So now we're all firmly back at our desks and working away following the festive period do you think it's ok to start dreaming of new year escapades and gathering a little bit of wanderlust for an adventurous 2016?! I think so! Banish the January blues and come get the travel bug with me today as I share the first in a series of photo diaries from our recent trip to India. A country so full of colour, chaos, culture and wonder that you just can't fail to fall in love!
Our journey to Northern India began in Delhi. With such a short time to take in so much of a country of total contrasts we decided to focus on the north this time around and cram in as much as we possibly could. Although we still only managed to scratch the surface we did take in a multitude of wonders on a busy and action packed itinerary with Exodus Tour Group. If you're looking to fit in as much as you can but are tight for time them I highly recommend checking them out. It was a full on excursion, described as leisurely which kind of depends on your version of leisure. Expect to be up and on the road to a new destination each and every day, but also expect to have an all absorbing and amazing time - especially if you're lucky to get the very brilliant Ravi as your guide!
Now it turns out that with just short of 24 hours in Delhi you can still fit in quite a lot even if you do spend at least three or four hours of that sat in traffic trying to cover even the shortest of distance! Yes the traffic here is as bad as they say, and maybe even a little worse! Until you experience ten way traffic, cars, trucks, lorries, cows, dogs, carts, tuk-tuks and completely fearless humans in their literal thousands all frenetically trying to get to their destination ahead of the next, on smog heavy roads where rules no longer really apply, then you'll never fully understand the 'experience' that is a busy afternoon on the hectic streets of Delhi. But as a visitor it's all very much part of the fun! Take with you a good dollop of patience and sit back, relax and try to enjoy it!
If you're tight for time then one must visit is the beautiful Red Fort in the old part of the city. This stunning red sandstone complex built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan houses a number of museums and is a peaceful retreat from the heavy hustle of the streets just outside. It is testament to the innovative Mughal architecture of the time and to the fusion of many different styles and influences including that of Persian as well as Hindu traditions. You can easily spend a peaceful hour or so strolling through the calm and taking in the history and beauty that it has to offer.
We also took a moment to visit the beautiful, welcoming and friendly Sikh Temple, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib. Situated very close to the Red Fort this historical temple was built to commemorate and mark the site where the ninth Sikh Guru was beheaded in the 17th century. Such a peaceful place of worship, here we spent some time quietly observing the evening prayers before heading to the kitchen (Langar) to watch them prepare the food that they make and share daily for all those who wish to partake in it. Food is donated by those more fortunate and daily volunteers spend their time in the kitchens preparing, serving and cleaning. It was humbling to witness such kindness and generosity in a place where all are welcome and no-one is discriminated against. We did our best to lend a helping hand with the cooking of the flat breads, but despite their smiles and encouragement I think we may have been a little more hinderance than help!
If you are going to visit a temple then make sure you dress respectfully according to the faith of the place that you are visiting. Here we had to cover our heads, remove our shoes and socks and bathe our feet before entering. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have seen tourists arguing that they should be allowed to enter just as they are. It's wrong and it really, truly annoys me!
After fighting our way through the shoulder to shoulder packed streets and markets, following our guide like slightly lost lambs (we were so lucky that Ravi was over 6ft with a very stand out striped jumper!) we headed off for a little local sustenance in the form of the most outstanding and delicious local curry before squeezing ourselves onto the subway and heading back to our hotel ahead of an early start to our next destination, Varanasi.
Delhi is the second most populous city in India and is growing rapidly. As agriculture in the surrounding villages has sadly begun to dwindle and technology has taken over, more and more people are heading to the capital to build their lives and make a living. This makes for frantic urban life where the term busy doesn't even begin to cut it! It's also lively and friendly with a lot to offer any expectant traveller. Keep yourself safe, but don't hesitate to add this excitable city to your itinerary as I'm confident it will be a fantastic part of your India experience that you will not easily forget. I certainly know that we won't!