Hey there! So, onto my first journal entry from the big city!
I spent my last day in Dehradun doing one last class with the kids at the summer camp, and leaving to a chorus of “We’ll miss you!” to go and finish up my packing. I had to repack my bag a couple of times to fit everything in (damn the sarees!) but EVENTUALLY I got it down to the big bag, 2 pieces of hand luggage, and a bag of snacks (which I ended up not needing at all).
Later in the day, I bade farewell to my Indian family at Saheli, and started the journey to New Delhi, the capital of India. Check out my post on travelling to and arriving in Delhi HERE! Delhi really is something else, but I’m beyond grateful that I had a couple of months in Dehradun first to adjust to India; coming straight into Delhi really would be getting thrown in at the deep end!
Waking up on my first morning in Delhi was a little surreal; I could hardly believe that for the next two months, it was just going to be me and my backpack trying to navigate Delhi and then South East Asia.
Hey all! My day trip to Agra deserves its own post, I think, despite the fact that I only did a couple of things; I had an amazing day and there’s definitely a lot to talk about.
So, there’s pretty much one reason anyone goes to Agra, and that’s the Taj Mahal. The typical symbol of India, and one of the top tourist attractions in the world, the Taj Mahal really is something special. I mean, it’s famous for a reason, right? And it’s just one of those places that can’t be missed if you’re close. The “Golden Triangle” of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur if probably the area of India most frequented by tourists and travellers, and I am no exception.
I really wish I had more time in India to go south and see some other places, as the variation between regions in India in terms of language, culture, and of course food, if enormous. Another time, hopefully! I’m going off on a tangent again…
So, I’d booked my train tickets to and from Agra at the tourist booking office at the New Delhi Railway Station; this is a total lifesaver as it’s open 24/7, and the staff there don’t charge commission. The attendant who was booking my tickets seemed fairly exasperated with me from the word go, and remained churlish the entire time I was there. Some people…
I’m going to hold my hands up to the fact that I’m a little guilty of sugar-coating my travels. Not so much on this blog, because I’d like to think I don’t hide anything from you guys, but on my personal Facebook and Instagram, I do a fairly good job of making it seem like everything I’m doing is exciting and cool and indie and making my friends jealous, and pretty much presenting a rose-filtered version of reality. Nobody wants to hear moaning on Facebook, right?
But I won’t lie, there are times when it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Yesterday, I had to go and sit in Starbucks for a while just because of the familiarity – label whore much – when it all got a bit much.
I’m not really one for getting lonely, but I just felt quite overwhelmed all of a sudden. I like my own company, but sometimes it’s nice to have people to talk to, to have someone else to hold the camera and tell your stories too. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of other English girls on the train back from Agra the other day, but they left the next morning, heading to Bangkok. And my hostel isn’t particularly conducive to meeting other people.
I’m not really uncomfortable in India. And as for Delhi being quite different to where I was before, I feel like it’s one of those places which some people love and others absolutely loathe. For my part, I’ve really taken to it. I love the contrasts of New and Old Delhi. I love that you can turn the corner from a busy shopping street in Old Delhi and come face-to-face with a beautiful old mosque or fort. I love the wide avenues and parks of New Delhi. However, I won’t deny that the place has its drawbacks.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
The Old Man and His God, Wise and Otherwise and The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk by Sudha Murty
My rating: 6/10 for all three books
One Sentence Verdict: Small glimpses of India across various social groups, religions, languages and places, the author weaves a tapestry of the people of the country, with tales of generosity, meanness, humour, hardship and success
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.
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!