Ex­plor­ing In­dia, coun­try of color and contrasts.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - To tell us about your own trip, go to wash­ing­ton­post.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fond­est mem­o­ries, finest mo­ments and fa­vorite pho­tos.

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.

PHO­TOS FROM CATHY ALIFRANGIS

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.

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