A holiday in India was not on the cards, but Larisa and Wayne didn’t want to let the opportunity pass them by. A bit of research later, they were ready to explore the vast country.
In November 2016, Larisa and Wayne embarked on a fifteen day adventure in India, discovering incredible sights and sounds that would remain with them long after their return. What did they see? Where did they go? Read more to find out.
We never planned to go to India. It was a trip of opportunity – having to travel nearly 25 hours for a business trip to Hyderabad seemed crazy without spending at least a few days to explore a place that we did not know much about.
How to tackle this vast country? My husband Wayne and I are experienced travelers who prefer our own adventure to any sort of organized travel. Yet all of our research confirmed that it would be wise to get some help planning our Indian adventure. A quick Google search led me to Enchanting Travels and the rest was simply fate. Thanks to knowledgeable, dependable, concerned, professional, dedicated, interesting and caring team of travel advisers, local guides and drivers, we had the time of our lives.
A creative, design-oriented individual, Wayne quickly became consumed by images of India. He chose the places he wanted to visit much in the same way that he likes to choose wines – by their visual appeal. This led us to Amritsar, the home of the Golden Temple and to Varanasi, one of the holiest Hindu places, on the banks of the Ganges.
It was fate that our visit to Varanasi should coincide with a festival, Dev Deepawali and we got a front row spot on the river to observe the evening ceremony and the joyful celebration of endless humanity.
It was also fate that the Indian government should announce a demonetization on the first day of our trip, declaring the most common currency no longer valid. This resulted in only minor inconveniences for us, but taught us a great deal about the Indian economy, differences between the rich and the poor and ultimately ended up being an unexpected benefit because the shortage in cash made the crowds in the marketplaces a little more tolerable.
Trains, planes, boats, cars, elephants and rickshaws … we experienced every possible means of transportation, each offering another fascinating glimpse into the daily life of Indians. Trusting our amazing drivers with our life, we joined the outrageous chaos of urban streets, which offered us endless hours of entertainment and wonder.
How is it possible for a family of 6 to ride on a single motorcycle? How can trucks carry such precariously balanced loads? How can so many people squeeze into impossible inadequate spaces – be it buses, trains or narrow streets? How do Indian women possess such grace and poise, always impeccably dressed in colorful saris, no matter the heat, dust, noise, crowds and difficult work that they do everywhere you look? And the marigolds, adorning buildings, temples, cars, trucks and people – how can anything be so vibrant and alive?
India enriched our knowledge and appreciation of different cultures and religions. We visited Muslim mosques, Hindu and Sikh temples and even several synagogues. We were fascinated to meet several of only a small handful of Jews living in India and learn about the way they observe Judaism. We learned about some of the religious conflicts, but mostly we observed in wonder how people of different religions and backgrounds manage to coexist peacefully.
It was fate that placed us in India during the historical events of the American Presidential election and we had so many wonderful “politically incorrect” discussions with the locals who were quick to start a conversation with a bold and direct question – “So, did you vote for Trump or Hillary?”
Even the landmarks that had the potential of being tourist traps and cliché ended up being incredible. Such was our visit to the Taj Mahal. Thanks to our very energetic guide in Agra, we were the first people to enter the grounds and had a chance to have this wonder of the world all to ourselves, even if just for a minute.
It was magical to watch the sun rise over the Taj, while an endless stream of people took in its ageless power and beauty.
Jaipur, the Pink City, treated us to our first Indian wedding procession, the wedding market overflowing with glorious fabrics and adornments, and one of the most beautiful royal palaces.
The summer palace floated in the middle of a lake, directly across from our hotel, while a group of locals organized camel rides just down the street. We will never forget the conversation with our guide about the custom of arranged marriages and the sweet, shy smile on his face as he talked about his wife and their happily arranged marriage.
It was fate that by the time we reached our final destination, Mumbai, or Bombay as the locals still call it, we were not too interested in the archaeologically significant Elephanta Caves and decided to re-arrange our plans. With the characteristic charm, flexibility and desire to show us the best of his city, our guide eagerly embarked on helping us accomplish the impossibly long list of things we wanted to experience in Mumbai.
The highlight was our visit to Dharavi, the largest slum, which is home to about one million people.
It was an experience that pulled on every sense and emotion, leaving us hopeful and uplifted by the human spirit and an important lesson that kindness, humanity and love thrive under the most unbelievable and improbable conditions.
India is a symphony of noise, dust, spices, delicious flavors, pungent colors, smiles, chaotic traffic and people, endless faces, expressions, hopes and dreams. In the places of worship that were so different than our own, we found spirituality and serenity. In the curious and inquisitive looks of the Indian children we found friendliness and acceptance despite our differences. We came back to Los Angeles, somehow changed, energized, more aware, more grateful and forever linked to India.
We never planned for this to happen, but we fell in love with India.
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