Welcome to India!
I had a little trepidation going into India with kids, as I heard that it can be chaotic, crowded, noisy and overwhelming. Those who know me, know I value calm, quiet, order, and structure. I was also told that India could be colorful and charming if you just open yourself up to it. India is definitely the former and I’m still working on the latter.
It was hard to get a good sense of New Delhi, because it is such a large city and was often covered in a low, white cloud cover. The cars and motorcycles beep their horns so much, that I couldn’t stand being out for very long, preferring to retreat to the Hauz Khas ‘walking’ village where we were staying.
New Dehli was on the cool and dry side, so Deer Park, located beside Hauz Khas, wasn’t very green. It did have a lot of deer fenced in. This area also had monkeys and peacocks. We saw a peacock fly, for the first time, from the balcony of our apartment.
While in Delhi, we visited the Qutab Minar (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Lotus Temple. We tried to go to the huge playground by the India Gate (India’s War Memorial), but is was closed as India is gearing up for Republic Day celebrations on January 26. We also wanted to see the Red Fort, but our host said it would take over an hour to get there because of traffic, so we didn’t go.
The Hauz Khas village has a lot of restaurants and shops, so the girls picked out a new dress (the same one, of course), and Hannah bought a ring made of druzy.
After Delhi, it was onto Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, also UNESCO World Heritage sites. We had a guide for both and also had a photographer for the Taj Mahal, however; we were disappointed with the pictures. It’s amazing how much Hannah picks up when it doesn’t even seem like she is listening. We gave her a quiz after and she kept getting them right and asking for more questions.
We decided to hire a driver to take us to Bharatpur, instead of taking the train, as it was more convenient and that way we could stop at Fatehpur Sikri (another World Heritage site). In usual Indian fashion, our driver was beeping his horn more times than not!
Fatehpur Sikri was the Mughal Empire from 1571-1585. Both it and the Agra Fort would have been better with furnishings from the time so that we could get a better sense of how they lived, however; I’m not sure how much remains from that time.
Keoladeo National Park
Taking a break from the cultural World Heritage Sites, we decided to visit Keoladeo National Park, a natural World Heritage site. In contrast to Mulu National Park, it was hard to tell this was a World Heritage site, as there was very little signage or information about it. The facilities here (and at India’s other sites) are also understated.
We took the bicycle rickshaws through part of the park, as well as a guide and a telescope. This made the experience more enjoyable as we could get a much better view of the birds.
Even though we were only there for the morning, we saw quite a few birds, including owls, parakeets, spoonbills, hornbills, kingfishers, cormorants, bulbuls, eagles, and many more. We also saw pythons and antelope.
Impressions of India
After only 1 week, I can’t say I’ve seen it all, but I have definitely seen many things I was told about, such as: a family of 5 on 1 motorcycle; cows lying in the median of a road; cars driving on the wrong side of a divided highway; crowded 3rd class India rail cars, and roads packed with throngs of bicycles, auto rickshaws, cars, cattle, donkeys, etc. The girls have also been asked to have their picture taken many a time, another thing we were told to expect.
We’ve also had our share of communication challenges in India, such as when Amy orders spaghetti, the waiter says they don’t have it, then brings out a plate of spaghetti. Ditto the fruit salad. Thankfully, these challenges have been over minor things.
While Anthony and I are enjoying the food, Amy is mainly sticking to rice and Hannah to lassis and Naan bread.
The other thing that’s really stuck out for me is the gender imbalance. I’ve seen hundreds of Indian men, as all the guides, hawkers, drivers, restaurant and hotel employees have been men (even the person who hand washed our laundry with a scrub brush was a man!), but I have yet to figure out where all the women are. I hope to unravel this mystery over the next 3 weeks, so stay tuned!