India is right up there on my list of places to visit again, hopefully sooner rather than later. The history and contrasts of this land are entirely fascinating, a mix of the old and new side by side. Delhi was a highlight and the weather was perfect for June, although we did expect it to be hotter at that time of year. We hired a guide to take us to the Connaught markets in Old Delhi which is highly recommended. This is a great place for bartering for those traditional Indian wares you want to take home as a momento of your trip. Having a guide also ensured that we received fair prices when bartering and was helpful when we wanted to extract ourselves from a deal when the prices were too high. The national Gandhi museum was not on our list of things to do but was a detour well worth the stop.
The three hour rickshaw ride through Delhi's chaotic Chandni Chowk was a treat. This bazaar is the epicentre of the spice trade and the aromas that filled the air were truly intoxicating from the distinct smell of cardamon, cloves and vanilla beans to every spice under the sun. Row upon row of carefully heaped mounds of colour tantalised the senses. This is the time to close your eyes, inhale deeply and be swept up in the sensations of India, it doesn't get better than this. A.Kumar's tea and spices allowed us to stock up on all things deliciously Indian and satisfied my love of Chai. I am looking forward to my Cardamon, Ginger and Masala Chai. It should keep me going for awhile. This labyrinth of narrow back alley markets is crammed full of every conceivable ware imaginable, from colourful sequinned fabrics to dried fruits and aromatic spices. Electrical wires coil randomly and hang ominously, linking the buildings from one to the other and stretching as far as the eye can see. Food stalls are meshed in between wholesale merchants, selling sweet doughy treats and skewered meats. Dogs sprawl lazily in the dirt, shopkeepers shout above the din, wooden hand carts carrying blocks of ice squeeze down impossible lane ways, customers haggle loudly and the sound of motorcycle horns beeping incessantly can be heard everywhere. This is India at its best - colourful, noisy and vibrant.
A visit to The Taj Mahal in Agra did not disappoint. We were lucky enough to do both the sunset and sunrise tours at the Taj so could take time with our photography. The sunrise tour was better by far with no queuing to get into the Taj and very few people about, although we did arrive just as light began streaking across the sky. Arriving this early made it easier to get the perfect shots without the throngs of people milling about. It also meant I was able to find a guide (which was nearly impossible at sunset the day before) who was able to show me the best angles of the Taj. He knew the perfect shots and after 40 years on the job was still very keen to run me all over the place. The stillness of the morning was breathtaking and truly magical.
India, we hope to see you again.
The Taj Mahal, Agra
Spice markets, Delhi