Where to start… having been quite nervous about visiting India in the first place, it’s fair to say that I definitely wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience. People had said to me previously that India is an assault on all five senses, and that couldn’t be more accurate: extreme heat, noise, smells, sights and people grabbing you for ‘one photo please’. And yes… people really do just ‘let it all go’ in the streets.
Having survived a little anxiety on the flights from London to Delhi, and the two curries we were served, we arrived into Indira Gandhi International Airport at around 4pm. We were met by our transfer driver and headed out into the 40+°C heat of India, which in all honesty, wasn’t that bad. The journey from the airport to our first hotel was… interesting. The lack of road rules in India is quite shocking and when you’re contending with cars, mopeds, tuk-tuks, lorries, cyclists, pedestrians, cows, and not to mention those who just decide they’re going to drive in the opposite direction to everyone else, it’s a hair-raising experience – and parents look away now… there are no seat belts.
We checked in to our hotel which was pretty bleak and headed out in search of an ATM and water. 5 minutes later we returned to the safety of the hotel empty handed after being accosted by numerous men trying to direct us places/offer us rides etc. So we succumbed and ordered some curry on room service and went to bed.
After no sleep whatsoever due to constant car horns, dogs barking, people shouting, phones ringing and our next-level-noisy air con, we ventured out again and successfully found an ATM. The hotel arranged a driver to take us around Delhi for the day, all for only 1500 rupees (£15). Our driver spoke barely any English so it was a litte tricky arranging where he’d meet us and how long we’d be, but we visited a number of monuments including the India Flag, Red Fort, Lotus Temple, a fabric market, Qutub Minar, and India Gate. Qutub Minar was our favourite, with beautiful ruins to wander through. We also had our first instance of being asked for photos with Indian families here which was pretty entertaining. The heat however, got too much for us so we retreated back to our hotel for a rest.
That evening we met our tour group for the first time – 16 people mainly from the UK, but also Australia, Germany, Canada and Mexico. After our meeting with our guide we all went to a restaurant and I had a vegetable korma (Amen).
The next morning we left our hotel at 5am to catch the Shatabdi Express train from Delhi to Agra. Thankfully we had the equivalent of first class so had reserved seats, air con and breakfast (albeit a rather questionable grey omelette), so there was no hanging off the side of the train or riding on the roof for us this time. We spent the entire journey being photographed by the gentleman sitting next to us, tapping us on the legs to capture the perfect selfie with the white people. He turned out to be a soldier in the army and thanked us for the photos, not that we really had a choice.
Arriving in Agra, we made our way to our next hotel which was much much nicer than the first. A local guide took us around the Agra Fort and Baby Taj before taking us to the beautiful Taj Mahal in the evening for sunset. Even though it was cooler in the evening, the incoming thunder storms meant the temperature had soared and the heat was almost unbearable. We managed an hour or so wandering the grounds, popped inside to see the tomb of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, and snapped all the photos we wanted to before leaving for some cold water.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped off at a rooftop restaurant for dinner and we were able to take a look inside the tiny kitchen to see the men cooking with a variety of different ingredients and spices. Our guide assured us that it was a ‘good’ kitchen, though I’m not sure it’d stand much of a chance against British food hygiene standards. I opted for tomatoes stuffed with paneer (cheese) in a mild curry sauce with garlic naan.
Then it was back to the hotel ahead of a 5 hour coach journey to Jaipur the next day.
See ya later, Sophie x