Journal entries and photos tell the story of our journey through Northern India and Nepal.
Delhi to Kathmandu with G Adventures.
Part One: Delhi, Jaipur, Agra.
Arrived finally in Delhi after what feels like an out-of-time-travel experience.
After meeting everyone and having a brief meeting we set off together to take the metro to India Gate and the President's home (a giant palace built by the British).
This gave us our first taste of India. Ramshackle two-story buildings, filthy streets, auto rickshaws and cabs and motorcycles everywhere; people everywhere. [...] the India Gate & palace were nice enough.
Tomorrow we drive about six hours to Jaipur.
Jaipur, Jaipur, Jaipur. I am exhausted.
What a stimulating, overwhelming, beautiful ,filthy, ancient, bustling, frantic city.
Jaipur is what I thought India would be like and more.
Eating a fragrant, hot, delicious samosa while stepping over the drainage river of sewage. Coughing on chilli dust in the air while merchants scoop them with bare hands. A Hindu holy man inviting you to his temple but then asking for a larger tip. Sweets and Bombay mix and paan - and then a goat climbs on bags of rice and pees.
We passed in and out of the Pink City gates in our lumbering bus. It always seems a miracle that we don't hit anyone. The Pink City is just that - pink terracotta 2-4 story buildings neatly in rows along furious streets. Store fronts are either closed with corrugated metal doors or open with produce spilling out. We passed a tourist bazaar area, food area, spice area, and a meat area...crates of pathetic white chickens huddled while their compatriots are butchered on top of them! Plates of guts with fly congregations, whole fat slimy fish without heads.
Around a couple more bends and we arrived through the gates to the Bissau Palace Hotel.
A heritage building from the 18th century, the Bissau Palace greeted us with scalloped frescoed gates and tiled steps.
[...] it seemed more a museum than a lobby.
We set out on a walk of the neighbourhood. Welcome to India.
The vegetable market was a step back in time. Raised shop floors piled with produce - none of which inspired cleanliness.The shop keepers were aggressive in their sales and people on foot and motorcycle pushed their way around. It was quite a lot.
[...] we had a long and perilous ride on the bicycle rickshaws. Oh my, that was something else.
Note: the photo above is an accurate representation of a rickshaw ride in Jaipur.
Dinner was at a place that is a vintage car shop by day and a BBQ restaurant by night.
We headed out back north to the Amber Palace. (Amber in Hindi is Sky)
So much is connected to astrology - 27 gates for 27 constellations, 12 chapels for for Zodiac, even 9 chosen people to sit around the king to represent the sun and the 9 planets. The palace was beautifully maintained and very stimulating.
The most intriguing room was the hall of mirrors - a ladies' hall tiled entirely with convex mirror tiles.
Carpets of different colours would be hung and all the colour would reflect in the mirrors. Quite amazing.
We also stopped to take some pictures of the Lake Palace and the Palace of Winds.
We stopped first at the red fort - a towering, quasi-medieval monolithic castle. The huge red walls stretched for kilometres around the palace. The fort was built by four generations of the Mughal Empire and definitely rivalled anything I've seen in Europe. Outside were two moats: one river for crocodiles and a paddock for tigers! Such whimsical and effective defence!
Inside we saw the living chambers and courtyards of the various family members. It was similar to the Amber first: a courtyard or the wives, a balcony for concubines, swinging thrones, etc.
This palace had a section built in the same style as the Taj: white marble with incredible inlaid coloured stones and gems.
[...] everyone was a little hot and ready to move on to the Taj.
What no one tells you about the Taj is that their are beautiful stately red gates that surround it on three sides. We walked closer and closer to the entrance gate and then, when you least expect it, you catch a glimpse of the marble through the arch...
...a half of the dome...
And then there she is:
the Taj Mahal, Moby Dick.
Not glistening white, not shining with jewels, not boasting. There, perfect, balanced, welcoming, alive. You catch your breath and continue through the gate. Because of the multiple optical illusions built into her she seems colossal, then modest, then towering again. Like a harvest moon rising, she looms, pregnant and Sublime.
You can't take your eyes off her, but when you do you take it all in. The peaceful, almost English gardens (or rather, the English gardens are based on her). Quiet fountains and small trees, interlocking pathways.
[...] You walk, transfixed, towards her, all at once trying to solve the puzzle of her beauty and surrendering to the impossibility of it all.
So many things to take in... the love story, the death of his wife in childbirth, his sorrow and descent into maddens.
How the architects took elements from different styles and combined them perfectly and symmetrically.
[...] Somehow all these elements come together elegantly, solemnly, majestically.
It seemed rude to even look away from her.
At sunset the birds and the monkeys came alive, as did the inlaid jewels on her Western face.
As we were leaving nobody wanted to turn their backs. You couldn't help but step a glance.
It reminded me of driving away on the lake from the cottage.
All photos copyright Amelia Pipher Cayne and Bram Cayne
Shot on: Canon Rebel T5 (50mm lens) and Go Pro Hero 3
Tour: G Adventures Delhi to Kathmandu Adventure