India is one of those places that is on everyone’s ‘bucket list’ however they never seem to make it there.
India is indeed incredible…. and a bit nerve-racking, for a foreign female tourist to visit. All the latest news stories involve tourists and rape. There were multiple times in our trip planning where we almost cancelled everything. Such a shame, for a country full of beauty and history, to be plagued by such a horrible current reputation.
In light of this, we decided to try to “blend in” as much as possible. Our research showed that long skirts and scarfs would be our best friends in India. Thankfully, D.C. is such a well-mixed mixing pot that I had my choice of Indian clothing shoppes to check out. I tried on so many salwar kameez outfits, it was hard to choose! I wanted to get them all.
Salwar kameez is a 2-piece outfit, baggy pants and a long shirt. The pants are typically loose at the top with a slight taper at the ankle, sometimes referred to as pajamas (I like anything that resembles pajamas!). The top can resemble a dress, with slits at the waist to enable movement (cue bollywood dancing). The scarf is optional and usually worn across the shoulders. I’m not really sure why I have such an affinity towards Indian fashion.
Here is proof of my Indian sari obsession, I designed my Vietnamese Bridal Ao Dai after being inspired by the ornate gold detailing of sari fabric.
We flew out of New York JFK via Dubai to Delhi, India on Emirates Airlines. Let me tell you, all that hype about Emirates ranking in the top of all the ‘Best Airlines of the Year’ lists are valid! Emirates is now my favorite airline. The flight attendants wear red lipstick and a beautiful hat with a red scarf. We flew in the new A-380 plane, the world’s largest passenger airplane with a second story for first class. The curry meals were delicious and I loved the wood paneling details in the cabin.
Arriving into Delhi wasn’t much of a culture shock for me. Having frequently traveled throughout Southeast Asia, I felt right at home. Delhi immediately felt like a dusty Saigon.
I love how women wear these beautiful saris & salwar kameez even while doing heavy lifting and casual walks to the market!
For breakfast, we had a regional specialty called Dosa. It’s unique to South India and is a rice-lentil crepe stuffed with veggies and sauces/ chutney. We enjoyed the dish so much that the Chef gave us a mini-cooking lesson!
Our first stop in exploring Delhi was Qutub Minar:
If you saw how many Indian spices we bought, you’d think we were crazy. And you’re right!
I wanted to completely raid this Indian fabric shoppe. Serious regret right now.
Holy cow! No, really… holy cows. India loves their cows. The animal is worshiped and never eaten, allowed to roam freely. They’re protected by national laws. Our driver told us that if you accidentally drive into a cow you are sentenced to 10 years in prison. I’m not sure how valid his statement is, but shows how special these creatures are!
The drive from Delhi to Agra takes about 3 hours on the brand new Taj Express Highway. A beautifully paved road, smooth and easy journey!
We woke up as the sun was rising and headed over to the entire reason we traveled to India… to see the Taj Mahal.
Really fun fact: look at the giant onion dome of the Taj. Do you see the little piece at the top sticking out? It’s called a ‘finial’ and was originally shielded in gold. Our tour guide told us it was after the British rule of India, in the middle of the night, that it was stolen and left it as a bronze finial. Further research tells me if was taken during the Jat despoilation… either way, how did they reach it??
A longstanding myth is that Shah Jahan planned to build a Black Taj Mahal across the river from the White Taj Mahal. He was overthrown by his son, so construction was never started.
Shah Jahan, the Emperor-commissioner of the Taj Mahal, was deposed from office by his son and kept under house arrest here, at the Agra Fort. From his room there is a beautiful view of the Taj and the river.
The architecture and Mughal history wasn’t the only intriguing thing to me that day. I was constantly enamored with all the fabulous Indian fashion around me! I felt underdressed in my salwar kameez. Here’s a sampling of some of the sharpest ladies in Agra, March 2015.
And let’s not forget the best dressed man in India:
India is so unique in that there are so many wild animals roaming the streets. Wild monkeys are everywhere, even in a crowded city like Delhi. Wild pigs, goats, cows are also a common sight in Agra. I loved seeing all the nature, but also saddened to see the horrible upkeep of trash and disposal adjacent to these animals. The country has so much beauty, but it’s hard not to be tainted by the garbage everywhere.
I hope this “real” side of India does not dissuade you from visiting the country. Our trip consisted of so much good (and spicy) food, we never felt unsafe, and no one in our group ever got food poisoning or sick! That is surely a sign of success, considering the adventure-eating.
I love finding unique potato chips when I travel! This is a “thing” that I do, as a self-proclaimed chip queen. These were our two favorites from the trip.
Our last meal was perhaps the most “adventurous”… at McDonald’s! I avoid it in the States but since (most) Indians don’t eat beef… I had to see what kind of menu was offered.
In every country I visit, I like to stop in at McDonald’s- not to eat, (yes for the free wifi) but to compare the prices and Burgernomics of The Economist’s Big Mac Index. Click here for the explanation I won’t even try to put into my own words.
McDonald’s verdict in Delhi: not cheap, no free wifi and the Chicken Maharaja Mac tastes alright (I didn’t die).
The only beer we could find was Kingfisher, so with this I thank you & cheers for reading about Incredible India.
All photos taken by Melllypoo unless otherwise noted.