Traveling in India, not a country but a continent
Traveling in India is not a traveling in a country, it's traveling on a continent. After spending a year I know one thing: you spend a lifetime in India and still have places not seen. Now that may seem obvious with a huge country as India. However, there is so much to see, so much to experience. Only visiting the country made me realize how lucky I was (in some ways) to have been born in Holland, and how much in Holland we also have lost.
The problem with writing about India is of course where to start. What to tell, and what to leave out. Therefore I have decided to tell you only about my own travels in India. I have skipped areas, I have been places others won't go easily. But I had time, so why not.
The journey starts in Delhi and from there it goes everywhere in this magnificent country. But beware, India has many faces and the first face when entering the country might not be the most beautiful.
With over 1 billion Indians, many living below the poverty level, the heat (or cold, in the north) and the different food, it may take some time to see through.
However, once you see through, India is a beautiful fantastic country with beautiful and friendly people. And no place is the same to another. I have many sweet, bitter, weird and great memories of India. So, where will I take you?
I have been extensively traveling in India: the north-west with Kashmir (with Srinagar and Dal Lake), Ladakh with it's main city Leh. Himachal Pradesh was one of my favorite areas to travel with Shimla, Dharamsala, Dalhousie, Rishkesh and Manali.
I went to the north -east with Kolkata (Calcutta). Sikkim is an interesting destination, very Nepalese/Bhutanese/Tibetan influenced. I had a great two day adventure into north Sikkim with 2 Indian families.
The Seven Sisters with Phuntsholing and the border with Bhutan are worth the effort to travel. Through Assam, with Guwahati, Sibsagar and Shillong I went to Agartala and continued to Bangladesh.
Through Bangladesh, I came in Kolkata (Calcutta, if you like) and took a ferry to the Andaman Islands. In the central area, I visited Agra with the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Khajuraho, Gwalior (and the majestic fort), Varanasi and Bodh Gaya. Further south I was in the Islamic province Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mysore. In Tamil Nadu I was in Ooty (wrong time of the year), Mahabalipuram and Chennai (Madras), where I arrived by boat from the Andaman islands. North of Bangalore I went to the famous Hampi ruins too.
Further north I visited the Ellora and Ajanta caves near Aurangabad (which also has the so called "Baby Taj or Poor Mans Taj").
And of course I spend a long time in Rajasthan, one of the most colorful provinces in India visiting Jaipur (the pink city) with the magnificent Amber Fort, Jaigarh Fort and the Jal Mahal palace. In Rajasthan I also went further to Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur (the blue city), Jaisalmer (the golden city), where I went on a camel trek and Bikaner with the Karni Mata Temple. From Bikaner it's easy to travel to Amritsar with the famous Golden Temple of the Sikhs
But I have never been to the whole west coast of India, no Mumbai, Pune, Kerala, no Trivandrum. On the east coast I saw only Kolkata (Calcutta), Chennai and Mahabalipuram. So there's still a lot of white on my traveling in India map.
Still after being a year in India it was not the monuments, nor the food that made the most impression on me, it were the people. When you are a long time on the road the thing that really matters is who you meet. And where I met amazing people, sometimes people who were so poor they had hardly anything to eat and still willing to share that little bit. India has changed my way of looking at life itself, it made me a little wiser, and much more stupid.
My only regret was that I didn't stay longer, but then again, I can always continue traveling in India.
Here are two pages with just photos of Ladakh and Kashmir:
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Maybe with the exception of Angkor, Machu Pichu and Borobodur, there's no place with such majesty as the Taj Mahal:
and a little Taj Mahal Magic
Few places I visited had a more international character as Bodh Gaya, the town where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
It is still one of my favorite place in India
Himachal Pradesh is up to date once of my favorite areas in India I have traveled. Maybe it was because it was more laid back then some other hectic places, maybe it was the mountains, I can't really tell. But I can tell this, I would love to go back:
The temples of Khajuraho
The temples of Khajuraho belong not only to UNESCO's World Heritage, they are also some of the most beautiful and vivid ancient examples of sandstone carving.