We have spent the last three days exploring India or “Incredible India” as the country’s tag line boasts. Well whoever came up with that marketing slogan certainly knew India as we cannot imagine a better word to describe the country. After arriving in Kochi we boarded buses for the hour or so journey to the airport and then flew to Delhi, where we stayed in a beautiful Crowne Plaza hotel. We had an amazing dinner in the hotel and another feast for breakfast. We boarded our luxurious coach and headed for Agra on the recently opened Expressway. We drove by miles of new construction, sports facilities, a Formula One track. As modern and first class all of this was … It certainly was not the India we were expected or had seen on a previous visit. In short Delhi is a modern city with all of the “western” conveniences one could imagine.
Once we arrived in Agra things changed pretty dramatically. Our highlight in Agra was certainly the Taj Mahal. The “Taj” is another one of those places that has been on our bucket list for some time. Our expectations were very high and were certainly met. Every detail of the Taj was simply incredible. Next we toured the Red Fort, the home of the Mogul who build the Taj as a memorial to his wife. After yet another great curry meal we headed to the train station where we would board an overnight train destined for Varanasi. To say our train ride was an adventure is a huge understatement. After a couple hours delay we boarded the train and searched out our assigned “sleeper”. We had been allocated an upper and middle berth in a compartment that slept six. Now when we say compartment you might envision something that has some sort of doors to close, but there were only curtains to separate one compartment from the rest of the train and there were not even curtains to separate our berth from the others in the compartment. Needless to say it was a long, bumpy and very loud night … But in its own way it was an incredible experience (not to be repeated any time soon).
As we drove through Varanasi we were reminded of the magic traffic system of India, best described as Tetris for vehicles. One of the real highlight of the trip was to visit the Holy River Ganges at sunset. We took a rickshaw ride through the city to get close to the river, truly an incredible experience. Then we walked through the city to get to the river. There were tens of thousands of people moving through the city to get to the river. At the river we boarded boats for a better view of the sunset ceremony. Before the actual ceremony we visited one of the two crematoriums which operate 24/7 on the river. We watched several cremations taking place. This is very difficult to explain. Our feelings were confused. Here we were watching human remains being cremated but somehow it was very peaceful and of course a very important tradition for Hindu people. The next morning we returned to the river to see sunrise, an equally incredible experience. Again we were on a boat for a better view and watched as many people bathed in the River Ganges. What a magically experience. we are now back in Delhi and will return to the ship tomorrow. Incredible.
Here are some photos of the Taj Mahal
Here are some photos of Varanasi
Here are some photos of the River Ganges