No trip to India would be complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal, and yet, I had been to India three times and was yet to make my way to this marvelous wonder of the world. We soon corrected that during our first excursion with the Little Monkey when she was 2 months old. We were based in Mumbai and flew into Jaipur where we were met by a private driver and tour guide who then took us to Agra and then to Delhi over the course of three days.
We used the Akbar Group for this Golden Triangle exploration and overall were quite satisfied with the service and English-speaking guides. That said, a driver would have been sufficient as each place we visited had guides available for hire. We used Make my trip for this portion of our trip and secured the best rates for our flights and our hotel in Agra.
Jaipur – Day 1
On arrival in Jaipur we drove around the town and saw what the ‘Pink City’ had to share with us. If you’re wondering, back in 1876 Jaipur was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales and to this day many buildings are painted a very odd pink! As we were there in mid-December, many locals were clad in jackets and ski masks as it was ‘cold’. Now to us that 20 C weather was summer, not winter! We spent about 3 hours in Jaipur visiting one of the many forts on feature. Truth be told, the architecture and history behind these forts are absolutely fascinating but there comes a time when you’ve seen one too many fort and they all start blending in.
If you’re a history or architecture buff you’re gonna dig it!
Our first stop was a very quick visit to the Birla Mandir Temple where we popped in mainly for my mom’s curiosity (but no pictures were allowed). Next up was Amber Fort which housed many kings and their women from the 1700s. You have the option of driving up to the entrance, taking an elephant ride (which costs about $9 for two adults and a child) or walking up. Once there we spent about an hour and a half exploring the fort under the tutelage of our guide. Even in the ‘middle of winter’ we needed shades and a hat.
We had the Little Monkey in the Bjorn and it worked out well for us. While at the Amber fort don’t forget to stop by the Shesh Mahal (palace of mirrors), the many courtyards and gardens, all laden with history and some great views. A quick shopping trip at a local bazaar secured a cute little Indian outfit for the Little Monkey and a few cloth handbags for friends back home.
Next up we stopped in for a lovely lunch at the Rambag Palace. If you have the means to stay here, you must! Fantastic service, luxurious rooms and gorgeous grounds. For us it was a quick-lunch at the Rajput restaurant where we were absolutely wowed!
The servers took me to a private dining room that was set up for a 5 course meal for about 20 guests so that I could breastfeed the Little Monkey in the privacy of a secluded space.
If that’s not service, I don’t know what is!
Agra- Day 1 and 2
Our four and half hour drive from Jaipur to Agra was unadventurous with no stops in between. Luckily the Little Monkey was quite easy to travel with as all she did was nap and feed. Sadly we got in late and missed the sunset at the Taj Mahal. I’ve heard (and youtube videos confirm!) that the sunset at the Taj Mahal is absolutely stunning.
We spent the night at the Wyndham Grand Agra and would recommend the hotel to anyone looking for modern lodgings with a touch of South Asian tradition. The next morning we tried to get moving as early as possible (not early enough to catch the sunrise unfortunately) and made it to the Taj Mahal by 9:30 a.m.
One issue with a winter visit is that there’s a lot of fog and at 9:30 the fog was just clearing out. I highly recommend carrying babies in a Bjorn here mainly because of the throng of people coming to take in the magnificence that is the Taj Mahal.
It definitely was worth the trek out and the 7 hour drive to Delhi that same day! This is a place you have to visit in person to truly appreciate the hand carved details, from the expensive gems chiselled in ever so carefully, to the marble verses from the Quran that have been inserted into the structure. We spent about two hours exploring the Palace and then stopped in at a very disappointing restaurant for lunch (avoid The Only restaurant if you can! The name should have been a warning for us but we thought we’d brave it as we were in a hurry). Also Agra is famous for its marble handicraft and there are many stores that sell marble goods. My only advice to you is to ensure you get marble and not soft stone (white/soft stone looks like marble but if you take a piece of glass it will scratch into powder, marble is harder to scratch through and if it does, it comes out as grains and not powder).
Delhi – Day 2 and 3
Needless to say we spent a bit too much time shopping for marble and got stuck in traffic (and behind many lorries/cargo trucks) on our drive to Delhi. After an excruciating 7 hour drive we got to Delhi and crashed at the Radisson Marina Hotel in Connaught Place. For late comers like us the Great Kebab Factory in the hotel is a neat little baby friendly spot to enjoy a carnivorous meal. The next day was jam packed but we did not feel too rushed. We started the day early with a visit to the Qutab Minar, where we spent half an hour walking through the heritage site taking in the red sandstone minaret (the largest minaret in India).
I would highly recommend this site for shutter-bugs who want unique pictures. Next we dropped in at Humayun’s Tomb where we explored the gardens and the tombs of the Moghal emperor and those close to him. The highlight of this site were the school kids who were amidst great history and guess what they wanted… a photograph with my whitey husband! Hah! Not to worry, we got some shopping in here too! I scored more handbags and some jewellery at the market. That evening we flew back to Mumbai.
Anyone looking to get in a quick trip to the Golden Triangle, be assured, you can do it in three days easily!
This post was first published here.
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