Are you planning an itinerary for your visit to North India? This article presents our findings in this country that we were eager to visit, but that we had also been so apprehensive about after reading so many things, both negative and positive. In the end, this country completely surprised us, in every sense of the word!
The complete shock! The dirt, the smell, the noise, the confusion! We arrived in India after a stay in the Emirates. And what a striking contrast! We can say that India really puts things into perspective, to such an extent that we wondered if we were on another planet. If you could see Mateo and Luka’s curious and wide-open eyes when they looked at the extraordinary scenes that were taking place around us! Sometimes they were amazed by eagles, parrots, bats, geckos, monkeys or sacred cows that paraded in the middle of the city like an open-air zoo. Sometimes they were dismayed by the misery of the people, young and old, who did not have the same privilege as they did to have been born in a rich country.
Nevertheless, we had to take a step back in order to fully enjoy our trip to India. Amid this daily hubbub, we witnessed so much beauty and harmony, with smiling and warm people, that it would have been a pity to focus only on the negative.
Among the unusual things, to name only a few, we saw a motorcycle riding 8 people, a 6-seater tuk-tuk with 15 passengers, oncoming vehicles on the highway, Jain monks wandering naked, hounds eating a cow’s body, boars enjoying wastewater running in the open street.
The incredible cities to visit in North-India
While churches and castles can be found everywhere in Europe, temples and forts can be found in India. In my opinion, if the churches of Europe are generally more beautiful than the Indian temples, the forts of India impress much more than the European castles!
Swaminarayan Akshardham is a Hindu temple that was only recently inaugurated in 2005, but which I personally consider to be the most beautiful religious building in the world, well in front of all the churches and mosques that I have seen in my life! In addition to being one of the largest temples in the world, it is completely carved from marble, with surgically precise details. And I can’ t explain why this temple isn’t one of the 7 wonders of the modern world, unlike the Taj Mahal. Because I find it much more impressive than the latter! You must see it to believe it! You may not believe me, because I only have this picture to show you from afar, the cameras being forbidden on the site. And as the photos on the internet from the inside are extremely rare, you will absolutely have to go to Delhi to see it with your own eyes!
The Qutb Minar is the second highest minaret made of bricks in the world. It stands in the heart of a magnificent 13th century archaeological complex and is part of UNESCO’s heritage site.
This is the tomb of Humayun, a 16th century Mughal emperor, which inspired the architect of the Taj Mahal! Yes, this mausoleum, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is quite beautiful!
The Red Fort in Delhi is a fortress where the Mughal emperors lived for 200 years. It was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan. You may have heard of him. He is the lunatic guy who loved his favorite wife so much that he had the Taj Mahal built to house her body, with the taxpayers’ money! Yeah, exactly, he’s the same guy! Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Like the Red Fort of Delhi, the Agra Fort was home to the residences of the Mughal emperors, in the days when Agra was the capital of the empire, just before it became Delhi. It’s a very impressive complex. Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
And what can I say about the Taj Mahal? This symbol of the emperor Shah Jahan’s love for his legendary beautiful wife, who died while she was giving birth to her 14th child. How can I say… It’s beautiful, but I thought it would be much more beautiful in real life. Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Varanasi is one of the most chaotic cities on the planet. Cacophony, capernaum, chaos are words that well describe this city where everything seems so unlikely, unimaginable, unconceivable! Although we are used to traveling, we had the impression that everything is much more complicated than usual. Nevertheless, I loved wandering around in this timeless sacred city. The highlight of our visit to Varanasi was the boat trip on the Ganga River, which allowed us to see scenes from the daily life of the inhabitants. On the famous ghats, some bathe, others wash their dirty clothes, and others cremate the bodies of their deceased relatives. All of them use the same dirty but purifying waters of the Ganga River.
North of Varanasi is Sarnath, one of the 4 holy places of Buddhism. This is the place of the Buddha’s first sermon.
In Khajuraho, we visited the temples of Kamasutra from the 10th century, featuring thousands of carved figures. They are a masterpiece of erotic art, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
In Orchha, there is a fort, a temple and cenotaphs (monuments to the dead), all dating back to the 16th century.
In Bundi, the impressive fort and its 14th century palace dominate the entire city. This is the city where Rudyard Kipling wrote his novel “The Jungle Book”.
Built from the 7th century, Chittorgarh is the largest fort in the Asian continent! Seen from afar, we have the impression to look at the Great Wall of China! UNESCO’s heritage.
And here is the jewel of Rajasthan. Udaipur, the city of lakes and palaces is also known as the “Venice of the East”. It is a beautiful city in which one can stroll peacefully, as much on foot as by boat on the lake. It is also the quietest city we have visited on our entire trip to India. No wonder there were so many tourists!
In Ranakpur there is a huge and magnificent Jain temple entirely made of marble with spectacular decoration. It reminded us of the incredible but more recent Akshardham Temple in Delhi which had enlightened us with its splendour.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s second largest city, is nicknamed “The City of the Sun” because of the exceptional amount of sunlight it enjoys all year round. But it is also commonly called “the blue city” because many houses in its old city are painted blue. The imposing fort of Mehrangarh is the flagship of the city. It shelters a magnificent palace.
Each November, the festival is held in full swing in Pushkar, the sacred city of Rajasthan. The Pushkar Camel Fair is renowned throughout India for holding one of the world’s largest camel markets, and we were there! This gathering coincides with the holiday dedicated to Brahma, the Hindu god who created the universe. The event attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is a large, clean and welcoming city with a large road infrastructure. It is a city rich in history with forts, temples and palaces, all equally beautiful.
For a better preparation
After landing in Delhi in a cloud of smog that didn’t allow us to see more than 500 metres around, we were greeted by an outstanding driver who took us to the most attractive places in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, before leaving to Jaipur where we flew to leave for Thailand. Here is the itinerary of our 17 days and 3000 km in India, with in brackets the number of nights spent in each city:
- New Delhi (2);
- Agra (1);
- Varanasi (3);
- Khajuraho (2);
- Orchha (1);
- Bundi (1);
- Udaipur (2);
- Jodhpur (2);
- Pushkar (1);
- Jaipur (3).
To make the shock less of a traumatic experience, we contracted the services of a driver named Zainul Khan, who drove us to wherever we wanted in his Toyota Innova. Without him, we probably wouldn’t have had as much fun driving around India’s chaotic roads. We would swallow the bitumen with the minivan like an SUV. The roads are damaged, we slalomed around the sometimes-huge crevasses and we braked suddenly when we least expected it.
I can assure you that I felt so relieved that I didn’t have to drive in an environment similar to that in which I had driven in Lebanon, and this in anticipation of the nearly 3000 km that we covered! More than just a driver, Khan was part of our family, just as we were part of his family. He is helpful, generous and dedicated to the task. Before facing the maze of Varanasi, we stopped in its peaceful village of birth, the time to get to know his relatives who welcomed us like a royalty, and to discover the authenticity of a traditional Indian village. Khan was treating us so well: he was our interpreter, he negotiated prices for us and made sure we were safe. Feel free to contact me for more information!
During our 17 nights in India, we slept in 11 different hotels/apartments, including 3 nights paid with our points. India being the cheapest country we visit on our world tour, we have chosen to increase our comfort a little by choosing to sleep in upscale accommodations.
Unfortunately, we have never got used to Indian food. Systematically, as we looked at the menu, our first question to the waiter was “What do you have that is not spicy? ». And even after ordering and asking the same question several times, “Are you sure these dishes are not spicy/hot? “, and to get a favourable response, we were invariably served spicy dishes. It seems that the “Not Spicy” is not in their vocabularies! In the end, we often ended up eating fried rice with chicken.
Our biggest expense in India is none other than the cost of renting a car with a driver. But considering that the rental includes gas, tolls, a driver available 24 hours a day who lodges and eats at his own expense, it is not that expensive at all! And with 3000 km covered in a minivan and gasoline at the price of 75.00 INR (1.02 USD) per litre, do the math!
We could have reduced the food expenses but by conscious decision and in order not to risk getting sick, we chose to avoid street food and selected restaurants that have a more respectable appearance. As a result, we stayed healthy and paid for the average meal at the cost of 800.00 INR (10.88 USD) for the 4.5 of us (since we often invited Khan our driver to eat with).
The activity expenses are somewhat inflated because we were paying foreigners’ rates everywhere. While the entrance fees for the locals cost between 30.00 INR (0.41 USD) and 50.00 INR (0.68 USD), our privileged tickets ranged from 350 INR (5 USD) to 1,100 INR (15 USD). And what about all those French tourists, whom we heard in the queues, complaining that they had to pay between 10 and 20 times the rates of an Indian. No comment!
The cost of our stay in India for our family of 4 is:
- 225,800.00 INR (3,071.98 USD)
- 13,300.00 INR (180.94 USD) per day;
- 3,300.00 INR (44.90 USD) per person and per day.
|Expense Category||Amount Spent|
|Flight and Visa||60,300.00 INR / 820.37 USD|
|Accomodation||46,700.00 INR / 635.35 USD|
|Transport (including gas)||73,700.00 INR / 1,002.68 USD|
|Eating out||23,200.00 INR / 315.63 USD|
|Groceries||2,100.00 INR / 28.57 USD|
|Activities||19,800.00 INR / 269.38 USD|
|Total||225,800.00 INR / 3,071.98 USD|
The faces of India
Here is a sample of the adorable characters we have met across the country, who depict India at its best: attractive, happy and hardworking.
In a nutshell
|Dates||2018-11-01 to 2018-11-18|
|Number of days||17|
|Cities we visited||New Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, Khajuharo, Orchha, Bundi, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Jaipur|
|Inbound||From United Arab Emirates by plane|
|Outbound||To Thailand by plane|
|Mode of transport||Rental car with driver|
|Distance travelled (car & foot)||3133 km|
|Number of photos taken||5960 (350 per day)|
|Currency||The Indian Rupee (1.00 USD = 73.50 INR)|
India has disturbed us, disrupted us, overwhelmed us! We never felt at home, but that’s exactly why we decided to visit this incredible country as a family, and we’re delighted about it! We wanted to instill in our children that they should not take their privileges for granted. In the end, India transformed us all. Our view of the world will no longer be the same. Next destination, Thailand!
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