What’s it Like to Travel for 24 hours Straight to get to India? Was it worth it?

The magnificent Taj Mahal

The magnificent Taj Mahal

India was special to me even before I went there 

India is one of those countries that is so connected to things that I love - Buddhism, tea, colorful jewelry and textiles that seem otherwordly in their beauty, the sound of the tamboura - yet always seemed out of reach.  So, when my boss was invited to the Commonwealth Games in 2010, I couldn’t believe my luck!

When my feet touched the ground in New Delhi 9 years ago, it was love at first sight.  I have been back to India since then and every time the plane is landing my heart starts beating faster. 

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India smells different, it sounds different, there’s so much color everywhere that my eyes don’t know where to look first. 

One one trip, we stayed at the Taj Palace in New Delhi, a gorgeous modern hotel in an exclusive area of the city.  The concierge suggests we book a tour guide and the latter says we should start with a bicycle taxi tour of Old Delhi. 

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First of all, the reckless driving, the speed and the assault to the senses got the adrenaline pumping and it was hard to decide whether it was more important to hold on for sheer survival or pull out my camera because I never wanted to forget that ride and that place. 

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One afternoon, before a work dinner, I google where to buy Dilmah Tea (click here), one of my favorite brands.  To my surprise, I find they have a shop and T-Lounge (click here) in New Delhi and I’m running out of the hotel and hailing a cab before I even get a screenshot of the address. 

When I arrive, I am not disappointed.  The T-Lounge was in the Khan Market (I say was, because I hear that branch closed). 

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You know that feeling when you get into bed after a day at the beach...fresh cool sheets...windows open...a cool breeze...the sound of the ocean? That’s what sitting at a tea shop does for me.  What does it for you? Drop me a note. I’d love to hear about it. 

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And then there’s Agra…there’s no way we weren’t going to visit The Taj Mahal.  Getting to the monument itself is not straightforward.  We board a little electric train and it takes us to the entrance to a dark alley lined (I’m not kidding, it is DARK AF and smells damp) on both sides with souvenir, snack and soda stands.  There are some men in our group so, guess what? We can’t stop and look at the souvenirs....ugh...men and their dislike for browsing. 

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Our guide goes to one of the stands and buys bottles of water and a hat for each of us. He assures us we will need both. A lady in the group accepts neither.  He also hands each of us a pair of disposable booties.  I don’t even ask what they’re for, I’m SO ready for this. 

I don’t think I can explain to you how excited I am at that point.  I mean, it’s the Taj-freaking-Mahal!  

We come to the end of the tunnel and in the distance we see it....the picture I am posting is precisely the way I saw it first.  Just a glimpse. The perfect way to give visitors a taste of what they’re about to experience.  

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Through an archway, one of the most majestic things I have ever seen, appears like something out of a postcard.  I continue moving forward with the crowd and I’m surprised to see that most of the visitors are not foreign.  I thought the place would be riddled with tourists from abroad. 

We approach slowly and it becomes real, and it is HUGE.  The scorching sun reflects off the domes of the mausoleum making it so bright that it looks brand new. We come to the stairs of the main building, we are asked to put on the booties we were given with our tickets and once inside, it becomes clear why: 400 years of visitors’ heels would have damaged the floors horribly. 

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It takes time for one’s eyes to adjust to the dim indoor light, but soon the amazing artwork and calligraphy on the walls is evident and we all wish we were allowed to use our cameras. I don’t trust my memory to hold all the beauty with any accuracy.  I walk around several times, reluctant to leave but I’m with a group so one must be sensible. We exit the main building to visit the mosque and the guest pavilion that flank the mausoleum.

Now, let’s Tarantino this story for a second.  Remember the controversial water bottles we were given with our tickets? We all drank those early in our visit, everyone except the lady who didn’t trust the provenance of the ice on which the bottles were lying in the shop.  

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