With my impending return to India fast approaching I thought it would be a nice idea to do a bit of reminiscing about the country – one I have visited three times in the past, however, the most recent trip was 2004 so it has been fourteen whole years.
India is the ultimate in travel in some respects. It’s an incredible country, with extreme poverty but also extreme wealth. And economically it’s changed so much in 14 years. Which I am expecting to translate on the ground when I get there. Seeing changes will be a highlight I think of my twelve days in India.
India has a mystique about it. It has its highs and its lows, and I won’t lie, I’ve had my struggles when visiting India and I’m sure I’ll have more this time. From rushes to the loo (there’s no need to beat about the bush here, this has been a feature of Indian travel for me, and I know I’m not alone there) from scammers to stubborn rickshaw wallahs who wouldn’t take me where I wanted to go, dealing with the heat, incredible delays on the trains, the time and patience needed to buy a train ticket, the sheer number of people, trying to food that wasn’t too spicy, I mean the list is a bit endless really. Which doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that I don’t LIKE going to India. Otherwise why would I be about to do it for the fourth time?
The clickety-clack of Indian Railways. Yes, trains are often delayed but they are still magical. The incredible Moghul architecture. The surprising warmth of the people once you get past the guys trying to make a buck out of you (which you know, is fair enough). The colour, the music, the vibrancy, the history, there is so much to like.
My memories? First trip, 1999. I remember being absolutely overwhelmed and shocked by Delhi. The maddest city on Earth. I still don’t like Delhi to this day. Chandrigarh. I don’t remember much. I think I hid in my room quite a bit. The on to Jalandhar where I was taken in by a family and spent three days meeting everyone they knew and playing a lot of cricket. To Jaipur, my first stop this time, by BUS. And looking down the ravines to see vehicles at the bottom – including buses! A trip out of the centre to a temple, a hotel full of hippies, some guys trying to scam me into buying rubies and other gems (READ HERE).
Udaipur. The lake. The Lal Ghat Guesthouse – no idea why I remember this name although it was a wonderful budget option. To Rathembore (??) National Park and a safari of sorts. Lots of deer, no tigers. Then to Agra and of course, the Taj Mahal, and my first Bollywood film later that day ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. Late back to Delhi. Stayed in a place I didn’t like and watched cricket ALL NIGHT live from the UK on a black and white TV. A train museum – THE highlight of Delhi. An earthquake, an accident on the way to the airport, but I got out – alive!
That’s a quick summation of my first taste of India. Next week, I’ll look at my other two trips! And try to summarise! Thanks for reading, May the Journey Never End!