The time has come..the time of my return from this indescribable year..that never seemed to be counted down in less than a month..and now..it’s the day.
But let’s not rush..I would like to write about this crazy country that I haven’t found similar to any of the previous countries visited..okey Sri Lanka might be the closest but still…India is a different story..
I remember meeting a girl from the UK in Chile who just arrived to South America after travelling a few months in Asia and starting her trip in India..she had to stay in her hotel for days to get over the culture shock as a first visited country..I was trained compared to her but still..I managed to start my trip with an incredible scam in Delhi..No regrets though..I had fabulous first 3 days..
So I ordered a pick up service from the hotel I booked which arrived a bit late and we didn’t specify where he would wait for me inside or outside..so after searching my name on a board inside without any success I rushed outside..there was nobody there either so I was going in again when 2 people put a gun on me saying NO ENTRY…huhh….I stopped immediately and tried to explain the situation but all I got were closed ears and negatively nodding heads that made me realise that I can say whatever I want I will not get in…i hate when people are not listening when there is an emergency..and for me this was one. So in my panic I raised my voice and shouted at them to listen..it worked..they understood the problem and send someone in to check if I have my name on any of the inside name boards but luckily I found my man outside..he took me to this Smiley Inn hotel..rather ugly and expensive. It was still early night so I walked around in the Main Bazaar area in Paharganj..and here we were ..people following me and trying to sell me stuff..dirt around me..crazy honks and stress..and poverty..I was frozen..
I didn’t want to stay out too late so I bought my Rajhastan Lonely planet and the recommended White Tiger book and withdrawn myself to my room. The next day I visited the famous Red fort in the morning. It was nice but the hassle continued..I popped into a few travel agencies to book tickets for me and Scott (if you read my Sri Lanka blog you know who he is, we planned on travelling together for the first 3 days in India after meeting on my last days in Sri Lanka and turned out he was coming to the same direction), but unfortunately everywhere the same answer: no train ticket, why don’t you book a car?
So..I headed to the train station where I was told that I couldn’t buy a ticket there I should go to ‘government approved agencies’ to book train ticket..so after the fort I went back to the hotel at 3pm to meet Scott and we straight away went to one of these agencies..
Somehow they sold us a tour saying no train ticket to Agra and anywhere else (I wanted to book it in advance so that I wouldn’t be in this situation again). The tour was Delhi-Agra-Ranthambhore-Jaipur-Delhi..3 days, Scott returned to Delhi, I stayed in Jaipur. it included all my train tickets which were about 30 quid for more than 2000 km..and the tour costed us around 380 quid total…what a rip off…never mind..I am not the only one who gets trapped, almost everyone does who arrives first time to Delhi in India ..it’s not a big consolation but hey..we had a great time with Scott, so the money was well invested.
We left immediately to Agra that night and arrived around midnight. This hotel was included in the price:) The next day we went to the Taj Mahal for sunrise…now this was something spectecular..I was so so excited about the Taj Mahal..never listened to people saying on my trip not to go there it’s not worth it..everyone who is in North of India SHOULD go there and see this magnificent palace..
Agra itself is not much of an attraction..there is a fort and some view points to the Taj Mahal…and poverty and colors..
Oh I forgot to introduce our driver..Dalip. He is from the Himalaya and was a very sweet man..I did appreciate him right at the beginning but now at the end of my trip i do even more..he stopped in the countryside many times drinking Chai and showing us the life of the people there while travelling to Rajasthan from Agra.
These kind of things you won’t see from the train:)
The car ride lasted about 6-7 hours from Agra to Ranthambhore..This place has not much to offer apart from the wild life safaris..so we booked one for the day after we arrived and we were one of those lucky ones that got to see a tiger!!!!! So so happy..the chase was amazing..the drivers communicated with each other then a crazy drive followed the phone call ..we followed the footprints and other tracks of the tiger…then finally he appeared…and he was on the hunt..
Next destination was Jaipur…good 6 hours again in the car with Chai breaks, mustard field breaks and all that.
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan with a few beautiful temples, an observatory (Jantar Mantar), City palace with a lot of history about the Rajasthani kingdom.
In India women are working as men..whether it comes to build a house or milk the cow, or working on road constructions women’s role is equal to a man’s role.
We said bye to each other with Scott as he went back to Delhi and I stayed in Jaipur for a couple of days more, then I headed to Pushkar.
The first train journey was great. If you take a train it’s recommended to book it ahead, and the ideal class is 2nd class AC 2 or 3 tiers.
In Pushkar I found myself totally..it’s a holy place with a lake in the middle (watch out for scams, people take you to a ceremony there and they get you to pay 1000-2000 rupees (15-25 pounds) as a ‘donation’ )
I stayed in a great hotel with wonderful roof top and met Isa, Italian girl with whom I spent most of my evenings.
Pushkar has one of the best shopping opportunities in India..you have a couple of km long market where you can have some Chai with the sales people and have wonderful chats..Try to distinguish which one has good intension and which one tries to get you into a great deal to buy his whole shop:)
After 5 days in Pushkar I took the bus to Jodhpur. It’s the blue city. I forgot to mention that Jaipur is the pink city.
Jodhpur has an impressive fort but 1 days overall is enough to see everything.
After Jodhpur I went to Jaisalmere (gold city). The night train arrived at 5am and as soon as I opened my eyes aggressive camel safari people surrounded me trying to sell me trips..I got so pissed off..I guess I was at the end of my trip so had no patience with locals anymore..in the end a taxi driver managed to listen to where I wanted to go instead of taking me to a different hotel so I went to Hotel Peacock, and a few hours after I was already on top of the camel…I went with a mum and daughter from Taiwan, and a guy from Tibet.
The guides didn’t speak too much English but Anna the hotel owner came with us. On the way we stopped at little villages to see how people are living there..they have nothing. Literally nothing.
In the evening we killed a chicken, took out a bottle of rum and was looking at the stars by the fire..I knew these were my last days..I had very mixed emotions..
Once I returned to Jaisalmere I visited the fort. The oldest one in Rajasthan and the only one in which people are still living.
I also went to the desert with a local for a show…it was amazing riding a proper non automatic motorbike in the desert. I was free and happy! Basically on these shows you stay there for the night in beautiful tents. The inside of the tent looks like this:
After Jaisalmere I went to the last and also most beautiful city in Rajasthan..Udaipur.
I had a great room here in Amar Villas..look at the little red house on top of the hotel. That was mine:)
And the view was this:
I met 2 Swedish guys in the hotel and hung out with them for the rest 2 days. We did a boat cruise, went up to a view-point to see the sunset, tried on a few nice outfits, went to the Jagniwas island and had a drunky night with salsa dancing:)
I took the train on the 2nd February to Mumbai…which was supposed to be the last city of my whole trip..On the train there were some cracking Indians with whom I had a banter..they reminden me that soon I would land straight into 2 big gaming conferences:)
I have not much to say about Mumbai..I arrived, took a taxi, was in the taxi for 5 hours to look for accommodation within my budget but it was impossible..the funniest part in the miserable search was that the police tried to help me negotiating a good rate but with no success..They tried everything..said to the owners about the bad PR that I might bring back to my country etc. but their ears and hearts were closed. So in the end I told the taxi driver to take me to the airport and I was hoping I could blag myself into an earlier flight..But I couldn’t so I spent the night at the airport then waited a half day and took actually 1 earlier flight than I should have.
My heart was racing during the whole trip..I felt I was ready for the return..I was wondering how different my life would be in London after this trip..It might be still early to conclude anything but after having spent a week in London I feel nothing’s changed..Nothing at all..I got way more aware of things and got a broad picture on the world..how lucky the western people are in comparison with people living in undeveloped countries..and it pisses me off that there are so many greedy people who don’t appreciate this. Whose most important question is money..who are living in their micro lives not caring about anything else but themselves..
And it will get only worse…Do I need to accept this in order to live a happy life? I don’t. Do I know what’s next? No..but what I know is that I am not scared to build up a life again..wether it’s in London, or in the Philippines or in Antarctica I feel I can do it.
It won’t be easy but I will make sure to surround myself with good people who are going to be there for me, who will listen to me and my crazy stories and won’t find me ‘too much’..
Thank you everyone for reading my blog..following this incredibly amazing year that I just had..thank you for genuinely being happy with me when I was and saying a few words to cheer me up when I wasn’t.
I wouldn’t say anything else to close this..only say goodbye with a quote:
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
― Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe