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Trip Report Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Kolkata-Winter TR!

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We are a young couple from the US that visited India from Dec 20- Jan 7th. We visited Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Varanasi, and Kolkata. I am of Indian decent but hadn’t been to India in over 20 years, so this was a very important trip to me. This was both of our first times visiting all these places, and my SO’s first time out of the country. We didn't know what to expect as we had heard many negative things. Later we realized all these negative things were from people that had never even been to India! Aren't we glad we didn't listen to them! We had the trip of a lifetime and cannot wait to go back to see the rest of India! We used Castle and King to book our tour and we were very happy with their services. Here is my trip report! Feel free to ask any questions or if you want elaborations.

Delhi
Our C&K Rep met us at the airport at 1 am when our flight arrived, took us to the hotel and checked us in. Our hotel, Shangri-La, was great. The first day we just relaxed and tried to acclimate to our new surroundings. Breakfast at the hotel was good. It was cold and foggy our entire stay in Delhi (2 full days). We attempted to walk around outside hotel but were told by the door people not to. We walked around a little and came back. In retrospect, we decided we should have. We were just not ready to venture out into India alone at that point

The next day, finally we begin sightseeing! We had to start a little later due to the fog. Our first stop was Jama Masid. It was too foggy for pics. The Masjid was impressive when you imagine just how many people are there to pray when it is at capacity. We just walked around the grounds and then went on a rickshaw ride through Chandi Chowk. This was a great experience. The chill from the wind, the sights of everyone at work and the items for sale, the sounds (honking and motorbikes), the smells (Food and incense) are something that cannot be described and can only be experienced. It was too foggy to see the Red Fort, so we just drove by it. We visited Raj Ghat (Ghandi’s creamation grounds) and Rajpath (where all the government buildings are). Neither take up much time and are nice to see. We went to see the India Gate (a memorial to Indian soldier’s killed in the world wars) which was an educational experience. I feel like now is a good time to mention that in heavily touristy areas people will annoy you to try to sell their little trinkets and such, just ignore them or keep saying “no” and they will eventually go away. Don’t worry about feeling bad, you are here to enjoy yourself. Our guide took us somewhere he recommended for lunch, which was terrible. Wish I could remember the name of the place so everyone could avoid it. Prepare for a lot of honking in all the cities as well as systematically chaotic driving!

Next up was Hamayun’s tomb. This was my first “Wow” moment of the trip. We entered the grounds and walked around seeing some old structures which I thought were the tomb. Our guide ushers us to come forth and we walk through a gateway, and in the distance through the fog is the beautiful tomb. At this moment I say aloud “Wow” and was taken away. We spent a while visiting the tomb and admiring the structure and taking many pics. Our last stop was Qutab Minar, which we enjoyed as well. Great spot for pics and a very interested history. On our way back to the hotel, I asked to stop by Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. We did a walk around the inside of the temple where people were praying and singing. A nice experience.

Agra
Next morning we drove to Agra, which was about 3-4 hours. I think it took longer than it usually does because we stopped at Wildlife SOS Elephant Sanctuary (which we recommend everyone visit). They do great work for Sloth Bears and Elephants. They explained how they saved the bears from being used as tourist entertainment and answered any questions while we viewed the bears and then we drove over to the elephant section a few miles away. Here you can touch and feed the elephants. This was a great experience for animal lovers.

In Agra, we stayed at Howard Plaza, which we do not recommend. It was not clean, the breakfast was poor, and the beds were uncomfortable. Also at this point we had both picked up a bad cough and cold, thankfully meds in India are cheap and they helped a little, but unfortunately we were sniffling and coughing for much of our trip.

The next day it was time for sign seeing again. We were finally going to see the Taj Mahal! We could not go at sunrise as planned because of the fog. I think we got there around 10 and there was a little fog but it added to the experience and made it almost dream-like. We loved the Taj Mahal! Probably our favorite thing from the trip, though it is hard to pick just one. What amazing and beautiful architecture! We are still in awe from the experience. That morning, we had stopped by one of the shops at the hotel where the man showed us how he makes marble inlay work. This added to our appreciation of the inlay work at the Taj Mahal. One thing which we thought to ourselves the entire trip about everything we saw, is how amazing it is that these structure were built centuries ago using no modern technology. If anyone has doubts and feels it may be overrated, still go! It is definitely not overrated. After the Taj Mahal, we visited Agra Fort. Also amazing with beautifully decorated walls and marble and stone buildings and great views. Our last stop for the day was Fatehpur Sikri. It was clean and quieter than the other sites we had visited. Recommended as stop if you are on your way to Jaipur.

Off to Jaipur! To be continued…

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