An October 2003 trip
to India by beautysan
Quote: India is a place most people love to hate and hate to love. It is vast, exotic, interesting, and frustrating at the same time. People from industrialized countries will get terrible culture shock when they first arrive. Nonetheless, India has unbeatable sights to amaze you beyond words.
Hotel | "HK Choudhary Guesthouse"
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on March 19, 2006
H.K. Choudhary Guest House
H - 35/3, Connaught Circus
New Delhi, India 110 001
+91 (11) 23322043
Attraction | "Taj Mahal - The Marble Jewel of India"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 7, 2006
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 17, 2006
I have never been to a place so amazingly different from anywhere else I've ever seen in the world. On the first day we arrived in Delhi, our arranged transport picked us up at the airport. The traffic outside was chaotic. The polluted air almost choked me, and our driver seemed to enjoy shocking us by his crazy driving skills. Our driver told us that driving in India requires three things: a good horn, good brakes, and good skills. True enough, using horn is a way of life here. In fact, people are encouraged to use horn to signal, "Watch out, I'm coming!"
There will never be a minute of silence on the streets of India. At traffic lights, beggars going from car to car is a common scene. While walking on the streets, you’ll encounter families of street people under a mere canvas roof they call home and beggars who actually follow you from street to street until you give them something. Sad to say, beggars are usually women. They begged to support their family while their husband spent it all on alcohol. Some beggars actually pull your hand, block your path, or kneel down in front of you. These are all very appalling for first-timer. Another common but shocking scene in India is the free-roaming animals--not just cows, but buffalo, donkeys, pigs, camels, chickens, monkeys, and even bears can be seen on the street, fighting for space with the crowds of people and vehicles!!! At the toll plaza on the way to Agra, we were left in the car while our driver went out to pay the toll fee. Some monkeys tap on our car window. As our car was non air-conditioned, we got the shock of our lives when a black bear appeared on our half opened window!Then the owner of the bear and monkey appeared, asked the animals to perform stunts, and asked us to pay. Our driver later told us that the bears are harmless, as they have taken out all its teeth and they were hunted illegally from the forest nearby. Please DO NOT pay these people for the stunts, as this will encourage further animal abuse.
Another annoyance in India is the harassment from Indian men. Cat calls are common, even when you are conservatively dressed. There was once an Indian man who purposely made his way across the street just to come face to face with us, pointed at us, and shouted "Japan" into our ears with the intention of scaring us! One would wonder what is the motive behind this, to be friendly? Or three fair-skinned Asian girls is a rare scene in India and they deserved to be harassed? Anyway, don't be put off by my unpleasant experiences. There are good people in India. And the sights are truly superb. It is such a shame, due to the culture shock, I could not enjoy India fully.
Our driver Umesh, whom we hired from a travel agent in Delhi, is a weird character. At the beginning of the journey,he showed us his guestbook that he passed to his clients to sign or write comments. We were shocked to read many complaints about him in the guestbook!(He doesn't know about the complaints, since he does not read English.) We were dreading what was to come next, but it was already too late to get off, as we were on the highway already.
True enough, he is a very stubborn and hot-tempered fellow who will not listen to what you want and insists on following his own decisions. He did not want us to go shopping or to restaurants on our own but insisted on bringing us to places where he could get commision. He made a rule in the car that NO ONE is allowed to sleep while he's driving! If any of us fell asleep at the back, he'd turn up the volume of Hindi music. For the front seat, if you fell asleep, he'd wake you up and scold you or stop his car and refuse to drive!
For our camel safari, he wanted to follow us and shared a camel and tent with one of us! It got so ridiculous that we had to call the travel agent and complain. We had to tolerate his sulking face all through the journey after that. At the end of the journey, we gave him a minimal tip, as we were not happy with his service. He freaked out, threw a tantrum, and threw back the money at us and swore at us!
This was the most unpleasant experience we ever had in India. India is actually a beautiful place. It's a shame he had to spoil it all.
Rajasthan is so vast and diversed we had to spend 7 days just to explore half of it. Our first stop was Jaipur, the tourists paradise in Rajasthan. Amber Fort dominates the northern horizon, the city palace, and Hawa Mahal in the city centre itself. The pink city is also famous for its mango Lassi. Lassi Wallah, at MI road, is highly recommended. We also checked out the famous Rambargh Palace Hotel. Despite all the modernization and development, beggars are still plaguing the city, chasing tourists around for money and food.
We stopped at Pushkar next, a famous pilgrimage site for Hindus. It is a "supposedly" a holy city, where smoking and even drinking are not allowed within the city itself. Many devotees come from afar just to have a dip in the holy water of the Pushkar lake and perform the "Pushkar Puja," a ceremony of scripture reading and flower scattering by the lake. Despite all the hype for holiness, many local priests harassed us to pay them an exorbitant amount in order to perform the ceremony for us. When we refused, they actually scolded and cursed us! One priest said in English, "You must do puja in Pushkar, or else you come here for what? To F#$k?" This was certainly not my idea of holiness. Besides the unpleasant experience, the ghats are a very pretty sight, especially at sunset. For a good sunset viewpoint, go to sunset cafe by the Pushkar lake.
We continued our journey to Jodhpur—the blue city. Looming over the city is the lavishly decorated Meherangarh Fort. If there is only one fort you see in India, make it Meherangarh Fort. We had been visiting fort after fort around Rajasthan, and this one still remains my favourite. From the fort, we saw the panoramic view of the old city and the sea of blue-washed houses all the way to the bordering Thar desert. Jodhpur is definitely a highlight of our Rajasthan trip, although it has not emerged as a popular tourist destination in its own right.
After Jodhpur, we went on to Jaisalmer under a miserably baking condition as we near the desert. We started our camel safari from there. From many guidebooks, we came to know that Sam Sand Dunes is THE place to be for sunset watching. However, we were brought to a place supposedly near to Sam Sand Dune, but less crowded. We appreciated the solitude, but the sunset was kind of disappointing. After sunset, we had our dinner around a campfire, which was quite fun. At night, we slept at the million stars hotel—an open-air bed under the stars, listening to the silence of the desert. Bikaner was our next destination.
About 45 minutes from Bikaner, in a small town called Deshnok,we stopped by a very unique temple—Karni Mata Temple, or Rat Temple. It is a paradise for rats as these "holy pests" are worshipped in this temple. It was truly an "Only in India" experience to walk with the holy rats. In Bikaner, we visited the magnificent Junagarh Fort. Rajastahn certainly has no shortage of fine forts, but day after day of fort visiting got a bit too much. We were getting a bit fort-weary now. Fortunately, it was almost the end of our trip. At the last day of our journey, we travelled through Fatehpur, Mandawa, and Jhunjunu enroute to Delhi. Mandawa is a small village, famous for its colourful havelis. However, we found that the havelis in Mandawa was not well-restored. We overnighted at Jhunjunu and bid farewell to memorable Rajasthan, the land of a thousand forts, colourful saris, and turban legends.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia