Before travel blogger Annette Richmond (@fromannettewithlove) joined her India group trip, she reserved something special: an Intrepid Urban Adventures cooking class in Delhi. Here’s why flying into your destination a few days early and breaking the ice with a day trip is the best way to kickstart your travels.
I have wanted to visit India for as long as I can remember. I envisioned taking pictures in front of the Taj Mahal, watching the colorful fashion up close and tasting everything I could get my hands on. My college best and I had been talking about going on a girls trip to India since we went on fashion school. About 15 years later, we finally did it with Intrepid.
Jessie, my best friend for almost 20 years now, decided to meet me in India after one of my long stays in Asia. I had been working remotely for almost a decade by this time, and Asia was always a fun place to jump around. I would usually start my travels in Thailand, then go to Bali, Malaysia, and finish a new place. This time it was going to be India with Jessie.
I am an avid solo traveler, and although I usually hire one, I have rarely felt like me needed a tour guide during the trip. But after talking to friends who had traveled to India alone, I realized that the trip could be more enjoyable if I could be led, instead of being the leader myself.
So Jessie and I decided to book India’s Golden Triangle trip. Before it started, we wanted to explore and get some shopping done, so we flew in a few days early. That’s when we added an Urban Adventure – one of Intrepid’s dedicated city day trips.
Jessie and I met at Delhi airport at night. There was a subway in the food court, so we ordered sandwiches to take to the hotel if we could not find any restaurants. When we arrived at check-in it was pretty clear that we were just friends. India, however, is a conservative country, and opposite sexes are sometimes not allowed to stay in the same room unless they show proof of marriage (this is generally only in rural areas, but keep that in mind when planning your trip to India). Exhausted by the journey, we settled down, ate our sandwiches, and went to bed.
The next morning we did some shopping at Gandhi Nagar Market before meeting our Urban Adventures guide, Eshita, for us Private Delhi: Homemade tour. Our driver dropped us off in a residential neighborhood where we saw Eshita in her bright red Urban Adventures t-shirt. She explained that our host had no previous connections with tourism, but in the last few years alone she has hosted almost 2000 guests! She loves it when travelers enjoy her cooking.
Our host opened his home and heart to us. Not only did she show us how to make chai tea and fried pakora (both delicious, by the way), she was kind enough to show us her altar and talk about her faith. After we finished our snacks, our host pulled out a folder and waved us to get closer.
Have you been to an authentic Indian wedding? I certainly do not have that, but it is something I have always wanted to experience. And even though we actually did not take part a wedding we got the second best. Our host opened the photo album from his younger brother’s ceremony. It was amazing. There were pages filled with colorful photos, and others where images had been cut and arranged in intricate designs.
With the help of our guide, Eshita, we learned that our host brother had an arranged marriage; he and his bride had not met before their wedding day. They both looked a little nervous and scared when the wedding began. Our host explained some of the ceremonies that took place and what the headgear represented. In the end, it looked like a nice party. Merger of two families.
After flipping through the pages of the wedding album, we came to my favorite part. Our host pulled out some of her sarees and showed us the easy way to wrap one up. She let us choose a saree and then wrapped us up. Then we had a dance party! She showed us a few dance moves that we could knock out if we ever attended an Indian wedding. It was the most surreal experience.
Soon the trip was coming to an end. Five hours flew by while we enjoyed our hosts ’cooking, stories, and dance moves. Eshita followed us to our car and we went back to town. When we returned to our hotel, we then went to a nearby rooftop restaurant for dinner and hookah. It was the perfect way to end our day and the solo part of our girls trip.
The next morning we met up with our Intrepid tour group and the adventure began in earnest. Still, it was nice to arrive a few days ahead of time. We could explore the city on our own, shop a bit and experience something we would never have found on our own. You also pick up small cultural tips about an Urban Adventure: for example, we learned that since most families in India live for several generations, there is actually no huge restaurant scene. Most locals eat at home.
Adding an Urban Adventure definitely enhanced the overall experience. Not only did we learn more about Indian cuisine and culture, but we were able to support a female family business. I can safely say that Urban Adventures lived up to their slogan: I had the Best. Day. Ever. In fact, now I have started browsing and I notice that they offer one Online Delhi Experience: Vegetarian Indian Cooking Course. Maybe it’s time for me to take a little refresher course …