do an Intrepid Tour – which was the perfect choice for our adventure for me, my Dad, my Aunt, cousin and his partner. Perfect. Except then we realised that we had booked the same tour on different dates with one day overlapping in Delhi – even though we had agreed the dates beforehand. This lack of an eye for detail may be a family trait – but that would depend on who you ask. So it ended up that Dad and I were on the tour that ended the day theirs started. This trip to India changed the way I looked at and thought about the world.
To be honest I found India overwhelming from the moment we got off the plane in Delhi to when we got back on to go home. It overwhelmed me in every way – the smells, the colours, the heat, the sheer number of people, the poverty, the crowds – did I mention the crowds of people? And the men who just stared and stared. I had never experienced anything so intense in so many ways before. It took some adjusting. Being part of a tour group was also a new experience. It was positive in many ways but I found it hard mixing and engaging with a group of strangers day in day out. I suspect I would probably be a bit more relaxed about it now, but I did find it tough then.
But, I loved it. All the things that overwhelmed me also drew me in to the country. Yes, I did spend the last few days with terrible food related issues. Yes, I did have the obligatory desperate run to find toilet facilities. But, it was fabulous.
I hadn’t realised how beautiful and charming India was. We started in Delhi and did a loop through some key spots in Northern India over 10 days including Varanasi, Agra and Orchha. It was beautiful and eye opening.
I had heard about and seen loads of images of the Taj Mahal – which was evening more stunning in real life. I hadn’t realised how much detail there was on the actual building. The Red Fort is Agra was my favourite though, gorgeous and with the added benefit of a great views of the Taj – which is deliberate of course and a lovely depiction of the love story at the heart of the Taj.
Doing the tour through Intrepid gave me the experience and confidence to get stuck in in other countries I have travelled in – using local public transport, eating food like the locals, exploring and walking around on my own – and now with my husband Andy. It was well worth investing the energy, money and time to do the tour. We don’t really do big tours through companies these days, but we often do walking or food tours (or a combination – which is even better) once we land in a new city. They can be well worth the investment – but more on that in a later post.
Have you been to India? How was your experience? Southern India – Goa and Kerala – are on our list to visit – now I just have to figure out when – have you been? Any recommendations?