Last weekend was a 4-day one, and therefore I took advantage of the time and decided to go on a “Golden Triangle” tour with two other Embassy folks. We began in New Delhi, driving to Agra to explore the Taj Mahal. We arrived in Agra near sunset just in time to make it to Agra Fort. Many of the local Indian tourists were fascinated by me, apparently, and I had about a dozen people taking photos of me or asking to take selfies with me (I declined). It was amusing and annoying at the same time.
We spent the night at a so-so hotel, and woke up at 4:30am to get to th Taj before sunrise. It was worth it!! Sunrise was beautiful and it was not too hot (it would later reach 115F).
After the Taj Mahal, we went to some other minor monuments, which we had all to ourselves due to the heat. We stopped by Fatehpur Sikri, but became hot and miserable about an hour into the tour. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of our local guide, who called me back impatiently when I wandered off to look at something because he wanted to finish his spiel about every single carving on every wall. Having to take off our shoes and walk across hot marble while being barraged by persistent hawkers was the last straw! Thankfully my travel companions felt the same about having burnt feet (one of them might have elbowed a too-close-for-comfort hawker in the ribs), and we returned to our car.
After driving a little while, our driver turned to me and said “we now go extra monument.” I groaned a bit inwardly at the thought of more carvings. We drove off the main road and into the country side, and I saw women all wearing bright orange clothing – apparently the official color of Rajasthan. The dehydration made things seem a little magical. We pulled up to what appeared to be a pile of rubble. Our local guide met us and we entered through a doorway. The site was breath-taking and so unexpected we let out a collective “oooooooh.” We’d reached Chand Baori, one of the largest step wells in the world.
As we toured the sides of the well and saw some pretty interesting carvings, the wind started to whip around us. The skies opened up as we reached the other side of the well, and we took cover as hail started falling around us. As the hail diminished (but the rain continued) we decided to chance it and run to our vehicles, giggling the entire time. The air was suddenly cool and refreshing.
We continued on to Jaipur and arrived after dark. Exhausted and still dehydrated, we retired briefly to our rooms to rest up. The hotel was lovely and the attached restaurant was incredibly cheap and tasty. It was a great rest stop.
Honestly, I fell in love with Jaipur. The next morning our newest guide took us to Amber Fort, which was magical even in intense heat.
As we walked through the area that used to be solely for the king’s 12 wives, I tried to imagine life as a sequestered queen. Sometimes I feel sequestered in Dhaka because of our current movement restrictions – there’s always somebody to open the door for me and greet me, somebody to drive me around, but my freedom is severely hampered by not being able to walk outside. While it’s a semi-luxurious lifestyle, it’s emotionally challenging. At least for me it is only 2 years, and for them it was life. And being able to walk freely in India, if only for a few days, has me now feeling a lot better.
After the Amber Fort, we visited the City Palace Museum, which was nice. Then came lunch and after that, 5 hours of driving back to Delhi. We did not arrive in the city again until nightfall, but met up with a guide the next morning who took us to a large mosque littered with remnants of Mid-Sha’ban (and all night Muslim celebration), a glittering Sikh temple and and Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial.
All in all, it was a great little whirlwind tour before our flight left in the afternoon. It took over two hours to check in and get through customs for our flight, and by the time I got on the plane I was ready for my Dhaka home. Diplokitty was also glad to have me home!
My first round of HHE (House Hold Effects) came yesterday. I’m still unpacking a few boxes and sorting, but my home is finally feeling like a home! The second one should come in a couple of weeks, making my apartment complete! Diplokitty will have his cat condo again, and I’ll have cleaning supplies and fun food stuff. But for today, I’m cleaning and sorting! And dreaming of my next possible location for vacation. Happy Friday everybody!