This is the second 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 continuation from last week, the intrepid duo travel to a country with one of the fastest growing populations on the planet - India.

Our next stop en-route to Agra was the ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri – a particularly well-preserved 16th-century sandstone city, once the capital of Mughal India, long since deserted believed to have been abandoned due to a lack of water. The stop was a welcome refuge after the chaos of Jaipur.

Our bus continued onto Agra, and the magical allure of the country’s most visited tourist attraction, and one of the world’s saddest love stories, the Taj Mahal. The persistence of the touts, beggars, unofficial guides and even the vast number of tourists can be infuriating but won’t detract from the glorious spectacle.

The mausoleum was built by the Shah Jahan as a tribute to his beloved wife, Mumtaz who died during childbirth. It is said that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken after her death that his hair turned grey overnight and ordered the court into mourning for two years. He never did get to see the finished masterpiece as he was ousted by his son and imprisoned until his death in 1666. It is rightly considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings on earth and it’s not surprising that few leave disappointed.

Some of you may have bungee jumped, skydived or kite surfed but for the ultimate adrenalin rush I’d suggest an overnight trip on an Indian train! The clamour to get on board, to squeeze past fellow travellers (and their food), and get settled in our eight berth bunk was an expedition in itself. We were on the rickety Punjab Mail train, only 1300km to Mumbai with an estimated travel time of 19 hours. The actual travel time was nearer 26 hours – you soon discover that in India time is relative! The on board galley would’ve given our health inspectors a heart attack on the spot, and we even shared our cabin with the odd roach (Dee counted 37 in all). There seemed to be an easy camaraderie formed in our cabin and it wasn’t long before a wedding album was passed around (and happily some rum), we chatted into the wee small hours with the occasional interruption from the Chai Wallah or Samosa seller. By all means try the street food, its cheap (from 50p) and a great opportunity to interact with the locals, remember to stick to the usual recommendations though – use bottled water, avoid salad and ice and wash your hands as often as you can. Despite our experience, Indian Railways are modernising all the time, express trains are being introduced on major routes and phone apps now allow you to have your food delivered to your seat, prepared at stations further up the line. Then there were the toilets, but that’s another story for another time.

And so we arrived in Mumbai pulling into the colonial masterpiece of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, previously known as the Victoria Terminus. A microcosm of all of India; overcrowded, impoverished yet confident and impressively beautiful, Mumbai was a fitting end to our trip. The city packs in so many extremes that it leaves visitors both inspired and absorbed. It is home to some of Asia’s biggest slums, and most expensive houses. The street sellers of Mumbai are a sight to behold; they can offer anything from fresh fruit, corn and bunion removal to a wet shave roadside. At the weekend eager youngsters practise cricket in the city parks, and on Sunday Chowpatty beach is crammed with families enjoying an evening promenade and ice cream.

Dee and I even managed a taste of Bollywood by visiting the art deco Regal cinema where there was a screening of “Tamasha”; boy meets girl in an all singing all dancing production, set in, of all places, Corsica. It’s no “Gone with the Wind” but sometimes you have to suspend the laws of reality and embrace the cheesiness. We even stood up for the Indian national anthem!

We next reach the impressive Gateway of India on the waterfront, completed in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V and poignantly, from where the last British soldiers left India after independence in 1948. Crossing the street we enter the iconic Taj hotel, scene of the horrific terrorist attack in 2008, today a bastion of Indian style and hospitality hosting everyone from Maharaja’s, Royalty to visiting dignitaries.

Despite the obvious problems that exist, one thing is clear, there seems to be an air of happiness permeating throughout this fascinating country, from the humble street kid to the restless businessman. It is a country that has a layered texture to it yet somehow manages to find unity in diversity.

Thank you India, I’m glad you made us venture out of our comfort zone, yes it was intense at times, and we were tested to the limits throughout but ultimately it was one of the most rewarding experiences. It is certainly not for the faint hearted but I will remember you fondly and if there’s a lesson learned it’s that I’ll never complain about Scotrail again.