Going to India for 19 days seems like a long time, but it’s barely enough time to experience half of the country. Our trip will give us a taste of the most popular cities and states, but to do this, we’ll have to jump to a new city each day, usually travelling by overnight train to get to our next destination. So that you know what we expect (it will be interesting to compare to what actually happens), here’s a rough itinerary.
Delhi (12/27 and ¼), Jaipur (12/28-29), Jodhpur (12/30-31), Udaipur (1/1-2), Agra (1/5), Varanasi (1/6-7), Bodh Gaya (1/7), Darjeeling (1/8-9), Kolkata (1/10), Mumbai (1/11 and 1/14), and Goa (1/11-13)
- A.J. leaves after Mumbai on 1/11, Meredith and Adam will be in Goa and Mumbai on 1/14
After arriving in Delhi with 14 hours of airtime under our belts, we’ll spend the evening in Delhi, wake up to go to Ashkartam to see a mini-history of all of India, and then meet a driver that our friend Priya has set us up with to tour Rajasthan.
We’ll spend six days in Rajasthan, a desert state to the west of Delhi. Each of the cities we’ll spend time in (Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur) has some of the most magnificent forts in India. Many of the forts were designed by the Moghuls when they took over India. The food here is supposed to be unique—veggie friendly, spicy, and dry (it’s a desert, remember?).
From Udaipur, we’ll head to Delhi by overnight train, to experience India’s capital. We’ll go to the Red Fort, the National Museum, and perhaps see a mosque or two (some of these influenced the Taj Mahal! We’ll make every attempt to avoid getting swindled at the markets, and may visit a Dhaba, or highway-side restaurant where the food is cheap, dirty, and delicious.
The next day, we’ll head to Agra in the morning (three hours away), where we’ll experience the Taj Mahal. We’ll try to go to a nearby fort, which everyone says is in some ways more spectacular if time permits. We’ll then run to catch an overnight train to Varanasi.
My officemate Debmalya, who is the hero that helped us plan our trip, suggested we go to Varanasi to experience a life much different than anything we’re used to. Varanasi is one of the holier Hindu cities. People come here for various pilgrimages, and it is common to see cremations along the Ganges river. We’ll be going to bed in a hotel early here, so that we can wake up the next day for an act of heroism.
We’ll take an early morning train to Gaya, the city next to Bodh Gaya, which is the home of the Bodhi tree at which Buddhism began. While it will certainly be interesting, we’re squeazing it in as we’re travelling five hours there and five back to Varanasi so that we can spend two hours in Bodh Gaya. A.J. really wanted to see this place, and we’re definitely happy to go as well, so we’ll trade the long trip for the short experience. Upon returning to Varanasi that night, we’ll jump on another train to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) train station overnight.
No offense to NJP, but we’re here for the Himalayas! We’ll spend no time in NJP, jumping onto a jeep that heads north to Darjeeling. Darjeeling is home to the tea, the snow, and the amazing views of the Himalayas. It’s also only of the only reasons we’re packing winter clothing. We’ll spend the afternoon decompressing in Darjeeling, taking care of shopping, sightseeing, and relaxing. The next morning, we’ll hop onto a toy train (heritage train) for a very slow nine-hour ride through the snow-covered mountains back to NJP. For comparison, the jeep ride in the reverse direction only takes four hours! Instead of laying down, we’ll take this trip sitting up alert while looking out the window.
From one train to another, we’ll jump onto an overnight train at NJP to Kolkata (Calcutta). Kolkata is considered by some the cultural capital of India, offering intellectuals, art, some British influence, tasty fish dishes, tasty Indo-Chinese dishes, and tasty desserts. After a day in Kolkata, we’ll jump on a cross-country flight to Mumbai. A.J. will leave us to go back to school, and Meredith and I will take a plain from Mumbai to Goa.
Goa is the relaxing part of the trip. It features the beach, 90-degree (Fahrenheit) weather, and Portuguese influence. Two people have told me it’s the home of some crazy Trance music, but I don’t think Meredith will be up for hitting up clubs. Mostly, we’ll relax for two days. Expect very little from us here:). After catching our breath, we’ll get on a train back to Mumbai. The train is called the Konkan Kanya express, and it’s supposed to expose you to one of the most beautiful coastlines in India; it will be a final taste of beauty for us before heading home.
Mumbai (Bombay) will be our final stop, where we’ll spend from 6 am to the late evening exploring, before heading to the airport for our trip. Here we can expect to short stocks, purchase bonds with nonzero yield, and get used to something closer to western culture before taking a 17-hour flight home.