Photo Journal: India
Two years ago, Heather and I packed up our apartment in Japan and went off on an epic adventure.
We were moving back to the States but before we landed at JFK we knew we needed to have – what we thought at the time – would be our last big trip.
Little did we know that we would be blessed enough to continue traveling the world.
We left Japan and set off for a quick stop in Singapore (which ended up being much longer due to my passport difficulties), a week in Indonesia and then three weeks in India.
Upon landing at the Mumbai Airport, our senses were assaulted.
Maybe we should have researched more, mentally preparing ourselves for what we were about to do, but where is the fun in that?
Therefore, our first four days in Mumbai were quite the culture shock, starting with the drive from the airport in a taxi that weaved in and out of the infamous slums and bypassing cows and chickens in the middle of the road.
Once we plotted out our adventure and left for the beautiful state of Rajasthan, we immediately felt like we were in a different world compared to the crowded and inauspicious streets of Mumbai.
Our first stop was Agra and although we did not enjoy the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal is a sight not to be missed!
We spent only one night in Agra, which was plenty of time, and the next day, left for Jaipur.
This was the first long haul in the car with our driver. Let’s just say that we were quite happy he was the one “driving.”
After mediocre accommodations in Agra we arrived at the beautiful and opulent Madhuban in Jaipur, which was by far our favorite hotel of the trip.
While in Jaipur, we visited the Amber Fort and wandered around the old city.
Hawa Mahel, the Palace of the Winds, is often called the “Women’s Palace” because it is said that it was built so the women of the royal families could watch the events on the streets without being seen.
Next on the itinerary was the long drive from Jaipur to Jaisalmer.
Jaisamer is a mere 30 miles from the border of Pakistan and was the starting point for our desert safari.
Along the way, we saw many groups of pilgrims walking to a temple near Jaisalmer.
We arrived at a group of buildings in the desert, “The Lodge” if we’re being liberal, and were immediately led to two camels so we could venture out into the desert.
It hadn’t rained for 45 days, we were told by our guide.
Everything was calm.
The scenery was spectacular.
We were ready to spend the night under the stars.
And then the windstorm came.
We thought we could wait it out so that we could take the once in a lifetime chance to sleep in the desert.
And then the hail and rain came.
It had been 45 days since the last rain, but apparently the power of “Ame On’na” (Heather’s nickname in Japan, translated as Rain Woman) were more powerful than that of Mother Nature.
We climbed back on our camels and raced back to the lodge, our desert campout thwarted by the weather.
The next morning we headed to the fortified city of Jaisalmer, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and my favorite experience of the entire trip.
Jaisalmer is one of the largest fortifications ever built and it is still in use today.
The narrow alleys inside the fort are filled with shops and residences.
And of course, cows…
We spent a few days wandering around the fort and buying beautiful handmade bedspreads and decorative globes made from camel bones.
Then it was onwards to Jodhpur – The Blue City.
It is said that the walls of the buildings were painted blue to signify the royal or political upper class.
In modern Jodhpur, it is kept that way to repel bugs – although it’s effectiveness is open for debate.
It does certainly make an interesting and striking cityscape though!
Our next and final stop in Rajasthan was Udaipur.
Along the way we stopped at one of the most spectacular displays of architecture Heather and I had seen (and her favorite part of the trip) – Ranakpur Jain Temple.
The outside of the temple was beautiful, but it is the interior which makes this a truly exquisite site.
The temple is supported by over 1,000 pillars, none of which are the same.
Each is intricately carved, and the detail is overwhelming.
The humidity of the day disappeared as we quietly walked through the temple, the ambiance enticing you to mediate and reflect on your life.
As we were about to leave, a priest came up to us and asked if he could give us a blessing on our marriage.
Sure, why not? Every little bit helps!
He painted two small orange dots on our foreheads to signify the blessing.
We left the temple, had a nice lunch in the middle of the jungle and continued on to Udaipur.
Udaipur is a city surrounded by lakes.
Lake Pichola touches the city walls and you can look out and see the two palatial lake hotels that seem as if they are floating on the water.
We spent our time in Udaipur exploring the massive palace complex and wandering around the local markets.
It was a great way to end our trek through Northwest India and the beauty that is Rajasthan.
When we arrived in India, we felt overwhelmed by the frenzy of people and animals crowding the muddy streets.
We were struck with culture shock for the very first time, confused by most of the things we encountered, and unsure of our feelings about this vast country.
But after getting out of the chaos of Mumbai and immersing ourselves in Rajasthan, Heather and I both felt captivated by the rich history, talented artisans and intricate architecture.
There’s a saying that goes:
“There are two types of travelers; those who have been to India, and those who haven’t.”
After experiencing India firsthand, I’d agree 100%.
And I’d also urge you to get here and experience it for yourself!
Have you been to India before? If so, where did you go and what was your experience like? Share in the comments below!Disclaimer: These pictures are all our own, taken with a simple point and shoot Sony digital camera.