Decisions, decisions, decisions.
It was a moment of choice. Should I go to the UK or India? A situation that lasted in just a few minutes. An hour later, I was busy looking up places to visit in the land of culture, history and curry.
Pack- light and less.
My quick decision-making had ripple effects. I packed light and fast. Two pairs of jeans, one hair bandanna, white shades, an Indian inspired kaftan ( my favourite) and two flimsy shirts were all set in a small suitcase. I was ready in less than an hour. I followed the rules of easy travel, bearing in mind that the weather in India would be hot and humid in May. Though, I still made sure to pack the essentials. A set of medicines, mosquito repellant and a camera are not only a must but things that equate a life and death situation or perhaps, I overread the book Eat, Pray and Love.
A labyrinth stop: Delhi and Agra.
I arrived in Delhi in an unpleasant day- hot and humid and yet I was beaming with excitement. As a rule of thumb in my travels, the first day should always be a less stressful day. So, the whole afternoon was just spent for shopping and sight-seeing around the city. Easy and fun. My eyes feasted on a sight of bountiful silk pashminas, intricate woven saris, and wooden carved handicrafts. Delhi market’s is a shopper’s paradise.
Taj Mahal: love set in stone.
The trip from Delhi to Agra should be around 5 hours by bus. My experience was the opposite. I travelled for about 24 hours to and fro. Yes, literally. I passed by hordes of people on the road; vendors, hawkers and a bunch of monkeys waving at every tourist. It was life changing. At 7 AM, our bus got stuck in the horrendous, bumper-to-bumper traffic just at the outskirt of Delhi. I was appalled. I had never seen such congestion in my life. Finally, at 1 PM, we arrived in Red Fort. A red sandstone palace known to be the home of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Our tour guide told us tales and stories about each room in the palace. But I could never forget the story about the emperor’s room. Upon the death of Sha Jahan’s beloved wife, he built a room with a large window, overlooking Taj Mahal. That had always been the first and the last image he would see. An eternal symbol and reminder of true love. I melted.
Taj Mahal stood tall and beautiful in the dusk of May. The resting place of Mumtaz Mahal, the second wife of Emperor Shah Jahan was beyond beauty. The courtyards were filled with yellow trees and the palace alone is a stunning, historical landscape. I left satisfying my curiousity and leaving me a memory of beauty and love.
Jaipur- pink and pretty.
A view of Hawa Mahal from one of its windows.
Looking out from the train on the way to Jaipur, I saw different images of India. I was saddened by the poverty in some areas but amazed with how the beauty of nature peeked out, behind the tainted glass window of the train. There were vast spaces of farmlands, unique Hindu temples and ranges of hills. An irony.
Jaipur is famous for being called the pink city and as I set foot on it, different shades of pink glimmered in the sun. The city lives up to its name. The mountains and blue sky created a dazzling backdrop. It complemented the shades of pink. But what sets it apart from other places is its richness in history and culture. An old city with a modern twist.
I started my tour with a visit to the “talk of the town”, the Amber Fort. As I passed through the walled city of Jaipur, the enormous pink gate opened my sight to a new plethora of beautiful things. I sighed. I saw unique historical monuments, temples, tiny shops of pink and peach. Suddenly, an elephant caught my attention, on it was a young man lazily enjoying the ride with an umbrella protecting him from the sun. It was entertaining.
After an hour, I reached Amber Fort. Another palace that sits on a charming hill with a cystal-clear lake. Its walls replicate a mini great wall of China. The fort is known to have a complex passage area used by the royals as an escape route during wars. Its reputation precedes its name, it is more glorious than I ever imagined. Sadly, I missed the morning ritual of elephants going up to the palace but was fortunate enough to see several of them marching back to the town. I tread the hilly, cobbled stone path and the view on the top took my breath away. What a sight! I looked down and saw the courtyard, surrounded by the Moata lake. Beautiful is an understatement.
On the last leg of the tour, I stopped by a park and saw Jal Mahal from afar; halfly submerged in the lake of Man Sagar. Popularly known as the ” Water Palace”, this UNESCO world heritage continues to survive the tempest of time.
At noon, I had a hearty curry meal in one of the oldest North Indian restaurants in Jaipur. The food was scrumptious and every penny spent was worth it. I enjoyed the food and the pretty images that filled my day.
Travel: more than just an eye candy.
Five days after whilst waiting for my flight back to Dubai, I pondered on my experiences. That trip was more than just an eye candy. It is one of those trips that one would never forget. An inspirational one. A journey that lets you learn new things, appreciates what you have and be thankful for who you are. In the end, I thought about an excerpt in the book “Eat, Love and Pray”; it says, “Eventually, everything goes away.” I believe in that. Everyone dies, everything gets worn out and disappears with perhaps, very few exceptions. So, after that trip, I make sure that my future escapades should not end with a phrase ” finally been there, done that”; rather, it should end with ” eat, love and travel more”.
Why? Because everything disappears and all that one can have are memories. Memories that can be shared and can live through time. So, travel more and share your stories.