This story is about India. It’s a longer story, as India is a big country
You see, I have no memories of what I thought about India some years ago. But if I still know myself, probably I did not like it.
Then … I’ve met Indian people. Most of them very charismatic and outgoing. I started to learn about the country from its best promoters – Indians. Therefore a couple of months ago I decided to go to India. Before this I was advised to by westerns or westernized friends and colleagues to take care of/with …mostly everything. Add to this reading all the latest news on violence against women.
However, my Indian friends did a better job with presenting the country, than all the others. Maybe I was open to the idea of going to India this spring also because I also come for a country that is mostly criticized by people that have never seen it …or again – maybe because Indians are really charismatic.
So….there I was: New Delhi Airport at 2 AM. I flew in from Shanghai so the plane was full with Indians and Chinese. Should I mention that I was already feeling uncomfortable? I am tall, my hair had a light color and my clothes were German (read that as – simple and boring/practical).
One very good friend waited for me at the airport. He came with another friend of his. We went by car to New Delhi’s center and nothing seemed to be similar to what I was advised to take care of. The New Delhi Airport was huge, clean and modern…not to mention full of all types of internationals. Streets were perfect; sidewalks as well. It was already 3 AM we were passing the area of the embassies.
Second day it started pretty early with Indian Breakfast. I went to India with the idea of trying everything that is on my plate. Well to be honest, until the end of the trip I did not see big difference between Indian Breakfast, lunch and dinner. My taste is not very cultivated in this direction.
Center of New Delhi is full of colonial buildings. The smoke, dust and dirtiness are destroying the view. But people looked happy to me…or at least – not depressed.
One of the first stops was a bazaar. You have to pass a security filter to enter the bazar. You also have to pass security almost always when entering a public place – airport, mall, bazaars, metro or train station. I was expecting actually more aggressively and negotiations from the sellers…more like Turks do in there Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. They were quite nice and very polite.
We took a tuk tuk. I was for the first time in a tuk tuk … so that day we used the tuk tuk 3 more times:) It’s very exciting as you are super close and exposed to the traffic. Not to mention cheap, cheaper than most things and a lot of things are cheap in India.
One of the stops in New Delhi was the mall…probably a comfortable place to be. Security Check to pass first. Next Security Check was at the metro. About 1 million people use the metro every day in New Delhi. And first wagon of the metro is only for women. They can also enter the other wages, but men are not allowed in the first one.
In the evening we went to a bar that for me looked very familiar – except of course that the proportion men/women was’t balanced.
The day next was the start of a 4 days road trip: from New Delhi to Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur with return to new Delhi and Chandigarh as final destination.
Day started early with my second Indian breakfast. First destination was Agra, and despite the fact that there is a highway in between – we took the regional roads for a richer cultural experience. Right next to Delhi, there is another city – Gurgao, where most companies have their offices. This looks like most new European neighborhoods, a bit chaotic, but somehow since everything is new and big – fits OK, not great but – OK.
Then the traffic started to be bad and I remember that I was fascinated with the fact that my friends did not crash the car yet. Actually entire time in India I did not see any car accident. Traffic was impossible. I think you need to grow up there to be able to adapt to that craziness. I did not understand any rules, even though driving rules are not too different around the world; nothing made sense, cars were going on both senses on both sides. Every minute you will have a truck coming from front on your sense, and you had to pull over and avoid it. All in all, it took us 4 hours to reach Agra, even though Google maps said that takes 2 via the highway. We saw Taj Mahal from a hill. It was beautiful. 5 minutes later we were in a parking lot, surrounded by camels, horses and many, many people. Some guy approached us and showed us his badge.
He was a guide tour. He looked suspicious; he looked like he wanted to trick us. That was my thinking, but my friends talked to him. He was indeed a guide tour and he helped us with getting the right tickets and avoiding the waiting line at the entrance. There were hundreds of people, if not thousands; all have to go through security check here as well. Indians pay 2 rupees, foreigners 750 and get a guide. I think is totally worth it.
Taj Mahal is marvelous, every piece is stone and every piece that looks like a painting is just different type of stone, combined in beautiful floral patterns. It took 22 years to be build and Shah Jahan, emperor in the XVII, dedicated it to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal,as symbol of his love. He had 3 wives, first two did not give him any children, Mumtaz Mahal gave him 16 (as per information received from my guide). My first thought was poor guy…. she probably tricked him.
We continued our way to Jaipur. It was supposed to be a 6 hour drive. Of course it was more. Before leaving Agra we got stacked in a jam. Agra is incredibly poor. It’s not fair for India if tourists go only to Agra. Poverty here is at its best.
Before reaching Jaipur we wanted to stop at Chokhi Dhani, a sort of Indian amusement park. We got lost again; googlemaps took us to a village that had small streets and many-many people on the streets – all men. It was scary for me. But we’ve got out somehow and my friends found Chokhi Dhani. It was so relaxing and ended with a great dinner, authentically Indian… everything, including an elephant ride and a henna tattoo. Next morning we went to city center of Jaipur, guided by another Indian friend. Jaipur is a great place to shop. I have my own Bengals now. Jaipur is called the pink city because most of the buildings in the city are painted in the brick color – which they call pink.
Next stop was Udaipur. About 4 h drive on the highway. Here we went to the best restaunts I have ever experienced. On the lake side, under the stars, with fresh green grass under my feet and with excellent food. We spend two evenings in Udaipur and unfortunately I do not remember the name of the restaurants, but they were both recommended by the hotel we stayed in.
Udaipur seemed to be the city of kings. We were tourist so of course we have visited the best places. But for me, the city was nice also for its inhabitans. Jaipur has better living standards than Agra an Udaipur was better to its people than the previous two together. It was set up near mountains, benefiting from natural beauty to which it has been added castles and temples and …women on motorbikes. I was in India so of course I looked a lot at Indian women. Women in this city looked strong to me, especially young girls. Furthermore the city was full of as with girls on motorcycles – more than that, it felt very safe.
We went back to New Delhi, but having the final destination Chandigarh. In the train, we received better food than what you usually get in airplanes and great ice cream. From here on … only air conditioning and freezing. Every closed had ai reconditioning and Chandigarh it’s a bit in the more in the North of the Country so its always a bit chilly comparing to rest of the country.
Chandigarh looked like a different place all in all. People looked different, they were all dressed modern, streets were clean, and houses were nice (+almost no homeless people). I’ve spent about 4 days in Chandigarh and met excellent people, all ex AIESECers or AIESEC alumni. They have a pretty strong local organization with hundreds of exchanges.
A, funny enough but here I also had the best chocolate mousse ever.
For me, Chandigarh was about people. I’ve met wonderful people, very friendly and natural and driver and entrepreneurial. I felt inspired there and I am still thinking about the people that I only met for such a shot time.I had to take a plane from Chandigarh to New Delhi. I was the only non-Indian in the plane. They offered me glass of water and I took it. Only to realize that it was tab water and I cannot have tab water. So for 30 minutes I “took care” of the glass because I was ashamed to return it to the flight attendant.
When I landed in New Delhi it was 2 AM, now it was 11 AM. The Airport was full; they have a shuttle every 20 main in between terminals. I mention this, because I was really happy to see it. I did not want to jump in a taxi. I needed about 3 h from the moment I reached the airport until I reached my boarding gate. It’s a big and very crowded place. To enter – you need to show your ticket. They don’t let everybody in. Big country
All in all, I’ve spent 9 days in India and I loved everything and every moment!!!!
Thank you, TJ and thanks to all your wonderful friends that took their time and made this trip wonderful!