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Recently returned from my first trip to India, I can say, with resounding enthusiasm that I would return again. There is so much to see. It is a huge country, and you could do multiple trips without seeing everything.

Going back to when I had booked to travel to India I got mixed reactions to my choice of destination, with roughly half of the people I told, saying, Wow, fantastic!!, and the other half telling me I will get sick, robbed, or worse.

Well, I can honestly say none of those things happened. Admittedly, before going I would not have travelled to India independently, now…, Yes I would.

My grown-up daughter and I did a 3 week private tour beginning in Delhi and ending in Mumbai. We chose Total Holiday Options to book with and chose one of their set itineraries, then with Total Holiday Options help, we adjusted it and made it our own. I wanted to trace some family history in Kanpur, so we were able to include this city, and our guide made it possible for us to visit the school my father attended back in 1948.

We travelled in a Toyota SUV, air-conditioned vehicle, with our own driver and guide. Stayed in 3 and 4 star hotels and felt like movie stars with VIP treatment. This made our trip very easy, very comfortable and we were able to relax and get the most out of our travels.

India is all that you would imagine, chaotic, colourful, cultural and full of contrasts. The wealthy rubbing shoulders with the poor in the big cities, cows and dogs everywhere, not to mention autorickshaws, motorbikes and literally millions of people. However, India is full of splendour as well, and rich in history. Deeply religious, Indians are very proud and knowledgeable about their Hindu history and their religion touches their lives every day.

Truly, a multicultural place, with the majority being Hindu, and as per everywhere else in the world a high percentage of Muslims, a smattering of Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and a sprinkle of Christianity in there too, generally, all living in harmony.

We travelled to 4 of the 29 states visiting Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Puskar and Udaipur in Rajasthan, and Goa – the state, and lastly Mumbai in Maharashtra. Having visited this small part of India, we realise there is so much more to see, with each state being distinctive with its own special attractions. Both my daughter and I really enjoyed Rajasthan, visiting Jaipur, Pushkar and Udaipur, which would have to have been my favourite. This is where they based the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and also filmed Octopussy the old James Bond classic here. A very picturesque city, small by Indian standards of 500,000 population, with 3 lakes inside the city boundaries and 4 outside, making it an oasis in the otherwise dry, hilly farmland.

The food in India is fantastic, not fiery hot curries which see you running to the nearest bathroom at all. Mellow, mild (if you wish), flavoursome, rich and creamy curries of all different varieties. Creamy cashew gravy, with kofta balls, or my favourite Dal Makhani, a rich tomato based sauce over dal or lentils. And of course, naan or paratha, or Kulchi with everymeal. Curry is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner but it is always tempered with aniseed and sugar after meals to help digestion.

If this trip, or any other parts of India tick some bucket list boxes for you, come and talk to us at McIntosh Travel on The Strand in Whakatane. Proudly serving the travel needs of people in the Eastern Bay for over 20 years.

Next time – the majestic Taj Mahal and some other wonderful temples and monuments visited in India.

Blog by: Louise Allen

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