I spent three weeks in India in February/March, 1999. India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
It was a very interesting trip. I very much enjoyed the time there. People seemed to be very friendly and easy to talk to.
The first week I spent in Delhi and Kolkatta (formerly Calcutta). These cities are quite crowded. Especially in Kolkatta the traffic is something to behold. It was fascinating.
One issue you need to be aware of when you visit Delhi (and I assume other cities as well): Don't take one of the transportation organizations at the airport to get downtown. They severely overcharge you. I paid 5 times as much as with a taxi. Take a taxi and make sure you arrange a price. Ideally, have him use the meter, that is the cheapest way.
One noticeable difference between the USA and India are the stores. There are no department stores or convenience stores in India, only small individual stores specializing in something (meat, fish, luggage, underwear, hardware, etc). Negotiating the prices is an absolute must, otherwise you get seriously over charged.
The tour was organized by Explore, an adventure travel organizer. The tour was very well organized. We traveled in a small bus and had one Explore tour guide throughout the whole trip, helped by local guides. There were plenty of empty seats in the bus so there was no problem with fighting over seats during the trip. Some meals were included in the tour, but not all of them. The other people in the group were of different backgrounds, mostly middle age. They were mostly on time for departures, except for one woman who was late several times. I can recommend this organization.
From Delhi I was on a bus tour that visited three tiger reserves and a bird sanctuary. We also visited several temple areas, palaces, mosques, and of course the Taj Mahal.
The first stop was the tiger reserve at Sariska. Lots of deer, antelope, wild boar, and birds. Tigers however in that reserve are very reclusive, they are very rarely seen there.
The next stop was Jaipur and the Amber Palace. Very interesting architecture. We took an elephant ride up to the palace on the hill.
Next was the tiger reserve in Ranthambore. Ranthambore is the most scenic of the tiger reserves IMHO. Tigers are seen quite frequently. And other wildlife is also plentiful, including many birds.
Next stop was the bird sanctuary at Keoladeo in Bharatpur. The masses of birds in that swamp area are astounding. Storks, cranes, pelicans, herons, etc, etc. The snake-bird and the stork are two examples from that sanctuary.
On the way to Agra we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, a city build in 1569 and abandoned only 16 years later. Very interesting red sandstone buildings with intricate carvings.
In Agra we first visited the Agra Fort. There are many interesting buildings in this fort.
Then on to the Taj Mahal. All the pictures that you see don't prepare you for the real thing. It is truly impressive, all white marble inlaid with precious and semi precious stones. It was built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favorite wife Mumtaz-i-Mahal. He was later imprisoned by his son for the rest of his life in the Agra Fort. His son was decent enough to keep him in a room where he could see the Taj Mahal.
The next stop was Orchha. It is a rural town with Hindu and Muslim temples and forts. One of the palaces was build by a Raja just to receive a visiting Muslim ruler.
The next stop was Khajuraho with its ancient (9th to 13th century) temples. It is probably best known for its erotic carvings on the temples. All the temples have intricately carved statues all around the outside. The erotic carvings make up about 10% of the statues.
The best tiger viewing I believe is at Bandhavgarh, our next stop. They have elephants that take you into the bush when they spot a tiger. We visited on elephant a tiger that had killed a deer overnight. At one point the tiger was only a couple of feet from the left foot of the elephant. Truly impressive!!
The last stop was Varanasi, the holy city of Hinduism and Buddhism on the Ganges. On the day we drove to Varanasi, people were celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors. Everything and everybody gets covered with paint, including the animals, cars, etc.
Varanasi is fascinating. It is strange to see bodies carried around the city and brought down to the Ganges to be burned. For Hindus it is the fastest way to go to heaven if you are burned in Varanasi and your ashes are thrown in the Ganges.
From Varanasi I took an overnight train back to Delhi for a last day in the Indian Capital.
One advice that I learned the hard way: Bring plenty of cold and flu medication, especially cough suppressant with you, and I mean lots, and lots of Aspirin. Almost everybody gets a severe cold or a flu. I had 3 colds in that time, each lasting for about 5 days, with about 2 days in between. Almost everybody in the tour at one time or another got sick with a nasty cold, some just as long as I did. I ran out of cold medication pretty soon and had to buy some stuff locally. I couldn't get the right stuff, so I suffered from the symptoms quite severely. For my China trip a year later I was prepared and had plenty of cold medication. That time I got a flu and ran out of Aspirin to keep the fever down. Again I had to resort to local medication. But with flu and cold medicine, cough suppressant, and Aspirin to keep the fever in check, I was just fine in China. This is something that happens to almost everybody and it can ruin your vacation if you are not prepared. But if you are prepared, and can keep the symptoms in check, you are OK. You can cure it completely when you get home if necessary, but you don't want to mess up the vacation because of a cold.
Altogether it was a very memorable and enjoyable experience.
Here are some of the pictures I took on my trip to India. I divided them up in four parts:
All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.
The total number of pictures online on my website from India is 287
Page last updated on Mon Apr 12 15:04:15 2021 (Mountain Standard Time)
भारत गणराज्य (India) - Tiger Safari and Impressive Architecture on www.geichhorn.com