katrinasadventures' Travel Journals

katrinasadventures

  • From Massachusetts, United States
  • Currently in Jakarta, Indonesia

Fall 2009: Northwest India

Join Katrina as she shares her adventures, stories and feelings throughout her journey across India's spiritual land. Traveling with a consortium of New York Schools (Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Hobart and William Smith, and Colgate), Katrina will spend time in various locations, such as Musoorie, Delhi, Jaipur, and Varanasi.

Summary of December

India Delhi, India  |  Dec 24, 2010
Share |

Choose a Different Location

  • Tips:

    zoom in
    zoom out
    pan map upward
    pan map to the left
    pan map to the right
    pan map downward
    * drag the map to move around
    * click on the map where the city that you want to add is located
    * click on the icon to remove it
  • Longitude:
    Latitude:

Well my computer has been stricken down... with a virus... so I may never get a chance to put up what I diligently wrote about varanasi... sums down to being sick, going on lots of ancient goddess pilgrimages, watched men bath in thongs, seeing growths on various animals and humans (maybe from the Ganges water), talking about Ganges and pollution, seeing Ganges and pollution, and admiring the grace of cows as they take up the small side streets. 

We went to Delhi and said our sad goodbyes. After the group left, I stayed near the train station of Delhi and bargained my heart out for Xmas gifts. 

After a tough day of trying to find out where my family members and I were staying in Delhi our first night I finally discovered that it was at the 4 star park hotels.  This hotel was the one that the fall group had our good bye party at (coincidence... I think not).  So, I waited for my fam fam to arrive at the park hotel.  They were supposed to get here at around 11pm... so I read and waited... and waited... and waited... a nice boy at the hotel who thought I was strange to be reading in the lobby so late at night asked me what I was doing.  I told him that I was waiting for my family to arrive.  He told me that they weren't supposed to arrive until 3am because of fog delay.  Darn it!  so, I ate food to stay awake and felt sick.  Around 4am they eventually showed up and I never felt happier!  My family was in India!  Dad, mom, Isabelle and lia all together again!  Yah!  I missed them.

Our schedule for the next 10 days was the following:

December 2009

Tuesday 20th,            (Arrive Delhi)

Arrive Delhi in the late evening and after customs and immigration meet with our representative who will be waiting outside at the arrival lounge and transfer to the Connaught Hotel.

Delhi, the Empress of Indian cities has a fascinating history and a stimulating present. She has often been sacked and left naked and desolate. But she could not be despoiled of the incomparable situation that marks her for the metropolis of a Great Empire. The capital of India, Delhi has been the seat of power of a number of dynasties – the Rajputs, the Afghans, the Turks and the Mughals who continued their imperial line until the British. Scattered over are surviving ruins, remnants of mighty edifices, tombs of warriors and saints, which in an impressive sense of magnificence are memorials not of a single city but of supplanted nations.

Overnight in Delhi.

Wednesday 21st,       (In Delhi)

Post breakfast explore New Delhi with its majestic boulevards and grand government buildings. India Gate, Delhi's triumphal arch, stands at one end of the Rajpath. At the other end of the Rajpath stands the official residence of India's president, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a complex of buildings that mix Mughal and Western architectural styles. Prior to independence, this was the home of India's last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. Close by is Sansad Bhavan, the large, though less imposing, parliament building.

Continue to the historical part of the city also known as Old Delhi starting with `Shah Jehanabad’ which has some dramatic remnants of the Mughal Empire in the imposing Red Fort and Jama Masjid India’s largest mosque, built by Emperor Shah Jehan, creator of the Taj Mahal. We walk through its principal street, Chandni Chowk, originally renowned throughout Asia with its tree-lined canal flowing down its center. These days it’s a bustling jumble of shops, temples, mosques and craftsmen’s workshops of goldsmiths, silversmiths, silk traders and embroiderers.

Raj Ghat, in Old Delhi on the banks of the Yamuna River, is a simple memorial that marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948. A pretty park has been created around the memorial. 

Lunch is arranged in the charming “Lodi Restaurant” set in the beautiful Lodi Gardens, which probably epitomizes Delhi’s current fashionable restaurant culture.

Post lunch visit the Tomb of Humayun. This Mughal Emperor’s senior wife, Haji Begum, commissioned the Tomb in the 16th century making it an early example of Mughal architecture. The design elements of this tomb – a squat building lighted by high arched entrances topped by a protuberant dome and surrounded by formal gardens, were to be refined over the years to the magnificence of the Taj Mahal.

Also visit the city’s earliest surviving Islamic monument, the Qutb mosque and minar created by the founder of the sometimes-called Slave Dynasty, Qutb-ud-din-Aybak. 73 meters high and consisting of 5 storeys, the Qutb Minar construction started in 1199 on what was intended to be the most glorious tower of victory in the world.

Dinner is suggested at the `Chor Bizarre’ which serves Indian cuisine OR `Pindi Restaurant’, located at the Pandara road that serves mouth watering Indian cuisine. (Direct payment). 

Note: Our vehicle is available to visit these recommended dinner places at all the cities of you visit.

Overnight in Delhi.

Thursday 22nd,         (Delhi to Agra)

In the morning transfer to the railway station for the Shatabdi Express that departs Agra at 6.15 a.m. and arrives at 8.00 a.m.

On arrival, transfer to the hotel Howard Park Plaza.

Agra, the city of Taj Mahal which was one of the grand cities of South Asia. With the arrival of the Mughals in 1526 led by Babur, Agra entered a completely new era during the reign of emperors Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. Akbar made it a great center for learning, art, commerce and culture. 

We encounter of the monument in the late afternoon when the sun’s rays are conducive.

After breakfast, we visit Agra’s `other’ historic contribution, the Agra Fort, a World Heritage Site credited to Emperor Akbar, India’s great visionary. His son, Jehangir and grandson Shah Jehan added to this imposing structure situated by the banks of the Yamuna River. The astonishing palaces, mosques and audience halls contained within its massive walls of red sandstone became once more a monumental mission of the Mughal Empire embellished by the artistic fusion of Islamic and Hindu tradition.

We then cross the river to visit the Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, which became the first Mughal structure totally built from marble and pioneering the extensive use of `pietra dura’, the inlay work of marble, which became so characteristic of the Taj Mahal. This mausoleum is small and squat when compared to the soaring Taj, but the smaller, more human scale has its own attraction, and the beautiful patterned surface of the tomb is exquisite.

Lunch is back at the hotel and the early afternoon free.

We then head to the Taj Mahal for a sunset visit where the monument appears to change its hue, tinted by the glow of the setting sun.

The ivory gate through which all dreams pass. We confront the lacy white grandeur of the Taj Mahal, perhaps the most perfect architectural monument in the world. To the poet Tagore, a `tear on the face of eternity’. In memory of his wife, the great Mughal emperor Shah Jehan planned this most extravagant and incomparable monument built for love. Amazingly graceful from any angle, it is the close up detail which is really astounding. 

We suggest dinner at the `Esphahan’ at Oberoi Amarvilas but an economical option will be `Peshawari’ at the Mughal Sheraton hotel. (Direct payment).

Overnight in Agra.

Friday 23rd,                (Agra to Bharatpur)

After leisurely breakfast we have an opportunity to visit a rehabilitated Harijan (the untouchable’s!) village belonging to the lower caste community. `Kachhpura’, a settlement with a long history lies across the river from the Taj Mahal. This village has now been adopted by `U.S. Aid’ and is a lovely place to visit. Many initiatives are being practiced amongst the `untouchable’ folk such as making shoe covers (for the Taj), candles and other such cottage industries.

After lunch at the hotel, take an hour’s drive into the Indian countryside to visit Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone former capital of the Mughal Empire. According to legend, Emperor Akbar, having no male heir made a pilgrimage to the town of Sikri to seek the blessings of the revered saint Shaikh Salim Chishti. The saint assured Akbar he would have three sons and when his prophecy was fulfilled the king was so overwhelmed that he built a city at Sikri. Politically astute and remarkably broadminded for his time, India’s greatest emperor successfully addressed the Hindu-Moslem divide by marrying a Hindu princess whilst also combining their distinctive architectural styles finely exampled at this World Heritage Site. The city lived between 1571 up to 1585 A.D. and then became a ghost town, abandoned, possibly due to complexities with the water systems.

We drive further for 20 minutes towards Bharatpur where our stay is at the Laxmi Vilas Palace.

The Keoladeo Ghana National Park at Bharatpur is a World Heritage listed bird sanctuary.  Over 350 species of birds find a refuge in 11 sq. mile of shallow lakes and woodlands that make up the park. A third of them are migrants, who spend the winter in Bharatpur before returning to their breeding grounds as far away as Siberia and Central Asia. Some 120 species nest in the park and the heronry at Keoladeo Ghana is said to be one of the finest in the world. Between October and March the wintering water birds descend on the lakes in thousands.

While many of India’s parks were formerly the natural hunting preserves of Indian royalty, Keoladeo Ghana is perhaps the only one where the habitat has been created by a Maharaja.  The area was developed in the late 19th century by diverting water from a nearby irrigation canal, to augment the water supply of the area. The Maharaja also constructed small dams, dykes and shooting butts to turn the area into the finest wildfowl hunting preserve in North India.

The maharaja celebrated his creation in style, with elaborate shooting parties for the dignitaries of British and princely India. Their exploits are recorded on a sandstone inscription in the park. Surprisingly though, the birds survived these irrational royal excesses and still came to Bharatpur in large numbers. 

Overnight in Bharatpur.

Saturday 24th,           (In Bharatpur)

The best way to explore the park is riding on trishaws, in the morning and afternoon, looking for painted storks, white ibis, spoonbills, egrets, herons, moorhens, and jacanas.  Marbled, common and falcate teals are also found here, as well as steppe, tawny and crested serpent eagles. Mammals include wild boar, mongoose, spotted deer, sambar, nilgai and otters.

Dinner is suggested at the Bagh hotel. (Direct payment).

Overnight in Bharatpur.

Sunday 25th,              (Bharatpur to Ranthambore)

After breakfast we proceed to the railway station for the Golden Temple Mail to Sawai Madhopur (Station for Ranthambore) which departs Bharatpur at 10.45 a.m. and arrives Ranthambore at 1.10 p.m. There is assistance of our representative on board for luggage.

On arrival, we transfer by jeeps to the hotel Khem Villas in time for lunch.

Ranthambore has for over a century been one of the most sought after hunting grounds for tiger on the Indian subcontinent.  In more recent times and especially in the last decade this reserve has become internationally known as an exciting hub for research and conservation directed towards protecting the majestic Royal Bengal tiger and its total environment. Some individual tigers in the reserve that developed unique styles of hunting became the subjects of films and books that have won worldwide acclaim. The 10th century fort that overlooks the reserve provides a sense of grandeur and history that puts its diversity of wildlife (much of which continue to use the ancient ramparts!) in a unique perspective.

In the late afternoon, escorted by a naturalist, we drive in open jeeps into the Ranthambore reserve to look for the great diversity of birds and mammals and some of the major predators including leopards and tigers. Tracking the normally secretive tigers by the alarm calls of the many animals on which they prey, and by looking for the subtle tracks and signs that they leave while patrolling their territories is an exciting experience. 

The deep gorges of Ranthambore serve as hide outs for leopards, tigers and sloth bear. The park also provides a congenial habitat for the `chital’ or spotted deer and sambar, the largest of the Asiatic deer.  Woodland, ground and water birds are also found in the area, including the uncommon red jungle fowl and eagle.

Dinner and overnight at the Khem Villas.

Monday 26th,            (Ranthambore)

In the early hours we leave for a game with our naturalist.

Return to the hotel in time for late breakfast.

After lunch enjoy the afternoon game with our naturalist. 

Dinner and overnight at the Khem Villas.

Tuesday 27th,            (Ranthambore to Jaipur)

After breakfast transfer to the railway station for the Jaipur Express which departs Ranthambore at 10.30 a.m. and arrives Jaipur at 12.55 p.m. On arrival, transfer to the hotel Hari Mahal Palace.

The capital of Rajasthan state, Jaipur where the enduring charisma of the past blends with the throbbing vitality of today. Where a colorful cast of characters – from painters and potters to artists and antique dealers – present a fascinating picture of a city that is alive to both tradition and change.

Raja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur was no ordinary man. He was a scholar and an astronomer, keenly sensitive to beauty, a formidable general, who tempered power with wisdom. In building Jaipur, Jai Singh's vision took him beyond architectural beauty, for in the sprawling, barren plains beneath Amer, the former capital; he gave India its first planned city, which has remained unique in two and a half centuries.  Jai Singh made Jaipur a haven and a center of commerce and religion. 

Today, Jaipur has spread far beyond the pink crenellated walls that once defined its boundaries. It presents a fascinating picture of a city where growth, evolution and change are sustained by tradition.

In the afternoon, visit the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds, a stunning example of Rajput artistry made of red and pink sand stone, beautifully outlined with white borders and motif's painted with quick lime.

Our next highlight is the open-air royal observatory “Jantar Mantar”. Maharaja Jai Singh, the creator of Jaipur loved mathematics and science, sending emissaries to the court of Mirza Beg in Samarkand who had built an observatory in 1425. Spending much of his time studying astronomy, he constructed masonry observatories at Delhi, Varanasi, Ujjain, Mathura and most impressively the `Jantar Mantar’ at Jaipur, built between 1728 and 1734.

Opposite the Observatory is the City Palace and Museum with its fine collection of textiles.

The City Palace occupies the center of Jaipur, covers one seventh of its area and is surrounded by a high wall.  It differs from conventional Rajput fort palaces in its separation of the palace from its fortifications, perhaps modeled on the Mughal architectural style with its main building scattered in “a fortified campus”. The Royal family occupies a portion of this Palace, with other areas converted to museums, displaying their vast collection of textiles and costumes, an array of armory, miniature paintings and carpets, the finest of which was displayed at the “Flowers Underfoot – Indian carpets of the Mughal Era” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Dinner is suggested at the Spice Court Restaurant. (Direct payment).

Overnight in Jaipur.

Wednesday 28th,      (In Jaipur)

After breakfast, trace Jaipur’s history at the Amber fort, the former seat of the Rajput rulers of Jaipur. Ascending the fortress seated in a jeep, wander around the beautiful palaces and visit the Shiladevi temple (which continues to be the private temple of the Royal family) with its exquisite marble carvings and silver door.    

Lunch is suggested at the Samode Haveli. (Direct payment).

We have an opportunity to explore the markets of Jaipur. Shopping in Jaipur is quite exhilarating. The bustling bazaars laden with souvenirs, carpets, world famous gems and jewelry, textiles, the specialty being the traditional hand block printed fabric, antique textiles and handicrafts. 

You could either dine at the hotel or at the `Niros Restaurant’ (Direct payment).

Overnight in Jaipur.

Thursday 29th,          (Jaipur to Delhi)

The morning is at leisure. Transport is available should you wish to explore the city a bit more before we head to Delhi.

After lunch we drive to Delhi for 5 hours.

Dad and Isabelle stayed for 10 days and we had a great time living it up in nice hotels and touring around cities and national parks.  We saw a leopard at ranmthabore and birds at bharatpur.  I like the kingfishers.  Dad made many friends with our tour guides.  We also learned that his middle name was "discreet" because he was so good at hiding certain secret info that guides would give us about places (long story).  Dad managed to get pooped on by a bird and

Isabelle seemed to enjoy being with the family; however, I don't know how much she enjoyed India... maybe in a few years.  They loved her though because they thought that she was out of a WWE (world wrestling) match.  She had the height and muscle of an American wrestler.  She def. stood out in a crowd.  Out of all of us, mom was the only one to get sick... she threw up all over a train squatter... I made sure to use the other toilet on that train ride.

After a fun 10 days with the whole family together, dearest Isabelle and dad split ways and I was left with my two fav gals Lia and mommy dear.  We headed down south... to Kochi.  It was humid when we got off the plane (I think that I am beginning to fear flying, esp. with that underwear bomb incident).  There were palm trees everywhere and lots of men in skirts.  We had difficulty trying to find a way to the Fort Kochi area (bus, taxi, bus, taxi?) but we finally made it and admired all the Christian shrines and churches will doing so.  We explored the area, ate some decent fish, really good French Indian food, relaxed on a beautiful beach an hour away (and saw a man wanking off in public... actually, we were walking on the beach talking and in mid convo mom mumbled 'girlllsss, that man is jerking off'...

Next we went to the Western ghats.  we enjoyed hikes along the skunky smelling tea plantations.  mom got a little too friendly with leeches.  Munnar and Kumily were great for picking up cheap spices and tea.  It is a beautiful area. 

We had one miserable night in Madurai.  Crummy hotel, but the city is actually quite nice with a glamorous Shiva and Parvahti temple (one of the most famous... very colorful... can’t recall name).  The morning that we were checking out, we went to grab breakfast at the hotel restaurant and lia went back up to the room early to find an employee in our room going through our stuff.  Good thing he went through the med kit and not a purse...

went to puducherry (a French city with an Indian twist) and briefly looked at auroville.

Next, we stayed in Mahallapurah for a week.  I have never seen so many shits in my life. there are poop bombs everywhere you step. also, lost of dead turtles, humping dogs, dying puffer fish, wanking off men (who secretly pretend they are not doing what they are doing, but then get turned on when you see...), fishing boats, fish nets, tourists in skimpy outfits, etc.

From Lia when in Mallapuham, Tamil Nadu:  "Just finished an excited day of Pongal celebrations in a rural village.  Pongal is the harvest festival in which the farmers give thanks for what they have, i.e. cows and crops.  The kiddies munch on sugarcane and rice pudding is eaten (sounds like quite an international dish).  The tourist bureau organized a day for 'whities' (Lia's new nickname) to go to this rural village to participate in the festivities.  First we were loaded onto a bus to make the 7km journey to the village.  Then the villagers 'warmly' welcomed us... which was a lot of noise, cheering, and head putty.  Then we entered into the parade where we had to dodge white bulls that were pulling carts of whities down the street.  The bulls didn't seem very happy because the whities were pretty heavy and the noise was spooking them out.  They looked especially miserable because they had suffered all morning to have their horns painted and balloons hanging over their faces.  Afterwards Katrina and I were forced to enter into Musical Chairs... we theorize that this was another practical joke (like the robes we were made to wear at the mosque) for the Indians to watch tourists run around chairs like chickens with their heads cut off.  While I was out within the first few rounds, Katrina competed against the aggressive Italians and Spanish men to get 3rd place! She was awarded with a decorative item in the shape of a peacock.  After we tried to hit a clay pot with a stick while being blindfolded.  Katrina and I failed to hit the target, but provided endless entertainment to the villagers.  Well that is all for now.  Tomorrow we switch hotels to one that has a 'tank like' swimming pool.  For our last night we plan on staying at a fancy hotel that claims to have the biggest pool in India.  We checked it out... man it’s beautiful."

 The last night the "three musketeers" stayed at the serene Radisson hotel with South Asia's largest swimming pool.  It was more like a lake with tiles that had three bridges going across it.  (more convenient for men to watch us swim).  We worked out and had a TV dinner (first one in India).  The next few hours were entertaining because we all tried to fall asleep so that we could have an early morning workout, but none of us really managed to get to sleep until 2am... the beds were the most comfortable ones

It was really hard saying goodbye to my traveling buddies for 5 weeks, but after they jumped into the taxi (literally jumped... I did not have much closure in my good bye and spent the next 10 hours bailing my eyes out).  now auroville program.

Report inappropriate journal entry

Shout-out Post a Shout-out

Loading Loading please wait...

Be the first to post on katrinasadventures' travel page! If you are a member, log in to leave a shoutout.