India – Amritsar, Golden Triangle & Varanasi

It’s been over a decade since our last visit to India so we were way overdue for a return trip. We didn’t cover too much new ground because we were traveling with family who were visiting India for the first time. But since we last visited the “Golden Triangle” (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) back in 2003, we didn’t mind retracing our footsteps. However, we did manage to squeeze in a visit to a new destination which has been on our bucket list for way too long – the fabled city of Amritsar, the largest city in Punjab and home to the Golden Temple and Wagah Border Ceremony – a not to be missed spectacle between India and Pakistan!

Our 13 day itinerary was action packed – 6 cities, 3 train rides, 6 hotels, 1 boat ride and 1 domestic flight. Our group size ballooned up to 11 people, which was a bit challenging at times but we managed to keep our cool. Highlights were

1. Rickshaw ride through crazy Chandni Chowk, Delhi
2. Golden Temple in Amritsar
3. Wagah Border Ceremony in Amritsar
4. Amber Fort in Jaipur
5. Ruined city of Fatehpur Sikri
6. Taj Mahal – there’s a reason why its on every itinerary to India!
7. Naughty XXX rated carvings of Khajuraho’s temples
8. Evening aarti by the Ganges River in Varanasi
9. Shopping for fantastic bargains at Janpath Market, Delhi (be sure to haggle which is part of the fun)

Two weeks in India was enough to make us appreciate the serenity and calm of Saigon – we forgot how frenetic traffic in India can be! And the food…let’s just say Indian cuisine isn’t as varied or tasty as Vietnamese food. Overall, this was an adventure that no one will forget anytime soon. A fifth trip to India will definitely be in the works for us – perhaps Kerala, Goa, Kashmir or Ladakh?

Creating an India itinerary in Vietnamese helped Becky’s family prepare for their first visit to this magnificent country.

Our itinerary (booked through was supposed to be the following (but we ended up modifying it to suit our needs):

Day 01: Arrive Delhi. Check into Good Times Hotel (near Karol Bagh metro station)

Day 02: Delhi sightseeing tour. Visit Raj Ghat (the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi), Shanti Vana (the cremation site of Jawaharlal Nehru) and Jama Masjid. Afternnoon visit to Qutub Minar (built in 1199), Humayun’s Tomb, India Gate and Lakshminarayan Temple (a modern Hindu Temple). Overnight at Good Times Hotel.

Day 03: Delhi – Amritsar. Take train to Amritsar. In the afternoon visit Wagah Border to watch the flag ceremony between India and Pakistan. Stay overnight at Comfort Inn Alstonia.

Day 04: Amritsar – Delhi. Visit the Golden Temple – a “mecca” for Sikhs. Then visit Jallianwala Bagh, infamous site where British and Gurkha soldiers opened fire on an unarmed gathering on April 13, 1919. After lunch visit Maharaja Ranjit Singh Summer Palace Museum. Afternoon transfer to railway station for train back to Delhi. Overnight at Good Times Hotel.

Day 05: Delhi – Jaipur. Drive 260 km to Jaipur. Overnight at Park Ocean Hotel (swimming pool).

Day 06: Jaipur. Visit the Amber Fort, ascending by elephant. Afternoon sightseeing tour of Maharaja’s City Palace, the Observatory and Ram Niwas Gardens. Overnight at Park Ocean Hotel.

Day 07: Jaipur – Agra. Drive 240 km to Agra, stopping enroute to visit the ruined city of Fatehpur Sikri, a fine example of Mughal architecture dating from 1571 – 1585. Overnight at Pushp Villa Hotel.

Day 08: Agra. Visit the Taj Mahal, a magnificent marble building that took 22 years to construct. After breakfast, visit the Agra Fort. Overnight at Pushp Villa Hotel.

Day 09: Agra – Jhansi – Khajuraho. Take early morning train to Jhansi. Meet representative and drive 180 km to Khajuraho. Visit the famous temples of Khajuraho. Overnight at Khajuraho Temple View Hotel.

Day 10: Khajuraho – Satna – Varanasi. After breakfast drive 116 km to Satna railway station. Take train from Satna to Varanasi. Overnight at Zeeras Hotel.

Day 11: Varanasi. Early morning sunrise cruise at the river Ganges followed by Ghats temple tour. After breakfast, visit Sarnath Deer Park. Enjoy a river aarti in the evening by the Ghat. Overnight at Zeeras Hotel.

Day 12: Varanasi – Delhi. Midmorning flight back to Delhi. Free time in Delhi for sightseeing or shopping. Overnight at Good Times Hotel.

Day 13: Delhi. Free day for sightseeing or shopping. Evening flight back to Saigon.

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