Namaste! This August, I’ll be making my second trip to India. My plan is to fly into Delhi, hire a driver and visit the following cities: Rishikesh, Haridwar, Mathura and Vrindavan. Since I’ll be staying for 2 weeks, I’ll have more time to relish the sights, sounds and kindred spirits. I’m in the process of devising an itinerary, so if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to share. Thanks to you, my enlightened friends of India, I had a memorable experience my first time around. Now I look forward to another.
Here’s what I have so far:
Delhi to Haridwar to Rishikesh to Mathura
to Vrindavan and back to Delhi
The Manduadih Express from Delhi takes 15 hours to reach Varanasi, but leftover samosas, chai tea and great company make the trip worthwhile. Plus, being welcomed by spiritual murals is a nice way to jumpstart your pilgrimage (even if your soul doesn’t agree with the hard and lumpy bunk bed).
Different museums throughout Delhi offer different things. The Museum at Red Fort chronicles the British occupation of India. The Gandhi Museum narrates the story of a global (yet humble) hero. And the National Museum exhibits relics from ancient civilizations like Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. But my favorite is the Tactile Museum for the Blind which not only allows visitors to read descriptions in Braille, but allows them to touch the ancient statues and artifacts with their very own hands, helping them form a better understanding of India’s rich and beautiful history.
Before the world-renowned Taj Mahal, there was Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, India. Constructed in the mid-1500s for Mughal Emperor Humayun, the site includes tombs for his first wife, great-great grandson, barber and many significant others.
Located in Southern Delhi, Qutub Minar and Lotus Temple are must-sees for all visitors.
Incredible India is a slogan used throughout Delhi. Quickly I start to understand why: friendly and interesting people, delicious food, appreciation for music and art, ornate architecture, respect for animals, resourcefulness, vast transportation system and most importantly, spiritual tolerance. Everywhere there are temples, mosques, ghats and churches of all shapes and sizes where people are free to pray, chant, worship or just hang out throughout the day and night. Although each place has its own set of rules (posted or unsaid), everyone is generally welcomed with open arms.
After walking from my hotel to the train station, a tuk-tuk driver recommends that I visit a government-approved travel agency called Travel Expeditions. Here I hire a Rajasthani driver named Suresh to guide me around the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Jaipur and Agra). Little would I know this wise but volatile man would lead me on an unforgettable journey for 5 days.
Our tour starts at a majestic Sikh Temple where birds fly overhead to the symphony of chants, tablas, bells and a harmonium. Here I learn about the religion, Sikhism, and its elaborate history and culture.
Upon my arrival at the airport, I check out the giant mudras overhead and ride the metro to the New Delhi Train Station (NDLS). Mesmerized by exotic murals, appetizing smells and bright neon lights, I drag my luggage to the hotel and rest for the long and adventurous week ahead.