We've been mostly in Rajasthan and Delhi. Delhi is not that great for sightseeing or hanging out. However we spent an afternoon in Raj Path, the park near the government offices. We lounged around in the heat along with the locals, and walked around the nearby politician houses which were heavily guarded and had beautiful, big, grassy yards. Delhi is very green (at least compared to China) and it made us feel relaxed.
Rajasthan is a state in India with a stunning concentration of important and beautiful historical sites. We've seen the Taj Mahal, Amber Fort in Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri, and the Jaiselmar fort. All of these sites have a lot of Muslim design, were very expensive to build, and were important historically. The pictures may express their beauty and scale better then I could write (although my pictures don't do justice to these sites, which are all top notch).
|The Taj Mahal. From 20090324_AgraTajMahalRedFortFatehpurSikri_Starred|
|The mosque at Fatehpur Sikri. From 20090324_AgraTajMahalRedFortFatehpurSikri_Starred|
|A mirrored palace at Amber Fort. From 20090325_Jaipur_Starred|
|Jaiselmar fort from a distance. From 20090327_RoopangarhFortJaiselmar_Starred|
In Rajasthan you also see many things Westerners have come to expect of India - women in beautiful, brightly colored saris; animals of all kinds (camels, elephants, donkeys, goats, buffalo) on the roads; cars next to rickshaws, next to men pushing fruit carts, next to camels pulling carts of wood, all packed in side-by-side on a tiny road.
Jaiselmar is a city built entirely out of Jaiselmar sandstone, so it's the same color as the surrounding desert, it's built on a small plateau, and it appears to emerge from the desert. It's beautiful. We did a mini camel safari here, and a tour of nearby villages. The village women were constantly at the wells drawing water. They lived in houses made of dung that have to be rebuilt every year after the monsoon. The women were always immaculately dressed in bright saris (it's apparently easy to snap the dust out of saris). Rajasthani women are said to have a hard life - they draw water from the wells in the morning, work in the fields during the day, and come home and cook at night.
There are many unhappy sights in India as well. It goes without saying that there is a great deal more poverty in India than in the US. There are a lot of child beggars. There are many skinny, frail-looking people here. There are many crowded streets in Agra, Jaipur, etc. with animal and human feces all over the street. A significant number of men here are crippled from polio or for other reasons.
We got some first hand experience with an Indian doctor (that's a horrible segway, but I don't have words to tie up the previous paragraph). I was suffering various side effects from anti inflammatories and my home doctor wanted me to see someone here. Seeing the Indian doctor was quite similar to seeing a doctor in the states, and he used to work at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He charged me $30 for the visit and my perscription medication was $2. Aside from the price the care was comparable to my American medical care and medical tourism is popular in India.
|Dr. Chawla's office in Delhi. aFrom 20090321_Delhi_Starred|
The problem with the above doctor was that he failed to mention that the medication he gave me increased my risk of diarrhea. Everyone I know who has been to India has had food poisoning. Nothing could have prepared me for our first 10 days. I had 10 consecutive days of diarrhea and stomach pains, probably due more to the medicine than India. Then Steve and I both ate an old paneer (cheese) dish that put us both in bed for a day and I vomitted 4 times. But it gets worse. Just when Steve got his appetite back, he got sick AGAIN from an old mutton kofta dish. He vomited 4 times.
Figuring out how things work here is incredibly difficult here because it's so different than the states. For instance I've felt sick and I've been hoping for a supermarket where I could find some reliable packaged food (i.e. well preserved food) that won't make me sick. But there are no supermarkets and there is very little packaged food. The limited packed food is sold in tiny stalls. (I suppose this means people eat mostly fresh food here, however Steve and I are learning first hand why food preservatives were invented in the first place). Wi-fi is uncommon here, and that makes trip-planning difficult. We can't find a good website for cheap Indian airline fares, which maybe because most Indians don't have internet at home. Finding flights to Kerala has taken us about 3 hours whereas in the states it would take about 30 minutes.