Highlights of India
February 10, 2003
What did we like best about India? OK, here is where we'll come out and
make some judgement calls. What rocks and what stinks. Well, a lot of
things stink in India, and if you were here you'd probably be standing
in three of them right now. Lets move on to what rocks.
Top Five things to see in India that travel agents won't tell you about:
- Our trip to Amritsar stands out as a
beautiful experience. Since it was one of our first experiences in India
and everything was new, we were even enchanted by the tomato soup and
pakoras sold from stands at the train station. But even accounting for
our newbie status, with the splendor of the Golden Temple with its pious
festival atmosphere and the friendly free meal shared by all and the
haunting singsong chanting of the Sikh holy book, we felt transformed.
- Our stay in Jillings Estate within view
of the Himalayas was also a highlight. Here, we were spoiled by the
fabulous home-cooked meals, the brilliant night skies, the looming
mountains, and the riot of animal life. We weren't spoiled by the
rigorous hikes up and down the terraced hillsides, but who wants to be
spoiled all the time?
- Jaisalmer Fort was a surprisingly lovely
spot. It is a small town that almost all fits into the old fort. And
that is its charm: watching life go on for all these people in the fort.
There are many dramatic forts in Rajasthan, but this one has the extra
magic of being alive.
- Seeing the flock of Siberian cranes at
Khichan was another transforming experience. I'm captivated by mere
pigeons as they twirl through the sky, evading hawks. But the graceful
and gangly cranes were even more captivating. The sound of thousands of
wings, thousands of bugling calls, and the complex flight pattern of all
those birds at dawn made it very hard for me to remember to keep my
mouth closed as I looked up.
- It was a rare treat indeed to spend a
night with an Indian family in the Aravalli Hills on our way south to
Udaipur. The extended family took us in and fed us until we were ready
to burst. Listening to the daughters practice their English at night was
very soothing. I particularly enjoyed watching the kids frolicking
around the temples.
- Tour of Old Delhi: walking through the
tangled warrens of the old market, where burlap bags full of red
chillies made us choke, and pots of every imaginable product were
available. It felt like we were walking through a pocket of time that
was still in the medieval age.
- Rajasthan by road: motorcycle ride
through desert mountains, sand dunes, ... julie
learning to drive.
- The downside of being a tourist is the industry that caters to
you (or at you) -- touts and pushy salespeople. The absence of these
things in Bundi, and the abandoned state of
the fort, gave us the magical feeling of exploration and discovery that
we wish for in every destination. Only later did we learn that the lack
of other people has its dangers: there are sometimes attacks on tourists
by panthers in the fort.
- Nathu's sweets and snacks shop (in Bengali Market, Delhi). This
highly professional operation moves mobs of people through meals every
day. The servings are small and inexpensive, so you are perfectly
justified in ordering many delicious things, half of them being dessert.
- Cottage Industries Emporium, Delhi: Several floors of handcrafts
from all over India -- decent prices without haggling
- Lassiwallas -- shops making the world's most delicious lassis
(sweet, creamy yoghurt drinks). They are usually in old bazaars.
- Karim's, a Muslim kebab restaurant in the Nizammudin quarter of
Delhi. Drool. Here we had a vegetarian's nightmare of kebabs and a huge
leg of goat on a silver platter. Incredibly tasty.
- The Presidential Platter of kebabs sold at Bukhara, a restaurant
in a five-star hotel in Dehli. Named after President Clinton. Too much
food and all of it wonderful. We should have starved ourselves for a few
days before coming here.
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