The moment the delectable Mango Lassi touched my tongue, my love affair with India started. Over the years, it intensified, with additional exposure to the Indian culture. The cuisine, the cultural performances of traditional dance and music, and the fact that Lord Buddha himself was born here, made a trip to India mandatory.
In January 2010, my feet finally touch down on India’s soil. I spend a glorious two weeks travelling through the northern states. Soaking up the vibrant culture and learning in depth about India’s magnificent past.
Of all the wonderful places visited on this trip, my favorite was a lovely guest house located in Orcha. After leaving the hustle and bustle of Jaipur, Orcha was a welcome respite and location to recharge. While there, I discovered that the establishment is popular with locals for their wedding receptions. It was also there that I saw a most spectacular sunset.
The highlights of my adventure were:
- Seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra
- Visiting the Khajuraho Temples in Khajuraho
- Standing on the ground where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon in Sarnath.
- Taking a boat ride before dawn on the Ganges River in Varanasi and watching the sunrise.
In travel, as with everything else in life, one must take the positive with the negative. Two lowlights of my trip were the ubiquitous touts, and despite my great care to only eat at recommended restaurants, getting an attack of diarrhea my final night in Delhi.
If you enjoy shopping, India will not disappoint. From quality handmade clothing textiles and home furnishings, to traditional jewelry, music CDs, and exotic teas, you are bound to find some unique mementos to remind you of your trip. The pictures of the jewelry, rug, and embroidered wall hanging, are a few treasures that I acquired on this vacation.
The success of my journey, to a large extent, was due to the exceptional services of my guide, Mr. Shastri. A gentle and very knowledgeable man, Mr. Shastri accompanied me on my adventures from Delhi through Sarnath. His care and talent in bringing to life the history and traditions of his culture left me with very fond memories of his homeland and a desire to return. That’s why I am thrilled that he is going to talk with us. As an additional treat, we will also hear from his compatriot, Nurse Shiny, next week. She will focus on Medical Tourism in India.
CT: Welcome, Mr. Shastri! Please, tell us about yourself.
I have been working as a tour guide in north India for the last 42 years. Tourism is my passion and I am committed to providing my guests with the best possible service. Regularly, I have been assigned by the Dept. of Tourism to speak with their VIP guests and been invited to give lectures to their guide training programmers. Also, I have been invited by the government of India to lecture in their tour operator courses.
My hometown is Jaipur. It is the capital city of Rajasthan state in North India. Jaipur city was founded by the super genius king of his age called Sawai Jai Singh. His genius is truly reflected in his town planning and his astronomical observatories in India. Jaipur was the only kingdom among 530 kingdoms of India that had not seen war for the last 1000 years. So, it remained peaceful and prosperous.
CT: What inspired you to become a guide?
The opportunities to explain India’s glorious past to visitors and learn about other countries inspired me to become a guide.
CT: What do you enjoy most about giving tours?
I enjoy the exchanging of information with, and learning from my clients, their views on our beautiful art and architecture.
CT: Which country or continent do most of your clients come from?
Most of my clients come from the U.S.A. They are primarily scholars, retirees and professionals.
CT: Could you please tell us what are the three most popular India travel destinations of your clients?
The three most popular travel destinations are Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. In Delhi, you will find a mix of culture – a superb synthesis of the modern with the antique. Agra is home to the magnificent marvel in marble, the Taj Mahal; Jaipur, is the most planned city of the early 18th century and also a reach center for the arts and crafts of North India. This circuit is commonly called the Golden Triangle.
CT: If travelers had only one week to visit your country, where would you recommend they go and what activities should they do?
If travelers have only one week in India, they should visit Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. They should visit all monuments, do heritage walking tours and if possible, visit the arts & crafts centers in the area.
CT: What advice would you give to first time travelers to India that could enable them to have a positive experience?
I may advise visitors to wear conservative dress, and not to take photos of any person engaged in private activities without first availing their permission.
CT: How can travelers contact you?