James Jang from our Malvern store recently travelled to India with Banyan Tours and TAJ Hotels. On James’s journey he will take you through India from the rich colours and smells from a spice market to the sought-after Taj Mahal. India is a place that you should visit at least once in your lifetime.
Upon touching down in India, I started my journey in Delhi, where I stayed a couple of nights to explore this vibrant city. A full day tour of Old Delhi is one of the best ways to explore this bustling metropolis. Visit the mighty Jama Masjid Mosque, the largest in the country and the magnificent Red Fort, admired for its splendour. The locals are extremely friendly and welcoming, and they are more than happy to share their stories about their culture and heritage.
I stayed at the TAJ Palace Hotel in New Delhi, which is located in the Diplomatic Enclave and is set on 6 acres of beautiful gardens boasting magnificent views. This luxury 5 star hotel comprises of 403 rooms, including suites. The rooms are beautifully appointed, all with modern amenities that make this hotel truly a pleasure to stay in. The hotel has a choice of four restaurants that offer an excellent variety of food from Indian, Chinese, to Fine Dining and European options.
After a couple of days, it was time to make my way to Agra. The Gatiman Express travels daily from Delhi to Agra and this train journey takes just under two hours. This is a wonderful experience, to sit back and watch the picturesque countryside go by.
In Agra I stayed at The Oberoi Amarvilas. This hotel offers the best views of the Taj Mahal, and taking in this majestic structure is what you come to India for. Each room from this hotel faces the Taj Mahal, so you will be able to sit back and relax while watching a magical sunrise or sunset and marvel at its beauty. While here in Agra treat yourself and book an open-air dining experience under the stars, located in the private pool side pavilions and make it a night to remember.
From Agra I travelled to Udaipur, one of the most relaxing experiences on my trip - here you can have some down time and enjoy the city’s attractions. In the morning take a bike ride around the Pichola, Fateh Sagar and Badi Lakes. This is a very humbling experience to see all the small villages and to talk to some of the locals. The bike ride is about two hours where I saw farmers in the fields and jubilant children walking to school. Remember your camera as there are excellent photo opportunities along the way.
I enjoyed a sunset cruise on the Gangaur, a 150-year-old boat that once belonged to Maharana of Udaipur. The evening is for indulging in signature cocktails, wonderful food and the City Palace lights glistening in the background. Some of the locals were dancing and singing and this was a truly magical and unexpected experience.
From Udaipur I journeyed to Jaipur, best known as the Pink City. In the hustle and bustle of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, experience the vibrancy of a busy city, boasting majestic palaces and forts to visit.
If you love shopping there is a huge array of shopping options available within the Old City walls. Shop to your heart’s content - different types of textiles, perfumes, handmade jewellery, as well as trinkets for your home.
The City Palace lies in the heart of the Jaipur city - it is absolutely amazing and definitely worth a visit. To this day, a part of the City Palace is out of bounds to the general public as it continues to serve as residence to the Royal Family of Jaipur. On the edge of the City Palace you will see the Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds. This palace is beautiful to see as it is constructed with Red and Pink sandstone.
Next on my itinerary I travelled to Varanasi, the one place I think should be on every itinerary as it captures the true essence of India. For me, this is a magical and fascinating city, full of surprises around every corner. From walking the Ghats and alleyways to watching the sunrise from a boat - an experience that I will never forget. Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, and one of the holiest in Hinduism. Pilgrims visit the Ghats, lining the Ganges to wash away their sins in the sacred waters or to cremate their loved ones. It is a particularly auspicious place to die since expiring offers moksha (liberation from the cycle of rebirth).
As my journey in India came to an end, I made my way to Mumbai, the largest city in India. Here you will find some of Asia’s largest slums, as well as some of the most expensive homes in the world. With these two contrasting features you can expect an interesting cultural experience.
The Historic Kala Ghoda Area is home to a large number of the city’s heritage buildings and worth a visit to experience an array of museums, art galleries and educational institutions. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station, formally known as Victoria Station, is a historic railway station and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the highlights of my time in Mumbai was a visit to Dhobi Ghat, which is the largest open-air laundromat in Mumbai. It is said to have over 200 families working here and is the main laundromat for hotels and hospitals, as well as the public.
Overall India has been a rewarding experience filled with a lot of treasured memories, plenty of highlights, incredible food and sights, that have left me with lasting memories and wanting to go back for more.