Travel Diary: India and Nepal
Our first of six India and Nepal Once-in-a-Lifetime Journeys was an unforgettable adventure.
DAY 1 | FRIDAY
Namaste! Members arrived at Dwarika's Heritage Hotel in Kathmandu, excited to meet one another and hear from our guest speaker. Anil Chitraker is an author, social entrepreneur, and a Heritage Conservator. Learning about the culture was a great way to start this Journey and served as a nice ice breaker for the group.
DAY 2 | SATURDAY
The morning kicked off with a walking tour of Patan Durbar (Palace) Square, where Members learned about the major Hindu gods and goddess — Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Ganesh. We partook in a healing bowl demonstration to calm our minds and align our chakras. After a quick lunch we were off to our second Durbar Square of the day, Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Bhaktapur was alive with everyone out celebrating the Hindu festival, Dashain. As we made our way to the old palace, we caught glimpses of the mountains beyond the city, building anticipation for the next day’s flight around Everest. In the evening we watched a performance of Nepal’s masked dancers and enjoyed a traditional Nepali meal, complete with a visit from the owner of the Heritage Hotel who shared about her family’s work in preserving Nepali woodworking and history.
DAY 3 | SUNDAY
Today was the big day! We rose early to head to the airport for our private flight around Mt. Everest. The excitement was palpable and the experience did not disappoint. We flew over Kathmandu Valley towards the mighty Himalayas and soon the eight-thousand-meter peaks started to emerge from the clouds. Our guide pointed out Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu, the third, sixth and seventh tallest mountains in the world. Members were in awe as Everest came into view — the pictures don’t even do it justice. After our flight we returned to have brunch with Maya Sherpa, the first female sherpa to climb K2 — the second tallest mountain in the world and the most technical. Members were inspired by Maya’s experience climbing K2, Everest three times and several other 8000-meter peaks. We wrapped up the afternoon with a visit to Boudhnath Stupa, a large Buddhist monument where many locals were spinning the prayer wheels. Ducking into a painting school nearby we learned about the traditional Thangka paintings of mandalas and the path to Nirvana.
DAY 4 – 5 | MONDAY & TUESDAY
On Monday evening we arrived into Delhi and were immediately welcomed into the frenzied city teaming with food stalls, street dogs, honking horns and people everywhere. We kicked off our tour of the capital city with a visit to Bangla Sahib Sikh temple. The ornate temple was a peaceful refuge as we listened to the prayers being sung from the holy book over all who had come to worship. Next it was off to Old Delhi where we jumped two by two into rickshaws and ventured into the sights, sounds, and smells of the bustling spice markets. We caught wafts of cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon mixed with motorcycle fumes as we sped past barrels of nuts and spices, trying to keep pace with the current of people streaming down the narrow sidewalks. After absorbing the spice markets with all of our senses, we spent the afternoon at the peaceful grounds of Gandhi Smriti, the final home of Mahatma Gandhi. The home turned museum tells the story of Gandhi’s life, work, and legacy for Indian freedom.
DAY 6 | WEDNESDAY
We rose early to practice yoga on the dewy lawns of the Sundar Nagar Nursery, a restorative experience for the Members after being immersed in Delhi. We finished our time with a visit to Humayun's Tomb, which was the architectural inspiration for the Taj Mahal. After a short flight we arrived in Varanasi, a spiritual capital of India where the holy Ganges River provides for the Hindu people. The evening began at sundown — we cruised the river witnessing cremations and an aarti ceremony. Smoke floated across with the sounds of the conch shell and chanting prayers, boats lined the shore to watch the priests thank Mother Ganga and invite good energy from the gods and goddesses. We were joined by a Sadhu who blessed each of the Members by praying over them while painting their foreheads golden — a truly unique and sacred experience for the Members. Before we left the river, we lit candles for each of our ancestors and sent them floating down the holy river.
DAY 7 | THURSDAY
The holy river called us back Thursday morning where we saw it in a different light (both physically and metaphorically). Members loved seeing how the Ganges is worshiped and honored by Hindus daily and in different ways throughout the day. Not to be forgotten, Varanasi is also home to a historical Buddhist site Sarnath, where Siddhartha Gautama taught his first five followers. At the excavation site, Members learned about the eight-fold path to Nirvana and spent time meditating with Buddhist monks. We ended our time in the spiritual haven of Varanasi with a lecture on astrology and birth chart readings to learn what the stars and planets have in store.
DAY 8 | FRIDAY
We began another beautiful day in India with yoga on the lawn of the Taj Nadasser Palace. After brunch we flew to Agra — home of the Taj Mahal. Soon after arrival a band of dancers, a drummer and trumpeters greeted and escorted the Members along a petal lined path to our evening cocktail reception/party. The energy was infectious! We all joined in, picking up a few dance moves along the way. As we crested the hill, the sparkling Taj came into view with the sun setting just to the west. Everyone had their photos taken and enjoyed food and drinks while getting henna applied to their hands and arms. The evening was one to remember, full of stories and laughter in the most beautiful setting.
DAY 9 | SATURDAY
Early in the morning we made our way to the Taj Mahal. The white dome and columns sparkling against the soft light of sunrise was magical. In Exclusive Resorts style, we hired a professional photographer to capture everyone in front of the magnificent tomb before they ventured closer to examine the ornate stone inlays decorating the marble. Meanwhile our Journey Director, Raj, regaled us with the love story between Muhgol Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who are both resting inside the Taj. We all stood in awe of this true Wonder of the World, and everyone agreed — Agra was a major highlight of the trip!
DAY 10 | SUNDAY
We headed to the hills outside of Jaipur to tour the Amber Fort where the Rajasthani royal families ruled from the 11th to 18th century. Our local guides took the Members on a historical journey winding through the halls still covered in original fresco paintings and telling tales of the Rajput kings forging alliances across the region. From the fort we took jeeps further into the countryside where we visited a school, family farm, and a couple of rescued elephants.
DAY 11 | MONDAY
We began our final day in Jaipur early, cycling through the pink city as it woke to greet the day. Riding past fruit carts setting up on the street corners, we saw children walking to school, and stopped for chai at a local's favorite sidewalk stall. Our city tour took us next to the Maharajan’s Observatory, home to the largest sun dial in the world. After an afternoon of shopping for handmade carpets, textiles and jewelry, Members gathered back at the Rambagh Palace to get ready for our farewell dinner. Hosts helped the ladies wrap their saris and the gentlemen their turbans. Dressed in our Indian finest we celebrated the colorful Journey through Nepal and India, and all the memories we’d made together.