I thought I'd help distract us all a moment from the terrible news on the floods with some more pictures of my trip.
We managed to cram in a massive amount in what was really quite a short amount of time given how large India is. Of course, we went straight to the Taj Mahal after we left Delhi. As you'd expect it's very popular so we got there at sunrise (to avoid the swollen crowds) which is when I took this photo above. It was so amazing to be there and I felt so blessed to have been able to visit and touch the marble - an incredible architectural feat.
A lot of India's beauty lies in it's equisitely carved temples, maginificent forts (like the fourth photo taken here of Amber fort in Jaipur), magical palaces, grand mausoleums and natural landscapes. Where you are less likely to see so much beauty (the other side of the story) is in the litter, smog and pollution that sadly dogs most of India. With more than a billion people throwing all their waste in the rivers, lakes (no matter how sacred they are - which really surprised us as the locals also bathe in them every day) oceans, roads and fields it is hard not to feel a little disappointed. There is education but apathy prevails and the ease of throwing things on the floor is all too tempting.
One of the villages we stayed in was Hampi which is a stunningly beautiful tiny Hindu village in central southern India surrounded by temples and set amongst old ruins of a former grand city and hills of boulders. (second and third pictures above). The locals there were so friendly and on our first day of the New Year everyone we passed shock our hand and greeted us with happy New Year messages and little children came up hugging us. It was so sweet and we never felt such a warm reception from the world to start our brand new year. The whole village was so talkative and happy and many houses and shops had used colourful powdered chalk to create pretty messages and flowers on the ground.
I have a feeling this little gem will turn into a major tourist location in years to come as more people discover it. It really is something else.
Having been there now (and I've wanted to go for years) I don't think India is for the faint hearted. There is a massive amount of chaos on the streets (which are quite dangerous - we had a car collison on a main road from Dehli to Agra but it wasn't too bad and we weren't the ones driving which probably saved us) hassling, you never get to forget you're a tourist (and have a different skin colour) and most importantly that you have loads of money (comparatively) so you can fall victim to scams (thankfully we were on top of that one but a couple of other tourists we met unfortunately came unstuck).
However, despite this and the low levels of hygiene (which actually ends up being quite good for your immune system...) I really want to go back and would definitely recommend a visit as it is so inspiring and such an experience (I've just realised I haven't even mentioned the food which was delicious!!). We saw quite a few young families travelling, some with one year olds which was really quite inspiring so who knows, next time we go back it may be more than the two of us! :-)