This weekend, I attempted to start blogging about the India trip. To beging this task, I reviewed all the pictures we took—an unmanageable amount totaling close to 1,000. How do you dwindle 1,000 down to about 30 for the blog? I guess I’ve lost my touch, because I used to do photo selection and editing at my former job. I am suffering from writer’s block and can’t seem to gather my thoughts about the trip. Overall, it was very enjoyable and met my expectations, but every time I begin to describe the trip, I focus on all the negative aspects of India. The trip was not all bad, but the bad parts were really bad. For today, I’ll brief you on some basics.
A big decision has been made; I will not attempt to describe each sight we saw accompanied by its historic relevance—can’t do it. You’ll have to settle for vague descriptions and your own internet research. The basics: we took a private tour using the company Imaginative Traveller who offers many group tours. We weren’t entirely sure how the private tour was going to work until we arrived and met with our local coordinator. At each city, we had a private driver, booked and pre-paid hotels, tour guides and set itinerary. There was some down time to explore on our own or just crash in the hotel. Imaginative Traveller was excellent, and I highly recommend the company.
One of the difficulties in India is a lack of mid-range hotels. There are world class hotels such as the Taj which run US$500+ a night, as well as, many places for US$10. The hotels chosen for us ran between US$50-200/night. We were pleased with our hotels, but they were not US standards—probably about a 2 star US rating. Mostly, we stayed in small hotels resembling B&Bs.
Our trip was focused on northern India and Rajasthan along with a trip to Varanasi to see the famous Ganges river. The sights we saw were primarily ancient monuments, temples, forts, and castles. The cities visited: Delhi, Jaipur, Madhogarh, Agra, Khajuraho, Orchha, and Varanasi. We were in India for a total of 13 days. In retrospect, we should have not have visited so many places. It was a rather hectic schedule, and traveling between cities is so much more difficult in reality than on paper, especially in India.
For me, the food was certainly a highlight of the trip, but I always seem to focus on food. We love Indian food, and what we ate did not disappoint. Being a semi-vegetarian, it was awesome that every place had a vast menu of vegetarian items. On buffets, food was classified as veg and non-veg. I’ll try anything listed as veg. To repeat, we did not get sick at all. We were very careful to only eat cooked food and checked buffets to make sure they were piping hot. Of course, we only drank bottled water and used it to brush our teeth. No street food was consumed. Honestly, I was repelled by the general sanitation of the streets and food vendors to even consider it. For example, I saw a small flock of birds eating samosas when the vendor wasn’t looking. Nothing we consumed was too spicy, but we have a pretty high tolerance for heat. We ate Indian food at every meal except for two lunches when we had pizza—once at Pizza Hut!
There were a few Pizza Huts and McDonalds. We didn’t eat at McDonalds but did examine the menu since beef is not eaten in India because cows are sacred. The only meats we saw on menus were chicken and lamb. At McDonalds, there was a chicken sandwich, fish sandwich, and a few varieties of veggie burgers. Surprisingly, no Starbucks were encountered. (For reference, there are over 100 in Hong Kong.) We were jonesing for some good coffee. Chai tea is the drink of choice and it is very good, mostly due to the large volume of milk and sugar. The food was inexpensive, approximately US$50 a day for both of us not including breakfast.