I got up at an absolutely RIDICULOUS hour on the Wednesday of that week; sad but necessary to get to Jaipur for a reasonable time, as the journey is nearly six hours long. Ideally, I would have liked to stay overnight, and had planned to stay with a Couchsurfing host, but it didn’t work out with the train times. When I’d been booking the tickets, I’d told the counter guy all this and watched his expression go from “mild interest” to “really couldn’t give less of a shit”.
I’ll write a focus post on my day in Jaipur when I get a chance (around the time I’ll write all those other location based ones, eh?) but for the moment, let it suffice to say that the day was very full, hot, exhausting, exciting, draining, confusing and a whole range of contradictions. Despite it being part of the “Golden Triangle”, I had mixed feelings about Jaipur and didn’t really love it as much as I did Delhi. For me, the hawkers were too aggressive (and that’s saying something, having been in Delhi for a week!), the sights not as impressive as I’d thought, and the place lacked the charm of Agra.
More on that later.
As I’d taken the sleeper train back from Jaipur (and that’s a whole other story!), I was fretting for about an hour before the train reached Delhi for fear of missing my stop and ending up in the back-arse of India in the early hours of the morning. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, and after a few responses of confirmation to my questions of “Delhi? Next stop?” and quizzical looks, I managed to get off the train at the Old Delhi station just after 5am.
The next day, it was time to explore New Delhi! Most attractions in India are closed on Mondays, but thankfully most of the things I wanted to see were either outside or still open. Firstly, yes, I did walk all day again! I went to Connaught Place, which is pretty much the commercial centre of New Delhi – most of the big avenues lead onto a traffic circle which goes around a circular colonnade of shops, banks and restaurants. It’s like being back in Europe! Costa and Starbucks lining the roads, etc. I even saw Marks and Spencer! Home comforts!
Of course, I HAD to stop for an iced coffee, but straight after that, I headed to the Jantar Mantar, which is a huge observatory just off Connaught Place. It’s quite incongruous with the surroundings! Imagine, these huge red stone instruments surrounded by modern office buildings; very strange! Entrance fee was 100 Rs, but it was worth paying as the place was not only interesting to look around but quite a nice peaceful place to sit in the shade and people watch.
Hi everyone! Some exciting news; I’m starting a new feature on here, where I’ll tell short little stories about the things which happen to me on the road, which I often forget about and don’t include in my blog posts! This way you’ll see the quirky things which pop up randomly on the road; the good, the bad and the ugly…
Why “Life Bites”? Because it does. Because not only are these bite-size posts, but I think that a lot of the time, life does come around to bite you on the ass. It doesn’t always end up being a bad thing, and it’s often the most unexpected things which we remember for the longest time.
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…
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’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.
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*
I’ve already written a bit about my reasons for travelling in my article on “voluntourism” and gap year travel, but here’s a rundown for those of you who aren’t sure. Please note that the fact that I gripe on about my problems a little in no way means that I’m not aware of just how insignificant they are in the grand scheme of things, and how lucky I am compared to most.