We flew out to Delhi and spent the first half of the holiday full-on sightseeing in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Particular highlights for me were:
- In Delhi: visiting the spice market (a beautiful ancient building with an overpowering scent of spices that made us all sneeze!), a rickshaw ride through old Delhi (exhilarating!), visiting the Sikh temple (the kitchens where they prepared enormous cauldrons of daal over huge open flames to feed scores of homeless people every day were incredible).
- In Agra: the Taj Mahal at dawn was lovely -- such beautiful light and far fewer crowds than in the middle of the day.
- In Jaipur: sitting at the elephant pool watching the elephants commune with their keepers.
We then flew down to Cochin in the south. This was the relaxing part of the holiday and we spent quite a bit of time swimming in the hotel pool. We did some sightseeing, however, and the thing I particularly enjoyed was the day cruise that we took on a houseboat along the Kerelan backwaters. We had the boat to ourselves and were looked after by the captain and by the on-board chef who cooked us a delicious lunch in the boat's galley kitchen. We spent the day drifting along and watching the world go by, including women washing clothes, dishes and their hair in the river.
All of us found India an incredible experience -- it is just so different from life in the West. The traffic is crazy, the colours are vibrant, the poverty is on a different scale altogether. It simply feels like a different world.
The trouble is that we are now hooked and wondering when we can next afford to visit somewhere truly different!