I’m frantically trying to catch up with what we have been doing so I can post in the present! This is a whistle stop update around what we got up to India.
We were warned that when we touched down in Delhi we would be the target of numerous scams and and had been well equipped to fend off any suspicious looking people. This didn’t turn out to be the case, no one seemed to find anything about us interesting at all! We spent a day seeing the main sites in Delhi, including Humayun’s Tomb, The Red Fort, and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. The latter was our highlight, it is a Sikh temple with an attached kitchen that is run by volunteers, feeding up to 20,000 people a day for free. It was really interesting and inspiring and we left feeling quite impressed.
We successfully caught the train from Delhi to Agra, and visited the Taj Mahal the same day. The Taj was absolutely beautiful and we were both quite breathless when it first came into sight. Not least because you have to battle through a crowded, narrow, dirty street filled with people accosting you to take an ‘official’ tour/visit their shop/buy their souvenirs… and so on! We also saw our first monkeys which we (I) were overly excited about.
We had planned to catch a train at 6am the next day, so I sensibly left Matt drinking on the rooftop of our hostel with some people we had met that evening: A decision that I was thrilled with when Matt woke up the next day and was immediately sick. Luckily for Matt, our train was already delayed by 5 hours so we both went back to bed. Unfortunately the train turned out to be 12 hours delayed, with us waiting at the station for over 6 of these. All the Westerners on the platform (6) were drawn together by shared confusion/frustration with what on earth was going on… On the plus side this was a good bonding experience and we made some friends that we met up with twice later on
We eventually arrived in Jaipur and spent the next day touring the main sites, including The Royal Palace, The Jantar Mantar (Old Astronomy Site), The Amer Fort and Monkey Temple. By the time we got to the Monkey Temple I was exhausted and grumpy, which was exacerbated by a monkey stealing a bag of nuts out of my hand as soon as I took it out of my bag. Nevertheless, the Monkey Temple turned out to be the most interesting and educational thing we had done that day as we chatted to our guide about everyday life in Jaipur.
Our general impression of the North, especially Delhi, was that there are people EVERYWHERE- the streets are lined with makeshift homes, there are people sleeping in the street and lying wherever there is space, whether this is on a roundabout or in the middle of the road. The disparity between rich and poor is evident and at times quite shocking that people live in such conditions. Street dogs are everywhere too, and I spent much of the time in India gripping my seat in terror and praying I wasn’t about to watch one get killed! The food was amazing- we ate amazing rich paneer curries at restaurants and simple vegetable rice and curries in the hostels. There was so much to see everywhere you looked but we were itching to get to Goa and chill (and see some sun) by the time we left.
We spent the first couple of nights in Goa near Baga Beach, which was pretty unremarkable apart from this was the first time we saw cows on the beach which we were overjoyed at! Later we moved to Anjuna, which is famous for holding hippie trance parties since the 1990s. Unfortunately for us an alcohol ban meant that everything shut at 10pm- just our luck! Nevertheless we met up with a friend I know from an old workplace who was also in Goa at the time, and we met up some girls we met at the train station which was fun. The night ended with us girls drunkenly trying to haggle with a tuk tuk driver… It later transpired that Matt had slyly slipped him the money we were debating over (about 50p) in order to put an end to the argument.
We moved to Agonda which was far less touristy with a beautiful quiet beach. Our beach hut was lovely and had an outside shower (we were ecstatic over this) but the weather was boiling (too hot for us and our English winter skin!). Unfortunately Matt caught food poisoning from some prawns he ate in the restaurant which resulted in him being very ill for nearly three days (no need for details here!) but after a few rehydration sachets and some sleep he recovered.
After a fifteen hour train journey we arrived in Kerala. The train was an overnight train so you could lie down and sleep, that is if you could block out the hundreds of men running past shouting ‘CHAI CHAI CHAI’/’SAMOSA SAMOSA SAMOSA’ etc etc. We stayed for the next few days in an air bnb on the backwaters and went canoeing and on a sunset boat trip which was beautiful. We saw lots of tropical birds and listened to the music playing from nearby temples, it was very relaxing. However we were a little bored as there wasn’t much else to do, and so we left a day early to watch Kathakali (traditional Indian dance) in nearby Fort Cochi. The performers tell the story using only their facial expressions, hand gestures and the occasional weird noise. I found this quite interesting, even if a little slow, but Matt was not impressed and claimed that it was the ‘worst thing he’d ever seen ‘…In the end (several days later) we agreed to disagree.
We spent our final few days in India in Varkala, a cliff top beach town in Kerala. This had a pretty touristy but chilled out vibe and so we spent the days on the beach, Matt ploughing his way through Harry Potter books (I ALMOST wish I hadn’t bugged him to read them for so long) and me dipping in and out of the sea, which at times had waves to rival Newquay. After all these laid back days we were becoming a little restless and were eager to get to Sri Lanka and get exploring!
Have you been to any of these places? What was your experience of them?