The usual Minnesota signs of the holiday season are not present in the cities I am visiting. There are no carols on the radio, decorated store windows, or Christmas lights. There is also no winter weather. Seeking familiar reminders of this season, Facebook delivered by filling my newsfeed with year in review videos and links to Top 10 lists. So, from the 80 degree heat of Mumbai, India, I am feeling the holiday spirit with a Top 10 list of my own creation:
Top 7 Reasons to Travel in India
7. Incredible history – The history of India dates back to BC times and the Paleolithic era. For travelers, and even non-history aficionados like me, this past stretching into ancient times leaves a modern legacy of stunning stories, monuments, sites, and learning.
6. Billions of people – 1.2 billion people live in India, 950 million more citizens than in the U.S.. India is the second largest country in the world. I imagine customs, language, and culture from a country this populated will continue to spread around the globe, so why not experience India first hand.
5. Tours not necessary – Like visiting China, heavily touristed cities in India offer plenty of impressive sites for easy exploration by foot and public transit. The need to book a day tour to see the local sites is not a part of the tourist experience in India.
4. Low cost – My budget is $60 USD per day. For China, this amount was about right. Vietnam was slightly less money and Cambodia was closer to $40 USD per day, not counting splurges on fancier accommodations at the beach and in the jungle. In comparison, India is the cheapest country I have visited. I work hard to spend $20 USD a day here.
3. Auto rickshaws – What a fun way to get around! These open-air, ever-present, cheap forms of transportation make moving in a city easy. On three wheels, they are safer than the xe-om motorcycle taxis of Vietnam too.
2. Indian food – Curries, breads, and fried items all amazingly spiced and eaten with my fingers are delicious. Slowly I am learning about and tasting the various specialities from different regions. The mostly vegetarian diet is great too.
1. Life everywhere – It is hard to imagine another place where daily life includes so many colors, noises, animals, competing activities, and people. I no longer look at a place, process, or person and think, “How would this be in the U.S?” If I did, I would go crazy. Being in India is as different as can be and yet people are people and they are good to me and others. The chance to live these differences is awesome.
I took the train on my own from Ajmer (near Pushkar) to Udaipur. Obtaining cash continues to be an exciting adventure. When I arrived in Udaipur a friendly local in my hostel heard me asking for ATMs with rupees and offered to take me around the city on his scooter in search of money. We did not find cash but, a few days later, with the help of another friend, I did get money. 5,000 rupees in 100 rupee bills is quite a roll of cash!
I had the best 30km morning bike tour through the Udaipur countryside with Art of Bicycles. We passed lakes, biked up hilly terrain, and saw rural villages.
Udaipur is known as a romantic city because of the many lakes and scenic view points.
The furthest lake we visited on the bike journey had beautiful gazebos and is a popular picnic destination.
Street art, a roadside shrine, and views of the city. Udaipur, especially in the older parts of town, is heavily touristed. It is known as the White City because most buildings are white. In the state of Rajasthan, there is also Jaipur, the Pink City, and Jodphur, the Blue City.
I met Charlie from the U.K. in the hostel. He and I enjoyed board games one evening and toured the city along with Pierre from Belgium.
The lakes reminded me of home. Many restaurants and hotels are built with views of the water. Signs advertising roof top views were common.
Charlie and I toured the City Palace. Constructed during 400 years as each ruler made additions during his reign. This palace on a hill offers stunning views of Lake Pichola and the city.
The palace museum includes a silver baby crib. Not pictured is the Crystal Gallery, the largest private collection of crystal in the world. The collection belonged to a maharajah who died before the shipping crates of his custom made furniture, dinning pieces, and art arrived. Photos were not permitted in the Crystal Gallery.
From Udaipur I traveled to Delhi for a visit with Kory! Kory is a friend from Minneapolis and a former colleague from the Carlson School. She visited India for work. I purchased a waitlisted ticket to travel to Delhi. 4 hours prior to departure, when the final charts of train passengers are prepared, I received text message confirmation that I would have a berth on the train.
I traveled in 1AC class on this overnight train. This train class includes private cabins with 2 or 4 berths, reading lamps, outlets, sheets and blankets. The train journey was 18 hours including a 4 hour delay – a normal occurrence.
Kory stayed in the hotel hosting her work conference. It was a posh locale as evidence by the Rolls Royce parked in the hotel driveway. I was excited to see this car up close.
Kory and I enjoyed a fantastic long walk in Delhi. We wandered the streets of Old Delhi, including the stationary and card bazaars.
Kory and I were resting on a bench in the Red Fort complex when we were ‘attacked’ by fellow tourists who eagerly took our photo without asking. These women posed next to us for snaps.
Construction on Delhi’s Red Fort began in 1638. These facilities housed Mughal emperors until the mid-1800s. When the Mughul reign ended, the British plundered the complex’s riches. When India gained independence from Britain on the 15th of August, 1947, the Indian flag was raised above the Red Fort’s Lahore Gate.