My first impressions of India as I ventured out on my first day there were of noisy streets filled with color and smells that I had not experienced before. With limited time in New Delhi I had to soak in as much as I could before moving onto Mumbai. That first morning I wandered the streets taking in as much as I could. Street vendors were selling fabrics and adornments in beautiful bright colors, calling excitedly to me to encourage purchasing, but having experienced street vendors in other parts of the world I knew to not engage them in haggling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy haggling but when pressed for time it can become very involved and before you know it you lose track of time.
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Day 3
After wandering for about an hour I found myself outside a little vegetarian restaurant called Café Turtle, and after being jostled and prodded by the hundreds of other pedestrians intent upon getting where they were going, I was ready for a chance to sit down and refresh myself before heading back. As the temperature outside was quite hot I decided to try the cafe’s own cold coffee with a scoop of ice cream while I waited for the Fattoush to be brought out to me. Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad that consists of vegetables and herbs and I have to say it was well worth waiting for. Yummy!
The next day I travelled to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. After all, no trip to India would be complete without seeing the beautiful mausoleum that is one of India’s most famous landmarks. Having read up about rules of entry I decided to carry only my wallet and camera to avoid being stopped for a bag search. Upon arriving I have to say that even though I knew it was big I had no idea just how large the main building was until I stood near it. There was an atmosphere of awe and I swear its magnificence was almost overwhelming. India is proud of its white marble monument and quite rightly so. Wandering through, taking photos as I went, I felt insignificant compared to its beauty and grandeur. My only wish is that the tour guide had not been in such a rush to move us all along as I would have liked to have just stood in the stillness for awhile.
The gardens, as is the museum itself, are immaculate and are a tribute to the hardworking staff that cares for the Taj Mahal. If I were to guess I would say that I took at least 100 photos of the buildings from as many angles as I could manage. The pictures you see in travel guides and online are beautiful but until you stand on the very grounds you cannot truly appreciate its beauty. My advice to anyone considering a trip to India is to ensure that the Taj Mahal is on the list of must-see places. Oh, and take your time seeing as much as you can.
Next stop was the coastal city of Mumbai. Much like New Delhi it too is a bustling city full of color, but after seeing what the streets of New Delhi were like I wasn’t too keen to try to negotiate my way through the crowds of people in Mumbai. I opted to take an organized tour because I wanted to see as much as I could in one day so I could gauge whether there was something I wanted to see more of the next day. The tour was 10 hours long, which believe me, is a l-o-n-g day, but well worth it. We started off by seeing the Elephanta Caves and then back to the city. On our drive around the city we saw the Gateway of India which is right on the waterfront, then we went on to the Gandhi Museum, which was full of great photographs, relics, art pieces and so much more. The Gandhi Museum is another ‘must-see’ place to put on your India to do list. The tour included the Hanging Gardens and I have to say of all the gardens I have had the pleasure of seeing this is right up near the top of the list for the most beautiful. I ended up spending the following morning enjoying seeing more of the Hanging Gardens than the tour allowed time for, grabbed a quick bite of lunch and then spent the afternoon back at the Prince of Wales Museum which was also one of the stops on the tour.
Though my stay in India was short and seemed like a whirlwind event it was one of the most memorable, so much so that I feel that I will return there one day to explore further. Oh, and those sacred cows? Yes, we saw some when we were on the tour and yes, they do just wander the streets!