This blog is my first documented TaoWander journey of my recent trip to India from March 1 till March 16, 2018. When I planned this trip, India was calling me, especially the urge to experience the naturalistic side of India. The mystic in me will always love India and its deep spiritual roots, but this time I also wanted wildlife eco adventures – especially to see the Bengal Tiger! Thus, I made many efforts to create an wildlife and spiritual travel itinerary which was adventurous, nature-loving and deeply mystical. I have created a series of videos on this India adventure. Visit my youtube channel and get more playful coverage of this trip, starting with Mumbai and Goa. (More videos to come)
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
As J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote “Not all who wander are lost…”, this is the journey of wandering into beautiful areas of India from a naturalist perspective. One of the things that I love about travelling is how it changes your thoughts and literally re-wires you from the inside out. Instead of brooding over global bad news of who is beating who with what, instead I am focused on the now, being, and sending out thoughts of love to the world. The media we live in, is the world we create. I want to co-create a beautiful and sustainable world and be here now.
The trip started with me leaving San Francisco and heading to Munich, where I was about to be reunited with my dear German friend, Micha. We originally met aboard a Pullmantur cruise across the Atlantic Ocean in October of 2017. I had joined the cruise through a “digital nomad” group. He was there taking time off of work for 3 months to visit South America (as the final destination was Panama). Our fates collided and we became fast friends.
After the cruise ended, we spent some time in Panama together and realized that we were great travel companions. I headed back to the USA and he went on to continue his journey in South America and eventually back to Germany. We stayed in contact during his journey and within a few months, we decided to meet and go to India together. This is the record of our amazing experiences we had along the way. Below is the map of where we went. We travelled to 6 cities, starting in Mumbai, then to Goa, Varanasi, Jim Corbett National Park (near Ramnagar), Jaipur and Agra.
A Note On Travelling Light
I am making a note of this as to do this type of travelling, especially considering some of the places we stayed, travelling with less luggage is best. Last year when I went to Barcelona and then across the Atlantic on the cruise, I chose to bring only a carry on size roller backpack and a regular backpack. Travelling this way is absolutely wonderful! If you don’t want to check your bags, you don’t have to and can make your trip much easier.
Also, in at least one place we stayed, there was only stairs. Now, certainly at full service hotels, they will carry the luggage for you. However, it feels a whole lot better to travel light to begin with – a lot less to lose and easier to maneuver overall. As Micha had already backpacked for 3 months in South America, he already knew it was best to travel light with his backpack.
March 1, 2018 Arriving In Mumbai
We arrived at 7am in the morning after a 6 hour flight from Istanbul via Munich. We noticed the lack of air quality and smell immediately, even before we got off the plane. This has been a problem in India for awhile as I remember it from Delhi 2 years back. Although coming into the polluted grey skies of Mumbai was not so pleasant, it was nice to see that they are making improvements. They are moving people up off the streets of Mumbai to single family dwellings apartment style. I am in favor of this movement and change! Helping people to get off the streets will help shape Mumbai into a thriving community. I am very much looking forward to see it blossom and watch tourism grow.
The Vibe Of Mumbai
Our uber driver to took us to the Retreat Hotel and Convention Center near Versova beach. On our way to the hotel there were many other cab drivers, scooters, motorcycles, tuk tuks, cows, donkeys, chickens, birds, children, people of all kinds – it was a busy and engaging city. (Note: Uber is available in Mumbai and other big cities, but not all cities. Sometimes its just easier to take a tuk tuk or taxi)
The hotel was nice from the outside and it appeared to be in a fairly nice part of town. I will say that there is obvious water damage and moisture problems at this hotel which I am sure they are aware of, as it seems to be a consistent problem in Mumbai due to the high humidity. We were so grateful to arrive in India, but both of us were tired, so we ate breakfast and then went for a nap, which turned out to be a long sleep of 6 hours.
Adventures in Sim Cards
We awoke around 3:30 pm and thought it would be good to get up and try to find a sim card for our phones so we could use our phones in India. This turned out to be quite a challenge. I had read another blog post a while back that said that “airtel” was the best one to get a sim card from, so we went in search of this.
After about an hour and a half of looking we eventually found an airtel which said they could furnish us with sim cards. The only thing was they needed a passport photo to go along with the paperwork. So, we had to leave the store and walk a block or two to get photos taken of us. Although this was quite annoying, we got the photos and came back in time for us to get the sim cards (as stores were closing at 6:00pm). They told us it would take 24 to 48 hours for the cards to activate. I left mine out, so we could still use my existing Verizon coverage and Micha put in the India sim card in his. We felt good that we finally got the sim card issue resolved. Now we just had to wait.
Note: Unfortunately the sim card never worked for us and we ended up just using wifi and my verizon coverage along the way. It seems that in India you need to have India ID to get a phone or a simcard – not very convenient or helpful for tourists. I hope there’s a good way to resolve this in the future.
We were hungry after all of this sim card adventure and found a great place for dinner nearby called “Bombay Barbeque”. It was rated fairly good on Zomato (an app commonly used in India for restaurant reviews).
Micha wanted non-veg and I wanted veg, so this worked out great for both of us. Generally speaking, in India, it is easy to find restaurants that offer vegetarian meals as there is a large population of people that do not eat meat. However, because of western cultures influence, there are a growing number of non-veg choices as well.
The service here at the restaurant was really good. They passed around appetizers every 10 minutes and all of the ones we tried were really good. They build a barbeque rack into each table so that the meat or veggies that are on skewers stay nice and warm. It’s really a nice way to eat and we enjoyed our meals thoroughly.
After our escapades in Mumbai searching for sim cards and eating dinner, we realized it was time to go to bed and get ready for the big Holi festival day tomorrow. We heard that most places close during Holi festival, so it is just a day of celebration. We were wanting to have a good sleep and be ready for the day.
March 2nd, Holi Festival Day
The significance of Holi festival is many fold, starting with the beginning of spring, forgiving and forgetting, and the celebration of love. Truly one of the best ways to enjoy spiritual travel in India is to jump right into a festival.
We woke up at around 8:30am and eventually made our way to breakfast at the hotel which was included with the stay. (I must say that this is a great option for hotels as it makes it easier and less stressful to find restaurants). The hotel offers a simple buffet style breakfast which we enjoyed. I especially enjoyed the fresh papaya and pineapple. However, they also had a curry here which was most enjoyable and light. I don’t generally eat curry in the morning, however, we were in India afterall!
After breakfast, we asked the front desk where was the best place to see the holi festival. They said that Axa beach was the best place, which just happens to be a 3 minute tuk tuk ride down the street. We were thinking, wow that was easy. Both of us had white shirts on, which we intentionally wore to see what would happen by the end of the day. 😊
We got our sunscreen on and headed to Axa beach. At first we thought, it was a bit quiet, but as we neared the actual beach, we could see groups of people and families scattered throughout. We stuck out like sore thumbs as both of us are 6 feet+ white skinned giants. However, this brought us a lot of attention from the locals who thought we were pretty cool to venture into their territory. The first group asked us if we would like to celebrate with them and applied pink chalk color to our faces in one strip.
We laughed and felt good that were getting colored. Having seen some of the Holi celebrations online, I was hoping we would definitely get more color. Sure enough, we just had to walk around a bit more and more groups and more families wanted to color us and take photos with us. It was such a sweet experience to be there and get colored.
After about 45 minutes of walking around at the beach, we decided to take a tuk tuk into the city to get a feel for Holi festival there. We were surprised to see not as much going on as we did at the beach. However, we continued to walk around and it wouldn’t take long for others to approach us and give us more color. Almost everybody that colored us, wanted to take photos with us too. I found myself smiling so much that it actually hurt because it truly was such a joy to be there at this time. Holi festival has long been a bucket list item of mine, so I felt gifted to have this experience.
Adventures in Un-Coloring Ourselves
Our flight to Goa was to leave at 9:00pm, but we wanted to make sure we got there early, so our Holi festivities ended at around 3:30 and we were able to clean up at the hotel (even though we had already checked out and had our luggage in storage).
It was wonderful to be able to clean up as we were quite COLORED from head to toe. We were super thankful to the hotel staff for letting us use the indoor showers for pool users.
We drove through very thick traffic to get to the airport. Holi festivities near Axa beach had grown considerably and it seemed that several people were quite intoxicated. Police were confiscating vehicles from holi festival seekers who were already very drunk. After about an hour in traffic, we were finally able to make it to the airport.
When we got there, we noticed a very large lineup to get into the airport as there is security at every airport just to get inside. You have to show proof that you will be boarding an airplane. We did not think of this before we left the hotel and thus had to scramble to get our boarding passes on our phone.
After about 15 minutes of struggle, we managed to go to Air India’s website and show our booking screen to the security guard who finally let us in. (Even if you can’t make boarding passes, at least always have booking information handy so that you can share with security guards at airports in India!)
We brought our bags to check-in and then went into the very pretty Mumbai airport. Of all the airports we visited in India, this was the largest and the prettiest. We went to the food court to eat as we didn’t have any lunch.
Is It A Cab Ride or Indy 500?
We had plenty of time to get onboard the plane, but it also arrived late by 1 hour. When I had booked the Goa part of the trip, I had not checked to see how close our hotel was to the airport.
Apparently, Goa is a big place and thus, I found out when we landed, that there was going to be another hour and a half to get to Mandrem, the place where our hotel called Beach Street Eco Hotel was located.
We were fairly weary and needed to find a cab to take us there, but were concerned that the hotel was not going to be open as they were not answering their phone at 11:00pm to take our call. However, the cab driver assured us that he knew the place and that there would be someone there to let us in.
The cab driver was wow… a race driver! However, he was the most accurate driving race car driver I had ever met. Imagine this… we saw a snake on the road and the car came to a stunning halt. I was so GRATEFUL for this because I adore snakes and their awesomeness. India stops for snakes! Of course they do, because the snake has a very mystical function, as seen in the image of Shiva.
Paradise At Last
When we arrived, I was grateful to see that there was indeed a person at the desk (outdoor desk) to let us into our room which was absolutely delightful. Although it was dark, and the lighting was soft, we entered what I considered to be paradise. The bed was surrounded by mosquito netting, as the room is made with bamboo and not sealed shut. Our room was situated with a waterfront view and it was spectacular to open it up the bamboo shutters to see the moonlight on the water. We had an exquisite rest that night with the sounds of the waves in the background.
March 3 to 6, Ecotour Experience in Mandrem, Goa
After all the excitement and hussle in Mumbai, it was so nice to unwind and “just be” in Goa. As this was definitely more of an ecotour experience, I was really looking forward to the naturalistic side of Goa, which included seeing dolphins in the wild.
We awoke to a glorious sunrise and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the café situated on the grounds of our Beach Street Hotel. I was feeling a bit snap happy with my Samsung NX300 camera, so went out and took some photos.
Truly, we enjoyed the days that followed with a lot of love and joy in the air. The beach town of Mandrem, Goa is very colorful. The vendor laid streets of Goa are lined with a beautiful assortment of locally made goods. Knowing how the glare can be on water, I was wanting to find some sunglasses, as the ones I brought disappeared. After perusing a few stores, I managed to find a pair of folding sunglasses for 500 rupees, which was a great deal and kept the glare out. I also managed to pick up a very beautiful light weight and beautiful dress for 500 rupees as well, which I later wore at the Taj Mahal. There is definitely some nice shopping here.
Eco Adventures and Wild Dolphins!
The water was so beautiful – very warm, perfect for swimming and temperate for feeling relaxed. I allowed myself to be fully immersed in her warmth and beauty. As I immersed myself, I was reminded of my favorite saying from the messages from water by Dr. Masuru Emoto “Love and gratitude”. I spoke these words to the water as I do to all water. I felt myself breath deeply and inhale a song of joy.
These waters have beautiful dolphins which we were able to see from our dolphin boat, which we got on the next morning. Having wildlife eco adventures here is so much fun! I hear that not all ecotravellers who seek dolphin excursions get see dolphins, however, we were very LUCKY to see them that morning! It makes me so very happy to see dolphins in the wild as I have travelled to different parts of the world just to see them. It was wonderful to see them in pure joy – feeding and enjoying the waters.
Wild Dolphins and Fish
The dolphins are different than others I have seen before, as they have an extra hump after their dorsal fin. We think it was the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin. However, as always, I was just as excited as usual to see them. We actually had 2 opportunities to witness dolphins that day. The first was in the morning starting at 6am for 3 hours. The next was at 6pm for fishing. We went on a local fishing boat (same boat we saw the dolphins with) to see how they fish.
At night the dolphins are out feeding as well as this is their dinner time. We could hear them eating the fish out of our nets right next to us. This doesn’t make the fisherman too happy. However, it made me happy to know that their nets are easy to swim through. My greatest concern is for their well-being as we are connected to them.
I have been advocating for dolphins for as long as I can remember. Their presence in this world gives me great hope. I believe that is also part of their symbolism to mankind, to provide hope when there is none. Many lives of men, women and children have been saved by dolphins. I believe our lives depend on them as they provide a song in the ocean, like their brothers and sisters, the whale. (Adventure note to self: swim with whales next)
That night we had a great dinner and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset. We are so very blessed to have such an experience of wonderful food in a romantic setting. Every day was truly a joyous experience. Goa was such a treat of sunshine, great food of many different cuisines, beautiful flowers, butterflies, fish and dolphins. I kept remembering the word “Anand”, which is the Sanskrit word for bliss.
March 6 – 9 The Spirit of Varanasi
Although leaving Goa was bittersweet, I was ready for the excitement and change of Varanasi, the holy city near the Ganges. We were leaving the ocean to head to the protected River Ganges, which is now considered a living entity, providing it with additional care and protection. This river expresses to me the word “love” and its message. Each day, morning and night, this river is blessed with song and movement at the ghats. I am forever grateful for this action because it sends a very clear message that sending blessings to water works. As much as the river is used for all kinds of things, it still remains the hope of India. The river Ganges is like the lifeblood of this country and I for one will always be thankful for it.
Incredible India in Varanasi!!! ❤🙏 Regrann from @in80daysaroundtheworld – This is why I love traveling… It brings moments you will never forget. Evening prayer at the holy Ganges in Varanasi, India. Thousands of people take part at several religious places across the river, called Ghats. Either on the border of the Ganges or in a boat. #incredibleindia #whyilovetraveling #feelingblessed #varanasi #ganges #holyriver #iloveindia #Varanasi #awesomeexperience #dreambig
Praying in India is seen almost anywhere. However, Varanasi seems to be the most obvious of places to see open prayer. To me, this is one of the main reasons tourists are drawn to this place is to witness this open expression of spirituality.
Visiting My Extended Family In India
I am blessed to have a friend who lives near Varanasi. His name is Kamal and he has a beautiful family in Bhadohi, which is an hour from Varanasi. Kamal is a fine area rug producer and I met him 2 years ago on a business trip.
When we landed in Varanasi, we found our luggage almost immediately. I peeked out the front window of the airport to see many men standing there waiting for people to come out. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kamal waiting there for us. It was such a treat to see him again! I saw big smiles and he was very happy to escort us to his car (which was a new Hyundai).
The cars in India are a bit different than they are in the US. Many different brands including Tata, Mahindra, and others. Most of the cars seem to be white, which is smart because the heat is reflected. The tuk tuks are mostly green and black, with some of the newer e-vehicles in green or blue. For quick inner city drives, we preferred the ride in the tuk tuk due to softer seating and better shocks. However, I do like the idea of the green vehicle. I am seeing an opportunity for someone to come in and make a better vehicle that is green as well as comfortable!
Big Improvements In Varanasi
After reconnecting with Kamal after 2 years, I was noticing a lot of improvements in Varanasi. It was cleaner – a lot cleaner! Kamal was mentioning to us that there have been lots of changes in the area with a big effort to clean up the streets. This seems to be an ongoing theme as it was happening in Mumbai as well. I felt a presence of life here that ilike no other I have ever visited.
I purposefully chose the hotel we got in Varanasi because I want to be where the action is. We definitely were located in the area where all the action is – Dashashwamedh Ghat, which is where the evening prayers are celebrated. The hotel is a good hike up the hill called “Palace on the River” and not for those who are challenged by heights or climbing stairs. It’s only a 2 ½ star place, however, the warmth and hospitality is 5 star.
Palace On The River
Two years ago, I stayed at Assi Ghat at the “Palace on the Ganges” and watched morning prayers. However, in all, I would go back to the Palace on the River because the prayer here is phenomenal and truly an impressive event! Also, the service at this hotel was much better. The Dolphin restaurant nearby is really nice and has a beautiful view of the river. The only downside is that you cannot get to it by car. You have to walk, but there is a nice little shortcut through the windy narrow streets that can get you there. I so enjoyed this place in every way. I loved watching all the animals and feeling such a great connection to the earth. It truly is a marvel that these prayers happen every morning and night. Watch the magic of our Varanasi experience below!
Learning About The Art of Rug Making
The next day we were treated royally with Kamal and taken to his factory in Bhadohi where he produces the fine area rugs. For those who don’t know the location of Bhadohi, it is situated approximately 45 km west of Varanasi. It also has the nickname of “Carpet City” as it is the largest hand knotted rug weaving industry in South Asia.
Micha had never seen this before and showed keen interest in the production of these fine rugs. We got to see everything from the hand-spinning of the wool, the dying of the wool and several different looms. It was truly a marvel to see it all in action. There is so much hand work that goes into the production of fine hand knotted area rugs. It appears that India is one of the strongest producer of hand made goods in the world. Kamal was eager to tell us of all of his new products and different materials they are testing out for production. If anyone is interested in the art of fine rug making, I can make this dream come true for you. 😊
The Buddha in Sarnath
The last couple of days in Varanasi were spent to see some spiritual sights including Sarnath and other temples. I know that India is doing a great job right now at cleaning up all of their tourist and spiritual sites which is awesome to see. However, I had to take a photo of this, which I thought was odd, but I learned later that the people of Tibet and China who believe in the “fat” version of Buddha, also believe in putting gold foil on the stupas. However, the Buddhists of India believe that Buddha was a thin man and thus no gold foil.
One of the most interesting things we saw and perhaps very deeply felt place was witnessing the burning ghat. Here is where they burn the bodies in a relatively open area for people to see. Oddly, there is no unusual smell other than the smell of wood. Our guide says this is because of all the preparations they do the body before they are burned which includes washing them with herbs and using special sandlewood in the fire.
Indian women are not allowed to come here as because of tradition as some have flung themselves into the fires while their husbands dead bodies burn. However, I was not the only white woman who visited the burning ghat. We were not allowed to film or take photos, except in certain spots, where he allowed me to take this photo below. It was however, a deeply felt and intense experience to see it. India seems to have deep respect for its dead. One thing I do remember is that if you were a child under five, a pregnant woman, a Sadhu (holy man) or you were bitten by a snake and you died, your body is not burned as you already have a ticket to heaven (with no reincarnation or karma). Those bodies are left adrift in the Ganges.
City of Organized Chaos
It was getting hot in India and we were moving slowly. However, it was truly an experience to cherish and remember. Watching the cow, the water buffalo, cats, dogs, donkeys, pigs, goats and people all moving about with little or no accidents is still a miracle to me. Varanasi is truly a city of organized chaos. I know many cities of India do this well. However, Varanasi is one of the craziest. There is always activity going on and so much of it is keeping an eye open for one another.
I Heart Cows
It should be noted that it was almost 2 years ago that I decided to give up beef. I knew that it was not doing me any favors to eat it and I was never particularly that fond of red meat. I knew that many cows were suffering needlessly (especially in Industrial farms) and for what? So we could clear another acre of forest in the Amazon? No. I will not be a part of this industry anymore. So, now I am very comfortable choosing to stay away from beef and be vegetarian. I am thankful to my first India trip to help me get on this path.
There were so many cows in Varanasi to look at and I witnessed many blessings to cows along the way. I truly enjoyed their presence so much on this trip. It was like seeing an old friend again.
March 9 Train ride to Moradabad and onwards to Jim Corbett National Park
We got to the train station at 9:00pm as our train was to leave around 10:05 pm. However, as it turns out, it was 3 hours late! Late trains are commonplace in India as we found out. Thank goodness we were on a sleeper train.
The train ride was to arrive in Moradabad in the morning by 9:00am, but we were late and didn’t arrive until 1:00pm! Our Jim Corbett guide was waiting for us there and found us right away which was a relief. Moradabad is a very busy city and it took us ½ hour just to get out of it.
Jeep Ride to Our Safari at Jim Corbett
Once we finally got onto the open road, traffic was better. An hour later we would arrive near Jim Corbett Park. We stopped once to get something to eat as it had been many long hours on the train without food. After a quick stop to eat, we changed vehicles into a Jim Corbett Jeep.
One thing that is consistent throughout any travel within India in a car, is that they drive fast and crazy! I could see many people, not having the stomach just for the car rides here, but for me, I just accept that I am in Gods hands and enjoy the ride. There are so many potential hazards in India, that you cannot count them all.
Entering Jim Corbett National Park
Established in 1936, Jim Corbett National park spans 1288 square kilometers. It is the oldest national park in India, maintained to protect the endangered Bengal Tiger. Entering the actual park is an interesting experience. I was told to get out of the jeep when we got to the gate with passports in hand. Then I had to manually log into a register book. I thought it was interesting how “old school” this was. No computers, everything done by hand (probably not much different than when it started in 1936). It took about 15 minutes and then we were able to go through the gate and begin our safari and wildlife eco adventures!
Our time was shortened due to the late train. We only had a few hours on this night and the full day tomorrow to see any wild tigers or elephants. It should be noted that seeing tigers in the park is NOT A GIVEN. In fact, many people stay for days or weeks at a time without seeing one! We knew this ahead of time and just decided to enjoy the ride and see what happens. I had my camera in hand and I was ready.
An Angry Bull Elephant
Within about 15 minutes of driving into the park, we bumped into a wild bull elephant with one tusk! Our driver, Nanu, had warned us that the bull elephants were very dangerous especially when they are alone. So he immediately backed up on the windy road to get out of his way. I could sense his fear and I was feeling the adrenaline of seeing a wild elephant. I could hear another jeep coming up and they stopped briefly as they wondered why we stopped. They decided to continue anyway and the bull elephant was still there charging them!
I felt like I was in a scene of Jurassic Park for a second, except instead of an angry T-Rex, it was an angry elephant. Still scary! Just watch youtube videos on angry elephants and you will see how dangerous they can be. That being said, I was thrilled beyond measure to see him and so thankful to see that there are wild elephants out there enjoying life.
Dhikala Rest House
Probably one of the best parts of this experience is that we stayed right inside the park at a place called Dhikala. This is one of the “rest houses”. I will say that for those who enjoy naturalistic experiences, this is the best. Just don’t expect the Hilton. The bed was as hard as can be and there were no clean sheets to be found. However, waking up to the exquisite morning dew and going for a safari jeep ride is exceptional!
It was surprisingly cold in the morning in the park. Thank goodness I had a sweater with me as it was surprisingly chilly. We saw a lot of deer in the morning as well as beautiful birds.
This is the sunrise I awoke to at Jim Corbett National Park in Ramnagar, India. Watch my video of this incredible experience at https://youtu.be/fbPkOmgh55I #indiatravel #traveltoindia #wellnesstravel #yogatravel #inspiredtravel #culturaltravel #elephants #india #ig_india #instatravel #instapic #awesomeexperience #spiritualtravel #spiritualexperience #ilovetravel #elephant #tiger #wilderness #wildtravel #incredibleindia #wildelephant #wildtigers #jimcorbett
Hiding In The Grasses
Searching for tigers can be a bit exhausting because you never know where you might find them. However, we found a group of jeeps that morning who had just spotted a mother and her cub together in the tall grasses. At first, I could not see them, but knew they were there, because everybody’s camera was out. Then after a little more searching I could see them. It was so exhilarating to see these beautiful animals in their natural territory.
I felt that our trip was turning out exceptionally well at this point! This was only our 2nd safari and we already saw tigers and a bull elephant!
After witnessing the tigers, they disappeared into the bushes and we went back to Dhikala for breakfast. Micha ended up eating quite light that morning because he felt that he had a bit of “delhi belly”. I was a bit concerned that this may cause him to not want to go on the afternoon safari. However, fortunately, it wasn’t severe. I did not have it and we had been eating the same. Sometimes, it is difficult to know what causes these things. However, we did manage to go on the afternoon safari.
It got considerably hotter in the afternoon as we trekked deep into the forest on the unpaved roads. There were plenty of deer, monkeys and peacocks as we tried to track a tiger. There were fresh footprints on the road, but for at least 2 hours no tigers.
Eye of the Tiger
I was starting to sing the song in my head “Eye of the tiger”, then, suddenly, we found a big group of jeeps ahead and sure enough, there was a tiger! She was sitting on the road. It’s like she’s saying “I own the road” (just like a cat). It was so wonderful to see her! I got a video of it and some stills.
There were other jeeps coming up behind us and there was a lot of commotion with all the jeeps wanting to see her. I found that almost as entertaining as watching the tiger! Eventually she moved from her spot and was walking into the grasses so we could get a closer look at her. She was so beautiful! I found myself loving every moment of her presence.
After enjoying her for about half an hour, we decided it was time to go. We needed to eat, clean up and change before we got on our train to go to Jaipur. Our train wasn’t leaving until 10:00 pm, but we wanted a chance to cleanup. We were really dusty from all the travelling in the open jeep on dirt roads. It’s all worth it for the chance to see wild tigers!
Winning the Naturalist Lottery
Although we had only spent 24 hours in the park total, we managed to see 3 tigers, 1 bull elephant and the range of monkeys, parrots, birds, peacocks, huge groups of bees and many mountains of termites! I would definitely consider this as winning the naturalist lottery. It was an amazing experience in a short period of time!
I would like to go back to Jim Corbett again one day as the joy of seeing a tiger and an elephant in its natural habitat was an ecstatic experience. Also, comparing the cost to Africa, this is far easier on the pocket book and an amazing experience overall. I am thrilled that India is taking care of this park and being mindful of it since 1936.
We were then taken to our hotel which we were able to cleanup. After resting a bit, we prepared for the long train ride to Jaipur from Ramnagar.
Thankfully, the train was right on time in Ramnagar and we were able to find our spot quickly. We hung out with some of the people next to us sharing stories and then went to our bunks to sleep.
March 12 Onwards to Jaipur
We woke up at around 7:00am and by that time, many people had already gotten off the train as we had passed Delhi. At around 10:00 am, we made it to Jaipur where our guide, Sanjay, whom I had met 2 years ago was waiting for us. It was great to see him again and make our way to our hotel called the Fortune Metropolitan. This is a 4 star hotel and had very nice rooms. Check-in was good and fast and we were on the 5th floor. After showering and resting a bit, we were ready for our next experience… Elefantastic!!
The Joy Of Elephants
This was my 2nd time at Elefantastic, a well known and popular tourist place to visit with domesticated elephants in Jaipur. The majority of these elephants at one time or another have worked in Jaipur or participated in weddings or other religious activities. Now they are situated at the sanctuary where tourists like us can learn about them, enjoy their company including feeding, painting, bathing and walking. This was Micha’s first time and I was so looking forward to witnessing the wonder in his eyes upon meeting them.
The name of the elephant we got to play with was Sampa, who is 46 years young. We had 3 hours of playtime with her. It was so much fun to feed her, paint her with chalk paint, wash and scrub her, get sprayed by her and later walk with her. Oh, and by the way, Sampa and the other elephants know and understand 2 languages: Sanskrit and Hindi! Therefore, if you are planning a visit with these divine creatures, I suggest that you learn a few words of love for them. “Pyaar” is love.
Up Close and Personal With Ganesh
These elephants are very well taken care of and we are highly appreciative of this! I went out of my way to find Elefantastic originally, because I had heard how many abuses were going on with elephants in India, but still wanted to have the experience of meeting them in this beautiful way. Rahul, owner of Elefantastic, has done a great job of keeping the elephants in great condition and treating tourists to a wonderful experience. They are still listed as a 5 star attraction on Trip Advisor and for good reason. If you are looking for an experience with domesticated elephants, this is a great opportunity to meet them up close and personal.
After 3 hours of fun, we were escorted to Rahul’s mother’s place for dinner. Yes, dinner is included in your experience, which is a nice touch because it is a home cooked vegetarian meal.
They also have a few pets, a pug and pet rabbit! You can see the trip advisor awards on the wall as well.
After this, we had Sanjay take us back to the hotel as we were ready for sleep.
A Trip To See The Famous Taj Mahal in Agra
Not many people get to see the Taj Mahal twice in their lifetime. However, the second time was much sweeter as Micha was with me and it was a delight to see the wonder in his eyes. It’s a 4 hour road trip to Agra from Jaipur (which constitutes part of the “golden triangle” Jaipur-Delhi-Agra). We were enjoying good weather, not too hot yet at around 32 degrees Celsius.
While we were there, we were quite popular and many Indian tourists wanted their photos with us. This also happened to me last time I was in India. If you are planning a trip to India, the Taj Mahal is really a must see as it’s one of 7 wonders of the world.
The Jungle Book Is Real
The next morning we planned to see 2 main attractions, the Amer Fort and the monkey temple, known as Galta Ji!
We woke up at a reasonable time and arrived in Amer at 10:00am to see the awesome sprawling Amber palace. This palace has the 3rd largest wall in the world. Its truly a beautiful place to explore. We chose to walk up the steps and not ride the elephants, as we wish to discourage that aspect of elephant tourism. Besides that, we got to see some cute goats along the way!
There are many wonderful blogs that document the beauty of this place, so rather than re-hashing it, you can read more about Amer Fort here. One thing is for sure, they did not build it for tall people like Micha and I!
It was quite hot that day in Jaipur, 36 degrees C. After a couple of hours at Amer Fort walking around, we felt quite exhausted. We opted to go back to the hotel to rest and use the pool until 3:00pm. On the way to the monkey temple we saw a lot more animals.
Galta Ji – The Monkey Temple
Yay, more wildlife eco adventures! Ok, this one is a little different than Jim Corbett. 🙂 Monkeys have long been one of my favorite animals. Maybe because they are a little unpredictable, but also because they are genetically very close to us!
This was my 2nd time here at Galta Ji and Micha’s first. The thing about this place that is so wonderful is that they are allowed to be and enjoy this temple. There is old history behind Galta Ji. It was built during the 15th and 16th centuries. It is a retreat for Hindu ascetics with the vaishnav Ramanuj sect. Although mostly abandoned, for the most part the monkeys maintain the place. 😉 Built between 2 mountains, there are numerous bodies of water which are considered auspicious by some. It has a very spiritual and playful feeling here.
This is what happens when you put a German and a Canadian together at a Monkey temple in India. Do you like my new hairstylist?
Birla Mandir Hindu Temple
One of the last tourist things we did in Jaipur was visit the marble Hindu temple called Birla Mandir.
This temple is absolutely spectacular and one of the things I truly adore about it is that it is a beautiful hand carved masterpiece. Some of the images on it are also very unexpected, like the ones below. We wouldn’t expect to see Jesus, Socrates and Zarathustra carved into a Hindu temple. However, it is a pleasant and welcome surprise to see here. This is one of the beautiful things about India, is the observation and acceptance of many religions. It is my understanding that a lot of Hindus accept Christ as a God-man, while also accepting that there have been others.
Major Improvements In Every Indian City
After travelling to India for a 2nd time, I can honestly say that it is one of my favorite places in the world to visit. Although there are things like heavy pollution in some cities, it is wonderful to know that they are making headway and pushing environmentalism to the next stage. With the return of the turtle on Mumbai’s beaches, and environmental movers and shakers like Afroz Shah, India is fast becoming a much cleaner place in the world. On top of that, their influence around the world pushes us all to make changes. They are also making serious headway with solar power!
It is my observation after visiting Varanasi and Jaipur again after 2 years, that the improvement is IMMENSE! Jaipur seemed dilapidated in 2016. However, now it is beaming with beauty. They are revitalizing buildings and making the city cleaner, pinker and changing laws about driving in certain areas of the city. For me, as a traveler, this is so delightful to witness!
The Time Of Our Lives Experiencing Wildlife Eco Adventures
I think it is safe to say that after our 15 days of this journey, we really got to see a wide variety of territory in India. We enjoyed the best wildlife eco adventures, experienced many holy sites as well as some beautiful, scenic and ecologically friendly places. We tasted a lot of different food as well which varied from south to north. It the last 2 days, I got a bit of the “delhi belly” and fortunately, due to great immunity, charcoal tablets and my desire to get well quickly, it passed quickly.
For anyone who has always wondered about travel to India, I highly recommend it. Also, consider taking a retreat, such as this luxury retreat in Kerala or if you want something a little more rustic and meditative, try this one in Goa.