Finding India to be the spice of life, Jen McAllister from Flight Centre Auckland concludes her experiences on India tour.
On day three of our tour we boarded a private bus and took a tour around Jaipur’s more wealthy side of town before heading to Karori. The thing I love most about Intrepid Travel is that all of our accommodation was great – very clean and tidy yet located in local areas of town. You feel located in the midst of the culture and could wander the streets to really get a feel for the neighbourhood.
It’s incredible the difference between the two sides of town – one side of town is narrow dirty streets crammed with vehicles driving on broken seals and with piles of litter at the sides of the road. The other side of town is perfectly manicured lawns, not a speck of rubbish in site and wide open roads with almost a shine to them.
Karori was a 6 hour drive which took us through many smaller India towns and with every town the colours grew more vibrant. Every building was a different colour – blue, violet and yellow, and the womens' saris were fluro orange or yellow red. In contrast to the poverty and crumbling buildings, the colours stood out even more.
Our welcome into Karori was via their congested main street which doubled as a marketplace. The population of Karori is 1 million with 100,000 living in the city itself. We were fortunate enough to stay in the Palace with the Maharaja and the Queen. This was absolutely incredible – it was the most magical experience to stay with royalty who just opened their home to us.
After lunch in the dining room we got henna tattoos in the drawing room. This beautiful woman came and quietly and patiently drew the thick mud of henna on all 8 of our hands, and 3 weeks on my henna still remains!
Next up was a walk through the town. The first thing we noticed about Karori was how happy everyone is; there was no-one begging, no-one approaching us trying to drag us into their stores. The people who did approach us simply wanted to have a photo with us and talk English to us, which was a great way of getting to meet the townspeople.
We walked to the old City Palace where we had a tour inside and made our way onto the roof for spectacular views over the town and countryside. The city is mostly painted in a bright blue colour so the views from the roof with the sunset and green countryside took my breath away.
We then made our way to the Mosque for prayer time and stood silently in the back observing prayer – until we were noticed at which point we became the spectacles! When the gong sounded however, the crowd became focused and it was very special to watch. That evening we wandered through the local markets on our way back to the palace before having dinner in the palace courtyard under the stars - magic!
The following day of our India holidays we had a wander around the palace grounds before sitting down with the Queen and finding out a bit about her life and her people. Karori is known as a prosperous area and the royal family are doing a lot in the community to help the people; they are opening schools with free buses and extending into the neighbouring state as well. Sadly we had to leave for our next destination but Karori was by far my favourite place.
We next made our way to the abandoned palace Fatiqri Sikri outside Agra. It was built for the king, his wives and 320 concubines over a 12 year period, inhabited for 4 years and then abandoned. It’s hard to believe the massive structure was only used for 4 years; it’s made from red sandstone and stands high on the hill overlooking the township below.
On the day we set off for Agra we'd been in India for 5 days and I still couldn't get enough of the place - I'm in love with India! Today we’re up at 4.30am and off to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It’s recommended that you visit the Taj Mahal first thing in the morning when it opens at 6am to avoid the crowds and get the best pictures, and they weren't wrong!
Walking onto the perfectly manicured grounds you feel like you're walking into a palace – it’s hard to believe all this grandeur and wonder was designed with the single purpose of being a final resting place. As you walk through the entrance arch you can see the white Taj Mahal dome framed through the arch and as you walk through the arch the white of the done, sparkle of the water and beams of the rising sun make the entire experience one of awe.
That night we caught the evening 3 hour train back to Delhi before arriving at the hotel and collapsing into bed. Our last day in Delhi was spent doing an Urban Adventure called Ghandi’s Delhi. We started with breakfast at a local restaurant before spending 2 hours visiting Ghandi’s museum. The second floor of the museum was an interactive gallery where you could explore his life. Next stop was Ghandi’s cremation place, which was a very moving place. It seemed fitting that we would end our tour here.
I can’t speak highly enough of this tour; Intrepid Travel’s Golden Triangle tour was absolutely fantastic. The accommodation, transport, inclusions and additional options were all brilliant, I couldn't fault a thing. I felt like I got to experience the real India, eat the most incredible foods, and visit places that words can’t describe. I will be back, and I will be back with Intrepid.
Looking for more information on India holidays? Contact a Flight Centre travel expert – 130 stores nationwide. Phone 0800 24 35 44.