A Look At My Incredible Travel Experience To India
Having been fortunate enough when I was growing up to have parents that could afford and that enjoyed traveling, I’ve been lucky enough to travel since childhood. I’ve enjoyed family travel as well as solo travel over the years, taking me to various destinations around the globe.
Yet, I have never been so inspired and so overwhelmed at the same time, than my recent Travel Experience To India.
My Seven Weeks of Travel Throughout India Was … Incredible!
Below, is a in depth look at my time spent in India and hopefully one that will inspire others and especially fellow Baby Boomers out there, to consider traveling to India. For those of you who have always thought of traveling to India, but perhaps were just a little unsure about what to expect, hopefully this article will change your mind.
I’m going to tell you about the good and the not so good experiences you can expect when traveling to this amazing country.
My India Travel Experience – The Journey
Living on the west coast of British Columbia – Canada, we have huge Indo-Canadian population and I have many friends and past work colleagues that are of this ethnic origin.
I’m sure because of this and having enjoyed hearing their stories of their mother country, has always inspired me to visit one day.
Well, that day came to reality last season. 🙂
Air Canada advertised a very brief, but amazing deal introducing their non-stop flight from Vancouver B.C to New Delhi, India. I jumped on the opportunity and my son was happy to join me on the first leg of our trip.
After a few weeks together, he would then set off to the southern portion of India to do some volunteer work.
This was also the longest non-stop flight I had ever taken as well. It was a total of 13 ½ hours on the airlines beautiful Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. I have to admit on this aircraft, even Economy Class was quite comfortable! 🙂
Arriving in New Delhi – India
My India Travel Experience – Exploring Delhi
After our long non stop flight, we arrived in New Delhi at about 3 in the morning India time. To say the least, we were fairly exhausted with the long flight and the huge time change. Luckily, I had pre-arranged our accommodations prior to leaving home using Airbnb, and was glad I did!
Having traveled for many years now, one of things I’ve learned over time is to always arrange at least your first nights stay ahead of time. This way, when you do arrive tired and in a strange new destination, you have the comfort of knowing where you’re staying for the first night.
I also arranged with our Airbnb host, to meet and pick us up at the airport for a small and very worthwhile fee. He was there to meet and greet us as planned and after a brief stop at an airport ATM, we were on our way! 🙂
➡ Pre- arrange your first nights stay and airport transportation prior to your arrival.
Old and New Delhi
Oh my, what I can say about my New Delhi experience. First and foremost is the overwhelming amount of people in the city! Coming from Vancouver Island with a relatively small population and lots of space to move around, there’s simply no escape from the people, the traffic and the noise of New Delhi!
One can never truly experience 1.3 billion people, until you’re actual surrounded by that amount of people in one country. People often ask what my experience in the city was like, and I respond by saying;
Picture yourself in a crowded elevator, with everyone smoking and talking loudly with absolutely no way to escape!Unfortunately, during our stay the smog level was extreme at the time, making it feel like you were in a middle of a forest fire the entire 3 full days and 4 nights we were in the city.
There’s so much to see and do in Delhi, that 3 days just barely covered many of the major attractions and the tours we had made arrangements to see.
From visiting the Historic Red Fort, the magnificent Sikh Temple, Lotus Temple, outstanding walking Food Tours in Old Delhi, to an early morning bicycle tour throughout the hidden lanes and alleyways, the city is bustling with never ending activity that will leave you simply mesmerized!
➡ Pack a Pair of Soft Earplugs. They are a godsend when riding in Tuk Tuks in the city!
Taking The Train To Varanasi
My India Travel Experience -Train Travel In India
Our first train journey and destination after New Delhi was to the historical and spiritual city of Varanasi. Taking the train from the New Delhi train station is truly an unforgettable experience.
When you’re down on the train platform, it’s literally like being caught in a stampede, and I’m not joking! Just check out my post and short video on India Train Travel Tips.
If you really want to experience India to its fullest, then you have to take the train at least once. I highly recommend booking 2 or 3 Tier train cabins. These are sleeping cabins and they are quite comfortable. Sheets and blankets are also provided for your convenience in these cabins.
➡ You must make reservations well in advance if you have any hopes of booking these cabins. I’ve included instructions on my India Train Travel Tips post to help you get started.
We did find after taking a few trips on the train, the delays are most often very lengthy. For example; on one of our trips that was supposed to be 6 to 8 hours long, ended up double that time. More often than not, the train departs late and stops on the tracks several times, having to wait for other trains to pass.
We changed our plans a few times and either taxied or took a domestic flight to another destination instead. The end result was less frustration and not wasting an entire day traveling. The extra expense was surprisingly, not that much more either.
The Holy City Of Varanasi
My India Travel Experience – The Ancient City
This very sacred and oldest city in civilization of Varanasi for the Hindu people, is the most sacred place on earth. They truly believe that if a person’s ashes are scattered here on the River Ganges, their soul will finally achieve nirvana (moksha).
Walking along the many Ghats on the banks of the holy Ganges River is an awe inspiring spectacle. From witnessing the bathing and praying of believers in and along the Ganges, to the open cremation rituals and ceremonies that take place day and night, visiting Varanasi is a memorable experience you will not soon forget.
Rise early and experience a sunrise boat tour on the Ganges. For more information and a look at photos of our experience, check out my post here on Day Tours in Varanasi.
It is one of the main tourist attractions in the city. You can choose from tours on larger boats to that of a simple row boat as we did and enjoyed.
➡ Be Prepared For The Real Varanasi.
Most of the pictures of Varanasi you see in publications and online, show a pristine and beautiful depiction of Varanasi.
This is not the case when you arrive and walk about the streets, alleyways and Holy Ghats of the city.
The river and area is filthy with garbage, cow and dog droppings are everywhere and smoke filled air from the 24 hour ongoing cremations is often nauseating.
However, in saying all this, visiting the city was definitely worthwhile. It is an experience that you will soon not forget. A very spiritual and awe inspiring destination like no other.
From witnessing cremations on the River Ghats, early morning rituals of devotees on the river banks to visiting historic sites, the city will take your breath away!
Agra & The Amazing Taj Mahal
My India Travel Experience – The Mausoleum
It goes without saying, you simply cannot visit India and the Golden Triangle (a tourist circuit which connects the national capital Delhi, Agra and Jaipur,) without a stop in Agra and visiting the magnificent mausoleum … The Taj Mahal.
It’s extremely crowded, you will be hounded by touts and scammers outside the gates and at the ticket booths, but the visit is definitely worth it.
Check out my Taj Mahal Travel Tips post for much more detailed helpful information for first time visitors going the mausoleum on your own. Foreign tourists do have special privileges that are definitely worth knowing about!
As far as the rest of Agra goes, we made a visit to the historical Agra Fort. The Fort is massive in size with red sandstone architecture throughout, and considered as one of the finest Mughal Forts in all of India.
You can also visit Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb in the city. This is lovely mausoleum and grounds where one get actually get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for awhile and catch your breath!
We also enjoyed a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, a fortified ancient city located just outside of Agra. It was once the capital of the Mughal empire between 1572 and 1585.
➡ If traveling on your own, 3 nights is more than enough to spend in Agra.
The Pink City Of Jaipur
My India Travel Experience – Forts & Palaces
After a 3 night stay in Agra, we were happy to move on to the Pink City of Jaipur. Another train ride that should have taken about 4 hours, ended up closer to 8 with multiple stops on the tracks. At this point, we were definitely starting to get tired of India train travel!
There’s lots to see and do in the Pink City, so we stayed for 4 nights at a lovely family operated Airbnb motel which included breakfast. Things to see include;
Constructed in 1592 AD by Raja Man Singh, it is a stunning site situated outside the city high above overlooking Maota Lake. This is the main tourist attraction in Jaipur and touristy Elephant rides from the lower portion of the Fort into main gate are very popular.
The City and Hawa Mahal Palace
This beautiful palace was built between 1729 and 1732 AD by Sawai Jai Singh II and is situated directly in the main center of the old city. Its walls and gates are uniquely designed to Mughal style architecture, adorned with murals, mirrors and lattice work.
The Hawa Mahal Palace is also located along side the City Palace.
There’s also an astronomical observation site built back in the early 18th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is definitely intriguing. It’s amazing to walk among these architectural astronomical instruments that were built so long ago.
Jal Mahal Jaipur India
This historic and now abandoned palace sits in the middle of Man Sagar Lake within the city of Jaipur. The palace was constructed by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 and said to have been used for Maharajah picnics and duck hunting adventures.
A quick stop for pictures only and normally included in all city tours.
Sunset Camel Safari
We also enjoyed a sunset Camel Ride out into the countryside, stopping at a small village and having a light dinner prepared for us at one of the village homes.
One other outing we took part in was to a small Elephant Sanctuary. A lovely small sanctuary where elephants that were once abused, are now well taken care of and for all to enjoy.
As you can see, there is plenty to see and do in and around Jaipur, and I highly recommend checking out our excellent Jaipur City Tours experience. This is a professionally run tour company that offers private city tours tailored just for you.
➡ If your time is limited, I do recommend visiting the Amber Fort.
Jaisalmer – The Golden City
My India Travel Experience – Historic Jaisalmer Fort
From Jaipur, it was off to the train station for a very long overnight train trip to Jaisalmer – The Golden City. This without a doubt, was one of the main highlights of our entire trip to India.
From actually staying at a quaint hotel located right inside historic Jaisalmer Fort (picture above), to embarking on an overnight Jaisalmer Camel Safari in the desert, to receiving amazing Ayurveda massages, Jaisalmer was a wonderful experience!
The center outside the Fort gates is filled with shops, markets, restaurants and alleyways for you to explore. Walk around enough and you’ll come upon some amazing old Havelis (traditional townhouses or mansions).
➡ For a true Jaisalmer experience, book a quaint hotel or room directly inside the walls of the Fort.
The views and sunsets over the city are absolutely amazing and there’s plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy inside as well.
Jodhpur – The Blue City
My India Travel Experience – Mahrangarh Fort
Time to hop another evening train and make our way to Jodhpur, also commonly known as the “Blue City.” In the main residential section of the old city, the majority of the buildings are painted with blue paint.
They believe this color is said to help keep the inside of the homes cooler against the intense summer heat.
We booked a lovely small guest house or boutique hotel in the city with a rooftop restaurant overlooking the beautiful and historic Mahrangarh Fort. This Fort is most certainly, the main attraction for visitors to the city.
I would have to say, of all the Forts and Temples I visited throughout India, this Fort and its amazing museum contents inside, was spectacular!
Jodhpur is a very busy city located within the Thar Desert and standing out up high is the 15th Century Mehrangarh Fort. This former palace now houses a magnificent museum where ancient weapons, paintings and beautiful royal palanquins are on display.
Visiting this amazing Fort Museum is a must, and in the evening the walls of this enormous Fort are lit with powerful lights, adding to the mystic of this amazing attraction.
As well, we visited the Jaswant Thada Historical Building in the city. A white marble structure that is located in a peaceful and quiet setting up on hill above the city. A lovely place to escape the noise and bustle of yet another very active city in India.
This is where my son and I parted ways and I began the rest of my journey throughout India solo, as he continued further south to the ISHA Yoga Center.
➡ Do visit Mahrangarh Fort during your stay. You can take a tuk tuk easily and cheaply up to the Fort.
Taking A Taxi To Udaipur
My India Travel Experience – Taxis & Tuk Tuk’s
It’s about 275 kilometers to Udaipur or often referred to as the “Venice of the East,” and the best way to go is by taxi. You can certainly bargain for the best rate possible, but the average is about 2700 rupees (at time of publishing) without doing any bargaining.
Well worth the price riding in a nice comfortable air conditioned taxi. 🙂
There are no trains and you certainly don’t want to waste a day traveling by bus if your budget allows.
It was a breath of fresh air arriving at my lovely lakeside historic boutique hotel. Set upon Lake Pichola, this touristy area is well known and frequented by India’s rich and famous.
People flock to this city for the lakes, extravagant lakeside resorts, Historic Palaces, Forts and Temples in the surrounding area.
Most notably is the stunning Taj Lake Palace set on the lake. This 5 Star Palace Hotel is frequented by the rich and famous, and where many come from all over the world to be married.
The palace was the setting of many movies and for James Bond film fans, the movie Octopussy was filmed on location.
It was great to sit back and relax on my hotels rooftop pool and restaurant and take in the view and fresh breeze coming off the lake. So nice after spending days in the hectic and smoggy cities we had visited previously.
There’s plenty of shops and restaurants catering to tourists, as well as lovely sunset cruises on the lake for the price of a city bus fare in North America.
As well, the Ghats are an easy stroll away from most area hotels. You can walk around the lake and watch some of the local kids take a dip in the water. Good fun and great picture opportunities! 🙂
Situated just a few minutes walk from most lakeside hotels, the City Palace is definitely worth visiting, situated on the banks of the river. It’s over 400 years old and the architecture is a mix of Medieval, European and Chinese.
The view of the palace off the lake at sunset is beautiful as you can see from the picture above.
Very Popular Monsoon Palace is also nice to visit located on top of Bansdara Hills just on the outskirts of the city. It’s an abandoned 19th-century palace, but offers beautiful views of the city and surrounding area.
Also, located on a hillside with a lovely view of the city, is another very old palace you can visit very easily, as I did above by taxi. It’s a nice easy, peaceful excursion for something to do during the day.
There’s also Ranakpur Jain Temple, a 15th Century Temple consisting of three stories of beautiful white marble architecture, surrounded by stunning floral gardens. A very peaceful setting and just another beautiful place to explore and escape city life noise and smog.
As you can see, there’s plenty to see and do in this lakeside resort city. Udaipur is a great place to spend a couple of nights, sit back and relax by the lake.
A very welcome relief after visiting some of the larger and very busy cities.
Below, I’ve listed the Official Tourism website link for your convenience, where you can learn more about Udaipur and Rajasthan.
➡ Go down to the Ghat and catch a sunset boat ride. I went twice it was so nice to be on the water and the picture taking is excellent!
The Beautiful Beaches Of Goa
My India Travel Experience – North & South Goa
Next up and a destination I was very much looking forward to, was the beaches of Goa. I’ve had family members visit here in the past and had also read so much about the many beaches lined in North and South Goa.
It’s about 1300 kilometers between the two cities. I was initially going to spend some time in Mumbai, but decided to save some travel time and fly direct to Goa.
This would allow a few more days to relax and enjoy the beaches before heading further south into Kerala. The train trip would have also been very long and most likely a grueling experience.
I booked a comfortable home stay in South Goa with a lovely couple, who had a home close to Colva Beach. This is a very popular beach destination for India residents, as well as for tourists.
The beach stretches out for about 2.4 kilometers, so there’s plenty of room to find a nice quiet place to yourself.
You can also find your favorite beach side restaurant with loungers to enjoy with an ice cold beverage as well. 🙂
After enjoying a few days at Colva Beach, it was then on to Palolem Beach, a short taxi ride south. This is a much smaller and much quieter beach, with absolutely nothing to do but relax and chill for a few days.
There are no hotels here, just beach bungalows to rent which made it all that much better!
There are plenty of beach restaurants and bars to choose from stretching down the length of the beach. It’s pretty much just tourists visiting this beach doing the same thing I was …. Absolutely Nothing! 🙂
After spending a few days in South Goa, I was curious to see what North Goa was all about. I bargained with a taxi driver to take me to and show me the popular beaches and area.
It’s about 65 kilometers between these two areas of Goa, and boy, are they ever different!
By far, North Goa is the more popular destination and so much busier. It’s popular because it’s much more livelier, filled with shops, restaurants, hotels and much more.
There are a number of popular beach areas to choose from as well, offering all the amenities tourists would expect. It’s also within close proximity to the main airport in Goa.
However, expect very crowded beaches and personally, they are not near as nice as South Goa’s beaches. So, if you want peace and quiet, then South Goa. If you want a buzz of activity, then North Goa.
➡ If you want beautiful beaches and less crowds, head to South Goa. I took a taxi to the beaches in North Goa and they were jammed packed with people. Way too busy for me!
The City Of Kochi In Kerala
My India Travel Experience – The Port City of Kochi
After spending a relaxing 6 nights on the beaches in South Goa, is was off to the airport to catch a flight south to Kochi (also known as Cochin) in Kerala. Again, I found taking a domestic flight was so much more convenient, faster and very affordable.
It’s about 600 kilometers between the two cities, so flying was a great option.
I then spent a few nights in Kochi itself at a nice boutique hotel, within walking distance to the tourist area of the city. Kochi is a very busy port city and also a stop for those who may be arriving by Cruise Ship.
Notable things to see and do in the city are visiting Princess Street and St. Francis Church in the oldest part of Kochi. This area is now an attractive tourist zone located down by the waterfront. Here you’ll find restaurants, shops and few historic hotels and more.
It’s a nice place to spend some leisure time and there’s also a nice walkway down along the waters edge.
Historic St. Francis Church is in this area and worth the visit. It was built in 1503, and this small church once was the burial place for explorer Vasco De Gama upon his death in 1524.
There are passenger ferry boats that will take you across to the other side of the bay, where there’s shopping a popular waterfront promenade walkway. I took the boat over for something to do in the afternoon. The ferry terminal is a madhouse with people and the shoreline along the promenade walkway is disgusting with garbage and litter.
Not worth the aggravation of waiting in line for the ferry in my opinion.
Kerala River Tour
I also did a day tour to the backwaters of Kerala. It gives you an opportunity to see the lush backwater region of the state, riding in a wooden houseboat physically paddled by one of the locals in the region.
It was pleasant, but I found it dragged on much too long, as you are been paddled at a very slow pace. In fact, our tour guide even fell asleep on the ride! 🙂
It was something different to do for the day, but I certainly would not recommend it if your time is limited in the city.
I spent a couple of nights on Cherai Beach which was quite the experience. This is a non tourist area about 25 kilometers outside the city. The beach is very long and because of the time of year I was there, it was empty! Just a few locals around to be seen. On the other side in the inlet portion, you can view the the Chinese fishing nets or Cheena Vala.
There are a few hotels and restaurants, but very slim pickings!
I would not recommend spending any time here, as there is absolutely nothing to do. Kerala also has very strict rules regarding the sale of liquor. So if want a beer or a glass of wine, there were only two shady establishments in the area to choose from, and prices for alcohol in Kerala are quite expensive in comparison to the rest of India.
➡ There’s not a great deal to do in Kochi and area, so I wouldn’t recommend staying more than 2 nights at the most in the city.
Coimbatore & The ISHA Foundation
My India Travel Experience – The Industrial City of Coimbatore
The last leg of my journey was to the city of Coimbatore located in the south state of Tamil Nadu. This is a major industrial city located on the banks of the Noyyal River. This is a crazy busy city and I was happy to be only spending two nights.
I was supposed to take a short flight from Kochi, but it was cancelled due to a typhoon in another region that had just occurred, grounding all incoming and outgoing flights.
Luckily, as it turned out, I was able to take a comfortable air conditioned taxi ride for about the same cost as the flight would have been. The ride took about 4 hours with a chai tea and a bakery stop along the way! 🙂
The main reason for visiting this city was to visit the ISHA Yoga & Meditation Center located just outside the city limits in the countryside. This is where my son had spent some time taking courses and volunteering. I did get an opportunity to visit and spend the day at the center, which was a wonderful spiritual experience.
From Coimbatore, I then caught a flight back to New Delhi and then on home back to Canada!
➡ There’s not a great deal to do in Kochi and area, so I wouldn’t recommend staying more than 2 nights at the most in the city.
My India Travel Experience – Conclusion
I spent seven weeks traveling in this amazing country and mostly on my own. In the entire time, I experienced just one hiccup along the way and very minor in nature. The cancelled flight from Kochi to Coimbatore.
The only real inconvenience was the government’s sudden announcement of the canceling of certain Rupee denominations to curb corruption and counterfeiting. This was a major disruption for the locals for several weeks throughout India.
So for having to go to the bank several times and ATMs closed with no money for a short while, it really could have been a lot worse for travelers. I managed like others, to get by while this major disruption was taking place.
I was extremely careful with where and what I ate during my travels, eating mostly wonderful vegetarian dishes for the most part. Bottled water is plentiful, cheap and on every street corner.
The people were very friendly and always eager to assist a foreigner in all the States we visited.
Be sure to read my previous post on Helpful India Travel Tips, outlining a few things I picked along the way during my travels in the country. It was one of the most amazing and at times, overwhelming trips I have ever taken. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. One must go with an open mind and accept their way of life, traditions and culture as you travel throughout the country.
As a baby boomer adult, I felt completely safe at all times during my travels. Of course, using common sense and taking the necessary steps to avoid theft and so forth when traveling on trains and walking in extremely crowded areas.
Would I recommend traveling to India? Absolutely! It was, after returning home and catching my breath after a month or so, that I said to others … “What an Amazing Experience!”
If you are the type of individual that when traveling and expects everything to be just right, just as if you were at home, then don’t even think about traveling to India.
But, if you love travel and experiencing new and exciting adventures, then India is sure to please. It is a country filled with history and intrigue, with unique individualized customs and cultures that will leave you in awe!
Below, I’ve included a link to a wonderful travel and tourism website where you can access much more detailed information to help plan your travels to India.
Safe and Healthy Travels! 🙂
🙂 Don’t Forget It … Be Sure To Pin It! 🙂