- An overwhelming start
- The first train ride – Indian style
- Sizzling in the Taj Mahal
- Trying sewage: our first street food
- Cosy times in Indian trains
- Cobras, forts and camels – Jaipur
- An unpleasant experience
- Moving on, Jodhpur is waiting for us
An overwhelming start
Well, so where do I start after these 3 intense days? Let´s start from the beginning. We arrived in Delhi after an amazing flight. In the morning when we got out of our backstreet hotel at like 6am, we were immediately hit in the face by this overwhelming megacity. People, people, more people. And every single ones tries to rip you off. It was just too much to take the first day as we had only planned few days in Delhi and needed to sort out so much stuff.
We walked around the city the entire day and met the first fellow travellers after 1 hour. Ever since we have been travelling with Alex, a crazy guy from Buenos Aires and until yesterday with a girl from Israel. We took a rickshaw (how do you write that?) across Delhi to see everything and the most striking thing is the omnipresent poverty. People live on the streets, in their own filth, eat waste, and try to make a living with everything you can imagine. Then the haggling, even on toilet paper, on everything. In Thailand you half the price, in India you say one fifth and land at 2 fifths of what they said. Foodwise we are quite careful, I wanted to give my belly one day or two days to get used to it.
The first train ride – Indian style
We don’t have an alarm, a mobile, a watch or anything which could wake us up or have the time at least. But the trains are very early, the first one at 6am. So we just trusted our perfect time skills, I woke up sometimes at night, we got ready, had something weird to eat on the streets and went to the train station, 1 hour early! The train station, one of the craziest things so far. You have to know that millions and millions of Indians use it every day, it´s very well developed and cheap, but it’s crazy. There have three different classes. I thought we could take the cheapest, well even for me that seems unrealistic now. The 3rd class is a kettle carriage, reminding the ones in the 3rd Reich basically, and one guy has the job of pushing as many as he can into that carriage. Crazy. So we went for 2nd class without air condition, 1 euro for 4 hours of train.
Inside people are running around everywhere selling stuff, I stopped every single one of them, my belly had enough time to chill and now it´s either die or get stronger! Most of the times you don’t know what it is but the most frequent thing you buy is chai, which they shout out all the time, chai, chai chai, which means just tea, but it is what we call chai tea. Sooo good, and it always costs 5 pence.
Sizzling in the Taj Mahal
After an incredible nice ride we arrived in Agra: Taj Mahal! It was noon, 45 degrees and we went to one of the most amazing and probably most expensive buildings in India. It’s 11€, lots for here, but worth it! I mean you have seen it on pics but it’s simply huge and beautiful. This Muslim mausoleum was built for the dead wife of the raj back in 17th century. Very nice. However, it is smaller than I thought it would, especially the interior is cramped by people. The fact that you are not allowed to wear shoes inside does not improve the situation, as tens of thousands of bear footed people enter this small room every day with 45 degrees outside temperature. You couldn’t stay long inside and we rather spent out time in the neighboring buildings, which are beautiful too but do not get all these visitors.
Trying sewage: our first street food
After having taken a couple of classic pictures, we went around the area and I tried proper street food for the first time. Some stuff was really tasty, but then I got this one thing, which he dipped into “chilli”, well it tasted like the toilets of Corridor A smelled on a Monday morning. I thought, ok now you are getting ill, but hey, 24 hours later, I am still alive! So happy! Well that was horrible, pure sewage.
We have two ways of preventing food poisoning. First, eating as spicy as you can. When they ask spicy? Yesterday we said yes, and since today we say yes and emphasize: Indian spicy please! Secondly, good old rum! we take a shot after every meal, it clears everything. It´s quite tough after breakfast at 6am, and don’t worry, even if it amounts to quite a few shots a day, I sweat so much that I don’t even feel slightly drunk, it´s pure medicine! The Israeli girl had to leave, quite relieved as her comments got more and more weird. I said I have never met a person from Palestine, answer: Palestine is not a country. Or when I spoke to Yassin in German, she said it sounds like Hitler, and so on. Cool girl but very very strange views!
Cosy times in Indian trains
We had the train to Jaipur from Agra at 7 pm, well that was the plan… got there: 4 hours late. Not a problem, we went to a bar, met a nice guy from Nottingham, got back, another 2 hours… ok sitting in the shitty stinking train station on the floor playing cards, then: another hour…. and so on, at 2am our train arrived. This time a “sleeper. Problem: we didn’t know what that meant and thought that to save money we might as well take one bed for two: big mistake! A bed made for one little Indian guy with me and Yassin in it, and we hadn’t slept in ages, and that in a carriage with 60 snoring Indians and a guy running around screaming chai chai chai. It was sooo small, much smaller than any normal bed. So I slept on Yassin´s feet and he slept on mine, and well we didn’t shower in 2 days and we walked around all day. To make it perfect I had a cute family of cockroaches behind my head the entire night. Nevertheless I fell asleep straight away and had a good sleep, but next time, I need at least my own “bed”.
Cobras, forts and camels – Jaipur
This morning we arrived in Jaipur, southwest of Delhi, the “pink” city, 3 million inhabitants, one of the smaller cities. We arrived and wanted to sleep as we couldn’t in the train, but then we thought, hey it´s 6am we are awake and it´s not boiling hot yet, we might as well go sightseeing! So we got a rickshaw driver, Tiger, with his friend Ali (later more about these two bastards, but at the beginning we thought they were nice…) and agreed on 4 euros for taking us around Jaipur for an entire day, for all three obviously. I asked him whether he could bring us to the place where he goes to have breakfast. We landed in this dodgy area and had breakfast, Indian style, in a joint where no foreigner has ever set foot, with 30 rickshaw drivers. Breakfast was very spicy samosas (deep-fried pastry filled with spicy veg curry), and some other unknown stuff, we just took one of everything and you can´t tell what it is usually. Along with this you drink chai chai chai, freshly brewed with loads of spices and chilli. It´s a spicy delicious tea which I will get addicted to, soooo good! We paid 70 cent for all 3! Standard. A shot of rum and of we go!
The reason we came to this desert city is it´s fortress. The Maharaja used to rule in this area and they build massive forts on top of the rugged mountains. On the way to amber fortress we stopped to watch some children play cricket and this guy was playing the flute for a cobra. He asked me if I wanted to try, funny stuff. Me with a turban on the head and am Indian flute trying to hypnotise an amazing king cobra! Quite frightening though. Yassin, afraid of reptiles, skipped this part…
The surroundings here are full of hills, dessert, hills, and 500 years ago they build lots of huge fortresses and walls all around Jaipur. but everyone goes to the touristy Amber castle, we thought: screw that, and walked up ages and ages to another fort, where we were the only people the entire day on this HUGE fort with a view all over Jaipur. Indians are living there and they don´t see too many foreigners so they run towards you, just put their babies in your arms and want to take pictures with you, it´s good luck apparently. So we chilled with around 10 Indian dudes and their camels, and the fort was just breath taking, so unknown and so incredible.
An unpleasant experience
After that I asked tiger to bring us to a place where he would have lunch, we go there, and order what they have, curry with nans, Indian spicy. It was the best curry I have ever eaten, and Maike, I said: I could imagine being a vegetarian here, true story, it was just too good, so many different tastes, just amazing. However, Alex does not eat vegetables, he has been travelling for 2 years all around the world and does not eat any vegetables, just doesn’t like them. Good Argentinian, huh Melanie?
Well and now the bad and dodgy part begins, but don’t worry, we are fine and nothing happened. these two guys, Ali and Tiger, wanted to bring us to their “cousins” factory, we didn’t want to, then they took some weird streets, and with my sense of orientation I sensed the danger, I told them to turn around and go on a main street. They did it and then took a turn into a dodgy, deserted street again, every time we changed the road Ali called a guy and talked very fast. At one point I told them to stop immediately, that I don’t believe any word they are saying, gave them their 300 rupees and we wanted to leave. They turned really aggressive, I told the guys to ignore them, and we got out and started walking somewhere. We were in the middle of a ghetto in a 3 million city. We found a nice driver soon, he brought us to the very distant train station and I told him what had happened, and yeah, apparently they wanted to rob us. Well we did the right thing and got away with a shock, and thank god I followed my instincts. That would have been a bummer. We learned a lot from this, and it´s sad, but you have to learn from experience, and we were lucky to do so without being harmed. Never trust any Indian who starts talking to you randomly, not even after an entire very pleasant day. never tell them details (I am Hans from Austria now, and speak Bavarian only :) it´s sad, because Indians are genuinely nice people who try to help you , are kind and thanks to a few bastards like these two, people start judging and generalising, which I hate, and which I won´t do!
In the train station I just started talking to some old nice Indians to change my opinion straight away. I was alright, I had a similar situation in Utah in the US in 2009, where I followed my instincts and I think we escaped a sure beating and mugging, so I am alright now. I am very happy to have made this precious experience without being harmed, and now we are even more alerted than before! But hey this is not changing my opinion, India is huge, there are sooo many people and for some, I am just a dollar sign.
Moving on, Jodhpur is waiting for us
Now I am chilling in an internet cafe and the three of us have a train to Jodhpur tonight, this time one bed each, still with cockroaches and snoring Indians. Jodhpur will be amazing, the “blue” city, and much smaller. Also, we are thinking of finally sleeping in a hostel and have a shower there as well. The plan is
to hit the desert on the border to Pakistan, sleep maybe some nights there in the dunes, and then head north. I am amazed how few western tourists are here, we met like 5.
And now the street food has started, it is just sooo tasty and cheap, but you never know what´s in it, learning by eating :) . My belly is quite resistant, I mean the evident second burn in the morning is inevitable, but a part of that I am proud, it´s the spiciness and the rum! We have to cut down the expenses though, it´s around 20 a day for everything, we need to arrive at 10, don´t know how, but to be fair Taj and stuff was very expensive.
Alright these are the first news, I don´t know when the next will follow, hope you are all fine and greetings from this crazy country, where I have seen very bad and nice things, but the food makes up for a lot!