For our third wedding anniversary, Jun and I decided to go to India for 10 days. I had always wanted to visit India since I was a child. Having read E. M. Forster, Rudyard Kipling, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga, and many more, India tantalized my imagination and was always a place I wished to visit.
Finally having the opportunity to journey there was wonderful. And being able to share that experience with Jun made it even more special.
The first day of our trip started early in the morning in Hong Kong. Because of the early flight there weren’t any issues with anything and we were soon on our way to New Delhi.
We arrived on time and quickly made our way through immigration. We decided since our hotel was near the metro, we would try the metro system in the city to get to the hotel. It was similar in style to the Hong Kong Airport Express and we were soon at our destination.
From there it was a short walk to the Metropolitan Hotel. Check-in was easy. We even got an upgrade! Our room was quite comfortable and we were able to relax a bit before we went out to explore the city.
From there we went and walked around Connaught Place and got a feel of the area. Then we went to the area around India Gate. The place was busy, but it was still nice to walk around in the warm afternoon with the deep blue sky above us. It was a nice walk around the area. By then we were a bit hungry.
We ended up having afternoon tea at Mister Chai inside the Shangri-La Hotel. I was able to enjoy my first masala chai in India, and it was amazing. In addition to the two cakes we ordered, it was a nice first meal in India.
After having enjoyed our afternoon tea, we walked back towards Connaught Place when we eyed some interesting structures. It turned out we were walking by Jantar Mantar, an ancient astronomical site in the city. We were fascinated with the place. The astronomical instruments are fixed physical structures that would help in the observation of space. Because of their design, they had a very Avant-garde look. It was neat to go around and explore.
By then the early morning flight was catching up with us and we went back to the hotel to rest. By the time we were ready to have dinner, Jun and I were too tired to venture out of the hotel, and we ended up having a nice dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants: Chutney’s. It was a lovely and delicious meal.
It was also nice just to go up the elevator to our room and rest. But then a surprise happened. A few minutes after getting into our room, the power fuse in the room blew and all the lights went out. Maintenance came and partially fixed the problem, which was fine for the night. Jun and I were able to go to sleep.
Our second morning started again with a power surge. So we got ready in the dark. Then we contacted the hotel staff to hopefully fix the situation. They said that it would be fixed by the time we were done with breakfast. So we went down to have breakfast, which was nice, and then came back. The power was back! So everything was fine.
To start the day we went to Old Delhi to walk through the narrow streets and explore. By late morning we ended up at Jama Masjid. It’s one of the largest mosques in the country. It was beautiful and a nice way to start our explorations of Old Delhi.
From there we made our way to the Red Fort, which had been the main, royal residence for the Mughal emperors until 1857. The fort is massive, and there are a lot of beautiful structures inside. It was really nice to walk around the grounds and see the intricate details in the architecture of the buildings.
Afterwards, we went back to Old Delhi to walk around a bit. In the early afternoon the streets were packed with people and vehicles. Jun and I agreed we were ready to go somewhere else. We decided to take the metro south towards the Tomb of Humayun.
The garden-tomb complex was beautiful. There were different tombs located near Emperor Humayun’s tomb, and each was quite beautiful and serene in design. When we got inside the historic park, we first visited Isa Khan’s Tomb. The structure was beautifully decorated and a peaceful place to be. From there we continued our walk towards the Tomb of Humayun. It has the distinct Indo-Persian architectural style that is more famously associated with the Taj Mahal, but the Tomb of Humayun was gorgeous. Jun and I explored the mausoleum and the surrounding gardens soaking in the beauty of the place.
Afterwards we decided to walk to Lodi Gardens, which was relatively close by. The gardens are free for the public to use, but inside the park are some additional tombs and other 15th century architectural works the Lodhis—rulers of the area around the 15th and 16th centuries—had built. People who live in the surrounding area use the open grounds recreationally, so we were treated to college students singing to each other and playing guitars. It was nice to see families and friends have fun. As we were walking, we also saw a monkey going around the park. That was neat. When we were about to leave the park, we also experienced the cacophonous call of the birds in the trees at dusk. I hadn’t heard so many birds loudly calling for a long time. Jun was surprised by it since it’s not that common to have so many birds in one place in the urban environment of Chinese cities.
Before going back to Connaught Place, we walked a bit around Lodi Colony, which is known for the variety of murals on the residential buildings. Some were quite amazing, others were funny, and some were perplexing; they all, however, created a very vibrant neighborhood.
By then it was early evening and we took the metro back to Connaught Place. We had planned on just cleaning up and going out for dinner, but as soon as we went into our room the power surged again. We contacted the front desk and they at this point changed our rooms. By the time we had switched rooms we were tired from the long day and decided to just order room service. Soon after dinner we got ready for bed and slept until morning.
After having a nice lie in, Jun and I got ready for a more relaxing day. We decided to venture down to visit the Qutub Minar, part of the Qutub complex of monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate. As we were leaving the hotel, we wished to stop by an ATM to get some cash. But as we walked towards the metro station, every ATM we encountered was out of service. When we got to Qutub Minar, there were no ATMs in service either. We guessed that we would have to get by using our credit cards until we found a working ATM.
When we got to the ticket counter for the site, we were told that there was no network signal so it was cash only. We were frustrated! We’ve been trying to get cash and hadn’t been able to find a place. Instead of giving up, we went for a hunt of a working ATM. We went along the road until we found an urban village. On the main street of the village, we found several ATMs, but not all of them worked with our cards. After trying different ones, we finally found one that did work! After getting the cash we went back to Qutub Minar and started our visit there.
The place is really neat. There are a lot of structures at the site that gives a glimpse of what Delhi once looked like. And the minaret itself is quite grand. The artistic details on it are quite intricate and beautiful. While it definitely took some time to get there, it was worth it to experience such an amazing place.
By then we were ready for lunch and found a nice restaurant near the site. It was quite busy and we had to share a table with other people. The food was great and we left feeling recharged.
From there we took the metro to visit the Lotus Temple. It’s a Bahá’í House of Worship built in the mid-1980s. It’s built in the shape of a lotus flower and is very much reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. It was nice to visit and see the building.
Afterwards, we went back to Connaught Place to take a break. We ended up at Starbucks and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon into early evening.
Because we had a late lunch and snacks, we decided to just go back to the hotel and call it a day. As we were walking we stopped at some of the stores in the area and just meandered back to the hotel.
Our day started early with us checking out of the hotel and going to Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station so we could get the Gatimaan Express, a semi-high speed train, to go to Agra. The train ride was nice. We booked executive class and were treated to a meal, free drinks, and newspaper service. The price was really reasonable as well. Jun and I were surprised. For comparable service class in China, you wouldn’t get any of that, and the ticket price would be much higher. So we enjoyed the ride.
When we got to Agra, we quickly found our way to the hotel. It was really nice, as part of the welcome service we were given double chocolate chip cookies! That was great. Definitely would recommend the Double Tree in Agra. After we had settled in, we then went on our tour of the city.
We started at the Taj Mahal. The place was spectacular. It was simply sublime. Pictures don’t do it justice. We were mesmerized by it as we visited the site. From a distance you can definitely see the beauty, but up close you can see the added details that went into the design and construction of this work of art. We found it difficult to leave. We could have stayed there for much longer.
From there we went to Agra Fort. The fort is still partially occupied by the military so not all of it is accessible to the public. The parts that are open were really fascinating. Like the Red Fort, it had been used by the Mughal Dynasty as a residence, but in 1638 the capital was moved to the Red Fort in Delhi. In many ways Agra Fort’s architecture is much more interesting. We really enjoyed going around the place. It also has a nice view of the Taj Mahal.
By then it was mid-afternoon and we were hungry. We went for lunch and then did a little shopping in the surrounding area. By early evening we decided to go to Mehtab Bagh. It’s a garden complex directly opposite of the Taj Mahal across the Yamuna River. It’s a wonderful spot to see the Taj Mahal and the river. It was a wonderful way to end our day.
When we went back to the hotel we rested for a bit and decided to eat at one of the hotel’s restaurants—Kebab-e-Que. It was a nice meal and we left quite happy. We went back to the room, relaxed, and then called it a day.
As we had seen the main sights in Agra, the next two days allowed us to take things at a slower pace and see some of the less traveled sights in the area.
On this day we took an Ola car to Fatehpur Sikri, which is a town near the border of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The modern town is built around the remains of a historic capital of the Mughal Empire. Emperor Akbar built the city as his capital in 1571, but later moved his capital in 1585.
Our driver was quite nice and helped us a bit to navigate and orient ourselves at the site. We enjoyed walking around the palace complex and the adjacent Jama Masjid mosque complex. The architecture at the site is quite grandiose. The grand entryway—Buland Darwaza—to the mosque complex is enormous in scale. It sets a distinct tone that you are entering into an important area.
There are a lot of beautiful architectural aspects to the different buildings in the complex. Taking a moment to imagine what it must have been like to have lived here brings forth scenes of imperial splendor and opulence. It was a nice way to spend the late morning and early afternoon here.
Afterwards, we went back to Agra. When we got back to the hotel I asked the front desk if we could get more chocolate chip cookies. The man was surprised that I asked, but he was happy to give us two cookies! I was quite happy. We then went back to our room and rested a bit before dinner. A friend of Jun’s lived near Agra and came into the city to spend some time with us. He took us out to a nice dinner at a restaurant called Pinch of Spice. The food was nice, and he even showed us the proper way to eat with our hands. Jun enjoyed catching up with an old friend, and I was happy to finally meet him and get to know him.
After dinner we went back to the hotel and agreed to meet up the next day before we left on our night train to Jodhpur.
After having a leisurely morning, we met up with Jun’s friend who took us to the suburbs of Agra to visit the Tomb of Akbar the Great in Sikandra. Because it’s more remote than the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, there weren’t a lot of visitors when we went there. It was beautiful. There were a lot of animals on the surrounding grounds, which covers about 119 acres. Jun and I really enjoyed our time there. Jun’s friend chose a wonderful place to take us.
Afterwards we went back to central Agra to have an early dinner. We ended up in a commercial shopping area, and we got to visit an Indian mall. It was not to the scale of Chinese malls, but it was quite nice. We had dinner at a bar-restaurant called Khiskey Whiskey. The inside was much more the whiskey bar than the outside, which was more a casual restaurant. We enjoyed sitting on the balcony, which had a descent view of the surrounding area. The food and drinks were nice; it was another nice place to relax.
By then we decided to go back to the hotel to get our bags so we could then go to the Agra Fort train station to catch our train to Jodhpur. Jun’s friend went with us. As we were waiting, he taught us how to check the train status. It turned out that our train was going to be two hours late and that we had plenty of time to wait. As a result we ended up having tea and dessert at the hotel before we left. Jun’s friend soon had to go and we said goodbye. Shortly afterwards we also left for the train station.
When we got there we had to wait a bit longer than anticipated before our train arrived. When it did, it was quite late and there were two people already in our sleeping berths. The man wanted to trade with us so he could be closer with his family. We agreed and soon we were in our beds. It wasn’t too bad. I actually got a fairly decent amount of sleep.
While the train ride was decent, it still wasn’t a nice bed in a quiet, calming bedroom. Several times throughout the night I was awoken, especially in Jaipur when many passengers disembarked and others came aboard. But I did get to sleep some, more so than I usually do on long flights.
When we did get to Jodhpur, we weren’t actually sure we were in Jodhpur. No one made any announcements, and there were people still on the train. Jun and I checked the map on our phones and found out that we were indeed in Jodhpur. So we got off and ordered an Ola car. After finding the driver we were soon on our way to the hotel.
Since we were quite early for check-in, we needed to wait a bit before we could get into our room. But as we waited we were given a garland of flowers and a welcoming drink, and the owner of the hotel came and greeted us. He gave us a history of the hotel—his family has owned it for many generations—and gave us advice on places to see in Jodhpur and the surrounding area.
Once our room was ready, Jun and I went and took our showers and relaxed for a bit before we left to see what the city had to offer.
We decided we would first go to Mehrangarh Fort, which was built in 1458 and is the largest fort in Rajasthan. To get there we thought we would just take an Ola, but for some reason no one wanted to take our request. We ended up taking a tuk-tuk, and the driver ended up being our main driver while in Jodhpur.
The sheer size of the fort is staggering. It’s huge! The inside of the structure was spectacular. Inside the palace there were some amazing rooms. Walking around and admiring the architecture was a great way to start our stay in Jodhpur. After we left the palace we decided to get some drinks at a café inside the fort. It was a nice and relaxing with an amazing view.
Afterwards we took a walk around the area. After a bit of exploring we ended up at Jaswant Thada, which is a royal cemetery. It’s set surrounded by a lake and rock formations with the city below. It’s quite a lovely place.
From there we then went down into the city. The transition from the calm of Jaswant Thada to the chaos of the city was jarring. We ended up walking towards the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower inside Sadar Market. The place was neat. The clock tower dominates the center of the bazaar, which had a charm to it that was nice. We continued our walk around the busy streets and passed different corners that were quite blue. Jodhpur is known as the blue city for the different buildings painted blue. In some areas the entire area was blue.
We then backtracked a bit and went to Toorji’s Step Well. Even with the utilitarian purpose of storing water, they were designed in a way that was intricate and ornate in such a simple way. It was nice sitting and enjoying the view. The neighborhood around the step well also has a lot of neat shops that were fun to browse.
By the time we were done shopping we were ready to go find a place to eat. We ended up at a roof-top restaurant with a nice view of the fort: Indigo. The food was delicious and we left happy. From there we took a tuk-tuk back to our hotel and called it a day.
After a wonderful breakfast in the hotel’s garden, we were ready to head out to visit Mandore Garden. After getting into our Ola car, the driver changed his mind that he didn’t want to go to Mandore and had us get out. The guard at our hotel was nice and called a tuk-tuk for us. The driver turned out to be the driver from yesterday! He quickly took us to the garden and even waited for us.
The gardens were nice. This used be the site of the capital of the Marwar kingdom before the founding of Jodhpur. As such, there were royal palaces and tombs in the park. While on a smaller scale than some of the other places we had visited, the structures here were still beautiful and impressive. After enjoying our time there, Jun and I went to find our driver and venture off towards Umaid Bhawan Palace.
The construction of Umaid Bhawan Palace was completed in 1944; it is the last great palace built in India. The palace is still lived in by the royal family of Jodhpur, who live in half of it. The other half has been converted in a hotel and museum. The palace is huge. Non-hotel staying guests or guests of the royal family are allowed to visit only a small portion of the palace. It was still nice to get to see it up close.
From there we went back to the Old City and walked around a bit and did some shopping. We then went back to the step well to rest for a bit. Afterwards, we found a café—Sam’s Art Café—nearby and idled away the afternoon with drinks and snacks.
Close to the start of evening we decided to go up to Signal Hill to see the sunset. The views from Signal Hill were really nice and we got to see a beautiful start to the evening.
By then we were ready for dinner and ended up at a hostel restaurant called Dylan Café. It was a very low key place, but the food was quite delicious.
After enjoying our meal we found a tuk-tuk and went back to the hotel to call it a night.
The next morning we started the day by going to the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park just beneath the fort. The park serves to protect the delicate desert environment. It’s quite a beautiful place. There were only a handful of people there, so we essentially had the place all to ourselves. It was nice to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the quietude of nature. The area was really well maintained and it was a nice way to spend our morning.
Afterwards, we walked back to the city and decided to have a light meal at Café Sheesh Mahal. It was a nice and relaxing place to spend a meal.
From there we went back to the hotel to get ready for our excursion to Osian, an oasis in the Thar Desert. Our driver was early and was already at the hotel when we got back. We told him we would freshen up a bit and that we could get an early start. He was a really nice man. He even bought us some masala chai on our way to Osian.
When we got there, we first went to the Sachiya Mata Temple. It was busy and full of people there to show devotion to the goddess. The architecture of the temple is quite lovely. It was interesting to experience how Indians show their religious devotion.
From there we went on our desert safari camel ride. It was nice. We got to ride a camel around some sand dunes and we also saw the sunset. It was a nice a relaxing excursion.
Afterwards we went back to Jodhpur and had dinner at a lovely restaurant before going back to the hotel.
Our last day in India. We had an early afternoon flight from Jodhpur to New Delhi, and then a late fight to Hong Kong. Everything went smoothly and we were soon on our way home. We even stopped and had pizza Indian-style from Domino’s.
Our trip to India was amazing. We got lucky with the weather and we were able to experience some wonderful things. We both left wanting to come back and explore different parts of the country in the future. It was a great way to celebrate our third anniversary.