Rachit, we’re back in the US and I’m writing to report on our eye-opening tour of the Golden Triangle.
First off, let me say that both of our guides — Abid I and Abid II — were terrifically well-informed, extremely sweet and very protective of Margot and me. We felt totally comfortable in their care, just as we did with our remarkably skillful drivers.
Delhi is the perfect introduction to India, if for no other reason than its traffic. The Imperial is also an ideal place to appreciate the British influence on Delhi’s development, and Daniell’s provided us with one of our best meals. Seeing all the British architecture in New Delhi was interesting, but the most fun for me was our rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk. I’ve walked lots of old city markets in other countries, but navigating Delhi’s with my wife on a three-wheeler was totally exhilarating.
We loved shopping at the textile emporium in Jodhpur and were pleasantly stunned by our trumpet reception at Umaid Bhawan Palace, a lovely place to lunch and experience maharajan luxury.
For me, the highlight of our trip was Chhatra Sagar whose setting and accommodations were beyond delightful and whose farm, village and nature tours gave us a real insight into north Indian rural life.
Though its pink facades and endless shops were impressive, and the elephant ride to Amber Fort a kick, what I’ll remember most about Jaipur is the Samode Haveli and Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory. Samode provided us with the most interesting room and best dinners on our trip.
I found the stepwell at Chand Baori to be the most unexpected and astounding structure we saw on the entire trip. It outstripped even the Taj Mahal which, though a must-see in India, required a three-hour wait and then pretty much looked like its photos. Our viewing may have been compromised by a gray day in Agra. Unfortunately, Agra was also the one lodging mistake I made in selecting the ITC Mughal (which is still a Sheraton). Abid told me afterward that there’s really no heritage or charming hotel anywhere in the city.
Unsurprisingly, our accelerated tour of Varanasi (night and day) was fascinating as were the lucid explanations of Hindu and Buddhist thought and rituals imparted to us by Abid II. Our room at the Brijrama overlooking the Ganges was perfect as was our vegetarian meal in its dining room. I also particularly enjoyed our tour of the campus of Banaras Hindu University, the Mother India Temple and the stupa to Buddha at Sarnath.
I am copying Margot who may wish to add her thoughts on our trip in a separate email, but we both want you to know that, thanks to Abid, we learned how to wiggle our heads and do so now in thanks to you for designing and arranging for us such a memorable trip to India.
Stephen captured all the high points pretty thoroughly in his letter, but I do want to add my thoughts as well.
I wasn’t aware that Stephen felt this way until I read his letter to you, but I put the step well right at the top of the list of wonderful sights seen, although I loved the Taj Mahal. For all the photos one has seen, none of them really do it justice and I found it quite moving. I too loved everything about Chatra Sagar; those tents are truly divine and the proprietors so warm and interesting. The most wonderful hotel in the end though was the Samode Haveli, the food was heavenly and I loved the mismatched rickety furniture in our many columned room as well as the confusing and serpentine route to it!
Even though we were pretty much shopped out by the time we got to Varanasi, the silk weaving demonstration was fascinating. I used to work in the textile field, and although I’d seen the cards and looms, I’d never seen brocade actually being woven and it all came together for me. And naturally, we bought a beautiful wall hanging there.
Thank you for arranging such a terrific introduction to your spectacular homeland. I will never see the world the same way again.