Friday, April 28, 2017

Incredible India - an exotic destination for the Wandering Writer

If you ever watched any documentary about India, and fancied to go there, I heartily here encourage that choice. India is an amazing country, with thousands of different cultures, languages, sceneries and climates. This was our first experience in that mystical and wonderful land and we are committed to visit more of it, understanding that just visiting three cities won't tell you the truth about India.
The first thing was that not knowing what we had to expect from that trip, we decided to book the hotel only for the first two nights, extending our booking in case we were satisfied with the choice or search for other options.
Our destination was New Delhi, and logistically our trip was arranged a bit differently than it has always been. At that time, my husband was serving in Afghanistan, so I arrived the day before and waited for him at the hotel.
I arrived late in the night, and I was glad I booked an airport pick-up from the hotel; as this avoided me the fight between taxi driver to get me into their taxi.
The hotel looked nice from the outside, but strangely, inside the lights were very dim, putting a grotesque look to the people at the desk. I checked in and the bell boy took my luggage and we started to climb the stairs, paying attention not to walk over the people who were sleeping on the floor (!)
As a first impression, it made me a bit worried, but relieved that I had to spend there only two nights.
It was hot; damn it was hot, and as I went to the toilet to have a shower, I noticed a lizard on the shower. She looked at me with the same expression as to say "don't even think of thinking that I am going away from here!"
How to blame it?
I greeted my roommate and went immediately to the bed, trying to fall asleep for as long as possible.
Well, easy to say, but in practice... Not!
The sheets had a strange smell, and I wondered whether they had ever been changed or washed, but I was too tired to think about it, and regardless all the questions concerning hygiene, I fell asleep.
The day after my husband reached me, but only the following day we started seriously to look around the city and plan our route (of course, after having found a better hotel).
India, generally is a great place to understand something about how crowded, we might be on this planet, as I do believe there is no such a place that can give you this straight idea as India and China can.
The streets are always quite crowded, not just with people, but other animals too, mainly chicken, goats and cows. Many people might consider it uncomfortable, but personally, I was fascinated by how colorful those streets looked like and it didn't give me any sort of bad feeling.
The constant presence of any sort of farm animals, might result in unpleasant smells that come to your nose time by time.
The traffic on the streets is chaotic and to the eye of the foreigner, anarchy is the queen.
Only outside of the city, the situation gets better.
 Our next destination was Jaipur, the pink city.
A fun fact about this city, and why it is called pink, is quite straightforward, all the houses, monuments, and palaces are pink. The story tells that in 1853, during the regime of Sawai Ram Singh, the Prince of Wales came for a visit. Sawai Ram Singh, wanted to welcome him in a very particular way, and as he knew that the Prince of Wales like the color pink, he ordered that every single building would have painted in pink. Since then, all the new buildings were built in the same color and Jaipur was called "the pink city."
The thing that I really recommend to have a good look of the city and understand the amazing crafting skills of the Indian artists, is the Hawa Mahal,

 The Jal Mahal,

 And, the most spectacular Amer Fort, which is truly one of the most impressive buildings I've ever seen

We spent in Jaipur another three days, just to be able to see most of all the life around, and understand something more about their culture. One small and very precious advice for your own sanity, be aware that every time you will take a rickshaw or a taxi, they will bring you first to the shop of their cousin that is selling ceramics, then to the shop of their brother-in-law, which sells textile, until, at the end you know the whole family. One way to avoid this circus, is that you have made clear from the beginning that you do not have any intention of visiting any shop. Be even ready to show yourself angry; their resilience is legendary.
Of course, from Jaipur, we could not skip (particularly on our first trip) a visit to Agra, the city of the legendary Taj Mahal.
On our way by taxi, we had all sorts of incidents, first we had a flat tire, so we had to stop and change the spare tire. You might say that this is something that can always happen, and that is also true, but after a few other kilometers, we had another flat tire.... The driver had to leave us there guarding the taxi, as he was going to the next town and get another spare tire.
Also the camels and the people leading them were laughing at us!

The story says that the Taj Mahal was commissioned by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is considered by the Indian people as the most romantic place, and the ultimate love gesture, and it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."
Regardless the insistence of the taxi drivers to bring you to this or the other shop, I suggest, anyway to pay a visit to those art laboratories, where you will get the chance to be amazed by the crafting skills of wood carving and perhaps also to buy something for your house:

The plate in the middle is what we bought, and it was shipped to our address for a ridiculous price.
After visiting Agra, we decided to take our adventure even further and reach Nepal.
To reach Kathmandu, the best way is to take the train from Agra train station to Gorakhpur, where you will take the bus to reach the border, and from there, you will take another bus to reach Kathmandu.
The train ride was an experience I can recommend to everybody (+18 not because of adult content, but because for a child, it might be uncomfortable).
The funny thing was the presence of the rats roaming in the station, the great part was the chai tea served during the whole trip. The beds are very comfortable, and there are no ladies or men compartment, and unless you choose the first class, you are sleeping in a mixed one.
That didn't give us any sort of trouble, and as I was very tired, I fell asleep fast and soundly, soothed by the rocking movement of the train.
We reached the border in the evening, and for the rest of the trip, I suggest you to stay tuned and wait for the next adventure of:

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