My first real travelling experience was a 5 week trip to India. A land of many paradoxes, chaos, order, bewilderment and charm. There really is something special about this place.
This country presented to me a whole new world. One that provided so much experience, filled me with awe and admiration, and allowed me to see things from a different perspective.
Perhaps this trip symbolises the shift in my mindset, or the moment I caught the ultimate travel cooties and became the living embodiment of the hippie child deep within my subconcious. – My parents always knew it was in there somewhere...-
To be honest, we’ve hardly touched the surface of this massive country, but it was enough for me to get itchy feet, want to rip off my trainers and socks and tread barefoot on the Earth like the true free spirit that I am.
In a previous post I mentioned how my husband Brad had already been to India a couple of times before. He would tell me about how breath taking India was… In it’s own right. – It’s not the Victoria’s Secret model of city scenes, to put it into context. But it certainly has some incredible sights, Hampi being one of them… More of that in a different post. – It’s riddled with trash and waste, it has no sewer system or waste disposal method. There are stray dogs everywhere and cows too. – Cows are sacred in India, so they are just left to roam free where ever they please, grazing on the food waste and rummaging through the garbage. –
The traffic system is a complete shambles, but everyone gets by with their very loud, methodical horn honking. In fact, I couldn’t imagine India without all that noise and disorder. The streets have no lanes, more like a free for all. There are vehicles of every kind from rickshaws, trucks, buses, taxis, bicycles, and motorbikes, in any open space you can squeeze them into. And where there is no vehicle, there are pedestrians, beggars, cows, cats, dogs and sometimes camels!
It is an incredible pandemonium that somehow “works”. Life seems to flow naturally amongst all the bedlam.
Now I know from everything I’ve just said that I may not be selling India so well. Perhaps the appeal has dwindled slightly. But let me tell you, this place is magical. The culture, the people, the places… You forget about the rest once you immerse yourself in it. It all becomes part of it’s charm.
I for one was aprehensive about how I would find it being in a third world country. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle the culture shock, and worried about integration, language barriers and our safety.
Security risks can happen anywhere around the world not just limiting to third world countries, Brad reassured me that in fact the Indian culture was generally very friendly and harmonious and that pretty much anything goes. – Like seeing two buffalo in the back of a truck, that’s normal right? –
The Unexpected Indian Road Trip From New Delhi to Jaipur
We flew out from Gatwick on the 4th of December with Qatar Airways, jumping from one pleasant, quiet flight to an over crowded and noisy one. I don’t think I got even the slightest bit of shut eye, and the jet lag was certainly catching up with me at that point. – I will always remember Brad’s chuckle of “you haven’t seen anything yet.” –
After a 10 and a half hour flight, we finally touched down in New Delhi at 7:30am Indian time (2:30am UK time).
It was not how I expected it at all… Calm and tranquil.
In lightning speed this became merely a thought in passing as the silence disappeared in a barrage of shouting, car honking, and city ambience. Our day became eventful from that moment on. We were hounded by men trying to get us in their taxi, pulling at the bags on our back and trying to put us in their vehicles so we had no choice. Brad grabbed my hand, told me not to let go of my back pack and we continued forward until we could speak to someone in peace.
Eventually we found a lovely guy that agreed to try to get us to our hotel destination. We were completely unaware of the events going on in New Delhi at the time. It was Presidents Day and absolutely EVERY place and road in the city was closed! Including our hotel. – Which they failed to tell us about, thanks guys! This is something you get used to in India. Tomorrow is the word. –
We were stumped, no where to stay, no available trains as they were either cancelled or fully booked and we were also unable to book a new hotel.
The taxi driver we were with mentioned he had a friend that could help us out and suggested we go there for a chat. We were then introduced to a bloke in a quiet office with simply a desk, a note pad, a phone and a fan. The taxi guy left us with the man in the office. We were offered a masala chai – probably the most addictive drink in India! if you don’t know what it is, here’s a recipe, you MUST try it! – and began negotiations about travel and accommodation.
At first we were a bit suspicious. You know, we discussed different travel plans and places we wanted to go, the man would make a call, speak for 2 to 3 minutes on the phone, make a few notes then hang up.
– For all we knew he could have just been having a chat with his brother asking about how the cricket game was going! – Luckily, the guy was genuine and we ended up with a super sweet deal!
We negotiated on having a driver for the next 8 days to take us from place to place. It was extremely reasonable at £50 a day which included accommodation for all of us and even fuel!
We were taken outside and a meek old man with a moustache and glasses stood by a beaten up car and introduced himself to us as Rajendra Rawat. He would always walk with his hands behind his back, was reluctant to speak to us at times and was extremely humble. Over the course of the 8 days, we formed a wonderful bond and still keep in touch today! I would truly recommend his services to anyone looking for a safe and reliable way to travel around Rajasthan.
Rawat is from the Indian side of the Himalayas and also drives around there too so if you are looking for a driver in those areas hit him up here!
A Taste Of Real Indian Cuisine, Love At First Bite!
After soaking in the events of the morning we sat down for lunch and I had my first experience of real Indian food.- Now if you haven’t already gathered, I am a serious foodie, I can eat for England and boy do I love it! – The food of a country excites me just as much as the culture, in fact food plays such a big role in the identity of a culture, place or even a family!
I had a dosa, which is sort of like a giant crispy crepe filled with vegetables and dips. So simple, but seriously delicious. It’s funny, in India, there isn’t really a ‘breakfast’. You can have a curry for breakfast if you want! But a dosa seems to be the breakfast of choice in the non costal areas.
I put on quite a bit of weight while in India, I couldn’t help but want to try everything I could get my hands on, the street food was so unbelievably good. We avoided restaurants as much as possible while on the road and would find the side street restaurants where the locals would eat, asking Rawat to take us to the places he would go. He thought we were crazy, and warned us about getting food poisoning which we told him we weren’t worried about, we wanted to eat authentically. He gave us the nickname “Street Food Couple”.
One of my favourite things to eat in India, and something I sorely miss, is the Thali. There are so many varieties, and it’s so damn cheap! Essentially it is a plate with rice, small bowls of curry, sometimes fried fish (if you are on the coast), chapati and pickle. It is an explosion of flavour and like I said, every dish is different!
An Indian diet is mainly vegetarian, meat does not keep due to the heat and obviously beef is not eaten at all so if you are a meat lover this is something you may need to sacrifice while travelling in this country but trust me, you do not miss it’s absence.
Indian cuisine offers a huge variation of flavours. It has many different fruit, vegetable, herbs and spices, every curry tastes completely different it’s impossible to get bored! Local dishes and even common ones change as you move from one part of India to another, sometimes influenced by religion and cultural preference. – Are you seeing the foodie in me yet? –
After lunch, we headed to a tomb site. One thing I noticed about Indian architecture was it’s phenomenal design and attention to every fine detail. There are several types of architecture in India ranging from the ancient temple ruins, the Mughal tombs and palaces and more. There were several sites we came across while travelling East Rajasthan which I will go into more detail in my other posts. I can promise you beauty from the ground up, patterns and symmetry you cannot even fathom and a history that accompanies each building and structure.
We visited Raj Ghat which was the site of Mahat Ma Ghandi’ murder and cremation of his body. There were a lot of school excursions there and everyone, including ourselves had to remove our shoes, as a sign of respect.
The jet lag really set in after the many hours we spent running off our nervous energy, our excitement of exploring the city we had just landed in. We really started to flake. Thankfully, our drive to Agra was 4 or 5 hours away so we had plenty of time to get some shut eye. Mind you, I don’t know how we slept through the deafening noise of the traffic.
Vehicles driving willy-nilly communicating by sounding their horn. They would honk to tell you if they were over-taking, honk if you were too close, honk in greeting or honk just to honk! – Gotta love it. –
My first hours in India was far from disappointing, I was already falling head over heels for this country. I couldn’t wait for what was next to come but also wished I could stop time, because we all know that time passes in a heartbeat and before I would know it, we would be on our flight home, leaving a piece of our hearts in this wonderful land called India…
To be continued…