It was an unforgettable trip across four cities and two states in a beautiful and spiritual country.
As we lament another pandemic winter and the prospect of a return to virtual schooling after the holidays, I’m taking a detour from the daily grind and venturing back to November 2012.
It’d be another 3.5 years before T entered our lives. The hubby and I had just entered our 30s. We lived a frugal life but worked to save up to see the world before we settled down with a family.
We planned an itinerary that started on the Northern end of India and we made our way along the Western side down to the south.
Dehli and Agra
Our first stop was Dehli, India’s capital territory. We arrived at night after a nearly 14-hour flight.
We woke up refreshed and ready to sightsee. Little did we know the rotten egg that laid ahead.
Our Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was doing a diplomatic tour of the city on that very same day. So for security reasons, all major sites were closed!
So we got to enjoy our plans from afar at closed off gates, like beautiful Lotus Temple pictured below. I bet it looks lovely inside too!
But there were other lovely spots to see that didn’t require admission, like India Gate, below.
We weren’t going to vote for Harper at the federal elections. Let’s just say the first day of our trip certainly didn’t endear himself to us!
Our second day was a magical highlight. We drove four hours from Dehli to Agra, home to one of the seven wonders of the world: Taj Mahal.
Built in the early 1600s by Emperor Shah Jahan to immortalize his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, this world-renowned mausoleum was truly breathtaking to see in person.
Made from white Makrana marble, the craftsmanship was awe-inspiring to behold.
For example, the black calligraphic text bordering this wall are passages from the holy book of Quran. In all, 22 passages from the Quran are transcribed along the Taj Mahal.
Ever wondered what the back side of the Taj Mahal looks out to?
Or what the view from the Taj Mahal looking out to the main entrance looks like?
On the same day, we visited nearby Agra Fort. The level of detail in the craftsmanship continues to impress me all these years later.
And this is the hubby and I having fun at Agra Fort at the end of a long day of walking.
The hubby works with wonderful colleagues who are based in India.
On our third and final day, back in Dehli, a few of his colleagues kindly showed us around.
Among the highlights included trying out local fast food fare at the mall. This was delicious!
On our fourth day, we flew to Jaipur, the favourite stretch of our trip.
We started with local sightseeing, such as visiting City Palace.
The streets in India seemed crazy to me. Cars, cyclists, rickshaws, and even cows. I don’t think people were following any specific lane. I‘d have anxiety driving over there!
On our fifth day, we woke up at 4 am to head out at 5 am for a magical experience: our first-ever hot air balloon ride.
The hubby and I were the only “young ins” in an all-senior tour group and we were mesmerized as the staff started inflating the balloons.
Admittedly, I felt very anxious as we lifted off the ground. There was nothing saving us if we were to plummet to the ground.
But I quickly set those nerves aside, so we could enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime sunrise experience. The views were spectacular.
Our tour ended just as the city was starting to wake up. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the historic grounds of Amer Fort.
Looking at these photos now all these years later, I couldn’t help but wish for a day when we could take T on these adventures with us.
We just need to get him – and us – to survive a 14-hour flight first without having a meltdown!
Later that afternoon, we walked around the city. On our way back to the hotel, we decided to try taking a rickshaw just for the experience.
I felt like the poor man was going to have a heart attack cycling our two fat asses around. So the hubby asked him if they could switch!
The man sat on the back next to me while the hubby cycled us through the busy streets. It was such a memorable experience. I still smile about it all these years later!
On our sixth day, we spent the afternoon at an elephant sanctuary.
I don’t regret and quite enjoyed the experience of the elephant ride. But looking at this photo now, I will not be doing this again as elephants should roam freely rather than carry us around.
We had many delicious meals in India but this home-cooked lunch, prepared by the mother of the sanctuary owner and enjoyed at his home, was the highlight.
It was such a simple meal of spiced cauliflower and sautéed okra. But I still think about this delicious hearty meal all these years later.
On our seventh day, we flew to Mumbai. The densely-populated metropolis, with its tall buildings, was a stark contrast from the previous three cities.
We spent the day with another of the hubby’s good colleague and friend, who was very hospitable and showed us around.
One of the places we really wanted to visit was Dobhi Ghat, also known as the public laundry.
In this open space, the locals wash and dry the linens and laundry from hotels and hospitals.
The hubby’s friend was very amused that we wanted to see this place. There weren’t official tours nor was it a tourist attraction. But we were able to convince one of the staff to give us a tour.
It’s hard to believe by looking at this photo, but these fire-heated barrels of water wash hotel linens and laundry – quite efficiently!
We were in Mumbai during Diwali, the annual holy festival of light celebrated over five days.
The City streets were alive with bright colourful decorations and the joy was infectious.
These were the colourful powder used to make a rangoli – more on this later below.
We spent the following day on Elephanta Island, an hour-long ferry ride from the city.
The island is home to ancient caves that were quite a marvel to roam around.
If I looked like I was going to pass out, it was because it was super hot and humid!
At the end of the long day, we took a nice sunset stroll along Marine Drive, the waterfront.
We spent the rest of the day lounging at our hotel.
The staff had prepared a beautiful rangoli by the lobby in celebration of Diwali.
Fireworks began around 8pm and it was unlike anything we had experienced before. They just went on nonstop all night all across the city.
When we woke up the next morning, there were still fireworks going off!
After a week of intense sightseeing, we planned a restful three days at a beach-side resort in Goa.
We didn’t do a whole lot during these three days and it was wonderful.
We spent a lot of time strolling along the beach. There was a local stray dog, who seemed injured, and the hubby has a soft spot for animals.
The two quickly formed a bond and the dog always sought the hubby out during every outing. I still smile at this photo all these years later.
Our final stop was Kerala, a state in the South-Western side of India, with nearly 600km of the Arabian Sea shoreline.
These were fascinating fishing mechanisms set up by local fishermen. They let us try operating them and it was quite cool seeing them in action.
Our main motivation to visit Kerala was when we learned about their houseboat tours.
This was the houseboat the hubby and I rented for the day.
This lunchtime feast, enjoyed as the boat cruised along the scenic river, was amazing.
As we enjoyed the views on our last day in India, I felt super thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience in this beautiful and spiritual country.
We were at a phase in our lives where we were eagerly anticipating parenthood. We didn’t know at the time that it would take another 3.5 years before T arrived.
Truthfully speaking, I do miss the freedom of these days, when global adventures were more accessible and affordable!
These days, an affordable Indian adventure would be ordering chicken biryani takeout – which by the way gave me food poisoning for two days last week! Fun!
It’d probably be a huge effort and stress to take T on such an adventure. But I do dream about it. It’ll have to wait until he’s much older, but I look forward to the day to being able to do so!