One of the things I really struggled with in India was the heat. I do enjoy the summer, but it isn’t my favourite season (autumn is my favourite season). When we moved to the UK, everybody told us “Summer only lasts a week! You’ll wonder why you ever moved here!” and other similar things to that effect. Well, it has been very warm here in London for the past two months now – July in particular was roasting! It’s usually not a problem, but the part of town I work in - Temple - is very old and none of the buildings have air-conditioning! Anyway, the heat (or rather, lack of air-conditioning) has made me think about the things that I did enjoy about India (e.g., arriving to a hostel room with the AC already on) and a couple of things I didn't enjoy as much (e.g., arriving to a hostel room where the AC is controlled by the front desk.)
- Yoga Teacher Training: Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was one of my favourite things I did while we were in India. I was fortunate enough to meet wonderful people, build up my strength and fitness, and have the opportunity to learn a great deal about a practice that I love.
- How vast and varied India is: One of my favourite things about India is how varied the country is from place to place. For example, Amritsar is a very clean and well-presented city; there is a high Sikh population, and cleanliness is an important value: this is reflected in the presentation of the city centre, especially the area outside the Golden Temple. Another example is Varanasi which has a high Hindu population, and is the spiritual home of the country, which is why you can see lit funeral pyres out in the open. Goa and Kerala are coastal parts of the country and this is reflected in the environment and the food; fish thalis are the part of the standard diet down south (in fact, while Boy and I were “scootering” around Goa one day, we stopped at a restaurant that only served fish thalis!). My point is that because India is so vast and so huge and so highly populated, it’s inevitable that you are going to have lots of different experiences of the one country by the food, the people, the culture, the geography - it's all so different!
- The food: Because I don't eat meat, I was concerned that finding food could be a bit tricky. I needn’t have worried. India (and Nepal, for that matter) sell vegetarian food everywhere. It’s quite normal for a restaurant to have at least 50% vegetarian food on the menu, with the remaining dishes usually being either chicken or mutton. The food in India is tasty as well! There are food carts selling delicious snacks – such as fresh fruit, pani puri, bhaji’s, chaat – everywhere! And there are lots of teacarts everywhere as well – delicious chai for only 10 rupees a cup. Boy and I didn’t find the food to be that spicy – if we ate at a fancy restaurant and ordered a curry or a biryani, then it might be spicy but the normal day-to-day food (dahl, roti, rice) wasn’t spicy at all.
- The heat: As I said above, I struggled with the heat. The hottest place I remember being in was Jaipur – after four minutes outside you were covered in sweat. I’ve found that I can’t think clearly in the heat – all my effort goes in to seeking out a place to cool down – so Jaipur was a bit of struggle.
- Bartering: I wasn't a fan of bartering for two reasons. The first is that, as I said in my last post, I’m quite a shy person and having to essentially argue over the price of a product or service just stressed me out. I let (well, made) Boy do most of the bartering. The second reason is that, because we are fortunate to be able to travel abroad, we could afford the price put to us at the beginning of the conversation but because it's such a normal part of the culture, it's almost expected that you will barter over the price. After a while, you start to get into a bit more but it would always tug at my conscience that we would start having pretty heated conversations with a tuk-tuk driver over 30 rupees change (or, in New Zealand dollars, 70 cents). Pro tip for India: We learned that if you come to agree on a price of, say, 120 rupees for a tuk-tuk ride, you need to have the exactly 120 rupees on you. If you get to your destination and hand him 150 rupees expecting change, he’ll tell you he “doesn’t have change”. We found out that it’s actually quite inconsiderate to go through the hassle of negotiating a price down, only to reveal that you had the money all along.
And that's about it for things I didn't like! There were a few bumps in the road that would pop up in day-to-day life such a being stared at or photographed by groups of men, that one time our money was stolen while we were at the hostel in Goa, but those bad experiences didn't mean we had a bad trip, because there were countless other happy, positive experiences that cancelled all the bad ones out!
This was difficult. We have so many photos of our time in India, and what is one of my favourite photos won't necessarily be very good to put up but I have titled this section Favourite Photos so, I've gone with that.
There you have it! My five favourite photos from the 1000+ we took while we were there.
Map: Boy's Road Trip
The journey to Hazaribagh was slightly different to the trip he took on the way back.
Leg One: Rishikesh → Moradabad → Bareilly → Kanpur → Attara → Fatehpur → Allahabad → Varanasi → Kudra → Hazaribagh. 1381 km.
Leg Two: Hazaribagh → Varanasi → Lucknow → Rampur → Rishikesh. 1167 km.
Map: Our Trip Across India
New Delhi → Agra → Jaipur → Pushkar → Udaipur → Mumbai → Anjuna → Kochi → Bengaluru → Chennai → Hyderabad → Varanasi → Rishikesh → Amritsar → New Delhi. In total, we travelled 2281 km by train, 3938 km by bus and 664 miles by air (which is 1234km on the ground). Not a bad effort, but, as you can see, there is still so much of India we didn't get to see!
It's hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since we left India - how time flies! In saying that, it has nearly been a year since Boy and I moved to London. I thought the next post could be a summation of all of the different places Boy and I have been to since moving here, along with top travel tips that have proved useful for travelling in Europe.
Bye for now,