Trip to India had been my dream for 10 years. Finally my dream came true in 2004. Before I went to India and Nepal, I had read some books, guides and many www pages. I went to India with my sister Margaret.
The following story does not describe monuments, religions and customs in details. This is the story about my trip to India. I describe my attitude to the exotic culture, people and tourist attractions. Besides you can find much useful information about trip to India and Nepal – I hope so. There are many prices on the page. Most of them are in local currencies.
These are exchange rates for India and
Nepal rupees in November 2004:
1 USD = 45 IRP - India Rupees
1 USD = 72 NRP - Nepal Rupees.
A flight to Delhi via Moscow took us 7
hours. We landed in Indira Ghandi airport at 3 am. When we left a
plane we felt terrible smell of Delhi smog. The air is very
polluted in Delhi. It was very difficult to accept the level of
pollution at the beginning.
We had to fill out Immigration Declaration and completed border formalities. We took pre-paid taxi to Anoop Hotel. A driver took us another hotel. The owner of the hotel tried to encourage us to rent a room in his hotel. We did not accept his proposal. It picked a quarrel between us. Finally the driver took us to Anoop Hotel. At the end he wanted a tip. Instead of money I told what I think about his service. Anyway the situation was very unpleasant. At 5 am we rented a double room in the hotel. The price was 350 IRP. It was the highest price for the room we paid in India and Nepal
The hotel was situated in Main Bazar. There were many people, cows, shops, restaurants, rickshaws, motors, and cars on the narrow streets of Main Bazar. Besides there are many cow shits and rubbish on the streets. From time to time local hawkers attracted us. At the beginning it was very annoying. After one or two days we got used to it. We went to National Museum by rickshaw (40 IRP). There are no rules on the India streets. Drivers use the horns all the time. Luckily we reached our destination. The museum exhibitions present India history. We saw many sculptures, paintings, armours, weapons etc.
In the evening we went to a restaurant to have our first Indian meal. It was a thali. It tasted quite good. Generally I was disappointed with Indian meals. It was not bad but I am not a fan of vegetarian food.
Next day we bought (100 IRP) an excursion around Delhi. We visited some Indian and Sikh temples, took a bus ride around New Delhi districts and visited Qutab Minar. This is Islamic religion complex. It was built on the ruins of India temple in XIII century. The complex is a mix of Islam and Indian architecture. We saw Iron Pillar built 1600 years ago by Indian metallurgists. The pillar has never corroded. Everybody was impressed by the great job of local blacksmiths. We also were forced to go to textile shop during excursion.
We visited Red Ford and Old Delhi the
next day. The Red Ford (2 USD) is the most famous attraction of
Delhi. It is quite impressive outside. There are some buildings
and museums inside the ford. They are disappointing. I think it is
waste of USD 2.
We also visited huge mosque in Old Delhi for 25 thousand people. Jama Masjid is very peaceful place comparing with the streets of Old Delhi. The size of the mosque is really remarkable.
Although I did not see all interesting places in Delhi I was happy to leave this dirty and noisy city.
We admired beautiful panorama of the Himalayas during a flight to Kathmandu. At the airport we had to pay USD30 for a visa. We found accommodation in Pacifist hotel (250NRP). Although Kathmandu is very tourist city it is also very exotic for people from Europe. There are many Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas. There is a temple on every square of the city. The architecture and decorations of the buildings are incredible. Some of religious buildings are very old, some of them quite modern. However all of them are full of people. Nepalese pray, touch holy sculpture and turn prayer wheels. Generally Nepalese are very religious, taciturn, withdraw and nice. Most of them are dressed in traditional clothes. It makes Kathmandu streets so exotic.
There are so many places to see in Kathmandu. I would recommend modern stupa called Swayambhunath. The stupa is situated on the hill. There are monkeys in the temple. Monks feed and take care of them. We met some Buddhist monks in the temple. They wore orange habits.
Next day we visited two towns in Kathmandu valley. First we went to Bhaktapur. We had to pay USD10 to enter the city. This is extraordinary, heritage town. Many people seem to live in medieval centuries there. They live very simply without all gadgets of XX century e.g. wash machines, TV, fridges. They dry grains on the streets of the town.
After a few hours in Bhaktapur we went to Patan. This is modern town with very old main square. There are a few dozen temples on the Durbar Square. The oldest ones were built 2000 years ago. They are decorated with religious and erotic sculptures.
We spent one day in Nagarkot. The town is situated 2200 meters above sea level. We admired panoramic view of the Himalayas.
I had an opportunity to see ordinary live of Nepalese. One day I saw a man who carried a refrigerator on his back. The fridge was higher than he was. Another day I saw a barber. His hair saloon was next to the street. It was very simple –two chairs and a mirror.
I mentioned that I did not like Hindi kitchen. However Nepali or Newar meals were delicious.
When we left the country we had to pay another USD 11. It made me very angry. Totally administration fee was USD 41 (30 for visa + 11). I spent in Nepal only a few days and I do hope to come back to this country in the future.
We came back to India again. It was Varanasi this time. I think I will never forget 48 hours in the holy city of Indians. We found an accommodation for 150 IRP – double room with bathroom. Varanasi is very busy and ugly. The city is situated next to the Ganges. This is very Holy River for Indians. Every Indian should take a bath in the river. The bath purifies a soul from sins. There are ghats on the bank of the Ganges. I saw many people praying, taking a bath and drinking water from the river. By the way the Ganges is extremely polluted with chemical and organic contaminants.
Indians believe in reincarnation. The final step of reincarnation is moksha – release form the cycle of rebirth. Somebody dies in Varanasi is believed to achieve moksha. Many old people come to the city to die and stop the process of reincarnation. They are sitting in ghats and waiting for death.
According to Indian religion and customs bodies are burnt after death. Every day 200 dead are burnt in the ghats of Varanasi. The ashes are dropped to the river. There are some exceptions. Bodies of children, pregnant women and people bitten by cobra are not brunt. The bodies are directly dropped to Ganges. I saw bodies of a baby and pregnant woman in the river. The distance between the bodies and people taking baths and drinking water from the river was 10 meters. I was shocked.
I witnessed the ceremony of body burning. It was extraordinary experience. There isn’t any seriousness and sadness during the ceremony. The funeral seemed to be a big mess with cows and dogs around the fireplace. I watched a process of burning a body from 5-10 meters. It was shocking and disgusting experience.
Khajuraho is in the middle of nowhere. You can get there by a plane or a coach. The plane is very expensive. Roads and coaches conditions are very poor. Khajuraho is a little peaceful town. It is nice place to relax. Old temples are the main attraction of the town. The most interesting complex of temples is near the center. The entrance costs USD 5. Although the temples are 1000 years old, their conditions are very good. The architecture and decorations of the temples are outstanding. Beautiful girls, battle and erotic scene are the main motives. The most famous are erotic scenes. They present different sexual positions, group sex and sex with animals.
There are another two complexes of temples near Khajuraho. They are not as attractive as the first one but it is worth to see. It is good idea to rent a bicycle to take excursion to these complexes.
On the way to Agra we spend a few hours in Orcha. This is very small town with big palace. The palace was built in XVII century. The architecture is Islamic with some elements of India style. It looks very nice outside. It is not very interesting inside. We visited empty rooms. A few of the rooms were decorated with beautiful paintings. There were also some temples in the town. They were not as interesting as Khajuraho ones but you can visit them.
The main attraction of India – Taj Mahal. At last we were in Agra. The accommodation was not so expensive: 150 IRP for double rooms with bathroom. We got up at 5 a.m. to see Taj Mahal at sunrise. The entrance was very expensive: 5 USD+500 IRP. The mausoleum is perfect and very majestic. It was made with marble in Islamic style. The walls and floor is decorated with precious stones. The monument of love is surrounded by a beautiful garden
Taj Mahal was built by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Muslim Persian princess. She died while accompanying her husband in Burhanpur in a campaign to crush a rebellion after giving birth to their 14th child. The death so crushed the emperor that all his hair and beard were said to have grown snow white in a few months. When Mumtaz Mahal was still alive, she extracted four promises from the emperor: first, that he build the Taj; second, that he should marry again; third, that he be kind to their children; and fourth, that he visit the tomb on her death anniversary. He kept the first and second promises. Construction began in 1631 and was completed in 22 years. Twenty thousand people were deployed to work on it. The material was brought in from all over India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. The Iranian architect Ustad Isa designed it and it is best appreciated when the architecture and its adornments are linked to the passion that inspired it. It is a "symbol of eternal love". ' (source:http://www.angelfire.com/in/myindia/tajmahal.html)
We visited Agra fort during the rest of
the day (USD 5). It was built in XVI century. The architecture of
the building is a fascinating mix of Islamic, Indian and Mongol
style. There are some buildings in the fort. Harem for 5000 women
was the most interesting part of the fort. Instead of beautiful
woman we only saw empty rooms.
Generally Agra Fort is more attractive than Red Fort in Delhi.
We visited some cities and towns in Rajasthan.
Jaipur, called the pink city. This is very popular tourist place. I think it overrated. There are fort, havala and astronomical observatory in the city. To be honest it is nothing special. There is small town – Amber near Jaipur. There is majestic fort on the hill. We visited beautiful rooms inside. There is another attraction in Amber - elephants. We took elephant ride (100 IRP). It was great fun.
Jodhpur, called the blue city. Houses in old city are painted blue. It looks quite unusual. There is Meherangarh fort in the city (250 IRP). The fort is situated on the hill. It looks really nice. Some rooms are very beautiful decorated.
Jaisalmer. The city is surround by a wall. It is situated in the middle of a desert. Jaisalamer impressed me. It looks like the city from ‘The book of one thousand and one night’. It is nice to go for walk narrow streets of Jaisalamer. We visited old houses of rich townsmen -Havale and Shik’s temple.
Deshnok. This is the most fascinating town in Rajastan. There is only one attraction – Karni Mata. This is the temple of rats. There are thousand rats in Karni Mata. Indians respect the rats and bring them food. They believe that during the reincarnation the souls inhabit the body of rats before being reborn. Before we entered the temple we had to take off shoes. It was extraordinary experience to walk barefoot between rats.
It has passed 13 years since my first trip to India. This time I am visiting south part of India. I expect a lot of hardships during the travel. Passport holders of Western countries need visa to enter the country. The best option is to get visa online: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html. It costs 48 USD plus c.a. 2 USD transaction fees.
At Mumbai airport the passport control procedure take 15 minutes. You must print out email with visa confirmation and don't forget to take it with you. They collect your fingerprints.
You must exchange some money to pay for taxi, accommodation and food. I think 50 Euro is enough. The exchange rate is not good at airport and you will be charged commission fee of 300 INR.
A pre-paid taxi to Colaby (tourist district) costs 700-750 INR.
We spent at Holiday Inn Mumbai (it is not a member of Hilton's hotels empire) - email hameedameer.v(at)gmail.com. We had made a booking online without any costs. Triple room with bathroom and breakfast cost 2 600 INR. The room standard was fine and breakfast was delicious. The hotel was located close to Dharavi Slum district. It is a must to visit the district. You can do it on food, by taxi or buy special slum reality tours&travel tour. It is unforgettable experience to see living conditions of the poorest Mumbai inhabitants.
The next 'a must; is Dhobi Ghat. This is the biggest laundry in the world. A few thousand people live and work there. You can get to Bhobi Ghat by train. Get off the train at Mahalaxmi railway station. A bridge next to the station is the best, panoramic point of view. You can't miss Colaba district. You can find a lot of old, colonial buildings in Colaba. The most interesting are Taj Mahal Hotel, Gate to India and railway station Chhatrapati Shivaji. To avoid crowds of local people and cars, start the visiting at 7 a.m. If you are tired of big city noise, drop in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. The entrance is 500 INR. The museum has big collection of Hindu art.
If you are not going to spend a few hours in Mumbai, you can deposit your luggage in Salvation Army hostel (50 INR per piece).
Elephant Cave is recommended by guide books. In my opinion you can quit it if you visit Ajante and Ellore.
A non-A/C taxi to airport from the city cost 500 INR. It is much cheaper than opposite way.
Aurangabad is a perfect starting point to visit Ellory i Ajanta. It takes all night to go to Aurangabad by sleeper-bus. A bus-ticket cost us 900 INR.
At 7.30 a.m. we got off the bus and go to Panchavati hotel on foot. Triple room with A/C cost 1 500 INR. Room standard was very good. The breakfast was extra paid and you can have it at hotel's restaurant. The food is delicious and prices are reasonable. I recommend to have dinner at the restaurant as well.
We relaxed a little bit and went to bus stop. We took a bus to Ellora. It took half an hour to get there and bus ticket cost 30 INR.
Entrance fee to Ellora site is 500 INR. It is a rock-cut monastery-temple caves, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site presents monuments and artwork of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism from the 600-1000 CE period. The most impressive is a Cave 16 and this is the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world. The rest of monasteries are great as well. You need c.a. 5-6 hours plus 2 hours for transport.
We rented a taxi for all day to go to Ajanta. It cost 1 600 INR. The site is located at beautiful remote river valley. There are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves at the site. The caves were built from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. The entrance fee is 500 INR and again you need a couple of hours to visit all of them.
We spent a night in Aurangabad and went back to Mumbai by night sleeper-bus. This time we paid 670 INR for a ticket. We overpaid 230 INR for a bus from Mumbai to Aurangabad.
It is a long way to get to Varkala from Mumbai. First we went to Trivandrum (6000 INR) by plane. We spent a night in Princess Inn (1 620 INR – triple room with bathroom and breakfast) Trivandrum. Next day we took a bus to Varkala (100 INR).
There are plenty of accommodation in Varkala. The town is divided for two parts: north and south. The north part is dedicated to people who like loud music and fun. Calm and relaxed people prefer south part of Varkala. We chose the south part and found accommodation at Panchavati hotel. Triple room without A/C cost 900 INR.
The Varkala beach is splendid. At one side you find warm sea (25 degrees) and at the other one there is beautiful cliff. There is only one disadvantage of the beach – no shadow. Most of the people enjoy sun and take a bath in the sea. Some people prefer to spend time more active. You can watch flamenco on the Varkala beach:
Varkala is not only the sunbath and swimming. It is an important place for Hindu religion rituals. The celebrations take place at the beach. It is very unique and you must see it. Please watch short film of the rituals:
Sri Shastha is another attraction of Varkala. The temple dates 2000 years. Sri Shastha is located at the hill. The best time to visit the temple is morning. You can watch many Hindu people praying at Sri Shastha complex. I am afraid foreigners are not very welcomed inside the temple. You can watch the celebration from the entrance door. Many Hindu believers pray, outside the building, in the small chapels and next to holy tree. The live local music is played at the complex.
Black Beach is popular site for taking a bath. The beach is famous of black sand. In my opinion it is nothing special. The sand looks dirty.
In the evening you can enjoy body massage. Full body massage cost 500 INR per hour. You are almost completely naked. Only small paper strip cover private parts of your body. Before you take off the cloth look around and check if there is web-camera in the massage room.
You can enjoy delicious fish and sea food in the local restaurants next to the beach in the evening. The fish with chips and fresh juice cost 250-400 INR. You can buy fresh juice and fruits at stalls located just outside the beach.
Varkala is a great seaside. Don't miss it.
At 7 a.m. we went to train station by rikshaw (100 INR) and took a train to Kollam (120 INR). At 10.30 we left a pier and enjoy boat trip at Backwaters. Backwater is one of the most famous tourist attractions in South India. The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. During boat trip we watched beautiful nature, settlements located next to the canals, people's life, small fish boats, and Chinese fishnets. It is very relaxing too. There are a few options of boat tours:
We spent in Alleppey a night. We paid 1 000 INR for triple room without A/C and without breakfast.
Cochin is our next destination. We went there by bus (55 INR). It was unforgettable journey. A driver of public bus was insane. He drove a bus extremely dangerous. The driver wanted to go as fast as possible and he followed no traffic regulations. Almost every second I was sure this is the end of my life. Lucky we managed to complete the journey and were get off the bus in one piece.
We could not find accommodation in Cochin. The national holidays made a lot of Hindu people go for a short holidays. We were walking down the streets and checked almost every possible home-stays. There were many signs on the houses: 'Kerala – God's own land'. At the streets of Cochin we found many Christian chapels. It is very unique in India and western Europe. It took us almost 3 hours to find accommodation. Greenland Homestay is run by Christian family. We paid 1200 INR for triple room with A/C. The standard was very good.
There are many Christian churches in Cochin. Cathedral is the most splendid. Before you enter the church you must take off not only a hat but shoes as well.
The churches and synagogue is open at varied time. Check it before you go.
We went for a nice walk to Fort Cochin, located next to the see. We watch the show hot the ancient Chinese fishnets works.
In the evening we went to local theatre and watched classic India performance Katokhali. Only men are actors of the drama. Drums and singers accompany the actors. Costumes, make-up and masks are advantage of the show too. Come a half an hour before the show and you can watch preparation to the drama. The ticket cost 300 INR and show lasts c.a. 1 hour.
Please watch the movie made during the show:
Next day we visited Dutch Palace (5 INR), synagogue (5 INR) and local bazaar. I recommend the sites.
We went to Ernakulum by taxi and by sleeper-bus to Mysore.
It is only 270 km from Cochin to Mysore but the bus needs 12 hours to complete the journey. The ticket cost 800 INR.
Mysore should be at your 'a must' list. The Mysore palace is impressive. I am afraid it is forbidden to take pictures inside the palace.
We wandered around the city. Local bazaar full of flowers, fruits and vegetables is very local and nice.
Selling meat is forbidden in Mysore. Only vegetarian food is available.
There are many Yoga centres in Mysore too. You can smoke hash and weed in the centres. It's legal if it's a part of the religion rituals or Ashtanga training.
We went go Hopset by night train, 3AC class. The standard of the journey was a nice surprised. At my first trip to India I had to travel in the train full of rubbish on the floor. The train was overcrowded. It was 13 years ago. This time it was very comfortable travel.
We took a bus (15 INR) to Hampi. Hampi is a village divided for two parts by river: tourist and local. We found accommodation in local one. Triple room with bathroom cost 1 000 INR. You can't have meat meals in Hampi.
Hampi was the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1343 to 1565. There are many well preserved historical monuments located over 36 sq km. You need at least 2 days to visit them. The most interesting sites are paid (500 INR – combo ticket). The rest of the sites are free. We rent a bicycle (100 INR per day) and went around the monuments. In my opinion Vittal Temple is the best one. The picturesque trail to the temple is extra advantage. You need to buy the combo ticket to go inside.
In the evening we went to the rock hill next to the village. We enjoyed beautiful sunset.
It took all night to go from Hampi to Palolam. This time we went by sleeper bus. We got off the bus at a junction, 3 km from the town. We went to Palolam on foot and it was nice walk at the sunrise. It was difficult to find nice accommodation next to the beach. Most of the bungalow were too small for three people. Finally we managed to do it. Bungalow was located 30 meters from the beach at Lacto Cressida Coco. It cost 1 300 INR, with bathroom. The A/C was extra paid.
The beach is beautiful in Palolam. In the morning you can find shadow under palms on the beach. The sea is warm and you can spend hours in the water.
There are many restaurants next to the beach where you can have lunch and dinner. In the evening fish and sea food is served but the prices are high (400 -400 INR). It is cheaper in the town.
Palolam it is perfect spot for relax.
1 USD - 45 IRP India Rupees
1 USD - 72 NRP Nepal RupeesIn 2017:
1 USD - 65 INR
1 EURO - 71 INR
As usually I ordered local food. Not only meat but also vegetarian food was very tasteful. Sometimes I had western-style breakfast. The cost of breakfast was from 60 to 150 INR. I recommend to drink fresh fruit/vegetables juice ( 30- 50 INR). Lunch or dinner cost from 150 INR to 400 INR. Vegetarian food is cheaper than meat one. The most expensive were sea food/fish. Beer and alcohol are expensive.
I was in India two times. The time distance between the first travel and second one was 13 years.
This is my experience of first trip:Indian and Nepalese usually treat tourists as a source of money. They often wanted to chat with us. At the beginning it was very nice chat about India, Poland etc. The end was always the same – money. They wanted us to buy something or give them money for free. In Khajuraho Indian children called to us ‘Hello Money’. This attitude made us limit contact with Native.
I have different experience at my second trip. In my opinion people of south India are very different to north ones. My favourite people live in Karela state. They are chilled out. Salesmen don't bargain to much. Prices are reasonable.
Not only people but India has changed by this time. You can order black tea at restaurant and waiter is not surprised. You can find more and more western-style toilets. There are rubbish bins in big cities. Local governments try to make cities clean.
India people attitude to 'white' people is changing as well. Westerns are not rich sahibs any more. India IT guys earn more money than a lot of white people in Europe.