This is the first part of a new travel column - 'Around the World with Ale and Dee'. Ale Nardini and wife Dorothea from Largs are on their global travels, and in this opener, the intrepid duo travel to a country with one of the fastest growing populations on the planet - India.

“India has always had a strange way with her conquerors. In defeat, she beckons them in, then slowly seduces, assimilates and transforms them.” ? William Dalrymple

India is the world’s largest democracy and an emerging economic powerhouse and with a population of over 1.3 billion, set to overtake China within a generation. So it’s no surprise then that this vastly diverse, chaotic, historic and fiercely proud nation came with a warning for the unsuspecting visitor.

Dee and I, merely scratching the surface on our visit opted for the classic Golden Triangle Tour, which includes the cultural gems of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra with a bonus two days in Mumbai.

Nothing quite prepares you for Delhi, our first stop, a city of 23 million people and the classic Indian paradox, where skyscrapers tower above cardboard cities and the latest 4x4’s scramble for space with hand held carts (and the occasional livestock). We headed to the magnificently ramshackle area of Old Delhi surrounding the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque (the courtyard itself can accommodate up to 25,000 worshippers). Never have I seen so many people crammed together and going in so many different directions.

Next on the agenda was the impressive Humayun's tomb, the resting site of the Mughal Emperor, built in 1565, and seen as a pre-cursor to the Taj Mahal. The art of tailoring facial hair must have been revered in Humayun's time as the tomb complex also houses the Royal Barber. This is the land of the magnificent moustache after all.

Our last stop was the impressive India Gate memorial in New Delhi, opened in 1931. The Arc de Triomphe-like structure commemorates those who lost their lives in World War I and stands on the Rajpath, the ceremonial boulevard lined with lawns and trees that is used on the 26nd of January for India’s Republic day Parade.

Later that evening we ventured out to a terrifically vibrant parade, complete with brightly lit lanterns, drumming and a gloriously decorated man in a jewel encrusted white suit carried along in a carriage - we had stumbled upon a wedding, and found ourselves dancing our way too to meet the bride and sample the buffet. Not for want of trying but we didn’t even make a dent into the delicious food as there was ample for the estimated 500 guests or so.

The following day a new destination beckoned; Jaipur, the Pink City and capital of Rajasthan. Amongst its sights the ornate Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds, is decorated with intricate lattice work that allowed the Royal ladies to observe everyday life (without being seen themselves) and the City Palace (reflecting Rajput, Mughal and European architectural style), part museum, part royal residence and still the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur today. Make no mistake; Jaipur is an exciting, pulsating but ultimately exhausting city. As I looked around it seemed to form the perfect Indian mosaic – individuals engaged in animated discussions with each other, angry traders shouting down their mobile phones, elegant ladies wearing brightly decorated sari’s brushing past with their daily shopping, beggars clanking their change to attract attention, the endless cacophony of car horns and of course the foreign tourists playing dodgems and trying to get across the street alive.

Cows are sacred in India, and appear to have right of way. One casually meanders through the frenetic traffic, oblivious to the noise, (later on that night I was to see a Camel and Elephant on their evening commute). The steamy aroma of street food, the hustle and bustle of the shopkeepers, the stench of rotting garbage, a man delivering an ice block on the back of his bike and the dust rising through the clammy heat all made it seem like I was an extra in my very own Bollywood movie. I was half expecting them all to stop and burst into song at any given moment.

The hauntingly beautiful Jal Mahal Palace which appears to float effortlessly amidst the Man Sagar Lake is located en route to the area’s largest tourist attraction. The Amber Fort built by Raja Man Singh I lies 11 km from Jaipur and sits commandingly on a hill. There seems to be only one way to enter this magnificent honey coloured fortress - through the sun gate and on a Royal elephant! With its cobbled paths, numerous courtyards, ornate doors and expressive carvings it oozes history with an ease that has long made it an attraction since it was built in 1592.

Our next strop en-route to Agra was the ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri ... to be continued!