ANDREA - a full time Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi instructor.

I fell in love with yoga over seven years ago, when I got a Nintendo DS and bought a game called Let's Yoga. From then, I began 'playing' yoga everyday, sometimes twice a day. At first, the practice was more physical for me, but after few months I started to really count on yoga to bring me a sense of calm during especially chaotic days. Soon after, I began recognizing the benefits of a regular asana and meditation practice and continued to incorporate yoga daily - not just during times of chaos. I found myself feeling more energized, more compassionate, happier, and with more awareness. Now, I teach full-time and couldn't be happier to do what I love. What began as a physical practice for strength and flexibility quickly became a lifestyle. I teach my students to take their yoga off the mat and apply the principles learned in the class to their lives outside of the studio. I do not only teach my philosophy, I live it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

My Big India Adventure

6 days away
4 cities in 4 days in India
25 hours / 16.023km by plane
14 hours / 656km by train
29 hours / 563km by car
My Big India Adventure! :)

I never planned to go to India... Egypt - yes, Thailand - yes, China - yes, but India? Not really...

One day one of my friend who comes to my yoga classes said she is going back home to India for some time and she asked if I wanted to come. When she said she lives very close to Taj Mahal, my answer was a big YES!!!

So after my Eurotrip and few weeks away from UK we started to arrange everything - it wasn´t so easy (especially visa), but we managed to book everything - flights, hotels, trains, plan the whole trip, and on Sunday 21th Sept I was already on the plane. It was an 8hrs flight to Dubai, where I had few hours for shopping and then an almost 4hrs connecting flight to Delhi.

 When I arrived, a cab driver was waiting for me and we went straight to visiting everything possible :) First half an hour in a taxi was crucial - I thought I am going to die, but after that I got used to the animals, cars, bikes and people on the road going all directions and the horns sounded from EVERYWHERE!! 

My first stop was The India Gate, which has been called a "creative reworking of the Arc de Triomphe" has a span of 30 feet, and lies on the eastern axial end of Kingsway, present day Rajpath, the central vista and main ceremonial procession route in New Delhi.

After, we went to Dilli Haat,  an open-air food plaza and cradia, and from a variety of cultural traditions of India. Products offered may include rosewood and sandalwood carvings, embellished camel hide footwear, sophisticated fabric and drapery, gems, beads, brassware, metal crafts, and silk and wool fabrics. A number of shows promoting handicrafts and handlooms are held at the exhibition hall in the complex. 

Next place I wanted to visit was Lotus Temple. Like all other Bahá'í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all regardless of religion, or any other distinction, as emphasized in Bahá'í texts. The Bahá'í laws emphasize that the spirit of the House of Worship be that it is a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions. Unfortunately, Lotus Temple is closed every Monday, so I saw it only from far far away :/

The cab driver took me to Qutab Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world. It is an incredible example of early Indo–Islamic architecture. It was built in 1206, but the reason remains a mystery. Some believe that it was made to signify victory and the beginning of Muslim rule in India, while others say it was used to call the faithful to prayer. The tower has five distinct stories, and is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the holy Quran. There are also a number of other historic monuments on the site.

After this wonderful place I was quite tired, so we headed to my friend sister´s home. It was in Faridabad, not far from Delhi. I had a really nice Indian dinner and we took few pics with my friend´s niece :) She´s so cute! She sang to me, we played games, watched the monkey outside their house, it was great to spend an evening with such a nice people!

I slept few hours and I had to leave at 4am to get a flight from Delhi to Udaipur. Udaipur is the historic capital of the kingdom of Mewar in the former Rajputana Agency. Apart from its history, culture, and scenic locations, it is also known for its Rajput-era palaces. The Lake Palace, for instance, covers an entire island in the Pichola Lake. Many of the palaces have been converted into luxury hotels. It is often called the "Venice of the East", and is also nicknamed the "Lake City" or "City of Lakes". 

My friend´s brother was waiting for me at the airport and after the chaotic check in into the hotel (we went to another one, nicer, cleaner - beautiful view!!!) we went site-seeing :)

First, I had a fast breakfast - I can´t remember the name of this... but it was delicious and a bit spicy... :P 

Then we headed to City Palace. City Palace towers over the Pichola Lake. Maharana Udai Singh initiated the construction of the palace but successive Maharanas added several palaces and structures to the complex but retained remarkable uniformity in the design. The entry to the Palace is from the Hati Pol, the Elephant Gate. The Bari Pol or the Big Gate brings you to the Tripolia, the Triple gate. It was a custom to weigh the Maharaja under this gate in gold and silver, which was distributed to the populace. It is also now the main ticket office. Balconies, cupolas and towers of the palace give a wonderful view of the lake. Suraj Gokhada (or the balcony of the sun) is where the Maharana would grant public audiences mainly to boost the morale of the people in trying times. The Mor Chowk is the Hindi name of peacock square and is named after a vivid blue decorative glass peacock on the wall.


The most important tourist attraction at City Udaipur is a Ropeway which connects Dudh Talai Garden to Karni Mata temple. So we went up to the temple, situated on a hill presents a breath taking bird’s eye view of City Udaipur. It is installed between two mountains right on the bank of Lake Pichola. It is from here that you can take the best picsof City Udaipur including Lake Pichola, magnificent City Palace complex, Sajjangarh Fort and above all artistic landscaped Aravali mountains on the other side of the lake.

Another nice place... (I forgot the name :( )

And food again :) And this was my cab driver for today.

Early morning my journey continued - I was on the train for 8 hours. 

And I arrived to Jaipur :) I was told that my driver will be waiting for me at a huge Ghandi statue... Well... see it yourself :P

I stayed in the most beautiful hotel..

And then, I went to explore Jaipur!
First I´ve seen "Hawa Mahal" Palace of the Winds. The intricate and fascinating facade of the Palace of the Winds is probably Jaipur's most recognized building. Constructed in 1799, it has five floors that contain rows of small windows and screens. Wind used to flow through the openings, giving the palace its name. However, the wind has now gone from the Wind Palace as most of the windows have been sealed shut. Legend has it that the palace, which overlooks the main street of Jaipur's lively Old City, was built so that the women of the royal household could watch the streets below without being observed.

Not far from there, I visited another palace (I´m not sure about the name..)

I saw few beautiful gates, market and elephants on the way to Amber Fort....

Amber Fort and Palace was my highlight of the Jaipur sight-seeing - I liked it a lot!
Around half an hour's drive from the city center, like something out of a fairy tale, Amber Fort is set on a hill top overlooking Maota Lake. It was the original home of Rajput royalty until Jaipur city was constructed, and contains a number of breathtaking palaces, halls, gardens, and temples. Inside, the elaborate mirror work adds to the grandeur. The fort entrance is reached by walking up the hill, going in a jeep, or taking a lurching elephant ride.



On the way to the market, we stopped at the Water Palace - Jal Mahal. It is possibly the most serene sight amidst the chaos of Jaipur. This low-rise symmetrical palace, that once was a shooting lodge for the Maharajah, appears to float in the centre of Sagar Lake. The light sand coloured stone walls of the Jal Mahal Jaipur are at a stark contrast to the deep blue of the waters of the lake. This majestic scene makes the Jal Mahal Jaipur’s most photographed (and photograph friendly) monument but unfortunately exploration of the actual palace is off limits to the majority of visitors as it is to be transformed into an ultra exclusive restaurant.

Jaipur is an excellent place to shop and you'll find an enticing variety of goods available there. Some of the most popular items are precious gemstones, silver jewelry, bangles, clothes, blue pottery, and textiles. I stopped at one textile factory, where they showed me how the carpets and clothes are made - hand made ;)

On the way back to the hotel I stopped to take a picture of Government Central (Albert Hall) Museum. This old and famous museum was modeled on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Its collection includes portraits of local kings, costumes, woodcarvings, paintings, and arts and crafts.

I slept few hours and my second train journey begin early in the morning... After more than 6 hours I got to Agra - my final destination! Finally :)
My friend with her dad were waiting for me at the train station and we went to their house, had a nice lunch, we talked and laughed :)
After a little rest we were ready to visit the place I wanted to see the most - TAJ MAHAL! :)

Taj Mahal was built in 22 years (1631-1653) with the orders of Shah Jahan and it was dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Bano Begum), the wife of Shah. Although such a devotion to a wife reaching to build a monument seemed like a weakness for an emperor, Shah Jahan was clearly determined. He chose a peaceful site by the River of Jumna about one and a half miles away from Agra on the southern edge of the city, where could be seen from the Agra Fortress. The closeness to the river also met the water need for the construction and garden.

20.000 workers labored and 32 crore rupees were spent during the construction of the monument and it was built according to Islamic architecture. It is one of the Unesco world heritage site.

Taj Mahal means the’ Place of the Crown’ because; Taj means “Crown” and Mahal means “place”.

It is told that Shah Jahan got the hands of his sculptors and architects cut off so that they would never be able to build a monument as magnificent and beautiful as the Taj again and he even got their eyes pulled out so that they would never be able to witness anything bigger and more beautiful than the monument that they had built during their lifetime. But our guide told us it wasn´t true...

This place is simply amazing... It is truly beautiful!

This was my last and the best place I visited on my travels across India, and I am happy I saved it for last :)

Next early morning I took a cab to Delhi airport (4 hours), I had a flight to Dubai (3,5 hours) and the last plane was to Gatwick (8 hours) where my friend waited for me.

I had a wonderful time in India and it was only because of my lovely friend, Tanisha, who organized, planned and booked everything for me - she was on the phone with me all the time, helping me to find my cab drivers, hotels, trains... her family was so nice to me, very welcoming, and they cooked nice Indian food for me :)
Thank you sooo much for EVERYTHING! Without all of you my trip wouldn´t be so awesome!