For a first time visitor to India, the prospect of visiting a land so vast and that is home to such mind-boggling diversity can be both exhilarating and daunting. From having to contend with wisecracking airport officials to speeding down the winding roads and by-lanes of the large cities in an auto-rickshaw, India offers the thrill of experiencing every conceivable emotion.
Having landed at Mumbai Airport just before midday, the first thing that struck my partner and I was the sheer heat and humidity that hit us upon leaving the cool terminal building. A city whose inhabitants number an eye-watering 22 million inevitably brings with it a series of challenges, which the people of this city navigate with a charming ingenuity on a daily basis. From jockeying with fellow ‘Mumbaikars’, as the locals of Mumbai are fondly known, for space on the trains, to their high-spirited and boundless energy in pursuit of their dreams, this is a city where people come to realise their destinies. The ‘City of Dreams’. We stayed at the Trident Hotel at Nariman Point on Marine Drive, the famous Arabain Sea facing promenade, which in itself is one of the most loved sites in Mumbai and is particularly enchanting at night with the sea breeze, high-tide and plenty of locals enjoying the moment replete with all manner of offerings, from tea to local snacks.
Having seen a few more local sites in Mumbai, we then proceeded to the royal state of Rajasthan, known for its historic palaces and forts, colourful costumes and much more calming atmosphere relative to the cut and thrust of life in Mumbai. In particular, Udaipur is a city of unparalleled scenic beauty; a lake city whose romantic milieu is on a par with Venice, indeed some believe surpasses it. The famous UdaiVilas Hotel, which is situated on the banks of the stunning Lake Pichola, is ideal for viewing sunsets and offers a truly warm and regal service and sparing no effort to make its guests have the most memorable experience. The city of Jaipur is a truly magical city as is evidenced by the incredible architecture of the famous Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds). This and other breath-taking examples of such architectural beauty, together with the rich social tapestry of Rajasthan make Jaipur a city that is sure to leave you with memories to last a lifetime. The gala dinner organised by our tour manager was a nice gesture where our group of travellers were given a chance to wear the gorgeous looking Indian costume, which was an amusing and entertaining experience.
Moving on to the city of Agra, which is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, we finally visited the site which has come to define Indian history, culture and civilisation internationally more than any other, the Taj Mahal. A truly majestic and awe-inspiring sight, this towering monument to love was aptly described as ‘A teardrop on the cheek of time’ by Rabindranath Tagore. Having had a full guided tour of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort organised by the tour organiser, we were familiarised with the rich breadth and sheer depth of Mughal history that has come to define this iconic Indian city. Enroute to the capital city of New Delhi it made us realise that the past few days spent in India was such a life changing experience, the country has so much to offer to its visitors. After the last days spent in the glorious city of Delhi it was time to fly back home, as a couple travelling together we’ve promised ourselves to be here and explore this land once again, see you soon India.