Adventures in India

I’ve long been interested in India and its history and, as an early ‘big’ birthday present this year, my husband organized an amazing trip to India for the whole family. We knew that given the boys’ school commitments, the only real time we could all go was in the summer, which meant facing the scorching heat, outrunning the monsoon, but also (luckily) avoiding the tourist crowds. We also discovered that, although this time of year most Indians think you’re crazy to be visiting, it’s the best time to go if you want to glimpse tigers in the wild (which has long been a dream of mine).

We tried to expose our twin boys to as many of the cultural contrasts and contradictions of India as we could – from walking through the Dharavi slums of Mumbai, visiting the historical sites via public transport in Delhi, to seeing the Taj Mahal at daybreak, going on safari in Ranthambore national park in search of tigers, and walking through Amber Fort outside Jaipur in 116 degree heat. All in all, I think we managed to pack a lot in on our two weeks away!

I can’t wait to someday incorporate what we experienced in a book (or two)…though at the moment I feel I’m still in absorption mode. But rather than rant on about all of our amazing experiences, I thought I’d share just some of the photos of our time away.

Sunset over Mumbai:

A nearly deserted Taj Mahal at dawn:

Overtaking a camel on the road to Ranthambore:

Close encounter with tiger on safari (he was about ten feet from our jeep):

‘Basking’ in the scorching heat at Amber Fort:

They say travel broadens the mind but I think this trip, more than any other we’ve taken as a family, opened our eyes to another country and culture. So fellow TKZers, has any adventure done the same for you?




18 thoughts on “Adventures in India

  1. After being in the US for 60+ years, my mother was finally willing to make a trip back to where she was born and invited me, my husband, and son to come along. I’d always wanted to know more about her childhood, but she wanted nothing to do with anything German. Other cousins had gone and since she grew up in Danzig, which isn’t German anymore, they encouraged her to go. For me, it was fascinating–very little of what was there when she was growing up (she left at age 12) was still there, but she shared her memories. The hard part for me is when she felt obligated to visit a concentration camp. Even though it was a “small” one, I couldn’t deal with it, and I still don’t know how my mom was able to walk into the oven and gas chamber.

    • Sounds like an incredible trip. I visited Auschwitz last year and found it extremely difficult to cope with – so I can only imagine what it must have been like for your mother.

  2. What a FANTASTIC time to visit the Taj Mahal! That’s the only way I could stand to do it. Far far too many people there otherwise.
    In answer to your question: yes. Oh my, yes! My husband & I braved our first ever overseas trip to Morocco last year. BEST IDEA EVER.
    The destination was born out of a bizarre combination of interests (architecture, food, culture, music, textiles, metalwork…) and a desperate need of mine to visit a country similar to the worldscape of my novels. (Turkey was actually more dangerous at the time so Morocco was it. I think we did even better going to Morocco, honestly.)
    We spent the better part of two weeks (Casablanca to Chefchouen & back) blurting out exclamations about how current area/view/item _x_ referenced _y_ in the novels. Out photos are laced with random building or landscape shots. “Hey, remember when the group was pinned down in the city for xxx skirmish? Yeah, that rooftop over there, with the broken corner, would be perfect for their position!”
    Or “How about THAT for a temple courtyard?”
    But there were also moments completely separate from the research, and deeply ingrained in my memory:
    Viewing the incredibly orange desert from atop a high ridge at sundown, listening to our guides chatter in a mix of French, Arabic, and Amazigh.
    Doing Taichi on the sand before sunrise the following morning, utterly alone save for the moon & a light dawn breeze
    The beatific smile of a very elderly lady on the eternally-uphill streets of Chefchouen when my husband paused the flow of traffic to allow her to cross in front of us. “Please, Grandmother; go ahead,” he murmured in Spanish (up north you hear more Spanish than French…another fascinating detail.) Her response was so effusive that I wondered when she had last been spoken to so kindly by a tourist … or any stranger for that matter.
    The people, the culture, the land completely imprinted itself on our hearts. We can’t wait to go back.

    • What an amazing trip – and for research too! I can visualize the moments you describe – they must have made for great memories as well as input for your book:) We felt extremely lucky to have visited the Taj Mahal on such a beautiful morning (and to have avoided the crowds!)

  3. I, too, went to India a about nine years ago for my nephew’s wedding (the event takes a full week of festivities!). It was August, so hot I almost fainted in the street of Chennai one night while we were shopping for wedding saris. But it was an amazing trip. I had been only to Euro-centric countries before that, and was able to muddle through with bad French and worse German. But this was a total immersion in the exotic. I’m jealous you got to the Taj Mahal. Ceremony schedules kept up in the city the whole time.

    • I thought Jasper was going to pass out during our public transport adventures in Delhi – it was well over 100 but we got to cool down in the air conditioned subway and we were all grateful for the uber back to the hotel:) In the end though we all agreed that seeing the city more as a local was well worth it – despite the heat!

  4. I’ve been to India and Nepal (if you go back to India, try to go to Leh. It’s up in the Himalayas, and it’s stunning (and quite comfortable in the summer, even though I couldn’t breathe at that altitude). We took the “Highest motor road in the world,” up around 18,000 feet, which was scary but an adventure. Fun fact: the area we were in was the only spot in the region declared safe by the State Department. Too much fighting between India, Pakistan, and China otherwise.)

    Anyway, I have a thriller planned which takes place in Nepal and Tibet. I love travel and try to do one or two trips a year.

    • Your adventures in India and Nepal sound terrific and a thriller based in Nepal and Tibet sounds great! We had considered going to the hill stations where it would be cooler but decided against it (additional travel time and hey, we live in Colorado so mountains weren’t quite as much as a draw:)). The reason we started in Mumbai was because our original flight to Delhi was cancelled due to the ban over Pakistan airspace – it’s certainly a region where you have to keep an eye out on the current political climate!

  5. I visited the Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, last year when I was in Israel and it was so hard to listen to the voices matter-of-factly telling of the horrors the survivors went through. Very sobering.

    The trip to Israel was life changing.

  6. My husband and I have had the good fortune to have traveled to several places not as tourists, but because of other commitments.
    We spent a week in Kenya for a church meeting. The heat was scorching (Kenya is equatorial), but the people were kind and modest. The Kibera slum in Nairobi was shocking. My husband learned to sing “Silent Night” in Kikuyu, and he still loves to entertain our friends with that accomplishment.
    We were in China for a few weeks in 1987 so that my husband and another professor could speak at several universities. It was prior to the shift toward capitalism and we will never forget the millions of bicycles in Beijing and the air so polluted you could see what you were breathing. But, again, the people we met were extraordinarily kind and helpful. We tried to learn a little Chinese from one of Frank’s graduate students before we went, but it was impossible for me. I couldn’t distinguish the different sounds. At least I learned “ni hao ma” (how are you) and “xie xie” (thank you.) We stood on the Great Wall and I remembered having seen pictures of it in an encyclopedia when I was a child and thinking I would never see it in person because it was all the way on the other side of the world from Savannah, GA. Amazing.
    But the trip we will always consider the most wonderful was the two+ months we spent in Israel to work in a food distribution center. We lived in an apartment, rode the buses, and shopped in the stores. We walked the walls around the old city of Jerusalem, bobbed like corks on the Dead Sea, climbed the hills of En Gedi where David fled from Solomon, experienced the dusty wilderness of Masada where the siege ramp built by the Romans is still visible, dipped our feet in the Sea of Galilee, and waded in the Jordan River. We were overwhelmed by the shadows of past horrors in Yad Vashem and especially the Children’s memorial. We met so many Israelis who helped us find the right train to ride, translated signs for us, and thanked us for our service. For the first time in all our travels, we really didn’t want to come home.

  7. Congrats on the successful trip to India. I’ve been there a couple of times, for a total of maybe two and a half months or so. I can’t imagine going during the hot season. I would probably just fall over and die from the heat!

    I think I’ve been to around 70 countries or so. My favorite continent to travel to is Africa. Such a variety of cultures, topography, and wildlife. I highly recommend it.

    I never had problems visiting concentration camps. But what got me about Dachau wasn’t simply the camp, it was that it is right in the middle of town. You always read in history that the population was unaware that they were killing Jews (and Gypsies, and gays, and others) in the camps. Once you see that Dachau was located where a lot of people would have been walking by it on a daily basis you see that “unaware” bit for the self-serving bs statement that it is. They knew.

  8. I grew up in the Midwest without ever venturing out of the States. After I turned 30, I accepted a job in Puerto Rico and spent a year there. Ten years later, I married an American woman who spent her childhood in India and Sri Lanka. We soon moved to China where we spent two years and now we live in a small town on the coast in central Vietnam.

    Best eye-opening trip I ever took was two weeks spent in Turkey. We went when the bombings from Syria were happening. That REALLY lowered the cost of hotels and travel since no one wants to go. Amazing trip. The people were incredible.

  9. My first trip outside the United States was to India – in 1978.

    I flew Pan Am from New York to Bombay on a nearly empty 747. There was a stopover in Bahrain (had no idea what or where that was). As the plane landed, I took pictures through the window of the sand. Inside, the terminal was empty. Sign there said photography was prohibited. Oops!

    Bombay was equally memorable, because of lost luggage. Late at night I trudged to the far reaches of the airport to report same. They did pay for my few hours in a hotel and I did get my luggage a few days later in Hyderabad, which was my home for the next four and a half months.

    My time there was enjoyable, challenging, frustrating (spicy food – I lost 20 lbs), interesting, exciting (have you ever been six feet from an upright cobra? I quickly rolled up the car window), and exhilarating (a bus passing inches from the auto-rickshaw I was in angered our driver. He took after the bus, shaking his fist and yelling}. My flight home was memorable too. When I arrived at the Hyderabad airport, I learned an earlier flight to Delhi (my destination) crashed during takeoff. Stops in Delhi, Tehran (another empty airport – whether normal or because of the revolution just months away I do not know), and Frankfort followed before I reached New York.

    Good or bad, I cherish everyone of those memories and the people who made my trip unforgettable. Isn’t that what travel is all about?

  10. Better to visit India during the pizza-oven hot summer than in mosquito season. Malaria and chikingunya are getting bad. It took my husband 6 months to recuperate from the latter. But we lived there 5 years and loved every minute—after chikungunya. How did you get a photo of the Taj Mahal without tourists in it? Impossible! One time we attended a diplomatic function there and stayed in the Oberon Hotel where every bed offers a view of the Taj. Glad, too, I got to Ranthembore before the monsoons thicken the grass. Tigers are incredible. If you ever write that book, use me as a resource.

    • Five years in India sounds amazing! I’d love to do that! We were also very lucky to stay at the Oberoi so we got amazing views of the Taj from our rooms:) I’ll definitely turn to you as I resource if I decide to write the book!

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