New Delhi or Bust – Memories from India, the Spicy Sub-Continent
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After being back a week from an amazing four city journey throughout the Northern parts of India it feels good to be home, though I must say I do miss the sites, sounds and tastes of India. Lets see, where to begin…
The purpose of the trip was pure fun and exploration based on experiencing the Holi Festival and a celebration of our 35th anniversary together. Now I feel old typing that, but I will say that we met when I was 19, so you can do the math. I think our last trip abroad was 3 years prior to Turkey, so we were ready for some fun and adventure.
I can’t quite remember the show, if it was on PBS or a 60 Minutes interview, but years ago I saw the actors Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russel visiting India and experiencing the Holi Festival. I knew I had to go too one day as the music, festivities and colors of the rainbow filled the air, hair and clothes of everyone there. People laughing, singing, throwing colored powder in the air and wiping it on each other. It looked magical. A celebration of Spring and all that goes with it.
Needless to say when I saw an ad for the tour, in a country we both always wanted to explore, I booked it immediately. Visiting the historic sights of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, with a safari in Ranthambore National Park with the possibility of seeing the rare Bengal tiger in it’s own habitat was more than enticing. Count me in!
On top of that, it was centered around the Holi Festival, a double win. That was a year ago. Then we had the long wait…
I won’t bore you with flight details, hotels and the day to day grind of travel, but I will share with you some thoughts and photos of a magical, vibrant and beautiful country. It’s people, beyond the concentrated mass of population, sounds and traffic, always seemed to have a smile on their faces.
Tasty fried snacks and roasted nuts from street vendors dotted each street and corner.
There was no screaming in traffic, though there was the constant honk of horns, there were lines on the streets, but there was no signs of orderly driving. Often three lanes were marked on the roads with five lanes of cars, trucks, scooters, motorcycles, cows, dogs, and people all crisscrossing and all very aware of each other.
It was amazing to watch, maneuver through and make a destination unscathed and undented. I love that energy.
All modes of transportation were available. Some safer than others…
We always try to eat everything we can when traveling. I love to experience true food in the countries we visit. What’s the point on missing out? I found and ate crispy dosa every single morning. Where has that been all my life?!
We also made it a point to try one dish, dal makhani, throughout the country just to see how different it was at each place we stopped. Wow.
This is an ancient Step Well. Just look at the amazing craftsmanship and detail in this. It was mesmerizing and I remember commenting to Dave it reminded me of a MC Esher painting. That’s a long way down to the water.
The famed Taj Mahl. I was a little disappointed that three of the minarets were under a cleaning, but it’s still an memorable photo. One minaret was cleaned and the difference was quite obvious and needed.
The flavors! Oh my, the spices and techniques in cooking. The street vendors, hotels and highway road stops we hit up. All amazing and some were lackluster, but overall a delight to the senses and tastebuds. I was in heaven.
We took rickshaw rides through spice bazaars and back alleys of Old Delhi, visited mosques, watched marble inlay artisans at work, had our breath taken away at majestic landmarks from history like the Taj Mahal and even experienced visiting a Bengal Tiger Reserve. I love to soak it all in and participate with my partner in crime.
Just look at this marble inlay work – amazing!
Below are the gemstones that will be inlaid in the above marble plate. Insane, delicate art work!
There were so many beautiful, proud people who, as we passed, asked us in to see their homes.
An outdoor stove, complete with a little dried cow dung for fuel.
Walking the streets the energy was buzzing for the upcoming Holi festival.
Some of the women I saw had upwards of 50 pounds balanced atop their heads of various farming products, fuel, water, fruit and food.
This garden surrounded by water near the mountaintop Amber Fort was breathtaking. Built circa 1592!
The mosque in Old Dehi. We were in shorts and had to cover up.
On some of the hotter days where it hit 102-104°F we had the afternoons free. Albeit we were in the middle of no where, with no true WiFi to surf the net or catch up on emails, it was nice to have downtime. I’m so used to go, go, go all the time. Needless to say, I’ve never been a big fan of them, but thinking back on it, I could get used to the fine art of napping during the heat of the day, too.
With 55 tigers in the huge 151 square mile reserve, we were lucky to site one female twice in one day.
As the next to last day came upon us and we had traveled to many a fort, palace and historical site, it was time for the Holi Festival.
The evening before Holi, Holika Dahan, or “the lighting of bonfire” takes place, we were in the Jaipur palace square – it was exciting. The music, people and energy were contagious. Villagers would dip straw torches into the blessed fire and run as fast as they could back to light fires back in their villages.
The day of the festival itself we had so much fun laughing, dancing and throwing colored powder on everyone that passed me by. I was covered as well, head to tow in a rainbow of colors and sweat. Kids were popping out of no where with squirt guns, and water launchers making everyone a kaleidoscope of every color of the rainbow.
Dave and I wiped colors of yellow, red, blue, purple, green and orange on our fellow travelers, each other and other people that were at the park we visited.
There was also an open bar that allowed those less akin to revelry join in with careless abandon and enjoy themselves. Some a little too much, but hey, it’s Holi!
Sure there was plenty of visual poverty and the trappings that go with that, but the genuine generosity of the people I encountered was amazing. I’ve realized there’s a difference between being content and happy and a smile goes a long ways. Kinda like what you don’t know, being in your own bubble, etc.
I also realize when venturing out into the rest of the world how good we have it here where I live and how many people take it for granted. I think travel should be mandatory to open the eyes of those in their own bubble. I think travel not only awakens one to others’ lives, conditions and experiences, but makes me grateful for what and who I am.
Religion and politics aside, people are people and we all want to be healthy, happy and loved. And we all love to eat.
It’s good to be home. Spring is in the air and for this food blogger I am looking forward to some of the smaller things in life like rhubarb, cherries and plump, juicy strawberries. Fresh, tender spring greens for salads and the possibility of the new figs that soon will be growing on our tree out back.
Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling and I hope you liked the photos (many from my iPhone).
Inspired recipes will are over on my other site, Silk Road Recipes. I hope you check them out! Enjoy!