Days 14, 15 & 16
Living Large at the Leela
When we booked this trip, I had a funny feeling that we might be sufficiently overwhelmed at the end of two weeks. We declined an option through Brand g to go on with them for a couple of days to visit the spiritual city of Varanasi and decided to end our trip with a couple of decompression days at a hotel in Delhi.
We chose the Leela Palace in the Diplomatic Enclave part of the city mostly based on location. Turned out to be just what we needed to relax without a set schedule every day. The Leela is another stunner among fancy schmancy hotels we found on this trip. From the fresh jasmine flower lei to the passion fruit mocktail, check in was just the beginning of our two days of delight.
As we explored our new home on our way to the roof top infinity pool, we gasped involuntarily as we discovered each stunning fresh flower arrangement, cut glass chandelier, and miles of silk drapery from sky high ceilings. The place has more staff than you can shake a stick at, and my only complaint was that I’ve never been namastayed so much in one place in my whole life. For a while I thought I was getting carpal tunnel of the elbow from being shamed into returning the good wish every two minutes.
There weren’t a whole lot of places within walking distance to explore outside of the hotel, but we did venture out to visit a local street market and the Commonwealth Games Park. John decided that he had watched the locals long enough to know how to cross a busy street without getting killed, and in my humble opinion, took his life in his own hands as he walked unflinchingly in between oncoming cars, tuk tuks and a million scooters. I stuck to the basic technique that had served me well back home: run, stop, panic, repeat. Both of us lived, but one of us felt smug about it.
We visited the expansive fitness room at the hotel, and after I did my usual minimal effort cardio routine, the gym assistant offered to help me stretch. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but after fifteen minutes of being rolled, pulled, and folded, I was a new man. I’m thinking I’ll come here tomorrow and just skip the silly exercise thing and have him stretch me out and call it good.
Over two days, we had delicious meals in the restaurants, enjoyed an “Elephant’s Back” cocktail “in honor of Lord Ganesha” at the Library Bar, and treated ourselves to relaxing massages at the spa. I caught a full fledged cold on our last full day at the Leela and hung out at the rooftop pool reflecting about the things I’ll miss about India:
*Having my shoes sanitized every time we returned from an excursion off the boat.
*The taste of cumin, curry and turmeric in some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten.
*The interesting people and new friends we made on this trip.
*The smiles, faces, and open hearts of the Indian children we met in rural villages.
And those things I won’t miss so much:
*Every mode of road traffic all at once, death defying pedestrian crossing, deafening horns and beeps amped up to high.
*Professional beggars reaching in to tap my arm through an open window on a shuttle bus.
*Constant barrage of tuk tuk drivers, touts and scam artists.
*Aggressive monkeys willing to go for me if no small babies are available.
Brand g called this trip “Splendors of India,” and indeed, there are many—fascinating Hindu temples and Mughal mosques, ancient forts and stunning palaces, bustling cities and remote country villages, colorful religious festivals at the bank of the Ganges, the singular magnificence of the Taj Mahal, and best of all, the hope and joy on the faces of young children we met.
We loved this trip. Of course successfully avoiding Delhi Belly and a brutal monkey attack is always a bonus, but we also learned a lot about the history, diversity and culture of India. There’s also the piece about what we learned about ourselves and the world by coming here. But that, like all good wisdom, will take some time.
Thank you for joining us on this journey.
P.S. We don’t have a next trip scheduled yet, but if you really, really liked getting these trip journals, I’d be willing to accept small and large donations to my favorite charity, the Mr. Ted Vacation Relief Fund.