India India India….
I could write about it everyday for the next months.. as so much has happened, so much has been experienced and so much I have learned during the time I spent in that huge and diverse country. Unfortunately the blog must go on and so the trip, so in order to not to drag it for much longer I have decided to write the last post about India (for now), where I will try to write about the highlights and resume all the information and adventures I still have to share.
India definitely proved to be an astonishing explosion of noises, smells, flavour, colours, contrasts.
I have been nothing short of amazed by the things I have seen and heard. I wish I could try to paint a true picture of India in a short blog post but don’t think its possible at all, but as a traveler, I advise everyone that really is into meeting real cultures to travel India.
However, and even though I am a solo traveller, I would advise you to not to travel on your own, specially if you are a woman. Upsets me to say this but I honestly don’t think it’s a safe place for a western women to travel solo.
So here we go, my summary of India:
Timeline: 62 days – 16th Oct until the 16th Dez
Where: Visit over 30 cities/towns. From North to South, East and West, the whole country is so different. I must say that the North and the South are so different that is almost like different countries.
Main places I have been: Mumbai, Aurangabad, Jalgaon, Omkareshwar, Mandu, Ujjain, Sanchi, Orchha, Chanderi, Agra, Delhi, Jaisalmer, Thar Desert, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Pushkar, Jaipur, Bharatpur, Varanasi, Kolkota, Chennai, Mamallapuram, Madurai, Varkala, Kerala, Kochi, Hampi, Goa, Bangalore.
Temperatures: sunny sunny, between 26 and 38 c. degrees – Rained only once in the South – and only for like 10 min.
Touring: Travel with an organised group – Intrepid – (actually 3 as the tour was divided in 3 parts, but group was the same most of the time), but also spent some time in the last days with a western friend I have met on the tour, then a few days by myself, and then a few other days only with my ex tour leader – a local.
New additions in life: Over 10 new lovely girl friends in my life (mostly Australians hahaha), one “boyfriend” and a few other friends both locals and travellers.
Sickness: I did got a bad cold – silly aircon on the train – funnily enough didn’t get food poisoned which is a rarity in India I must say. However, I did the mistake of drinking (last night with the group), and got severely sick… pretty sure my drink was spiked as just had 2 caipiroskas however I got so sick that I think I was vomiting food back when I was baptised (I was 7 moths old and have a feeling I was drinking only my mum’s milk) but yeah… do not drink if you go to India 🙂
Accidents: one, got burned on a motorcycle and was so bad that one month later I was still taking medicine. I am afraid I will have a scar for the rest of my life, oh well, I will look at it as a bad souvenir that I can’t get rid off…
Transports used: pretty much all apart from private jet…. oh and neither any helicopter ride.
Special Nights: 7 on a train, 1 under the stars (while freezing) in the desert, 1 home stay which was so cool, and few other “special nights”
Cinema: went twice, 3h each movie and no English subtitles…. tried to sleep but didn’t work… too much noise :p
Parties: does the train “parties” count???? well, I remember a couple of cool nights out. Best one in Verkala, even tho it took my boring friends almost an hour to join me on the dance floor, oh well, at least there was plenty of locals whiling to dance with me!!! 😀 oh must mention that there was no air con so all the pictures look like we just came out of the ocean as we are completely wet (covered in sweat – lovely hey?)
Singing: yep yep, I did it… we found this little bar in South India, where this beautiful family (dad and son / mum danced) were performing the most amazing tunes, we obviously requested the Beatles, Robby Williams (and I wanted to try Lady Gaga but my friends were not having it ahahah) and they invited me on the stage after some silly friend told them I liked to sing… quite embarrassing as I had a cold, but people seemed to enjoy so not that bad lol!
Big Surprise: You know what, India is not that smelly, seriously, however it really is very dirty which was not a surprise….
Astrology: didn’t believe in any of it until I got my palm read (twice). It was so accurate and scary that at some point I even cried… good news is apparently I will live until I am almost 90 YAY, and according to my hand lines I am a good person and I shouldn’t change :p well, if they say so..!
Money: Well, I must say it was cheap yes, but not as dirty cheap I was thinking originally. The truth is that everything has double prices, for locals and for foreigners. For example entrances in monuments would be like: 10 rupees for locals and 250 rupees for foreigners. So I think it was the same in restaurants, hotels, transports, etc….
Food: Spoke about this in previous posts, but resume it with: Heaven for Vegetarians and Hell for people who don’t eat spicy food, i.e ME!
Curiosity: Did you know that in India all the ATMs are guarded… and only one person is allowed inside at a time? ahaha funny right? Not complaining, but imagine ALL the ATM’s in the Western were guarded by a security?? Well, that would provide a lot of new jobs… :p
Also, there’s this man, called TATA, which I would like to get married with, that kinda is THE name in India. Google him and read about him, is super interesting, but while in India, in one single day you might read his name 2947934 times as its literally everywhere.
Disappointment: I would say (and this is very shallow – sorry) but were the massages, mani and pedis I did. Sometimes a girl needs to be pampered (specially when you carry over 30KL of luggage and walk all day long around cow poo) and I had the idea that Indian massages were supposed to be one of the best in the world… well, not in my case… had probably the worst full body massage in my life. And I am not alone on this as most of the girls that traveled with me felt the same way. And don’t even get me started on mani/pedi…. at some point I was teaching the girls on how to actually do it … and I have a feeling that my 16-year-old little sister that never did a mani or a pedi in her life would have done a better job that those “beauticians”…. and they were not even cheaper either…. In the south they were better … Maybe I am just too spoiled as in Portugal we have the best mani/pedis but in India was seriously disappointing to the point I am actually mentioning it here as THE disappointing part of India.
Being Portuguese: as usual I was the first Portuguese they saw/met … or at least to most of the people I have met. But it was refreshing that everyone knew my country for once ahahah and instead of shouting: “OMG, Portuguese…. like Cristiano Ronaldo” they would usually say “Portuguese, like Vasco da Gama” (he was a Portuguese explorer, that was the first Western arriving to India, and then we colonised a part of South India, reason it’s so Catholic which made me feel so at home – not that I am religious, but could really feel the Portuguese vibe in the South which was so special)
Myth or not:
– Cows are everywhere – NOT a myth. It really is true. They are literally EVERYWHERE. Its crazy .. completely mental… specially when they are all over the roads, inside the stations, on the streets, and even trying to get inside the houses. But they are very smart. Usually they are by themselves and loved to see when 50 to 100 of them would be going back home everyday by themselves just before the sunset… is almost like they are people. Loved it.
– That every boy is really good at IT. Ermmm it is a myth I am afraid. Check this out, met a guy, not telling names, but he actually had a degree in IT…??!?!?! Now he didn’t even know how to put a song on his iPhone……. everything that was IT related I had to do it for him…. and this is just one of many.
Big lesson: I can say I have learned so much while in India… and got so many lessons out of my trip however I realised that the little things make me the happiest. Is all about appreciating the smallest things. Some of the best memories I have are from things that might seem insignificant, but I appreciate them so much. For example:
- Finding, buying and eating fruit when I was hungry
- Beatles and Michael Jackson playing on the radio on that long bus ride, I would almost cry of happiness, sad you might think but you realise how music is the universal language and you appreciate it at another level when you completely outside your culture.
- The sunset…. pretty much everyday I would be marvelled at the sunset… what a beautiful free marvel
- The Aircon after that long and sweaty walk all around the dusty town.
- The moment when I found my SUPER rare toothpaste which usually is not even commericialized or on sale on stores, and I have found it on the tiniest little store in Goa…. it was almost like winning lottery (I refuse to brush my teeth with any other toothpaste….)
- Actually have hot water in the shower… that always made me so happy.
- Finding porridge at a hotel or restaurant. When it was good and real porridge I would almost cry of happiness ahahhaha
- Being asked to be on a picture with a local might be a bit annoying but when those little girls look at you mesmerised and with a huge smile they say: “you are so beautiful” would always make my day.
- ohhh and can’t forget the singing along in those really long car trips… me and Jackie would take over and become the DJs and sing out loud all our favourite tunes and then sing and sing until we lose our voice… obviously the driver and some other people wouldn’t be impressed but you know what? It is hard to remember a moment I was happier than that 🙂 plus we didn’t care ahhhhh ahahah
Movies and books: Probably most of you have watched Slumdog Millionaire. Its a brilliant film and very very realistic. While in India I have watched the incredible English movie: The best exotic marigold Hotel!!! Please watch it if you have the chance, its a beautiful and touching story. The story line happens in Udaipur and it was so cool to watch the movie right before arriving to the town…. The image it gives from India its very realistic… It was like I was in the movie myself.
I had the chance to read a couple of books while in India. My good friend Ren thought it was a good idea to give me a book at the airport just before start the trip, like a REAL book to read in India lol (have you heard about iTunes voucher & iPads darling? ahahah) Luckily for him, even tho the book was heavy (but is now at home in Portugal safe and sound on my library) was brilliant still shocking. Its called “The God of small things” and it was special to read it while in India as it’s an Indian story written by an Indian author. Read it if you have the chance.
Also I had the opportunity to finally read the biography of one of my heroes, and someone who indirectly changed so many lives, inclusive mine, Steve Jobs. As he spent a good time of his life in India, it was fun and interesting to be able to relate with him during that phase. Loved it. To be able to actually read and having time for myself is one of the main reasons why I am doing this trip. 🙂
- Being with locals and go out of the beating track to be on the small towns that rarely see non Indians.
- Varanasi as a whole… I can’t even describe how was to stay there…. Perhaps the biggest cultural shock in my life however it was so special… the vibe was completely different from everything I have felt before.
- People can be so beautiful… met so many locals that had the most incredible aura. Funnily enough most of them were not even capable to communicate in English, but I could understand everything they were trying to say… My favourite were usually the older ladies… there was something special about many of that people.
- Being stared at…. Indian men can be quite disgusting. They will look at you in a non nice way. I understand I might be different for them, but is not even that, because I would catch them staring Indian women. Its disturbing. A lot of times The Latin in me wanted to fight….
- Also the fact things are extremely dirty is such a turn off…. it’s so sad that the government seems to do nothing or very little to educate the population on environmental issues. Pretty much everyone just put the garbage on the floor… even if there are bins around. Is so sad specially as you see all those animals (cows, dogs, pigs etc) eating the garbage… I am sure many many of them die as they eat plastic and garbage all the time. People spit on the floor… and not just outdoors…… I could keep going…
- Things can be really slow or not work at all… and forget costumer service. Shocked aswell as most of the time there was no business sense…. (unless the owner runs the business). Oh and “funnily” enough they never have change to give you…. its crazy, if you don’t have the right money you are asking for trouble…
- Disconsideration. WOW, I was shocked on how inconsiderate Indians can be. You have no idea how many “fights” I almost started…. So, its 2 am and you are in your hotel trying to fall asleep… but then you have an Indian family literally parting and shouting outside your room door…. but at 3 am they will still be there… and yep, 4am aswell… If you go and complain and give them dirty looks like I did, do not expect an apology or a “sorry I’m gonna stop now”… they will probably do even more noise and laugh in your face… for those that know me you can imagine how mad I got and how much I had to calm myself down….! Exactly the same thing in the train… they don’t care if its 4am and everyone is sleeping. They will turn the lights on and scream, shout and party like its 9pm….. not funny. (I did got a small revenge tho =) )
My bucket list: YES, I had the opportunity to cross a few amazing and important items on my bucket list. From sightseeing to experiences… it was fun but not going to expand much and just tell you what I have managed to cross:
- Taj Mahal
- Ajanta Caves
- The red fort
- To wear a sari
- Palm reading by a real astrologist
- Indian cooking classes
- To swim on a lake with crocs ( didn’t see them but there was signs warning them)
- Have henna done in my body
- Sleep under the stars – desert
- Be on a camel fair
- To visit Goa
- To visit Kochi and the church were Vasco da Gama was buried
- Buy myself a precious stone – girls best friend
- Sleep inside a fort
- To visit an orphanage
- To visit an authentic Indian School
- Assist to Varanasi sacred funerals and rituals
- Have a party on the night train
What I haven’t accomplished of my list:
- To be in a Bollywood movie – don’t need to be the main character, a supporting actor is ok for now
- To be on an Indian wedding … well, we kinda were in one, but not the full thing… Guess will need to go back to India :p
So I guess this is it ladies and gentlemen. This was India for me.
I hope you enjoy and are now curious to visit this marvellous country.
In the meantime, if you would like to see more, visit my Facebook page where I have pictures of these fabulous places and adventures.
Soon I will be telling you all about a new country. Stay tuned 😉