Entry 45: Old Delhi
We didn’t sleep much the night before boarding our three-hour flight to New Delhi. Both probably excited for what was ahead. The capital of India and its millions of people were waiting for us.
Sure we had been told many times how chaotic Delhi could be. Well, it was not that bad, that is until we went to Old Delhi.
As planned, our guide got us into a human powered rickshaw. I have no idea how the tiny man was able to pull us three through the chaos. I didn’t see it coming, but a truck decided to back up at some point, and our driver ignored it (captured in the video below). I was looking away to the other side, but when I turned my head, Mom had the biggest eyes I had ever seen on her. The back of the truck was an inch away from her face.
Entry 46: Varanasi and the Ganges River
It’s not easy describing Varanasi, the most sacred Hindu city and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Everything you probably heard about it is true.
After walking through a few more ghats, we met the boatman that was going to take us up the river to watch Ganga Aarti, a devotional fire ceremony conducted by priests for the river Ganges.
Entry 47: Following Buddha’s Footsteps
We finally were able to leave Varanasi for Sarnath and Bodhgaya. These are critical pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. Sarnath is the place where Buddha gave his first teaching after achieving enlightenment in Bodhgaya under a Bodhi tree.
Sarnath has a temple built by the Maha Bodhi Foundation to mark the place of Buddha’s first teaching in Deer Park. The site next to it contains a stupa initially constructed by Emperor Ashoka 300 years after Buddha’s death.
Besides the closing of Sarnath, the roads were being blocked so that His Excellency wouldn’t need to fight traffic. The result is that our ride to Bodhgaya took six hours. When we finally arrived there, we were toast.
One of the main site’s in Bodhgaya is a gigantic Buddha statue measuring 80 feet. I liked the Japanese temple since it was serene. Some Hindu pilgrims were coming in as we were leaving. Hindus consider Buddha the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and therefore Buddhism to be somehow part of Hinduism.
And then, there we were, at the entrance of the Mahabodhi Temple, one of the seven wonders of the Buddhist world, the place where Buddha himself found his enlightened.
To learn more about the Mahabodhi Temple, please refer to the Unesco World Heritage website.
National Highway 2
NH2 was an adventure. When our driver mentioned we would be taking a national highway, I somehow thought the road conditions would improve. I guess they did, but the experience also shocked me somehow.
Although filmed in Brazil, the video below shows an illustrative example of traffic in India.
Entry 48: Sunny Rajasthan
The Varanasi airport is somewhat new but has almost no flights coming in or out of it, and that is bizarre for a city with a population of more than 1.5 million people. Upon arrival, we were informed that our flight to Delhi was late and that we wouldn’t make it to Udaipur that day.
Our flight left for Delhi at 7:30 p.m. and we arrived at the hotel at 11:00 p.m. We then woke up again at 3:00 a.m. to be driven back to the airport (they put us on the earliest flight out of Delhi) and arrived in Udaipur at 7:00 a.m. Narjee was waiting for us.
We made our way to the banks of Lake Pichola and waited there until the German bakery across the street opened for the day.
After coffee and feeling a litle more awake, Narjee took us to a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu temple, the preserver of the universe.
At some point, Mom and I looked at each other and started laughing. We were at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. Vishnu worked its magic and managed to lift our spirits up after all the tribulations we went through to get here. I left the temple breathing deeply once more.
Entry 49: Monkeys on the Road
We left Udaipur in the morning and drove towards Ranakpur to visit a famous Jain temple. The vegetation around us reminded me a lot of Southern California: semi-arid and hilly.
Lalit stopped the car for me to take a picture and I mistakenly opened the window. A few monkeys started rushing toward the car, and I closed the window just in time to not have one come in.
Mom and I had no expectations about the temple. We knew from a travel book that it was constructed in the 15th century and that it contained 1,444 marble pillars, all uniquely carved. But we were not prepared for the real thing.
Entry 50: The Blue City
Entry 51: The Thar Desert
I first heard of Jaisalmer through my mom. She had read an article about it in a Brazilian newspaper and was fascinated by the city. After reading about it myself, what enchanted me the most about this place was not the fact that it was a fort city in the middle of the Thar desert, a few miles from the border between India and Pakistan, it was its name: Jaisalmer.
Birds flying next to the fort walls
Dancing with Gypsies in the dunes next to Jaisalmer
Entry 52: Pretentious Pushkar
Today we left Jodhpur for the last time. We had yet another chance to visit on our way back from Jaisalmer.
On our way from Jodhpur to Pushkar, we had the chance to meet Narjee’s parents. Narjee organized the trip for us, and we met him through a common friend. His family was very sweet. It was Election Day in their village, and so the entire main street was full of people waiting for their chance to cast their vote at the polling place, the village’s school. We got to talk to people, and I even had the opportunity to take Mom’s picture with one of the candidates, who were all female. It was fun to mingle and feel welcomed.
On a stop along the road, we encountered a very interesting bull-powered irrigation system and water wheel
We eventually made it to Pushkar, a small town with more than 500 temples around a sacred lake.
Lalit and mom go for a Camel ride in Pushkar
Entry 53: Life in the Pink City
We had a remarkable day visiting Amber Fort. We participated in the elephant ride up the fort. That I must say was the highlight of our visit Jaipur, together with a visit to the fort itself and its winter palace with its myriad of convex mirrors.
Amber Fort and the Wind Palace
Entry 54: Breathless in Agra
Our day started with the sound of the alarm clock. We were leaving Jaipur early, traveling toward Agra, the location of the Taj Mahal.
The entrance to the gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal is through a majestic gate which works like a dark room of sorts and as you we came out of the dark, there it was, the most impressive building I have ever seen.
Back in the car, we were again surrounded by chaos. But, we made it in time to Agra’s Red Fort just to see it during sunset. The whole fort came to life in vibrant colors.
After an overnight in Agra, time to drive to New Delhi to catch our flight to Chennai.