India. Chaotic, exhilarating, overwhelming. It’s a backpacker’s dream come true and a Bollywood lover’s delight. No amount of research could have prepared me for what I was going to be greeted by.
It’s no secret that I’ve been obsessed with India since I was a little girl. I found myself swept away by the mystique of ancient forts, the severed history my family has with a land that once used to be called home, sights and sounds that seem familiar and completely new at the same time. It was no different once I got to experience it for the first time myself.
Our first stop was Delhi. A wave of forty degree heat engulfed me as we made our way out of the aiport. We made our way to Paharganj, Old Delhi where we stayed for the whole time we were there. I had no interest in glassy, bedazzled hotels so we stayed at a Bloomrooms as close to heritage sites as possible. It was also a quick CNG ride from Connaught Place, a roundabout teeming with chaat stands and boutique restaurants peacefully coexisting side by side. Ardor 2.1 is famed for its mammoth sized thalis but we kept it simple and ordered small plates that were equally as mouthwatering. If you’re looking for a cool place to hang out and dine, this would be a great choice. Khan Market is also a great location for European style bistros and little boutiques. Don’t miss Soda Bottle Opener Wala if you’re in the area! The best chai I’ve ever had was also in this neighbourhood. Search for Akka Chai Sutta on Market Road and you won’t be disappointed.
We lapped up the faded luxury of Jama Masjid but the crumbling walls of Agrasen Ki Baoli were no less stunning. A moment I’ll never forget is spending the evening in the Nizamuddin neighbourhood. A time forgotten area which is mostly populated by the Muslim community, it comes alive after sunset. The shrine itself holds qawwalis every evening. It’s also known for it’s Mughal cuisine. Nihari, biryani and sheekh kebabs are sold in abundance in little 10x10 stalls fashioned with benches and tables. As someone who has put this to the test, you will not find a better beef nihari than the ones here!
White marble, mother of pearl inlay and pools of golden light at sunrise made for the most breathtaking memory yet. The four hour journey there and back was well worth it. We didn’t book this in advance and you can bet that any hotel will probably have some ties with an agent who can book an excursion there with very little notice. We made a few pit stops along the way but in all honesty, the 2 a.m wake up call took everything out of us and I only half consciously took in the rest of the journey.
Jaipur is overflowing with glorious stucco building in beautiful shades of salmon pink. An ancient city, Jaipur prides itself in its Mughal heritage and who can blame them? The emerald dealerships that line the streets are renowned for their quality. In a day, we conquered the City Palace, Hawa Mahal and Amer Fort. During the high noon heat, we often sought respite at Alsisar Haveli, a restored courtyard hotel with Victorian tiles and pearl inlaid furniture competing for attention. “Don’t trust the guides, they will always misguide you!” Our rickshaw-wala said to us as we left the haveli to grab lunch at Handi Restaurant (do not miss out on their thalis or laal maas!) He couldn’t have been any more right and we found out for ourselves when we were asked to pay to take pictures at Panna Meena Kund. We managed to sneak one in before a guard snapped at us. After that encounter, I felt a nice light lunch at Bar Palladio was perfectly justified! It’s easy to assume that Jaipur would be more quiet than Delhi but as the first planned city in India, it seemed to give the most cosmopolitan traffic a run for its money.
Fateh Prakash Palace was my one splurge for this whole trip and I didn’t regret it one bit. It took three days for us to finally unearth the pool which was just before the City Palace museum. The views of Lake Pichola at sunset were something I looked forward to everyday. I’d also recommend venturing into old Udaipur and trying out local rooftop cafes. Mayur Rooftop Restaurant has a great view of Jagdish Temple and the hundreds of birds that reside on its steps.
By the time we got to Mumbai, I was drained of all energy and zest for adventure but no amount of fatigue could have prevented me from seeing Dobi Ghat in action! I did however manage to visit Bombay Canteen, a place I’d stalked on Instagram for so long that I all but memorised the menu! If you have time, two morning markets to catch is Dadar Flower Market, bursting at the seams with fresh blooms and Colaba Fish Market, with its port looking like a scene straight out of the Mahabharata. If you’re craving chaat, check out the plazas at the start of Juhu Beach, which has no shortage of pav bhaji stands.
Ending such a hectic couple of weeks with Goa was the smartest decision I made. Granted, I could have chosen a better part (Morjim beach is an hour and a half away from the main sights and attractions) the time away from hustle and bustle is exactly what I needed. If you’re in search of a casual dining spot, Mum’s Kitchen is an absolute must if you’re curious about authentic Goan cuisine. We went during noon and there were queues around the street! Fontainhas, or the Latin Quarter is stunning in its colonial architecture and vibrant hues. If you get a chance, visit Bombay Coffee Roasters which serves a delicious iced latte and is a welcome spot to catch your breath.
If I had to do this trip all over again, I would maybe try to spend more time in each location to give my body a rest and adjust to one place first before hopping onto another plane! Six flights does not make for an easy recovery. Despite that, I would always return to India as I don’t think you could ever do justice to its land all in one journey.
If you’re keen to find out more about my trip to India, you can check out the highlights on my Instagram!