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NORTHERN INDIA - A rich, eclectic experience - Trip Report

 

A Cornucopia. Soon to be the most populous country in the world and already the largest democracy, India combines an incredible palette of disparate cultures, nations, topologies, and experiences.  We visited in early March, just after the major tourist season.  The weather was still perfect and the crowds had gone.

 

 

DELHI

Old Delhi. We started our tour in Delhi, and immediately plunged right into bustling Old Delhi.

 

Rugmaking. We visited a rug making company and saw how beautiful silk and wool rugs are hand made.  We ended up buying a rug that is now in our dining room.

Bahai Temple.  This Temple of the Bahai Faith is one of just 7 in the world.  This splendid and evocative lotus shaped structure was designed by an Iranian architect.

Mosques and Dining. We visited the impressive central mosque in Old Delhi where Sarah had to cover up.  We also visited some great restaurants including this marvelous and exotic Spice Route Restaurant in the lush Imperial Hotel.

Lodhi Hotel. We stayed at the fabulous Lodhi Hotel, a Virtuoso property. Our spacious and beautifully decorated room included a balcony terrace and our own private pool.

 

   

AGRA

Taj Mahal. Our first stop after Delhi was Agra, where we made a sunrise visit to the enchanting Taj Mahal.

 

Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel.  In Agra we stayed at the amazing Oberoi Amarvilas.  In additrion to its sumptuous accommodations, public spaces and restaurants, every room has a view of the Taj - as no other hotel does. 

 

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AJABGAR VALLEY AND AMANBAGH

Immersed in a beautiful Indian countryside.  About an hour's drive outside Jaipur, in the heart of the Ajabgar Valley, is the Amanbagh Resort where we stayed. This Virtuoso property provides many immersive activities that brought us into direct contact with the wonderful residents of this lovely valley - home of shepherds, farmers, woodsmen, and numerous tiny villages.

 

Goatherd. We went on a trek to a mountain lake then down to valley where we encountered this goatherd.  We stopped to talk with him and two friends - a farmer and a woodcutter - shown in the picture at the beginning of this report.

School kids. Further on our trek we visited a little town where we met some enthusiastic children on their way to school

Drive through the valley. We took a day trip on the Amanbagh Hotel's safari vehicle, driving on winding narrow dirt trails through open land, little villages, farms, and home businesses - such as rug-making, pottery and brick-making.  We passed many charming scenes of daily life: such as this grandfather watching after his happy grandchild;  a delightful girl who lit up with smiles and started dancing for us; an open air barber shop; a women bringing home a bundle on her head.

Driving adventure. Driving in rural India is an amusing undertaking, requiring sharing the road with literally sacred cows, and nomadic tribes traveling with their livestock. 

Bhanghar Archeological Site. We visited one of the top 10 archeological sites in Indai, and because of the time of year we had the place to ourselves. An abandoned medieval city with a grand bazaar, palace, gardens, temples and pools.

 

Our driver's mom. While near our driver's house, he spotted this charming woman - his mother - and we stopped for a chat. We also met his fiancé and visited his house. 

Amanbagh Resort. The Amanbagh was utterly incredible. Its spacious beautiful grounds. courtyards, swimming pool, gazebos, gardens, and main building were a delightful respite in this rural valley. The rooms were palaces. We took a wonderful cooking class, and dined alfresco accompanied by music and glowing lights around the colonnade and pool.

 

UDAIPUR

 

Udaipur at night.  With its beautiful buildings on the lakes and canals tastefully lit at night, Udaipur becomes a magical city.  When we arrived in the evening we were ferried to our hotel across this lake.

Palace and shops.  We toured the palace, where the prince still lives, with its dazzlingly decorated rooms, then did some shopping with delightful shopkeepers and lovely goods.

Oberoi Udaivilas. Our hotel was grand, with exotic buildings, gardens, pools, and courtyards it was breathtaking, day and night.

 

MUMBAI

The Koli People.  Next we visited Mumbai. The original inhabitants of Mumbai, were the Koli people, a semi-nomadic fishing tribe.  Their colony and boats are here in the middle of Mumbai.

 

The bustling slums of Mumbai.  We had a guided tour of the slums, an eye opening look into both poverty and industry, and a surprising level of contentment.

 

The laundry industry.  A huge industry in the slums is the massive laundry that cleans the linens, tablecloths and clothing of the hotels, hospitals, restaurants, and residents of the city.   Here the goods are washed and dried, and transported in huge bundles on enormous manual carts.  This complex stretches out for over a kilometer.

Our amazing guide.  She came to Mumbai as an overwhelmed peasant girl from northern India and proceeded to obtain three degrees including one in sociology focused on the slums of Mumbai.

Family quilt business. We were privileged to meet an industrious family that makes quilts from cloth brought by customers.  This is there workshop, kitchen, sleeping quarters -  everything. Neat and tidy. And lovely quilts.

 

Family pottery business. We were also privileged to meet a family of potters, and watch the various stages of their craft..

The Dabbawallas.  The famous lunch box deliverers.  Unique in the world, they deliver 100,000 hot lunches made at home from as far away as 90 km every day on time and never misdirected, and then return the boxes home that afternoon.  Each box may go through 100 hands on the way. A logistical feat unrivaled by anybody anywhere.