To Delhi!

So, I’ve finally upped and left Dehradun. I hadn’t really done much travel within India other than relatively short bus journeys from Dehradun to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mussoorie, in the time I’ve been here. I don’t count my flight from Delhi to Dehradun! Air travel lacks the buzz of overland travel, I’ve found.

Although don’t get me wrong, I do love flying. So many people don’t; I don’t get it! My grandmother is completely phobic of it, and would rather take a 30-hour long bus journey from her city in the Czech Republic to Victoria Station in London than fly straight to us in Bristol from Prague. Each to their own, I suppose. Air travel is fun for me; there’s nothing like the excitement of waiting at the airport for a plane that’s going to take you somewhere completely new! Extra excitement points if you nearly miss your connecting flight. Whoops.

Anyway, what was the point I was making? Ah yes, going to Delhi.

By the 12th of June, I had EVENTUALLY packed up all my rubbish and condensed it into my 45L backpack, my small day pack and my over-shoulder handbag. Am hoping to condense the two pieces of hand luggage into one eventually, but if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter, as I can have both with me on the plane from Delhi to Bangkok, and probably from Bangkok back home in a couple of months too.

Ready to set off!
Ready to set off!

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11.6.15; DEHRADUN, India

I’m writing this from my new favourite haunt, the Chhaya Café in Old Rajpur. It’s one of a few slightly hipster joints on the Old Mussoorie Road, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of inner Dehradun. Great, cheap food and drinks, a lovely view, and FREE WiFi! My dream location…

New fave
New fave

Okay, I lie. That’s the only bit I wrote in the café. Procrastinating much! Terrible…

On Thursday, I unfortunately was a bit ill again (does a week ever pass that something isn’t wrong with me???) and spent the day at home, reading and catching up with writing my book reviews – got a nice backlog to publish now, all waiting in the folder! I couldn’t believe that I had just a week left in Dehradun before I moved onto the next part of my journey… Friday wasn’t particularly eventful either as I’d improved a tiny bit – enough to drag myself to summer camp in the morning, but I spent most of the rest of the day asleep…

On Saturday I stayed home from the camp again, and made use of some of my time which wasn’t spent reading by repacking some of my bits and bobs in preparation for the next weeks packing challenge, and tidying all my stuff. Decided to give quite a few bits and pieces to the girls here because I REALLY don’t need all my stuff and it wouldn’t hurt to free up some space.

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4.6.15; DEHRADUN, India

First journal entry as a nineteen year old! Only one year left of being a teenager… What a grim thought. On Tuesday, I went to the summer camp as usual in the morning, and on today’s agenda was acting out the fairytale of Snow White! The kids do love acting things out, but they always feel terribly put upon when they have to play a King and Queen – they’re still at the age when even pretending to be married to someone is cringe-inducing. Ah, I remember those innocent times…

Afterwards, I headed out with Misha and Achala again. On my way to meet Misha (Achala was running a little late), I couldn’t resist running into a second-hand book depot at Astley Hall, opposite Gandhi Park, which is a much needed spot of green in the busy, dusty city which is Dehradun. It’s like a different world in the park – water features (admittedly lacking water) and trees everywhere – very pleasant! I’m told most protests start from there, perhaps in the same way that College Green In Bristol is a meeting point for that kind of thing.

Gandhi Park
Gandhi Park

I bought a couple of books, including Stephen King’s “Christine” and Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” – keep eyes peeled for the reviews! I also got a Lonely Planet Guide to Bangkok; I’m thinking that will be quite useful for when I’m there; I’m going to be in Bangkok on three separate occasions so I’ll probably get quite a bit of time to explore. I don’t want to just go to popular tourist stops, and I wouldn’t really use guidebooks to find cafes or places to stay and eat, but I think they’re very useful for tracking down all the sights and working out how to see what you want to in your available time frame.

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1.6.15; DEHRADUN, India

Wednesday’s session with the children in the summer school mainly revolved around learning the hokey-cokey, and yet ANOTHER Horrid Henry story. Not necessarily my favourite. They’re really enthusiastic about the hokey-cokey though… Perhaps a little too enthusiastic? Some children ended up on the floor. It looked a bit traumatic.

Followed this up with learning more kathak. I really find that classical dance is so much more interesting and enjoyable to learn than any modern styles. Obviously, that’s a huge generalisation, but I don’t take that well to contemporary of hip-hop. Not for lack of trying! It’s a bit sad that kids here are so obsessed with Western styles; be it clothes, music or dance, that not many of them want to learn kathak or take much interest in their own culture.

Learning kathak complete with Ghungroo bells!
Learning kathak complete with Ghungroo bells!

Nonetheless, I’m trying to learn as much as I can whilst I’m here. Maybe that should be a focus for me during my travels? Learning different dances from around the world? I never get bored of it! On Thursday, I did join in with a little bit of the hip-hop class, and it was good fun even if I’m pretty awful at it!

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Just Because I’m Foreign… Doesn’t Mean I’m Stupid!

I’ve been living in India for more than six weeks now. It doesn’t feel like anywhere near that long! Although the vast majority of people have been lovely and welcoming, there have been a few times, particularly out in the city, where I’ve been really ticked off by people’s attitudes to me. Especially as a young woman travelling alone, it’s important to be aware of possible scams and avoid being taken in by people waiting to exploit your ignorance of local behaviours.

It’s my first experience of being an ethnic minority; I’m starting to appreciate the discomfort which many immigrants to the UK must feel; especially in the not-particularly-diverse South West of England, where I live. Although the nearby tourist spots of Rishikesh, Haridwar and Mussoorie are full of foreigners, I’ve yet to see another white person in the local area. I stand out everywhere.

Clearly, I have it remarkably easy. I’m living in a safe place, and the exchange rate from GBP to Indian Rupees is extremely favourable. I’m by no means rich, but the assumption is that all foreigners are. And we are, comparatively. Coming to India from the West puts you in a very good position in terms of expenditure, but that doesn’t mean you should let the scams slide! Some things are just downright annoying.

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27.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

I’m ill, AGAIN… I swear, there’s not a week goes by that something isn’t wrong with me. What is it this time? THE BLOODY FLU. Seriously. In possibly the hottest place I’ve ever lived, I have a cold.

Thanks, Satan.

Last Tuesday, I finally made good on my promise to the girls, and we went to Shruti’s house to watch the first part of Breaking Dawn; for my sins, I have already seen all the Twilight films, and loathe though I am to promote the ridiculous and unhealthy relationship depicted within them, the girls seem to love it. *cue distressed sighing*

Disclaimer: In no way did I enjoy this film. Any outward appearance of enjoying it will probably have been caused by tiredness and a lack of light in the room required to read the book I’d brought with me in anticipation of boredom and mild amusement at the film. Anyone claiming that I enjoyed it will be sued for slander and defamation of character.

This led to the girls quoting a few scenes from it OVER AND OVER again for the next few days, which is admittedly quite funny, especially when I do it in the required American accents. I concede amusement value, at least.

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WHAT’S IN MY BAG?  Packing List – 4 Months in Asia

I’m just going to start this by saying that I am a notorious over-packer, and I’m not ashamed to admit that my mother’s help was instrumental in me managing to get my life for four months into a 45L backpack… I’m spending 4 months in Asia; 2 months in India and 2 months split between Thailand and Cambodia in SE Asia.

I’m currently only a month into the trip, and still stationary in India, so I don’t know if all the stuff I’ve brought will be useful when I’m on the move, but I’d hazard a guess not for some of it, so I imagine I will end up dumping some things. I will reserve judgment on the usefulness or lack thereof of some of the stuff I brought with me until the end of my trip!

I’ll start with the bag itself. My main piece of luggage, and the one which is cabin baggage on planes, is the pink rucksack pictured below. I do have another rucksack at home which I bought for my trip to and across America last summer, but it’s about 80L, and I didn’t want to have to lug it around like I did last time. *war flashbacks to my bulging backpack knocking out old ladies on the New York subway*

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18.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

Thursday was spent pretty much on alert for any unwelcome visits from the hideous in-laws again, but no sign of anybody, and I don’t remember having done anything else in particular that day. Dull note to start on, apologies! Later in the day on Friday, I went to a ticket agent with Hema to book my train ticket to Delhi for June 12th. I should probably contact my prospective couch surfing hosts again, actually, to make sure I actually have somewhere to stay…

The booking agent’s office was… interesting. A few people crowding around a not particularly official-looking desk where a guy would book your seat for you. I ended up paying 850Rs for the 5 or more hour journey from Dehradun to Delhi, and that’s in First Class A/C, so probably fairly luxurious. I’d rather have travelled in something a bit cheaper as it’s not an overnight train, but there wasn’t much available. And less than £10 for a first class long train ride? YES PLEASE!

In the evening, I went to Pacific Mall with Shruti, and we got some iced coffee, and I bought a pair of earrings from the Saheli Trust stand. Happily, I also saw some of the earrings I’d made myself on sale! I had assumed their terrible quality would more likely have sent them to the bin, but they were on display with all the others! We ate dinner at the house of one of Shruti’s relatives; the daughter in the family was a couple of years older than me, and is doing a medical internship. Despite having a medical degree, she was very shy and wouldn’t really speak to me in English. It seems like a symptom of a problem concerning so many young women in India; they’re worried people will laugh or think badly of them and so they’re used to not making themselves heard at all. If I lived in a culture like that all the time, it would drive me mad!

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14.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

Thursday 7th May was a big day for me! I was up bright and early to get to Shruti’s house for 6.45; we had to be in Rishikesh before 9am, to catch the bus from the booking office up to the BUNGEE PLATFORM!

I’ve wanted to do a bungee jump for such a long time; it’s been on my bucket list for years, but until I saw some advertisements in Rishikesh on my first trip there, I didn’t realise that I’d get to fulfil it so soon! It’s one of those things where you think, “I’ll do it one day…”, but never give all that much thought to what you would think if that day happened to be tomorrow. The company we decided to book the jump through is called “Jumpin Heights”, and their bridge is the highest bungee platform in India, at 83m above the valley floor just outside Rishikesh, over the Ganges.

The company seemed not only very professional with very good reviews, but they also had specialists from New Zealand working with them and catered for many visitors to the area; all seemed legit so we had booked a jump each for that day. The prices seemed almost too good to be true, like everything here.

In England, you’d pay £100 at the very least for a bungee jump. Here, I did mine for Rs 3000 – about £30 – and can confirm that the safety precautions were very good and the staff extremely professional. Another thing I didn’t tell my parents about beforehand; back home, I’m sure that the cheap price might have seemed an indicator of bad quality, but here in India, it’s quite a lot of money.

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