We spent our first two days in India exploring Delhi. We’ve spoken to many people (some before we left the States and then more once we were in South America) about India, and every single person described it in pretty much the same way: Overwhelming, intense, in your face, very crowded, and very hot. Well, our experience so far has been all of those things.
India has a population of 1.2 billion people. Delhi alone has around 20 million. That’s 2.5 times the size of NY, the biggest city in the US. And, everywhere you go in Delhi, you pretty much feel like all 20 million are in the same place at the same time – that’s how crowded it is. It’s also the poorest place that I’ve ever been to. In Chicago, or any city with a lot of homeless people, you usually find them curled up and hidden in a corner guarding their blankets or shopping cart. In Delhi, everyone seems to be homeless and they sprawl out anywhere and everywhere they can find a spot. On their rickshaws, in the middle of the sidewalk, you name it.
As intense as it is though, to me, it’s also very exciting. At any second, there’s always about a hundred different things to look at, smell (a lot of people complain about the smell, but except for a few minutes here or there, it hasn’t bothered me), and discover. Around every corner and down every alley, there’s another market, restaurant, food stand… and if none of those interest you, just people watching alone is enough to keep you busy for hours, maybe days.
Before we arrived, we’d been reading stories of American women getting harassed on the streets. We’ve read about groping, sexual assaults, rapes, even gang rapes. It’s become a problem all over India, and in fact, right before we arrived, one story surfaced on the cover of CNN about a woman from the University of Chicago who wrote an essay about her 3 months living in India called somethig like “The Story You Don’t Want To Read But Need To…” She wrote that she spent her three months here being touched, grabbed, harassed, and twice,
almost raped. She said that because of her experience, she now has PTSD and had to drop out of school. Well, I’m not sure why she didn’t just go home if she was having such a bad time (3 months seems like a long time to subject yourself to the trauma she described), but either way, Dave and I were both a little worried about the same type of thing happening to me. We decided that I would cover up as much as possible (for those of you who have seen our pictures, you know that my attempt to blend in was a pretty poor one, but at least I was covered from head to toe – including wearing a scarf around my head) and if I felt uncomfortable in any way, we’d just hire a guide to take us around (which we ended up doing anyway), or worse case, stay in our hotel.
Well, hopefully I won’t be kicking myself for speaking too soon, but in Delhi, I really didn’t have any problems at all. Dave and I both were pinched a few times, several people stopped us and asked to take pictures with us, and we were stared at a good amount (but hey, I was doing my fair share of staring as well). For the most part though, I didn’t feel unsafe, and definitely didn’t feel harassed or uncomfortable at any point.
Ok, well those are my thoughts on India so far, now onto what we did for our first two days in Delhi.
Our flight arrived at 12:30am on Saturday. After our difficult experience getting our visa for India, I was pretty concerned about going through immigration and customs here. Somehow though, and lucky for us, we didn’t have any problems and were through within minutes. It was our bags that ended up taking forever, but they got there, so we coulnd’t complain. We had arranged with our hotel for someone to pick us up at the airport and they were there waiting for us (walking out and seeing someone holding a sign that says Stefanie Parks – or in this case, Stefanie
Rosenfield – never gets old!). We didn’t get to our hotel and settled in until 3am, and as tired as we were, we had to stay up for at least a few minutes watching TV because this was the first time we had a TV in our room AND it was in English. This was the nicest hotel that we’ve stayed in since the room that Dave’s parents got us in Seattle – but this room only cost us $25 a night.
We slept in a little bit, until 8:45 and spent our first hour of the day talking to our hotel’s travel expert. We had been going back and forth with him a lot for the few weeks before we arrived for help booking our trains to Agra, Jaipur, and back to Delhi (for what they call the Golden Triangle Tour). From everything we’d heard, the trains in India were an experience themselves, so we wanted to try them out. Well, that would have been fine and dandy if the website to book the trains was anything less than impossible. To use the IRCTC website, you need a login,
password, and an Indian phone number. For foreigners, there are websites where you can get a fake phone number just for this purpose. We went through this whole process and then spent days, weeks, and hours trying to buy our tickets to no avail. The trains we wanted weren’t
available, the station we needed to leave from wouldn’t show up, they wouldn’t take our credit card… you name a problem we could have possibly have, and we experienced it.
By the time we met with our travel expert, we only had tickets from Delhi to Agra booked. Finally, we decided that it would just be much easier (and give us more time in Japiur) to just hire a private driver to take us from Agra to Jaipur and back to Delhi, and to show us the sites along the way. It was a bit more expensive (like $200 v. $30), but we were happy to be done with it. By 11am, we were in a tuk-tuk like vehicle, on our way to Old Delhi. Our first stop was the Red Fort. We got out of the tuk tuk (a 15 minute ride which cost us 100 rupees or around $1.50), and it was so crowded that we had no idea how we would possibly be able to cross the street.
Finally, we found some locals to follow and made it across. We got our tickets and started our exploration of the Red Fort. Inside, it was huge, probably the size of a small city, and also very serene (especially compared to what we had experience right outside the gates) and beautiful. We had only been out and about in Delhi for 15 minutes and it was already nice to have some peace and quiet. We spent about an hour walking around, and then went back out to hit the streets.
We made our way down the single busiest street I have ever seen. Like I mentioned earlier, it felt like all 15 million people living in Delhi were on that very street with us. We started walking and immediately found a market to explore selling everything from clothes to electronics to food to nicknacks to jewelry, and more. It was stall after stall of anything you could possibly imagine. Dave joked that it would be impossible to try to explain to someone where exactly your store was located in the market. We were in the market for a new camera charger (mine was in my bag that got stolen and the low battery light on my camera was blinking faster and faster by the second; we had bought a replacement in Buenos Aires but sadly it didn’t work). We stopped at a stall that looked like it might have what we were looking for. They didn’t, but they pointed us across the street to the camera market. Yes, a whole market dedicated to cameras and camera accessories. We found what we were looking for in about 2 seconds and for $6).
We continued down the street and we were starting to get hungry, so we were on the lookout for a place to stop for lunch. Before arriving in India, our biggest debate was whether or not we’d try the street food. Many people had told us to stay away from it, but several articles about the top 10 things to do in Delhi (we always read those before arriving in a new city) named street food as the #1 or #2 thing to do in the city. We were very torn, but after our food exploration began, we quickly decided against it, not because we were worried about getting sick (though that was a worry too), but because we just couldn’t possibly even think about having to stand outside to eat. It was just too hot and too crowded. Thus our only qualification for a lunch spot was that it have air conditioning. And finally, we found a great place that did.
The first floor of our restaurant was take-out (with lots of samosas and similar fried dough things we couldn’t decipher). The second floor though had a full menu (where you order and pick up your food at a counter and then sit down to eat). Neither of us are that familiar with Indian food so we walked around until we found someone eating something that looked good, asked them what it was, and then ordered the same thing. It was called the Veg Thali Special (all food in India is categorized as either veg or non-veg – vegetarian or not). It came with 3 different vegetarian stews, rice and a couple pieces of Naan and it was amazing. Our lunch was one of the best meals we’ve had on the trip so far and once we were done we couldn’t remember why we ever thought we didn’t really like Indian food. We already decided that it would be added to our food rotation once we got back to the States.
After lunch, we were stuffed, and ready to walk (though you can really never be fully ready for the heat outside). We continued down the very busy street and to the spice market. In my mind, I thought the spice market would be similar to the spice booths that you see at the NYC summer street fairs with rows and rows of spices lined up to purchase. This market wasn’t quite like that, but there were tons of spices, dried fruits, and nuts.
When we were done looking around the spice market, it was getting late and we were exhausted from the heat so we decided to head back and to our last stop of the day. We had to walk all the way back down the crowded street to get to where we needed to get a taxi and by this time, Dave was getting very fed up and frustrated with the crowds, the heat, and the never-ending horn honking. As for the crowds, besides the sheer # of people, as white people, you are literally hounded every second by locals asking if you want to buy something or need a ride somewhere. There’s only so many times you can say thanks but no thanks without frustration setting in. Even worse, we actually would have bought some more stuff if we felt we could stop at store/stall without being completely bombarded.
Our last stop was Ghandi’s grave, which they say is the most peaceful place in Delhi. I’d have to agree with that – it was very pretty, quiet, and peaceful. Again, it was nice to have a reprieve from the crazy streets we had just come from.
Finally, after what seemed like a very long day, we were ready to head back. To get to and from the Ghandi grave, we took a rickshaw instead of a tuk tuk (tuk tuks are motorized vehicles whereas rickshaws are bicylces where you’re pulled by the driver). Whereas the going tuk tuk rate for anywhere in the city was approx. $1.50, the rickshaw rate was 10 rupees (about 15 cents) per person. People told us a rickshaw typically holds 4 people, but we decided to splurge for the entire rickshaw for a whopping total of 40 rupees (about 80 cents).
We got back to our hotel and into our air conditioned room and we both passed out for about an hour (and we never nap!). When we woke up, we were starting to get hungry, so we headed out to find a place for dinner. We decided to stay close to our hotel and wanted to try a couple of Indian beers before picking a restaurant (we hadn’t seen any restaurants that actually sell alcohol). After a few minutes of searching, we found a stand on the street that was selling what was called “Very Fun Super Strong Beer.” That sounded pretty awesome to us, so we bought two. We took a sip and Dave said that it didn’t taste like there was any alcohol in the beer. So, we looked, and guess what. There wasn’t. We were pretty bummed about our non-alcoholic beer purchase (though it was only $1 a beer), but we were also getting very hungry, so we gave up for the night and headed to dinner.
The place we picked had a huge menu with only a couple of dishes that we recognized. Our waiter wasn’t very helpful with the explanation of the menu (though he was extremely nice – he was from Nepal and after we told him that would be our next stop he invited us to stay at his
house during our next visit, and even gave us his phone number!), so we ordered the two dishes we recognized and hoped for the best.
Dave’s favorite Indian dish is Chicken Tikka Masala. One of the dishes we ordered was chicken tikka, and we had asked for the masala part, but unfortunately that was lost in translation and we ended up with 2 chicken dishes (the other being the ever popular tandoori), both with no sauces (the best thing about Indian food is their thick and spicy sauces that you soak up with your naan bread). Our dinner was good, but not exactly what we had been hoping for, so after we finished, to make sure this didn’t happen to us again, we went home and did some research. We looked up pretty much every different Indian dish, all with pictures and descriptions, and made a list of the ones we wanted to try. We felt much better about going into our next meal.
The first stop in our agenda for day two was Cannaught Square. We walked there from our hotel only to learn that for the most part, everything in the famous sqaure would be closed because it was Sunday (is it just me, or does this keep happeneing to us!). We were bummed, but we continued to walk until we found the Parliament and the President’s house. Both of these buildings were in one area that kind of reminded us of the National Mall in DC. They were very beautiful.
By this time, we had walked about a mile and were both already very tired and hot. And of course we had festered off countless people asking us if we needed directions or wanted a taxi neither of which we needed). So when a tuk-tuk driver pulled up to us asking us where we wanted to go, we decided to hire him for the whole day. We agreed on a price of 400 rupees for the day (or $8). Not a bad deal, and this turned out to be the best decision that we could have possibly made.
For the rest of the day, he drove us around to everywhere we wanted to go and gave us all the info about each place. Our first stop was a beautiful Sikh temple located behind the Parliament building. I was glad he took us there, because we had tried to go to a temple the day before, but were stopped about 5 times for different reasons, and then ended up just giving up.
We took our shoes off and walked into the temple. We sat down for a few minutes to watch all of the people praying (including our driver). Then, he sat down with us for a few minutes more before asking us if we wanted to try the sweet dish that they were handing out to everyone. It was being served by a man, using his hands to dish it out to everyone. We were a bit skeptical of this, but didn’t want to be rude or disrespectful by refusing, so we each took a small bite of the dish that tasted just like oatmeal.
Our driver then took us to a couple of markets (which really were huge stores selling everything from clothes to rugs to jewelry to tons of other nicknacks). We had wanted to go to markets, not actual stores, plus we aren’t really in the market for anything since we have to carry everything we buy with us, so after a quick look around, we left both stores. Dave said this was typical practice based on his experience in Thailand (ie, when you hire a driver for the day, they often take you to their favorite stores where they presumably receive a commission, but you can just say now and then that’s the end of it; slightly annoying but hard to complain when you hire a personal driver for the day for $8).
Our next stop was the house that Ghandi spent the last days of his life in, and also the place where he was assassinated. Another very peaceful place in the middle of crazy Delhi, we spent some time walking around both outside and inside (there was a big and very interactive Ghandi
museum inside the house, which was pretty cool).
We were starting to get hungry, so our driver took us to his favorite restaurant in Delhi (which we think is actually just the place that the cab drivers take all of their customers to – we walked in and there were a couple other groups of people speaking English and also more white people than we’d seen the entire trip so far). Either way, we had our list and knew exactly what we were looking for. This time, we ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala we had wanted the night before, Mutton (lamb) Buryani, which is a rice and lamb dish, and then as always, a couple of pieces of bread. Our driver explained that Pirantha is actually just the whole wheat version of Naan, so we were very excited to try that.
The Chicken Tikka Masala was definitely the star of the meal. The sauce was thick and spicy, just the way we like it. We invited our driver to share the great meal with us and were thankful to finally have a better understanding of the Indian menus.
After lunch, we went to Humayan’s Tomb. Humayan was an Emperor in India and his wife built the tomb for him, Our driver told us that it’s the woman’s version of the Taj Mahal (this was built for the emperor by his wife, where as the Taj was built by an emperor for his wife). He also told us that the Taj was a copy of this building and that he actually liked this tomb even better. Seeing Humayan’s Tomb made me very excited to visit the Taj. It’s massive and so beautiful. Another thing we’ve seen on this trip that it’s hard to take your eyes off of – and I imagine the Taj will be even more impressive.
This took us a while to explore, and after we were done, we were ready to start wrapping up our day. Our driver made one more stop at his family’s store (similar to the ones we had visited earlier in the day), and then to a shop where they sell real beer (we still wanted to try it!), and
then drove us home. Once again, the second we got back to our air conditioned room, we fell asleep for about an hour. I woke up from my nap to a pretty bad stomach ache. The dreaded Delhi Belly had gotten me, and after only two days. I know a lot of you have told me you love how detailed my blog is, but I think I’ll leave this part at that. Delhi Belly, enough said.
Somehow, I still found a way to make it to dinner and eat a full meal (probably not the best idea, but I just can’t resist the Indian food). The next two dishes we crossed off our list of things to try was Rogan Josh (a lamb dish with a red sauce), Butter Chicken (also a red sauce, but much thicker than the sauce in the Rogan Josh), and a couple pieces of Naan. Both dishes were great, but the butter chicken, OMG was it good. So far, that’s definitely our favorite Indian dish and I imagine that we’ll be trying it several more times before we leave India (or so I thought..).
The next day was our train ride to Agra. We both woke up in the middle of the night and again in the morning not feeling so hot (still the Delhi Belly). We decided to stay away from Indian food for the day and try to get our stomachs back on track.
We got a ride to the train station and expected the same chaos we’d been experiencing for the past two days when we got there. The whole experience though was much better than we thought it would be. The train station was crowded, but not unbearable, and we had much more
room on the train than we thought we would. We were in class 2A in an air conditioned car though, so I’m sure if we were in any other situation, we probably would have felt very differently. We saw other cars on the train with huge crows and no air conditioning, so I imagine that would not be a pleasant ride at all.
We got to Agra and our driver (and a tour guide) was there waiting for us. As soon as we were back in the heat, we started to not feel so well again. We got dropped off out our hotel (definitely not as nice as our hotel in Delhi, but we can’t complain for $19 a night) and before we could even check in, Dave had to run outside to throw up. This was not a good sign but luckily the only thing on our agenda for the day was going to see the Taj Mahal, which was just a short 2 block walk from our hotel.
Dave was feeling pretty bad but toughed it out for our tour of our second world wonder of our trip (the first was Machu Picchu). We walked through the main gates of the Taj Mahal and were immediately taken aback by its beauty. It was very, very impressive, and like Machu Picchu, it
was hard to take your eyes off of it. Also like Machu Picchu, I was blown away that something like this could be built entirely by hand with no machines or anything.
We took the obligatory “postcard photos” and continued on with our official tour. Our guide brought us into the shade to rest for a minute and the second we sat down, I wasn’t sure if Dave would be able to get up again. He tried to wait for our tourguide to finish his schpeel, but right in the middle he interrupted to ask if it was ok to throw up in the bushes. Our guide gave his approval and Dave ran to the bushes. Not sure what was more of a sight… Seeing him throw up at the Taj Mahal, or the Taj Mahal itself.
We rested for a few more minutes, and being the trooper he is, Dave was ready to get back to the tour. We walked through the Taj (though there wasn’t much to see) and then I was ready to get back in the front of it for one more peek (and as many pictures as I could grab) before we left. After we were done, we were supposed to go see the Agra Fort, but decided to save it until the morning and go back to our hotel and rest instead. Dave napped for three hours and we spent the evening relaxing, watching movies, and praying that we’d be better by the morning.
We woke up the next morning and were feeling a lot better, though unfortunately we knew that our adventures with Indian food were probably over. We ordered a couple of pieces of plain toast and some egg whites for breakfast (pretty much the plainest thing on the menu) and then we took off on our 5 hour drive to Agra.
We decided to forgo the tour of the Agra Fort after our driver told us that it was pretty much the same as the Red Fort in Delhi, which we had seen a couple days before. Instead, we stopped at a park in the jungle about two hours into the ride. We rented bikes and rode around for a couple of hours searching for animals and were very thankful that the weather was a bit cooler than it had been for the first part of our trip. Before we headed off on our bikes, the men renting them out tried to persuade us to hire a tour guide (they’re always trying to sell you something here), saying we would miss all the animals without one. Well, little did they know the Staves are expert wild animal spotters. We saw peacocks, wild boars, storks, huge lizards, monkeys, and maybe also a turtle (he jumped into the water too fast to actually see him – though we’re not sure turtles can actually jump very fast, which makes us doubt this sighting, so it was probably just another huge lizard). After two hours on our bikes, we made it back to our driver. We really enjoyed this stop, especially because it was very different from the rest of our trip, which we had spent in big cities surrounded at all times by what felt like millions of people. A tip for anyone traveling here is to try to break up your trip by spending a couple of days somewhere other than one of the big cities. They have lots of wildlife parks here (including a tiger park in Ranthambore, which we tried to go to, but unfortunately it’s closed in August) and we both think that if we had been able to take a break from the big cities for a couple of days in the middle of our trip, they would have been much more bearable. Even just a couple of hours without the crowds and the noise was a very nice break.
We drove for a few more hours and made one more stop right outside of Jaipur at what they call the monkey temple. They call it this because it’s an old temple that’s literally crawling with monkeys. This place is free to enter (though it’s all outside), though they do charge 50 rupees to take pictures. But, there’s no way we’d ever pass up the chance to get a ton of great monkey pictures. When we entered the temple, there were more of them than I ever could have imagined. They were literally everywhere – hundreds of them jumping, climbing, running, and carrying their cute little babies all over the place. We love monkeys, so this was definitely a treat. We probably spent a little more time here than normal, and then were at our hotel within 20 minutes or so.
We had another great hotel in Jaipur and after we checked in and showered, we went out to explore a bit and find a good spot for dinner. Before now, we had been exploring for all of the great new Indian dishes we wanted to try. Now, after the Delhi Belly, we were mostly just looking for places with anything other than Indian food, that we didn’t think would upset our stomachs. Normally, even after being sick, we’d probably get right back into the swing of things, but with Everest coming up, we just didn’t want to take any chances. So, we settled on a Chinese restaurant a few blocks from our hotel with lots of vegetarian options (someone told us we should stay away from the meat here, and like I said, we’re trying to be as careful as possible. So – and this is something I thought I would never say – but the Staves were becoming vegetarians for the rest of the week).
We went back to our hotel to relax for a while and once we were hungry for dinner, we went back out to our Chinese place, ordered a very plain (but good) meal (rice and noodle bowls with veggies), and then called it a night.
Now, I’m writing after our last day of Jaipur and also the last real day of our trip in India (tomorrow we’ll be spending the day driving from Jaipur back to Delhi). Today I finally realized (or just finally admitted) that everyone traveling to India has a breaking point (or at least both Dave and I did). Dave’s was about three hours into our first day in Delhi after walking down the busiest street we’ve ever seen (times ten). To his credit, it was probably 110 degrees that day and we had been walking down the relentless street for over three hours. My breaking point was today – I lasted just a bit longer than he did.
India is a tough place with the heat, the crowds, and especially, the people badgering you ALL THE TIME to buy whatever it is they’re selling. Before we arrived, we were worried about me being harassed sexually (as this is what we’ve read so much about). Well, that wasn’t a problem at all. Instead, we were harassed in a whole different way on this trip by the people who are constantly coming up to you asking you to buy something and not taking no for an answer.
Today, our driver picked us up with a Jaipur tour guide. Dave and I both like to do our exploration on our own, so we weren’t too keen about the tour guide situation, but we didn’t think we really had a choice. We were really excited for our first stop though, so that’s really all we were thinking about. We were going to ride an elephant up a mountain to the Amber Palace.
We arrived at the bottom of the mountain, and the view to the top looked beautiful. Plus, there were about 50 elephants lined up, which was a sight in and of itself. I’ve never ridden an elephant before (and wasn’t expecting to do so until we got to Thailand), so this was a very unexpected and great surprise for me. We got on our elephant, a man took a few photos of us that he’d try to sell us at the top, and then we started our 15 minute ride to the Amber Palace.
The second we started on our way, a man came up to our elephant selling a blanket with what other than an elephant pattern on it. He said it was 40 for the blanket (which I happened to really like and thought would be perfect for Thailand), and I assumed he meant rupees. I couldn’t turn down this really cool blanket for less than a dollar, so I said yes. I threw him a hundred rupee bill, and he immediately said, “What’s this? The blanket is 40 US, not 40 rupees.” Ok, well clearly we had a misunderstanding, so I asked him to give me back my money. He immediately started trying to bargain with me and for the remainder of the ride, he followed us up trying to get me to buy the blanket (which I was debating about for a dollar, so there was no way he was getting me to buy it for anything near 40). I told him over and over and over and then over again that I didn’t want the blanket and to please give me my money back and he would just not let up. I almost started to yell at him (or maybe I did yell at him, I don’t even know) it was so infuriating. Finally, before I knew it, we were at the top and I had hardly even had the chance to pay attention to the beautiful scenery or the fact that I was riding my first elephant because I had spent the whole time arguing with this man. Still though, this was not my breaking point.
Then, we got to the top and the man who had taken a picture of us at the bottom immediately found us. He had taken a few pictures and wanted us to buy them from him. The shots weren’t great and someone else had taken a much better picture (they don’t let you take your own pictures on the elephant) with a much better view toward the top, so we wanted to wait to find him before purchasing any. Well, this man wouldn’t take no for an answer either. He argued with us for 10 minutes and finally walked away. Then, a few minutes later he was back. This happened 3 or 4 times before we finally bought one of his three pictures from him. ARGH!!
The Amber Palace was beautiful (though we could have done without the 20 minute speech from our tour guide about how they made their paint – we immediately plotted to lose him ASAP… and by lose him, I mean tell our driver that we wanted to do the sightseeing on our own). As pretty as the palace was, the views were even better. And then, even better than that was the secret tunnels that we found just before exiting. We walked through the tunnels (that were crawling with bats!!) and then out through another secret passageway that took us up to a fort even higher up in the mountain. This was awesome and probably the highlight of our day.
After exploring the tunnels, we found our tour guide again (well, he found us again), and guess who else did! The picture guy. We spent 10 more minutes telling him that no, we did not want any of his pictures.
We had purchased a ticket to several other sights throughout the city, so when we were done with the palace, we drove to Nagargarg Fort. Much smaller and less impressive then the Red Fort in Delhi, but this fort had some pretty spectacular views of the entire city, which we really enjoyed.
Our next stop was another pretty boring lunch of fried rice. We mixed it up and got egg fried rice this time though (Bob, you will be happy to see that unlike our Buenos Aires FB album, which you commented on about the crazy amount of food pictures, we will have very few, if any food pics from India:)! Before we sat down to eat, I sneakily told our driver that “we really liked our tour guide, but we would prefer to spend the afternoon touring on our own.” He said no problem.
After lunch, we visited the Jantar-Mantar Observatory, which is a collection of very old architectural astronomical instruments. Our tour guide (yes, somehow he was still around) tried his best to explain these to us but the science behind them was a little over our heads. But, it was still a pretty cool place to see.
We walked out of the observatory and guess who we saw? None other than the same guy trying to sell us pictures on the elephant from earlier that morning. It was 5 hours and a 20 minute drive later and I have no idea how, but this guy was still following us. For the one hundredth (or probably more) time, we told him no. And then, our tour guide (who we didn’t even want in the first place and whom I asked to go away but was somehow still with us) tried to get us to buy the pictures! This is when I almost lost it. But no, my breaking point was still to come. Dave lost it a little though again and immediately told our tour guide that we wanted some time to walk around the area and we wanted to do it ourselves.
On our drive to Jantar Mantar, we had seen a cool-looking street with tons of markets and we spent the next hour or so walking around. We went in and out of some shops, walked around the Pink City, and concluded that Jaipur was much like a less crowded, less hot, and a little less intense version of Delhi. I was finally starting to relax a bit after what had been a pretty frustrating day, and just enjoying my time walking around with Dave. And then, I accidentally stepped on a dead rat. This was my breaking point. After realizing what had happened, I immediately broke down and started to cry. I just couldn’t help it! You would probably cry too if you stepped on a dead rat.
Finally, I calmed down and we made our way back to our driver and then back to our hotel to relax and decompress from a long last day in India.
So now the million dollar question. Did I like India? That’s a tough one to answer. On one hand, I thought that India was interesting and exciting and in many ways very beautiful. I loved the history, the architecture, a lot of the scenery, all the animals running around, the food (while it lasted.. or while I lasted, I should say), and even the intensity of it to a certain extent. On the other hand though, I thought it was dirty, poor, exhausting, loud (I have never heard so many people honking their horns. All. The. Time. And very unnecessarily.), and the people are in-your-face, relentless, and they do not take no for an answer. By way of example, there were several times I would have loved to stop in a store or market and buy something, but the second you stop here, let alone even glance in a merchant’s direction, they’re on you like a pack of wolves. At one point, I tried to buy a $1 bracelet from a little girl in the street but the second I stopped, 5 other little girls came up to me and tried to sell me the exact same bracelet. So I ended up not buying anything. If only they knew to give you a little breathing room, they’d have a lot more success at a sale.
I’ve never experienced anything even remotely like what I experienced here and now I understand why when I asked anyone about it, they said “intense” or “overwhelming” or my favorite, “you just have to see it for yourself.” I’m so glad we came here because it really is just one of those places that you can’t even begin to describe. You really do just have to see it for yourself to get it. So, did I like India? Definitely not always, but I’m so glad I was able to experience it. Would I come back? Probably not for a while.