During my last evening in Jaipur, I visit the oldest museum in Rajasthan, the Albert Hall Museum. Inside, I admire the exquisite decor and myriad of paintings, sculptures and textiles from India and other regions of the world (including ancient Egypt).
Afterwards, I enjoy a traditional Rajasthani dinner and head back to my treehouse hotel, Jaipur Inn. Overall, my stay in Jaipur is bittersweet: although I’ve learned so much, met so many amazing people and seen things forever ingrained in memory, two days had not been enough. I could have done so much more with more time. In other words, if you are planning a trip to the Golden Triangle, do yourself a favor and stay at least 4-5 days in Jaipur.
Because Jaipur is vast and eclectic in so many ways, this post will be separated into different categories. The first is Hawa Mahal. Built in 1799, this “royal honeycomb” was used mainly by princesses and aristocratic women to view street parades via one of its 953 windows.
This category is called Meandering with a View. At the bottom of the Aravalli Hills, I tell Suresh to drop me off so that I may walk to Nahargarh Fort. “Are you crazy?” he says, “It’s 6km uphill!” Following a flock of blue peacocks, I disregard his warning and immerse myself in the sights and sounds of nature.
In my opinion, Nahargarh Fort has the best panoramic views of Jaipur. In addition, there is a cool sculpture gallery and plenty of monkeys to keep your camera clicking.
This last category contains modern sculptures constructed by local artists. My favorite is the blue-faced beauty, Migrant, by Ravinder Reddy. Located in elegantly-decorated rooms, there are 25-30 unique sculptures in all.
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.
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.
The volume of cave paintings at Dunhuang, China versus Dambulla, Sri Lanka is without parallel, but the beauty, reverence and auspicious feng shui definitely are. Created by monks and artists around 100 BC, Dambulla Cave Temple contains hundreds of captivating murals and statues depicting Sri Lankan kings, Hindu Gods, the Buddha and his many acolytes. Carved into a colossal rock over 500 feet in height, the stunning visuals leave a transcendent impression on one’s heart and imagination.
Throughout my second day in Anuradhapura, I explore more temples and stupas and acquire firsthand knowledge of Sri Lankan history. For instance, I learn that a fig from the same Bodhi tree where Siddhartha Gautama reached enlightenment beneath was planted here in 288 BC, eventually becoming the oldest planted tree on record. Since it was heavily-surrounded by colorful flags and a golden fence, I was unable to snap a photo that gave its ancient beauty any justice.
In addition, I learned why some statues near the Jetavanaramaya stupa had European-styled sideburns painted on their austere faces. Occupying Sri Lanka from 1815 to 1948, British officials mandated that various statues integrate a British likeness to them, the two below being altered in 1936.
Feasting on a Sri Lankan dinner, I wonder what other sacred statues around the world have been altered with European noses and big, bushy sideburns.
This week I’m posting photos from my travels through Sri Lanka, the island with many names: Ceylon, Teardrop of India, Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma and my personal favorite—the Pearl of the Orient.
At present, its capital is Colombo. Its official languages are Sinhala and Tamil. And it’s medley of faiths include Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The first leg of my journey starts in Colombo, where I explore the streets, visit the national museum and watch the awe-inspiring sunset.