Posted in Travel in India

Discovering Northern India with Basker: Intro

Our first trip to India together was just 6 months after Basker and I were married in 1982 but we have revisited this beautiful country many times. It has changed a lot over the years but it has always remained vibrant, colourful and exciting. Travel has been a passion for us and I have always valued it as a chance to gain wonderful memories and experiences which have enriched our lives….a lot. Of course, not only are the sights awesome but meeting many friendly people along the way has been the greatest pleasure.

Basker’s best photo of the Taj Mahal

To read about my full India trip experience including itinerary, attractions, tips etc please click here

Travelling with our friends on recent trips has been a huge privilege and this has made our trips immeasurably more enjoyable.

Our group at the hotel lobby ready for an evening out
Janet & Basker at Amber Fort, Jaipur

Basker loves travelling to India and he started visiting this country in the 1960s as a child on a family trip from his home country, Malaysia. He later attended Madras University, Madras (now called Chennai) during the 1970s. Over the years he has built up a huge amount of knowledge about this incredible country and his passion for this wonderful place, the culture and the people has only grown stronger.

Many friends have asked us a myriad of questions about travelling in India and most have said they would love to travel here but just didn’t know how, and so Basker created his best itinerary and started leading private group tours to India.

See Basker’s travel web site here: Get Going To India
You may like to see Basker’s cooking web site here: Cooking With Basker

All of the bookings and preparations were made for us by Basker so we could relax and enjoy the travel confident in the fact that everything was taken care of. Not only our logistics were taken care of but also the logistics of our luggage was too which gave me good peace of mind.

Basker and Janet

Basker also took care of tipping. It’s something that we Kiwis find difficult to do. We don’t like it and we often miss read cues about what is appropriate but it is a fact of travel in India. We all contributed to the kitty and topped up during the tour when needed.

On our most recent tour in 2018 I was thrilled to travel with my cousin Helen… we had a great time together and shared amazing moments… fascinating sights and experiences that we will never forget. There are just too many memories to expand on here but you can be assured that we laughed and giggled the whole way…

… especially when the elephant sneezed on us while carrying us up the ramp to the Amber Fort. There was a lot of gloop! During the day it all dried out okay but that evening when I finally reached the hotel I stood in the shower fully dressed and scrubbed all my clothes (and me) with hotel soap. Whew! Thank goodness for quick drying Katmandu travel clothing.

What an experience!

On a more serious note, we loved the real experiences and delighted in local shopping, regional food, walking through the back streets of Varanasi and up to the river to overlook the ghats, colourful and vibrant early morning Aarti on the banks of the river Ganga, an outdoor feast for Deepavali, a safari to search for tigers in the wild, and the list goes on…

Of course, as down-to-earth kiwis we took any opportunity to talk to people we met along the way, to joke with shop keepers, to share tips with other tourists, to stop in delight at a wedding held at the hotel or on the beach and talk to the guests, we ribbed the local guides- all in good humour.

Our coach was side swiped by a truck at one stage and we got to know our bus driver quite well that day.

A stop enroute from Khajuraho to Jhansi to catch our train

My mind is still full of visions:

Helen drinking champagne while having her nails done at a five star hotel salon, being waited on hand and foot.

Me, trying to not get splashed while leaning down the side of a small boat to release a flower into the great River Ganga.

The boys on our tour running across a busy highway full of traffic to reach a bottle shop and load up the stocks of alcohol for pre dinner hotel room drinkies.

Facing a cow at full trot coming straight at me in a narrow alley in the back streets of Varanasi.

Chatting, smiling, waving to people in the street, in cars, autos, in shops, at the next table at a restaurant, at the hotel, everywhere we go.

A muddy pond on the side of the road filled with stunning purple water lilies.

Historic buildings that have a magic atmosphere and make me think of a wondrous bygone era.

Camel traders in Pushkar settling down for the night cooking an evening meal over an open fire and checking that the camels were well fed.

People smiling and heading for prayers in beautiful desi attire.

John calmly heading towards me after being lost in the Amber Fort for over an hour. Later he claimed to have been kidnapped by the harem!

Basker tucking into mountains of naan bread, biryani and curries for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The lush environment and white sandy beaches of Goa.

The sparkle of Indian rubies in Jaipur

Don’t get me wrong, there are some sights in India that are pretty confronting… the beggars in the street, neglected children, sick street dogs, cows that roam the streets and fossick through the rubbish piles. Poverty is an in-your-face reality but the vast majority of Indians are not poor. In fact, there is a large middle income group of professionals and business people who are benefiting from a growing economy. Not everyone is trying to rip you off. In my experience, people in India are some of the most kind and most generous people that I have ever met in all my travels.

Life in India can be incredibly harsh for some but… the belief in karma is inherent in the culture and the religion. Somehow this is grounding and reinforces my quest to live in the moment …and breathe.

On a personal note, some people have asked about my experience travelling in India with Basker as a multicultural couple. My one response is this: it has always been interesting!

For example, we have had many experiences where I am treated as the tourist and Basker is treated as the guide and we have a lot of fun dispelling those stereotypes. As a more visible tourist I am automatically the target for touts and there is some surprise when Basker turns around and steps in to take control of the situation. It takes a while for people to realise we are together.

Our group with Basker as the tour leader

But during these comical situations we like to stop, and we like to talk. We try to relate to people on more personal level and help them understand that we are just the same as any other family. In this small way we are attempting to create a more accepting and inclusive view of the world.

Yes, we are different but we love our differences!

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