Yangon: Second Time Around

Yangon: Second Time Around

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.

Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar and is a place in which we spent plenty of time but saw barely anything at all. The reason: we both got sick and were recuperating in our hotel room for several days. When others would ask us about what to do in Yangon, we could never come up with much else besides the main sites – the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Sule Pagoda, the Independence Park…and that was about it. One of the sites I found on the map was the SOS Clinic, the medical clinic we visited along Yangon’s Inya Lake, which I remember very clearly. Because we rarely go back to the same place twice, we were looking forward to revisiting these places and reminiscing about our time here, albeit a more difficult period at the time.

We made an interesting arrival into Myanmar. Whereas we typically dock on the sea coast of the a country, we ascended the Yangon River for about three hours before we made our arrival at the port. We quickly noticed this changed when the water changed from that deep blue ocean water to a dark brown mucky water. This was due not to pollution but from the sediments the water brings up from the river as it made it was down the country. We would pass a long line of fishing boats, all perfectly lined up for nets to be linked between them in order to bring in the fish working their way down the river. The line was as far as the eye could see as we passed by them perpendicularly. These rickety boats were getting thrown around in the swells but were perfectly placed all the way to the horizon.

Arriving in Myanmar.

Arriving in Myanmar.

The Yangon River became almost a mile wide as we got closer to the port. On both sides of the ship, we could see green farmland and the occasional golden pagoda rising up from the land. Numerous other smaller fishing boats crowded the river, many coming a bit too close to the ship to where the captain had to sound the horn as a warning. As is normal, many voyagers crowded the bow of the ship in anticipation of arrival.

After arriving and clearing the ship, Chika and I were able to get on the first shuttle into Yangon. With traffic, it’s about an hour ride, and we got to the city around 6PM. We began our walk of rediscovering the city. There is the Sakura Building. This is where we got the sugar cane juice that maybe got us sick. We drank tea there once. Then we found the Cherry Guest House, where we spent so many hours during that week we were sick. And right next door was the Japanese restaurant that gave us refuge, comfort food and what felt like less risk in a time when our stomachs just wanted clean food.

We found a restaurant nearby that we found on Google Maps and had good reviews for the mohinga, a rice noodle soup. The place was filled mostly with foreigners, and when we were leaving, about 20 people from Semester at Sea were just making their way there. Shows the power of Google Maps and a few ratings on there!

Moginha, Myanmar's unofficial national dish.

Moginha, Myanmar’s unofficial national dish.

We walked down to the Sule Pagoda and the Independence Park. The Sule Pagoda has a traffic circle build around it, giving it an important feel but also a less intimate feel than the Shwedagon Pagoda which is so large and is outside the city center so that you don’t notice any traffic or outside noise. In the Independence Park, a place where we had spent some time relaxing, they were showing a movie on a large screen. This park seems to have been developed quite a bit since 2014. Nicely trimmed bushes were placed around the park. A life-size elephant sculpture was placed on the east side. And this was the happening place in Yangon, with food vendors and vendors selling glow-in-the-dark objects all over the place. At the vendor area, we stopped for a sugar cane juice, something we certainly enjoyed last time we were in Yangon. It is quite literally sugar cane crushed to squeeze out all the juice and served with ice in a pint glass. It is pure sugar cane!

Sugar cane juice.

Sugar cane juice.

We then visited the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of Myanmar’s most important Buddhist sites. We loved visiting last time and couldn’t pass up the chance to experience it again, especially at night. The golden pagoda really shines bright at night, and the sun is long gone which paves way for moderate temperatures, comfortable for walking around. The Shwedagon Pagoda was as impressive as we remembered. Like the Taj Mahal, many Burmese were visiting for the first time, and it’s fun to watch them marvel at the site, as well

From there, we made our way back to the bus stop and then took the shuttle back to the ship for the night. Chika was on duty for the next few days, meaning she is not able to get off the ship. Over the next three days, I decided to travel to the eastern part of the country to see the city of Bago and the Golden Rock temple, another major religious site in Myanmar.

Our final day in Myanmar, I did make my way back into Yangon to explore further. I really took my time walking around, ate a nice Indian breakfast of dosa, found an important pagoda that I had never seen before, and visited an NGO which operates as a fair-trade business. I really just wandered, relaxed, and saw what I saw.

Quail eggs on the street.

Quail eggs on the street.

The pagoda that I saw was the Botahtaung Pagoda. Located along the Yangon River, this pagoda is most unique with its hollow pagoda in which one is able to walk through. The gold plated walls are built like a maze, a beautiful air conditioned maze. In the middle of the day, when it’s 90 degrees and sunny, air conditioning never felt so nice. And you know how important a site is when it is air conditioned – it’s not cheap! Inside the temple is an impressive gold shrine which commemorates this pagoda, supposedly housing a hair from Buddha. Just around the corner are old relics that were placed inside this pagoda. While most had one barred cage around them for safety, I came to one case that had two large barred cages around it, signifying how important and valuable these hand-made Buddhas and Pagodas were. These contained large amounts of gold and are hundreds of years old. Outside the pagoda, back in the heat, I worked my way around the temple. They had a small pond there that literally had hundreds of turtles. And then I finally saw the bronze Buddha. This beautiful temple was well worth the visit, especially to have the chance to walk through the actual pagoda.

Botahtaung Pagoda and Temple.

Botahtaung Pagoda and Temple.

After this day visit, I took the shuttle back to the ship and was ready to depart for Vietnam.

Botahtaung Pagoda

Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda. Expensive items inside with the extra locks.

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda. Expensive items inside with the extra locks.

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Inside the Botahtaung Pagoda

Botahtaung Pagoda

Botahtaung Pagoda

Turtles!

Turtles!

Botahtaung Pagoda

Botahtaung Pagoda

Botahtaung Pagoda

Botahtaung Pagoda

Burmese pancakes.

Burmese pancakes.

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall.

Yangon’s City Hall.

Streets of Yangon.

Streets of Yangon.

Streets of Yangon.

Streets of Yangon.

Yangon architecture.

Yangon architecture.

Yangon's train station.

Yangon’s train station.

Shwedagon Pagoda.

Shwedagon Pagoda.

The guest house we stayed in on our first trip here in 2014.

The guest house we stayed in on our first trip here in 2014.

Departing from Myanmar.

Departing from Myanmar.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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Revisiting Myanmar

Revisiting Myanmar

In 2014, when Chika and I traveled around Southeast Asia for four months, one of our favorite places to visit was Myanmar. We spent about three weeks there, getting sick in Yangon, seeing the temples in Bagan, exploring the city of Mandalay, and hiking three days from Kalaw to Inle Lake. The country had so much to offer, and the warmth of the people made it fun to simply walk around in any city. At the time, Myanmar was just being discovered by travelers from Europe, and we had met very few Americans along the way. The country was closed for so long that people are just now discovering this place.

From the shipboard community of about 700 people, including students, faculty, staff, and Lifelong Learners, only a handful of people had visited Myanmar. Even most of those who have traveled to more than 50 countries had never been here. This meant that the three weeks we had spent there had made us some of the “experts” onboard. The several days leading up to our arrival in Myanmar, many people asked us to have lunch with them to talk about our experiences. We took part in many conversations around the ship about what we recommend doing and giving cultural tips. Chika even helped lead a seminar along with our Interport Lecturer, a banker from Myanmar, in which they gave travel tips to all who wanted to join (probably 300 attended).

One item that had changed in Myanmar is the intensity of the persecution of the Rohingya people in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, in the western part of the country. While we had heard a bit about what was going on in 2014, in August of this year, the government ramped up attacks on Rohingya Muslim communities. For years, the Rohingya had been forced into refugee camps. After a few Muslim attacks on a military traffic control, the government waged all out war against the mostly unarmed Rohingya people. They went into many villages and shot the men on the spot, raped the women, and burned their villages and crops. Over 500,000 Rohingya fled from their villages to refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh. The UN has called it “ethnic cleansing” sponsored by the Myanmar government.

Leading up to Myanmar, we had many talks and seminars about this terrible situation in the country. Because all this was happening in the Rakhine State, where there are no major tourist attractions, we knew that our shipboard community wouldn’t be in any danger. However, the government is the party that is killing and driving many people away from their villages, creating all the conditions in order for these people never to return. The money we pay for visas, government-run sites, all sales tax, that all goes to the government. Essentially, just docking in the country, and money we spend, at least a portion of that is going to the government. Some students believed we shouldn’t go at all. Some thought we should go so that we could learn about the country and educate others back home about what is going on. I sided with the former, wishing that we’d continue east a bit a dock at a country like Thailand.

When we arrived in Thaniwa, about 20 miles south of the city center of Yangon, a diplomat from the US Embassy came onboard and talked to our community about the history of Myanmar as well as the current events. He had fantastic information and many great thoughts. When asked more about where our sales tax money would go, he went into further detail about how the country is set up. Essentially, the military and the civilian government are two completely separate entities that seem to rarely communicate. The civilian government was elected in 2015 in fair elections, but the ever present military still has a strong control. The civilian government collects all taxes, and the military is a budget item for the civilian government. White we do know how much the civilian government is giving the military, we don’t know what the military is using that on in detail. The diplomat said that the country is on its way to democracy, a process they never thought would be easy. Although the military has done some horrible things, the country is going the right direction for a full democracy. The way to keep moving this forward is to keep the economy going up, and our money going to the locals who offer accommodations, food, souvenirs, etc., that all help the economy. In his opinion, which I believe is genuine, it is better to go and to help the economy and to also learn about the people and take stories home.

While we knew that we were set to go to Myanmar, it was still important to have these discussions. As a passenger on the ship, I had one of two options. I could either stay on the ship and spend no money in order to minimize how much was going to the government. Or I could use my time to visit some places in the country. I debated back and forth, and I ended up deciding to travel a little but to keep my spending to a minimum and to local businesses as much as possible.

In trying to continue finding the positives of going to Myanmar, one student probably said it best. “If we had diverted from Myanmar, no one would have cared to learn about the Rohingya people. Because we are going there, the discussions around these events have increased awareness to 700 people. Hopefully this translates to action.”

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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Kochi: The Heart of the Kerala Region

Kochi: The Heart of the Kerala Region

Our home, the MV World Odyssey, docked in Kochi, India.

Our home, the MV World Odyssey, docked in Kochi, India.

When I originally saw that we would be docking in Kochi, India, I fully expected that there would be nothing to see in Kochi. I had never even heard of the city, so I had no expectations whatsoever. As you might expect by the way I am starting this paragraph, I was pleasantly surprised by what I did find in Kochi.

Kochi is the largest city in the state of Kerala, located in southwestern India. It was actually the first part of India that was settled by Europeans, when the Portuguese colonized the area around the year 1500. You can still see the impact clearly in Kochi just by seeing the religious buildings in the area. Whereas most of India is Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh, 35% of Kochi is Christian. You see this with the cathedrals, basilicas, and churches around the city. I also heard that whereas most of India does not eat beef, as the cow is a sacred animal, many people in Kochi do.

I had about one day and a half to explore Kochi, including the first day on arrival and the last day before departing. All the time in between was spent on the Field Program to northern India I wrote about in the previous post.

The main part of Kochi is split into two different parts and islands: Fort Kochi and Ernakulum (the city center). Our ship was docked at Willingdon Island, which doesn’t have too much, so the easiest way to get around was by ferry. Our first day, Chika and I went along with several others to explore Fort Kochi.

Fort Kochi

A Hindu Temple in Fort Kochi.

A Hindu Temple in Fort Kochi.

Fort Kochi was once a small fishing village until the land was given to the Portuguese by the Rajah of Kochi (King). That’s when the Portuguese started to build, including building the actual fort in Fort Kochi. Later on, the British and Dutch built homes during their times of rule, and this has created a nice mix of architectural styles and traditions in the city.

To arrive to Fort Kochi, we simply walked about a ¼ mile from the ship to the ferry station. We all got on this old rickety boat that held probably 70 people. At a cost of about 25 cents, the twenty minute ferry took us to the station in Fort Kochi. Fort Kochi is the area of the city that is most visited, so there are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and shops in the area.

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi.

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi.

Some of the main sites included the Santa Cruz Basilica (a rebuilt version of the first church to be built in south Asia), the Chinese Fishing Nets, and the Dutch Fort. The Chinese Fishing Nets were especially cool to see. I will let Wikipedia tell you how they work:

“Huge mechanical contrivances hold out horizontal nets of 20 m or more across. Each structure is at least 10 m high and comprises a cantilever with an outstretched net suspended over the sea and large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights at the other end. Each installation is operated by a team of up to six fishermen. While such nets are used throughout coastal southern China and Indochina, in India they are mostly found in the Indian cities of Kochi and Kollam, where they have become a tourist attraction.”

We watched them in use, though it was mid-day when I imagine they wouldn’t be catching too much compared to the early morning or late at night. Just as Wikipedia describes, a team of several fishermen worked together to raise this large fishing net out of the water. They do it as quick as possible to pull up everything that is in the net at the time. The fishermen were selling the fish they caught right on the spot there, as they kept the unlucky ones in buckets. Just down the way was a market right along the water, where one can pick out a freshly caught fish and have it cooked right on the spot. I’d seen this in restaurants, but never in an open air market.

A nice spot Chika and I found for tea and snacks.

A nice spot Chika and I found for tea and snacks.

Being our first day on land after quite a hull from South Africa, we just wanted to walk. And walk we did. In the afternoon, I think we walked a total of about 8-10 miles, exploring all areas of Fort Kochi. We ended with dinner along the harborfront and watched small fishing boats come in with their catches, right alongside massive container ships bringing in goods from outside the country. Our first day was a fun one, simply walking around to see what we would see. The next morning, very early, I had left for the Field Program to northern India to see the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, and Delhi.

Ernakulum

Hindu Temple in Erkakulum.

Hindu Temple in Erkakulum.

I arrived back in Kochi the night prior to the ship’s departure, so I had one more day to explore Kochi. I decided to explore the area of Kochi called Ernakulum, the busiest area of the city with markets, plenty of stores, government buildings, Hindu temples, and more. One food I knew I had to try in India was called “dosa”, an Indian crepe used to dip into various sauces. It seems to be more of a dinner thing for most people, but with dedication, I was able to find it for lunch. And it was as good as I imagined, so I ordered a second one.

In Ernakulum, I found a local market for produce, fresh fish, meats, and more. I arrived somewhat early, so most of the vendors were still bringing in their products for the day. I enjoyed this, because people were too busy to really notice me walking by. Walking through markets as someone who is obviously not from there can be intimidating, so this was a nice change.

I wandered around the city, saw the local courthouse and its surrounding facilities, saw a colorful Hindu temple, and eventually found myself looking at a statue of the country’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, in the middle of a traffic circle. Throughout the day, I kept eating and eating. My only regret is that I didn’t have a larger stomach to try everything I wanted to try (this has been a pretty common theme from every country on this voyage)!

Next up, Myanmar.

Gandhi statue.

Gandhi statue.

Dosa, an Indian crepe.

Dosa, an Indian crepe.

Market in Erknakulum.

Market in Erknakulum.

Fort Kochi.

Fort Kochi.

Another ship coming in through Kochi.

Another ship coming in through Kochi.

Kochi.

Kochi.

Chinese fishing nets on the coast as we cruised into Kochi.

Chinese fishing nets on the coast as we cruised into Kochi.

Kochi.

Kochi.

Santa Cruz Basilica in Kochi.

Santa Cruz Basilica in Kochi.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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Exploring the Golden Triangle in Northern India

Exploring the Golden Triangle in Northern India

The Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds, located in Jaipur.

The Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds, located in Jaipur.

(Warning: this post encompasses four days in India. Because it was all part of the same tour, I have decided not to split it up into smaller segments. In other words, it’s long!)

As part of the voyage, Semester at Sea offers Field Programs for which anyone on the ship can sign up for and participate. Field Programs are essentially tours set up by a tour operator. There are over 200 offered throughout the voyage, and they range from sightseeing tours of the country’s most famous landmarks, to homestays in villages, to visits to local colleges or non-profit organizations. There is a great variety of types of trips, offering something for all travelers, and anywhere from a half day program to five days. The costs for these programs are not included, so students and faculty/staff pay for these out of their own pocket. The advantage of Field Programs is that one can experience so much in the short amount of time we have in the country, and many of the programs are experiences that would be difficult to organize by oneself.

For India, I was offered to lead the 4 day/3 night Field Program called “Classic Jaipur and Taj Mahal”, a trip that visits the Golden Triangle in northern India. The Golden Triangle, made up of Jaipur, Agra (Taj Mahal), and Delhi, are some of the most visited places in all of India.

Before the voyage, all staff and faculty were able to fill out an interest form of which Field Programs they would like to lead, known as a Trip Liaison. The staff/faculty is responsible for the safety and discipline of the students on the Field Programs. A local tour director always takes care of the ins and outs of the tour, but the Trip Liaison is essentially the Semester at Sea representative to make sure participants are safe on the tour. The benefit of being the Trip Liaison is that TLs receive half price for half-day trips and are completely comped for overnight trips (free travel!).

I was offered to be the Trip Liaison on three Field Programs: 1) Classic Jaipur & Taj Mahal (3 nights), 2) Trekking in Northern Vietnam (3 nights), and 3) Hiking the Great Wall of China (4 nights). All of these last for a majority of the time we have in each of these countries, so most of my experiences will be on the Field Programs. A downfall is that it means I won’t be able to independently travel in these countries, but the plus side is that it is a great experience (personally and professionally), and I am able to take $1,000 trips for free!

Here is my group of 35 students and staff on the Field Program to northern India! Plus our guide, Devendra, on the far right.

Here is my group of 35 students and staff on the Field Program to northern India! Plus our guide, Devendra, on the far right.

Classic Jaipur & Taj Mahal

The City Palace in Jaipur.

The City Palace in Jaipur.

Work as a Trip Liaison starts before we even arrive in the destination country. To be proactive and create community within the group beforehand, we have a meeting to introduce ourselves, talk about expectations with group travel, to go through the itinerary a bit, and for the participants to ask any questions they may have. Trip Liaisons are given very little information, so only a small part of the time do I know something more than what is on the itinerary. Because of a meeting that took longer before this meeting, I had to rush through it and try to get everyone out.

My group for the Taj Mahal program was 34 people, including the counselor on the ship and her husband, and the ship’s librarian. College students are a new group for me to work with on tours, so I was a bit nervous. I knew I would have to change the way I interact with them compared to my 8th grade students.

This Classic Jaipur & Taj Mahal was a visit to northern India, whereas we were docked in southern India. This was the most popular Field Program in India, and four sections were registered, meaning there were about 140 people total who signed up (34 in my group, Section C). The tour operator worked the itinerary out to be that Sections A & B had the exact same itinerary, and Sections C & D had the same itinerary, just that each day was altered to have the reverse itinerary of A & B. Everyone was at the same hotels and ate at the same restaurants. Although this seems like a lot of people, I personally thought it worked out very well. Maybe it’s because I’ve led tours where we have three buses and 150 8th graders, but I never felt overwhelmed with people on this tour.

Our first morning was an early one, with a meeting time on the ship of 3AM. With our flight leaving at 8:10AM, the airport being about an hour away, and the need to build some buffer time just in case, this was an early one! As you may imagine, some college students don’t make responsible choices the prior evening, when the previous evening was their first night where they can have as many drinks as they choose (they are limited to beverage services on the ship, which happen about half the evenings and students are limited to two drinks). I’d say about 1/3 of the students in my group did not sleep at all that previous evening, though not necessarily out drinking but just not thinking they’d be able to sleep much anyway. One student had to be awoken at 3:15AM since she was nowhere to be found. Granted this was an early morning, but we had more trouble on this trip with people waking up than I ever had on 8th grade trips.

Anyways, we left around 3:45AM and got to the airport in plenty of time. Our flight on Air India connected through Mumbai and then to Jaipur. Air India still does airplane food, and pretty good food at that! Our flight arrived to Jaipur around 2PM, and our bus and guide were waiting for us there. From that point on, it was a whirlwind trip around what they call the Golden Triangle.

A visit to Delhi during the day. The smog problem is real.

A visit to Delhi during the day. The smog problem is real.

Jaipur

The sundial in Jantar Mantar, located in Jaipur. The world's largest sundial!

The sundial in Jantar Mantar, located in Jaipur. The world’s largest sundial!

Jaipur, known as the Pink City, was founded in the 1720s by Jai Singh II, who was the Hindu ruler of the Kingdom. He shifted the capital from Amber to this newly founded city of Jaipur. This meant that Jaipur became the most important city of this kingdom, and it is still the capital of the state of Rajasthan. It’s a city of both stunning historical sites, including the city gates, the City Palace, and Jantar Mantar (I’ll talk a bit more about each of these), as well as modern commercial buildings like the newly constructed World Trade Park. It’s a city of over 2.5 million people, which is considered mid-sized in India, where Delhi has over 20 million.

Driving from the airport to our first destination was an experience in itself; it seemed like there was never a lack of something interesting outside the window. An old fortress up on the hill, a man throwing handfuls of bird seed to hundreds of pigeons, an elephant with its owner walking on the street, monkeys hanging out on the rooves of buildings, camels resting on the sidewalk, the Water Palace sitting majestically in the middle of a lake, a large statue of the Hindu monkey god. It was an experience just watching everything outside the bus windows. Our Tour Director, Devendra, who is from Jaipur, was happy to explain it all.

An elephant outside our window in downtown Jaipur

An elephant outside our window in downtown Jaipur

The water palace in Jaipur sits majestically in the middle of a lake.

The water palace in Jaipur sits majestically in the middle of a lake.

Fort Amber

Fort Amber

Fort Amber

Our first destination was Amber Fort, located in the former capital of this Hindu Rajput empire before it moved to Jaipur. The Amber Fort was the palace where the Maharajas (kings) lived during their rule. It was built in the 1590s with red sandstone and marble. It is a four-storied fortress with defensive walls surrounding it for protection. The walls, climbing up the surrounding hills, remind me of pictures of the Great Wall of China.

Getting up to the fort was an adventure in itself. As part of the tour, we had jeeps waiting for us to drive us up the small and windy cobblestone streets up to the fort. Five passengers per jeep, we had four in the back and one up front in the passenger seat. The steepness of the roads, especially on some turns, definitely meant the jeep was required to get up there safely. Those fifteen minutes were definitely a ride!

The jeep ride up to the Amber Fort took us on some often small and steep streets.

The jeep ride up to the Amber Fort took us on some often small and steep streets.

Once inside the fort, we saw the public audience hall, the private audience hall, and the Sheesh Mahal. The public audience hall was actually the site of a movie filming, so it was decorated up and had many cameras around. The Sheesh Mahal was one of the most unique places inside the fort. The Sheesh Mahal is its own room and hallway, and the walls are full of mirrors from the late 1500s which were imported from a port near Venice, Italy. The mirrors are cut into various designs and shapes, and it’s impressive they are still here on these walls today.

The Mirror Hall in Fort Amber

The Sheesh Mahal in Fort Amber, made up of small mirrors imported from Italy

The jeep ride back down from the fort was no less exciting. After getting onto the main road, a small lake sits down below the fort. There was some sort of a festival going on for women, so many women were knee deep in the lake, as many others looked on from the dry shore. Fireworks were being set off, and crowds of people were making their way to the festivities. I am not entirely sure what was going on, but it was a site to see.

From here, we went straight to our hotel for the evening. This trip was not necessarily a budget trip, and it certainly showed with the quality of the hotels and the food. For our two nights in Jaipur, we stayed in the Indana Palace Hotel, a brand new 4-star hotel which had been open for less than a month. Walking into the gorgeous lobby, they ensured that each of us felt like royalty. When we walked in each evening, someone was there to put the small Hindu dot above the area between our eyes. Servers were prepared with glasses of fresh juices for the guests. And everything was incredibly formal, almost too formal. One student had a duffel bag with her, and the bell persons insisted that they deliver it to her room. After going back and forth, she gave up her bag. After getting to her room, she realized they never took her name or room number, so there would be no way for them to know where to deliver it. She then went down to the lobby and found her bag sitting to the side. When she tried to grab it to take to her room, a bell person stopped her and insisted they would deliver it. Back and forth they went, and finally, the student gave up and told them her room number to be delivered. I never heard about it again, so I imagine they eventually got the bag to the correct room.

The brand new hotel we stayed at in Jaipur

The brand new hotel we stayed at in Jaipur

The hotel lobby in Jaipur

The hotel lobby in Jaipur

The hotel truly seemed like a palace. The restaurant, the lobby, the rooms, the pool and spa, it was all very well-done. Our dinner was set up in their back grassy area. In an area that is so dry, a grassy area really is a luxury item. They set up nice white chairs and tables for our dinner with 140 people, and they provided a beautiful buffet of foods ranging from a corn soup to fresh fruits, and from curries to naan bread cooked on the spot. The issue, as you can imagine, was getting 140 people through one buffet line. Like the hotel, the quality was excellent but they didn’t quite have it down!

(PS: I just now realized that working as a Tour Director, I have a new perspective on hotels and their service. Three years ago me wouldn’t say these same things!)

Fort Amber

Fort Amber

Fort Amber

Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Sheesh Mahal with its mirrors in Fort Amber

Fort Amber

Fort Amber

Filming being done at Fort Amber

Filming being done at Fort Amber

Filming being done in Fort Amber

Filming being done in Fort Amber

Views from Fort Amber

Views from Fort Amber

The jeep ride up to Fort Amber

The jeep ride up to Fort Amber

Outside Fort Amber

Outside Fort Amber

Jantar Mantar

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

One of my all-time favorite names of historical sites, the Jantar Mantar was an intriguing place to visit. It is a collection of 19 astronomical instruments, commissioned by Jai Singh II and completed in 1734. It features the world’s largest sundial. Our Tour Director, Devendra, took us around to various instruments and showed how they worked and how to tell time, the current month, horoscope, etc. These instruments were created using astronomy and instrument design principles of ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts. In other words, they were built based on the mathematical calculations of the position of the sun as well as astrology beliefs.

The most interesting part I took away from the Jantar Mantar site is the prevalence of astrology in Indian life. Devendra explained that many Indians believe that the exact time and location of your birth is what decides your life – your characteristics, your career, your entire destiny. This is all based down to the minute of your birth and the latitude and longitude of your birth. When I asked if there is a certain guide that tells all of this, he said that only experts can explain all of this. Why this is so interesting to me is that I have never taken astrology seriously. It always seems to generic. “If you’re a Sagittarius, you are someone who loves the outdoors, but you also don’t mind being indoors.” I was not aware that cultures do use horoscopes in a much more extensive way, and I do find that interesting and curious to learn more.

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Astronomical Tools at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

City Palace

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

Next on our agenda was to walk across the street to the City Palace. Originally the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur (king), it is now a museum as well as the royal residence of the royal family of Jaipur. While the royal families across the country of India no longer have diplomatic powers, they are still prevalent in many states.

The City Palace was built by that same Jai Singh II, the king who decided to bring the capital of the region the area of Amber to this area he named Jaipur. The original palace was completed in 1732, and many additions were added later by successive rulers up until the 20th century. The City Palace really deserves an entire half of a day to explore. Not only does it have several beautiful public spaces and audience areas, but it has four museums, a traditional art demonstration, henna designers, a small market, and more. We had about two hours total inside, and it was fascinating.

The museums varied by subject, from historic weapons (including swords with pistols attached to them) to traditional dress. There were several “guards” in their traditional wear and loved to ask if you wanted pictures with them. It was certainly a beautiful and lively place to visit and to learn about.

That evening, we visited another “palace” for dinner (i.e. a fancy hotel), where we had another dinner buffet in their grassy area, and we also had Rajasthani folk dancers and musicians as entertainment. A bit later in the performance, a female dancer placed a container on her head, and they lit the inner part on fire. She moved around the dance floor balancing this on her head as we all held our breath. As you probably expected, she didn’t drop the flame but perfectly balanced it throughout the rest of the performance!

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

Beautiful door in the City Palace, Jaipur

Beautiful door in the City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

Puppet show in the City Palace, Jaipur

Puppet show in the City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace, Jaipur

The City Palace (+Devendra), Jaipur

The City Palace (+Devendra), Jaipur

Dinner and dancing in Jaipur

Dinner and dancing in Jaipur

Jaipur

Jaipur

Sidewalk in Jaipur

Sidewalk in Jaipur

Train to Agra

Upper class train to Agra

Upper class train to Agra

The next morning, we started another full day of adventures. With another early morning, it was the same story for many students as the first day – too much partying the night before caused a few to be 30 minutes late (luckily not from my group). We departed at 5:30 and headed straight for the Jaipur Railway Station. The sun was just coming up as we arrived, and the train station was already active. There were just two platforms, and many people were sleeping on mats they had brought as they traveled. Many people traveling by trains have long layovers, especially overnight, as they wait for the connecting train to depart. Rather than getting accommodations (I am guessing mostly because of the cost), they sleep on the platform at the railway station.

The previous day, some of the female students in my group had bought traditional Indian clothing, including saris. Not being familiar with how to put them on, the ladies simply put them on however they could; however, they were still looking to improve. Having time to waste, our guide asked a few women at the station if they could help us out. Happily, at first, three women jumped up and went right to it. Soon, four others joined as more of our students decided they needed help. At 6AM at the Jaipur Railway Station, it was a spectacle to see, as it seemed like everyone in the station was looking on to see what the commotion was about. The women helping out were so nice about it, and they seemed to be excited to see foreigners wearing saris. Afterwards, both our students and the women helping out wanted pictures together. It was such a cool experience for all of us, and what a nice way to start out our day. Rather than being bored at the station, we had the chance for a unique experience.

Several Indian women help our students properly put on their saris.

Several Indian women help our students properly put on their saris.

One student from California, Camille, was especially excited about the experience. The day was her 21st birthday, and she was visiting the Taj Mahal on this very day!

Jumping on the train, we started our journey to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.

Camille with the women who helped dressed her up in the sari.

Camille with the women who helped dressed her up in the sari.

Train adventures!

Train adventures!

Train adventures!

Train adventures!

Agra and the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World

The Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World

The three and a half hour train ride to Agra was very pleasant and almost needed in order to relax after the amount we had already done in two days. We had first class tickets for the train, which I heard are not too much pricier than the normal tickets, but it does give a reserved seat in a car that isn’t too bad. With 140 people total, we had two entire train cars reserved. The train crew served morning tea and breakfast along the way. I liked the branding of their food service on the train: they call it Meals on Wheels!

We arrived in Agra, and a representative from the tour company was already waiting for us, and the buses were ready. This is a huge advantage of group travel; it’s all set up and waiting for you as you arrive. If I was by myself, I would need to figure out where I need to go, about how far it is, about how much it should cost, and then negotiate with the taxi/rickshaw driver with how much I should pay. Here, we just follow the guide to the bus, and they take us to our next destination. This time, it happened to be the Taj Mahal.

The bus dropped us off outside the Taj Mahal on the main road, and about a ten minute walk later, we were at the main gate. Because our visit to the Taj Mahal was so soon after Diwali, the Festival of Lights, the place was extremely busy with those who had traveled there from all over the country to take advantage of their vacations. This made the entrance process quite interesting.

There were four lines to get in, one for Indian males, one for Indian females, one for foreign males, and one for foreign females. The reason for these lines is that they charge foreigners a much higher price, charging about 1,000 rupees ($15) compared to the Indian price of 40 rupees ($.60). While I think the price is fair, it’s strange to have two different lines for these. This also came into play to get into the actual building of the Taj Mahal. The name of this foreigner ticket is uncomfortable in itself, called the “High Value Foreigner Pass”. I am unsure if they can, but I hope that Indians can buy the “High Value Foreigner Pass” if they want, paying extra to avoid the longer lines. Once through security, we regrouped and Devendra took us in.

The Taj Mahal is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. From a young age, we are exposed to images of the Taj Mahal along with pictures of the Eiffel Tower in France, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, Macchu Picchu in Peru, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The Taj Mahal was named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is considered one of the best examples of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history.

The mandatory Taj Mahal picture.

The mandatory Taj Mahal picture.

Would you believe that the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum? I think generally, people believe it to be a temple of some sort. However, it was built to be the final resting place of Mumtaz Mahal, the favorite wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (he had 12) (Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to their 14th child). It was completed in 1653, about 30 years after the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and cost an equivalent of over $800 million in today’s money. This is so extravagant, and it shows just how rich and powerful the Mughal Empire was in its day.

Walking in through the main gate, we started to see glimpses of the Taj Mahal, wonderfully lit by the 11AM sun in October. To see something so iconic is surreal at first; it feels as if you need to pinch yourself to wake up. I talked to one student, who had recently found a drawing of the Taj Mahal she completed when she was in fourth grade. I can’t imagine she had ever even dreamed of visiting this site she was drawing at the age of 9.

The Taj Mahal from the outside was everything one would hope. It is palatial, extravagant, enormous, out of this world. The two minarets guard the ivory-white marble dome. The pools and walkways lead you to the entrance of this godly site. Seeing the people on the platform, just outside the Taj Mahal, made me realize just how large this is. Seeing the Taj Mahal in person was grander than I could’ve ever imagined.

As part of the entrance fee, one can enter inside the mausoleum and see the false tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal (false meaning they are not in these sarcophagi, they are actually in tombs below). While it seemed like a good idea, it was actually not a pleasant experience going through there, mostly because of the amount of people going through and the lack of serenity inside. The “High Value Foreigner Pass” line went to the left to get up onto the main level of the Taj, and the “Indian Pass” went to the right. Whereas the foreigner line went directly in without much weaving, the Indian Pass line wrapped all the way around the Taj, meaning that people were waiting for an hour or two to enter. Inside, signs said to keep quiet – it is a mausoleum – the guards inside were not enforcing this, and they were even blowing their whistles for no apparent reason. The heat and the cultural difference of spatial awareness (i.e. people nudging you from behind with every step as they try to make their way forward) meant that it wasn’t the most pleasant experience for me. The inside of the Taj wasn’t particularly impressive compared to the outside, and I quickly saw the false tombs and got out as quick as I could. When we only had about 45 minutes of free time at the Taj Mahal, 30 minutes of my time was spent going inside. I’m glad I went through to see what it was; but if were to make it back, I would probably skip out on that part.

The Guesthouse just to the side of the Taj Mahal.

The Guesthouse just to the side of the Taj Mahal.

A frustrating part about this itinerary is that we literally only had 45 minutes of free time at the Taj Mahal. The trip name is “Classic Jaipur & TAJ MAHAL”, so how could the tour company not build in more time to spend there?! It’s the reason people are coming on this trip! This can certainly be the negative side of group travel.

Seeing the Taj Mahal was truly incredible. I loved seeing all of the domestic travelers there, as well; many of them traveled from the far reaches of India, possibly the first time they had ever seen this icon of their country. Many of them would have saved up to bring their families here, traveling multiple days by train with layovers like I talked about earlier. I was very privileged to be here at this important site. Here I was, traveling around the world by ship, and in my five days in India was able to visit many of the country’s most important sites – many of them sites that many Indians can only see in photos. Why am I the lucky one?

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

From the Taj Mahal.

From the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal in the foreground and the mosque in the distance.

The Taj Mahal in the foreground and the mosque in the distance.

IMG_20171028_124008931

Views of the river from the Taj Mahal.

Views of the river from the Taj Mahal.

Indians getting photos with a Semester at Sea family (Abby is a faculty member)

Indians getting photos with a Semester at Sea family (Abby is a faculty member)

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Agra Fort, the former capital of the Mughal Empire

After lunch, our last stop in Agra was the Agra Fort. The city of Agra was once the capital of the Mughal Empire, as you may have guessed based on the fact the Taj Mahal is located there. It was the residence of the Mughal emperors until 1638, when the capital moved to Delhi. The Agra Fort is really a walled city.

When at many sites, it was clear that many people were traveling from smaller cities based on the number of pictures taken with individuals of our group. When at any site in the Agra Fort, in Jaipur, Taj Mahal, etc., random people would walk up and ask they could take a photo with you; then they would take a selfie. Sometimes, there would be a group of 5-10 people, and they’d wait one by one to take their photo with you. I believe they do this because they haven’t seen many white people where they’re from. It honestly makes one feel like a celebrity. In this four day trip, I was in probably 15 or so pictures. However, many of the female students, especially those with blond hair, must have been in at least 100 photos in this four day tour. They could hardly go anywhere without being in photos. I think many of the students were flattered!

Some of the students getting pictures taken, a very normal sight for our time in India.

Some of the students getting pictures taken, a very normal sight for our time in India.

Devendra took us all around the fort. The fort was found by Akbar, the grandfather of Shah Jahan, the emperor who had the Taj Mahal built. In 1558, Akbar made it the capital of the Mughal Empire and created many new additions to expand the fort. Akhar built many of the buildings on site with red sandstone, but Shah Jahan tore down some of them to create buildings of white marble.

Inside the Amber Fort

Inside the Amber Fort

What I found most interesting was the room that turned out to be a prison for Shah Jahan, once the ruler. At the end of his life, his son had him restrained in the fort (essentially imprisoned). While it was imprisonment, Shah Jahan’s quarters were made of beautiful marble, featured a fountain, and a balcony with some of the best views of the Taj Mahal, his masterpiece. It is rumored that he eventually died in this space.

The room which held a

The room which held Shah Jahan

Views from the room where Shah Jahan was imprisoned

Views from the room where Shah Jahan was imprisoned

Inside the Amber Fort

Inside the Amber Fort

Inside the Amber Fort

Inside the Amber Fort

The Amber Fort

The Amber Fort

The Amber Fort

The Amber Fort

IMG_20171028_155345988

Train From Agra to Delhi

To end this day, we boarded another train to head to Delhi to spend our last night. The train station in Agra was a stressful experience. There is a required security check, so everyone must put their bags their the scanner and walk through the metal detector. The issue is that there is just one person monitoring the scanner and no one else at the other end of the belt, so people are going through very quickly. I put my bag down on the belt, and three others throw their bags on top of mine. I rushed through to make sure I could grab my own. With a mob of people going through, I was sure at least one student would have a bag taken in this chaotic process. While no bags were stolen, I was told that a few of the female students were grabbed by men walked through in this mob. It was not a pleasant experience.

The train ride was uneventful, and we were again served food; not knowing what to expect, this always intrigues me. The bus was waiting for us at the train station, and we were about 45 minutes in traffic to get to our hotel.

Delhi

IMG_20171029_090539197

Because Delhi is such a large city and we only spent about a half a day there, I don’t feel like I got a great feel for the city. I do know that it is an extremely large city. With about 25 million people in the metro area, it is considered the fourth largest city in the world (after Tokyo, Jakarta, and Seoul). The highlight of our time in Delhi was definitely the rickshaw ride.

Rickshaws are essentially bicycle taxis. With a two wheeled carriage attached the back of the bicycle, it has a bench for two passengers. As part of our tour, this was all set up for us. I was especially excited for this, as I could only imagine what 17 rickshaws in a caravan would look like going down the streets of Delhi. As an adventure enthusiast, this was certainly a highlight.

IMG_20171029_084803485

We first went through a Sunday market, where vendors displayed their products on carts, in stores, and on blankets on the sidewalks. Anything from shoes to shirts to toiletries were being sold, and the people were coming to shop on this Sunday morning. We then went by several religious sites, all within half a mile from each other. We saw an important Mosque (I didn’t catch the name of it), a Sikh temple, a Hindu temple, and a Christian church. The most notable of these was the Sikh temple, something I had never seen before.

You probably most know the Sikhs by the men’s dress; the men wear turbans on their heads. From what I was told, the Sikhs, in general in India, are some of the wealthiest. But they don’t necessarily keep it all to themselves. Every Sikh temple offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner to anyone and everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are Sikh, Christian, Hindu, or whatever, they will give you food if you need it. Their goal is to not let anyone starve. When we went by this Sikh temple, there was a line of at least 100 people waiting to be served on the sidewalk. We were told that this line, a bit later in the morning, would be over ½ mile long. I think this is such an honorable thing the Sikh temple does, and it’s very inspiring to see.

People waiting outside the Sikh Temple for food.

People waiting outside the Sikh Temple for food.

After the rickshaw ride, we had a bus tour of the city. We saw the President’s Palace, embassy row, the place where Ghandi was cremated, the Red Fort, and a few other sites that I am now forgetting. Because it all happened so quickly, I would love to go back and learn more about India’s capital city of Delhi.

After our half day in Delhi, we departed for the Delhi Airport. All of the 140 people on the trip were on the same flight, except for me, who was booked on a flight leaving two hours later. It sounds like it would’ve been an inconvenience, but I actually really enjoyed the quiet time at the airport, where I hung out at Starbucks and sipped on the $4 large black coffee. The only time I would spend that much at Starbucks is when it’s a rare opportunity to something familiar. When I arrived at the airport in Kochi, a gentleman was waiting outside the baggage claim holding a sign with my name on it, just like I’ve always dreamed. He took me to the private car that was booked, and I was on my way back to the ship.

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

View outside of the hotel in Delhi in the morning

View outside of the hotel in Delhi in the morning

President's Palace in Delhi

President’s Palace in Delhi

President's Palace in Delhi

President’s Palace in Delhi

President's Palace in Delhi

President’s Palace in Delhi

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

Rickshaw Ride

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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Arriving to India

Arriving to India

Our home, the MV World Odyssey, docked in Kochi, India.

Our home, the MV World Odyssey, docked in Kochi, India.

As per usual, we woke up early for arrival day to watch us find our way into the port. This time, it was Kochi, India, a city of two million on the southwest coast of India. It was an especially exciting time because we had just completed an unplanned 12-day crossing, which means 12 days in which 800 people have not stepped onto land once.

Why was it an unplanned 12-day crossing? The day of anticipated departure from Cape Town, South Africa, the waters were extremely rough due to a strong storm system coming through. Because of this, the port authority actually closed down the port, so we weren’t able to leave. Our 7PM departure that evening turned into a 2PM departure the next day. This 19-hour delay meant that Semester at Sea had to make a huge decision: do we skip Mauritius (a one-day stop) or do we arrive one day late to India? The program decided on the latter, which means that we had to miss Mauritius, the small island off the east coast of Madagascar. Although I was disappointed to miss Mauritius, a place I have wanted to visit since I met a friend from there while studying abroad in 2009, I understood and accepted the fact that I will have to go there another time. Many students were very upset with this, since this is one of the 10 or so countries on the itinerary. It has turned into a bit of a joke on the ship, so it is now something that people have accepted.

So this made the arrival to India even better. We got up to the bow around 7AM, and it was quite foggy (I think smoggy) so there wasn’t much to see. Eating breakfast outside on the patio meant that we could see the land as we got closer. Surprising, not far off the mainland, six dolphins started swimming behind the ship. Something similar happened going into Ghana, where humpback whales were breaching just off the coast.

Coming into the port, we saw several islands, some natural and some manmade. We saw small fishing boats, ferries, Chinese fishing nets on the coast (a bit more on that later), churches, and more. Again, like Ghana, there was a band playing traditional music as we arrived at the port while docking. We were docked at Willengden Island, an island that was created after dredging the waterway in order to create a deeper port, which allows larger ships to enter. Ferries connect the island to the other parts of the city, including Fort Kochi (the more touristy area) and Ernakulum (the city center).

Chinese fishing nets on the coast as we cruised into Kochi.

Chinese fishing nets on the coast as we cruised into Kochi.

We had a total of six days in India. I spent four of these on a Field Program, a Semester at Sea organized trip. Here is how my six days looked.

Day 1 – Visit Fort Kochi
Day 2 – Early flight to Jaipur, visit Jaipur
Day 3 – Visit Jaipur
Day 4 – Train to Agra, visit Taj Mahal & other sites in Agra, train to Delhi
Day 5 – Visit Delhi, flight to Kochi
Day 6 – Visit Ernakulum (Kochi)

Chika was on duty for the last three days, which means she wasn’t able to get off the ship. This meant that she stayed in Kochi and visited the area the first three days.

The time in India was fantastic. I went in with hearing lots of stories from other travelers, and it always sounded like India would be the most overwhelming place to travel. The stories I heard made it sound like curious people would surround you while on the streets, that all public transportation would be overcrowded with people, and that you would surely get sick from the different bacteria in their food. While India was definitely unique in so many ways and is certainly a place that many would describe as being overwhelming, it wasn’t much more than I had experienced in some other countries.

India is a country with a rich history, including having been dominated by foreigners for many years. The Mughal Empire was based here, and the British colonized India and dominated the country for hundreds of years before India earned its independence in the late 1940s. With this history and mixture of people, it’s a country of diverse religions (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jews, and more). In a country about ¼ the size of the US, it has 1.2 BILLION people, 23 official languages (and hundreds more unofficial languages), and regions where the foods and cultures are varied. Cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai all have their unique cultures and customs.

As I expected, I really enjoyed the food here. With so many Indian restaurants in the US, I have eaten the food many times, but it was even better being here with the quality, the price, and the experience. They certainly know how to do their breads/carbs here (naan, parathi, chiappathi). The people were very welcoming. Many people were curious about where we were from. And many peopled loved to take pictures with foreigners, especially the blonde females, who would sometimes have 15 people waiting to take pictures with them.

Some of the students getting pictures taken, a very normal sight for our time in India.

Some of the students getting pictures taken, a very normal sight for our time in India.

In the short time I was in the country, I was shocked by the number of beautiful forts, temples, and palaces. Driving through the cities by bus never got old. It was entertaining to watch the people go by and to find intriguing sites around each corner.

I’ll be posting a bit about each city that I visited in India. Six days to visit India is nothing close to what the country deserves. But we surely took advantage of the time we had, and I hope to visit the country and explore more in-depth in the future!

Some views of the Taj Mahal.

Some views of the Taj Mahal.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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