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4 Nights in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur (The Golden Triangle)

4 Nights in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur (The Golden Triangle)

Nov 8th, 2019, 10:39 AM
  #1  
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4 Nights in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur (The Golden Triangle)

Overview
Where: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur (The Golden Triangle)
Length: 4 Nights
When: Hot, humid August
Budget: Mid-range to Luxury
Method: Hired driver through tour company; tour company arranged individual tour guides for us in each city
Who: Me and husband, 25 years old, USA
Background: We had the opportunity to spend several months in southern India for work. Over the course of our stay, we took several weekend trips around the country. Our trip to the Golden Triangle was one of our favorites.

Itinerary
Day 1:
Fly into New Delhi
Hotel: The Imperial Hotel ($$)
Day 2:
Tour of Delhi: Jama Masjid, Chandni Chawk, Raj Ghat, India Gate, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Drive to Agra
Hotel: The Oberoi Amarvilas ($$$)
Day 3:
Tour of Agra: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort
Fatehpur Sikri
Drive to Jaipur
Hotel: Rambagh Palace ($$$)

Day 4:
Tour of Jaipur: Hawa Mahal (outside only), Amber Fort, City Palace, Jantar Mantar
Drive to Delhi
Hotel: The Imperial Hotel ($$)

Day 5:
Fly out of New Delhi

Note: Due to work obligations, we could only travel for a few days at a time. This itinerary can definitely be done, but I would have liked to spend an additional day in Delhi before moving on.

Experiences and Impressions
Prior to departure, I was feeling a little anxious about this trip. The Google rabbit-hole had me expecting to be constantly scammed, begged, and harassed -- to be shocked and scarred by something I’d see -- to be challenged in a challenging area of the world. So color me surprised when I looked out the window to see parks, monuments, luxury hotels, and grand embassies lining the streets; green gardens and stately statues decorating the city at every corner; a noticeable lack of people, junk, and trash piled outside... New Delhi was lovely, and I was stunned.

I arranged a tour with a driver (found a few weeks in advance via Tripadvisor) who met us at the airport and dropped us off at our hotel. The Imperial Hotel is a beautiful, historical, and reasonably affordable hotel in New Delhi. In the morning, we headed out with our driver and our tour guide for some sightseeing. We ventured into Old Delhi, where the narrow streets forced us to abandon our car and hire a rickshaw instead. A slow-but-short ride brought us to Jama Masjid, a mosque in Old Delhi built in the mid-1600s. Although it was Friday, we were able to visit the mosque in between prayer times. After a history lesson and a quick walk around, we hopped back on our rickshaw and rode through the narrow streets of Chandni Chawk. Chandni Chawk is a giant outdoor market, and although most of the shops hadn’t opened yet, it was a fascinating ride. We saw a historic chapati shop, then stopped at a side street containing several adjoined houses and a Jain temple. The houses were in disrepair, but their decorative features made it clear that they once belonged to the rich. Our tour guide took a moment to talk about the caste system within the different religions in India, then led us back to the market.


Picture: Jama Masjid

We continued on our rickshaw through the narrow streets, peeking into open shops and noting the absurd number of electrical wires bundled above us. (SAFETY HAZARD!!) We eventually reached the main road where I wondered how on earth we were going to keep up with traffic. Each time we came to a complete stop, our poor driver had to pedal his heart out to get us moving again. As we headed away from the mosque, we spotted a cathedral on our left, and Sikh, Hindu, and Jain temples on our right. It was amazing to see the diversity of religious beliefs in India. At the end of the road, we stopped for a quick picture of Delhi’s Red Fort, then headed towards Gandhi’s Memorial. Gandhi’s memorial, Raj Ghat, is a beautifully manicured park on the bank of the Yamuna River. A marble stone covered in flowers stands where Gandhi was cremated after his assassination in 1948. We walked around the park while our tour guide tought us about Gandhi, then drove to India Gate. Gigantic and imposing, India Gate is dedicated to the Indian soldiers who died fighting in WWI. In the same neighborhood, we viewed the president’s house, parliament building, and complexes that host the nation’s various ministries.


Picture: Raj Ghat—Ghandi’s memorial is through the arch

To finish our tour of Delhi, we visited a Sikh temple called Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. We viewed the inside of the temple and their holy pond, then went to see the kitchens. The temple opens their doors several times each day to offer free meals to the hungry. (By hungry, I don’t just mean the needy. Anyone who’s hungry can have a meal at a Sikh temple as long as they cover their head and take off their shoes.) Although we arrived before meal time, we got visit the kitchen and watch volunteers cooking massive quantities of chapati and curry.


Picture: In front of the Sikh temple. Note: You get scolded if you put your arms around each other. (Ask me how I know.)


Picture: Volunteers chopping some gourds

After our tour of Delhi, our driver took us a few hours south to Agra. We arrived our hotel, The Oberoi Amarvilas (major splurge -- no regrets!) and were absolutely captivated by its view of the Taj Mahal. We got upgraded to a room with a balcony, and although it was raining, we spent all evening on the balcony taking pictures and admiring the view. As the sun sank behind the city, a call to prayer rang out around us. Like a blend of tornado siren, exotic singer, and ghost, the call to prayer was fascinating, beautiful, and a little bit ominous.



Once the Taj Mahal became a black silhouette against the sky, we gave up our view and went downstairs to dinner. We ordered the specialty chicken curry and fried dumplings stuffed with figs, paneer, and tomato curry-- so delicious! We complemented the chef on our meal, and after some conversation, he brought us free dessert. He also presented us with a box full of whole spices and a recipe to make our own garam masala spice mixture. The next morning, we met our guide for the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built for the Mughal emperor’s (favorite) wife (he had three, simultaneously) after she died in 1631. Its design features white marble with semi-precious inlaid stones, and perfect symmetry. I was amazed at its beauty, details, and size. Coupled with the lack of scaffolding and lack of crowds, the Taj Mahal is absolutely my favorite sight in India. I was completely enamored and impressed, and think its popularity is 100% warranted.


Picture: Taj Mahal half cleaned, half not. I guess it’s working!



After the Taj Mahal, we took a tour of Agra Fort, which was built by three generations of Mughals: the emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal, his father, and his grandfather. Our guide explained the history and uses of the fort, starting with its construction in the mid-1500s up until the British took it in the 1800s.




Picture: Agra Fort

We said goodbye to our Agra tour guide and headed towards Jaipur. After an hour on the road, we arrived at a city called Fatehpur Sikri. Built by a Mughal emperor in the mid-1500s, Fatehpur Sikri served as the capital for only 14 years before being abandoned. It’s wonderfully preserved and incredibly interesting, and I couldn’t wait to check it out. Unfortunately, aggressive hawkers coupled with the lack of other visitors made the entire experience unpleasant and a little creepy. After a quick look around, we continued on our journey to Jaipur.


Picture: Checking out Fatehpur Sikri

In Jaipur, we stayed at the Rambagh Palace, a former palace of Jaipur’s maharaja. The grounds, courtyards, guestrooms—everything was beautiful.







In the morning, we set off to explore Jaipur. Nicknamed the Pink City, Jaipur’s entire historic center is painted terracotta pink. We passed by several beautiful palaces and facades, then headed toward the main attraction, Amber Fort.


Picture: Hawa Mahal—built for royal women to watch processions while remaining unseen

Amber Fort is a sight to behold: a sprawling complex perched high above the ground, encircled by fortified walls that climb up and down the surrounding hills. To add to its grandeur, the fort offers elephant rides from street level to the top of the hill (but due to reports of questionable animal practices, we drove to the top of the fort instead.)




Picture: Note the surrounding hills topped by fortified walls


Picture: Entrance to the palace portion of the fort


Picture: Mirror-mosaic room

We toured the inside of Amber fort, then headed back toward the center of Jaipur. We visited the City Palace (which bordered on being a scam… we paid $8 each to see some portraits of the maharajas and their old garments, although the architecture was cool) then went to Jantar Mantar. Jantar Mantar is a collection of gigantic instruments constructed in the 1700s that tracked things like the time, constellations, and eclipses for the royal family.


Picture: Some of the instruments at Jantar Mantar

After seeing the highlights of Jaipur, we drove back to New Delhi to catch our flight the next day. It was a quick trip, but we were incredibly pleased at how well it went. (I actually was scammed out of $1.50 when I received an old ₹100 bill as change, but I’m willing to let that go.) I thoroughly enjoyed our trip and felt silly for having been nervous about it. If I was ever uncomfortable, it was because of the heat and humidity. If I was ever anxious, it was because I acquired a few mosquito bites. The Golden Triangle makes for a wonderful trip full of heritage, history, and amazing sights. If you're going to India, don't miss it.

Last edited by immy1432; Nov 8th, 2019 at 11:35 AM. Reason: Formatting, hotel name update
immy1432 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 10:53 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,686
Thank you!
The pictures are really nice.
Is the picture of you two seated at the table in the banquet hall taken at the Rambagh palace in Jaipur?
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Nov 8th, 2019, 11:16 AM
  #3  
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Yes! Thank you! We stayed at the Rambagh. I couldn't remember the name of our hotel, but I knew it was a Taj hotel and my quick Google search led me astray. I updated my post. They were serving the buffet breakfast in the fine dining restaurant due to an event going on in the typical room. It was so beautiful!
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Nov 8th, 2019, 11:21 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,686
Originally Posted by immy1432 View Post
Yes! Thank you! We stayed at the Rambagh. I couldn't remember the name of our hotel, but I knew it was a Taj hotel and my quick Google search led me astray. I updated my post. They were serving the buffet breakfast in the fine dining restaurant due to an event going on in the typical room. It was so beautiful!
I though so. We were there for our honeymoon in 1978. Its been a while but you don't forget how grand that room was.
All the best.
Larry
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Nov 8th, 2019, 11:32 AM
  #5  
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Amazing! I love how vivid travel memories can be!
immy1432 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by immy1432 View Post
Amazing! I love how vivid travel memories can be!
Yes indeed. They can enrich you for life.
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