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India: Delhi - Rajasthan


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INTRODUCTION

Trip to India had been my dream for 10 years. Finally my dream came true in 2004. Before I went to India and Nepal, I had read some books, guides and many www pages. I went to India with my sister Margaret.
The following story does not describe monuments, religions and customs in details. This is the story about my trip to India. I describe my attitude to the exotic culture, people and tourist attractions. Besides you can find much useful information about trip to India and Nepal – I hope so. There are many prices on the page. Most of them are in local currencies.
These are exchange rates for India and Nepal rupees in November 2004:
1 USD = 45 IRP - India Rupees
1 USD = 72 NRP - Nepal Rupees.

DELHI

A flight to Delhi via Moscow took us 7 hours. We landed in Indira Ghandi airport at 3 am. When we left a plane we felt terrible smell of Delhi smog. The air is very polluted in Delhi. It was very difficult to accept the level of pollution at the beginning.
We had to fill out Immigration Declaration and completed border formalities. We took pre-paid taxi to Anoop Hotel. A driver took us another hotel. The owner of the hotel tried to encourage us to rent a room in his hotel. We did not accept his proposal. It picked a quarrel between us. Finally the driver took us to Anoop Hotel. At the end he wanted a tip. Instead of money I told what I think about his service. Anyway the situation was very unpleasant. At 5 am we rented a double room in the hotel. The price was 350 IRP. It was the highest price for the room we paid in India and Nepal
The hotel was situated in Main Bazar. There were many people, cows, shops, restaurants, rickshaws, motors, and cars on the narrow streets of Main Bazar. Besides there are many cow shits and rubbish on the streets. From time to time local hawkers attracted us. At the beginning it was very annoying. After one or two days we got used to it. We went to National Museum by rickshaw (40 IRP). There are no rules on the India streets. Drivers use the horns all the time. Luckily we reached our destination. The museum exhibitions present India history. We saw many sculptures, paintings, armours, weapons etc.
In the evening we went to a restaurant to have our first Indian meal. It was a thali. It tasted quite good. Generally I was disappointed with Indian meals. It was not bad but I am not a fan of vegetarian food.
Next day we bought (100 IRP) an excursion around Delhi. We visited some Indian and Sikh temples, took a bus ride around New Delhi districts and visited Qutab Minar. This is Islamic religion complex. It was built on the ruins of India temple in XIII century. The complex is a mix of Islam and Indian architecture. We saw Iron Pillar built 1600 years ago by Indian metallurgists. The pillar has never corroded. Everybody was impressed by the great job of local blacksmiths. We also were forced to go to textile shop during excursion.
We visited Red Ford and Old Delhi the next day. The Red Ford (2 USD) is the most famous attraction of Delhi. It is quite impressive outside. There are some buildings and museums inside the ford. They are disappointing. I think it is waste of USD 2.
We also visited huge mosque in Old Delhi for 25 thousand people. Jama Masjid is very peaceful place comparing with the streets of Old Delhi. The size of the mosque is really remarkable.
Although I did not see all interesting places in Delhi I was happy to leave this dirty and noisy city.

VARANASI

We came back to India again. It was Varanasi this time. I think I will never forget 48 hours in the holy city of Indians. We found an accommodation for 150 IRP – double room with bathroom. Varanasi is very busy and ugly. The city is situated next to the Ganges. This is very Holy River for Indians. Every Indian should take a bath in the river. The bath purifies a soul from sins. There are ghats on the bank of the Ganges. I saw many people praying, taking a bath and drinking water from the river. By the way the Ganges is extremely polluted with chemical and organic contaminants.
Indians believe in reincarnation. The final step of reincarnation is moksha – release form the cycle of rebirth. Somebody dies in Varanasi is believed to achieve moksha. Many old people come to the city to die and stop the process of reincarnation. They are sitting in ghats and waiting for death.
According to Indian religion and customs bodies are burnt after death. Every day 200 dead are burnt in the ghats of Varanasi. The ashes are dropped to the river. There are some exceptions. Bodies of children, pregnant women and people bitten by cobra are not brunt. The bodies are directly dropped to Ganges. I saw bodies of a baby and pregnant woman in the river. The distance between the bodies and people taking baths and drinking water from the river was 10 meters. I was shocked.
I witnessed the ceremony of body burning. It was extraordinary experience. There isn’t any seriousness and sadness during the ceremony. The funeral seemed to be a big mess with cows and dogs around the fireplace. I watched a process of burning a body from 5-10 meters. It was shocking and disgusting experience.

KHAJURAHO & ORCHA

Khajuraho is in the middle of nowhere. You can get there by a plane or a coach. The plane is very expensive. Roads and coaches conditions are very poor. Khajuraho is a little peaceful town. It is nice place to relax. Old temples are the main attraction of the town. The most interesting complex of temples is near the center. The entrance costs USD 5. Although the temples are 1000 years old, their conditions are very good. The architecture and decorations of the temples are outstanding. Beautiful girls, battle and erotic scene are the main motives. The most famous are erotic scenes. They present different sexual positions, group sex and sex with animals.
There are another two complexes of temples near Khajuraho. They are not as attractive as the first one but it is worth to see. It is good idea to rent a bicycle to take excursion to these complexes.
On the way to Agra we spend a few hours in Orcha. This is very small town with big palace. The palace was built in XVII century. The architecture is Islamic with some elements of India style. It looks very nice outside. It is not very interesting inside. We visited empty rooms. A few of the rooms were decorated with beautiful paintings. There were also some temples in the town. They were not as interesting as Khajuraho ones but you can visit them.

AGRA

The main attraction of India – Taj Mahal. At last we were in Agra. The accommodation was not so expensive: 150 IRP for double rooms with bathroom. We got up at 5 a.m. to see Taj Mahal at sunrise. The entrance was very expensive: 5 USD+500 IRP. The mausoleum is perfect and very majestic. It was made with marble in Islamic style. The walls and floor is decorated with precious stones. The monument of love is surrounded by a beautiful garden
Taj Mahal was built by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Muslim Persian princess. She died while accompanying her husband in Burhanpur in a campaign to crush a rebellion after giving birth to their 14th child. The death so crushed the emperor that all his hair and beard were said to have grown snow white in a few months. When Mumtaz Mahal was still alive, she extracted four promises from the emperor: first, that he build the Taj; second, that he should marry again; third, that he be kind to their children; and fourth, that he visit the tomb on her death anniversary. He kept the first and second promises. Construction began in 1631 and was completed in 22 years. Twenty thousand people were deployed to work on it. The material was brought in from all over India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. The Iranian architect Ustad Isa designed it and it is best appreciated when the architecture and its adornments are linked to the passion that inspired it. It is a "symbol of eternal love". ' (source:http://www.angelfire.com/in/myindia/tajmahal.html)
We visited Agra fort during the rest of the day (USD 5). It was built in XVI century. The architecture of the building is a fascinating mix of Islamic, Indian and Mongol style. There are some buildings in the fort. Harem for 5000 women was the most interesting part of the fort. Instead of beautiful woman we only saw empty rooms.
Generally Agra Fort is more attractive than Red Fort in Delhi.

RAJASTHAN

We visited some cities and towns in Rajasthan.
Jaipur, called the pink city. This is very popular tourist place. I think it overrated. There are fort, havala and astronomical observatory in the city. To be honest it is nothing special. There is small town – Amber near Jaipur. There is majestic fort on the hill. We visited beautiful rooms inside. There is another attraction in Amber - elephants. We took elephant ride (100 IRP). It was great fun.
Jodhpur, called the blue city. Houses in old city are painted blue. It looks quite unusual. There is Meherangarh fort in the city (250 IRP). The fort is situated on the hill. It looks really nice. Some rooms are very beautiful decorated.
Jaisalmer. The city is surround by a wall. It is situated in the middle of a desert. Jaisalamer impressed me. It looks like the city from ‘The book of one thousand and one night’. It is nice to go for walk narrow streets of Jaisalamer. We visited old houses of rich townsmen -Havale and Shik’s temple.
Deshnok. This is the most fascinating town in Rajastan. There is only one attraction – Karni Mata. This is the temple of rats. There are thousand rats in Karni Mata. Indians respect the rats and bring them food. They believe that during the reincarnation the souls inhabit the body of rats before being reborn. Before we entered the temple we had to take off shoes. It was extraordinary experience to walk barefoot between rats.

SOME TIPS

  • Exchange rates in November 2004: 1 USD - 45 IRP India Rupees
  • To enter Buddhism, Hindi, Islamic and Sikh temples you must take off shoes. We had to wash our feet before entering Sikh temple in Old Delhi.
  • Transport in India. We usually traveled by motor rickshaws and bicycle rickshaws. I would recommend bicycle rickshaws. It is excellent way to tour cities or towns. Approximately the cost of one ride of rickshaw was IRP20- IRP60. Don’t forget to negotiate a price.
  • Beggars, Hawkers, and local salesmen. They are in Nepal as well as in India. They are more active in India. In may opinion there are two ways of avoiding them:
    Ignore them. Don’t talk to them at all.
    Speak your national language. I presume your first language is not English.
  • Plastic Money. You can use the most common credit cards in big cities in India. In Nepal cash and travel cheques are only accepted. There are no cash machines in Nepal.
  • Travel by train.Before you buy train ticket you will have to fill a form: name, age, passport number and train number. The train number you can get at railway station or on http://www.indianrail.gov.in/. There are usually special counter for foreigners at railway stations. There are following train classes in India: 1AC, 2AC (sleepers), 1CC(chair car), 3AC, SL (sleeper). 1AC and 2AC are expensive. I think the most appreciate class is SL. It is not expensive and your seat is booked. There is a special list near the door of carriage. You may check your name and seat number there. Most trains are late in India (usually couple of hours). Train transport is very popular in India. Natives travel with big luggage. It doesn’t make journey very comfortable.
  • STOMACH PROBLEMS. To avoid any stomach problems follow the rules:
    Don’t drink tap water. ONLY bottled one. 
    Check hygiene standards of restaurants before you make an order. 
    Don’t eat too much local cuisine at beginning.
  • Is it good idea to go India or Nepal? I think so. India and Nepal are typical third world countries. If you cannot afford to stay in luxury hotels and restaurants you will ‘touch’ ordinary life of Indian or Nepalese. It is great experience but I am sure sometimes you will be fed up with it.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • When I was in India and Nepal I usually met tourists from France, England, Canada and Israel. They were usually about 30-40 years old.
  • Indian and Nepalese usually treat tourists as a source of money. They often wanted to chat with us. At the beginning it was very nice chat about India, Poland etc. The end was always the same – money. They wanted us to buy something or give them money for free. In Khajuraho Indian children called to us ‘Hello Money’. This attitude made us limit contact with Native.
  • Indians are very strict in showing love affection. We did not see boys and girls holding hands, kissing etc.
    One day we saw foreigners kissing at railway station in Jodhpur. Natives looked at them with curiosity and disapproval. We often saw two Indian boys holding hands. We were told that they did not show any affection to each other. It is just a custom.
  • Finding ideal partner and happy marriage. Arranged marriages are still the most popular in India. Parents find the ideal partner. This is a few stages process. First they published an advertisement in a newspaper or Internet. They run personal data and caste name. Woman and man must belong to the same caste. They know each other from pictures. If they accept the pictures there is the most important selections – horoscope. They must be suitable to each other according to horoscope. Then the boy can see his future wife. They meet each other a few times before wedding celebration. After wedding young wife is moving with dowry to her husband family. The perfect wife is always behind her husband. She makes as much as possible to make her husband happy. He respects and loves the woman for her dedication. Lack of egoism is the key of happy marriage in India. Divorces are not accepted in Indian society. Indians hold the divorcees in contempt.
  • Indian railways stations are big bedrooms for Native. They sleep on a floor.
  • There are many religion holidays in Nepal and India. People usually celebrate them on the streets. You can be sure to take part in the celebration. It is very exotic experience.
  • India is a country of contrasts. You can find luxury houses with gardens in New Delhi. On the other hand there is unimaginable poverty. I saw big cities of slums there. People and their children live there without any hope for better future.











































































































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