Delhi you smoggy little sex pot you.
Im gonna be honest, and please take this with a very big pinch of salt. When I would picture our India travels whilst waltzing through the street of say Ipanema or Buenos Aires a few weeks back, I did tend to get a bit of a sweat on and start hyperventilating a tad. Where India is concerned people love to talk about the shit things, literally. If its not ‘the cows pooing on the street’ its ‘the people’ pooing on their hands.
We have only been here for three days but WE BLOODY LOVE INDIA.We started off in Delhi, jumping into a pre-paid taxi that you find outside the airport. Beware of locals trying to offer you a cheaper taxi deal. This pre pay thing is easier as you know exactly what you will be paying for your whole journey-no matter how long it may be.
The main problem tourists face here is the levels to which the locals will goto try and scam you into doing what they want. They will lie directly to your face claiming things like the hotel you have booked has burnt down but they know a hotel very similar they can take you to etc. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. A similar thing happened to us and we ended up using my phone to call the hotel ourselves to confirm our reservation. This way the driver could not continue to deter us from our already booked, perfectly fine hotel.
The hotel we stayed at in Delhi and one we cannot recommend enough is The Hotel City Star on Gupta Road. This hotel is classed as a low end hotel but the service, food and cleanliness of this place is ridiculously good for the cost.
After arriving at our hotel after having a well earned nap we ventured out into the unknown of Downtown Delhi. What greeted us was a hectic, raucous affair of car horns, smoggy air, filthy streets, the scorching heat and people people people people. Everywhere. Within the first hour we had been approached by so many scammers we were starting to get worn out from all the deceit. It is really exhausting being lied to constantly, person after person. However it did seem to die down once we packed away our huge map which screamed ‘I’m a tourist please scam us’. Once the sun had gone down we stumbled into a bazaar which was a highlight of our travels so far. So many weird and wonderful sights and smells. Not all good granted but all interesting. It really is a totally different world and one that we are loving getting to know.
Our hotel served delicious food and so we ate there for dinner most nights and had lunch out when exploring the city. The food is next level and is actually even nicer than I thought it could be. My favourite dishes i have discovered so far are stuffed potato parantha, masala dosa and various lentil dahls. We have both decided to try and eat mostly veggie whilst here so we are embracing veggie dishes like potato and cauliflower with tomatoes and green chillies. Oooooh my mouth is watering and I only just had dinner. I feel a couple of pounds coming my way. Also chapatis are next level. we really don’t eat them enough in the UK…move over naan bread you’ve had your day son.
The next day we went to the travel desk to arrange a driver for the day to see all the sights we had read up on. I know that a driver sounds pretty posh but here it is basically just a cab driver that actually knows where he is going and that you pay a day rate upfront for him to wait for you at each attraction and then bring you safety back to your hotel.
This cost us around £15. If you are thinking ‘oh yeah but we could still do it for ourselves to save cash’ DONT! It is money very well spent. It is way too much hassle trying to navigate your way around a city like Delhi in blistering heat when people won’t leave you alone. Its also good if you are low on time and want to see all the sights in a few hours.
We had planned to leave Delhi the following morning and had booked the rest of our northern destinations with the guys at our City Star Hotel so this was definitely a good shout for us. We will let you know at a later date how the rest of the travel plans work out before reviewing our travel package. Off to Jaipur in the morning!
Today we got up around 7am and our driver was waiting outside for us, he drove us 5 hours from Delhi to Jaipur across the indian countryside, We even stopped just outside Jaipur go for a ride on an Elephant! We pulled down what seemed to be a back alley into a carpark type building that housed 8 of the biggest elephants I’ve ever seen, they all had brightly coloured legs and faces and were chained to the spot which was quite sad but during the mornings they walk around the amber fort as a tourist attraction. We paid 1000 rupees and jumped on for a ride, it was a strange experience but it made you feel like some sort of sultan riding on elephant back through a village while all the locals looked on.
After our elephant ride we went to our hotel, Shahpura House, which looks like an old palace from Aladdin it had a pool and an excellent restaurant. the service was great and the room was huge! we got an early night before Jai, our driver picked us up the next morning.
He took us to see some of the sites of jaipur ‘the pink city’ we started at Wind Palace a place the women of the royal household could look out to the streets and could remain unseen from outside, we then went to the city palace and finished up at the amber fort, jaipur is a really interesting place, we spent a few hours walking round the town taking pictures of people, but in india nothing is free, so each person expected paying, usually 20 rupees.
Today we jumped back in the car with Jai and took another 5 hour ride to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and tonight we’re going to watch the sunset overlooking the Taj from across the river…how romantic 😉
Well that was a waste of time..there i was expecting it to be a lovely sunset behind the Taj Mahal like all the pictures i’d seen on google, that doesn’t happen..the sun sets in the complete opposite direction behind you, behind some trees so you can’t even see it and the Taj at the same time, hopefully the sunrise tomorrow will make up for it!
We set our alarms for 4.30am, Jay as usual was up and ready in seconds, how she can get up the second her alarm goes off is beyond me?! i on the other hand need at least 5 snoozes, i believe there really is only 2 types of people in the world and you can categorise them like that. we walked from our hotel to the ticket office, a red building around 1km from the entrance to the Taj, Paid the 750 rupee entrance fee and jumped on a electric golf cart to the front gate.
The average temperature so far for our trip has been 42 degrees and to go outside this morning and for it to actually be quite cool was a bit strange, it was so nice to be able to be outside without it feeling like somebody was blowing you with a hairdryer!
When we arrived there was only around 5 people in the queue which was great, this meant we would have the Taj almost to ourselves! they open the gates at sunrise which is around 5.30 so make sure to get there before this time if you want to catch the sunrise, this also meant Jay could sit on the Famous ‘Diana’ bench without having to wait in a massive queue..
something must have been funny?
The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his 3rd wife who died giving birth to their 14th child, it took 20 years to complete and no matter what side you look at it from, it is the exact same view! I’ve told Jay if she dies during childbirth i’d build her a shed in the garden, i say build – i mean buy, from b&q…to keep my tools in.
It really is one of the Most impressive things I’ve ever seen and to get to see it with the sun rising from behind made it that little bit more special, especially after the whole sunset fiasco the night before! still not sure it was definitely worth getting up at that ungodly hour though 😉
Oh yeah, while we were at the Taj a monkey stole one of my flip-flops so i chased after the little bastard to get it back, the monkey got quite aggressive so i did the only thing i knew how..i embraced my inner monkey and i hissed at him..i know it sounds like a bad idea, but i hissed at him and it seemed to work, even managed to snap a photo during the chase.. 1-0 G. Stupid monkey.
We hung around our hotel in Agra until 6pm when our driver Jai came to pick us up to take us tho the train station, which was around an hour out of town, we had been told about the trains here and how they are bit crazy, and we were about to jump on an 9 hour sleeper train to Varanasi!
We arrived an hour before our train left and was Immediately swamped by people trying to ‘help us’ as per usual. We have got pretty good at just ignoring people until they go away now which is really useful. We found a ‘VIP lounge’ in the station which was basically just an air conditioned room where westerners can go to get away from the craziness of the station and wait for their trains which are generally around four hours late. Anything less and you should feel very luckily indeed. It was our lucky day as our train was only 20 minutes late. This is almost unheard of. When our train arrived it went pretty smoothly considering the chaos that surrounds you. You find your number coach and walk along until you find your little cabin with four bunkbeds. We were sharing our ‘room’ with a young guy from China and a Burmese Monk both of whom were embarking on a 24 hour ride to Calcutta. We could not have asked for nicer funnier bunk mates. I think we were both just giddy by the whole experience as it really is an eye opener.
We chatted and laughed and got to know each other and Jay was loving that the monk had said “you missed the boat” “you missed the boat” for a moment i thought this guys definitely lost, we’re on a train? but only to discover that he was saying “you missed the vote”. Turns out he knows english politics inside out and is very sad for Ed Miliband. We set our alarms for 4.30 AGAIN and got our heads down. Once we had said bye to our new pals we waited by the door, which to our excitement you could open and hang out of like in the films.
It was lovely just riding through the fields and countryside and was exactly what we needed after the smog of the city. It was however short lived as the closer we got to the station the stronger the smell of excrement and urine. It is very common to see people here walk towards the train tracks at the edged of their fields to have their morning number two. Well now that was a sight. Men women and children all congregating in one place to do their business. a community of pooers, in a way its a beautiful thing…
Varanasi is even more hectic that Delhi, with cars and people everywhere you look and with it seeming more poverty stricken than Delhi the streets were dirtier and the people more intense with regards to begging on the streets. There is a real problem with litter here and it really does make you think about just how much waste there is on this planet if India alone can be this full of it.
On the first day we had a tour guide and he showed us around the city, visiting the university, which to my surprise was huge with lovely intricate old buildings for each department. We then visited some temples and in the evening we went down to watch the evening ceremony which happens everyday down on the ghats (steep steps down to the river Ganges).
This was a very surreal intense experience with thousands of people all dressed in beautiful colours singing and praying and in and along the river. They have candles and fire and prayers and the whole things lasts around an hour and half. This is done EVERYDAY…mental.
After being out all day the heat took its toll the usual way…a banging headache for the pair of us, so we headed back to the comfort of the air conned room where we slept like babies, until G got Dheli belly that its. The next morning we woke at 4.30 (theres a pattern emerging here) for our sunrise boat ride on the ganges. This was also the chance to see the bodies being burnt on the Ghats which is a traditional ceremony here and where people come form all over the world to be laid to rest. Mostly they cremate the bodies however some people place their loved ones bodies into the ganges as they are. Scary stuff.
We arrived at the rowing boat where a little old man helped us on and explained all the sights we were passing. Unfortunately ten minutes into the ride the sky turned a very eery dark grey and for the first time since we arrived, threatened us with rain. There were people on the river banks swimming and washing their clothes and even they looked baffled at the weather. We eventually jumped ship as the little old man was going round in circles on the now quite big waves so we felt too guilty making him keep rowing.
After our sunriseLESS boat ride we went back to sleep and I awoke a few hours later to my bed shaking furiously. I thought that G was doing his usual shaky foot thing at the edge of the bed but no…a bloody earthquake. I was absolutely petrified as we started to hear people shouting outside and in the corridors and then as we started trying to google news there was a blackout. There was two earthquakes in all with it covering north india with the epicentre being close to Kathmandu once again. This has now changed some of our plans and as we speak we are trying to get away from the North as soon as possible.
We arrived in goa and after doing our research about where best to go with it being the off season we settled on baga/calangute in the north .we knew that palolem beach had the best write ups but that was two hours south and everything south was due to be shut this time of year.
To be honest G and I prefer more of a quiet vibe but we also didn’t want to not be able to walk out in the evening and find different places to eat and drink. We found somewhere to start on booking.com called hotel bonanza.
When we arrived in goa it was very cloudy which we had anticipated since we had checked the weather for the last couple of days. We didn’t want to the be the sort of people that judged a place badly because of the weather so we went into this whole goa vibe with a positive outlook.
Now I have always heard that Goa is absolute paradise and it’s somewhere that I have always wanted to visit But we had heard that it has become very commercialised in recent years and I was prepared for that however Goa was possibly the most overhyped place in india so far.
It is a different story when you are in a city of literally tens of millions and there is rubbish everywhere and then you compare it to a relatively quiet out of season area and still everywhere you look is litter. The beaches here I think have been the biggest let down. Yes G and I have been very spoilt with beaches over the last few months but I do still want to inform people of the truth of India beaches so they aren’t fooled by the online pictures as we have been. They are not good. Like really…not good! If it’s not stray dogs, it’s people hounding you. When you type Goa beaches in google the pictures that await you are of pure bliss, empty beaches, white sand and clear blue water but in reality it is a mixture of horrid bars, heavily littered beaches and hundreds of stalls selling baggy trousers, bongs and fake ray bans.
The locals try to get you into their shop at any cost And to be honest I have seen better beaches in England. In terms of food the restaurants look pretty dirty and I fully prepared myself to expect to lose a few pounds after seeing them. The hotel we stayed In however actually turned out to have a lovely AND CLEAN restaurant/cafe that sold gorgeous juices, wraps and pizzas which really did satisfy our need for some goodness.
Today we moved from Baga to Mandrem as we had heard it’s a lot less built up and the beach was the best in goa, but still we were left wanting, the sand is nicer and I’m sure if the sun was shining it would be ok, but still nothing to write home about..
Unfortunately we cannot even escape to Kerala as we have found out that rainy season has come early and that we would be wasting our money getting to somewhere that would no doubt be miserable. I have heard such lovely things about Kerala from the beautiful fish currys to the gorgeous beaches and backwaters.
Today we rented a moped and did what we do best and cruised around town catching the sun, it cost us £3 a day to rent which is a bargain, so we made the most of it and saw a lot of Goa by motorbike!
We have decided that because of the south of India is headed into monsoon season, that we are going to leave and head to Abu Dhabi for a week before heading to Sri lanka, check out those pages to see what we’ve been up to!