Nothing can really prepare you for India. The best thing is to go with an open mind, compassion and loads of patience. My first impression was how dirty the country was – the amount of rubbish, decaying infrastructure, smog and air quality, the amount of strays. I thought I made a mistake coming to India but it is crazy how fast and drastic my impression changed. I’m absolutely in love and already miss it after being away for just weeks.
I explored India via g adventure, an organized group tour. This was my first time doing a tour and it has definitely surpassed my expectations. I had so many uncertainties travelling with a group, let alone a group of people that I know nothing about. I learned on the first day that it was a group of females, another red flag of uncertainty. There was actually nothing to fear. We all got along just fine and bonded on more levels than expected. We travelled 20 days together over Rajasthan and a bit of Uttar Pradesh via 3 overnight trains, 4 local trains, numerous auto rickshaws and a multitude of other modes of transportation.
After our first day orientation of Old Delhi, we headed on our first overnight sleeper train to Bikaner. We had an eventful few days ahead in this desert town. A few hours of trekking on beautiful camels to be followed by home cooked meals and camping under the stars in Raiser Village was simplicity at it’s best. The locals even sang and danced with us around the bonfire. We shared great food, heartfelt stories and many moments under the brightest blanket of stars I’ve ever seen. It was so bright and close. I wish I stayed up later to watch the sky dance about above me. Its everything I dream of when I travel… I felt so blessed.
We got invited to the vila owner’s birthday party the night we arrived back in town. We were riding on such good vibes, it was unreal. The vila was stunning. It was inherited from the owner’s great grandfather, a Raj. He converted the estate into a vila beautifully with unique decor and his personal touch. The celebration and dinner was perfect, we felt like we were in a whimsical 1950’s India film.
Next we headed to Jaisalmer, the golden city. The gold sandstone in the buildings glisten when the sun hits it. Jaisalmer was beautiful and romantic. A sunset boat ride on Gadsisar Lake was lovely, I took in all the pretty ghats and spotted my first Kingfischer bird. It looked like a fairy tale creature with it’s vibrant aqua wings. Jaisalmer has the only living fort in India, a UNESCO site. It had the most stunning intricate handcarved architecture. The painstaking work was evident.
Then we were off to Jodhpur, the blue city. A city with buildings painted blue to repel mosquitoes. We spent only a day here to explore the massive Mehragarh fort and enjoy Diwali. India was decorated in lights and flowers. The country had been booming with firecrackers and fireworks the days prior and tonight, it was going down. The streets was booming with noise and visual celebration of the holiday. We got a good handful of sparklers, firecrackers, fireworks and bombs to celebrate. The city was setting off fireworks until 6a. What an awesome time to be in India.
Udaipur, the city of lakes, was next. It was a totally different city from the rest. European feels, artist cove, the men carried themselves differently and the vibes were much chilled and relaxed. Picohla Lake was beautiful during sunrise and sunset. It was a perfect place to stroll and get lost in the alleyways. There was opportunities for loads of other activities – cooking class, painting, henna, palm reading. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the other cities. The local cultural show was breathtakingly amazing, packed with music, different dances and entertainment.
Pushkar, holy city, was next. It held the famous annual camel festival and is the only place in the world to worship Brahma, the creator god. Shortly after arrival, our group participated in a Pushkar Passport ceremony. I didn’t expect anything from it but something emotional washed over me. It is an offering to the holy Pushkar lake and the world. The next day, I went on a sunrise hike to Savitri Temple. It was such a sweet treat after doing minimal physical activity. The sunrise was cloudy but still beautiful. I always love watching the sunrise while the sleepy town underneath slowly waking up. It’s always magical.
Next, we were off to Tordi Gah, a small village where we were totally off the grid. We took in the rural life, visited an abandoned stepwell (stunning architecture), a farm, sand dunes and explore the village. It was great to take in the village life.
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan also known as the pink city, was next. It was a bustling city full of traditions. I love the tour of the marketplace full of colors, flavors and smells. It reminded me a lot of the marketplace in China full of raw energy and local vibes.
Heading to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, we visited Agra for baby Taj and Taj Mahal as well as Benaras, the oldest and a holy city
I was most excited for Varanasi because of the history and spiritual meaning behind it. Hindi elders come here to die. The dead get cremated here at the burning ghat and the ashes are spread into the Ganges River. A sunset boat ride was great to experience the ceremony to the Ganges River and send wishes out on the water. A sunrise boat showed the river in a different light, much more relaxed and peaceful. The rest of the day was spent exploring the burning ghat and the city. We witnessed a bit of a cremation where the eldest son would begin the ceremony and burn their deceased father. It was surprisingly a very calm experience. About an hour and half into the cremation, the skull is cracked to release the spirit. Hindi celebrated death differently from my experience with westerners and Chinese.
At the end of our stay at Beranas, we found out that the prime minister announced that 86% of the currency in circulation was declared illegal. All 500 and 1,000 rupees notes were illegal and must be exchanged for the new 500 and 2,000 notes or deposited. The move was due to the massive amount of black market currency. It was a huge movement for change. Unfortunately the follow through plans wasn’t communicated and executed the best. There was a large population that didn’t have bank accounts or even know the process to exchange or deposit monies.
During my last week in India, I headed to south Goa to relax and reset. It was weird at first to be solo again but it was quite easy to get back into a groove. I loved the morning runs along Putnam beach and taking a yoga class seaside. The staff at Papaya’s were very friendly. It was the perfect ending to my first visit to India.
I met so many different people and experienced so much blissful moments. I’ll never forget India -a place that has so much magic and wonder that it is impossible to capture. I cannot wait to visit again and see what else the country has to offer.
Live, Learn, Love soulfully!
Angela in wonderland // Follow me on IG @jelloooh #jellooohexploration