Updated: Aug 1, 2018
India! I truly did not know what to expect. The only time (technically) that we had been here, was a year prior when we had a 7 hour layover in Mumbai on our way to Thailand. Then, we only got to see the inside of the Mumbai airport as we didn't have a visa to go beyond that. We were like Tom Hanks in the movie "Terminal". Thanks to the Priority Pass membership through American Express Platinum, we were able to relax in the Loyalty Lounge at BOM airport.
This time in India, we were able to do much, much more and it was phenomenal! Thanks to Tour Radar, who organized our tour with Intrepid Tours. I was pleased with the web site that offered a consolidation of tours worldwide. It was user friendly and the steps for booking were really easy. It was our first time in India and the ease of booking a tour navigating this new and wonderful country was easier than we thought. As budget travelers, our hotels for the tour were 3 star types, which is fine, as long as they're clean and comfortable. For us, it's merely a place to throw our bags and then go out and explore. The hotels that we stayed at were: The Florence in Delhi; Siris 18 in Agra; Nahargarh Haveli in Jaipur and Maison Ocean in Goa.
Our immersion of India began when we landed in New Delhi. In a country that is approximately about a third of the size of the United States, with a population of roughly 1.3 billion people, (about 4 times that of the US), we quickly noticed the staggering amount of traffic. A 3-lane highway would quickly become 5 lanes of traffic, to the point where you could roll down your car window, and touch the car or person right next to you! Also, it would seem that a requirement for driving in India is to have a working car horn, as they are constantly being blown both from morning to night. The one thing that they did not blow their horns at were the many sacred cows that were roaming about. They are revered, and have carte-blanche to go wherever they like. I also noticed that there are no clear road rules, and yet, there seems to be no road rage. To our credit, we did not scream once from our back seat as our driver maneuvered his way through.
We were met at our hotel the next day by our private driver and tour guide to begin our exploration of The Golden Triangle India by Swastik India Journeys. It included the cities of New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. From Jaipur we went back to Delhi, and flew south to Goa, a beach type resort town. We booked our flight through Spice Jet, which was reasonably priced, and a comfortable flight of about 2 and 1/2 hours.
In Goa, across from our hotel, was a restaurant called Cafe Chorizo. Randy, one of the co-owners, was an affable sort, as well as being quite personable and easy to talk to. We looked forward to our chats with him, and he helped to make our stay in Goa a delight. If you find yourself in Goa, it would behoove you to check out Randy's restaurant. The service, the food, and the friendly conversation are all a big thumbs up.
During our last few days in India we decided to splurge. We took a flight from Goa to Mumbai, which was less than an hour. We wanted to conclude our journey in Mumbai and stayed at the Taj Land's End Hotel. They sent a car to pick us up from the airport. An elderly gentleman who had a chauffeur's hat and white gloves picked us up. Traffic was still crazy packed there as well and we found out that popular Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan, was staying a block and a half away from our hotel. Our chauffeur pointed out the place where he was staying. There were a bunch of people outside of the building, mostly young girls, hoping to get a glimpse of him!
When we arrived at our hotel,my jaw dropped! it was breathtakingly gorgeous! Once I was finally able to stop my gawking, I was vaguely aware of a woman dressed in a sari, attempting to put a flower garland around my neck and a dot on my forehead. It was a whirlwind from there, as my head was spinning at the luxurious surroundings we found ourselves in. We were escorted to our room by a manager, and the niceties of the room were pointed out. This, I thought, was a wonderful culmination to our journey and an excellent way to bring in the New Year.
My pictures can only give one a brief glimpse into the mind boggling, amazing India. Photos and videos cannot accurately capture the smorgasbord of tastes, sights, sounds and smells that are uniquely India.