“Out of all places, why India?”
I answered, “why not?”
I still don’t understand why people gave such a silly question to me. Not just once, thousands of times I’ve been questioned about the reason why I backpacked to India a few weeks ago.
People are different. To me, traveling has not been about conveniences. Its about seeing the world, no matter how inconvenient it would be. I’m talking about the smell, the food, the sight, the weather, the people, etc. Whatever it is that stops people from seeing the world will never stop me. In this case, inconveniences won’t stop me from seeing India.
I packed up my carrier bag with clothes enough for 9 days and a winter jacket to survive the weather. The destinations were Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Bikaner. The objective was to experience the city life, localize myself, ride elephants, camel safari and see Taj Mahal. I can honestly say that I experienced more than what I have planned.
In this trip I was traveling with a good friend of mine who is an architect based in Jakarta. Being friends for 10 years now, I was confident he would be a great travel companion, and he did.
I arrived late at night in Delhi. It was when my first inconvenience began. Careless me decided to go out at night and find something to eat. Of course at that time there were only street food that gave me a mild stomachache the next morning.
Delhi was quiet and calm during the night, crowded during the day. The streets were filled with honking cars and the public places were filled with people. Since I live in Indonesia, one of the most populated country in the world, I thought I knew how a crowded place would look like. I was wrong. I couldn’t even walk in Old Delhi without bumping to someone else!
Despite of the crowd, Delhi offers great places to visit such as the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial House, Qutb Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Akshardam Temple, Jantarmantar, The Red Fort and many more you can read on my travel blog which covers about Delhi.
I arrived in Agra early in the morning at 3 AM. As I walked out of the train station upon my arrival in Agra, the wind blew so hard I had to walk back in and wore something warmer. Watching this, the locals laughed at me. I didn’t mind and laughed with them! What could I say, I was not ready for 11 degrees Celsius.
In case you didn’t know, Agra is the home of the famous Taj Mahal. Alongside with it, you can visit a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, Fatephur Sikri, which was a great place to be if you love architectural sightseeing.
Truthfully, I could have done more research for this trip. With more research, I would have known that Taj Mahal is closed on every Friday and would have gone to Agra on any other day other than Friday.
Yes, I failed to see Taj Mahal up close. However, I got the chance to see Taj Mahal from a garden called Metab Bagh just right across the famous tomb. It was good enough for me.
The places were great, but I could never forget another inconvenience that occurred in Agra. In the middle of my taxi ride, the driver insisted me to stop by at a shopping market. He literally drove to the market and told me to stop by for a while. Apparently by just taking me inside the market, the driver would be getting free lunch from the shops owner. However, as you walk inside, persuasive salesmen will come at you in ways you can never imagine. I didn’t have the time and the mood to face these salesman so I kind of yelled at the taxi driver. It wasn’t something that I’m proud of, but it was something I had to do.
This is my analysis as a tourist. Since Agra is not a big city, poverty is quite high and visible on the streets. At the same time, a lot of tourists came to the town to see Taj Mahal! Today, the locals in Agra see tourists as cash cows they can milk. European tourists wouldn’t probably mind since everything is a lot cheaper in Asia. However, that’s not the case with Asian tourists who are familiar with this kind of scheme. In my humble opinion, India tourism could be in problem if the government refuses to do anything about it.
After that bad experience in Agra, I wished for a better trip in Jaipur. Turns out it was a whole lot better. I found out that I booked a nice hostel for a cheap price with a great location. People were nice and friendly in Jaipur without any hidden agenda. Although it was a smaller city than Delhi, I loved everything about Jaipur. Everything except for the traffic.
Jaipur is known as ‘the pink city’. After a short morning walk, I figured out why. Every building I saw on my left and right were red-pink in color. Apparently the pink coloring of the buildings were done back in the days to welcome the king’s guest. The tradition carried on until today without any law to preserve it.
One of the places I visited was Hawa Mahal Palace. The palace was located nearby the main road of Jaipur. It was built back in the days so that the royal princesses could see the street parade without being visible to the commoners. This is why the palace had many small windows facing the street.
Nahargarh Fort was a fort built on a hill. On top of it, I enjoyed the whole breathtaking sight of Jaipur. I remember spending hours of sitting down just enjoying the view and the breeze.
Other than those two places, Jaipur offers Amber Fort and Jal Mahal. Amber Fort is the main tourist attraction in Jaipur, while Jal Mahal is a palace in the middle of a lake untouched by anyone. These two places were only 15 minutes away from each other by tuktuk.
Amber Fort offers elephant rides every morning up to 11 AM for only 1200 rupee for two. Not a bad price for such a great view and a long hike!
The last city I visited was Bikaner where I had my camel safari. Bikaner is a very small city, much smaller than Agra. Populated with only 500,000 people, Bikaner’s pace is much slower than Delhi. The city was calm and nothing was much done after 6 PM. It is the home of the famous rat temple where mouses live happily ever after.
You read it correctly, rats.
The rats ran all over the temple and feed on the milk provided as a sign of respect and honor to the ancestors. When a rat walked up to my feet, I was told it was a sign of good luck. The world is truly filled with unique places!
Since the photos might be disturbing, I have only uploaded my camel safari photos in this blog. For more detailed experiences, again, hop on to my travel blog, in 2 weeks time I will be posting about Bikaner.
It was the great outdoor everywhere I looked and turned. It was such a nice feeling after being in big cities for days. The sand dunes and safari views were nothing like I’ve ever experienced in Indonesia!
After Bikaner, I hoped on to a train back to Delhi with a gloomy feeling. I soon realized that my love for traveling has always been a part of my romantic emancipation. To travel around the world is a dream come true. To travel with someone I love is a reality I would die to live in.
But hey, maybe I would find myself in that reality soon enough! If I’m lucky enough, maybe meeting the right someone is just a few sleeps away.
For now, I am just thankful to God for the experience to travel to India, meeting faces and seeing places I am missing already.