We just returned this past week from our trip to India. I meant to write a post from India, but Wifi was really spotty while I was there, and after a few failed attempts to connect, I gave up. It was my first trip after 2 years, and I thought I’d earned the right to just not do anything. We had nothing to worry about except what we were going to do or eat that day.
My partner left for India a week earlier than I did. So my flight was on March 2nd. I flew on Emirates, which had the best ratings on Trip Advisor regarding comfort and service. Convenience was important to me because the first leg of the trip was a 14-hour flight to Dubai. I’d never flown that long before, and I was anticipating a little anxiety for being on a plane that long.
I found Emirates very comfortable. The seat space was adequate, and I had a free seat next to me. The entertainment was fantastic with my very own tv on the seat in front of me. The entertainment centre had a ton of movies, music, TV shows, and games. Meals are plentiful with two main meals and a snack in between. I arrived in New Delhi after connecting in Dubai. The connecting flight was a short 2.5-hour flight. Temperatures were in the eighties, and it felt really good to be in warm weather.
After one night in New Delhi, we left for Goa early Thursday morning.
Our destination in Goa was Satsanga Retreat, a yoga retreat chosen as one of the world’s best yoga centres. Satsanga was a beautiful place to stay. However, yoga was secondary to me as I was mainly going along for the ride. My main goal was to just take a break and enjoy the warm weather and culture of India. Nevertheless, doing yoga twice a day for 10 days really opened my eyes to the health benefits of regular yoga practice.
Yoga practice was at 7 AM and 5 PM every day, so there was a lot of time to do other activities in between. We took these opportunities to explore the various beaches that Goa had to offer, take in a lot of relaxation time, and other services provided at the Satsanga Retreat. I had my first acupuncture in my life with mixed reviews. I know a lot of people love acupuncture. After one treatment, I didn’t feel any noticeable change in my body. I also didn’t have any real issues, so that probably played a large part.
Another significant aspect of Satsanga, in addition to the beautiful, peaceful space, was the food. We had 3 meals a day, vegetarian and Ayurvedic, which is a traditional Indian medicinal system. I’m not sure what the specifics of the Ayurvedic diet are other than being Indian and vegetarian. However, I do know that the meals were flavorful and delicious. I didn’t realise meals without meat could be so filling and delicious.
I attended a cooking class with the main chef. It was a little tricky because her English skills were limited. But it was fascinating seeing all the spices used during cooking, as well as the fresh vegetables.
Our breakfast every day included freshly sliced mango, papaya, banana, watermelon, coconut, pomegranate seeds, oranges, grapes, dates. Fantastic!
Goa is definitely a tourist beach town. However, it’s pretty rural, so although there are busy areas dominated by shops selling to tourists, there are also quiet, quaint, and peaceful areas. Among the many beaches that surround Goa, we visited Mapusa and Anjuna. The beaches were beautiful with clear, warm water. The water was also shallow and calm while we were there, making for great swimming and relaxation.
New Delhi, India
After our ten days in Goa, we had 4 days left in India. So we took the advice from other traveller’s gained from Nomad Wallet’s piece on helping us with our India trip and checked into Downtown Hotel in Paharganj. Our intention at that point was to also take advice from our Nomad Wallet exchange and catch a train to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.
At that point of the trip, we were pretty seasoned in the art of bartering. Everything you pay for other than established restaurants is up for bartering. In fact, if you don’t barter, you’ll likely end up paying ten times or more the price that locals pay. Some people are ok with this as the prices are still affordable. I didn’t like getting ripped off at every turn, so I got pretty good at bartering. Don’t hesitate to barter. The locals know that this is normal in everyday buying and selling and may look offended at your price offers. However, this is just part of the act.
We relied on our hotel to help us determine proper pricing for taxi cabs. But we didn’t let them find us the cabs. That way, they couldn’t take a commission for finding the cab for us. So we used the hotel’s advice in pricing for cab rides to help us determine reasonable fares. But, of course, we always paid more than what the cab ride was worth. Most of the time, this was a difference of less than a dollar.
Our trip to Agra was a whirlwind of a day, beginning at 6 AM. Our bus picked us up outside of our hotel in Delhi. We then went on to pick up several other passengers for the next hour and a half, filling up the bus to capacity. At that point, we proceeded to leave Delhi. When the bus filled up, we found out that we were the only foreign passengers. This was exciting because I felt that we were really going to get an authentic Indian experience.
It took 6 hours to get to Agra. The traffic was terrible. I guess at least part of that could be attributed to Holi. However, the bus was comfortable, had air conditioning, and stopped for bathroom breaks and lunch. Traffic in India is pretty crazy compared to the US. I would not want to drive a car there. Luckily our bus driver seemed experienced and navigated the chaos pretty well.
We arrived in Agra, and a funny thing happened. A guy came on the bus and asked us if we wanted to take our own private tour of Agra. He spoke English well, and he promised to return us to the bus later on in the day after we’ve visited several landmarks like the Taj Mahal. He said that the benefit would be avoiding some of the other religious places that the bus tour intended to visit. That way we would spend more time at the Taj Mahal and not be limited to what the tour would do. We felt a little weird about it, but he made sense and wasn’t going to charge us a cent.
So we go along with this guy. The first place we went to was a restaurant as we were pretty hungry at that point. The restaurant was great, with a typical Indian menu. Our next stop was the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal lived up to its name as a wonder of the world. The whole complex was beautiful, with buildings at each end of the Taj Mahl. Within the outer buildings was a huge beautiful garden with the main building at the centre.
The outer buildings were beautiful in their own right. However, they were made of red brick. The Taj Mahal itself was made of white marble, which was a nice contrast to the red brick of the outer buildings.
Our next stop was Agra Fort, an actual fort initially built in the 11th century. The fort is more like a walled-up small city that has been added on to over the years. In some ways, it’s just as beautiful as the Taj Mahal. The stonework and carvings are beautiful and extensive.
Our tour guide took us to a couple of clothing and jewellery shops after that. These were opportunities for him to make some side cash. If we bought something, which we did, he’d earn a commission, which he did. This is a common occurrence I’ve seen in other countries like Vietnam. Basically, the tour driver or taxi driver will take you, for free, to a little shop that looks almost designed to sell you anything – from clothing to jewellery to little buddha trinkets.
At that point, we were ready to return to the bus. It was early evening. We ended up tipping our tour guide about 700 rupees or a little over $10 US. Back on the bus, we learned that our fellow passengers basically did the same things we did. I thought that it still was worth it because we got to take a break from the bus. It was a lot of sitting on the bus, and I wanted out after a long journey from Delhi.
We ended up visiting a couple more temples. One was a temple that was thought to be the birthplace of Krishna, one of the principal Hindu gods. The other temple was more elaborate and was considered to be where Krishna achieved enlightenment. One of our fellow passengers spoke a little English, so we could get a little instruction about our visits. Otherwise, we would’ve been totally in the dark.
Last day in India
Our last day happened to be the first day of Holi, India’s national holiday and festival of colour. Holi celebrates the triumph of good over bad and is celebrated with colour, lots of colours. So everywhere you go outside during Holi, people are covered with paint. You can buy coloured powder, and Indians use these powdered colours to put them on friends and even strangers. So you see people with pink, orange, blue, green, purple, and red all over their body, face, and hair. It’s an exciting and fun way to celebrate. However, you do hear and even see on TV stories of people abusing the opportunity to apply coloured powder on others.
Anyway, we definitely partook in the festival of colour. It was a fun experience. However, at a certain point, after being doused with tons of coloured powder, we had enough and retreated back to the hotel.
In conclusion, India was fantastic! I loved every minute of the trip. I like learning about a new culture through food, meeting new people, and visiting a new place. It’s the best way to learn, in my opinion. Travel is something that has gotten away from me for a long time. I need to continue that aspect of my life. It refreshes me and helps put my life in perspective. I really want to revisit India in the future. India is a beautiful place with a great culture full of people fighting for a better life. What more could you ask for?