We usually fly out of Qatar during February. For the longest time I’d wanted to visit India, having grown up with the amazing imagery from films like A Passage to India and the TV series The Jewel in the Crown. Although I’m not a misty eyed imperialist hankering after a lost empire — in fact I find our history to be a mild embarrassment in this part of the world — I definitely wanted to see some of the country for myself.
The Golden Triangle links the capital Delhi, with Agra and Jaipur. We organised our own trip through Golden Triangle Tours and flew direct to Delhi from Qatar. Golden Triangle Tours took care of the hotels and the driver for the trip and having breakfasted in Delhi we set off for Agra (about four or five hours).
The Taj Mahal is almost a cliché, but as the afternoon sun slowly sank lower in the sky it didn’t disappoint. In fact the Taj Mahal is only one of several palaces you’ll see if you visit the general vicnity. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s very busy, although our guide was able to show us a number of spots where the crowds were less oppressive.
Wandering around the site as the sun set, it was undoubtedly beautiful, with the stone reflecting the subtle changes in the colour of the sky as dusk settled around us.
Next stop (we were only in India for four days), was Jaipur. The air was much clearer in Jaipur and the crowds less suffocating. There is an abundance of palaces to see here, and our guide took us to the Red Palace which was really as quiet as the photograph opposite suggests. Jaipur was the highlight of our visit, with beautiful scenery, magnificent architecture and a mountain palace to boot.
We accidentally stumbled across the site opposite on our way from Jaipur back to Delhi. A small reservoir of water lay in a tank deep inside an intricately constructed well, with steps laid out in an intricate geometric pattern. It was a stunning piece of architecture which we felt very fortunate to visit.
Sometimes the most interesting moments on a trip come when you’re least expecting them.
Jantar Mantar is an observatory with a huge number of buildings constructed to align with astronomical objects.
My wife’s family claim a lineage to the Astronomer Royal who commissioned the attempt to accurately measure longitude, Nevil Maskelyne — so this visit was a must.
It is a truly spectacular site, the umber sculptural shapes contrasting with the bright blue sky and rich green foliage that surrounds and envelops the park.
There are a total of nineteen astronomical instruments in the park, which was completed in 1734.
There are lots of information boards that will help you to make sense of the various intricate designs. I had to keep reminding myself this was an eighteenth century construction as it had something of the air of a modern concrete skateboard park — odd but true.
Jantar Mantar is a reminder that buildings can perform functions beyond containment and shelter. An interesting and thought provoking location that’s well worth a visit.
When in India you are going to be confronted by poverty. As you drive by, the towns and villages are frequently bleak and depressing with obvious signs that people live in grinding poverty.
There’s a great deal of pollution too, with plastic waste being a particular eye sore.
When we arrive in Delhi it was late at night. It appeared to be foggy, with a faint mist in the air even inside the terminal. Once outside we thought there must be a fire burning nearby because the air has a distinct smell, not unlike woodsmoke.
We woke up in the morning and looked out of our window to discover that what we’d experienced was in fact the notorious Delhi smog. Unfortunately the combination of smog and general pollution detracted from the other aspects of our visit. India seems to be amazing country, but a visitor to this part of India must be prepared to deal with very poor air quality and frankly appalling levels of plastic waste.