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October 30

Are you ready for a new adventure? I certainly am, so I’d like to introduce you to Incredible India. I’ve just started a tour here with my new colleague, Ankita Jaisawal, who will lead us on a colorful journey through one of the world’s most complex and exotic destinations.

Our first day was spent in Delhi, visiting an ancient tower and then having a home hosted dinner with a local family. We learned about some of the dishes we will try over the next two weeks and got to see a normal family home. A great kickoff to my most anticipated trip in years.

I will be honest with you. I haven’t offered India before because I was worried I wasn’t up to the challenge. It’s a country that is so foreign, so different, I didn’t think I was ready to be responsible for a group and all of the challenges that India is notorious for.

Well, I was an idiot. India has impressed me so much. Tidier and far more modern than you would expect, Delhi is a world away from the crush of Cairo, it reminds me a little of Bangkok. Lovely hotels so far, delicious food, and incredibly gracious hosts—I am so excited about this tour and kicking myself for having waited this long to do it. So, let’s go, or in Hindi, “challa challa!”

October 31

India, Day 3, Udaipur

Today we explored India’s “City of Love” and it isn’t hard to see why it’s called that, every corner looks like a postcard from a romantic vacation.

Situated on picturesque Lake Pichola, it has a beautiful palace to visit and an interesting temple. The island in the lake is where the James Bond movie Octopussy was filmed, and I have to admit that I got way too excited about that. I loved that movie when I was a kid. In the movie, India looked like another planet, and I wanted to be the kind of person that went places like that. I also hoped to someday be a gorgeous ninja/assassin like the ones in the movie, but we can’t have everything we wish for.

It is funny, I hadn’t thought of that movie in years but it made me realize that my thirst for adventure came from somewhere and that was probably one of the sources.

Our day took us to visit a miniature painting workshop and many of us got a pretty painting done on our fingernails. We visited a palm reader who left us all stunned by his accuracy. And we finished with a sunset boat ride and dinner at a fabulous lakeside restaurant. I don’t think you could ask for a better day— such variety and color.

November 1

India Tour, Day 4

Today was mostly a long driving day, to get from Udaipur to Jodphur. Along the way, we stopped at a Jain temple and enjoyed a vegetarian lunch at a retreat nearby. On a mountain pass, we stopped to buy custard apples, a fruit none of us had seen before which tasted both like custard and apple.

While I napped occasionally on the bus, watching the world pass by in India is fascinating. People stacked four deep on mopeds. Random cows wandering around. Ladies in colorful saris. A huge gathering at a temple built for a mystical motorcycle. And everywhere, lots of honking.

The countryside is beautiful. Yes, there is litter, there is poverty, but it’s obvious that India is a developing country that is modernizing quickly. It’s an interesting arm wrestle of cultures, watching traditional Indian culture mix itself with modern life.

It’s known that Indian people have a habit of staring. But I’m finding myself staring back just the same. There is mutual fascination. I stared at many people passing our bus today, they stared back and we both smiled. That sort of interaction is what travel is all about.

November 3

India Tour Day 5, Jodphur

Our day began with a visit to a Bishnoi village. The Bishnoi are a community formed over a love of nature and respect for the environment, and we learned about the way of life and saw a weaving demonstration. We continued on to see the fortress of Jodphur, which was also a royal residence. The palace is presented well and gives you an evocative sense of time travel back to the era of maharajas. We walked down from the fortress to the market of Jodphur, enjoying blue lanes as the city is almost all painted blue. Our day ended at sunset with high tea. Our hotel was a royal palace on a beautiful lake (our rooms were the former stables) and we watched peacocks roam the grounds and the monkeys play in the trees while having our chai.

The sensation I felt in this day was that of otherness. We saw exactly one non-Indian person all day. Yes, there were other tourists, but only Indian tourists. People are so curious about us, and take our photos like we are celebrities. After so many years in the crush of mainstream tourism, it’s a beautiful thing to be a curiosity to the locals.

November 4

India Tour, Faces of the Pushkar Fair

We are in northern India in a city called Pushkar, which is famous for its annual country fair. It’s actually a camel fair, people from all over India have been trading livestock here for more than 500 years. This was a Silk Road town and the fair came from that trade.

The festivities have grown to include a carnival, market, music, dancing, sports demonstrations, and religious rituals. Today’s main event was a ritual bathing in the sacred lake.

My group and I wandered the streets and were overcome with the colors. Women in beautiful saris, flowers, fair decorations. It was so much to take in, but the thing that attracted my attention the most was the people. So many beautiful faces. So many different kinds of dress. It made me realize that the big attraction of India is the people of India themselves, and their wildly exuberant culture, which is so very different from our own in the west. So, I present to you a collection of photos of the people that caught my eye today. There were so many more but this gives you a feel for the beauty that impresses but also overwhelms.

November 5

India Tour, day 8

We left Pushkar and drove a few hours to reach the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur. This city of 4 million plus is called the “Pink City” even if it was pink only for a brief visit of the Prince of Wales a century ago. (It’s actually terracotta colored)

We visited a fabric studio where we got to try our hands at traditional Indian fabric block printing, and then many of us had our measurements taken for some traditional clothes.

Later, we were treated to a sari party, with a team of ladies who fit saris to each of us. We wore our beautiful new saris out to the Amber Fortress, which was also a royal palace. We took a floodlit evening tour and then ate our dinner in the palace itself, with traditional music. A beautiful day full of surprises!

November 7

India Tour, Jaipur to Agra

It was another long travel day for us, but we made the most of the day by stopping for some sights along the way. We visited a 1000 year old step well, which looks like an Escher drawing but was the gathering place for doing chores in the past. Later, we visited a palace complex at Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of the Mughals in the 16th century. The architecture is unique; it aimed to combine elements of all cultures living in the region at the time, mixing Hindu, Muslim and even western Christian motifs.

The interesting thing about India is the surprise. These are monuments and historical places you might not have heard of, and many of them are in places you’d never guess. If there was a good place for a tour, India really is one, as expert explanation is so very helpful.

Join us in Royal Rajasthan for a classic India tour!

Rajasthan is the India that you have seen in movies and dreamt of visiting. Literally “the land of the kings”, Rajasthan is home to numerous flamboyant palaces and colorful cities filled with typical Indian street life. You’ll experience the food of Jodhpur, the sunset of Udaipur, the dunes of Thar Desert, and the magnificent Taj Mahal. We’ve created an itinerary where you will not only see palaces, you will stay in them. You’ll also be treated to cultural delights such as henna painting, Bollywood dancing and yoga. Pack your bags – you’re in for two weeks of intense color and vibrant life, unlike anything you’ve experienced.

AWS Staff

This post was published by the Adventures with Sarah team. Click here to find out more about the people that make everything at AWS happen.

One Comment

  • Christine Scannell says:

    Hi Sarah, I so enjoyed your trip to India. India is a place I’ve always wanted to go, the colors of India and everything that is so different from the West is what attracts me to that country. I believe in any travel, one must accept the good and the bad it is a part of the experience, litter, beauty, wealth, poverty as you mentioned. Your photographs as usual are outstanding, and make me want to go even more now. Thank you for sharing your experience with us and being so gracious! Stay safe and enjoy!
    Best Regards,
    Chris Scannell

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