Virtual Vacation #7- India
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This month's vacation (February 2018) will be to India.

A Virtual Vacation, is a way to daydream and live vicariously through other people's eyes and experiences in the hope that one day you may be able to physically be able to go and enjoy a country for yourselves.
Hopefully you can learn something, discover some hidden gems, and take away some ideas for when you do get there; in real life.

If you enjoy this vacation, please comment and add your thoughts and images to any topic that you see.

You can also check out our other destinations by clicking on any of these links:

VGG Virtual Vacation #1 - BELGIUM
VGG Virtual Vacation #2- Australia!
Join us! Virtual Vacation #3-- Italy
Virtual Vacation #4 - Scotland
Virtual Vacation #5-- Japan!
Virtual Vacations #6- Canada

Virtual Vacation #8 - Ireland

Mini:
One and done- A Virtual Vacation to Buenos Aires
One and done: A Virtual Vacation to Vienna
One and done: A Virtual Vacation to Iceland
One and done: A Virtual Vacation to Denmark

Virtual Vacation discussion thread:
VGG Virtual Vacations

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1. Board Game: Discover India [Average Rating:5.50 Overall Rank:16207]
Board Game: Discover India
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This is it-- the itinerary for the mysterious and exotic "subcontinent".

I'll be adding new material to the locations every two or three days, so subscribe and follow along as we travel (virtually) up, down, and across this ancient and sacred place.
There's also a small "bonus" sight along the way-- Kathmandu, Nepal, at the base of the Himalaya mountains. Because, hey; we're sort of close on a map anyway.

From gallery of MABBY

You'll have to study the map closely to find some of the locations, but Agra is not shown anywhere there. Find Delhi, go in a slightly SE line and you're in the neighborhood where the "U" of Uttar Pradesh is printed. Almost straight west of Agra is Jaipur, which is on the map.
Then from Mumbai (Bombay) on the west coast (about halfway down), Pune is also not shown on the map but it sits about where the "M" in Maharashtra province-- just east of Mumbai-- is printed.
From there, Goa is south and along the coast again, then draw a slanted line to the SE to find Bengaluru (Bangalore), Puducherry (Pondicherry) and Chennai (Madras).
Work north again, to the middle, for Hyderabad, then after the Nepal side-trip everything else lies north of Delhi.

February 01 (2018): Delhi (and New Delhi)-- List Item #10
Feb 03 Agra
Feb 05 Jaipur
Feb 07 Jodhpur
Feb 09 Mumbai
Feb 11 Pune
Feb 13 Goa
Feb 15 Bengaluru
Feb 17 Puducherry
Feb 18 Chennai
Feb 20 Hyderabad
Feb 21 Kolkata added on the fly!
Feb 22 Kathmandu (Nepal; flight from Mumbai Kolkata)
Feb 24 Chandigarh (via Dehli)
Feb 26 Srinagar
Feb 28th Leave from Delhi
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2. Board Game: Face the Facts [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Face the Facts
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Fun Facts about India!

A new item will be added every day in February. Subscribe to this item, or to the geeklist in general, and be counted as the first ones to receive a new fun fact!

Feb 01: Here's a great trick that you can use to tell what time it is in India if you are in the UK (or anywhere in Greenwich timezone "0") and if you have an analog wristwatch: Turn your watch upside-down (6 at the top and 12 at the bottom).
India is 5 1/2 hours "ahead" of Britain, so the two hands always point correctly!

Feb 02: How can you tell the difference between an Indian and an African Elephant? For one thing, the ears are smaller on the Indian one.
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Feb 03: You will find that most homes and restaurants will serve food in/ on metal (copper, silver, or stainless steel) dishes. This is mainly because, traditionally, anything made of “mud” (i.e. ceramic) is considered to be unclean.

Feb 04: There are about 270 types of snakes in India. “Only” six of them are venomous, but they do have what they call the “big four” amongst those six: The Indian Cobra, the Common Krait (yellow and black), Russell's Viper (oval-ish spots), and the Saw-scaled Viper (much like a diamond back pattern). Good news: A serum is widely available, if you should need it.

Feb 05: Jaipur is actually a very good 2-player (only) game. While fairly simple to learn, there is a lot to master. It has plenty of interaction, since you are often trying to either outwait or get the jump on your opponent.

Feb 06: The Grey Mongoose, which looks like a squirrel on steroids but with a tapered tail instead of a bushy one, really can and does eat poisonous snakes. And rats, which makes them well-liked and even kept as a pet in some cases.

Feb 07: Jodhpur— as well as being the name of a city— is also the name of a style of boot that covers the ankles, but no higher. Often, in particular, it refers to a “riding” boot, with one or two leather loops to aid putting them on.

Feb 08: Yep-- In India you can order a McPaneer! (paneer is a common homemade curd cheese; that doesn't melt.)

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Feb 09: Wallah (or wala) is an extremely common word in India, meaning “person” but more usually a male “worker” (not always, though), since it is always a person doing a particular activity. There is a Chaiwala, who is a boy or young man who serves tea, a Rickshawala: a rickshaw driver; a Punkawallah: the servant who keeps the fan (punka) going on hot nights; and hundreds of others.

Feb 10: A tiffin is one of the most important sets of foodware in a Mumbai household. Typically the man will go to work and his wife will make a homemade lunch or snack for him, and send it inside a tiffin— a metal container with interlocking nested vessels inside— by a complicated means of delivery, which can involve trains or bicycles, or both, depending on locale.

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A tiffin wallah (dabbawala) loads up his bike to make many deliveries

The amazing thing is that the dirty dishes are delivered back to the homes, and the accuracy of the deliveries; on average, only one meal goes astray in two months-- with 160,000 of them delivered daily.
Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jun/24/worlddispatch....

Feb 11: One more word of note: Desi, from a Sanskrit word meaning "land" or "country", is now often applied as a prefix to mean “traditional”. So, for instance, you may have “desi ghee”, which is ghee (solid clarified butter) made in a traditional manner; i.e. not mass-produced.

Feb 12: I mentioned the importance of metals, earlier, but there are certain foods (desserts, mainly) that include edible silver and gold leaf flaked on top!
Gold and silver are very important symbols, especially at a wedding.

Feb 13: Another common practice amongst Indian people, is calling any older, married woman “auntie”; it is especially common with strangers. Unmarried women would be called “didi”, which is roughly equivalent to ‘sister’.
You show respect by not using the person’s name until you know them better. For older men, “uncle” is sometimes used, as well.

Feb 14: The Indian flag has three horizontal bands of color: Saffron for courage and sacrifice, White for truth and peace, and Green for faith, fertility, and chivalry. An emblem of a wheel spinning used to be in the center of the white band, but when India gained independence, a Buddhist dharma chakra, or wheel of life, replaced the spinning wheel.

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Feb 15: The national fruit of India is the mango. The national bird is the peacock, which was initially bred for food.

Feb 16: An Indian woman, Shakuntla Devi, demonstrated the mental calculation (using her mind only; no paper and pencil, or calculator) of two 13 digit numbers-- 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779-- which were picked at random from suggestions in the crowd.
She answered in under 30 seconds, and was shown to be correct when the figures were then multiplied by hand, using a large chalkboard for the crowd to see.

Feb 17: Diamonds were first found on Earth in the alluvial deposits of the Krishna River Delta.
Until diamonds were discovered in Brazil during the 18th century, India led the world in diamond production.
Both countries have since been surpassed by South Africa.

Feb 18: A bindi-- from the Sanskrit word bindu, meaning "point, drop, or dot"-- and usually colored red (vermillion), is the dot on the forehead of a Hindu woman.
A married woman usually wears one, while a widowed woman may display a black bindi or nothing at all. Young girls may choose to wear either none, or one of any color, although for fashion purposes they sometimes glue on a fake jewel.
There is also a male version: a man can wear a tilak during prayers or religious ceremonies.

Feb 19: Snakes and Ladders originated in India.
Earlier known as Moksha Patamu, the game was initially invented to be taught to children as a moral lesson about karma.

Feb 20: The shape of Lonar Lake, a saltwater lake in Maharashtra, was created by a meteor hitting the Earth
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Feb 21: The Kumbh Mela Festival is the largest gathering of humans on earth. One year, 100 million people took part!
The timing is tied to astrological events, but it occurs about 4 times every 12 years. The site of the observance rotates between four pilgrimage places, upon four sacred rivers.

Feb 22: Police officers in one state in India are given a slight pay upgrade for having a moustache.
If that isn't a "fun" fact then I don't know what is!

Feb 23: In 1954, archaeologists excavating an 8th-century Viking settlement in Sweden found a Buddha statuette from India.

Feb 24: The Golden Temple feeds a vegetarian meal to over 100,000 people a day regardless of race, religion and class.
It is located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab-- just on the other side of the border from Lahore, Pakistan

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Feb 25: India planted nearly 50 million trees in 24 hours on Monday, July 11, 2016, a Guinness World Record.

Feb 26: Indians enjoy 18 days off per year, tying them with Colombia as the two countries with the most public holidays in the world.

Feb 27: A cow-smuggling tunnel was discovered in 2017 under the India–Pakistan border. We are having some fun now!

Feb 28: Arranged marriages are not a relic of the past: upward of 80% of marriages still happen that way in India.
Many brides use the Bichiya: ring(s) on the toe(s) for a wedding.

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3. Board Game: India [Average Rating:6.58 Unranked]
Board Game: India
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Overview
Some vaccines are recommended or required for India; check with your local heath services or government advisory websites.
The CDC and WHO both recommend the following vaccines for India: Typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), and influenza.

I'm not sure how long they are effective for, but certain vaccines can make you ill for a short while after adminstering, so don't wait until the day before you leave to get your immunizations!
You don't want to be sick as soon as you arrive.

How much do you already know about India?
Have you visited before? (If so, make sure you add comments and any photos that you would like to share!)
Why would you want to go there? To experience the history? To see amazing structures like the Taj Mahal? For the food? Just for the adventure?
Leave a comment, so we know that you're following along on this trip.

Here's a short quiz, just for fun:
(reset/ updated; correct answers were not displaying)
Quiz
1. Which Indian city has the greatest population?
2. Of those same four cities, which is the "smallest"?
(Only 8.6 million, compared to 14 million for the third ranked city)
3. Of those same four cities, which was rated as "The safest city in India"?
(It is also called "India's Health Capital")
4. How many cities in India have a population greater than a million people?
5. Was Sri Lanka (the island across the bay of Bengal, off the southeast tip) ever politically a part of India (a province or territory, in essence)?

6. Was Bangladesh (which was actually known as East Pakistan, before the partition in 1947) ever politically a part of India?
7. In Hinduism, Varna (a Sanskrit word) is similar to the meaning of the word caste, which you may know is a sort of ranking of societal members.
How many "castes" were there in traditional Hinduism?
8. You thought that cows were sacred, but how many McDonald's restaurants are there in India?
9. What is the most popular spectator sport in India?
    12 answers
Quiz created by MABBY


Historically, India is one of the earliest populated places on the planet. Today it is the second-most populated country in the world and some people think that it could reach number one, eventually.

Due to the oceans and deserts in the west and the Himalaya mountains-- which were formed when the landmass in the basic shape of modern India "collided" with the continent of Asia, pushing the land up there-- in the north, the Indian culture was fairly isolated from other great civilizations (like relatively nearby China or Egypt/ Babylonia).
The arrival of Western settlers, especially explorers from Britain and Holland/ Portugal/ Spain who were looking for tea and spices to bring back home, changed their history in a major way.

It is a land of great contrast; there are the poorest of the poor living in cities with incredibly wealthy people, the boundries of huge cities change to dense forest and jungle just beyond their outskirts, and wild animals are a common sight in smaller villages. Their climate is temperate (and even cold, sometimes) in the north and northeast regions and tropical down closer to the southern tip.

Speaking of weather....
If you really were going to plan a trip here, the weather is going to be of concern.
February turns out to be not a bad choice, considering that the "low" temperatures in winter are 68–77 °F (20–25 °C) in the south and 50–59 °F (10-15 °C) in the north/ northwest.

Summer in northwestern India starts from April and ends in July, and in the rest of the country it is from from March to May. April is the hottest month in the south, sometimes reaching over 120 °F (50 °C).

Their other two seasons are sometimes called "Monsoon" and "Post-Monsoon", and that means torrential winds and rains and humidity from June to October, in various parts.

External image

Not like this everywhere, but you never know

Thoughts
What would be your biggest concern about actually travelling to India?
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4. Board Game: Mind Your Language [Average Rating:4.25 Unranked]
Board Game: Mind Your Language
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According to Census of India of 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other local dialects. wow
Urdu is the common language of Pakistan and (I believe) of most Muslims in India.
Hindi is the most commonly used Indian language, especially in the more northern areas, but English is actually fairly well-known and spoken/ understood in the more urban areas, and it is used in higher education and in some areas of the Indian government.

So there's a good chance that if you do touristy things, then you won't have a huge problem with the language.

Many of us like to know a few key phrases, so that we at least appear to be polite and respectful.

"Please" in Hindi is 'Krpya' (Krip-ya).
"Thank You" is 'Dhanyavaad' but sometimes it almost seems to sound like a letter T at the beginning: 'TAWN-yah-vahd'.

To say "Hello": 'Namaste' (nah-MAH-stay), with hands together in a prayer gesture, with a slight bow of the head, is a respectful Hindu greeting.
"Goodbye" is 'Alvida' (AHL vid-ah).

For Muslim greetings, say 'Salaam alaikum' (sah-LAHM ah-LAY-kum); "peace be with you"; or in response: 'Alaikum salaam'.

I don't know how you can tell the difference between Hindu or Urdu, written or spoken, but if the other person initiates a Muslim greeting then you can at least take your cues from that.

Top tip from a frequent visitor:

Learn The Word “Nai” and Use it:
It simply means No, but it also means that you're serious.

You’re going to have a lot of people trying to sell you things in the cities, from photos in front of popular landmarks, to ball-point pens while you’re stopped at a red light. You can say “no thank you” all you want, but that’s just going to make you sound like a tourist even more.

I should have mentioned it earlier, but "Yes" is the word haan.


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5. Board Game: Managing Your Money [Average Rating:4.73 Unranked]
Board Game: Managing Your Money
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The official currency of India is the Rupee ( ₹ )

External image


Recently, US$100 was equal to about 6,345 rupees in exchange. Allowing for profit margins at the bank/ exchangers, if you figure on 600 rupees = US$1 then you'll be pretty close.

They do have coins, but 1 rupee (ten times less than a penny; 0.016 cents) was further divided into 100 paise. But since 2011 denominations of 25 paise and less are no longer legal tender!

A ₹200 banknote was added in 2017 to fill in the gap between coins and paper money.

There are two very common words used when discussing large numbers in India, and especially used with money: Lakh and Crore.

Lakh is the single word for 100,000 (of anything).

Since the pricing of items in rupees can get so high, so fast, they will often write 150,000 rupees as 1.5 lakh rupees.
So you should definitely get familiar with multiplication by tens, and moving decimal points around.

It certainly doesn't help things, at all, in that Indians don't write their numbers in groups of three separated by commas; only the last three: For Lakh, I would use 100,000 but in India it is written as 1,00,000. The same number of zeroes, but with a comma after the 1!

Which makes this very odd to western ears, but "Ten Lakh" is one million (10 x 100,000 in western notation). Written as 10,00,000 locally-- again with the same number of zeroes-- but the comma is after the "ten".

So what is crore? Crore is ten million, actually.
1,00,00,000 in local script-- you can figure out how to interpret that!

And, for just giggles, 1 billion is alternately known as "one arab" or one hundred crore.
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6. Board Game: Let's Learn About Different Food [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Let's Learn About Different Food
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You've probably heard about the tourist sickness travel warnings, and terms like "Montezuma's Revenge" when in Mexico, or "Mummy's Tummy" (Egypt). In India, the common term is "Delhi Belly".
And it has been said that this is practically unavoidable. But you can reduce your chances of feeling unwell by drinking only bottled water, eating freshly cooked food, avoiding raw foods like salads (which may have been washed in unclean water), foregoing ice cubes, and using a lot of hand sanitizer.

That said; food is always one of the most exciting things about travelling, in my opinion.
In this case, India holds a great deal of interest to me, mainly because of the food.

British citizens, in particular, may figure on an Indian vacation and trying out the local Chicken Tikka while abroad, but they will be sorely disappointed.
Tikka Masala-- practically the most popular food in all of Britain-- is a western invention*.

Just like you are not going to find "curry" over there (unless you are in a highly westernized environment).
We have "curry powder", while Indians rely on "Garam Masala", a mixture of spices. Garam means "hot" (as in spicy) and Masala means "mixture". The commonly found curry powder in western supermarkets is mostly tumeric (a powdered yellow root) and cumin.

*If you are craving Tikka Masala in India, chicken is "murgh" and the word "tikka" merely means bits, pieces or chunks, so you can find "kebobs" anywhere on the streets.
If you like your tikka with coconut milk added to a curry sauce, then look for a "Korma" or, if you prefer a spicy tomato sauce, then you want to find a "makhani" on the menu.

Popular breads other than the delicious naan are roti (like a tortilla) and chapati (like a pita).
Technically, a dossa (like a crepe), paratha (sort of like a stuffed tortilla), or papadam (similar to a very large round cracker) qualify as well.

If just thinking about naan bread, various dals (lentils), pakoras, and samosas is making your mouth water, then why wait?
Follow some of the recipes that can be found right on BoardGameGeek, at the Culinary Guild! Indian cuisine

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You may not realize it, but Indians tend to have a sweet tooth.
Diabetes is a major problem in the population.
They have sugar-powdered items, much like donuts, and they have a sort of ice cream (called "kulfi") along with many other sweet desserts.

Street foods are the most tempting and interesting scene in every city.
Before you take part, however, know this: Even if you watch a dozen local people going to a stand for food, you might be the only one getting a bad case of the runs after eating at a food vendor. The main reason is that their bodies and immune systems have already encountered the local bacteria and developed immunities for them. You? Not so much...

What are your favorite Indian foods to eat at home?
Have you ever tried to cook them yourself?

Share your thoughts on the food in the comments!
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7. Board Game: The World of Beer [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Board Game: The World of Beer
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Beverages

The most famous beverage ever to come out of India is tea; mainly Assam and Darjeeling.
It is called "chai", the Hindi word for tea.

Not beer, although the immensely popular style known as India Pale Ale has the country's name right in it.
Alas, that's another product of western civilization.
It seems that the British were sending casks of ale to their troops in India, and it was arriving there spoiled, due mainly to a lack of refrigeration on sailing ships.
They already knew that Hops were a natural preservative, so they added some extra ones to the batches.
They also knew that higher alcohol levels translated into better transport, so they bumped up the alcohol level as well.

Now an India Pale Ale could be enjoyed overseas, provided that you liked extra hops and alcohol. Not a problem in my books...

As for the beer that is served in India, it will most likely be a lager or a light ale. Something that can be served cold, and not full of malt or hop flavors. "Kingfisher" is a popular brand there.

Indians are very fond of Whisky, as well, it turns out.
If someone says that they are going to have a "peg", or invite you to join them for one, then you'll get a couple of fingers of whisky served to you.
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8. Board Game: Passport to Culture [Average Rating:5.85 Unranked]
Board Game: Passport to Culture
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Here you can add comments about what you know about India's contributions to the world, be it in literature, art, music, or other entertainment.
Perhaps a famous figure from history.
You can even give us a history lesson if that sort of thing appeals to you.

I'll start off with a few obvious choices:

Literature:
Ever heard of the Kama Sutra? blush

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Music:

The Beatles went to India to learn about meditation, and it certainly shaped their world vision upon their return.
George Harrison, in particular, went on to study the sitar and learned and played with the legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar.

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Film:

Indians love films, and they love dancing. Thus, Bollywood was born.

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Fame:

Literally one of the most famous people who ever lived:

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Spoiler (click to reveal)
Mahatma Gandhi. But you already knew that.

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9. Board Game: World of Transport [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: World of Transport
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In order to get to Delhi from North America or Europe, the best method is via a flight from Frankfurt, Germany.
It is about $400 cheaper to fly to Delhi than it is to Mumbai, so that is why I'm making Delhi our first stopover.
You should try to book a flight arriving during the daytime, preferably in the afternoon (morning and evening traffic is very bad). A huge number of flights, mostly from Middle East, arrive late at night, and the airport is extremely crowded.

By the way, flights within India are all pretty cheap, although delays and cancellations are common.
It has been said that 90% of Indians have never been on a plane in their life, but that isn't too surprising based on the sheer number of people there.
The everyday man or woman would walk or rely heavily on trains, buses, and taxis, or a personal vehicle (a motorcycle/ scooter, or a small car if they can afford one).

Unless you have used a travel agent to book a package, India can be quite daunting to plan on your own. Especially at the airport in Delhi, taxis charge big money and give false advice on accomodation or access to places. Some drivers are paid a commission to bring customers to some rather "iffy" hotels (that someone in their family may own or be part of).
In most cases, a decent hotel will send one of their own drivers to pick you up, waiting even if your flight is delayed. If you're only relying on hostels or cheap hotels on the fly, then you're going to have more than your share of problems.

The country is enormous, and the train system isn't overly well connected; especially compared to Europe or Japan.
If you're ready to endure 10 (or more) hour train rides between some distant cities, then you should have the time of your life here.

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I'm not sure if you seen them, but there are thousands of youtube videos of traffic in India, and none of them makes you feel particualrly brave about renting a car, I can tell you...



Supposedly most hotels or travel agencies will rent a car with a driver. Sign me up!

I'm not certain how easy it is to rent a car for personal use while in India, but I suspect that once you are out of the city then things should be calmer. And there are certain places that seem only to be available by a personal vehicle or on a bus/ coach tour.
I love to be the one in control, myself, but this country might just be the exception.

Within certain cities, you can rely on the local knowledge of your "auto-rickshaw"/ cab driver and that will be comparitively cheaper than taking a bus (which typically gets stalled in traffic), if you value your time.

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You can negotiate directly with taxi drivers at taxi stands around the city; many of the mileage meters installed in cabs are "for show", and not used by the drivers. Haggling is encouraged, and threatening to look for someone else more reasonably priced is a valid technique for the tourist, who will certainly be charged more than a local would be in any case. There is a phone line/ website where you can complain about drivers who try to really overcharge you, but it's all part of the experience, really.

Some taxis can only operate inside the city limits, or in certain surrounding states. For a day of local sightseeing, there is normally an eight-hour, 80 km (50 mile) limit – anything over this costs extra.
Supposedly, in Delhi, look for cabs that are white if you want to travel between cities. They have special permits that allow this.
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10. Board Game: Destination Delhi! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Destination Delhi!
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Feb. 01 Delhi and New Delhi

Delhi, like the plains that surround it, is extremely flat and featureless. There are low hills off to the west and the river Yamuna, which flows down the eastern side of the city, is the only other feature of note.
The airport is in the SW quadrant (in New Delhi) and it is called Indira Gandhi International (IGI); named for a female prime minister (1966 to 1977, and again from 1980 to 1984) who was assassinated by two of her own bodyguards. She was not related to Mahatma Gandhi.

And on that rather somber note...

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(Old) Delhi

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New Delhi, from above

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Qutb Minar in New Delhi

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Red Fort Monument in (old) Delhi

So what can we do, once we arrive in Delhi?
Explore. Travel by foot. Take a trip with a taxi driver.

The Metro system in Delhi is supposed to be excellent. It runs from 6am to 11pm.
Trains can get insanely busy at peak commuting times (around 9am to 10am and 5pm to 6pm) – avoid travelling with luggage during rush hour if at all possible (the Airport Express, however, is separate from the other lines, and not busy).

Tokens (₹8 to ₹50) are sold at metro stations. There are also one- or three-day 'tourist cards' (₹150/300, ₹50 deposit, ₹30 refundable when you return it) for unlimited short-distance travel, and a Smart Card (₹150, ₹50 deposit, ₹30 refundable), which can be recharged (like an "Oyster card" in London) for amounts from ₹200 to ₹1000 – these make fares 10% cheaper than paying by token.

Delhi has many museums; the main one being the National Museum.
For train enthusiasts, there is also a National Rail Museum.

Jama Masjid is a mosque that is open to anyone, and there is a tall minaret that can be climbed to see the city from its top.
Buy a ticket at the Eastermn Gate entrance to climb 121 steps up (notices say that "unaccompanied" women are not permitted).
At the top of the tower, visitors should remove their shoes.

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The old part of Delhi, viewed from above

There is no fee to enter the mosque if you are there to pray, but apparently if you want to use a camera/ take photos on any device then you are charged 300 rupees (and an extra 100 rupees to do so in/on the minaret).
I'm not sure how this is enforced or implemented.

Lodi Gardens is a public park in Delhi, walking distance from Jor Bagh metro station in New Delhi.
You can just relax on the grass, but the grounds also contain mosques and tombs, and there is a picturesque bridge across the lake in its upper right corner (walking distance from the Khan Market metro station).

These are some other suggested sites to visit (two of them were shown in the images above):

New Delhi- The Lotus Temple, Qutb Minar (brick minaret), Akshardham (temple), Humayun’s Tomb

(Old) Delhi- Chandni Chowk market which also has the Red Fort Monument within.

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Doesn't that look like a fun place to go?

You certainly won't starve here. Even late at night.

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Chaat is a generic term for a snack, or a snackfood— often intrinsically associated with street food.
Sometimes called Gujarati chaat (Gajurat = Western Indian) in Mumbai.

The 6 favourite street foods of Delhi

1) Chole Bhatura. Spicy chole (chickpeas) and deep fried bread.
2) Dahi Papdi Chaat. Sweet, tangy, light, filling. Wheat wafers, moong beans, potatoes, yogurt, chutney, spices and sauce are all layered together in a gooey mess. (Papdi are the wheat wafers).
3) Gol Gappas. These are called Pani Puri in Mumbai. Little crisp, fried flour balls are filled with a mixture of flavoured water, tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion and chickpeas.
4) Aloo Tikki. Spicy, pan-friend potato patties, served with chutney.
5) Samosas.You can get meat or vegetarian versions, spicy or mild.
6) Kebabs. Various meats, but no beef.

TIP: Old Delhi’s street food is famously good, and sometimes famously unhygienic, so here are some much more hygienic (physical restaurant and cafe) choices that I found on the internet: Natraj Dahi Wale Bhalla, Nathu Sweets, Anupama Sweets, Moti Mahal, Bengali Sweets, Haldirams, Evergreen.
________________________________________________________________________________

If you get your fill of ancient sights, the modern and new city of Gurugram (aka Gurgaon) is just 32 kilometres (20 mi) southwest of New Delhi.
Here you can find skyscrapers, a partly elevated Metro system, and loads of shopping malls and modern conveniences.

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Just west of the city, Sultanpur National Park is home to hundreds of bird species, and there is a visitor/ interpretive center.

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11. Board Game: Agra [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:960]
Board Game: Agra
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Feb. 03 Agra

Agra is 200 km/ 125 miles southeast of Delhi and it is well connected to Delhi by buses and trains.
Around 2 ½ - 3 hours by train, so a daytrip from Delhi is possible if you don’t want to stay overnight in Agra.
It takes between 4- 5 hours (one way) if travelling by bus, which makes for a long day.

There is one main reason to go here, and that reason is the Taj Mahal.

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(also a game: Taj Mahal)

Agra actually has three UNESCO World Heritage sites; the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri nearby.

The city itself has little else to recommend it, supposedly.
Guided city tours can be arranged right outside the train station and it is also possible to hire a cab for the day, for travel around Agra.

No vehicles are allowed near the Taj complex, so beware of taxi drivers may tell you (falsely) that they can get you closer.

The Taj is wildly popular amongst the locals and tourists, and is probably the one place in India where you will need to be extra vigilant against pickpockets, hawkers, and so called "touts", who try to get your money in return for promises of shorter line-ups or added access, that you can most often find by yourself.

The Taj Mahal itself is a mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. Taj Mahal means “Crown Palace”.
It is open from 6am to 6:30 pm, but early morning is probably the best time to go. Avoid the weekends, if possible, since the crowds get really bad then.
It is closed on Fridays (the Muslim Sabbath).
Also, if possible, view it a different times of the day for a different experience; dawn and dusk, or during a full moon during a “night viewing” from a nearby viewpoint.

Supposedly you should beware of fake stones and jewels for sale, and if someone leads you into a merchant's shop, then they typically receive a commission from the shop owner, but the price of that commission will get added secretly onto your prices.
Agra is also famous for its leather goods.

Bharatpur is only about 56 km /35 miles (west, about 1/5 of the way toward Jaipur) from Agra and it houses a famous bird sanctuary in which you can see over 350 types of birds, including Kingfishers, Pelicans, Egrets, Spoonbills, Eagles, Parakeets, and Painted Storks.

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Visitors can walk or cycle along the elevated embankments, and there are also deer, mongoose, wild boar, jungle cats, and hyenas wandering about

There is train service from both Delhi and Jaipur to the sanctuary, officially known as Keoladeo (Ghana) National Park.

Then, also in Bharatpur, there is the nearby Lohagarh Fort, which remained invincible despite several attacks by the British.

Finally, just 32 km /20 miles from Bharatpur, in a north-northwest direction, is the historically famous Deeg Palace and Fort.

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During festivals (such as Holi), colors are added to the water and are sprayed up by fountains

This strong and massive complex was the summer resort of the rulers of Bharatpur, and it has many buildings and gardens in close proximity.

You’ll have to drive to get there, I believe.
Along the (one main) road you will pass through a market town called Kumher which offers a more realistic shopping experience, serving mostly the local inhabitants, than the touristy shops in Agra.
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12. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:132]
Board Game: Jaipur
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Feb. 05 Jaipur

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Not as flat as Delhi was

Jaipur is often called the Pink City, in reference to its distinctly colored buildings which were originally painted this color to imitate sandstone.

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Many buildings range in color from pink to red

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The Hawa Mahal

Like most major cities, Jaipur has its share of notable forts, palaces, temples, monuments, and gardens.
There are a couple of museums, including the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing (textiles) and a soon-to-open Wax Museum (like Tussaud's, in London).
There are also several bazaars in the city centre that are supposed to be well worthwhile visiting.

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Just what you were looking for, right?

If your tastes in jewelry lie not so much in gold, then you'll be wanting to seek out the Silver Centre (Sangeeta Boochra) which features silver and jeweled pieces (but also copper, platinum, and gold).

Movie enthusiast may want to find the Raj Mandir Theatre, which lets you experience the power of Bollywood in the most authentic way. It is nothing like going to a movie at home. Even if you can't understand the film, you will have a truly memorable experience.

Other notable sights include:

The City Palace & the Jal Mahal (Water Palace)

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Jal Mahal

Jantar Mantar

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The world’s largest sundial, and other celestial and astrological instruments

Galwh Bagh (aka The Monkey Temple) and Suriya Mandir (aka The Sun Temple)
Both locals and tourists come here to feed the surprisingly tame monkeys and to enjoy the views. Monkey food is available for purchase at the bottom of the hill.

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Not just monkeys; there are goats and other animals wandering about as well

The Amber Fort (11 km/ 7 miles north of central Jaipur)

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Approximately a 4 hour drive southeast of Jaipur will get you to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (and National Park)— go on a safari to view Bengal Tigers in the wild!

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Never get out of the %$^#ing car!
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13. Board Game: Blue Moon City [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:620]
Board Game: Blue Moon City
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Feb. 07 Jodhpur

From gallery of MABBY

Where we’ve been, so far. Also noted are the cities Udaipur and Jaisalmer

Jodhpur is often called the Blue City, in reference to its many distinctly colored buildings which were originally painted this color... well, no one is really sure why. There are several explanations but no definitive one.
By the way, as you can see on that map, along with Jaipur (the Pink City) you can also visit the “White City” of Udaipur and the “Golden City” of Jaisalmer which are all in this same province.

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Where Jaipur was pink...

Jaisalmer is supposed to be an impressive place, due mostly to the presence of an enormous fort in the midst of the Thar Desert.
And if you do make the trek to Jodhpur, you should probably go the extra mile to Jaisalmer. But it is practically at the border with Pakistan and, although it evokes romantic images of camels travelling an old silk and spice route, it is quite remote (and not that "touristy"), and a long distance from Delhi and Jaipur.

Jodhpur itself also has a lot of forts, palaces, temples, monuments, and gardens, but the most notable is the Mehrangarh Fort, which sits on a high hill overlooking the city. The largest structure is known as Zenana Deodi but the nearby fort and museum are integrated into the same site.
The museum is supposed to be quite impressive, and houses a collection of old palanquins—like an early taxi; those enclosed box seats that were carried on poles.

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The city of Jodhpur- featuring the Zenana Deodi and the Mehrangarh Fort; that's the Jaswant Thada cenotaph/ mausoleum in the foreground.

There are several “stepwells” in India and in Jodhpur in particular; These are accessible to the public, and some people climb down the stairs to swim in the pool at the bottom.
The Toor Ji "ki baori" (stepwell) is quite photogenic.
And dizzying.

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Toor Ji Ki Baori

You may also want to vist the Ghantaghar Clock Tower and Nai Sarak and Sardar Markets.

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Nai Sarak and the clock tower

Other notable sights include:

Jodhpur Palace, the Mandore Garden— just north of the main city, and the Machia Biological Park— an open air zoo that is located near a long lake.

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Looking closer at that last image— you are going to notice the difference between “foreign” and “Indian” pricing in a lot of different places, throughout India. Prices are at least ten times higher if you are a tourist.
At least they are up front about it. shake
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14. Board Game: Bombay [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2771]
Board Game: Bombay
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Feb. 09 Mumbai

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Mumbai/ Bombay— whatever you want to call it: Looking not very much like Delhi

Perhaps, if you are as old as I am, you remember the more English names of various cities and countries around the world.
When I was a kid, it was Peking, not Beijing. It was Ceylon, not Sri Lanka. Siam, not Thailand.
Well in my case, it was always Bombay, not Mumbai (also, Calcutta instead of Kolkata).
But these are modern times and I am fully prepared to call it like the locals do. So Mumbai it is.

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The Palace Hotel and Gateway of India

This is a city of great contrast. Rich and poor. Oppulence and squalor.
It is a very vibrant city, with a modern and metropolitan feel. Yet it also seems to have trapped some unfortunate citizens in its clutches, and they eke out their livings within it.

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The underbelly of Mumbai

The good news is that you won't lack for things to do and see here.

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Malad pagoda

There is a fierce rivalry between Mumbai and Delhi, as to which is the "best" city. Both of them believe that their food scene is the most desireable. I'd be happy to test things out and give you a verdict.

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Vada Pav, also known as an Indian burger, is one of the most popular spicy and hot vegetarian fast food dishes in Mumbai.

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Pani Puri Also known as Golgappas in Northern India: Probably the most popular snack food in India
It consists of a round, hollow puri, made from a dough of semolina flour and fried crisp, then it is filled with the pani: often a mixture of tamarind chutney, flavored water, chili, other spices, potato, onion and/or chickpeas.

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We've got the puri all made, now we just need some fresh pani to fill them with.

Other things to do and see:

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (and Kanheri Cave Temples)

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Elephanta Island (and Caves)

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Haji Ali Dargah (shrine)

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15. Board Game: Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947 [Average Rating:8.19 Overall Rank:2559]
Board Game: Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947
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Feb. 11 Pune
Spelled Poona during British rule; that’s how you pronounce it.

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“Why Pune?”, you may ask yourself. “I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of it.”

Pune is a sprawling city, located 100 miles (162 Km) southeast of Mumbai. Its population ranks it in the top ten of all Indian cities; over 3 million people live there.
It is known for the grand Aga Khan Palace, built in 1892, which is now a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi whose ashes are preserved in the garden.

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Aga Khan is a title given to an Islamic leader. In Pune, Hasan Ali Shah was also the governor, and he had a strong working relationship with Britain

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) is a revered figure in Indian culture, even today. He preached and practiced “non-violence” as a solution to disputes that commonly ended up in armed combat or civil wars.
He was the principal figure during the fight for India’s independence from Britain, and during “The Partition”—when the Indian government physically separated its people by religion (essentially forcing the Muslim minority to go to Pakistan)—he worked to bridge the gap in philosophies between Hindus and Muslims. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out, although the two religions do co-exist in India today.

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As with most disputes, there are violent (minority) radical factions but the majority of people have common sense and try to live by Gandhi’s message of tolerance and understanding

So. Anything else to see in Pune?
Absolutely.

The 8th-century Pataleshwar Cave Temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Saras Baug Park features a Ganesh temple, dedicated to the elephant-headed god.

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Saras Baug Park

Parvati Hill , topped by another temple complex that includes the Peshwa Museum , offers panoramic views of Pune.

Shaniwar Wada , an 18th-century fortified palace, was once the seat of Maratha Peshwas.

The Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum displays a whimsical collection of Indian lamps, puppets, hookah pipes and other arts and crafts.

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Parvati Hill
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16. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:167]
Board Game: Goa
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Feb. 13 Goa

A bit of a switch-up today. Goa is a small province, rather than a city. It is divided into North and South Goa, although there are no manned border crossings between the regions.
The city of Panaji is the capital, while the city of Vasco da Gama—named after the famous Portuguese explorer—is its largest in terms of population.
The historic city of Margao still exhibits the cultural influence of Portugal, whose explorers first landed at Goa in the early 16th century.

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The Municipal Council building in Margao

Lest you think that India is just a country full of people and slums; Go to Goa and visit one of the many beaches there.

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Palolem Beach

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Admittedly; some beaches aren’t as idyllic as the previous one...

So if you aren’t interested in the cities, or in beaches (crowded or not), is there any other reason to come 600 km (370 miles) south from Mumbai to Goa?

In short, yes.
This region has some of the earliest signs of human habitation on the Earth; there are rock carvings—discovered by chance in 1993, after a rainstorm and flood—and a megalithic stone circle with a round granite stone in the centre, that date back 10,000 years.

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Rock carvings at Usgalimal

Experience a tropical monsoon climate, and see jungle plants and lovely vistas.

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Dudhsagar Falls

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Kuskem Falls

Due to its proximity to the vast Arabian Sea, many port towns have berths for cruise liners, and are otherwise busy exporting minerals (mainly manganese; a chemical important for making batteries) and importing foreign goods.
Fish and seafood are an important part of the local diet, so you are likely to experience a slightly different cuisine in this region than you would in the more nothern regions of India.

Goa has two popular and competitive football (soccer) teams (in a ten team Indian League), underscoring the Portuguese/ European influence once again; and a few large cricket grounds.
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17. Board Game: Bengali [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Bengali
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Feb. 15 Bengaluru (A.K.A. Bangalore)

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Vidhana Soudha- The state legislature building

If you think of India as a "backward" country; a bit behind the times and lacking modernities, then you might be surprised to know that Bengaluru is a world leader in digital technology.
There are many jokes about North American firms "outsourcing" their I.T. departments or Call Centres, but it is very much the truth of things.
Bangalore is sometimes referred to as the "Silicon Valley of India".

Bengaluru has a good reputation as being a progressive and developing modern city.
With all of the benefits of being in an area that has produced great human achievements, art, and architecture since well before the Renaissance in Europe.

A bit of European travel slang was developed when tourists on those "10 countries in 12 days"-style tours started to notice some repetition.
The sightseeing motto for the day's activities became known as "ABC"-- Another Bloody Church
In India, you should change this idea to "ABF"-- Another Bloody Fort

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Kempegowda Fort

Or ABT- Another Bloody Temple. Although a mighty impressive one, sculpture-wise:

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Halasuru Someshwara Temple

It isn't all just looking at buildings, of course.
Get up close and see birds, mammals (including the big cats), reptiles, and amphibians, all in one handy place.

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Bannerghatta Butterfly Park- one part of this sprawling zoo/ park
http://bannerghattabiologicalpark.org/butterfly_park.html

And if you'd rather look at plants:

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Lal Bagh Botanical Garden

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Dodda Alada Mara- A 3,000 year old (Banyan) tree
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18. Board Game: Sail to India [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1473]
Board Game: Sail to India
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Feb 17 Puducherry

From the west coast of Goa, we are now going to the east coast, to Puducherry (historically called Pondicherry, but officially renamed in 2006) on the Bay of Bengal.
This is as far south as we’re going to get on our Virtual Vacation, but there is still more of India, and Sri Lanka, before you reach the Indian Ocean, proper.

But before we get to our official stop of the day, there’s an interesting place about halfway-- 210 km (130 mi)-- from Bengaluru.
Tiruvannamalai is a small (by Indian standards; under 200,000 people) city with a lot to see:

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Tiruvannamalai, as previously mentioned by 2d20 (Frank)— thanks!!

The most important religious festival there is celebrated between November and December, when tens of thousands of pilgrims will walk around the hill near another one of the temple areas. The route is 14 km in distance, and everyone does the walk in bare feet.
According to Hindu legend, the walk removes sins, fulfils desires and helps achieve freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

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Onward!
Puducherry itself was a French colonial settlement in India until 1954. That legacy is preserved in its French Quarter, with tree-lined streets, mustard-colored colonial villas, and chic boutiques.
A seaside promenade runs along the Bay of Bengal and passes several statues, including a very tall Gandhi Memorial.

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A section of the promenade

This city is less visited than the (enormous) capital city of Chennai, to the north, mainly because it lacks an international airport.
I included it because here you are gong to find Catholic and Jesuit churches to go along with the Hindu temples.
It’s that French influence, again.

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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. No; we aren’t suddenly back in Italy.

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The Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple-- Where else are you going to see stuff like this, though?

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19. Board Game: Memories of Madras [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Memories of Madras
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Feb 18 Chennai- (AKA Madras)

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Chennai’s elevated Metro system

If you say the word Madras to people of a certain age or residence (Britain), their first thought will be “curry powder”. Because that was what they grew up hearing. It is typically red in color, as opposed to the more commonly found yellow powders that are not called Madras.
As I mentioned in the listitems above, “curry” is more of a western word, and curry powder inevitably just means garam masala—a spice mixture that often contains dried chili peppers.

As with most any nation, the closer that you get to the equator, the spicier the food gets. Even within the same country (Mexico, Italy, India, China, etc.).
This is no doubt a product of the sun and humidity being ideal for the growing of those chili peppers.
The theory is that hot food (and drink) makes you sweat, and sweat cools you down.
It also makes you smelly, sticky, and uncomfortable. And maybe not even sure that you’re really any cooler than you were before. But you’re in the minority if you don’t believe it.; why else would Thais and Indians and Mexicans keep doing otherwise?

The spiciest of all Indian dishes (or “curries”, if you prefer) is made by adding chili peppers to meat that has been marinated in wine-vinegar (vin) and garlic (alho). This is a Portuguese recipe, actually-- and remember that Goa was a Portuguese colony? That’s where you will find the most authentic vindaloo.
But the hottest chilies and the red color were added in Chennai.

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Vindaloo—a level of heat reserved for the insane. No offense intended.
The meat is likely to be either chicken, or lamb/ mutton when you are in India.


Chennai (still called Madras on some public buildings) is a “megacity”. With a population approaching 8 million, and over 10 million if including the suburbs and surrounding area. It is, however, ranked as the safest city in India.
Its nickname is "India's health capital" due to the number of tourists and Indians who travel there for various treatments because of the low costs, little to no waiting period, and facilities offered at the speciality hospitals. They also have a high number of related industries, like pharmacies and test result laboratories.
The wikipedia entry shows 38 different hospital names, 26 of those with still-working website links.

A major part of India's automobile industry is located in and around the city thus earning it another nickname: "The Detroit of India". A dubious honor, if you know the Michigan version at all these days.

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Madras High Court Building

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Marina Beach- The second largest beach in the world

The M.A. Chidambaram Stadium established in 1916 is among the oldest cricket stadiums in India.
It seats 38,000 people. They also have a soccer stadium that holds 40,000 people, although the regular attendence for games in the Indian Super League is about half of that. Cricket is easily the most popular sport in Chennai.

The city is subject to destructive cyclones and monsoons, that bring annual flooding.
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Not always this bad, but global warming is not helping things any

So if you have't done it in one of our other stops yet, you can visit a very large zoo in Chennai: The Arignar Anna Zoological Park.

For a look at the history of the area, you can explore a group of 18 houses and museums that feature crafts and artwork at DakshinaChitra. Or for a more general approach (featuring bronze statues and artwork) the Government Museum.

There are three popular amusement parks in the city, featuring roller coasters and/ or Water atttractions, family rides and live entertainment at either Queen's Park, Kishkinta or VGP Universal Kingdom.

Find some great shopping opportunities at the Spencer Plaza, or enjoy science in the modern Birla Planetarium or the Periyar Science and Technology Centre.

There's something for everyone, and that is another reason that Chennai is among the most visited (tourist) cities in India.

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20. Board Game: Business India [Average Rating:5.25 Unranked]
Board Game: Business India
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Feb 20 Hyderabad

We will now go north again, and back into the center of India. Here,at the southern edge of the Deccan Plateau and the Musi River, is the populous and elevated city of Hyderabad.

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One of the most recognized monuments here is this one:

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Paris has it’s Arche de Triomphe; we’re in the Paris of India now!

Or maybe I have my cities/ monuments wrong?
I meant The Venice of India. Or maybe London’s Trafalgar Square?

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Mecca Masjid. NOT the “Mecca” that you might think, but some of its bricks were formed from soil imported from Mecca (Saudi Arabia)

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Hyderabad: The New York City of India. That’s the ticket.

I could keep going. The Las Vegas of Paris? (fancy hotels, not gambling).
It seems to be a very pretty city.

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Almost 7 million people call Hyderabad home, so it is yet another overcrowded place on our tour. When you’re in the most heavily populated region on Earth, that’s going to happen.

You won't run out of options for things to see and do, although they are much like the rest of the cities that we've been in already. Tombs, temples, mosques; lakes, parks, trails; zoos, museums, even golf!

Other options?
Shilparamam ("sculpture village"). Designed as a contrast to the futuristic Cyber Towers building that lies across the road, this crafts village guards the entrance road to Hi tec city.
The intent is to showcase and preserve the old. There is a bazaar where you can buy assorted handicrafts and art work. There is also an entire area where you can find realistic-looking sculptures of villagers carrying out their traditional crafts
Make sure you carry cash to buy anything you like - credit cards are not accepted by most shops.You can bargain the price up to 1/3 of the quoted price if you are a foreigner.
One interesting thing to do (if you're young enough) is to have an astrologer foretell your future.

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Shilparamam’s entry gate

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The Cyber Towers

A popular food of Hyderabad is biryani. This is a spicy mixture of meat (although some are vegetarian) and rice cooked together, garnished with pudina (peppermint leaves!), fried onion, and often with hard-boiled eggs.
A primer on the meats: Chicken (murgh) is traditional and very popular. Other gosht (literally "meat") is lamb in northern India, but it more likely to be goat in Hyderabad. Yakni is Mutton (sheep older than lamb).

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21. Board Game: Black Hole [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:16171]
Board Game: Black Hole
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Feb 21 Kolkata

A “bonus” stop for you today. In the original plan I had wanted to return to Mumbai and fly to Kathmandu (Nepal) from there. But that was based on not going where we’ve been already, and since this is a Virtual Vacation why wouldn’t we scoot over to the otherwise ignored NE corner of the country?
And a flight to Nepal from Kolkata is only 1 ½ hours and under $250!

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Downtown Kolkata, with the Howrah Bridge in the background

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It looks less distinct “from the ground”

Even though there is evidence of human life for 2,000 years before, Kolkata's recorded history began in 1690 with the arrival of the English East India Company, who were spice traders looking to compete with the Dutch East India Company.
The British built a fort (naturally!) and used it as a staging area to send ships east to the "spice islands", giving them a resting and resupplying spot on their way back to Britain.
Kolkata is not on the sea, but the rivers are wide and deep enough to send large ships inland to get there.

Kolkata was thus known as Calcutta for the longest time. It is located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, on the lower Ganges Delta, and is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while it remains as India's oldest operating and sole major river port.

The so-called “Black Hole of Calcutta” was a small prison or dungeon in Fort William where troops of the Nawab of Bengal held British prisoners of war for one fatal night, on 20 June 1756. Almost all of them died of suffocation and/ or heat exhaustion. Just 23 of 146 prisoners survived.

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Put nearly 150 people in one room, and bad things are bound to occur

The temperature in this part of the world is almost always hot; average highs of 30.5 C (80 F) in January is the coldest that it normally gets, while it averages 35.5 C (96F) in May, the hottest month.
Add to that humidity that is never below 65% and rain, cyclones, and monsoons (hot winds full of rain), and you've got a sweltering and difficult place to live in and survive.
When you add air polution and water, the result is usually sulphuric acid rain, which is destructive to buildings and ancient monuments as well.

In the 1850s, Calcutta had two areas: White Town and Black Town-- one guess where the British lived-- but the town grew rapidly as textile plants and storage silos were built.
When the British moved the capital city status to New Delhi, in 1911, the city was still an important place for them but their proximity to Bangladesh was becoming a problem. This all turned very violent, later on, when East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was known) was emptied of the Pakistani sikhs who were sent to (West) Pakistan travelling across the top half of the country.

For a few decades Calcutta had a reputation as being the dirtiest and most disease ridden city in the world, and having a tie to something called “the Black Hole” didn’t help that any.
Kolkata today, however, is widely regarded as the "cultural capital" of India, and is also nicknamed the "City of Joy".
In 2011, the city itself had a population of 4.5 million, while the population of the city and its suburbs was 14.1 million which ranks the total area as the third highest in all of India, after Mumabi and Delhi.

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Victoria Memorial Hall- Museum

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Dakshineswar Kali Temple

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Kolkata’s New Market

Park Street is a major attraction which hosts numerous upmarket lounges, restaurants, bars, discs,shops and colonial buildings.

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A cemetery at the end of Park Street
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22. Board Game: Nepal [Average Rating:5.92 Unranked]
Board Game: Nepal
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Feb 22 Kathmandu, Nepal

There’s no way that I could be in India and so close to Nepal, and not try to go there.
Especially since I love flags and the flag of Nepal is the most unique one in the world:

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I know what my souvenir of Nepal is going to be

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The city’s urban area includes 3 million people; about half of them live within the city limits

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Hey! That’s my house! Right there...

It is located, at an elevation of approximately 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level, in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. For practical purposes, this means that you are going to tire more easily than you would if you live near sea level back home.

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Kathmandu is a very special place for followers of the teachings of Buddha to visit. Buddhist monks came to Nepal c. 563 – 483 BCE wow
A Buddhist Shrine is usually referred to as a stupa, which literally means “heap”. So the shape is round and fat, and usually with another structure on top.

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Boudhanath Stupa- All of those square flags hanging down are "prayer flags". A common sight in Nepal, Tibet, and especially Mongolia

The Hindu influence from nearby India cannot be ignored, either. Kathmandu is full of temples, shrines, and churches of most religions.

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Pashupatinath Temple (Hindu)

Swayambhunath- another Buddhist religious site, the name means 'Sublime Trees', symbolic of the many varieties of trees found on the hill.

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The stupa at Swayambhunath looks a lot like the Boudhanath Stupa; difference being that this one is high on a hill

Other places of note:

Thamel- The description I read was "Nightlife, shopping, and backpacking". You can't do much better than that, can you? It is described alternately as a “ghetto” and a “hippie hangout” but it sure sounds like it would be interesting to walk around in.

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In 2011, Thamel was declared a full Wi-Fi zone. It was the first Wi-Fi zone of Nepal

Durbar Square- a "place of palaces" In front of the Royal Palace; one of 3 UNESCO sites in the immediate area

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Langtang National Park- You'll have to go 80 km north (toward the Himalayas) to get to it, but surely it's worth the drive.

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Finally; the staple food of most people in Kathmandu is dal bhat. This consists of rice and lentil soup, generally served with vegetable curries. Also look for momo, a Nepali version of Tibetan dumpling.

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Momo ko achar. "Achar" is a type of spicy sauce; usually made from tomatoes, sesame seeds, chilies, and garlic

There is a great deal of meat eaten in Nepal; far more than is consumed in India.
You won't find any beef (cow meat) here, but buff (water buffalo meat) is very common.
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23. Board Game: Modern Society [Average Rating:5.63 Overall Rank:13857]
Board Game: Modern Society
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Feb 24 Chandigarh

The best way out of Kathmandu is a flight into Delhi, and from there we can get to Chandigarh-- in the north-- on the ground.
Train, bus, or car/ taxi are the alternatives, although there is a 50 minute flight available.
The vehicular options will likely take 4 hours (more like 6 1/2 hours by train or bus, because they stop along the way) to travel the approximately 250 km (150 mile) route.
So what will you see from a window that you won't see from above the clouds?

Plenty of green countryside and farms. You'll go through "small" cities like Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala, and others, along the way.

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A fort in Panipat

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Kurukshetra

Eventually you get to our stop for the next two days.

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I don't think that word means what you think it means...

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Well; maybe you were right

Here's how Google Maps describes it:

"Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, was designed by the Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier. His buildings include the Capitol Complex with its High Court, Secretariat and Legislative Assembly, as well as the giant Open Hand Monument.
The nearby Rock Garden is a park featuring sculptures made of stones, recycled ceramics and industrial relics."

It is India's first "smoke free" city; smoking in public has been banned, and there are fines for improper disposal of cigarette butts where you can smoke.
The city was laid out (by Le Corbusier) in a tight grid. Each rectangle is known as a "Sector"; there are 60 of them.

Sector 17 is the so-called "heart of Chandigarh", with nightclubs, restaurants, and shopping.

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There is no "Sector 13" here-- despite 13 being a "lucky" number amongst Hindus. Swiss-French Modernist architects do have their superstitions, however

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Chandigarh Rock Garden
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24. Board Game: Millennium Wars: Kashmir [Average Rating:6.92 Unranked]
Board Game: Millennium Wars: Kashmir
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Feb 26 Srinagar

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The city is located almost 600 km (350 miles) north of Chandigarh, in the Kashmir region.
Srinagar Airport has regular domestic flights to Chandigarh, Delhi and Mumbai, and there are roads and rail lines leading into it, but let’s imagine that we’ve flown in from our last stop, shall we?

Srinagar lies in the Kashmir Valley on the banks of the Jhelum River (a tributary of the Indus), and Dal and Anchar Lakes.
The city is famous for its natural beauty, gardens, waterfronts, and houseboats.

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Yes, you read that correctly above; houseboats

Among its many nicknames are “City of Wealth”, “City of Sun”, “City of Nine Bridges” and “Venice of the East”.

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One of many bridges over the Jhelum River

Comparisons to Venice, Italy are understandable. The local boats look a lot like gondolas (although the boatmen don’t stand and use a pole to guide them) in pastel colors, and there is plenty of transport of goods along the river.
Srinagar even has a floating vegetable market; unique to this country.

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Just how you’re supposed to buy anything, if you don’t also have a boat, I don’t know

As the game chosen for this item implies, this was a dangerous place to visit a few years ago (fighting peaked in 1999), since the area has been claimed by both India and Pakistan.
India claims it mainly for historical reasons, while Pakistan claims it because of its Muslim majority population (96%) and the proximity to Islamabad (the capital city of Pakistan) and that country's northeastern borders.
Kashmir itself has been fighting for autonomy and independence which would take control away from both of those countries.
There have also been skirmishes over access to a glacier, which provides fresh water-- always a contentious resource in a heavily populated country-- and feeds the reknowned and holy Indus river.

There was major flooding there recently (2014) and the city is promoting itself as a tourist destination in order to help defer the costs of rebuilding.
They might be on to something.

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Thicksey Monastery Leh

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Go for a lake cruise

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Chinar trees in the fall of the year

There is even a tulip festival in the spring, featuring locally grown flowers.
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This is not Holland, as evidenced by the tall mountain in the background
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25. Board Game: Samrat: Rise of The Delhi Sultanate [Average Rating:6.45 Unranked]
Board Game: Samrat: Rise of The Delhi Sultanate
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Feb 28th Delhi

This vacation ends back where it began, 27 days ago, in Delhi.
From here you can fly home, or back to Germany, or wherever your connecting flight goes to.

Here are some final thoughts about this busy, crowded city, and a few more places that we overlooked originally.

The market and the services/ shopping available in this central area of New Delhi are some of the cleanest and safest places in the city:

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Connaught Place

Even if you don't use it, the (Old) Delhi Railway station is supposed to be worth a look. The new station? Not so much.

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Tughlaqabad Fort, in the south part of New Delhi, covers 6 km of area

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The Tower of Thieves; also known as Chor Minar is a 13th century minaret:

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According to local legends the severed heads of thieves were displayed on spears, through its 225 holes, to act as a deterrent

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The Jahaz Mahal, which translates to "ship palace", is so named because of its shape/ reflection when viewed from a nearby reservoir

Finally, here is a link of suggestions for some unique souvenirs that you can buy in New Delhi.

https://theculturetrip.com/asia/india/articles/11-uniquely-i...

Always be careful of airline travel restrictions back into your own country, or to countries where you are switching planes. If you try to bring home a real tiger skin rug, it is probably going to get confiscated or at the very least heavily taxed at some point!
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