After I backpacked throughout Australia and New Zealand it took me a while to plan my next great trip. My original plan was to travel to Europe but most of the tourist destinations consisted of museums or pubs. I wanted something unique and decided to look elsewhere for a travel destination. A trip from Delhi to Kathmandu caught my eye because I had the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal and Mount Everest. Also it was an overland trip between the two spots and I also had the chance to ride and elephant in Chitwan National Park and go to the holiest city of Hinduism-Varanasi.
On the way to India and Nepal, I stopped over in Amsterdam for 2 days. Amsterdam was exactly as I heard; bicycles everywhere and one of the most liberal cities in the world. I visited the Anne Frank House is a very moving historical site dedicated to human rights. In my short time there I found the people very helpful and willing to help orientate tourists to their city.
India is the world’s second most populous country and the world’s largest democracy. India has been an integral part of world history. India was where Alexander the Great finished his quest for world domination. It is the center for several major religions and the birthplace of Hinduism, Sikhs, and Buddhism. India is a diverse country famous for its silk and spice trade. Politically, India is most famous for Mahatmas Gandhi who is the father of the non-violent movement and secured freedom from the British Empire. India and China are two rising Eastern powers who could become the world’s two superpowers by the end of the century.
I read as much about India and Nepal before the trip but was still stunned with the cultural shock. My first day in Delhi there was no ATM in the hotel and I had to walk outside the hotel to find an ATM. The part of the city I was in, there was not an abundance of ATM’s and it took me 30 minutes to find one. In my walkabout in Asia, several Indians asked me for money, tried to sell me stuff, or just wanted to talk to me. Most random moment, an Indian getting off his dirt bike to shake my hand, saying, “Welcome to India” and hopped back on his bike. As I arrived back at the hotel I had a crowd of 20 people following me.
Once, the tour started we took a quick tour of Old Delhi and traveled their in their newly constructed subway system. We were jammed in the train and the tour guide had a verbal altercation with an affluent Indian woman who insisted the tour group should be separated in male and female sections of the train. The debate started in Hindu and for our entertainment she switched to English, and other passengers started to intervene against her. Old Delhi is an old Indian marketplace where the roads are multipurpose with cars, rickshaws, and tuk-tuk’s (auto-rigshaw). The two notable sites we saw were the Jama Masjid mosque and Gurdwara Shish Ganj Sikh temple. The Sikh temple we saw feeds all the people in the city once a week and we saw the food production and the giant pot where the food was stirred.
The next day we took a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the Agra Red Fort. Three-hour train trip was interesting as we saw various Indians on the train. In Delhi, we saw poverty but also well dressed Indians who were proud of their appearance. India is a rapidly developing country and the development of their rail network and modern technology shows there is great promise for this nation. Traveling on their trains is unique; chai (coffee/milk) and treats are available to be served by employees walking through the carriages.
Agra is a tourist trap. As soon as I left the train, it seemed every beggar in India was at the station. The average tourist stays in India less than 24 hours because their tourist sites have been mismanaged and allowed touts to flood the city. The Red Fort was impressive and it seemed that its past rulers were more concerned with designing residences for their concubines than governing. Later that day we saw the Taj Mahal. Despite all the hassling from touts, seeing the Taj Mahal was more than worth it. The Taj Mahal is the most beautiful building in the world I haven’t been that awestruck by a site since I saw Milford Sound in New Zealand. It lived up to its hype; its size and its symmetry arguably make it the most beautiful building in the world.