Why the Golden Triangle in India is Worth a Visit
There are many great triangles in the world; cheese triangles, the triangle from Zelda, Toblerone, but my personal favourite is the Indian golden triangle. In case you were living without Wifi on a desert island, it’s a typical travel passage in a somewhat shape of a triangle consisting of the three cities Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
Dehli life is the hard life
Even before I got out of the airport, I could sense what I was getting myself into. Overcrowded, dirty and full of flies and mosquitoes with the delightful odour of bleach and raw sewage, it was fabulous!
I left the airport fairly late at night in search of a hotel. Unfortunately, instead of a hotel I accidentally came across a street where a bunch of guys were taking a crap, “is this the welcoming committee?” I thought. The flashlight on my phone was on and I meticulously walked around like it was a minefield.
As with entering any new city, a walking tour is the first thing on the agenda only this one was spearheaded by kids, that’s right, kids. On the main streets of Paharganj and within the area of the railway was where the tour starts. The kids taking us around use to work and live in this desperate neighbourhood. They were often taking moments to give us a glimpse into their world. I never knew to the extent that there were so many homeless children in Dehli but the organisation that developed the walking tour (known as Salaam Baalak Trust) provides shelter, food and support to the children.
It’s not only kids that suffer from the extremities of Indian’s outdated caste system. I went on the Art of Hope tour which sounded strange at first, but once our group walked underneath the Shadipur Depot bridge, there was a community of 800+ struggling artists living in a slum (known as Kathputli Colony). They were magicians, acrobats, mime artists, puppeteers, jugglers, folk singers, and traditional dancers. It was mesmerising, to say the least, but also very humbling.
Other tours I went on:
- Slum tour. You can go on a walking tour of a Delhi slum. I thought it would seem depressing, but I was overwhelmed at how happy and friendly many of the residents were. Some locals hadn’t even seen the white people before (except maybe from Hollywood movie posters). Therefore some of my group members became instant celebrities to the local.
- Delhi by cycle is the brainchild of a Dutch journalist. The bike tour can take you through old and new Delhi, however, it starts very early (around 6.30 am).
I also heard from a local to visit Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah but only on Thursday. I discovered many devotees of the ancient saint singing which put me into a trance for a moment. Apparently one of the families there has been performing at the spot for hundreds of years.
There was so much to do in Delhi but my time was limited, so I moved on to my next location, Agra.
The touristy allure of Agra
Even though pretty much everyone knows about the Taj Mahal, they don’t know where it is located. Well, I know I didn’t. When I was in Delhi, an experienced tour guide informed me that many travellers only go for a day-trip. They just want to see the Taj Mahal I assume. Since I’ve come this far then I should stay a little longer.
I was giddy with excitement to take a peek at the Taj Mahal (It’s closed on Friday). I visited it just before sunset, so I could enjoy the view and take some awesome photos (who wouldn’t). There was also a handful of yoga enthusiasts performing outside which was refreshing to witness. It reminded me of Flow, a guy I met in Bangkok. The view made me forget about the scary train journey to Agar sat next to a snake charmer and the annoying local scammer at the train station.
Anyway, the Taj Mahal is a significant emblem of not only Agra but to India as a whole. It attracts two million visitors a year, and for a building complete in 1653, it looks in great shape.
While some tourists will visit the Taj Mahal and then abruptly leave, I came back to Taj Mahal the next morning. I planned to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, it was cloudy. I moved on to Agra Fort. This iconic monument is around 2.5 km from the Taj Mahal and was originally a brick fort with four gates, one of which opens to the river. A few of the gates were closed to the public except for Amar Singh gate.
I decided I needed a break from all the stationary buildings and wanted some action which I found at the Kinari Bazaar. There was a heap of traditional garments for weddings and special occasions, and they weren’t even expensive either. Anything from sherwanis to turbans was showcased as I casually walked through. Most times when I travel, I prepare myself to bargain with the merchants, but on this occasion, I felt it wasn’t even necessary.
As you can imagine, hours of shopping around took its toll on me. Super hungry but I was still feeling adventurous. I came across a sign that read in English “Mughlai Cuisine”. “Hmm, what is that?” I entered, inside a small yet vividly coloured restaurant. With live music, bamboo decorated walls and candlelight, I felt relaxed and ready to try the cuisine. It was phenomenal, serving signature dishes such as Dal Makhni, Tandoori Chicken and Butter Chicken.
The last place on my itinerary was the tomb of Akbar in Sikandra, 8km from the city centre and also close to the tomb of Miriam (the wife of Akbar). The tomb had a fascinating design that I had never seen anywhere else, enhanced further by red sandstone and white marble. Inside of the building was cold and dark. Too dark that made my tour guide accidentally reset my sixty freaking four GB memory card. I lost every file on my camera. Luckily I still have few photos and videos on my phone and uploaded some of them to my social media already. He ruined half of my trip, but life must go on.
Agra also hosts an exotic safari in the Chambal River area, home to over 242 species of birds and even dolphins. You can go through the safari on a jeep, by camel, or cruise down the river. Around 6.00 pm, I arrange a meeting with Vidit, a local friend I met on InterNations. He’s a really nice young businessman who never leaves the country. I hop into his car, we exchanged minds, and discuss social problems in India. Vidit gave me more information about Indian culture. I thank him so much for that.
Last on the list, Jaipur, and it’s surprising nightlife
To end my trip and close the triangle, I ventured to Jaipur. Leaving Agra by car gave me a chance to stop by in Fatehpur Sikri. It is about an hour away from Agra. Basically, it is a royal holy complex. A local tour guide told me that King Akbar had four wifes, but none of them was able to give him a child. He then met Salim Chishti, a 16th-century Sufi saint, to get his blessing. Couple months later Miriam, Akbar’s 3rd wife got pregnant. Akbar then built royal palaces to him and his four official wifes in Fatehpur Sikri. Read more about Akbar here.
The first spot I visited in Jaipur was the Jal Mahal. I went to the Jal Mahal during sunrise even though I’m not a big morning person. The vibrant and exotic architecture was divine, and my eyes glistened in awe like something from an anime comic. My time there was short as I had planned a few other things during my visit, so I moved onwards to Nahargarh Fort.
What’s the best way to explore the Nahargarh Fort you might ask? Is it by tuk-tuk, camel or cow? Well, actually, by bike. Cycling around gave me the opportunity to appreciate the combined styles of both India and Europe that profoundly influenced design of the fort.
Cycling was fun but I wanted to see Amer Fort, and I felt like if I walked any further, I could collapse. Luckily I found the elephants there, ones you could ride and not throw bananas to from a distance. The guide told me if I waited around long enough, I could watch a light show and that it’s in English.
For food and entertainment, I headed over to Chokhi Dhani. It’s sort-of village resort that offers puppet shows, magic shows, folk music, camel rides, elephant rides and well, anything else you can envision. The open-air restaurants were superb and gave me time to reflect on my day. I gorged on an exotic dish called Dal-batti-churma. They also offered other traditional dishes such as Mawa Kachori, Mirchi Bada and Ghewar.
The nightlife of Jaipur is reminiscent of the west and almost seemed contradictory to the city. If I really wanted, I could have partied all night long but it was too hot, and I was exhausted from exploring the city earlier. Karan, a friend of mine who is now working as a surgeon in Jaipur, invited me to local Bar. So I went to 100% Rock Bar which was exactly as it stated. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a mosh pit, especially one full of local Indians. Even though it seemed odd, after exploring the golden triangle and checking out all of the ancient buildings what better way to end my travel experience than with a boogie. Thanks Karan, it was an excellent night! I never knew you could sing really well. Hahahaha.
I arrived at my hotel around 10.30 pm. I went to bed directly. The next day, with the help of uber, I went to Jaipur airport around 05.00 am. Extremely sleepy but I managed to get to the airport around 05.45 am. It was just a small airport, and the check-in gate was only open 1,5 hours before the departure. Long story short, I off to Kathmandu via Delhi.
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