Friday, June 28, 2019

India: Part 1 - Arrival + Orchha

Off to India I go!

I felt super weird leaving Anthony behind, and we were all mopey as I prepared to leave, but he drove me to the airport late Sunday night for me to catch a red-eye to NYC. I usually refuse to do the red-eye thing because flights are only about four hours and who can get any sleep doing that? And I'm usually up til midnight anyway, but for some reason if I have an 11pm flight, I am ready to fall asleep at 9pm.

The red-eye would give me an arrival time in Delhi of 2pm, which is much more favorable then the other option of arriving around 2am. No thanks. I didn't want to land in a strange and chaotic place in the middle of the night, exhausted, and then not able to get on a regular schedule right away. Deal with the crappy flight first.

I got to JFK around 6am and had a long layover until my flight to Dubai. I sat around on the floor, since there wasn't a place to properly sit and I couldn't check in yet for my flight.


Row to myself for a 13-hour flight! Score.


The menu. Anthony can read this.

First time ever flying through Dubai. Wish I could've had a longer layover here to see some things for a day, but maybe another time.



Yes to silent airports.

After another 3ish hour flight, I landed in Delhi. Tired, but halfway around the world! Since I was meeting up with Tim and Nestor to begin a private tour, the tour had a driver pick me up, which was so great. No needing to navigate drivers and shouts and all that. I had my gigantic backpack, a daypack on my front, and another purse over my shoulder, ready to get the adventures started. After a nap and shower and food, of course.




Hotel arrival in the Karol Bagh neighborhood. I was pretty out of it at this point. And felt a little too nervous to venture out on my own for dinner. I think the hotel had food onsite, but I ate some snacks from my bag and went to sleep. That's one of my favorite travel tips - pack your bags with favorite snacks from home to slowly eat during the trip. It's always nice to find some cheez-itz halfway through after a week of foreign cuisine.

Around 10pm Tim & Nestor arrived from Hyderabad, and knocked on my door. Happy reunion! It's just the best meeting up with friends around the world. The hotel staff also delivered my local cell phone to me at this point - they weren't sure what I was talking about right when I arrived.

I opted to rent a local cellphone through Trabug, because I'd heard that it can take a bit to get connected in India with a local sim, or if they try to verify your personal info (anti-terrorism laws) and you've moved hotels or something, they may shut off your service. Trabug handles everything for you before you arrive, and they deliver a phone to your hotel. And when you're done, you can leave it pretty much anywhere and they'll have courier retrieve it. It's pretty inexpensive and comes with a lot of great apps and info pre-installed. Uber is popular in India and helped me a lot, but I've heard there are sometimes billing issues with a US credit card on there. This phone had the local version, Ola, installed, which is usually a bit cheaper. And drivers there like to call to verify rides, so having this phone was a lifesaver. Especially since I was in the country for a few weeks. Local phone numbers are also usually required to get on public wifi too.


After a decent night sleep, I woke up Tuesday morning ready to start our tour. Off to Madhya Pradesh via train! Our driver and guide picked us up early at the hotel and drove us to the train station. There are lots of different car classes on trains, and I was glad to have a guide that walked with us to our exact seats and made sure we were in the right spot with air conditioning.


It was pretty smoggy out and the air quality index in the 300+ most days. Not good. And no one wears masks. I hardly saw anyone wear one the entire time.




Breakfast. With chai, of course.

Dirty air.



Lunch. It was pretty good.




A few hours later, arrival in Orchha! The city dates back to the 16th century.

We wandered through the fort complex, which has the fort, some palaces and a temple or two.




I can't imagine the time it took to paint all this.






You can climb up tiny staircases and ledges to get up top. It's easier for the monkeys though. This is the Jahangir Mahal palace.




How beautiful is this carved door?


Mis amigos!





So many incredible textures everywhere.

And monkeys!



I think this is the Chaturbhuj temple? 



And I think this is the Ram Raja Temple.



Time to move on - our driver took us a few hours away to Khajuraho, where we would spend the night.


Blurry from the car. Cows and elections.

The fancy Radisson in Khajuraho. I stayed here, while Tim and Nestor were down the street, since their place was booked up by the time I joined the tour. Next up, more temples!

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