It is only the beginning of our fourth day in India and so much has already happened. Before I left the states to come here Thom and I would tell people that we were planning a trip to India. We got one of two reactions. The first being WOW! That sounds amazing! The second was "Why the hell would you want to go there?" Through my journaling I plan to be realistic of what we are experiencing as Westerners and not always sugar coat everything but in the end I think this trip and the people and experiences we have to share could help in enlightening both types of reactions to India.
I will start in Delhi. I have to say that while Delhi is an amazing city where you can really get a sense of how India is making its way into the modern world while still keeping its rich traditions I can tell that it will not be one of my favorite places on this trip.
To be fair we really did not spend a lot of time in Delhi and there was so much I didn't see but it was very hectic, and dirty. The poverty is hard to see too. You know your going to see it but it just hits you differently when you're there and kids bang on your windows to beg or you see people sleeping and begging on the ground. However, that being said there were still some really great moments in the very small amount of time I spent there and I would like to share the good, the silly, and the wows. Because once you're here you really don't want to fight India you want to embrace it and if you can keep that going in your head it is absolutely fascinating!
After breakfast, Monty, our guide took us to the metro so we could board the subway trains to Old Delhi for a walking tour. The metro is very clean and efficient. It is pretty easy to use as well if you know where you want to go. The lines are colored and a lighted map in each of the cars helps you to keep track of your stops. Super nice with air conditioned cars.
The purpose of our walk was to experience three separate places of worship all within a short distance of one another. It is truly a beautiful thing to see how different religions could co-exist so close to one another.
First, a muslim mosque. The Masjid-i Jahān-Numā commonly known as the Jama Masjid of Delhi, is the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan,built this mosque in the year 1650 AD and completed in the year 1656 AD, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. It lies at the beginning of the Chawri Bazar Road, a very busy central street of Old Delhi.
You have to take your shoes and socks off and walk around barefoot. Originally I thought it would be inside a building but it was mostly outside in a courtyard. There will be a lot of "Umm not sure if this is a great idea in regards to hygiene" moments but when in Rome... I mean India
Also women must be covered up so we get to sweat in these ridiculous patterned robes. I mean just check out this fancy one!
There was a man there who also kept following Monica, my new German friend and I. At first I thought he was taking pictures of the mosque like everyone else and then we realized no he was taking pictures of us! This is also something I read to be common so I wasn't worried and just laughed it off as ok so this is what it would be like to be a celebrity! I mean sure who wouldn't want a picture of two barefooted sweaty white women dressed in floral berka robes. And to be all honest, I love taking pictures of the people here as well because they are so beautiful and different so you can't really get too upset about the whole thing.
Next we went to my favorite, a Sikh temple. Here we all needed to cover our heads and take off our shoes and socks. You walk through a small amount of streamed water that cleans you your feet as you walk in. I think it is holy is some way. I couldn't take pictures inside because music and praying was going on and it would have been disrespectful during their worship. There were people sitting on the floor singing and chanting to tablas (drums) and two harmoniums. People up near the front were tossing flowers and it was quite beautiful. The Sikhs are the people you will see wearing turbans and their religion is very accepting of all people and other religions. Remember that next time you see someone resembling this in the US. They were having a blood donation out back to help the sick as well as making food as you can see here to feed everyone who attended the service even the poor. I really liked visiting there because we all felt very welcomed with many smiles.
Last we passed a Hindu temple. Some Hindu temples you are not allowed to enter unless you are Hindu and this was one of them but I took some pictures because they are decorated and constructed like nothing else I have seen before.
A trip down some side small narrow roads you can see the classic tangled wires many have already seen or heard about in India.
Oh and there were Monkeys too!!!!
We finished the walking tour and hopped the Metro back to our Hotel and had lunch in a near by restaurant. Food here is so cheap and all the places Monty has recommended have been great safe places to eat. So I'm more hopeful now of avoiding some belly troubles. You just really need to be mindful with the hand sanitizer. I wasn't feeling too great though and it was actually from the heat. So water water water is essential as well , bottled of course.
We had already checked out of our hotels before the tour and our next job was to pick up any food that we may want to have for our 19 hour overnight train ride to Jaisalmer. YUP! 19 HOURS!!! This is actually the longest of all 6 or 7 of these will take over the course of our trip.
This being our first train ride I wasn't sure what to expect exactly so organizing the bags and such will be done differently in the future. So like I said we had already checked out so this meant that we were all going to be wearing and sleeping in the hot sweaty clothes we had worn all day already for our walk. Yeah we were all ripe and at some point you just start to get use to to this or accept that your going to be dirty and the next shower you take will be the most heavenly thing of all.
Waiting for the train was probably the most uneasy time I had felt. We piled all our bags in a heap and stood around to guard them. We got a lot of stares. I know we are an attraction to many who rarely see foreigners and that the staring is part of their culture as well but there were some shady characters at the train station and I was just glad to be part of a group. Monty is really great though. So for example this teenage boy was following Thom as we walked to place our bags down. You could tell there was something not right with him. He kept huffing into a handkerchief and making really weird eye and face gestures. I assumed it was drugs of some kind and Monty politely just said some kids just have problems. The boy started getting closer to Damien another guy from our group from Australia and wanted to listen to his headphones that he was wearing. This is what I loved and just shows how great Monty is. He kept his cool, didn't yell but simply put his arm around the shoulders of the kid and started walking him away for us talking in Hindi.
It was cool and it made us all feel better.
Ok Indian Trains
We couldn't all be right next to each other so we had to split up. We were lucky as it was Thom and I with 4other ladies from our group sharing a cabin to ourselves. We were in 2nd class AC (air conditioned). It was tight with three bunks on each side, Absolutely nothing like the movie Darjeeling Unlimited if you've seen it....ha ha ha Thom slept on the very top on one side and I slept on the middle. The biggest problem was that we had the last cabin in our cart and it was next to the door. So all night people kept slamming the door and our curtains which help give you privacy and block the light hall light kept opening as people got on and off the train all night. Plus you want to sleep with all your valuables in your bunk close to you just to be safe as well.... Ahhh it was quite the experience but We will be so much better at preparing for the future ones and I'm not worried. Go with the flow and enjoy the ride!!!
I will be posting about Jaisalmer next. It is absolutely gorgeous here and worth the train ride. I feel like I am in Alladin. More on that and perhaps some crazy Indian driving videos as well!