10.08.2009

Take that, Lonely Planet.

A former boss of mine was, for a million different reasons, a great role model to me. She was self-sufficient, confident, a mother of two, a hard worker and a smart cookie. But for all the reasons I had to admire her, there was one that stood out like a golden achievement: she had great friends.

Having lived in a million places around the world, she had acquired a network of incredible people who would do anything for her and she for them. I babysat for her sons when she took a plane to Switzerland to a surprise party for a friend's 50th birthday. I met a few of them at her son's Communion party, one of whom gave a speech that still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it today. Not one of these epic friendships were cultivated in the town she lived in; rather, her network spread out across the world, flourishing in airports and annual dinner parties and random meetings in the south of France.

Three days ago I sent an email to my most nomadic friends, asking for advice about where to stay, what to see and who to meet in Delhi when I go in December. And this morning I have no less than 16 emails back, many from connections of connections, all of which overwhelm me.

Some snippets:

My next recommendation would be to take a train to Amritsar which is about 6 hours from Delhi. Its where the golden temple is which is a holy sikh temple. Its so beautiful and atmospheric, it was my favourite place in India. Also you can go to the India/pakisthan border in the evening for border ceremony which is worth a visit!

...I could also check with my mom, if she can perhaps help you, while you are in delhi... (she is a great shopper!).. you can contact her for everything (sight seeing.. shopping.. etc)...Next do check out the Agra fort, 40kms from Taj... do some shopping in the local markets (leather footwear is famous)... well, if u happen to get in touch with my mom, i don't need to give u any more guidelines.. she can join u for a day trip to Agra too...she would love that!

After two nights in Delhi, jumped on a Second Class section of train and zoomed to Agra. (third class can be a bit sketchy, and first class is quite a bit more expensive and you don't get to sit next to strangers and talk to them, so we thought 2nd class was the way to go). We arrived in the late afternoon and made sure to find a hotel within the limits of the Taj Mahel, and had already organized with a tour guide so that he would pick us up before dawn, so that yes - we did indeed watch the sunrise over the Taj. Magical indeed - check out my Facebook photos of my South Asia trip.

our tour guide for agra was Amit Agarwal. HIs email is [email]. His phone number is [phone number]. I had a very positive experience with him the first time I went to the taj.

my recommendation here would be to show up early in the morning at the British High Commission in Delhi, and sign up for a tour of Old Delhi with Nigel. Nigel is an old man who came to Delhi in the early '40s with the British, and after independence he decided to stay in India. He knows places in Delhi that no one else does and brings a small group of people there. You cannot reserve over the phone, you have to go in person to the British High Commission and sign-up. This is a one full day tour in Old Delhi... you'll never forget it!

I cannot even tell you what all of this advice means to me. The prospect of connecting with a random friend's mom in Delhi and having tea with her (or, you know, visiting a FORT together!) is making this trip truly come together.

Human connections, man. The most valuable thing I have.

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