The rich cultural and historical traditions and breathtaking monuments are what drew us to India. While Delhi was fascinating with its modern buildings, beautiful gardens, and ancient ruins, Agra was extraordinary with its prized jewel and jaw-dropping monument, the Taj Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal was the beloved queen of Sha Jahan and he was shattered and heartbroken when she died having her fourteenth child. The Sha built the entire Taj Mahal out of white marble and it still stands today as one of the greatest monuments of love ever built. Across the river from the Taj, the Red Fort is where Sha Jahan was imprisoned by one of his sons and held captive during the last years of his life.
After Agra, our driver took us to Ranthambore where we spent three days and enjoyed four jeep safaris in search of the elusive Bengal Tiger. We saw leopards, spotted deer, antelope, and monkeys, but no tigers.
In Jaipur, our next stop, we rode elephants up to the ancient Amber Fort built in the 16th century. The huge hilltop fort is known as the ""palace of mirrors"" because embedded in its walls are millions of tiny mirrors that twinkle in the light.
Our visit to Udaipur was truly amazing! Considered one of the most beautiful cities in India, its landscape is a mixture of serene lakes and forested hills where wildlife still abounds. We stayed at a hotel on the edge of Lake Pichola called the Oberoi Udaivillas, which in itself, was a site to behold. It was our oasis for three days and we truly felt like ""royalty"" while we were there. In 2007 Travel and Leisure magazine named it the best hotel in the world. We were awestruck by the beautifully landscaped grounds, magnificent fountains, exquisitely appointed rooms, incredible spa, and overall exceptional service.
Mumbai was our last stop. We stayed right on the Arabian Sea at the JW Marriott that had very heavy security. Our fabulous guide took us by boat to Elephanta Island to see the six enormous caves dedicated to Lord Shiva, then to the Dhobi Ghat (city laundry), and also to the Gandhi Memorial Museum. We have fond memories of all the young people that stopped us on the beach right outside the grounds of our hotel just to chat about the economic situation and election in America. It seems, everywhere we went the Indian people were genuinely interested in who we were and where we were from. Several weeks later we were shocked when we heard about the horrible terrorist attacks because we had eaten lunch at the Taj Hotel that was partially burned and visited the old railroad station where people were gunned down at random. Needless to say, we were lucky to be home.
Early in the trip, between Delhi and Agra, we managed to squeeze in three days to visit our dear friend, Pema Dorje, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Tom and Jill have spent many days hiking in the mountains in Nepal with Pema as their ice-climbing guide. Maxine and Kit got to see the breathtaking Himalayan Mountain Range where 8 out of the 10 highest mountains in the world can be viewed from the airplane.
Our trip opened our eyes to extraordinary sites and allowed us to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences. India is truly a fascinating place to visit.
Maxine Dickson, Kit Harwood, and Jill and Tom Relles: clients of Sha Dev