Sooner or later the exotic India beckons to most travellers. First-timers generally want to see the beautiful Taj Mahal, so if you are one of them, book your flights to Delhi, the country’s capital, as that would be a good starting point.
Why everyone should visit India
India is famously one of those places that can be quite confronting to Western sensibilities and expected standards. One of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world, Delhi itself can be quite overwhelming. Yes, you will see extreme poverty, atrocious living conditions in some quarters of the city, poor hygiene, and waste management that leaves a lot to be desired for. What is arguably much more shocking, and much less advertised, is how much happier the average person here is, regardless of their lot in life, compared to Western supposedly first world countries.
What India lacks in creature comforts, it makes up for in joy, positive attitude to life, authenticity, strong community bonds, and wild splashes of colour everywhere. So come here with an open mind and talk to people – they love chatting to foreigners and you will soon make good friends and learn a thing or quite a few. Needless to say, pack very light, as despite rising prices India remains a shopper’s paradise, so you inevitably will be bringing bulging bags back home!
Ok, back to Taj Mahal: Agra is located 200km from Delhi, and the easiest thing to do is to get a 2 hour train ride there and then local transport, taxi or autorickshaw to the museum itself, if you don’t have access to a car. The mausoleum, constructed between 1632 and 1653, is all that you imagine it to be and more. It’s always crowded here however, so try and be there early and take your time. The history behind Taj Mahal is fascinating and full of soap-opera style drama, although your Indian guide might exaggerate somewhat! The place is definitely a must-see and fills you with wonder at the human creative capacity.
Buildings and Temples
Delhi itself is full of historical and architectural jewels, such as Red Fort, Jama Mosque, and Qutab Minar tomb, to mention but a few. Fellow Aussies might enjoy also having a look at the modern Lotus Temple, reminiscent of the sails of the Sydney Opera House.
If you have 10 days or longer in India, I would suggest also heading to Jaipur to see the awe-inspiring Amber Fort and Maharaja’s palace complex, followed by a dip into the jungle at Ranthambhor National Park, where you may spot the elusive tiger.