One of the interesting things on the Rajasthan trip was seeing India from the tourists’ perspective. Up until now, my perspective has strictly been that of the expat; which is neither a tourist, nor Indian perspective.
Most of the visitors (and they are not few) are here on business travel. We live in a city with very little to offer the tourist. The landmarks, while typically Indian and very interesting to an outsider, are not famous draws for foreign tourists. When we go out on trips, we tend to choose to go places where very few – if any – people go (Krishnagiri, Skandagiri, Ranganatha Swamy Hill) or to places where mass Indian tourism is the rule of the day (Hogenakal and Athirapilly Falls). We did of course see a lot of foreigners in Kochi; but as we stayed in a hotel on the other side of town than was frequented by Indian business travelers instead of a foreigner oriented guesthouse in Fort Cochin, we mostly missed the “foreign tourist” circuit.
Rajasthan was an eye opener. The hotels that we stayed in at Jaipur and Jodhpur had mostly foreigners as guests. It was like stepping into a theme park. A posh and cozy theme park, but a theme park nevertheless. I’ve noticed a correlation between how much Lonely Planet dwells on something and how many foreigners are there. Krishnagiri does not exist and there are exactly zero tourists there. Tiruvannamalai is a “hidden gem” that is easily overlooked in the guidebook’s Tamil Nadu coverage and we saw one westerner while there. It has a busy temple and several of Daniela’s colleagues like going there on pilgrimage or to visit their favorite ashram. Mehrangharh Fort in Jodhpur – one of Lonely Planet’s must see sights – is overrun with foreigners and the busy café in the fort had only one table with Indians at it.
I can only imagine what the Taj Mahal is like.