Exploring India, country of color and contrasts.
Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Cathy Alifrangis of Herndon.
Where, when, why: Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India. I was gone for 27 days in March and April. The first three countries were part of a ship voyage, but the real destination for me was India. I visited four cities on the coast (Cochin, Mangalore, Goa and Mumbai), the Golden Triangle (Agra, Jaipur and Delhi) and, finally, Varanasi. I have wanted to travel there for years but could never find another person interested. I decided to go by myself.
Highlights and high points: India is a country of color, noise and extremes that awaken all the senses. The contrasts were mesmerizing. I saw gorgeous buildings and shacks of extreme poverty. The remnants of colonization were everywhere, but the spirit of the new India was pervasive. People wearing saris or the dhoti side-by-side with those in Western dress. New Delhi was clean and modern; the other areas begged for garbage trucks. I see the country
evolving; I just hope it doesn’t lose its charm.
Cultural connection or
disconnect: I stayed in a room in the Marigold Hotel near the Ganges River. Because of the popular movie, the name caught my eye on a travel site and the positive reviews cemented the choice. When I emailed Sonu, whose family rents the rooms on the upper floor of their home, he said he had a room with a balcony facing the river and another with no view. I chose the former. He said over and over it was more money. I started rethinking my decision. He was quoting rupees, with a difference of 100, but I thought it would still be worth it. When I checked the conversion, the difference was $10 versus $8.75. What a bargain!
Biggest laugh or cry: On the first day in Varanasi, as my guide showed me around, I kept my eyes on the ground so I would not step in the everpresent
cow dung. The next morning, I went for an early morning walk and couldn’t find my way back because I hadn’t looked for landmarks — just cow marks.
How unexpected: Everyone looks forward to seeing the Taj Mahal. Although I thought it was a beautiful building with a wonderful love story, I was much more impressed with the Red Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, the Amber Fort, all the temples and pagodas and life along the Ganges River. Each of those had so much history, culture and art behind them that I revisit the pictures and my notes often.
Fondest memento or
memory: The Ganges River with all its happenings, from bathing in the morning, the spiritual ceremonies and the ongoing cremations, was the highlight of my visit. One day on a boat ride, a peddler offered me a very small brass pot. I filled it with water from the river. It will hang by a red ribbon on my Christmas tree for years to come.
Gardens inside the palace of of the Amber Fort in Jaipur, India, which Cathy Alifrangis found every bit as magical as the TajMahal.
Cathy Alifrangis explored Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India, where she got to take home drops of the Ganges River.