I have been fascinated by India for more years than I can remember. I’ve read loads of books about the country and culture, both fiction and non-fiction, watched movies and travelogues, and have dreamed of being able to visit one day.
My dream will be coming true in January of 2019 because last week Brett and I put a deposit on a seven-day tour of the “Golden Triangle” of northern India: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
Neither Brett nor I felt comfortable going into India on our own for a first visit. In spite of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel making it look somewhat easy, we knew that any introduction to India would be intense, and most likely overwhelming for us, so we decided to go with a guided tour, something we normally aren’t all that interested in doing.
The tour company we chose is Easy Tours of India. We did lots of research before picking who to book with, and Easy Tours kept coming up again and again as one of the best, five stars, etc. They offered a variety of different tour options, superior lodging, and tour groups limited to 12 persons. Also, the tour company is based in the U.S. and the guides and drivers in India get great reviews. Included in the tour price are daily breakfasts and lunches, all entrance fees, and in-country transportation.
The tour we booked is advertised as eight days long, and we were initially concerned when we noticed ours was only seven days. However, after comparing itineraries we discovered the only difference is instead of staying in Jaipur on the last night and departing for Delhi the next day to fly home (or wherever), we will instead fly to Delhi on the last evening, and then on to Hong Kong that night for us, avoiding a l-o-n-g stay in the Delhi airport.
By reserving a spot for the tour early we saved $456 dollars off the regular cost, which will allow us to spend an extra night in Hong Kong (seven nights instead of six) or a full extra day in Perth, Australia, before boarding the train to Sydney. Currently the extra day in Perth is our preferred choice.
It will be cold in northern India when we go, and intense fog may be a problem. But, we decided we’d rather visit cold India than hot (and humid) India, and we’ll have the clothing necessary to stay comfortable.
It’s truly a dream come true, and hopefully the first of more visits.
Here are some of my favorite books about India and Indian culture and history. They’re just the tip of the iceberg, really:
- A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – a BIG novel covering a young woman’s search for love and identity in post-Independent India. This book is massive (over 1400 pages) – be prepared for a very long read. It’s still my favorite though.
- The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott – there are four volumes in this telling of the end of British rule (the Raj) in India. The mini-series The Jewel in the Crown was based on the Raj Quartet.
- Speaker of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – a collection of nine short stories about the Indian immigrant experience in America.
- Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald – a look at different religious traditions in contemporary India
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo – a moving examination of the poverty that exists in modern Indian. If you’ve ever wondered what real poverty looks like, this is it.
- Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer – written by a long-time friend of the Mahatma, the book does not shy away from the facts or try to glorify him.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – the story of fraternal twins in India whose lives are changed forever when a new law is put into place decreeing “who should be loved, and how. And how much.”
- A Passage to India by E.M. Forster – a classic story about India during British rule, and the difference in how justice was meted out for Indians versus the British.
- The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye – an epic novel about British-Indian history, and forbidden love.
Several of these books have been turned into movies or miniseries. If you can find it, The Story of India, a six-part series that aired on PBS, is excellent and The Jewel in the Crown is still a compelling series with some top-notch acting.