Category Archives: India

Jodhpur: second day in India

There’s probably no better way to get to know a city, than by touring with the locals. That was precisely the amazing opportunity presented to me on day two of my journey in northern India. In Jodhpur, India: Possibly the best day ever! I discuss my visit to Mehrangarh fortress and Jaswant Thada. We motorcycled through dusty roads and markets, stumbled into street processions, and encountered fabulous meandering cows. But the following day, we had less control over our plans. Let me explain.

Jay met me in the morning at my quirky accommodation, LG Paying Guesthouse located in Mehrangarh mountain, and straight away, we headed by motorbike to Neralidani, a casual fast food restaurant. I ordered a Janta Thali, with a nutty Kesar shake, while Jay ordered an Idli Sambhar. We learned the day prior that Jay’s friend Sham, his wife Yogitha and their two young daughters, as well as Yogitha’s brother, sister-in-law and their baby would be visiting Jodhpur for a day. So we intended to all hang out together. Meanwhile, Jay invited Sharvan, his employee, to accompany us and guide us around the city. Sham and family all live in southern India, and they were enjoying a month’s holiday, sightseeing around northern India.

IMG_20170424_150552

We rendezvous at Neralidani, they also ate, and soon, the fellas went hunting for a conveniently located hotel. We thereafter all relocated to the Gulab Sagar hotel around the corner, where Jay had skillfully got Sham and family a great hotel price using Make My Trip app. The families  cleaned up as they had just arrived from a very long overnight train ride, while Jay, Sharvan and I waited and chatted with whichever family member was no longer upstairs in their respective hotel rooms preparing to leave.

IMG_1697It must have been around midday when we finally headed up to Umaid Bhawan Palace. We piled into two rickshaws, and I took funny photos of the children as we kept passing each other on the winding, deserted roads! The girls, especially the younger one, was quite the poser.IMG_1709

IMG_1708There was an entrance charge, however, I don’t remember the amount. The grounds itself were large. Picturesque gardens surrounded the main palace, which is still inhabited by the Umaid Singh Jodhpur royal family.

IMG_1706IMG_1713Inside, we wondered through courtyards and museum exhibition halls, detailing the history of the palace construction and British influences. Outside was very hot, and we were hard pressed to find any shade! Before leaving the grounds, we stopped to see the vintage cars exhibition. The cars were entombed in glass showrooms, and some of the vehicles were in desperate need of love due to scratches, rust and other decaying elements.IMG_20170424_193011IMG_20170424_192845

Our waiting rickshaws took us back downtown, and we headed to a huge dirty pool at the base of Mehrangarh mountain close to the Ghandaghar clock tower. Unfortunately, there was a lot of rubbish in the water, and also the footpath bridge which crosses the pool was lined with trash. On the other side, we met with some cows and dogs, which was the only scene remotely worthy of a photograph! In retrospect, I wish I had photographed the abundant trash to draw attention to it!

We stumbled into a local gym which seemed like a scene from an old 1950s film. Men had loincloths wrapped around their sexy parts for modesty, and they grappled with each other in the central pits. The gym was also lined with dumbbells, boxing bags and other equipment. I wanted to take photos, but actually I felt embarrassed to snap away because all these fellas were almost naked. I retrained myself, and then we headed to Sadar Market and the Ghandaghar clock tower.

IMG_1721IMG_1727

IMG_20170424_211826IMG_1728IMG_1731We stood off to the side in a central space, while motorbikes swerved around the slow, meandering crowd. There were families everywhere, and all the women were dressed in traditional clothing, bright yellows, fusia pinks, rich oranges and grass greens. Children ran around while fathers monitored them, and people were everywhere, chatting and eating in the street in groups of families.

We headed to Mishrilal Hotel, a famous local lassi café, but quickly changed our minds and went to a street corner where a samosa business thrived. The fat owner proudly sat at the entrance, watching the customers approach and his staff serving them. Despite the many distractions, I specifically enjoyed observing him!

There, we picked up samosas, pani puri (crispy balls filled with fragranced water), and just hovered around eating with all the other families near the street vendors. Some families made picnic spaces on the concrete ground, and other family wedged themselves between parked motorbikes to enjoy their evening street food. After eating, Sham and the families impressively piled into just one rickshaw, and away they went.IMG_1739

IMG_1738IMG_1734IMG_1733Left to our own devices, Jay, Sharvan and I returned to the lassi café. The lassis were saffron flavoured, and the yogurt had a smooth, rich texture. We then headed to a shisha bar recommended by Sharvan who knew the owner, and we were shown into a dark room with comfortable sofas. We ordered a peppermint-grape mix which was delicious. Some other fellas wanted to join our room and sit at another table behind us, but interestingly, the owner decided that they wanted our little entourage to enjoy privacy, and redirected the other customers to another room. We hung out there for two hours, listened to music on our cellphone devices, and eventually Jay dropped me off at my guesthouse.IMG_20170424_212733

IMG_20170424_213043IMG_20170424_212918That night,  I met Sunil. At first, I didn’t know what to make of him. He seemed aloof and a little arrogant. He hardly said anything about himself but asked me fifty million questions. We ended up chatting for hours. Mostly, I talked about my love life history, while he listened and asked questions. He proclaimed that I have an interesting life story, and that I should write an autobiography as soon as possible. He said my story reminded him of a story called, Eat, Pray, Love. I replied that I have never read the book or watched the movie.

I ended up enjoying his company very much. He had a very funny, high pitched laugh and would laugh extensively at things I didn’t find funny. It was a very interesting evening.

 

Subscribe to my page get my follow up blogs, Jodhpur: Day Three and my travels through Jaipur and Agra!

 

 

Keep learning!

Have you had the chance to tour with a large group? What were your impressions? Please like, share and comment below!

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=tashawebsite3-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0143038419&asins=0143038419&linkId=bea7e2ae9f34d772f9d4ae31d4791c3f&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=tashawebsite3-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00ATZJ5YS&asins=B00ATZJ5YS&linkId=922f1680144c9f9f10f1594561f02665&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

 

Advertisements

Jodhpur, India: Possibly the best day ever!

I had dreamed of visiting India since adolescence. The thing was, I had also heard that India is the pinnacle of challenging backpacking and that had made we weary, especially as a single female traveller. Interestingly, this made me even more determined. Apparently, if you can backpack in India, you can backpack anywhere.

I hadn’t been ready to handle the challenge of India for a long time. Two years ago, I travelled Thailand for a month with my friend Beth (see her blogsite, Empanada Girl), and we encountered several challenges. These included encountering scams, being treated like  dollar signs, and nearly knocking myself out walking into a protruding chunk of concrete overhanging a side-walk.

After a later emotional meltdown in Saigon Vietnam due to travel fatigue and feeling overwhelmed from different expectations about my physical safety, I decided that I definitely was not ready for India. My frustration and temperament was not in the right place.

But this Spring, something changed. I had changed, and I felt ready to visit this mystical country, and even do so on my own. I booked my ticket, and on April 22nd, 2017, I landed in India for the first time.

I arrived into Delhi international airport, and after changing American dollars for Indian rupees, I got my passport stamped at the e-visa immigration counters and exited the airport.

The 7pm hot Delhi air hit me immediately. Indian families were waiting outside the airport doors as only travelers were allowed inside. I needed to get to Delhi Cantt train station to get my overnight air-conditioned train to Jodhpur. Taxi drivers approached me immediately, trying to get my business, but I made a beeline for the Police Taxi yellow building in front of the airport. There, I encountered a bunch of men all trying to talk to the teller, and after some skillful and assertive maneuvering, I paid about 300 rupees to a tired looking man in a booth. He issued me a receipt, and waved me in the direction of the nearby rickshaw taxis. I was relieved to avoid haggling with the regular rickshaw and taxi drivers by using this regulated, prepaid service.

I ended up sharing a rickshaw with an education profesor who praised me for traveling to his country. Within minutes of arriving, I was so happy with my decision to visit, and for the immediate validation for having the balls and curiosity to learn about this country. We had a lot to talk about as we both work in similar fields. He emphasized the demand for English teachers to work in India and encouraged me to consider working in India someday. After a pleasant twenty minute conversation swerving through Delhi night traffic, the driver dropped me off at Cantt station.

IMG_20170423_010542
Delhi Cantt railway station

I hung out at Delhi Cantt for about 3 hours, as my 9:45pm train was running a little late. I met friendly people on the platform, including a Jehovah’s witness fella. I must have asked at least five sets of people, who incrementally directed me to exactly where to stand to board coach 3, where the air conditioning section of the train would stop. My friend Jay who lives in Jodhpur and works for the local rail system was sending my pre-booked ticket along with coach employees and these employees were expecting me to rendezvous at coach 3. Also, the train would only stop for a minute, so i’d have to board quickly.

When the train arrived, there was a scramble to get on. Jay’s employee, coach attendant Rajanish, was not evident at first. I furiously looked around as I had a photo of him to identify him. Another fella pointed out Rajanish, who was distracted with his work duties. I hopped onto the train before it pulled away, and when the train did pull away, Rajanish had to run to get up onto the coach. He gave me a ticket, and directed me to an upper berth spot where I could hide away for the next 10 hours.

IMG_20170423_102810
Indian train system: the best way to travel around India! View from my upper berth

The upper berth required some agility to climb onto. I brought my small osprey backpack up with me as I didn’t have a lock and chain to anchor it to the luggage holding area by the doors. The coach attendants provided bed sheets and a pillow, and there was a net support to place my water bottle inside.

People came and went below me, and eventually, as we approached Jodhpur the following morning, I began talking to the people around me. There seemed to be a lot of couples and families traveling together. The men could often speak English, but these women only spoke local languages and Hindi. We hung out while I admired bichudi, ringed toes that signify that a woman is married. Before I knew it, we had stopped and Jay was already in my coach, looking for me!

I gave Jay a big hug and said goodbye to my new coach friends. Jay asked about my trip, and then we slowly headed toward his motorbike, stopping along the way to make appointments with some of his employees. We passed some of the train cleaning staff, ladies in yellow saris who all looked adorable. They kept smiling at me and one lady kept trying to talk to me while Jay was distracted, conversing with employees.

Around 8am, we were speeding through the streets of Jodhpur on Jay’s motorbike, wind in my hair and wearing a light backpack. It was my first experience of the famous Indian traffic that I had only seen on TV. Here, the local vehicles were mostly motorbikes and rickshaws, and Ragasthan, I noticed, was quite sandy. It was frankly, exhilarating. My eyes were like sponges, soaking up every little thing about this new world I had been suddenly transported to.

We passed through the famous Ghantaghar clock tower, just as it began to chime at 9 on the hour. The ground was all cobble stones, and Sadar market was beginning to stir, as it was still early in the morning. I recognized this area from all my previous research and it was thrilling to see with my own eyes.

The first thing we did was head up to LG Paying Guesthouse, a wonderful place which I found through booking.com. On arrival, I discovered that Jay had visited the owner, Jitendva, a day prior to scope out the accommodation. The owner was welcoming, kind and attentive. The guesthouse was located on the side of the Mehrangarh Fort mountain, so the steps were all steep and deep. His family lived on the first floor, while the guests lived above them. The newly renovated area included a central courtyard with a great neighbourhood view, and an enclosed patio which made a nice spot to take tea and breakfast. The guest rooms all branched off of these central spaces.

We snooped around the property, and I admired my new room for the next three nights which had sexy Indian images painted on the walls. The room and bathroom was clean, and included towel and toilet paper, which I later discovered was something of a luxury in Indian guesthouses and hostels. We enjoyed a chai tea on the patio before I freshened up.

Jay and I headed directly to a local restaurant down the mountain to find breakfast. We had paneer with tea as the day quickly warmed up. We were joined by Jay’s acquaintance, Manish who would guide us around Jodhpur. Jay explained that he himself had lived in Jodhpur for four months, and this was his first opportunity to be a tourist in this city.

IMG_20170423_154005
First breakfast in India, with Jay

We were soon joined by Jay’s employee, Varun, and together, we headed to Mehrangarh Fort. After cramming my stuff into my camera bag because security demanded that I could not bring my plastic bag with me into the grounds, I paid the entry fee (500 rupees) plus a fee for bringing a camera. Jay, Manish and Varun, as Indians, paid a significantly smaller entrance fee.

We encountered massive metal entrance gates with protruding spikes to impale elephants if enemies tried to use elephants in warfare attacks. We wandered into restoration projects undertaken by foreigners and locals. The museum displayed chair carriages carried by slaves to transport monarchs, as well as elaborately decorated hookahs and other interesting royal items.

IMG_1630
Restoration projects

We also encountered courtyards made from marble, and gorgeous architectural designs. The view of the colonial cannons poised on the fortress walls overlooking the city was one of my favourites. Elements of detailing on the walls reminded me of the Moorish Muslim palace in Spain, Al Alhambra.IMG_1656 (2)

IMG_1664Interestingly, Indian boys and girls there wanted to take photos with me. I had read about this peculiar custom while researching ahead of my trip, so I expected this would happen. A group of boys asked Jay’s friends if they could take a photo with me, to which they replied, no. I found the situation hilariously funny, although somewhat sexist since they boys didn’t ask me personally. It appeared to be a respect thing, since it seemed I was traveling with an entourage of Indian men. Some of the locals were extremely attractive, with light eyes and gorgeous faces. I was having a splendid time!

IMG_1666
Mini photoshoot in a gorgeous marble courtyard
IMG_1646
View of the lower fortress and the city of Jodhpur

IMG_1644

The day was very hot, possibly 41 degrees Celsius, so we stopped off at an onsite café to have a refreshing Kingfisher beer. The café had a roof, but the front was completely open, much  like a terrace. We were surrounded by paintings of Indian monarchs, and we watched the passers-by while we rested. The waiter had a huge maharaja mustache, and I noticed that many of the staff at the fort, as well as staff at other tourist sites I would later visit donned these huge, impressive mustaches!

Before leaving, we stopped by the gift shop as I wanted to pick up some postcards. Printed images on paper and fabric seemed plentiful, and some of these could fetch a pretty penny! They featured scenes from familiar Hindu stories. I have no place back home to hang these larger beautiful prints, so I contented myself with admiring the images, and buying small postcards instead.

On our way out, we passed a very large and famous Hindu temple. Jay explained that he didn’t want to visit it, so we skipped it and headed out. It was also exhaustingly hot, but if I visit Jodhpur again, I would like to see it.

IMG_1669
My guardians! Jay (in blue), Manish and Varun
IMG_1679
Impressed by the spectacular white marble!

Despite the heat of the lunchtime sun, we speed off to visit the Jaswant Thada (white) mausoleum. It was located about half a kilometer from the fort, so it was a quick motorbike ride over. The grounds had a lush green park, and after walking around a pavilion, we took some photos on the red brick steps which directed guests to the main mausoleum entrance. The interior appeared to be one huge room with ornate architectural features. Many portraits of deceased maharajas were displayed.

Funnily enough, Manish suddenly ‘became’ my tour guide, repeating the information on the wall painting descriptions for me, which I could plainly read for myself. Perhaps he was practicing his tour guide skills for a future job. The interior was cool and airy, and was a huge relief to be out of the unrelenting heat.

Outside, we took photos of the exterior features of the white marble architecture. I wanted to photograph everything, but settled on a handful of pictures. We returned to Jay, who had waited in the gardens because he refused to go into temples. His sister passed away recently, and he just didn’t want to be in spiritual places.IMG_20170423_185737

IMG_1690

IMG_1692
Selfies at Jaswant Thada

IMG_1695

IMG_20170423_190036
With new friends, Varun (brown shirt) and Manish (plum)

Soon, we were on our way to downtown Jodhpur. The fellas all had motorbikes, and I was paired with Jay. Often, we rode in formation, one after the other, but other times, we rode side by side while the fellas slowed on the winding dust roads to chat about directions. It was incredibly amusing and fun. Jay later told me that he had reduced his speed to make sure I felt comfortable and safe riding with him. I thanked him for that. I truly enjoyed riding around together, although every morning, It was a struggle to wash the sand out of my hair.

We went to dinner early, possibly around 5pm, because we had skipped lunch. The restaurant complex named Neralidani contained a downstairs bar, which Jay told me was full of drunks and we needed to avoid. We went upstairs, to a massive, banquet style hall where we four were the only guests. Below on the lawn, the staff were setting up to receive a wedding reception.

I cannot remember what we ordered at the restaurant. Only that the tables were so large that we were seated quite far apart, and also the air conditioner was blowing so hard that we played musical chairs to evade it. Jay explained that the restaurant was very popular, and that later in the evening, the entire restaurant would be packed.

IMG_20170423_235733
Fun times with Manish

After saying goodbye to Manish and Varun, we sped up toward my guesthouse. Since it was located near the top of a mountain, the paths were uphill, narrow, dusty and winding. At some point during our day, en route to my hotel (I forget the time sequence), we encountered a celebration procession of party-goers walking downhill, and we had to stop to wait for them to pass.

All the Ragasthani party women were wearing colourful, traditional clothing, and they seemed to be balancing dishes of food or gifts on their heads. Some were beating drums and playing music, and everyone was smiling and happy. Jay and I just sat on his bike, staring, as they slowly sauntered by. The colourful sights, the delicious cooked food aromas and the accompanying music made for an intoxicating sensory experience.

As if that wasn’t enough, once we resumed heading up into the mountain, passing local goats lingering outside their owners’ entranceways, Jay exclaimed, holy shit! We encountered two huge cows, and one of them was completely blocking our narrow path. We had to wait as we slowly inched forward, while the cow took her sweet time to swivel around. By the time we arrived at the guesthouse, I was so enamoured by my surroundings.

I have travelled to many places, and seen many things. This first day in Jodhpur showed me things I’ve never seen or experienced before. This first day turned out to possibly be the most exciting day of my life so far.

IMG_20170424_014328
Sexy images of royal couples on my Guesthouse walls
IMG_20170424_015029
My neighbourhood, up in the mountain (view from LG Guesthouse)
IMG_20170424_015045
Night view from LG Guesthouse: my local neighbourhood in Mehrangarh fortress mountain

Jay and I agreed to meet the following morning, and I headed up to my guesthouse terrace. There, I chatted with a Korean couple and the guesthouse owner intermittently. Before heading to my sexily decorated room, I snapped some photos of the local neighbourhood at night and marvelled at the grand fortress, touring above the guesthouse. What an amazing place to experience!

 

Subscribe to my page get my follow up blogs… Jodhpur, parts two and three!

Follow travelandtash on Instagram

Follow travelandtash on Facebook

 

Keep learning!

 

What do you enjoy about visiting smaller cities? Please like, share and comment below!

Delhi India in 4.5 days: A personal story – Part Three

This was my first trip to both Delhi, and India, and thus far, I had found Delhi huge, overwhelming, the people seemed less happy (and less friendly) than in other parts of India. This is the conclusion of a three part series. In Part Two, I tell the story of meeting Ravi from Jaipur, and traveling around Delhi together, visiting Delhi Fort and Chadni Chowk market, an unpleasant encounter with an unscrupulous cycle rickshaw driver, and finally, a visit to India Gate.

DAY FOUR

I awoke in my hotel, the Su Shree Continental in Paharganj, to find out that my ex boyfriend, Wayne, had passed away earlier that week. My friend Van who was a mutual friend of ours messaged me from Vancouver to see if I was okay, however she didn’t realize that I actually didn’t know the news yet.

Wayne and I had not remained in communication over the last year and a half since our breakup, so I initially wasn’t sure how to learn more about what happened. I have severed almost every tie between us. I found some information online which confirmed Van’s news. At this time, I felt deflated and down, and all kinds of things were running though my mind. During the period of our excommunication, I had felt angry with him, but now, I didn’t know how to feel. I also noticed that the buddist service for Wayne put his age at 59, which was very confusing for me as he had always told me that he was about ten years younger.

I stewed all morning, experiencing conflicting emotions. I’ve never lost a former partner before. Eventually got myself going in the early afternoon. I headed south, toward Janpath lane and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, which actually turned out to be my favourite location in all Delhi. I wanted to see Connaught Place en route, and started walking in that direction. A cycle rickshaw picked me up en route and since Gurudwara would be the easiest place for his rickshaw to access, he took me there. I only saw the back of Connaught Place after all.IMG_20170504_222524

On entering Gurudwara Sikh temple I could hear prayers sung out from the overhead speakers attached to the main central building. I had to first leave my shoes with fellas in the lower level for safekeeping. Barefoot, I headed upstairs, waded through a little pool of water that presumably purified my feet, and then I was free to wander the grounds. The entire complex appeared to be built on a platform raised above street level.

I headed to the right, where a huge square pool of water glistened against the white temple. I walked around the large pool, and watched boys wade into the pool. Later, I saw a Sikh pool guard beat misbehaving boys with a string when they exited the pool. Public corporal punishment seems normal here, I suppose. I stopped there for a while, and recorded a video while a heron meandered in the pool.IMG_20170504_204638

IMG_20170504_204741IMG_20170504_204552IMG_20170504_205443I recorded a second video before leaving the premises, to show off the central courtyard where most of the action was taking place. I have never experienced a religious location quite like this. Gurudwara was an oasis in the mist of chaotic Delhi, and I really needed this peaceful alone time to reflect and rest.IMG_20170504_212155

IMG_20170504_212209On my way out, a friendly and charming guy started talking to me. Before long, I found out that he was a rickshaw driver, looked to drive me to my next destination. I agreed as I wanted to get to nearby Janpath Lane, however I never imagined that it’d take him almost two hours to get me there.

The rickshaw driver somehow convinced me to visit a nearby bazar en route to our destination, which apparently had ‘much better prices’ than Janpath market. It turned out that the bazar was largely aimed at settled tourists, who owned homes and had room to put all the heavy and pricy souvenirs. I, on the other hand, was traveling backpacker style and currently have no permanent home. This bazar was not for me! I returned to my driver annoyed because he had clearly misled me.

While halted at a traffic stop, kids approached, begging me for money. I gave them cookies I had in my bag. Once again en route to Janpath, the driver convinced me again to visit another Bazar, which he explained was an attempt for him to receive vouchers for gas. I agreed to the detour once again, but I was beginning to get impatient. We made a pit stop at the bazar so my driver could get his damn gas vouchers. That entailed me walking around the bazar looking like a genuine customer who intended to buy lots of luxurious items for a home that I don’t own yet.

When I returned to the rickshaw, I demanded that we go directly to Janpath, which was actually not far from Gurudwara, but I was now angry that I was wasting my last full day in Delhi doing what my driver was persuading me to do.

Finally, as I was about to pay him, he declared he had no change from my larger money dominations, and then hinting that I could pay him more, suggested I should pay him what I thought the trip was worth. I was so annoyed that he had wasted my precious time that I decided against tipping him, and with help from another rickshaw driver who broke up my larger bill, I paid my driver exactly what we had agreed at the outset. I was relieved to enter Janpath and be clear of that driver who I had initially trusted. I felt annoyed that I had to verbally battle with him just to go where I had intended.IMG_20170504_223253

Thankfully, Janpath was worth the long detour. The market was compact, short and had vendors selling clothing, costume jewelry, shoes, and belts. Sellers approached me trying to sell me board games, wooden pipes and other wacky items.

I spied a stall that had many pretty Gujarat handbags, and so I chatted with the owner for a while. I picked up some pretty local earrings from other vendors, and then exited the market, hoping to find Little Tibet market, located nearby.

IMG_20170504_224205
Janpath Lane market

 

As I approached Little Tibet, I noticed that shops suddenly became very western, and their prices did too. I was advised by shop owners en route that Little Tibet usually closed around 7pm, and by now, it was already 8pm. I began to feel that the area was in fact a pit stop for wealthy western ‘hippies’, and this was really not what I had in mind. I was actually on a mission to find local incense. I stopped by a store to pick up Delhi candy for my students back in Korea, and also purchased a couple of embroidered fabric pieces from a very grateful street vendor who had her wears displayed on the sidewalk. When I stumbled across Patel Chowk station, I decided to just head back to Paharganj. That night, I ate at a local restaurant in the sketchy alleys near my hotel. I hardly remember a thing about it, so I must have been very tired!

HEADING HOME

My flight was in the evening, so I had the whole morning and part of the afternoon before I headed to Delhi international airport. My flight was at 7:40pm, so I figured I’d leave Paharganj around 3pm. After packing and extending my check out time with my hotel, I stumbled across a local restaurant and ordered palak paneer (mashed potato and cheese sandwiched between hot roti bread) and a mango lassi.

While I waited for my food, more hungry customers arrived. I noticed a man dressed in rags, who seemed to have something wrong with his legs sitting on the sidewalk across the street. I thought how strange it was, for all the customers within to be staring at this man, while we ate and he looked so thin. When my breakfast arrived, I darted quickly across the street with a piece of my breakfast and the remaining water in my water bottle. He looked super happy as I gave him this small gift, and afterwards, I darted back to my table at the restaurant, to reflect on the wealth disparity between the Indian guests staying at my hotel, and the local poor.

Around the corner, I stopped for a sugar cane and lime refreshing beverage, before heading to Main Bazar Road where I intended to spend my last few hours before leaving India. The tiny alleys toward Main Bazar Road were poorly maintained which made wearing sandals a little challenging. I was surprised every time though, when I wondered into a cow on the street.

I initially wanted to find a post office, so I could send three postcards, but this took me quite a while to find as there were no clear identifying signs above the post office. I must have asked at least five people before I eventually found it. It opened at 10am, so because I arrived too early, I decided to return later.

I headed to nearby Krishna café to check out their pretty embroidered Gujarat handbags that I had noticed on my previous visit. They were all too large for my taste, so I just stopped for tea. I ended up striking a conversation with a Japanese man sitting beside me, and he told me about his crazy schedule, visiting multiple locations in India, all within the space of a week. He explained that this was his eighth trip to India, and he was visiting many sites because in Japan, employees get short vacation breaks, and he was making the best of his time away from work.

After tea, I headed back to the post office. I poked my head through an entrance on the right, and headed up a narrow staircase, entered a small courtyard, and within one of the rooms lay the post office. The clerks were friendly, and postage, cheap. I was happy to successfully send my postcards!

The next few hours were a shopping blur. I looked at afgani pants, cushions, wall hangings and backpacks. Eventually, I found myself in a small shoe store, Meenu Traders (1045-46 Main Basar Road), and chatted with the chatty owner, Mr. Manchanda, and eventually bought a pair of colourful leather sandals ( around 400 rupees) that fit me well. I’m apparently an Indian shoe-size 10! The store reminded me of the charming shoe shop I visited in Jodhpur a week earlier.

I decided by now that local restaurants served better quality food, their prices were local (unlike many of the tourist restaurants along Main Bazar Road) and I felt good about supporting the local businesses. I ordered a Thali at the entrance.

The restaurant upstairs-seating opened up into the street, and as my food arrived, some fella started splitting coal on the sidewalk pavement outside. As a result, I breathed in some of the dust that floated up toward me, and I found it interesting that it seemed that many here just didn’t know about the hazards of air pollution. Perhaps one of the benefits of attending tourist restaurants was that guests didn’t receive a complimentary side of coal dust with their birianis.

I made one last pit stop at a jewelers who specialized in silver. I had come across The Ornaments on my first day staying in Paharganj, and had seen a ring I liked. The owner, Raja, had given me his card so I’d find him again. I tracked him down at 1549 Main Bazar Road, and Raja explained that he designs jewelry. I purchased the same silver ring I had seen earlier, which had a dark African amethyst stone in the center. I paid just over 700 rupees for it and felt ecstatic to have landed this beautiful piece of jewelry.

Two memorable things happened while en route to the airport. Firstly, as usual, I grabbed a shared rickshaw from DB Gupta road across the big bridge to the Delhi metro station. I ended up sharing a rickshaw with a fella that in fact was going to another nearby train station. I wouldn’t have mounted the rickshaw but the driver led me to believe he was headed to Delhi metro. So, the driver let me dismount, to haggle with alternate drivers who were driving over the busy bridge. The weather was hot, and I was wearing a heavy backpack, but thankfully, a rickshaw driver soon stopped to see if he could pick up my fare. I hopped on, and all worked out.

At Delhi metro station, I discovered that I needed to locate the actual airport express line station, which was adjacent to the regular metro station. The ticket counter guy was ambiguous about exactly where the airport metro station was located, but a kind Indian fella in the queue approached me and explained that I had to head toward exit 4, where I would find the correct building and ticket booth to travel to the airport. I was pretty grateful for this guy’s help, and two minutes later, after emerging from the metro building and crossing the street, I entered the airport express metro station.

My 60 rupee one way ticket to the airport was cheap, as the airport was only about five stops away. I got to the airport within half an hour. The train was clean, had plenty of seating, and the train journey couldn’t have been smoother.

IMG_20170505_192245
Airport express train

I arrived at the airport, furnished my paper airline itinerary to gain entrance, and had plenty of time to kill. The airport was a delight, with pretty shops in the Duty Free area and plenty of seating. My last little stint of time at the airport quickly evaporated, and before I knew it, I was on a plane headed home. Till next time, India!IMG_20170505_223147

 

Have you visited Delhi, or intend to visit? Please share your surprise experiences or future plans in the comments below. Please click the like button, and share! Thanks for reading.

 

Keep learning!

Delhi India in 4.5 days: A personal story – Part Two

My first ever trip to Delhi was the least favourite part of my India trip, however, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. In the latter half of my stay in Delhi, I encountered the most challenging and interesting situations, hands down. The following story picks up where Delhi, Part One, left off.

DAY THREE

I had stayed in contact with Ravi, the manager of the guesthouse I had stayed at in Jaipur. He was visiting Delhi, so we decided to be tourists together, and visit the Red Fort and the famous India Gate.

My foreigner ticket to enter Delhi’s UNESCO heritage Red Fort cost 500 rupees, while locals paid 30 rupees. Foreigners and Indians were separated into different lines, each with different prices paid for entry tickets. While my line to get in was short, Ravi’s was long.

IMG_2021
Entrance to the Red Fort

We were funneled through a picturesque walkway entrance, flanked by souvenir shops which opened up into the fort grounds. The entrance has a museum above, the Indian War Memorial, which Ravi and I visited on our way out. We immediately went to the colonnaded audience hall where the king received guests and heard their petitions. I sneakily listened to a nearby tour guide who was instructing her group in Italian. Her group, it seemed, could hardly hear what she was saying or were too busy taking photos to care.

IMG_2047
Ravi standing in front of the royal Audience Hall

We meandered through the grounds, encountering pretty bath houses, rooms and gardens. Some marble structures were very ornate and gorgeous to photograph, however most of them seemed neglected and were sectioned off, preventing visitors from accessing them. Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, I thought, seemed significantly better maintained!

IMG_2027
Beautiful white marble structures

 

IMG_2033
Intricate detailing incised into the decorative marble panels

Returning to the entrance gate, we headed up the narrow stair case to the Indian War Memorial Museum. The museum was packed, and we were fascinated by the colonial rifles, revolvers, swords and other weapons used by Indians to help the British during the First World War.

IMG_2035
The Red Fort grounds

 

IMG_2041
In front of the Indian War Memorial Museum

Chadni Chowk, the famous massive market, was close by, so exiting the Red Fort, we headed in that direction. A cyclist rickshaw encountered us, and agreed to take us there for 50 rupees. Actually, the minute we hopped onto his rickshaw, we were already within the market as it was only across the street.

IMG_2075 (2)
Jame Masjid mosque

 

IMG_2079
Jame Masjid mosque
IMG_2083
Jame Masjid mosque; Ravi posing like a model. For once, I was behind the camera!

I wanted to see Jame Masjid, so he took us through the market up to the mosque so we could take photos there! It was lunch time, so since Karim’s restaurant was nearby, we decided to end our little tour there. The cyclist convinced us to continue with his services for 100 rupees total, with the agreement that he’d resume the market tour after we ate.

IMG_20170503_195649
Karim’s, Chadni Chowk

Karim’s looked exactly like the photos and videos I had seen from vlogs on the internet, however the restaurant complex was larger than I had expected! In addition to the kitchens, there was a vegetarian restaurant section, and several buildings for client dining. We ordered a mutton stew, dahl (lentils), rice and roti (local bread). The dining environment was casual and laidback and many local families appeared to frequent this restaurant.

IMG_20170503_192640
Karim’s

 

As we stepped out of Karim’s, the cycle rickshaw fella waved us over, and we hopped back onto his seat for our tour of Chadni Chowk. We recorded a video while admiring the saris and clothing embellishments as we slowly progressed through narrow market lanes.

IMG_2096
Chadni Chowk tour

A most curious thing happened when I wanted to pay. Firstly, the rickshaw driver assumed that Ravi was not a friend, but a tour guide. When I went to pay, the cyclist driver began screaming and shouting that we had agreed to 500 rupees payment, and that I was cheating him. In my previous experience, I paid about 500 rupees to have a rickshaw driver’s service for about 5 hours, driving me between tourist destinations which were considerably far apart, so I was surprised at this cycle rickshaw guy. His loud performance drew a crowd around us and made the situation into a spectacle.

Ravi talked to him calmly, while the guy screamed and shouted. The situation made me feel frustrated because I knew this fella was doing this because I’m a white foreigner, and I was embarrassed because about twenty Indian men were all gathered around in a circle, which gave this guy an audience and seemed to validate his accusations directed at me. Also, I felt that if Ravi hadn’t been there, the rickshaw guy would never had behaved like this toward me alone.

I threatened that we’d call the police, and have them intervene, and Ravi, to my surprise, called them up immediately. He spoke to them, and then placed the shouting fella on the phone with them. Ravi later told me that the policeman had told the guy to calm down and accept the payment agreed at the beginning. This didn’t seem to have any effect.

While the guy continued shouting, Ravi and other random men approached me, saying, why don’t you just give the driver half of what he is asking. I felt somewhat ganged up on. I retorted to the driver that his dishonesty makes me feel like never returning to Delhi with my tourist money, and he retorted something (apparently vulgar) in Hindi to me. Ravi became very angry at what the cyclist had said to me, and suddenly shouted at the rickshaw driver. The driver suddenly seemed to calm down, and I finally paid the him double of what we had initially agreed. I walked away feeling frustrated and disappointed.

We then meandered through Chadni Chowk, and I picked up some delicious local cakes. I still felt shaken up by the drama from the cycle rickshaw guy. We cautiously grabbed another rickshaw, and headed out to India Gate.

IMG_2123 (2)
India Gate!

 

IMG_2142 (2)
Night time approached at India Gate

The gate towers in the center of a plaza, and Indian tourists, particularly families, crowded around, taking selfies, while sellers approached tourists with all kinds of random knick knacks. We began walking toward the president’s house, and after resting on the grass that flanked the walkway, we decided to abandon the walk and get dinner instead.

We grabbed a rickshaw that dropped us off at restaurant in Paharganj. We ordered overpriced, mediocre Indian fare, ate and parted ways.

Stand by for Part Three.

 

What was your experience of Delhi? Have you visited the Red Fort, Chadni Chowk, Karim’s restaurant or India Gate and had similar experiences? What about these locations inspire you to visit Delhi?

Please like, comment, and share this blog!

Keep learning!

 

 

Delhi, India in 4.5 days: a personal story – Part One

Let’s be honest. Ragasthan is way nicer than Uttar Pradesh. I loved Jaipur, and especially Jodhpur, but what I saw of Agra and Delhi didn’t grab me in quite the same way. In fact, of the four cities I visited in Northern India over two weeks, Delhi was my least favourite.

The people didn’t smile like they did in Ragasthan. Delhi is huge and sprawling, so it took time to reach sites. Also, economic inequality seemed more prevalent in the tourist areas that attracted many beggars, and some beggars were quite aggressive approaching tourists.

I had read articles by other writers prior to my travel, and they often professed dislike for Delhi, but I wanted to experience it for myself and make up my own mind about it. In preparation for my visit, I had prepared a loose itinerary of sites, including temples, forts, palaces and markets that I really wanted to see. I was also eager to eat my way around the city. Here’s my story.

DAY ONE

I arrived into Delhi on the express train from Agra. I traveled with another solo traveller, Chrisie, originally from Germany, whom I had met in Agra three days prior. On arrival at New Delhi train station, I headed to Paharganj, located just behind the station. A wee bridge, filled with trash along the sidewalk, made crossing it difficult, however when I arrived at my hotel, the Su Shree Continental, I was delighted with my room. It was clean, well presented and the temperature was cool, although the room had no exterior window, and lunch on the hotel roof was a little boring as there was no view.

IMG_20170501_194739
Su Shree Continental hotel

 

IMG_20170501_205648
Late lunch: Aloo Gobhi (Potato curry with rice)

Soon, I discovered the winding allies and general touristiness of my local neighbourhood. I stumbled across a newly constructed guesthouse called the Jyoti Mahal. The architecture and furniture looked old, and was styled in a colonial Indian fashion. I snooped around, exploring the rooms, and enjoyed tea in the lobby area. The reception staff explained that their rates are usually around 2,000 rupees ($40) per night in off season, and 2,500 ($50) in peak season. If I revisit Delhi, I’d like to stay at this guesthouse.

IMG_20170501_222007
Jyoti Mahal

 

IMG_20170501_221744
Joyti Mahal
IMG_20170501_221851
Joyti Mahal

IMG_20170517_130214I meandered on, discovered a neat shop which sold bed coverings, and told the sales fella how to better display his items! Afterwards, I stumbled across Main Bazar Road, where I discovered cafes, silver jewelry shops, pretty craft shops selling leather items, local handmade bags, and basically, everything a tourist could be enticed by. After a nice walk, I returned to the Su Shree to sleep.

IMG_20170502_011249
Grocery bag souvenirs

DAY TWO

Qutub Minar, the archaeological site housing the tallest minaret in the world, was highest on my to-do list. After a late morning start, I headed to the Delhi Metro station as I discovered that the yellow line would take me directly to the Qutub Minar. I hopped onto a shared rickshaw which took me to the Delhi metro station for 10 rupees, and bought my metro ticket at the booth for about 20 rupees. The metro station was large, and the trains air-conditioned. The train carriages were full, and everyone was squished together, like packed trains in Seoul, S. Korea. While traveling, I read up on my destination, so I knew a little about the structures located there. When I emerged, I shared another rickshaw with tourists going between the station and the Qutub Minar site. Within the rickshaw, I met two young Indian girls who I’d bump into later.

The Qutub Minar entrance fee was 500 rupees (or $10), as seems to be the usual foreigner price in Northern India for entry to sites of this scale or fame. The site was filled with Islamic tombs, made from red-stone, sand stone and marble. The weather was hot, and while resting, I got chatting with a Afgani-Japanese couple.

IMG_20170502_143630
Qutb Minar

 

 

IMG_20170502_143854
Qutb Minar

Shortly thereafter, I left my bottled water on the ground while I took a photo, and meanwhile, a local child walking by with his family furiously kicked it over. I demanded that the child pick it up right away, and when he didn’t, the mother came back and picked it up. Seeing this, an Australian tourist, accompanied by her husband, expressed her approval of my admonishment of the child. I explained that I’m a teacher and deal with children all the time. She then explained she was also a teacher, and so we got chatting for twenty minutes about their travels. We were soon besieged by locals who asked to take photos with us. I replied that they could take one photo with me, but after that, I’d begin to charge. The couple found that funny, but the new Indian friends didn’t know what to make of me.

I had talked to the couple about experiencing diarrhea in Jaipur, and how I wasn’t even sure whether it was heat stroke or something I ate that caused it. They explained to me that over their numerous travels throughout Asia, they always take a supplement called Acidophilus. They said that this product taken daily whenever they travel helps balance their stomach acids and thus far, in combination with being careful to avoid unfamiliar bacteria, they have never fallen sick. Perhaps I’ll look into this supplement for my next travel adventure.

And then I bumped into the girls from the earlier rickshaw. I learned that Nandini was visiting her cousin Samia, who lived in Delhi. Nandini was quite the history student. We walked around taking photos together, and discussing Persian monarchs in India’s history.

IMG_20170502_151718
Samia (black trousers), myself and Nandini

 

IMG_20170502_152900

IMG_20170502_160608
Qutb Minar: Smith’s Cupola

Finally, they invited me to join them in Sarojni Market, which was the next stop on their agenda. I had planned to go to Chadni Chowk market, but I wanted to see Sarojni too, so together, we headed to INA station, where we grabbed another shared rickshaw which brought us to Sarojni. To my surprise, the rickshaw driver piled four of us ladies into the back seat, and another next to him in the driver seat to maximize his profit. I was glad to be crammed alongside ladies, not fellas, and happy to be traveling local style, experiencing India as the locals do.

IMG_20170502_193709
Riding Delhi’s metro system!

At Sarojni market, Samia and Nandini weren’t messing around! They were serious shoppers. I wanted to hang out with them, just to enjoy the experience of hanging out with locals and learning about their culture, but after spending at least ten minutes watching them trying on watches and fifteen minutes rummaging through clothing in a shop, I excused myself so I could meander at my own, faster pace. Aside from shops with western clothing, I discovered lady’s ali baba pants that go under traditional suits, entire indoor market stalls of dedicated to saris, stores with shelves loaded with two piece suits, and a corner of the market where machinists tailored newly purchased suits for clients.

The best location was Mahendra Sweet House. I walked up to the counter, and a friendly manager helped me select a meal. I paid another fella at a cash register for a token equivalent to the meal price, and then submitted my token to receive my delicious dahl and rice lunch. Before leaving, I purchased some delicious local sweets! I got a spongy green sweet made from ghiya burfree (bottle gourd vegetable), and also a coconut sweet. I had these packaged up for a later snack.

IMG_20170502_182156
Sarojni market

 

IMG_20170502_182112

IMG_20170502_175957
Dahl and rice at Mahendra, Sarojni market

I ate my sweets later that evening, on the corner of my street (DB Gupta Road) by Su Shree hotel. They were oily and delicious! There, I ordered a street chai tea, and sat with some local men on a make-shift seat beside the tea wagon. It was fun observing the tea specialist throwing spices into a boiling pan, and then after a couple of minutes, straining the tea into a small cup.

IMG_20170502_202350
Street chai tea, with delicious sweets from Mahendra

After tea and a quick stop by my hotel, I headed out to find postcards and food. I ended up in Krishna café, having been enticed by their pretty bags hanging outside their stepped doorway. I ordered a Paneer Butter Masala.IMG_20170502_225733

 

IMG_20170502_225605
Paneer butter masala

 

IMG_20170502_225834
Street view from Krishna café terrace

An older German fella, Winfried, asked if he could join me, and after listening to his adventures, as well as upcoming retirement plans, and intentions to do the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, he decided I was amazing, just what he was looking for, and if only he had met me earlier in his travels. It was an interesting evening.

Standby for the next blog, Delhi, Part Two.

 

Have you visited Delhi? What are your must see sites, or your experience of Paharganj? Please leave your comments below, like, share, and subscribe to my blog! Thanks for reading!

Keep learning!

 

Tips for first time travel to India

Many travelers believe India is the ultimate travel destination. India is guaranteed to challenge and reward visitors with rich cultural experiences. Some visitors remain for months and even years, while others find it difficult to adapt to city challenges, like noise, pollution, and so on. Some vow to never return.

IMG_20170421_163401 My mother introduced me and my siblings to Indian culture when I was probably ten years old. Her best friend, Sheh, was a successful business woman from New Delhi. She had married a British fella and relocated to London. My family would visit her at her London home, and she shared her culture with us.

We would watch Bollywood romance movies, and these often entailed infectious choreographed traditional dance as well as fight scenes, jealous lovers and beautiful actors. Sneh was a fine cook, and would invite us to eat amazing native Delhi dishes. Brits already have a love of Indian food, but this home cooking stirred my appreciation for fine, traditional Indian food at a young age. The icing on the cake was that Sneh would bring my mother traditional Indian clothing gifts, which my mother cherished, and so mama would dress up on occasion in a punjabi suit, or her bright gold and green sari!

Since childhood, I have longed to visit India. I’ve now watched countless documentaries on various topics, including the brilliant train system in Mumbai, women cops standing for local women’s rights, and tourist ‘travel love’ for Goa.

FINDING FLIGHTS

Two months ago, I began a non-committal search on Googleflights.com for flights to Hanoi, Vietnam. After playing around with dates using some of the useful features on the site, and noting peaks and lows in pricing based on flight dates, I found a flight to Delhi for around 540,000 KRW (Korean won). I cross-referenced the flight on Skyscanner.com to confirm that the price was the same, and after reserving time off from work, I booked the flight. I will travel direct with Korean Air, will take approximately eight hours to get to Delhi, and seven hours to return to Seoul.

INDIAN VISA

Every tourist, it seems, needs a visa to enter India. The basic e-tourist visa allows visitors to stay for a month, and costs approximately $49US. The Indiavisaonline website encourages travellers to begin the process at least four days before flying, and this entails filling out several pages on information including citizenship background, passport details, religion, and parents’ place of birth.

I had to upload a suitable head shot from a recent passport-style photograph, as well as upload a scanned image of the passport I would use while traveling. The site was very specific about the size of the files that could be uploaded, and these details made the process a little tedious. Also, I began several applications because my initial attempts didn’t seem to save.

READ, READ, READ!

The minute that I had booked my flights and started my visa application, I began to consume as much information as I could about India, and particularly, Northern India. I contacted an Indian friend, Jay, who I knew had returned from Canada to live in India, to tell him about my trip. I discovered that he was in fact living in Northern India. We decided very quickly that I’d journey out to Jodhpur from New Delhi to visit him. I began reading blog after blog, searching for relevant material using key search words on Goggle and Pintrest to find blogs, particularly on topics like, which sites to visit, solo women travel, what to eat, and so on.

I realised that there were many factors worth consideration. For example, would my power converter work in India? Where should I exchange my Korean won for Indian Rupees? If I want to dress like a local, what outfits should I consider buying there? How do I bargain in India? What is safe to consume for western stomachs? What is Delhi belly and Loperamide?

I also began finding that blogs covered topics like, who should I trust? What scams are common? What is the best way to travel? How do I buy train tickets? What is the easiest way to deal with taxis? Should I avoid meat? What goes on at a yoga ashram? What’s the scoop on sketchy hotel bed sheets? What should I pack? What does the ‘head bobble’ mean? Also, how should western women dress, and how can we avoid or address unwanted attention from men? What’s the deal with everyone wanting a photo with westerners?

WATCH, WATCH, WATCH!

I have watched numerous documentaries, particularly Kevin McCloud’s series, “Slumming It,” documenting fascinating Dharavi in Mumbai. In preparation for travel itself, I’ve really enjoyed watching GottaDoIndia. This travel show, presented by model and local Indian Sherry, introduces different cities in India in short, five minute videos that leave travellers with lots of ideas to do while visiting cities all over India. I’ve learned about recommended sites to visit and what to do there, been introduced to different restaurants and shops, and learn how to bargain while shopping.

I’ve also enjoyed watching Mark Wiens who eats his way around India. He introduces many different Indian dishes, identifies ingredients, and lists clearly where to find the food trucks and restaurants that he visits. Just watching him eat is pleasurable because his face lights up with each mouthful.

For learning about how what to expect as a foreign backpacker traveling around India, I really like watching Gabriel Traveler. He takes viewers through the cities he travels to, listing his living costs, stories on the road, and scams to watch for. I find his delivery style engaging and his tips, indispensable.

Before traveling, I intend to watch a documentary on a brief history of India, to get a chronological sense of events that somewhat define the multiple cultures found within this ancient, religious and caste-based society. I want to understand more about Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religions here to understand a little about diverse Indian identity.

JOIN ONLINE TRAVEL COMMUNITIES

A few months ago, I began to take my travel writing seriously, and as a result, I joined a few social media forums. These included travel forums for people who travel often and want to communicate with other travelers. On Facebook, I joined Travel Buddies Korea, Ultimate Travel Group, Girls Love Travel and others. Being part of these online communities has been particularly useful.

On a number of occasions, I’ve requested members to post blogs they’ve written on destinations that I plan to visit. Additionally, I’ve asked for advice on topics like acquiring an entry visa to India, and buying Indian Rupees. These forums are supportive, and I’ve found many informative blogs in this way.

IMG_20170421_163709

BEGIN A TRAVEL-INDIA JOURNAL

My current two week trip entails flying into Delhi, and heading straight to Jodhpur (Ragasthan). After a  few days, I’ll enjoy a short stay in Jaipur, and thereafter head to Agra. My last few days will be spent exploring Delhi. My trip entails quite a lot, so as I began reading blogs about these cities, I realized that I was gaining a lot of information that I would not necessarily remember. As a result, I began keeping a diary exclusively for my trip to India. I started taking notes on places of interest and keeping all the information together as a way to keep track of all the ideas and tips that I’d like to recall once I arrive at my destination.

IMG_20170421_163516

Thus far, I’ve got pages of notes on travel tips. I’ve listed markets and restaurants to visit, food to try, cultural places of interest like Hindu, Sikh and Muslim temples, forts, palaces and gardens. I label these with two, three or four stars, identifying for myself what I cannot miss. I’ve noted souvenirs to look out for, and suitable clothing types to purchase. I’ve noted bars and hookah cafes to visit in Delhi.  Additionally, I’ve jotted down hotel bookings, dates, and location/ contact information in case of a technical failure with my tablet.

IMG_20170421_163527

Notes on useful apps like Cleartrip for booking trains, pre-paid taxi services available at airports and train stations (to avoid haggling), and the Delhi Airport Metro Express from Pahargani to Delhi Airport, have all made it into my diary. Finally, I’ve added a quick currency conversion chart, anticipated expenses, and passwords for internet banking.

LEARN BASIC HINDI PHRASES

Although I’m lucky enough to have been born speaking the current Lingua Franca as my native tongue, as an international traveller, I don’t take for granted that everyone speaks my language. For me, learning a few phrases in the local language is not only useful for getting around, particularly if locals don’t speak English, but also shows respect for the culture that I am visiting. Learning some Hindi will remind me that I’m a guest in India, and that to some degree, I’m representing the culture I originate from. Additionally, learning a little of a new language is fun. I did the same thing when I visited Japan recently, and try to do this whenever I have the time and drive before travelling to a new country.

Every morning, I listen to a short Hindi lesson to learn some basic, useful phrases that I’ll actually use. I like the Learn Hindi (Hindi Pod101) series because the lessons are short (three minutes), I can replay them easily, and I can learn one or two phrases within each lesson. Presenter Prerana speaks slowly and clearly, and her classes are accompanied by text. The visual and audio combination suits my language learning style well, so for my purposes, these sessions are fun, simple and useful.

BOOKING ACCOMMODATION

I have been so consumed learning about all the different places to visit that booking accommodation got left to the last week or two. It worked out well because when I travel, I prioritize easy accessibility to sites of interest, and thus I often prefer central locations. I can only do this once I have an idea of the city layout.

Now, knowing which locations I intend to visit, I began booking-marking the locations on Google maps, and from there, I could get a good idea of what neighbourhood might be a most suitable base from which to visit the majority of the sites of interest.

I reserved all my accommodation using Booking.com. This site allows clients to narrow searches using star ratings, particular neighborhoods, budgets and so on. I really like the feature which allows clients to view available hotels for their travel dates directly on a map. These include location and price. I used this feature to book all my accommodations, and it proved very useful for finding a hotel two minutes walking distance to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Overall, I’ve never spent so much time preparing for a trip as I have with this one. There are so many things I want to experience and avoid missing out on. I want to approach this unique culture with an open mind, and be ready to embrace differences from norms that I’m accustomed to. I’m aware that I will encounter numerous challenges, but I also know that my attitude, and my ability to be flexible will enable an experience that I will never forget.

IMG_20170421_163311

 

Recent posts by travelandtash:

Introducing K-POP’s SM Town at COEX Samsung, Seoul

Latin American Festival, Seoul 2017

Jodhpur, India: Possibly the best day ever!

 

Follow travelandtash on Instagram

Follow travelandtash on Facebook

 

Do you have some travel tips you’d like to share? Please post your comments below!

Keep Learning!