85 days in India; or, Peculiar travel suggestions

(2010-12-08: Updated.)

On 27 December I will depart the States for India. On 23 March I will return. The chronologically curious will note: that's 87 days. (Subtract one day in a plane on each end for 85 days.) It's not quite a geologic age, but it is a long time.

For the purposes of this post, I will leave out the why [1]. Instead I will outline the trip, and ask for your advice. Some dates and places, e.g., the Mumbai Marathon, are firmly fixed; those items are noted in bold. However, all other items are quite flexible and represent only a notional itinerary that can be abandoned for better notions.

Like any first draft, there will be a number of mistakes, I'm sure, so don't be bashful about saying that something is stupid. Ready, aim...

Phase 1: Kolkata

  • 29-30 Dec: New Delhi
  • 31 Dec-3 Jan: Kolkata

Phase 2: Chandigarh

Here I could use some advice on places to stay in Chandigarh or Delhi.

  • 4 Jan: Kolkata to Delhi (by plane)
  • 5-6 Jan: Haridwar? Or Delhi?
  • 7-10 Jan: Chandigarh

Phase 3: Mumbai

The basic idea here: spend some time in Mumbai, then go on a loop through Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, then return to Mumbai.

  • 11 Jan: Chandigarh to Mumbai (by plane)
  • 11-19 Jan: Mumbai
  • 20-28 Jan: Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Burhanpur
  • 29-31 Jan: Mumbai

Phase 4: Mumbai to Pondicherry

At the least, I want to stop at Hampi, as one of my Kannadiga friends says I must. Anything else via buses and trains on the way to Bangalore is a bonus.

  • 31 Jan-9 Feb: Bijapur, Badami, Hampi
  • 10 Feb: Bangalore
  • 11 Feb: Bangalore to Pondicherry (by train)
  • 12 Feb: Pondicherry
  • 13 Feb: Auroville Marathon

Phase 5: Tamil Nadu

After the marathon on 13 Feb and until the India vs. Netherlands cricket match on 9 Mar, all plans can be changed. I can go anywhere and can do anything with anyone and anytime. It doesn't have to be in the south,--I could fly to Ahmedabad and cruise around Gujarat, what the hell?--it's just a first go at an itinerary.

  • 14-16 Feb: Pondicherry
  • 17-23 Feb: Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur, Rameswaram
  • 24-26 Feb: Chennai
  • 27 Feb-1 Mar: Bangalore
  • 1 Mar: Bangalore to Delhi (by plane)

Phase 6: Delhi

  • 2-7 Mar: North India?
  • 8-11 Mar: Delhi
    • 9 Mar: Delhi, Cricket World Cup, India vs. Netherlands
  • 12-14 Mar: Khajuraho
  • 15-18 Mar: Agra
  • 19-22 Mar: Delhi
  • 23 Mar: Delhi to Chicago to St. Louis

To get a flavor of what that looks like on a map, go here: India 2011.

I have left out the timing of various bus and train journeys--it made the itinerary above, which is already jumbled, look like something that could only be understood with the help of heavy pharmaceuticals. Let's just say that I know that it will take the better part of a day to travel, for example, from Delhi to Khajuraho, and I have accounted for that in each trip. Probably.

Discussion

When it comes to travel, the best places I've ever visited have been recommended by friends. This takes a variety of forms. For example, in 2006 it led to me going to dinner at [we drank a lot of wine and I don't remember] in Cadaques, Spain, with Alvin and Jorge. And Jorge pointed me to TurronerĂ­a Sirvent in Barcelona for ice cream. Both were fabulous--the former, especially.

The point is: although I will mention some things below that are interesting to me, my first priority is to meet friends that I know and friends that I don't yet know, and try the things they like. I don't have a bucket list or 1001 things to see before I die; I'm here for the ride.

What would I like to see?

  • I like books--especially libraries and secondhand bookstores. (Via email I just received some absolutely and outstandingly thoughtful advice on bookstores to visit in Mumbai.)
  • I like sports. When I'm not running one of the two-and-a-half marathons I've signed up for, I'd run with anyone from a Delhi or Bangalore or wherever running club that wants to go for a run. Also, I know nothing about cricket--there is a bat and a ball, but apparently it is different than baseball?--and I'd like to learn to play, or watch a real game, whichever.
  • I like music--especially music that isn't popular music. First person to take me to an Indian version of Morphine or the Dismemberment Plan wins.
  • I like history--which is to say I could amuse myself for days walking in and around old things. It is no accident that I live in a museum in a National Historical Park.
  • I like wandering in hills and mountains--but this is not something I will allow to be rushed, so I'll save it for another trip.

What do you think? Where should I go?

You don't need to suggest something grand. I don't need 85 days of Taj Mahals. Listen: if you came from India to Illinois, I could take you to Chicago to the top of the Sears Tower--I guess they call it the Willis Tower now, don't they? Ridiculous.--but I'd rather take you to Fulton County, to the Cedar Creek. Never heard of it? It's a secret, and it's not great by any absolute measure, but let me tell you: my enthusiasm would infect you, and it would be the best damned stream you've ever seen.


  1. I am tempted, here, to say something faux-clever as my reason, perhaps I'll lift a line from Kilgore Trout in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions:
    To be
    the eyes
    and ears
    and conscience
    of the Creator of the Universe,
    you fool.

    I could pretty much steal lines from Kurt Vonnegut all day long. Bonus points if you can identify the second half of the title. [back to text]

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