Now I am writing about a country I have no clue where to start with.
Let’s begin like this: Whether you hate or you love India.
Or you are like me, I have a love-hate-relationship to India.
Shoot! India is an own continent in my opinion.
A continent where all your senses get stunned.
Standing on the street, inhaling all the scents of herbs, curries, cow dungs and sweat.
A place on earth where you start to enjoy the beautiful richness of the country and in the next moment somebody approachs you and drives you mad.
Sensory overload from the colourful sarees of the Indian women, whether young, old, skinny or fat.
Losing time in the maze of the streets and chaos on the markets.
Questioning your life when children begging you and seeing slums.
Being persistant and patient when the train arrives at your destination hours later than the actual arrival time.
Getting annoyed by people ripping you off everywhere you go and taking selfies of you without asking or starring at your phone while you are writing a message to your mum.
Wondering your limits of tolerance and understanding.
Losing your sanity and asking what the heck you are doing here.
Enjoying life with all of the wonders which is offering to you.
Feeling alive in one of the craziest countries on earth, while people defacating on the train tracks when you have a look out of the train window.
Do you understand why I am saying:
‘I don’t know where to start with India?’.
For me nothing is impossible in India.
It is so rich of traditions, spirituality and history.
Not for nothing we call India, ‘Incredible India’.
I guess I have to share stories just to give a minimalist understanding of this huge country with the second most inhabitants in the world.
For the first time in my life I bought myself a guidebook from Stefan Loose.
I was so scared and didn’t know where to start in India.
Until today the experiences in India marked an unforgettable time in my life.
I am telling you only about the tourist stuff I did. You can also do volunteering work with workaway or through other organizations in India and teaching English to children.
My first time in India was in Chennai in April 2016 for a short time and I was kind of shocked by the dirt level I have never seen before in my life and the crowd that seems not to know the word pricacy at all.
Again, I have no photos since I lost by the end of June my phone in Taiwan and I didn’t do any backups.
I am really not fussy or a clean freak. But India exceeds my limits with its dirt.
Of course not everywhere, but in most of the big cities they have seriously a rubbish problem.
Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu and is considered as the cultural hub of South India. It boasts with affluent heritage in dance, music and architecture. Well-connected to the major cities in India, you can’t deny Chennai is a very important metropolitan city.
Starting from Chennai there are buses going to Mahabalipuram, a town famous for its temple from 7th and 8th centuries built by the Pallava dynasty. Another city I can recommend is Puducherry, where you can still find the French traces of the city in the architecture and food. Auroville, an experimental utopian township in Tamil Nadu I didn’t visit, might spark interest in someone.
After Tamil Nadu you have to visit Kerala with the backwaters. It is more than breathtaking when you are boating through the canals and the best way to escape crazy and crowded India.
I heard from many travelers, that they prefer South of India more than the North.
Allegedly people from the south are friendlier than in the north.
For me it is a bit of truth.
They claim in the south food is dominated by spices and vegetables and is lighter than the north.
Foodwise there is a difference between south and north India.
I love the potato stuffed dosas with sambar in Tamil Nadu. Sambar are vegetable stews based on lentils. And dosas are somehow like crepes but with other ingredients.
Cabbage poriyal contains stir-fried cabbage with mustard and fresh coconut.
Indian cuisine is so diverse, the best thing is you come to India and try everything by yourself.
They have hundreds of dishes and in every state their own speciality. So I just can’t list everything, or better to say I don’t have the energy to write about Indian food and getting hungry.
So yes, Indian food is one of my favourite cuisines in the world.
This is one of the reasons why I love India.
AND of course I had to have food poisoning in India. Tell me about a backpacker who doesn’t have food poisoning in India, I nearly doubt it.
Truly, when you think things could not be worse, it gets worse.
C’est la vie.
With food poisoning on a train for 5 hours in the peak of summer is just HORRIBLE.
I had cramps, it was nearly 40 degrees and I sat somewhere in the second class full with other passengers.
Sweating and complaining about my life I ran to the toilet more than ten times, which was just a hole where all your faeces would just plop on the train tracks below you.
It’s not for the faint-hearted. Not enough, people next to you asking you questions if you are married or staring on your phone while you share your sufferings with one of your best friends.
In such moments, I just hated India. One day I was so messed up that locals taking pictures of me without asking for permission and a family approached to me and I was about to run away, but they wanted me to take with my phone! a picture of them. Now I have forever this picture on my computer.
The result somehow looks like this:
The traffic and tuk-tuk drivers might turn me into a very religious person, I have some rides where I thought I am going to die here and now.
Once I was close to have a heart attack when my driver drove me like a drunk and insane person through Jaipur, we had almost two times a severe accident. And although it is his fault, he nearly got into a fight with another tuk-tuk driver. I swear, so far no country can beat the traffic in India.
I mean Vietnam’s traffic is already mad, but India tops everything.
The only thing which can stop the traffic: A holy cow.
Yes, again: I love you, India!
You can overrun a person, you can drive into another tuk-tuk, but woe betide anyone who doesn’t respect the cow’s walk through the crowded streets. Until today the criminal act to destroy a cow is worse than to slay a person of the highest caste.
Not enough, my annoying Jaipur-driver drove me to tourist places I didn’t want to go. Like a tailor or a jeweler. He receives a small commission when he drives tourists to this attractions. Do I look like a damn rich traveler for you with my cheap second-hand clothes and do I deserve it after you nearly killed me in the traffic jam *sigh*?
So be careful and tell your driver at the beginning you won’t go anywhere but your own destinations.
Even if he schmoozes you how beautiful this places are and he could bring you there for free, just stop it. It is not worth it and at some places the sellers get angry if you don’t buy anything.
Most buses in India have famously the talent to arrive somewhere in the middle of the night, like 2 am or 3 am in the morning at my destinations.
If also barking and aggressive street dogs are involved, I am out.
I just take the next tuk-tuk driver and I’d accept any price they suggest.
BUT I am getting a little bit mad when they try to convince me that the hostel I want to stay is the worst stay and blah blah blah. And then he started to throw marijuana into my face, after I said ‘No, thank you.’.
I was out of energy and still had to insist that I just want to go to my hostel. This happened to me and it just robbed my energy.
But India teaches you how to be more easy-going and how to appreciate your life in a genuine way.
Or you love the food in one moment and in the next seconds you hate it because someone gives you a chilli which looks harmless and you would eat it without doubts, but it is one of the world’s hottest chili peppers.
The feeling of a silly chili is tearing you apart internally and you hate everyone around you because they just staring at you and you are disgustingly drooling. Yes, welcome to India!
I don’t know why, but I came back to India by the end of July again.
There is something about India which is no doubt attracting.
I have been always loved it to push myself in any imaginable way.
And India is crazy, sometimes despicable, but damn it – it is also tempting and seductive. I have no idea why, maybe I am on a quest in my life and I thought in India I would find the person or the place I am searching for.
So nevertheless I came back and my first stop was Mumbai.
I was never a person who is a big fan of Bollywood movies, but Mumbai is verily the heart of Indian music and film industry.
My first look out of the window from the taxi was devastating:
Slums and mountains of rubbish.
Seriously, I thought it would be better than Tamil Nadu, but then I even prefered Chennai and its surrounding to be honest.
I stayed in Mumbai in a 3 stars hotel and my window look was somehow like that, really nice right?
On the next day, I finally decided that I don’t want to walk around in my flip-flops anymore. The bottom of my flip-flops also started to turn into red from all the betel nut stuff people chewed and spluttered on the street everywhere. So I went to Gateway of India, a triumphal stone arch and Mumbai’s famous landmark.
Every minute an amateur photograph would approach me and ask,
if he can take a photo of me and the arch as a memory.
A ‘No, thanks’ caused sometimes more conversation talks than needed.
Okay at least there are plenty of street shopping markets around the tourist attraction, so that I could buy some cheap shoes for traveling around India. The same day I visited the boasting Hindu temple called Siddhivinayak Temple. It looks amazing inside and outside.
The religion in India is characterised by the diversity of practical beliefs and religions, as diverse as India. The major religious belief is Hinduism, followed be the Islam, small quota of Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and other religions.
Oh before I forget: getting a SIM-card in India is a real struggle, so better ask at the reception of your hotel for help. The receptionist did it for me and within one evening I got credits for texting and calling plus mobile data.
At the evening I went walking on the promenade next to the beach and the beach was clean like hell :D.
But there are night markets at the beach, I tried many different dishes. These include Pav Bhaji, Vada Pav, Pani Puri, Bhel Puri, Masala and many juices. Because it was so cheap, I spent more money than planned.
This always happened to me when I don’t care about the cheap prices anymore and spend money like it’s my birthday.
It’s nice to observe families saunter around the beaches, men who are friends (I guess so) holding hands and people laughing and relaxing. Smiling is at the end the best and victorious language in the world.
My first time riding the train from the British colonial time is a life-time experience. I booked sleeper class, cheap and not too congested.
Couldn’t afford the first and second class obviously, or better to say I didn’t want to spend money on it.
A 17 hours train ride, I would never get off my mind.
The first 3 hours I was so exciting to be on the train, later I got bored, it was super hot and people passing by like an ant trail.
I won of course the jackpot, from all the 3 bunk mattress, which are superimposed on the other, I got the one on the top.
Next to a fan which doesn’t have a cover on it.
It was like in a stupid movie, I left my backpack in front of me and due to lack of space I had to sleep in a crooked way.
As if the situation isn’t already bad with the smell of curries and stiffy air in my carriage, I just turned at night a little bit my head to the fan and my hair got into the fan. Man, what a disaster.
Maybe I would have found a job as a scarecrow in India.
Anyway, I was so sticky like the sticky rice for sushi when I arrived in Udaipur. But the city was welcoming me and I was inredibly happy to be at my hostel.
I was looking through the photos and I have to admit that I didn’t take many photos in particular. I will implement the photos somehow everywhere along this post, so you might get some inspirations to travel the country in the near future. But I am here to share my stories from India, which is more significant and interesting than the tourist sites I did.
Yes, I know to see the ivory-white marble mausoleum Taj Mahal as a testimony of love from a Mughal emperor dedicated to his favourite wife is stunningly beautiful. But trust me, India is above the Taj Mahal, everything can be found in this country: Mountains, desert, jungle, ocean, cities and many more. In my opinion the Taj Mahal is a little bit overrated.
Especially when you visit the mausoleum on weekends, Indian people hated me when I passed them by at the foreigner line and got into the Taj Mahal within 5 minutes. I felt like at the precise moment and if the opportunity will raise up, they would mangle me considering the hours they have to wait to see Taj Mahal. But hey I paid the tourist price, I am helping somehow your economy!
So I traveled to Jaipur, Ajmer, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, New Dehli, Amritsar and Varanasi. In Darjeeling I could go to an ashram, but it was very expensive.
There are loads of hippie travelers coming to India to search for spirituality and surely this country is full of wonders and spirituality, it is just about how your perspectives are. Amritsar’s Golden Temple is one of the most beautiful spiritual places on earth with divine love, thank you Jason!
I remember the forts in Rajasthan were gloriously beautiful.
I wished I would have documented my travels in India better, now I am looking at the photos and I can’t exactly remember which fort it is.
But it is more important for me to share my experiences and feelings during the journey in India.
I can only suggest you to travel India.
Although this country sometimes drives me more than crazy,
I have to admit India and I will meet in the future again.
There is something which pulls me back and it was the most difficult country to write about. India, I love you as much as I dislike you.
I would need years to explore India.
Go to India. Hurl yourself into adventures and travel from one place to another.
Mark Twain: “Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Why live tomorrow when you can live today?