India: From Delhi to Kathmandu (Magical)

What makes one say, “I want to go to India?” For us, alcohol and young love. We were eating Indian food in Baltimore and the restaurant owner insisted that if we loved her food so much we had to go to India. She described it as the place where her heart lived. She brought out pictures. We’d had a few drinks. We booked a vacation that very night. YOLO? Yeah, YOLO.

Vacation might be the wrong word for it…India is hard. Between monkey attacks, respiratory infections, and the difficult logistics of a sprawling and crowded country like India, this was the hardest trip I’ve ever taken. It was also our first travel as a couple. None of these obstacles spoiled it. I don’t look back on the difficulties without laughing (honestly Keith’s uncanny ability to step in feces in every city is hilarious). In fact, the hard times were the very experiences that told me I would one day be married to my then-boyfriend. What we both remember most about India is the fascinating culture, exotic religious ceremonies, late night story telling, and phenomenal food.

PRO TIP: GET A GUIDE. Our love of India is in no small part due to our inspiring travel guide, Anurudh Rajawat (Raja for short). I don’t recommend going to India without a guide like Raja, not just for the logistical difficulties, but also because the most beautiful parts of Indian culture can be very hidden. A good guide will make sure they shine. By the end of the trip we’d nicknamed him Raja-bear for his teddybear like nature. Raja was not just huggable, he was tough and practical. He fended off charging bulls and overwhelming traffic jams for us, guided us to fair prices, preserved authentic experiences, and even inserted himself into a street altercation to protect a homeless man.

Scroll down for our full itinerary and a bunch of photos. A later blog post will be devoted to details from each place, especially Varanasi, which was both Keith and I’s favorite city of the entire journey (though Orchha was a close second!) We’ll also post recipes for Nepalese momos, Masala Chai, and traditional Indian cooking 🙂

Day 1: Delhi
       Arrival, meet the group
Day 2: Delhi/Jaipur
       India Gate, a walk through the Pink City 
Day 3: Jaipur
       Amber Fort, Palace of the Winds 
Day 4: Agra
       Taj Mahal
Day 5: Orchha
       Respite from the big city by train and rickshaw, Hindu religious ceremony
Day 6: Orchha/Varanasi
       Paper making, cooking class, overnight train
Day 7-8: Varanasi
       Walk the Holy City, Boat the Ganges, Buddhist Shrines, Flower Ceremony
Day 9: Lumbini
       Cross into Nepal, visit Buddha's birthplace
Day 10-12: Royal Chitwan National Park
       Safari at the base of the Himalayas, traditional Chitwan dance, sunrise.
Day 12-13: Pokhara
       Paragliding, nepalese dumplings class, meet and support trafficking survivors  network.
Day 14-15: Kathmandu
       Durbar Square, the King’s Palace, the burning ghats at Pashupatinath, and the Boudhanath Stupa.

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