It’s been four days in India and it already feels like weeks. The culture shift is immediate, the brushing your teeth with bottled water is much easier to get used to than you’d think.
I wish I were as insightful or articulate as Gilbert in her Pray phase (where she spent three months in an ashram in India, sometimes scrubbing floors, sometimes meditating an entire day away). Unfortunately, my experiences to date have been less transcendent – but hopefully every bit as impactful.
I’m not convinced I’m over my jet lag even now, but I did manage to spend my days in Delhi out and about as best I could. One afternoon, I was out for just a few hours and I returned exhausted and covered in dust. I snapped a few photos – you can keep track of them here.
I managed to find the New Delhi train station (over 300k passengers per day!), took an auto-rickshaw ride to Connaught Place, found my way around the Delhi metro and walked the long three blocks to see India Gate (sort of Delhi’s version of the Arc de Triumph). I had a late lunch on the circle, and managed to fend off the nearly constant barrage of locals approaching. One even managed to sidetrack me to a “tourist office” who told me my train to Agra was cancelled and they’d happily set up a driver for me. Nice try, bub. I’m from the mean streets of Chicago – gonna take more than that to pull one over on me.
I did make it to Agra (and by the train that was supposedly cancelled, too!) and aside from a silly mix up on my part am safely in a hotel with an amazing view of the Taj Mahal, comfortably waiting for the family friend I’m meeting for our time here and at Jaipur over the next few days.
I am definitely in the minority as a westerner, so every time I do see another traveler I’m not shy about making a connection. I met a lovely French woman at lunch the other day who assured me my train wasn’t canceled and suggested I check the tourist counter at the station. Once I got there this morning, I attached myself to two kind Australian blokes (Simon and Rowan, in country for a Cricket tourney) until the train arrived and we found our seats. They’d been told the same about the train – a rampant scam, apparently.
I’ve enjoyed getting my feet wet these first few days, am slowing gaining my traveler’s confidence back (it’s been awhile since I’ve done this, after all!). However, I’m very much looking forward to meeting up with a small group – some company will be nice.
After Agra and Jaipur, it’s the holy city of Varanasi – and my first attempt flying in country. Wish me luck! And I did end up adjusting my itinerary to have me on the beach longer – it means I’m missing French India, but I suppose that gives me a reason to come back. I just can’t get to that hut on the beach soon enough!