It was a hard decision to make whether to go on the trip or not. It was back in February of 2020, when the Covid 19 pandemic was reaching many countries. Although lockdowns weren’t in place yet and travel bans were also not yet imposed. My friend and I, we have been looking forward for this trip to India. What started off as looking for tickets to go to Taiwan in a travel fair, actually led us to buying return tickets to India. So we packed our bags, masks & hand sanitisers and made our way to Delhi via Singapore on a red eye flight.
But before that, the prep! We would normally planned trips over a long span of time. But this one, we don’t have much time and also no idea of what to expect for an all ladies trip to India. We have heard many stories and tried to plan our best. And for novice India visitors like us, many recommend going to Delhi, Agra & Jaipur, namely the Golden Triangle.
At that time, we don’t know which route would be best. But, we decided that we would go to the farthest city and making our way to the capital because we wouldn’t to have to be anxious when catching our flight back. So, there it goes arriving in Delhi by plane, and followed by a drive to Jaipur. And would continue with Agra and Delhi. Once the route was set, we went to look for rental car agencies because we read many that having a private car with driver is one of the best and safest way to travel in the country, especially when time is limited. We booked a car at Driver India Private Tour and they also recommended some hotels for us. But, we decided to book the hotels by ourselves and that would be another story.
We arrived at 6 am that day in Delhi. We got our body temp scanned and have to go to the health check counter to submit our health survey form. Once we are cleared, we continued to Immigration. It was perfect timing to arrive in the morning since there was no queue at all. Got our passport stamped and head straight to pick up our luggage. Our driver, Pankaj, was already waiting for us in the arrival terminal. Since Jaipur is around 4 hours away, we hopped on the car and were on our way. We did a quick pit stop at a shop to get some roti and panir. Not the best but it’s frequented with passing by tourists. But it made us ready for the long drive.
We dozed off and was awoken by the sound of elephants. We were closing in on Jaipur, and there were several people riding on elephants passing us by. Not far from there, suddenly the ambience changes. It became serene, with a huge lake by the street, and the Jal Mahal (Water Palace) is situated in the center of it. Then we drove on until the old city of Jaipur and welcomed by the picturesque Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace). It was so majestic that we were in awe and our tiredness just dissapeared. Although the street was a bit crowded, it was still welcoming. We then head over to our hotel, Arya Niwas, just beyond the gate of the old city. It was an eco-friendly hotel with a huge garden where they used as eating areas as well as where we can mingle with other visitors. It was an old building that is well maintained with an adjacent building that was newly constructed.
When having a car rental, they provided a guide for 1 day. In Jaipur, we visited Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, City Palace, and Jantar Mantar Observatory. It was all done in 1 day and our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the people as well on the sites, he was also great in taking photos. The next day, we went to see the crafts of Jaipur. Starting with the black stamp fabric in the textile factory, gem stone and silver crafting, as well as the spice shop. And finished off the next day with strolling outside the old town gates. We visited Birla Mandir Temple and Albert Hall. Definitely recommend a visit in February or March since the weather is slightly chilly but still enjoyable and not too crowded with tourists.
The next day, right after breakfast we went to Agra with a stop in Abhaneri and Fatehpur Sikri. Abhaneri is a district in Dausa, where Chand Baori Step well is located. It was build in the 8th century and one fo the deepest and largest step well in India. The step well is a place to conserve water, which were used for ceremonies, and also a place where communities gathered when there was intense heat. Due to the architecture of the step well, it made the temperature colder than in the surface. Afterwards, we drove to Fatehpur Sikri, a town founded by Emperor Akbar, and host the Jama Mosque.
Then our next stop, Agra. We pretty much arrived late in the evening at our hotel, which is located merely steps away from Taj Mahal. We could get a glimpse of it from our hotel rooftop and was so excited to go visit the next morning. At around 5 am, our guide picked us up and we walked to the Taj complex. It wasn’t as crowded as we expected it to be, but still there were a lot of people. We bought our tickets at the entrance and have to queue for security check. We entered the complex and was welcomed a grand view of the Taj Mahal. We walk around the complex and visited the mosque before going into the Taj. The architecture is jaw dropping and complemented with our guide giving detailed history about the Taj. One could not afford not to be mesmerised.
The next destination was Agra Fort. Not far from our hotel but requires a short drive. It was pretty packed and looked a bit small from the facade. But once we entered it, it was huge. It hosts many historic site as well within its wall, namely Jahangir’s Hauz, Shahjahani Mahal, Jahangir’s Chain Of Justice, Shish Mahal, etc.
After a short trip in Agra, we were on the road again and we were headed to Delhi. We stayed in the old town part of the city and it was a big change from the first 2 cities we visited. It was a bit packed and many activities were going on. The first night, we took a tuktuk and went to Connaught Place. A lively complex filled with restaurants, bars and shops. Just around the corner is Janpat Market, a busy area filled with shops selling clothes and souvenirs. The next day, we went to visit Jama Masjid, Gandhi Memorial, Lotus Temple, Qutb Minar and Gurudwara . Before the end of our trip, many suggested us to try out Butter Chicken at Karim’s and it’s definitely a must visit when in town.
It was such a short visit in India. But it made me wanting to explore more. After those 10 days, we went back home and faced the start of lockdown in our country. One things for sure, another trip to India is on our list once traveling is back to what is used to be. Will post another story on where to stay and where to eat in India soon. Cheer!