Saturday, 25 October 2014

Agra - City of the Taj

No visit to India would be complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal, so on our way out of Rajasthan, Angela and I travelled with our driver Bubloo to Agra, the host city of the world's most famous mausoleum. The Taj Mahal may be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, but Agra itself is a dirty rundown dump of a city, even by already very low Indian standards. As we drove in and searched for our hotel, we passed streets piled with so much rubble and trash it felt like the aftermath of a war. We tried to find some character or charm during our navigations of the city, but every single street seemed just as grimy and drab as the next, all of them completely lacking in the colour and energy that permeates much of India.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Pushkar - City of Camels: Part 2

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Later that evening, we rode some camels out into the desert.

Pushkar - City of Camels: Part 1

Angela and I were almost finished with Rajasthan, but we had one final destination left to see in this ancient realm of royalty and dust. Centred around a holy lake said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower in the middle of the desert, Pushkar is a pilgrimage town that draws a colourful melange of characters: bearded babas and bathers, Hindu devotees, tourists and tribal musicians; all of them congregate along the bazaars and ghats that encircle the sparkling lake filled with holy water.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Udaipur - City of Lakes: Part 2

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The next morning, we were off to explore the City Palace, which was built over the course of 400 years by several different Rajasthani kings.

Udaipur - City of Lakes: Part 1

The third stop on our roadtrip through Rajasthan was the beautiful, watery city of Udaipur, known for its shimmering lakes and pearlescent palaces. If Jaipur's principal colour was pink, and Jodhpur's blue, then Udaipur is drenched in shades of cream, ivory and taupe. Located among the green heights of the Aravalli mountains, its temperate, Venice-like cityscape felt very different to the desert settlements we visited elsewhere in Rajasthan. It was also much cleaner, so polished and Europe-esque for an Indian city that it almost felt like we were in a different country. The shore around Lake Pichola, decorated with fairytale palaces, onion-shaped mansions and nacreous crescents and cupolas, was easily one of the most romantic places we've seen on this trip.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Jodhpur - The Blue City: Part 2

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In one part of the fort, we listened to this man play some spiritual, meditational music on his santoor, a percussive string instrument originating in Persia and Kashmir.

Jodhpur - The Blue City: Part 1

After admiring the gaudy, pink palaces of Jaipur, Angela and I were now bound for Jodhpur, the Blue City. Many of the houses in this old city - Rajasthan's second-largest - are painted bright Vishnu-blue, making for some striking cityscapes as one explores its narrow streets. These buildings encircle a steep orange bluff topped with one of India's largest fortifications, the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, which overlooks the city from its very centre, making it visible from practically every district.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Jaipur - The Pink City: Part 2

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After booking our cinema tickets, we reentered the old city, passing through another one of the many pink gates that surrounds it.

Jaipur - The Pink City: Part 1

Now that Delhi was done and dusted, Angela and I had an overland journey through northern India ahead of us. While we would be riding some of the country's famous long-distance trains a little later during the trip, for now we had our own private driver named Bubloo (though I found myself constantly referring to him as "bubbly") at our disposal. Over the next eight or so days, Bubloo would take us by car across the romantic province of Rajasthan, a realm of maharajas, desert palaces, colossal forts, camel trains and lost treasures. It is India's largest province, and one filled with so many historic towns and cities, and such a variety of landscapes and cultures, that it could almost be considered a country in itself.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

New Delhi: Part 2

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From Lodi Gardens we went to Gandhi Smriti, the house where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life, and where he was assassinated in 1948.

New Delhi: Part 1

After leaving the grime and chaos of Old Delhi behind us, Angela, Sylvia and I moved on to New Delhi, the modern heart of the capital territory. While it is not without its own share of noise and hustle-bustle, it certainly feels like a much cleaner, more developed place, with newly-paved roads, clean-cut grass and contemporary-looking buildings. Walking around New Delhi, you almost feel like you're in a fully-developed, first-world city.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Old Delhi

India. The name alone carries so many connotations, so many associations, such historic, cultural and religious overtones. In some ways, it feels like these past seven months have been, for us, a warm-up, a training session in preparation for this vast, triangular subcontinent that lurks over everything. As momentous and exciting as it was to travel through Southeast Asia, we've always had India on the back of our minds. Me, I've been pining to see this place for years, as it has always seemed the absolute pinnacle of the exotic, a country more far-flung, colourful and downright exciting than any country ought to be. As for Angela, was on her mind for different reasons. So many people have told us how "everyone there is after your money," and how "it's gross," and how "something as simple as buying a train ticket can become the biggest headache you'll ever experience." Yes, I suppose, in some ways, I can't blame Angela for dreading India.