In the most recent installment of our adventures, we were in the southern part of India, leaving Hampi by bus.
We headed south to Mysore, where the main attraction is the Old Fort Palace, built in the 15th century but sadly burned in the late 1800s. However, it was rebuilt by 1912, blending Mughal, Hindu, Rajput, and Gothic styles. It’s quite a sight, and by some counts is India’s second-most visited attraction. On weekends and holidays, and during their month long Dashara festival, the palace is lit at night with over 100,000 light bulbs, and a sound and light show. It’s really beautiful and worth going to- and it only costs 50 rupees!
After a short “staycation” with friends for the holidays, we were ready to spend our final three weeks in India in the warmer southern states!
We started off in Mumbai on January first, eager to see the amazing architecture and coastal atmosphere that makes up the bustling city of Mumbai. From the Mughal Gujarati rulers in the 15th century, Portuguese colonization in the 16th century, and a wedding gift to the British King Charles II in the 17th century, Mumbai (or Bombay, as it was previously called), has had a multicultural past.
After a bustling tour of Rajasthan, we were ready for some down time! We took a train from Delhi north to Rishikesh, where the Beatles once holed up in an ashram for two months to write music, also called “the yoga capital of the world”.
Instead of staying in the city, we stayed on a farm called Nature Care Village at the edge of a national forest. There wasn’t much to do there except take walks along the fields, sit and watch the dragonflies, or feed dough to the crabs in the thermal spring. The place had the most delicious food- all of it grown and prepared right there, and all vegetarian. I helped make parathas in the kitchen, learned how to collect watercress for salads, and picked herbs from the garden. One night, after watching the sun set, we had tea in a mud hut with the gypsies who lived next door. And I did some yoga, of course. A few other people were staying there, so we had some great chats with other travelers, including Amelia, who was also heading to our next destination.
So many forts! So many palaces! The area surrounding Delhi and Rajasthan is endlessly fascinating. Chris and I arrived by overnight train in Delhi from Varanasi on December 1, and quickly realized that a car-and-driver tour would be the best way to see all the sites around Rajasthan that we wanted to get to. Happily, the hotel I chose in the Paharganj area, Hindustan Backpacker Heaven, had a tour desk, and within an hour we were booked, paid up, and ready to start.
Twenty years ago, I taught sixth grade world geography using a textbook that had the most beautiful pictures at the beginning of each chapter. I still remember the full page photo of India, and how much I wanted to go there. It sure took a long time, but I finally made it to India!