The Golden Triangle consists of 3 popular tourist destinations fairly easily accessible from Dehli Airport; Taj Mahal, Agra, and Jaipur.
Some things I've come to realize from traveling around the world. The larger the financial gap between tourists and locals the larger the issue of safety/security arises. Looking outside our hotels in India you could see bonfires and tents where the locals lived. It doesn't give the "lets wonder the streets" feel as you feel in many more developed countries. Did you know that India has over 100 million street vendors!? What do you get when you mix all these vendors with one of the wonders of the world? You get a very unwelcoming and potentially dangerous environment.
Taj Mahal- Wonder of the World
Let me tell you about our Taj Mahal experience. We decided to visit the Taj Mahal on a weekday at sunrise to avoid the crowds and to capture the ever famous Taj Mahal picture at sunrise. Our driver recommended a guide and said the vendors can be aggressive. My dad and I looked at each other and said, nah I mean how aggressive could they be? We know how to ignore them or say no thank you. So we pull up to the Taj pre sunrise, dark, with the only light coming from a bonfire near the parking lot. Before the taxi stopped we were greeted by about 7-10 vendors surrounding the taxi like pigeons on feed. We looked at each other nervously, and said "crap, here we go." We get out and immediately they start offering ride to the Taj, guide for the Taj, magnets, etc for sale. We sat in the shuttle waiting for it to leave, they said we have to wait for it to fill up before we can leave. As the minutes passed (and a million no thank you's) by we realized the only way to get there was to either walk (we had no idea where we were going) or pay for a guide. So we reluctantly got a guide and went on our way. Thankfully the guide kept the vendors at bay so we could enjoy the place without anymore hassle.
PRO TIP- Get a guide- more to keep the vendors at bay and not feel like you have to grip everything you have tightly the whole time. He also provided very cool information regarding the Taj that we would not have gotten otherwise.
Our next stop was Agra Fort. It's about a 5 hour drive to Agra Fort with many culture telling views along the way. You could see everything from goats, cows, and dogs rummaging through the trash to streets overpacked with bikes, scooters, and Tuk Tuks. When the driver suggested a tour guide for Agra Fort we immediately said yes to avoid the inevitable vendor feast on us. This was even worse than at the Taj. Luckily most of them did not enter the gates of the Fort so it was only crazy entering and exiting the Fort. The only issue with the guides is that they also have their own agenda. Both times we were shown to specific people to listen to their life story and sales pitch, which was normally something they hand made and a story on how the money would help them and their communities. It was easier just to say yes and buy something than to continue to say no thank you over and over and over again. We were not a fan of the sales tactics. Overall Agra Fort was lackluster, especially coming from the Taj, and the vendors....
Jaipur- The city of Kites
Another 5 hour drive took you to this "Pink City", but we found the city of kites to be more appropriately named. When you look over the horizon of the city you see what looks to be birds in the sky, but as you look closer you will notice they are actually small kites. From rooftops to streets, seemingly everywhere you look was a smiling child holding a kite. What a difference in cultures a few hours makes. You see the shash's change from brightly colored to black as seen with the increase of Muslim population. We went to Jantar Mantar, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which houses a collection of 19 architectural astronomical instruments included the worlds largest stone sundial. No vendors! We couldn't believe it! We walked the streets surrounding the site checking out the shops and vendors without hassle, and a very culture rich town it was. To end our trip we visited Chokhi Dhani, a very unique place that offered everything from camel rides to magic shows in a mock town environment. We had a very authentic Rajasthan meal there made with all the dips, sauces, and spices you come to expect, without of course, the silverware and chairs.
India is a very large place and I realize I have only dipped my toe in the culture/sites that it has to offer. That being said, here are the top 3 things I loved and the top 3 things that I did not enjoy.
1. They have butt washers! If you've read my earlier posts you'll know how much I love them.
2. Rich culture with each state being very diverse.
3. Food, food, food! Amazing food with all the spices you would expect, spicy=very very spicy.
Not a fan
1. Aggressive vendors-really ruined a lot of otherwise cool cultural destinations.
2. Pollution- One of the first things I noticed was smog found in the airport as soon as we got off. It is also noticed in any large room, including hotels. Weird to see indoors so frequently.
3. The "tourist treatment", this is where the prices are jacked up just because you are a tourist. I hate this and avoid places that practice this. Very unauthentic/Disingenuous.
Check out the whole India Photo album HERE