We took a 10-day trip with National Geographic in October 2016 that included a rail journey through Rajasthan, India on the ” Palace on Wheels”. We went from Delhi to Jaipur, Chittaurgarh including Ranthambore National Park, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Agra including Keoladeo Ghana National Park. We visited Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity home at the end of the trip.
This trip would take us to Delhi at night. As we got out of the airport, the polluted air was so dense, it was stifling. The streets were crowded with cycle rickshaws going every which way and they were all beeping their horns ( = noise pollution ) . We took a rickshaw through the back streets and alleys and I was amazed at the Electricity wiring above the streets.
Electricity wiring overhead in DelhiAs a high school student, the biography of Mahatma Gandhi fascinated me. I watched the documentary “Mahatma: Life of Gandhi”, the movie ” Gandhi”. I saw signs of his influence when I visited South Africa in 2014. I kept up with Indian politics since the reign of the first Prime Minster, Nehru who was also born on November 14 as I was.
Gandhi’s last walk to the spot where he was assassinated.We visited the Gandhi Museum, and then drove 4 1/2 hours to Jaipur, the capital / ” Pink City” of Rajasthan.
On the 4th. day into the trip we boarded the ” Palace on Wheels” train in Jaipur and traveled overnight to Chittauragarh / Rathambore National Park and Udaipur.
Greeted by band and walking the red carpet on disembarking the train at Jaisalmer
In Jaisalmer we witnessed the celebration of Diwali ( the Festival of Lights) with more air pollution. There we rode a camel across the sand dunes of Sam.
Jodhpur was next and on to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal at 5:45AM and again at sunset.
I sat on a bench in front of the Taj and imagined Princess Diana sitting there on her visit. She was there alone. However, at 5:45 there were tourists like us walking around and at sunset, it was even more crowded.
At the Taj Mahal at sunrise
Mother Teresa’s Center in Agra with some of the women
We had curry EVERY day and it got too much for our stomachs in the end. I could smell the curry coming out of people’s pores as I passed them on the streets.
There were familiar fruits like sweet sop and mangoes. The chef at our hotel in Jaipur served me coconut water and tamarinds. The roti, naan and chapati were our favorites on the train as they were always fresh and warm.
Air, noise, and water pollution in India are the worst in the world. After we left India, schools were closed for 3 days due to the air quality.
I find The Caste System in India very strange and sad. We visited palaces, forts AND a village of the Dalits who are the poorest group of Indians. There were beggars and malnourished, dirty children on the streets.
I find this Caste System disturbing as it discourages and prevents the lower class to achieve. In the end it reduces economic development.
See link http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35650616 for more information on the Caste System.
I will not go back. The Taj Mahal is checked off my bucket list.