Barb and Baden’s India Adventure – Part 4

The Food

Let me start out by saying that Barb and I love Indian food.

When we were planning the trip we expected that we were going to experience a far greater variety of dishes from various regions of India and so far that has been correct. We have had what many people might refer to as “curry” for breakfast in various cities here in India. I’m using quotes around the word curry as we’ve rarely seen this word on menus as there usually more exotic terms used to describe the dishes.

We have rarely had a bad meal since here in India and we’ve tried a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Most of the menus that we’ve seen separate the sections by vegetarian and non-vegetarian since a great deal of the population of India do not eat meat. The one thing that we have rarely seen in any restaurant is beef and pork whereas chicken and lamb dishes seem to be very common, at least in the regions in which we have been.

We do have one complaint about the food. In the week or so that we have been in India (4 regions so far), we have not had one dish that I would consider really spicy. Many times the waiter asked us how spicy we wanted it and we’ve always said spicy. But it never is.

We have a theory on this: there’s a conspiracy of waiters quietly telling the chefs “there’s a bunch of non-Indians at the table, they say they want the food really spicy but they can’t possibly know what they’re asking for”. It’s the only possible explanation.

The Taj

Ok, so everyone in the world who comes to India eventually goes to the city of Agra and sees the Taj Mahal. I’m not going to write too much about it but suffice to say it’s incredible to see in person and it’s a must-see. Agra is an unattractive city and if it wasn’t for the Taj Mahal you probably wouldn’t want to go there. There’s always going to be thousands of other visitors there so it’s just expected that there’s always going to be lots of people in all of your photos. These are all unavoidable but you have to deal with to see this impressive site.

Everyone’s seen hundreds of photos of the Taj Mahal and on TV shows. All I can say is that it’s one of a few structures that I’ve seen in my life that is far, far more impressive up close in person than in pictures.


The Security

Security in India is quite a bit more intense than we’re normally
used to back home. Just about every public attraction has armed military sporting machine guns patrolling the area. We’ve now come to expect that if we’re going into any public place that there will be metal detectors, and all visitors get pat downs and you will be asked to show what’s in your pockets quite regularly, both men and women.

In the hotel that we’re currently staying at in Jaipur, our luggage had to go through x-ray machines outside the door to the hotel and a guard looks underneath our vehicle with a mirror every time we return. This is all serious stuff.

Interestingly enough, none of these security measures are in any way impacting the gauntlet of beggars and hucksters that line the entrances to every major public place. You still must suffer through the dozens of these people who attempt to sell you trinkets, beg for money or just pick your pockets.

The Village

After departing Agra and heading to our next destination of Jaipur, our driver offered to drive us to his home village where he lives with his family. He said that his wife would cook a meal for us and could meet the extended family. Of course, Barb and I immediately agreed to this. Based on previous experience, meeting a person’s family often becomes the highlight of any trip.

Based on the cell phone calls while we were driving down the highway, we couldn’t say for sure but we got the impression that our driver called his wife and basically said: “I’m bringing guests for lunch, we’ll be there in two hours”.

Once we arrived at our destination, we quickly found out that the entire village (of about 70 people) were there to greet us and news of our arrival had spread far and wide. The man on the bicycle in the photo below apparently rode about 20 KM to this village to meet us.

After introducing his family and extended family, our driver gave us a tour of his village. You have to imagine that we were being shown some of the points of interest and the entire village was following behind us, hanging on our every comment. I had my camera with me at the time and I had the unique opportunity to photograph people in a completely relaxed setting. While some people were shy and ran away when I raised my camera, the vast majority of the people seemed to be very comfortable with their photo being taken.

This was especially true of the kids. Once one of their friends had their photo taken they seemed to be very interested in being next.

Once we had completed the tour of the village we sat down for a meal that our driver’s wife had prepared. The meal was simple but delicious, consisting of a spicy cauliflower dish, in addition, a small bowl of what looked like a yellow vegetable curry.

Barb and I noticed that the food was only set for the two of us and no one else was eating. I theorized that there was likely a limited amount of food and only after we were served did our host’s wife brings out a dish for him.

While we only spent about 2-3 hours in our driver’s village, I had a lot of opportunities to take photos and in addition to the three photos above, I’ve uploaded several more to my photo website:

Down Time

After leaving his village, we were back on the road and our driver took us to our next destination which was the city of Jaipur.

By the time that we arrived at our hotel in Jaipur, we had been on the road for almost 9 hours and we were both completely exhausted. The owner of the travel agency, with whom we had arranged much of our India trip including our driver, had suggested that we go to his home for dinner but we politely declined. Barb and I ended up staying in our hotel room that night just recovering. Within 24 hours of this both Barb and I would be sick and spending more of our time in the hotel room.

Since we had arrived in India, Barb and I had been going non-stop visiting sites in several different cities. By the time that we got to Jaipur and around the 10th day of our trip we were both getting run down and were hit with similar respiratory illnesses. The 2nd day in Jaipur was spent entirely inside the hotel room with both of us trying to recover as best we could. As I’m writing this section in the boarding gate in the Jaipur airport, Barb and I are still recovering from our colds but are both feeling better than we did the day before.

Of course, the main illness that we were hoping to prevent on this trip to India was digestive problems. Luckily we’ve both been able to avoid this so far.

As I’m writing this section we’ve finished visiting the 4 large cities of our itinerary: Delhi, Amritsar, Agra and Jaipur. We’ve now moved on to the next destination that takes us out of the large cities and into a completely different environment. More on that and the remaining section of our India trip when I post my next and final installment of our Indian Adventure.

Follow-up a few days later: with the help of some cold medicine that we were able to purchase, we’re both on the road to recovery. Barb is still coughing but we should both be 100% in a day or so. None of this is serious enough to stop us continuing with the day to day agenda.