If you're going to fly 20 hours to India, you might as well see the country! Before the teaching portion of the trip, my mom, her co-worker and myself met in Delhi. We had a week of touring before heading to Hyderabad.
We started in Delhi, the capital of India. In comparison to the other cities we visited, Delhi was very large with a lot more modernity to it. But still, unlike anywhere I'd ever been before. We didn't see much of Delhi, basically we just stayed there because it's the main airport and driving distance to the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahl
Now listed as one of the seven wonders of the new world, The Taj Mahal is quite a spectacle. It's located in Agra, about 3 hours from Delhi. One of the most notable things about the Taj Mahal is the amount of people visiting. There are so many people that it actually takes away from the experience, in my opinion at least.
The Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by Shah Jahan to remember his favorite wife (lol) who died early on. The entire thing is made of marble and is a mathematical wonder. Literally every part of the design and and placement is strategically mathematical. The enormous structure and the mathematical genius behind it rightfully deems it as one of the seven world wonders. The inside is decorated with the most beautiful stonework, including lapis lazuli (a stone found in Chile).
After Delhi, we flew to Udaipur. We stayed in the city palace which is where one of the current royal families is living. I don't think I've ever been that close to royalty, I could actually see the prince's bedroom! Whenever the king was in, a small light would shine on one of the towers. I found it interesting that the current King was adopted because his father was unable to have children. Similar to the current British monarchy, the monarchy in India is just for show, they don't hold any power.
^^ This picture really shows how massive the palace is
The palace itself is a tourist destination because of its old and charming beauty. It sits on a lake, overlooking Lake Palace, owned by the same family. We took a tour of the palace, which only confirmed how massive it really is. The royal family has all sorts of collections from silver, to crystal to weapons. I enjoyed the fact that there was elephant parking out front.
The reason we came a week early was because of Holi, an Indian holiday that celebrates color and the triumph of good over evil. It also celebrates the changing of the seasons. Traditionally, people playfully throw powdered paint at each other, many spend the day with their families.
Originally, we didn't realize how big this holiday was. Everywhere we went people wished us "happy Holi", almost like Christmas! The people at the hotel reception advised us not leave the hotel as people drink a lot and things get a little crazy. We only ventured just outside the gates because we wanted to experience it.
The young boys were quick to wish us happy Holi, reach into their bags of paint and put it on our faces. They also gave us paint-filled hugs. Everyone wanted to give us paint and take pictures with us because we were white. We were Holi celebrities. We never felt in danger, except maybe from the cars flying by. It was such a fun holiday because everyone that you saw on the street was all green, or all blue. Everyone was beautifully out of place for one day. It was all in good fun and quite an experience! The red paint stayed in my hair for about a week, making me have pink highlights. The Holi paint is the same paint they use in The Color Run.
Although we were only there for one day, I liked Jaipur the best. I wished we stayed there longer. We stayed in Jai Mahal palace which now does not host any royalty but is very well maintained. I think it's the nicest place I've ever stayed. When we arrived, we were greeted by a man in a funny hat who held an ornate umbrella over our heads for the 3 steps it took from the car to the door. Then they put flower necklaces on us while throwing rose petals at us as we walked up the stairs. They blessed us by putting the paint dot on our foreheads and gave us fresh guava juice as we checked in. I felt like a queen. Dehli, Agra and Jaipur are known as The Tourist Triangle.
They upgraded us to a suite because we were there for one day. The suite was 3 times the size of my apartment with two sitting rooms, a walk-in closet and a shower that could comfortably fit 10 people. I never wanted to leave! Apparently when you stay at luxury hotels, the staff is trained to be sooooo nice. They couldn't have been kinder if they tried.
Heres some other pics from various sightseeing spectacles:
^^Yes, that's a monkey at the top
^^ The Hall of Mirrors
^^The Palace of the Winds