My grandma would always say to me… "Believe only half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.”
Travelling to India.
Id built up the belief that “you need to be ready” before you travel to India. This had come mainly from external voices and opinions of others. I would often get told how ‘full on’ it was to travel to India. The traffic, the smells, cows in the street, the poverty, the large amount of people, the craziness of the train stations and the difference in culture.
Largely I had brought into this idea that I needed to be ‘ready’ and so India, although high on my list of places to travel to was not at the forefront of my mind. I was waiting for a sign, a calling, something to show that I was READY to go to India.
Well I got my calling, but I have since changed my mind about this idea of ‘being ready’ to travel to India.
Dropping everything to go to India.
Having just finished a surf class and ruging up after hopping out of the briskly cool great southern ocean, I checked my phone to see a message from work, it was just after noon. An opportunity for a last minute trip to India. After responding to the message I was told - are you ready to leave tonight? My mind was blown, well yes, I suppose. After a quick check of plans, a trip to Melbourne to obtain my visa, 15 minutes to pack my bags, an Uber ride back to the airport, I was on the plane on my way to India.
I truly was pinching myself.
After nearly 20 hours of transit, I was crashing out on a bed in our accomodation in Agra. We were rising early for our visit to the Taj Mahal. That's right a day earlier I'd be jumping out of the freezing ocean after a surfing class and there I was on my way to the Taj Mahal for sunrise.
The Taj Mahal is made out of ivory white marble and gemstones. It was commissioned in 1632 by the emperor Shah Jahan for his favourite wives Mumtaz Mahal. She died before ever getting to see this magical palace. A project that nowadays is estimated to have cost $827US Million is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
I have never experienced anything so surreal in my life. For starters this place is picture perfect, it actually looks like all the pictures you see of it. Similar to a mirage, like its seem as if its not there or it looks further away than it actually is. I could not take my eyes of this beautiful palace as I marvelled at its beauty from afar. The entire experience was magic as I thought to myself - yesterday I was lining up for an average week and now I was staring at the mystical and captivating Taj Mahal.
Next stop, Jaipur.
After seeing the Taj in all its beauty, we jumped of a bus bound for Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan in northern India. This certainly was a place where I experienced the hustle bustle of India. It was here where I saw the the street chaos, the extreme poverty and first experienced that remarkable smell of India. We made our way down alleys and streets, smelling chai, shopping for colourful fabrics and experiencing the extreme heat of this city.
We visited the edge of town where a temple had been overrun by monkeys. I must admit I do not enjoy being around monkeys in the wild as I have found them to be quite aggressive. Yet on this occasion walking through the groups of monkeys my fears subsided a little as I looked straight ahead, avoiding eye contact at all costs. We climbed the hill to visit another temple offering views of the city from the removed vantage point.
On our final night in Jaipur we signed up for a street food tour. This would have to be a highlight for me. We visited 8 different vendors and experienced 12 different dishes. From delicious naan bread, dumplings of some form, asian fusion dishes, a Bombay sandwich, curries, BBQ tandoori paneer on a stick and finishing off with the most mouth watering saffron ice cream. My belly was about to burst and I have never been so satisfied. As a recently new vegetarian, I devoured every single dish and was quietly impressed.
The exquisite Amber fort (Amer/Amber fort, it's the same thing).
Leaving Jaipur we stopped off at the beautiful Amber fort. Around 45 min out of Jaipur the dry desert land holds the most amazing fort. This fort including 4 courtyards and a palace was built in 1592 out of red sandstone and marble and has since been restored so it continues to hold its original beauty. This too is UNESCO world heritage site.
There was a certain energy I felt at this fort, as the piercing sun beat down strongly on us. Standing in parts of the fort, in my imagination I added in the beautiful curtains, carpets, plants and fountains from back in the 16th century, I could really imagine how incredible this place must have been.
Delhi, yes it's crazy.
Arriving into Delhi that night was crazy. Simply being a part of the traffic and rush hour, I realised hour crazy this place was. Horns honked non stop, cars and tuk tuks everywhere as we navigate our way to the accomodation.
Setting out the next day we experienced the full on heat of Delhi. This place is hot, its full of tones of people, and many people who want to stop and talk to you or simply just stare at you because you are different. We visited the beautiful Lotus temple giving us a brief rest from the chaotic city and then it was off for some more markets and shopping.
What I liked and what I didn't.
India is busy, there are people everywhere and you just can't get away from them, it's dirty and you do have to be diligent with hygiene as it's so easy to get sick from the water or something that you eat. I was fortunate enough to escape virtually unscaved with a small upset stomach upon my return, not everyone I was travelling with was as fortunate. The poverty is extreme. Children and mothers approach you everywhere begging for money, you see people on the streets with very little.
However I was able to see past these points and along with the beautiful sites that I have mentioned what I loved about India was the friendliness of the people. They do simply just want to help you or chat to you about your life and experience as a foreigner. Finally I loved the women of India. They proudly wear their traditional dress, be it Saris, Hijabs or Burkas and are so colourful and beautiful on the city streets.
On a final note.
My trip to India was a whirlwind, it was also quite structured due to the nature of the work I was doing, and most likely, if I was travelling there along I would have experienced something completely different.
I didn't however feel I needed to be ‘Ready’ to travel to India. Having travelled to other developing nations was enough for me to be familiar and create expectations around what I was about to face. I hope India is a place that you have visited or wish to in the future. My aim is to go back one day, I'm excited for that.
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