Deciding what to do for a week in India is a challenge. The choices are tantalizing and endless, as it is perhaps the most diverse and unique country on the planet to explore. The spectacular scenery, rich culture, turbulent history and amazing people are just a few reasons why I love it so much. When travelling, I endeavor to get under the skin of a place, absorb its essence, feel its true spirit, but few places allow that in a week. However India can, and certainly will, touch your heart and soul. With only a week to play with, a trip between Delhi, Jodhpur and Agra, or the ‘Golden Triangle,’ just like popadums into spicy mango chutney, is a mouthwatering dip into India’s delights.
Since independence from Britain in 1948—thanks to the nation’s Father Mahatma Gandhi—Delhi has undergone a grand metamorphosis, resulting in a cosmopolitan crescendo of multi-culturalisms. With so many classic juxtapositions of the ancient and the advanced, Delhi is a perfect place to begin your whistle-stop tour of this Northern Indian wonderland.
Starting with the ancient, get lost within the impressive seventeenth century Red Fort, a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage site. This sprawling complex, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, was India’s royal residence, and made from distinctive red sandstone, it is an imposing structure. Next, be amazed by Emperor Humayan’s tomb, an exquisite example of Persian design; colossal yet subtly graceful.
Fast forward two hundred years to the ultra modern Lotus Temple of the Bahai’i. Resembling Sydney’s Opera House, the Bahai’i House of Worship utilizes uber-contemporary architecture. This contrasts starkly with so many archaic buildings in Delhi, and demonstrates the interesting evolution of this great city.
The Jal Mahal, or Water Palace, shimmers like the moon in a clear night sky, and with the lake full in monsoon season, just like the tip of an iceberg, only the top floor is visible. When the lake drains in dry season, all five magnificent levels are on view, another marvel in this flamboyant and colorful city.
Like much of India, Agra is a city of extremes. On the one hand, the filthy streets teem with garbage, emaciated holy cows and dog sized rats, yet these highways of humanity will lead you to perhaps the most beautiful building on the planet; the awe inspiring Taj Mahal. Built in the 1630s by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz, it’s arguably the world’s most poignant manifestation of love. The sheer scale and brilliance of the tomb leave you spellbound by its spine tingling serenity, and close up, the magical combination of pristine white marble and sparkling jeweled revetments are mesmerizing. The best time to behold the gleaming vision is dawn, where the rising sun illuminates the Taj in an ethereal glow. Be humbled…and snap the pictures of a lifetime.
A week discovering the Golden Triangle is a fantastic assault on the senses, but is merely a taste of the inspirational Indian sub-continent. Yet the amazing architecture, culture, food and of course the warm, perpetually smiling Indian people, will reveal experiences and memories to last a lifetime.