I have recently returned from a frantic week in India. I was last there two years ago for the first time, and whilst the itinerary was very similar there was one new destination and the trip was done in reverse. The other really important thing was that this time around I was not going to succumb to the illness that often besets travellers to India.
So why return only two years later to somewhere I have already been?
For a start, India never stops changing, and even if you have been to a city before there are always new things to experience. Seeing a couple of electricians attempt to fix the underground wires on the street in Delhi was a revelation. How they make sense of the spaghetti of wires is beyond comprehension.
Seeing Agra well made all the difference. Visiting what is affectionately known as the Little Taj was worth coming back for – 9 different kinds of decoration in the building complex, and a precursor to the techniques so magnificently realised in the Taj Mahal. The Agra Fort – magnificent in red sandstone and still a touch too warm to be comfortable, dominates everything and offers a distant view to the Taj Mahal. This is made more poignant by the fact that Shah Jahan could see but not visit his wife for the last nine years of his life because his third son with aspirations to the throne kept him prisoner.
The Taj Mahal, even second time around, does not fail to impress. Even with one tower under scaffolding, the beauty of the place is overwhelming. In the early dawn light, it sparkles and glows. Our guide, Ash, told the story of the building of the Taj Mahal so well we were at the point of tears. It truly is a love story for the ages.
And sharing a home cooked meal with Sana and her sister Eben on a full moon night was a unique experience.
More on the rest of the trip later.