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India 2015 – An Introduction to Incredible India with Serene Journeys
India became part of our 2015 travel plans as an impulse purchase. On Christmas Day, 2014, Etihad Airways ran a sale on travel to a variety of destinations, including Mumbai and Delhi. I was in Texas, attending to my father who had just had coronary bypass surgery, and so booking this trip fell to Brian. He coordinated our plans with our friends George and David (who met us in Varanasi), and they set us up with Robin at Serene Journeys. Robin had worked with our friends for booking travel arrangements in India on their previous trips. With Robin’s help, we were able to craft an incredible two week itinerary starting in Mumbai, visiting many of India’s most famous historical and cultural sites. Along with Mumbai, we visited Varanasi, Hinduism’s most holy city, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the palaces in Jaipur, the national capital of Delhi, and more. On the return trip, we even had a night in Dubai.
Travel in India is challenging. It is not a country you can just “wing it” very easily. For instance, you do not just arrive and rent a car at the airport. But, Robin’s expertise in arranging drivers and tour guides meant that every day we were met at our hotel, taken to what we had planned to see, and returned back to our accommodations with minimal fuss. That style of sightseeing is atypical for us, but in India, it was a necessity.
India is also a place that overloads the senses in ways unlike most of the rest of the world. At its worst, it can be overly chaotic, loud, crowded, filthy, and terribly inefficient. As an American, it is difficult to imagine the kind of extreme poverty that exists in India until you witness it firsthand. Yet, it is also a country so full of life that it is difficult not to fall in love with it. Beautiful natural scenery, majestic historic monuments and palaces, friendly people dressed in the most vivid colors, gorgeous handcrafts, and spicy, flavorful food all await travelers to this part of Asia. As a visitor, you are also treated to almost extreme levels of hospitality and service – to the point that it is virtually impossible to carry even the smallest piece of luggage into a hotel on your own, as there is always someone willing to assist you with such tasks.
I have been asked if I would ever return to India. I would. Not right away, as there are many other places I would still like to see first, or return to, before returning to India. But, there are still parts of India I would love to explore (we did not have time to visit any of the tiger reserves, for example), and parts I could easily return to if the opportunity presented itself.