Once the arteries of imperialism, the Indian railway exudes a raw charm, derived from its imperfections. From its open doorways to six hour delays, nothing beats a ride on the Indian express. Set off with an open mind, and prepare for a few diversions.
Delhi- The journey’s starting point and a baptism of fire for the newly-initiated tourist. In order to tackle Delhi’s plethora of sights, hire an all-day cab driver from your hotel. Bask in the meditative aura of the Lotus temple and accustom yourself with the Hindi gods in Lakshmi temple. Be prepared to wrestle against some of India’s most persistent hawkers, silence is the best option.
Agra–The home of the Taj Mahal and its voluptuous curves. Wake up at 6am to view this milky-white wonder with the sun on her back, and get the perfect desktop photo. A half-hour cab ride away is the hauntingly deserted Fatehpur Sikri. The sandstone city was abandoned in 1599, after only 14 years of habitation, due to the lack of a water supply.
Jaipur- A vibrant and chaotic city, Jaipur is coined the ‘pink city’ because it decorated its buildings in pink to welcome Queen Elizabeth II in 1876. Nowadays, such sights are rare but the pyramid-shaped palace of Hawa Mahal is an architectural feat to marvel. Sample Rajasthan’s distinctive dishes such as Gatte Ki Sabji, a rolled paste of chickpea flour and curry.
Ajmer– Ajmer is a comparatively serene city, religiously significant because it houses a shrine to the Muslim prophet Mu’īnuddīn Chishtī. 11km away is the lakeside town of Pushkar, with 500 temples to accommodate the Hindi pilgrims who come to bathe in its lake and cleanse their sins. Unfortunately, the lake is now dried-up, after the local government dug up the lake bed, but its beauty remains.
Jodpur– Jodpur holds the title of ‘blue city’, thanks to a sea of painted blue houses around the Mehrangarh Fort, a hill-top fort that is one of the largest in India. Get lost in the labyrinth of Jodpur’s markets, where you can browse the colorful array of hand-dyed fabrics. To escape the city, venture into the desert by camel and camp overnight in the dunes to catch a desert sunrise.
Udaipur-Udaipur has earned its title of Venice of the East because it is situated on a cluster of lakes. The city’s previous role as capital of the Merwar kingdom has yielded a number of majestic palaces. The most prominent of which, the Lake Palace hotel, is a five star hotel on its own island. The carvings adorning Jagdish Temple are a wondrous spectacle and the entrance is guarded by two stone elephants.
Mumbai– Be wary of arriving into Mumbai too early, otherwise you’ll catch the city with its pants down, literally. The railway tracks are a communal toilet for local’s early-morning bowel movements. Dhobi Ghaut, where the city’s laundry is washed by hand, is a uniquely Indian spectacle. At night, take a taxi across the Bandra Worli Sea Link to look back on the city from the sea. Colaba’s art stores are a chance to pick up unique pictures, some of which have been painted with a single squirrel hair.