Shared by Pat Beaver – India 2017
India. It’s a country sized at 1.27 million square miles with a population of more than 1.3 billion people. To say that traveling there can be daunting, would be an understatement. Lucky for us, we have friends from the Punjab region and Ann from Pique Travel helped us navigate the rest of our lengthy itinerary.
It was certainly one of our more challenging trips. The country is huge, the roads aren’t always good or well marked and air travel was not always reliable (on time departure is not the industry’s strength!). However, the diversity of the landscapes and architecture, the friendliness and genuine warmth of the people, and the depth of the centuries-old culture made us quickly forget about any of the challenges encountered.
We started our India adventure off in the Punjab region, where we traveled with our Sikh friend who grew up near Chandighar. We spent several days with him and his extended family in Kaila Raipur at their family village compound. We would equate it to a Midwesterner’s lake place, as their primary residence was in Calcutta. The time with them in the village gave us a chance to see how they live on a daily basis. It was the season for rice harvest so we were able to experience the process. Our last stop in this northern area was to Amritsar and an authentic “border ceremony” at Attari. It was a real spectacle attended by thousands of patriotic Indians and a lesser number of Pakistanis.
After our time in the north, we headed down to do the famous Golden Triangle – where we experienced Delphi, Agra and Jaipur. There is no doubt the Taj Mahal is an undisputed show stopper. Ann of Pique Travel connected us with a most knowledgeable local guide who did a great job showing us around this architectural icon.The Amer Palace is also a must see in this region complete with elephant rides.
During our time in Delhi we took an amazing tour of Old Delhi (quite possibly where the definition of cacophony really came from!). The India Gate and the Gandhi Memorial were highlights and should not to be missed, especially for those interested in the role the British and later the Partition played in Indian history.
Everywhere we turned during the Golden Triangle tour, we were in awe. Our favorite place within the region was Fatehpur Sikri. This small city just west of Agra was founded by a 16th century emperor and is known for the cluster of red sandstone buildings at its center. The setting with its mix of mosques, palaces, tombs and other architectural wonders was unbelievable.
Our third region, Kerala, was another highlight in every respect. For this experience, we headed south – more than 1,600 miles south! We had always heard that many travelers miss out on the southern region of the country, with its beautiful resorts, beaches and overall tropical feel. We stayed at the Kamarakom Resort on the western coast of India on the Arabian Sea/India Ocean. A standout for sure. (Tip: we did a house boat trip and loved it, but visitors might want to consider a simplified one to two-hour excursion, which still gets you out on the water and along the coast for a similar experience.)
To this point, Bernie and I truly felt like everything we did was a “highlight.” We were in India, after all. Everything should be a highlight! However, the day we had a driver and guide who took us out into the local community was a true highlight of the trip. Kai, our guide, was very articulate and offered so much background and deep insights into what we were experiencing. We visited a local fishing operation, complete with auctioneers, ice shovelers, fish carriers, and truck drivers.
After the fish market, we went to a small local gathering spot with fermented coconut juice and fresh fish caught and prepared on site. We learned it was a place locals would come for their break during the day. Our final stop was a lunch with a local fish farmer and his family at their home. Their English was excellent and we had a wonderful, informational conversation with them about their life in India and their family. We even got all the scoop on the recent wedding of their daughter – complete with the wedding album and a full explanation of how the arranged marriage custom works in modern India.
Before heading to the airport for our flight home, we did a guided tour of the city of Kochi. Definitely a must-see with its palaces, various churches and the oldest continuously operating Jewish Synagogue outside of Israel. Everywhere in the country we were impressed by how peacefully the Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Catholics co-exist.
Without a doubt, this was an amazing trip of a lifetime. The people were warm and welcoming, the food was outstanding with many vegetarian options, and the colors surrounding us were beautiful (as seen in fabrics, architecture and more). We could have never imagined the impact and impression India would leave on us!
Want to learn more about traveling to India? Email Ann at AnnC@PiqueTravel.com.