India Day 6: Drive to Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri & a Hectic Ride on an Indian Bus

After yesterday’s magical trip to the Taj Mahal, I don’t think anything can beat the morning we had. (Though there’s an elephant ride scheduled for tomorrow, so stay tuned for that!) The visit to the Taj totally exceeded my expectations and has definitely been the highlight of our vacation thus far. Today we left Agra for Jaipur, a vibrant city rich with history and culture.  

We left the Courtyard Marriott in Agra at 9:30 AM and drove straight to Fatehpur Sikri, an ancient city that Mughal Emperor Akbar built and once ruled in. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was constructed in the late 1500s and consists of beautiful mosques, halls and palaces. Akbar built palaces within the city for each of his three wives, and we could see details in each palace that referred to the wives’ hobbies and religious beliefs. Fatehpur Sikri remains, to this day, one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India.

Stunning 16th-century architecture and designs!

But I forgot the most important part: in order to get to Fatehpur Sikri, we rode on a cramped, run-down local bus up a hill in 34 degrees Celsius and a humidity factor of 89%! (It was honestly as bad as it sounds.) Now, keep in mind that my parents and I try not to be snobs when we’re travelling. Despite staying at nice hotels and taking precautions to ensure our safety, we mingle with locals whenever possible and find it fun to live like them for a day. The problem with today’s mingling was that it was a sweaty, smelly mess that left me desperate for a refreshing shower. 

Upon arrival at Fatehpur, we were a little disappointed to learn that we couldn’t take our car up to the ruins and would instead have to take the local bus, a small, ancient-looking vehicle that carried 25-30 people. My mum and I were a bit hesitant to get on when we saw that we were the only foreigners, but there was no other option. We squeezed into some tiny seats and received a mix of glares and curious looks from almost everyone on the bus. I started to feel like a goldfish – for some reason, people stared at us as if we were their entertainment. Maybe they were trying to figure out if we were Indian and, if we were, why we were dressed so differently than them. 

Everyone on the bus was dripping with sweat and wiping their faces with their clothes. Sweaty toddlers sitting on their parents’ laps had hair plastered to their foreheads and we saw more than one person with a totally soaked shirt…the humidity was truly overwhelming and I missed a fair bit of what the local guide was saying due to feeling very lightheaded. An hour later, one bus pulled up in front of a crowd of 60 people and there was immediate shoving and shouting as people scrambled to get a seat. We’re talking actual shoving – many of the people already climbing on to the bus were grabbed at until they had to give up and let others take their place. I was trying to stand still but ended up getting pushed and yelled at anyway. I think Fatehpur would’ve had more meaning for me if we had had a more pleasant method of transportation, but hey, at least we can say we took an authentic Indian bus ride and survived.

We arrived at Le Meridien hotel in Jaipur in the evening and didn’t get to see much of the city (although we did see elephants!), so tomorrow will be a full day of sightseeing. Can’t wait!

Elephant crossing!

India Day 1: Flight to Delhi & First Impressions

Wow! What a day. It’s 1:15 AM on Wednesday here in Delhi, but my parents and I are still on Toronto time so we’re somewhere between wide awake and ready to pass out. (If you’ve ever experienced jet lag, you’ll know what I mean!)

It took 14 hours to get from Toronto to Delhi, but that was truly one of the most comfortable flights I’ve ever had. We flew direct with Air Canada in Premium Economy, which means more legroom, better meals, wider seats and a much cozier cabin than regular economy. There were only 3 rows (21 seats), which meant we were able to sleep in a very quiet, dimly lit cabin with minimal disruptions from people walking up and down the aisles. I definitely recommend Premium for a great experience on long-haul flights. The food was surprisingly good (the butter chicken, rice pudding and samosas were a real treat) and there was hardly any turbulence – well done, Air Canada!

As first-time travellers to India, we were a little wary of what would greet us at the airport. Would we be walking into a country filled with crazy throngs of people (including pickpockets) and a horrible stench? Well, I’m happy to report that New Delhi, while quite smoggy, has none of the unbearable smells, piles of garbage and mobs of people that we were warned about. However, we’ll see how Old Delhi measures up later today when we embark on a half-day tour of the city. I’ll try to post daily updates, so please stay tuned! 🙂

Food for Thought

There’s something to be said about the power of the human mind. At the risk of sounding like a pompous old geezer, I truly believe the brain is a wondrous tool that can be used to cultivate our curiosities and explore exciting avenues. For example, I like to take a few minutes out of each day to consider something new and thought-provoking. Lately I’ve been thinking about what my name will be attached to in future years. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider the following. We automatically associate the Dalai Lama with Buddhism, Sidney Crosby with hockey, and JK Rowling with Harry Potter. Each of these individuals has something so uniquely them that if I reversed the situation and asked which famous person you would associate with these three topics, you would probably come up with the same people. I don’t necessarily want to reach the same degree of celebrity, but you can’t blame me for wondering. I could brand myself as an up-and-coming fashion designer, follow through with the dream of becoming a renowned travel writer, or blossom into a powerful sports agent. I could dedicate my time to charity work, find wild success as a juggler, or put all my effort into becoming the best daughter my parents could ask for. The possibilities are endless!

Let’s put the spotlight on you now. I’d like to ask you to perform a mental exercise with me. Take thirty seconds to reflect on your life and your accomplishments. Consider your school life, your job, your hobbies, and your family. Think about one overarching topic people would associate you with. Got it? Good. Now ask yourself this question: “Am I happy with being thought of as this type of person?” If the answer is yes, congratulations – you’re way ahead of the curve. If the answer is no, this is where my point comes into play: if you’re not satisfied with the light in which you’re portrayed, change it. There’s no time like the present (or so I’ve heard).

Wasn’t that fun? Just thought I’d throw in a bit of motivational advice. Hope you learned something about yourself from it.

As I lie in bed at 12:30am typing this post and snacking on a brownie from Starbucks (hey, we all have to indulge sometimes), it occurs to me that I’m not the coolest 20-year-old. While most of my roommates and classmates are out drinking and engaging in general debauchery, I’m doing what I do best: sitting in my bedroom, writing, with Maroon 5 playing in the background and a tall glass of water on my nightstand. I have a lot on my mind tonight, dear reader, but mostly I’m thinking about you. I wonder where in the world you are. Are you curled up on your couch after a long day at work, reading this on your laptop or smartphone and wondering if perhaps my brownie is laced with somethin’ special? (FYI, Mom, it isn’t.) Did you sleepily stumble across this page while nursing your morning cup of joe, only to realize it’s too early to try and make sense of my nonsensical ramblings? Or maybe you’re a friend or family member who I’ve harassed time and time again to glance over my blog. Whatever the case may be, I’d like to sincerely thank you for stopping by. It means a lot. At the very least, I hope I’ve given you a few minutes of pleasurable reading. If not…well, that’s what the comments section is for. Please be honest – I can take it!

Until next time.