Filed under: India
When you live in a large city for an extended period of time, sometimes you just need to get out of it for awhile and experience something completely different. With me living in Bombay and my friend and fellow former Clinton fellow Mike in Bangalore, both classic tier-1 cities in India, it was therefore unsurprising that we immediately decided in December that we had to go somewhere rustic and exotic. While Mike was visiting me in Bombay over Christmas, we strategically determined that a trip of such epicness must include cave spelunking. Therefore, we settled on the closest 10-hour bus ride trip in sight: the city of Aurangabad, home to the World Heritage Ellora and Ajanta caves.
The Ellora caves feature Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist carvings along 34 different sites (a pretty amazing feat for the 6th century), while Ajanta showcases incredible Buddhist carvings and paintings (some of the paint still intact) in 30 sites dating all the way back to 400 CE. I’m no cave aficionado usually, but clearly these were a must-see.
It turns out that trekking around and whispering secrets in 2,000 year old caves, followed by luxurating at the best resort in Aurangabad, with the fabulous Mike Johnson by my side, is indeed an unforgettable adventure
Mike and I at Ellora!
Check out our journey below.
The start of our beauteous bus journey from Mumbai to Aurangabad. This included wine, leftover Christmas sandwiches, and lots of giggling about scabies. If you ever make the trip, book the Humsafar Travels AC Sleeper Bus.
Mike luxurating in front of our fabulous hotel, LemonTree. Go big or go home, right? We also somehow talked them into letting us check in at 7:00 AM with no extra charge, giving us a complimentary buffet breakfast, and then using the same room after check-out the next day to shower and change before our bus ride. I will attribute these clutch negotiating skills to Magic Mike.
However, our room came with questionable artwork….
This looks like our friend Eli.
I personally found the Ellora caves a cool experience, but not the most awe-inspiring. However, I’ve had friends visit Aurangabad who absolutely adored Ellora, so this is more of a personal opinion. While I found the religious harmony and respect between Jains, Buddhists, and Hindus in such close vicinity to each other in such an age inspiring, there were only a few caves that I felt were really worth experiencing. The caves that were worth it though were really interesting, and you can really see the difference in carvings between the different religious caves.
Getting to Ellora from Aurangabad is quite easy, since it’s in the city. Mike and I took a rickshaw from our hotel to the city’s bus terminal, and then boarded a bus straight to the caves.
The entrance to the 33 Ellora caves.
The start of the Hindu caves at Ellora
Mike and I at the Jain caves
This was my favorite cave in Ellora (cave 32). The Jain caves are fabulous and extremely intricate.
A shot of the largest cave in Ellora, an enormous Buddhist temple. Lots of elephants!
Lunch stop. AC and Beer… what more do you need?
After an evening back at the manse (including a buffet dinner and snuggling while watching “Jumanji,” because come on, #vacation), Mike and I awoke refreshed the next day to take the longer trek out to the Ajanta caves, about 2 hours from the city. We hired a Meru Cabs driver to take us there and then back again.
In contrast to Ellora, words cannot describe how much I loved the Ajanta caves, in part due to the entire interactive experience. The caves wrap around this beautiful green gorge, and the designs in the caves were much more intricate and thoughtfully planned out. I thought the trip was worth it just for Ajanta.
Even the top of each pillar has small carvings
My favorite cave in Ajanta was the last one. It’s breathtaking when you step inside.
And so ended our awesome and much-needed trip to Aurangabad to see some pretty cool caves. But this post can’t end without a final fabulous bathroom selfie.
Happy days from India
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