Loryn Holmes, a 39-year-old Regional Sales Manager for Pentravel, Kwa-Zulu Natal, threw herself into the unknown when she embarked on a trip to India together with her mother.
When the opportunity presented itself to travel on a Trafalgar guided holiday, Loryn thought: ‘Why not?’
“I asked my mom, who is in her sixties, to come along. We have made several trips together, and she is my favourite travel partner, as she is not afraid to try something new or different.”
For two weeks in August and September, the pair discovered the Northern Treasures of India and Mumbai.
“We flew into Delhi from Dubai, and were there for 3 nights, before heading to Agra to see the Taj Mahal,” Holmes recalled. The tour included 3 nights in Jaipur, the Pink City and 2 nights in the peaceful village of Narlai. Another 2 nights were spent in Udaipur, before a short flight to Mumbai for the last two nights of the trip.
“While my perceptions weren’t incorrect in some ways, India challenged them in that nothing is ever black and white. In one of the most colourful countries I’ve ever visited, my eyes were opened to the beauty and colour that exists in so many intricate details and moments.
"The country is so much more than just its statistics and reputation," Holmes continued.
She said India’s cities were a kaleidoscope of colours. In Jaipur, the group visited the rose-tinted City Palace, which is still home to the former royal family. “The Hawa Mahal, built to give the royal ladies a glimpse of life beyond the palace walls, looks like a giant five-storey honeycomb, pink of course," Holmes recollected.
“One of the highlights was the culture and how warm and inviting people were. And let’s not forget the series of adventures that people go on. Simply attempting to cross the street, or braving the many transport options, is an adventure.
“There are tuk-tuks, ox-drawn carts, rickshaws [that are always being pulled by the skinniest males on bicycles], cars, motorcycles, people and animals… We were in a tuk-tuk in Udaipur that had to navigate an elephant in the street. There are no lanes, and everything that can hoot is hooting its horn. But, somehow, it all works,” she said.
Kite flying is a favourite hobby in India and Holmes explains, there is even a national holiday dedicated to the pastime. She encourages people to visit the Langar in Punjabi that feeds 40,000 people a day. She said it was for everyone, from that wealthy businessman to a job seeker.
Shopping is another highlight. "I was told to go with an empty suitcase. The clothing is beautiful, and for around R300 you can have a beautiful cotton shirt made and delivered to your hotel four hours later. I would recommend Jaipur for the fabrics and the tailors, and Delhi for spice shopping."
If Holmes had to choose just one highlight from the trip, it would be the Taj Mahal.
“I can’t explain the emotion that came over me when I saw it with my own eyes. I think you need to know the story behind it too. Make sure you go early,” she added.
Tips you need to know:
1. Carry local currency in small denominations (10, 20 or 50 Rupees). Tipping is expected for most service-related functions.
2. Carry tissues or toilet paper.
3. Be open to negotiating your best price, but don’t be rushed into making a decision.
4. Pack medication for cases of Delhi Belly(a form of diarrhoea).
5. Never accept ice in your drinks.
6. Set off with an open heart, expect the unexpected and be prepared to have your sixth sense come alive!
There are no direct flights to India out of South Africa, but there are good connections with one stopover operated by major airlines such as Emirates.