First day in India. I had planned the trip with Ankit from Trinetra tours. Trinetra would provide a car and driver and local guides for New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. The visit to Naitonal Corbett NP was planned separately with Tigers in Corbett. So was the trip to Havelock, in the Andamans.
When we exited the arrivals, the guide was there and after a quick stop at the Airtel kiosk to get a local SIM card for the iphone and ipad, he handed us over to the driver for the transfer to Neemrana. New Delhi is big and busy and fortunately the Indira Gandi International is on the right side of the city, meaning in the direction of Neemrana. I know that the distance 120km, but I was not prepared for the Indian roads. That day I learned that 120km means 2:30 hours and this was fast. After 30km we saw the first accident, a truck rolled over the middle of the “highway”. Immediately I remembered the words of my good friend Lovesh. Lovesh lives in Sofia and we met when he designed the website of my company. Born and raised in Delhi, was kind enough to answer all of my questions before the trip. When the conversation came to driving in Indian roads and asked “how come they don’t get killed?”, his answer was “but of course they do, all the time”. I insisted, “how can I survive?”. It is really simple, he said, “when you get in the car, you will notice a small icon of a god or goddess on the front window. As soon as the driver bows and prays, repeat after him. It works all the time for me.”
Two hours later and some bowing, we arrived at the small, busy village of Neemrana. The reason to go there, was no other than the magnificent Neemrana Fort Palace, a 15th century fort, now operating as a hotel. I had heard about it from Christian, my French friend who lives in Switzerland and has traveled many times to India for business. He said that one of his friends went there and had the best of memories. I checked on the the net and indeed what I saw was very promising. After checking in, we were introduced to the fort which spans over 6 acres on the hill over the village. I had booked the Chandra Mahal room, once the hall of justice that seemed to be one of the biggest suites available. Every room is different and this one was really big, probably about 90 sq.m. We were quite tired from the flight and the drive, so we went immediately to bed.
After the not so short nap, we went down the hill to the village to walk the busy afternoon streets. Neemrana is a small village – around 4200 people – not yet crowded by tourists, so we were clearly the spectacle of the day. Locals are more curious about westerners than the other way around. As this was the first day in India, the colors and smells took us by surprise. The main street is full of people, animals and tiny shops. The sidewalks are not paved and dirty is the word that best describes the setup. Ah, India! We wondered around for about an hour and then decided to return to the hotel. On our way back, we stumbled on a local wedding. I stopped to take a few shots and immediately we were invited to join in and dance. India is not only dirt, it’s fun as well and people are really friendly. When we returned, I was really hungry. I am not sure whether the food in the Fort’s terrace restaurant was so good or it was my appetite speaking, but I really enjoyed.