(Not so) Incredible India

Published: July 31st 2016
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India had never been on my plans... I'm not a fan of hot, overcrowded places and that's just what India seemed to be so, why would I bother to go there?

But two months ago I started a new job and, on my very first day, I was offered an all-expenses-paid trip to India to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary so, even though India wasn't in my plans... how could I refuse?

I was getting very nervous about the trip: traveling so far with people I barely knew, to a place that will challenge me in many ways and being apart from Ella and Dax... it wasn't going to be easy. I tried not to think too much about it so the days just flew by and, suddenly, we were at Heathrow waiting to board our plane!

We took an overnight flight, which would have been fine if I would have had a window seat, I guess, so I would have been able to sleep a bit but, alas! I was on the aisle and, even though there was a space in between me and the girl on the window seat, I didn't manage to get comfortable enough
Taj MahalTaj MahalTaj Mahal

The photo we all take...
to sleep... I even tried to swap places with her when she told me her in-flight computer didn't work, but I think she saw through me and politely declined my offer. This lack of sleep, together with the time being 4.5 hours forward that in the UK and not being able to eat anything on the plane (my stomach seems to close up every time I fly now... another sign of me approaching middle age, I guess...) meant that I was feeling pretty unwell when we finally landed in Delhi and I thought 'I hope this is not a sign of things to come'... and, oh it was!

I had imagined Delhi airport to be busy and hot but, to my surprise, what I found was a nearly empty, comfortably air-conditioned new terminal that helped me to feel better as we were waiting to get our passports stamped. We were also lucky to get a customs worker who was in a good mood and welcomed us to India with a smile and words of praise when he found out we worked in a translation agency and we all could speak several languages! (I speak 4 languages and I'm the person in my office who speaks the least!)

By the time we got to our taxi (everything was arranged by our bosses and I really mean everything, which was great, as we just had to follow them and not really think about logistics - perfect for a short trip like this one) my spirits have lifted, as well as my stomach, and I was able to enjoy the ride to the hotel and eat some fig rolls I had sneaked in for 'emergencies'

On arrival at the hotel we joined my other boss (they flew in separate flights, just in case...), had a shower and went to get something to eat, which we did in a nearby café with delicious food. There, I had a pomegranate juice as I thought fruit that needed peeling was safe to eat - looking back, that may have been a mistake.

It was hot... no, it was hotter than hot; I don't think I've ever been as hot in my life; saying that it was hot is an understatement. Have I mentioned it was hot?... oh, my, how hot it was! hot, hot, hot... too hot to do anything!


Sleeping is the only sensible thing to do when it's 45 degrees / dormir es la única cosa sensata que hacer cuando hay 45 grados
since it was so hot... we took a couple of taxis to take us to the main sites of the city, like the India gate and a 'traditional market'. This so-called 'traditional market' must have been traditional by western standards, as it was just a shopping mall in which we didn't even bothered to get in, as it wasn't what we were looking for. This may sound shallow but I was looking forward to go shopping in Indian markets (even touristy ones, but NOT shopping malls), as most of the clothes I wear are the tie-dye hippy style that are made in India anyway! but it wasn't meant to be, as it was decided to skip the market to go to visit the Red Fort and then go back to the hotel to chill and escape the heat.

After resting and having a second shower, we headed out to dine at 'Indian Accent' a super fancy restaurant, the type I'm not used to, with chef's tasting menu and all... very posh-smosh... but so delicious! I haven't tasted food like that very often; every single thing was so beautifully presented and so delicious... we all went for the chef's tasting menu, with it 4 starters, 2 mains and 2 desserts... it was really one of the highlights of the trip.

The next day, we took an early train to Agra. Of course, we traveled in the air-conditioned first class compartment, with a delicious breakfast included of chickpea curry (spicy!) The train ride was great and really comfortable so it was a bit of a shock to get to Agra Cantt and being back in the middle of chaos, heat and noise. But we quickly found our minibus and were once again in our air conditioned bubble, being transported from the station to the Taj Mahal, without having to think about anything.

When we arrived at the Taj Mahal we were surprised at how empty the gate was and got our spirits high thinking that it may not be too busy... until our guide, Manu, told us that we were actually in the less-used gate. At the entry, you have to go through an airport-security-like check and there are lots of things you are not allowed to bring in the complex, such as food (they give you a complimentary bottle of water with your ticket) or big bags/backpacks.

As we joined the hundreds of tourists inside the gates, I was surprise to see very few western-looking people, as most of the visitors are actually Indians. It was beautiful, so pretty that it felt like we didn't want to move anymore, just stay there looking at this iconic building (which I never thought I would visit, for reasons I have already explained). We took a lot of photos and we could have taken many more, but it's impossible to capture the whole atmosphere; I even commented on how the background music helped the 'ambiance', but Manu explained that it was actually a wedding and the music meant that the groom was walking down the street to the bride's house... it would have been great to have seen it!

Manu explained that the Taj Mahal was built out of the love the emperor Shah Jahnan felt for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal and how after she died giving birth to her 14th child (yes, you've read it correctly, 14th!!), he build this amazing tomb... but I couldn't help but thinking that, if he would have loved her so much, maybe he shouldn't have made her pregnant 14 bloody times and she wouldn't have died in childbirth at the age of 38! that's just nuts... 14 children!!! and, anyway... he moved the capital from Agra to Delhi shortly after building the Taj Mahal so... that's eternal love for you!

After another delicious meal in Agra we went in our air-conditioned bubble to Fatehpur Sikri, a palace build by emperor Akbar (the grandfather of Shah Jahnana), who married a christian, a hindu and a muslim wives to try make peace between the religions. Once again, it was beautiful but it was so, so, so very hot that we could barely walk or listen to what Manu was saying. We were looking forward to sit down and while he kept apologizing because he was going very fast, we were thinking he wasn't going fast enough!

Our hotel for the next two nights was the Jai Mahal and I had been looking forward to get to it and make the most of a 5 star hotel. We had a nice(ish) dinner at the hotel's restaurant and went to bed as we were very tired... and that's the last time I saw the hotel...

I started throwing up at 3am and didn't stop until 9am... by the time I stopped, I was so tired and weak that I couldn't leave the bed and a doctor had to be called in the afternoon, as I was having cramps in my hands and couldn't move them. The first thing she said was that I had tetany... and I thought she meant tetanus, so I started freaking out a bit. I was then taken to hospital to get an IV, as what I had was very low calcium amounts in my body (aka tetany!). While I was there my hands were getting more and more painful, and I couldn't stop thinking that I was going to die so far away from Ella and Dax... and I was really scared!

But after a while I got better and was sent back to the hotel with the doctor in tow. There, I got a sedative and don't remember anything until the alarm rang next morning at 5am to get the bus back to Delhi, as we were flying back to UK that very same day.

So, I'm happy to be alive and back home with Ella and Dax and I'm happy to have gone to India, even though we didn't really see anything of the 'real' India inside our air-conditioned bubble... but if I got ill eating in fancy restaurants and staying in 5 star hotels... what would have happened to me if we were staying in budget accommodation? I rather not thinking about it, although, on the other hand, maybe I was just unlucky...

La Increíble India... no tan increíble

India nunca había estado en mis planes... no me gustan los sitios donde hace mucho clar y están llenos de gente y eso es precisamente lo que yo pensaba que era la India así que, para qué ir?

Pero hace dos meses empecé un trabajo nuevo y, en mi primer dia, me ofrecieron un viaje a la India con todos los gastos pagados para celebrar el decimo aniversario de la compañía asi que, como podia decir que no?

Estaba un poco nerviosa por el viaje: viajr con gente a la que casi no conozco, a un lugar que me retaria en muchos aspectos y estar lejos de Ella y Dax... no iba a ser facil. Pero intente no pensar mucho en ello y los dias fueron pasando y, de repente, estabamos en Heathrow esperando a embarcar.

Cogimos un vuelo nocturno, lo cual hubiera estado muy bien si hubiera tenido un asiento en la ventana y hubiera podido dormir pero, no! me toco pasillo y, aunque entre mi asiento y el de la chica de la ventana (Abby) no habia nadie, no fui capaz de dormir mucho... incluso intente cambiarle el asiento a Abby cuando ella me dijo que la pantalla de su asiento no funcionaba... pero no colo y me dijo educadamente que no. La falta de sueño, el que India este 4 horas y media por delante de Inglaterra y el no haber sido capaz de comer nada durante todo el vuelo (se me cierra el estomago cada vez que tengo que volar... otra señal de que me acerco a la mediana edad, me imagino), hicieron que me sientiera bastante mal cuando atterizamos en Delhi y pense "espero que no sea una señal de lo que esta por venir"... y vaya si lo fue!

Me habia imaginado el aeropuerto como uno lleno de gente y donde hacia mucho calor y, para mi sorpresa, me encontre con una terminal relativamente nueva, con aire acondicionado y

My face wehn I arrived in Jaipur / mi cara cuando llegué a Jaipur
casi vacia, lo cual hizo que me sintiera mucho mejor mientras eperabamos a que nos sellaran los pasaportes. Tambien tuvimos mucha suerte porque el trabajador de las aduanas que nos toco estaba de muy buen humor y nos dio la bienvenida a la India muy impresionado cuando le dijimos que trabajabamos en una agencia de traduccion y todos hablabamos varios idiomas (yo hablo 4 y soy la que menos habla de la oficina!)

Cuando llegamos al taxi (nuestros jefes lo habían organizado todo, y realmente me refiero a todo, lo cual fue perfecto ya que sólo teníamos que seguirlos y no pensar en la logística, perfecto para viajes cortos como este) ya me sentía mejor, y mi estómago también y pude disfrutar del camino hasta el hotel y comerme unas galletas de higos que había metido en el país "a escondidas" para emergencias.

Al llegar al hotel nos encontramos con mi otro jefe (volaron en vuelos diferentes... por si acaso), nos dimos una ducha y fuimos a comer algo en un café en la misma calle del hotel donde servían comida deliciosa. Allí me tomé un zumo de granada pensando que la fruta que hay que

and my face the day after / y mi cara al día siguiente
pelar es segura para comer... mirando hacia atrás puede que fuera un error.

Hacía calor... no, hacía más calor que calor; no creo que haya pasado más calor en toda mi vida; decir que hacía calor es poco. ¿Ya he dicho que hacía calor?... ¡Dios mío qué calor hacía! calor, calor, calor... ¡demasiado calor para hacer nada!

Como hacía tanto calor, alquilamos un par de taxis para que nos llevaran a las principales atracciones de la ciudad, como la 'Puerta a la India' o un "mercado tradicional". Este llamado "mercado tradicional" debía serlo bajo un punto de vista occidental, ya que no era más que un centro comercial al cual ni nos molestamos en entrar. Esto puede sonar poco aventurero, pero tenía muchas ganas de ir de compras a los mercados ya que la mayoría de la ropa que me pongo está hecha en la India, de todas formas... pero esta vez no iba a ser ya que decidimos no visitar el mercado e ir al 'Fuerte Rojo' y después de vuelta al hotel para escapar del calor.

Después de descansar un poco y darnos una segunda ducha, fuimos a cenar al "Indian Accent" un restaurante muy tipo michelín al que yo no estoy acostumbrada a ir, con menú degustación y todo... todo muy alta clase... y delicioso! Nunca he probado comida como esa; cada plato estaba tan bien presentado que daba pena comerlo y todo delicioso!... todos tomamos el menú degustación, con 4 entrantes, 2 principales y 2 postres... realmente fue una de las mejores experiencias del viaje.

Al día siguiente, cogimos un tren temprano para ir a Agra. Por supuesto, viajamos en el vagón de primera clase, con aire acondicionado y un desayuno delicioso que incluía curry de garbanzos, súper rico y picante. El trayecto fue muy cómodo y fue un pequeño shock llegar a Agra Cantt y estar otra vez en el medio del caos, el calor y el ruido. Pero encontramos nuestro mini bus rápido y, de nuevo, estábamos dentro de nuestra burbuja de aire acondicionado, que nos llevaba hacia el Taj Mahal, sin tener que pensar en nada.

Al llegar al Taj Mahal nos sorprendió lo vacía que estaba la entrada y nos emocionamos pensando que, a lo mejor, no habría mucha gente... hasta que nuestro guís, Manu, nos dijo que, en realidad, estábamos en la puerta que menos se usa. Para entrar, hay que pasar por un detector de metales como el de los aeropuertos y hay muchas cosas que no están permitidas dentro como comida (te dan una botella de agua con la entrada) o mochilas grandes.

Al unirnos a los cientos de turistas que estaban dentro del recinto, me sorprendió ver a muy poca gente occidental y casi todos los turistas eran, de hecho, indios. Era precioso, tan bonito que ya no quería ir a ningún otro sitio, sólo me apetecía quedarme allí mirando a este edificio que tan bien conocemos todos, pero aún así sorprende al verlo en realidad, sobre todo porque jamás pensé que lo fuera a ver en persona (por razones que ya he explicado). Sacamos muchas fotos y aún podíamos haber sacado más, pero es imposible capturar el ambiente, de hecho incluso comenté que la música de fondo ayudaba a crear el ambiente, pero Manu me explicó que la música era una boda y que significaba que el novio iba por la calle hacia la casa de la novia... me hubiera encantado poder verlo también!

Manu nos explicó que el Taj Mahal fue construído por el amor que el emperador Shah Jahnan sentía por su esposa favorita, Mumtaz Mahal, tras la muerte de ella dando a luz a su hijo número 14 (sí, sí, has leído bien: 14!!); pero yo no puedo parar de pensar que, si la quería tanto, no debería haberla dejado embarazada 14 veces y no se hubiera muerto durante el parto a la tierna edad de 38 años... ridículo... 14 hijos!! y, además, en cuanto acabó de construír el Taj Mahal, cambió la capital de Agra a Delhi, así que ahí tenís un buen ejemplo de 'amor verdadero"

Después de otra deliciosa comida en Agra, nos metimos en la burbuja de aire acondicionado para visitar el Fatehpur Sikri, un palacio construído por el emperados Akbar (el abuelo de Shah Jahnana), quien se casó con una cristiana, una hindú y una musulmana para que la paz reinara entre las religiones. Una vez má era un sition precioso pero hacía tanto, tanto, tanot calor que no teníamos ganas ni de caminar ni de escuchar a Manu y sólo buscábamos un poco d esombra para sentarnos; el pobre Manu no paraba de pedirnos perdón por ir tan rápido y nosotros pensábamos que no iba lo suficientemente rápido para poder volver al minibus!

Nuestro hotel para las siguientes dos noches era el Jai Mahal y yo tenía muchas ganas de llegar y disfrutar por fin de un hotel de 5 estrellas. Cenamos en la terraza (la comida del hotel no era nada comparada con la de los restaurantes de fuera) y nos fuimos a la cama porque estábamos muy cansados... y esa fue la única vez que vi el exterior del hotel...

Empecé a vomitar a las 3 de la mañana y no paré hasta las 9... cuando por fin paré estaba tan cansada y débil que no podía ni levantarme de la cama y tuvieron que llamar a un médico por la tarde ya que tenía calambres fortísimos en las manos y no podía moverlas. Lo primero que dijo es que tenía 'tentany'... y pensé que se refería al tétanos, así que me asusté bastante. Me llevaron al hospital para ponerme una vía, ya que tenía los niveles de calcio bajo mínimos (de ahí el tetany). Mientras estaba en el hospital, las manos me dolían cada vez más y no podía parar de pensar que me iba a morir tan lejos de Ella y Dax... y estaba muy asustada...

Pero gracias al calcio que me estaban dando, empecé a sentirme mejor y me mandaron de vuelta al hotel con el médico. Allí me dieron un sedante y ya no me acuerdo de nada hasta que sonó la alarma a las 5 de la mañana para coger el bus de vuelta a Delhi para coger el avión ese mismo día.

Así que estoy muy contenta de estar de vuelta en casa, sana y salva cone Ella y Dax, pero también estoy contenta de haber ido a la India, aunque no llegué a ver nada de la India 'real' dentro de mi burbuja de aire acondicionado... pero si me puse enferma comiendo en restaurantes lujosos y durmiendo en hoteles de 5 estrellas... qué me hubiera pasado si nos hubiéramos quedado en hosteles y comido en la calle?, prefiero no pensarlo quenque, por otro lado, quizá solo tuve mala suerte...

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31st July 2016

I've been a little fearful of India and avoiding it for the same reasons you pointed out, but I don't think they will keep me from visiting. I liked your honestly about your air conditioned bubble, and I'm sorry you got so sick. About 99% of travelers that I speak with RAVE about India like its some kind of life altering experience and for that reason I plan to take a 6 week journey and really experience it all. Wish me luck!
1st August 2016

Good luck!
I look forward to read about your trip to India, Andrea. Actually, my short trip there, including the visit to the hospital, didn't put me off India, in fact, quite the opposite: I liked the little that I saw from my AC bubble and I would like to go back there one day with Ella and Dax and travel slower and for longer and see all the wonders people talk about - maybe when it's not 45 degrees, though! :) Thanks for reading and commenting
1st August 2016
Colours of India. Jaipur

So good, so bad, so good, so bad!
Who would have guessed that you'd have such a nightmare in an air-conditioned, 5-star bubble? Like you though, I dislike heat and crowds, but I'd take a free trip anywhere. But as a slow traveler (and which multi-lingual people generally are), it blows my mind that you all would be visiting India for 4 days! Glad you got to enjoy that tasting menu and the Taj before you were brought down.
1st August 2016
Colours of India. Jaipur

Free trip
Going all the way to India for just 4 days is (was) ridiculous! But it was the only way for all of us to go all together (long weekend due to a bank holiday in UK). I wouldn't have gone so far if it would have been a trip of my planning but I think I would have regretted it if I wouldn't have gone!
1st August 2016

So glad that you're okay -- so scary being sick all on your own. Though it was a quick trip, I loved reading your blog on it and, as Andrea commented previously, your honesty about it. I've heard so many similar stories in terms of first impressions in India and many folks saying that it requires months in "real India" before one can really appreciate it. And then more naysayers to that as well. Certainly an intriguing place!
1st August 2016

Intriguing place
Yes, I think it is a fascinating place and I'm glad I went because that made me want to go back someday and if I wouldn't have gone I would probably be thinking that I didn't want to go (does that make sense?) I don't know anyone who has been there that hadn't found it challenging in one way or another but it's definitely a beautiful country and worth it a second (better) chance :)
1st August 2016

Lucky, Unlucky....
Your adventure started like a dream come true, 5 star trip to India, and ended like a bit of a nightmare, hospital visit and over-the-top heat. It seems that is the story with so many travels to India. It reminds me that travel is like life itself, sometimes very tough and sometimes very lucky. I'm glad you're better now. You can be sure you'll have a more interesting story than most to tell about your travels to "incredible" India.
3rd August 2016

Lucky, Unlucky...
I agree with you that travel is like life, tough and lucky and that's one of the greatest things about it: you never know what is going to happen. I would have never thought that being in our AC/5 star bubble I would get ill but, alas! I did... but like you said, it adds to the story. Thank you for reading and commenting!
2nd August 2016

India has been on my to do list for quite some time now, but I have been fearing it for the same reasons as you have... From what I've heard it doesn't matter how cautious you are about eating, stomach bug is pretty much guaranteed! Nothing worse than being sick on a holiday, especially such a short one so happy to hear you're ok. Maybe it wasn't the 'real India' you have been looking forward to experience but at least you got a taste of it and you'll know what to expect next time you go over there - more or less at least ;)
3rd August 2016

Stomach bugs
I think you are right Anna, it doesn't matter how cautious you are - you may get ill anyway! None of us thought that the ice in the 5 star hotel could make us ill, but it probably was that as we all fell ill at some point or another (I was the only one who was ill in India, but my colleagues fell ill when we came back). I did get a tiny taste of India and only left me wanting more! :)
2nd August 2016

I was in India too in 2001. I went to Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Madras, Bubaneshwar, Varanasi and Agra. I used Inland flights and night trains. But to be honest I was happy when I was out of the country again. Otherwise than in China for example. The dirt and the poverty in India are really remarkable.
3rd August 2016

To be honest, being in our AC bubble and only 4 days there in total, we didn't get to see any poverty whatsoever, nor much dirt neither. We were been driven from one place to the next, which was perfect for such a short trip, but that's why we didn't get to see any of the 'real' India. I've never been to China so I can't compare but even though I was happy when I was out of the country, I am also looking forward to go back!
7th August 2016

Happy to be alive and back home with Ella and Dex
I know people who have gotten sick and many who have not. We've got a friend from the U.S of Indian decent and she got deathly ill visiting family. I was sure it would be bad for me as I get food poisoning frequently. I am pleased to say it didn't happen. You were eating in upscale places and still got sick. You just never know. When we were there i would not eat from street vendors in this country. I was not will to risk it. I feel like we got to see the real India but we were only there for a short while. Glad you are home and happy. Hopefully our paths will cross soon.
8th August 2016

Happy to be alive and back home with Ella and Dax
It's true, you never know! That's one of the great things about traveling, you never know! As I said before, we thought we were safe in our 5 start A/C bubble, but no! But, in a way, I'm kind of glad it happened this way because it put a lot of things on perspective. I'm glad you didn't get ill when you were there! :) and I also do hope our paths will cross someday - we were very close to make it happen when you guys came to UK! :)

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