In December 2012 and January 2013 I was lucky enough to spend nearly two months backpacking around a country that I plan on going back to time and time again - India. I originally wrote this post about halfway through my time there, when I had travelled the Golden Triangle (Rajasthan, Agra & Varanasi) and had a few days hanging out on my own in Delhi before heading west to Gujurat to meet my brother.
I can visualise exactly where I was that afternoon in early January writing this post: perched at one of the communal computers at Smyle Inn (such a great hostel, right in the middle of the Main Bazaar + the best breakfasts). I was chilled to the bone, Northern India gets cold guys!
The following is a list of 10 things I loved and learnt in my first few weeks in the grand country that is India.
1. Camels. Turns out I really like camels. I only was able to do a one hour trek in Pushkar, but boy they can turn your mood around! Next time I'm in Rajasthan, I'm going do a camel safari in Jaisalmer for sure.
2. Markets. The markets are incredible! You never quite know what you're going to get in your next breath...if it will be delicious or putrid. Full of a whole lot of unnecessary needs and wants, you can get lost for hours.
3. Henna. Is so pretty!
4. The peaceful havens of temples, gardens and water. In such a chaotic place, it is such an amazing feeling when you find yourself surrounded by tranquility. Some of my favourites: the Jain temple in Ranakpur, Lodi Gardens in Delhi, being rowed along the Ganges in Varanasi, and the abandoned hilltop temple we watched the sun rise from in Pushkar!
5. Pushkar. Small (less than 15,000 people), genuine and beautiful, Pushkar is an oasis set amongst a desert backdrop. I felt so relaxed there!
6. The kind people. This is India, and the brutal truth is that not everyone is genuine, or honest. But, many are! We met a lovely Indian family on our train to Varanasi who stayed awake right through the night to help us so that we wouldn't miss our stop.
7. They fight for what they want. On a small scale: shopkeepers non-stop hassling you to buy their goods. On a large scale: the protests and uproar over the gang rape in Delhi that horrifically resulted in the death of a girl a couple of weeks ago. Positive change is happening right now in India as a direct outcome of this.
8. The food. You definitely need a break from it every now and then, but there is no denying that Indian food is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. It is also a lot more diverse than the Indian restaurants back home would have us believe! Yum, yum, yum. By the time I get home, I think I'll be obese! (edited to add: actually, I got food poisoning and came home lighter than when I left!)
9. The beauty. Its smelly, dirty and quite often run down, but you can't deny that India has a magical sparkle that makes it one of the most beautiful countries around. The colours, the sparkly saris, the henna, the wildlife, the music, the architecture...
10. The history. India's history is deep, rich and diverse. There is so much to learn, see and explore. It's an ultimate destination for history-lovers!
You just never quite know what to expect. Sometimes its good, sometimes its incredible, and other times its a tad frustrating, but that's half the fun. You just have to keep in mind, that whatever you're expecting, it is probably going to be exactly the opposite!
Have you experienced India? Is it on your travel wishlist?