11.05.2012 - 27.07.2012 50 °F
Incredible India! That is the country’s tag line and to some extent it does live up to it. I can not describe India in one word or sentence but boy it is very big country! I remember before I started off my journey I was given some advice to which I actually wondered why it was so important. I was told that once I accept all the dirt/noise/stares you will only then start to enjoy India for what it is. There was a bit of truth in that advice but I did find this country very challenging. I travelled to 8 different states and they were all very different from one another. From the food, the weather, dress sense and hospitality (or the lack of it).
I flew in to Chennai to kick start off my Indian adventure. Dealing with temperature soaring to 48deg more and less everyday with 80% of humidity for 3 weeks (with the 2-8hrs of power cuts so no AC/Fans) was quite an experience. Working with the Ridley sea turtles was very rewarding from releasing Sagrika back home after 2yrs of rehabilitation to releasing 50 odd hatchlings back to the Indian sea. Getting back in the backpacking routine I had left to go towards Kanyakumari passing a few cool places along the way. Danuskodi was one of them (Southern most tip) as this place was super clean, from the beach and water! I entered ‘God’s own country’ aka the state of Karnataka, Kerala. Scenically form the distance this place was very green, palm trees everywhere, even the lakes were covered with green petals – it did look very blissful but the main disturbing thing were the men, well generally speaking throughout India they just love urinating everywhere day or night.
I did go to check out the backwaters which were cool but going on a houseboat was out of the question as it was expensive (well on my budget). The men here were very smiley but once all friendly they became very forward ie I was told to leave my hotel room because I did not show any interest to the guy lol what a prick! The beaches along Kerala were o-kay nothing to boast about but watching the locals fully dressed in the water was quite amusing with the tourist beside them wearing more and less nothing lol. During my time in the Southern parts of India it was probably my worst experience. I imagined being an Indian girl backpacking would be in my favour however I was wrong! I was being shouted at by a train supervisor for just asking about how the seating arrangements are set out – this is very confusing, as there are different types of tickets/seats etc, being pushed/elbowed off buses, being served after the non-Indian travellers but the upside of all this is that I got into see all of the attractions at local Indian rate whereas all the NRI (Non residents of India) were charged double sometimes guardable the amount!
My impressive journey that I had done has to be the 52hr train journey from Bangalore to West Bengal! I managed and lucky to have gotten a 3 seater non-ac, which basically means I got a fold-away bed in a cubicle with 5 others. The space was crammed but at least I was able to lie down and sleep. It was strange though to waking up at 5 men sitting opposite my bed starring at me lol but they all turned out to be really nice. I was thinking in the 2 days I need to avoid going to the toilet of the stench was BAD! But the guys were constantly buying me food on board so I did end up going …..enough said lol! The train culture was amazing, I really enjoyed it. There was constant banter with the passengers and the workers/sellers. There was an occasion there was an argument where the police had to be called on board and everyone made me feel at ease and no one was STARRING at me which was nice for a change.
Strangers in the UK and most other countries would spark up a conversation at a bus stop about the weather but in India the most asked questions to any tourist would be; 1) How much money do you make, 2) Are you married; and 3) Are you married lol. These questions were not seem to have been invasive at all. Hehehe.
The food side of things were a bit disappointing probably because I have had almost all types of Indian food but I dig the South India Idly, dosa, sambar etc and in Punjab I was loving fresh sugar cane juice and it was good to finally have proper Punjabi food esp the dhal….yummie! I also had an obsession with momo’s there were basically steamed dumplings very popular in west Bengal, Sikkim and in Delhi.
The best / enjoyable places that I went to in India has to be Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Gangtok, Rumchi, Namchi, Punjab and Mumbai. I would most def come back to India BUT next time I would do a lot more planning as this is very vital to do if you are visiting India!
Apparently I went to India at the worst time as it was the 'Monsoon'. In fact everywhere I ended up going all I experience was hot, sunny weather with humidity soaring to 80%. I must have had rain 3/4 days wbut nothing how I had managed it would have been like. Each state had different conditions but the worst was Chennai. The further north I had gone was great but my views of the Himalayan range were not visable due to fog like views, Punjab was lovely, Rajasthan was bearable (but then again I do love my heat - there was breeze) and when I got to Mumbai temperature went down to 27deg!
Overall I am glad that I stayed for my 3 months as planned, I didn’t become all holy, I was not obsessed with yoga (in fact I did not any classes), I did not end up having loads of wrist bands on my ankles, nor did I end up getting braids or dress up in a orange sari but I did learn to become loud and become aggressive when wanting something hahaha.
I made very good friends but one in particular, Praveen if you are reading this ‘Thank you’ for the millionth time lol. I will see you again but next time it is going to be Leh/Ladakh!