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June 19th 2011
Published: June 20th 2011
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June 12th - 20th, 2011

After a 4 1/2 hour flight to Delhi, India I got to my hotel room around 1pm. Let me just express what my expectations are for India from hearing stories of other backpackers that I’ve met. The most common line I hear is, “I love India.” But when I ask why, nobody really seems to be able to give me an answer. All I hear is, “This one time in India... a guy took a crap in the aisle of the bus... a monkey chased me... I got Delhi Belly (traveler’s term for severe diarrhea and vomiting caused by the food and water; mostly occurs in India, hence the nickname)... my bus broke down and we were stuck in the heat for 8 hours... some 8 year old boy grabbed my boobs... and of course, the beggars. Well most of these backpackers went during the tourist months, whereas I am heading in there in one of the worst possible months in the year. Temperatures between 105-120 degrees (40-49 celsius) and any day the monsoon season begins which causes roads to flood and traveling longer. So to put it nicely, this is the one portion of my trip I am not really looking forward to, but I needed a city as a layover between my flight from Asia to Europe and I thought I can go in, see some sites, and get out. Let’s see how it goes...

My first impressions were the heat (it was around 108 degrees the first day) and how much trash is everywhere along the roads. I started to take a walk around to find somewhere to eat but my hotel wasn’t in the best location so I got a tuk-tuk to take me into town. He said he would take me around for the next few hours for what would be roughly 60 cents, so I knew exactly what to expect. When you hear these deals traveling around Asia, it means they will make you stop at all these different places because they get paid commission on just taking you there and on anything you buy. So he did start by taking me somewhere to eat, and it was good but kinda expensive (again, cause he gets a cut of whatever I spend), then to a carpet store, then to some monument, then to an antique store, then to his hotel, then back to my hotel.

I started another tour but this one is only 7 days and takes me around northern India. This is my last scheduled tour but I would consider doing one again, probably in South America though, as they have some good things and some bad things about them. I was shocked to see that this tour group was full (15 people) as this is not the tourist season here due to the extreme heat and the start of the monsoon season. For these reasons, most of this tour is scheduled for morning activities and the rest of the days are free to do what we want. After meeting the group, we all went to dinner and then four of us went on a search for somewhere to just have a beer. I guess to get a liquor license is pretty expensive here and there are very few places that serve any alcohol which means beer is expensive here.

The next morning we headed to the Great Mosque and through some of the markets. Right after we had lunch, we took our coach on a six hour ride to Agra. We did get to stop at a McDonald’s which was interesting since they do not serve any beef or pork in most of the country cause they consider cows as holy. Luckily, they still had Chicken McNuggets! (In the end, McDonald’s once again kinda saved me as I had it probably 5 times in my 9 days in India) All throughout the streets you see cows wondering around and they consider this good luck. Once we got to Agra, a few more of us went out to just look at the markets and such so we got another tuk-tuk that did the exact same thing as the first time. This time we stayed at one place till 10pm though cause thats when all the stores close so this guy was forced to just take us where we wanted although we did agree to go see one store so the guy could make some money.

So far so good about staying out of trouble in India, although I am still looking for a cock fight to see just once on my trip. India seems like a very laid back religious country in terms of going out and drinking. There are no bars anywhere, only in restaurants but drinks are expensive. Good thing I am not really a drinker, despite all the times I have written about it.

Agra is a city that is known for one thing, some mausoleum called the Taj Mahal. I have never heard of it until I got here. And guess what, it even has a child called the Baby Taj. Due to the heat, our guide decided that the best plan would be for us to get up 4:30am to be there by 5 and see the sunrise. Tough for those that are jet lagged as several in my group are just starting a trip or just taking a trip to see India. This plan earned my guide a bigger tip as I got to see the Taj when there were only about 5 other people there when we walked in. I was able to take pictures without hundreds of other tourist in every shot. I didn’t have to wait in line to get a shot on the Princess Diana bench. And I got some great shots (I hope) with different sunlight. The Taj was very impressive and beautiful and I do appreciate the thought and design that must have gone into it. It was a little smaller than I expected it would be, but what guy hasn’t heard that. My only real disappointment with it was the inside, was not as big, and I didn’t care for the marble designs in there. By the time I got out of the building, the crowds were starting to come in so I made the most of the opportunity and got some Where’s Waldo pics, but without the proper hat since I left it in Laos. I did order a new one though and will see if a friend from home that is meeting up with me will bring it, if she says no, i will post her email address and everyone can convince her. Well the real heat started hitting us, over 110 degrees that day, so we went back to the hotel, cooled off, went to lunch, back to the hotel to cool off (this was the common outline for most days), then off to the Baby Taj. Despite the nickname, the Baby Taj is actually older than the real Taj, but due to it’s size it had earned the nickname.

Princess Diana Bench
I think the real name of the mausoleum is Itmadud Daula’s Tomb. They do look similar cause the big Taj designers decided to just make a bigger, more elaborate version of it. I think the best part of the Baby Taj was the 20-30 monkeys scattered around the grass surrounding it, all playing and chasing each other.

The next day was sorta a waste cause we are driving to Jaipur next but are spending a night in some hotel that is in the middle of nowhere (no stands, shops, buildings, people anywhere near the hotel, so we were stuck in the hotel. We did see the Fatehpur Sikri which was somewhat interesting for the first 10 minutes and then it looked like I had just gone swimming I was so covered in sweat. Speaking of swimming, the best part about the day was the fact our hotel did have a nice pool, which surprisingly wasn’t dirty. So the group basically spent the next 6 hours hanging around the pool and we came up with a water bottle basketball game with some of the life saving rings. It turned out to be a real good time except there was one other guy staying at the hotel, and he had a room overlooking the pool, and we caught him creeping in the windows staring at the girls (I hope) in the group. After we caught him about 5 times, we came up with a plan to all turn around and start waving at him at the same time. It worked for a little bit but a few minutes later we saw him in another window.

After a 2.5 hour bus ride we reached a small town that had another old temple but also a cool complex that was an old watering hole with hundreds of small stairs in a maze pattern to get down there so I once again threw on Where’s Waldo for some more shots. Back on the bus for another 2.5 hours before getting to Jaipur. The first afternoon was more free time and shopping before dinner. The next day we took tours of some huge old forts on top of mountains. Afterward, I finally had the chance to send that bookbag of stuff I have been trying to send for over a week now, but once again nothing can go easy for me. I had about a 15 minute walk to one of the main post offices in India. While weaving my way around traffic, parked scooters, the random cows roaming the street, and the piles of cow droppings, I forgot to look out for one other thing, the random doors and windows that suddenly open to throw buckets of liquids out. The next thing you know, my legs and flip-flops were covered in some type of liquid, I was hoping for just dirty water but it turned sticky pretty quick in addition to all the dirt that is everywhere, it didn’t talk long before I looked like a dirty bum. So I finally get to the post office, sent some postcards for other people in the group, then asked about how much it would cost to send my bag cause I still had to find an ATM. After waiting in line, got the estimate, and started walking to the shopping area for an ATM. 20 minutes later I find one, but it doesn’t work, this time i just pay a tuk-tuk to start taking me around to find one that works then back to the PO. So I give my bag to the guy and I ask him to box it up, he said they don’t use boxes, only cloth. Great, how can a dishonest person get into a bag wrapped in cloth. I asked if I could take pictures of him wrapping it but security said no so i will try to draw some and post it. First, they took string and just wrapped the shoulder straps closer to make it smaller. Next, just a regular plastic bag and just tied a knot at the end to prevent my bag from getting wet. Lastly, he pulls out a long piece of cloth, and with a sewing needle, quickly sews the sides before lighting a candle and using strategically placed candle wax drops to seal some parts. In the meantime, I start filling out the Custom’s paperwork, when all of the sudden the lights go out and their is a blackout (pretty common here). The bad part is I was stuck in a PO with about a hundred pushy Indians, its about 110 outside, about 120 inside with one big bucket of water in the center with one cup that everyone is sharing. I obviously was sweating the most being a foreigner so they kept offering me the cup but I rather take my chance of passing out due to heat and dehydration then getting Delhi Belly from drinking tap water or whatever else you can get from sharing one cup with hundreds of people. I think I lost about 10 pounds of sweat before the lights came back on and they finished “packing” my bag of small gifts, my hiking shoes (now I need a pair of trainers or tennis shoes for the running of the bulls in a few weeks and for all the walking around Europe i have coming) and a few other items. Now all I have to do it pay, so once again i get in line and wait, i should say a group of people just constantly pushing right up on you to get closer. meanwhile i hear people around me saying something smells, i had a feeling it was whatever liquid was thrown on my leg that is now covered in dirt and sweat. While i was thinking about that and making sure my wallet isn’t stolen, about 10 people cut me in line before the guy behind the counter told everyone to back off that i’m next. Finally, after 2 hours there, my bag was shipped (in cloth and wax) which cost me about $50 and once again 2-3 months. Does anyone actually think it will make it to my house?

Well now that I’m stressed about the package and looking and smelling homeless, you think i would go back to the hotel and shower. The problem was our group bought tickets to a Bollywood movie at this amazing theater, which along with the Taj was what I was most looking forward to in India since I LOVE movies and have seen several Bollywood films on DVD. I only had a few minutes to meet the group at the theater so i get a tuk-tuk, go to the theater, run to the bathroom and try to wash my leg but no real luck cause they were out of soap. I pored water on it but I think that just made it worse and more sticky. After asking some group members if i smell, the worst response i got was “yeah a little, but we all do” so i was happy with that, lol. We saw a new release called “Ready”, it was in Hindi with no English subtitles so we didn’t understand anything being spoken but it was still good fun. We saw it at the Raj Mandir Cinema, which was voted the best theater in Asia, and for good reason, the theater is huge! Well over a thousand people, sold out, screaming, whistling, supposedly dancing, and laughing all the time. Such a great atmosphere except the movies are like 3.5 hours long, but they do have a “Pee Break” halfway through. The movie was fun because it was funny, was a love story, had drama, had action (which included a tuk-tuk chase seen) and every 15-30 minutes there was a song and dance which is when the audience really went wild. I think I actually enjoyed this the most so far in India.

The next morning we had a six hour drive back to Delhi and had a farewell dinner. It turns out that 13 of the 15 of us had flights the next day, I gave myself a full day after so now I will wander around the heat of Delhi today, expected to be 115 degrees, and see what type of trouble I can get into. It sucks though cause i’m nervous that I might jinks myself, but I have made it without Delhi belly (thanks mostly to McDonald’s; but I did also eat Indian food, I just don’t care for it that much) and today I will test that. I also have most of tomorrow free before my flight to Europe. I am also having some of the group members create some challenges for me for my last day in Delhi. I’m afraid its so hot out that i’m not going to leave the hotel at all so this will give me something to do all day before my flight. Looking forward to see what they are writing down....

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