It has come. The day that our journey shall begin. The day, the most adventurous and exiting trip of our lives was about to start. Being brought to the airport by our families, we already had to deal with our first minor complication, which we could solve easily because we sure weren’t ready to let anything come in our way! We were ready to leave Germany for seven months. Germany, our home, our families and our friends.
And so it begins…
India – the country of spices, hinduism and arranged marriages.
Is it? Or is there more to come?
You can answer that all by yourself once you take a step out of the airplane, because that’s the moment you already know. It’s not the sight, the architecture or the burning hot sun that it’s all about even though those are stunning. It’s the smell. The smell tells it all. The culture, the life, even the emotions. You smell curry, cumin, coffee or cardamom. It’s tense, relaxing and refreshing at the same time. You feel how all the spices enter your body. When you realize it, it has already happened. You are soaked up by the culture. You are part of the culture. But it’s not only the good smell you sense. Just as intense is the bad smell. Hundred thousands of people being homeless, the garbage and dead animal corps filling the streets and the lack of hygiene, all this, made worse by the heat, rises up your nose, making you feel some kind of illness. But that’s what New Delhi is. You suck it all up and you love it.
Having that step completed, getting rid of all the people dying to sell things to us and trying not to feel uncomfortable because every single person we walk by would stare at us or the cab ride to our hostel were just simply a few more steps. Windows rolled down and sun glasses on we made our way through the buzzing roads of New Delhi, finally arriving at our accommodation. During the ride we did, indeed, have worried to die a couple of times, as we weren’t quite used to five cars, Tuk Tuks or motorbikes standing next to each other on a two-lane road, fighting over every centimeter of space. After having a little rest we were ready to let the journey begin. 8 days, 4 cities and 1000 kilometers ahead.
We won’t tell you the long story and every single day because that would for sure be more than you enjoyed reading.
Delhi – Agra – Fatehpur Sigrid – Jaipur – Delhi = 1000km
people, people, people, a cow, and more people
The capital of India is stuffed with everything, especially with people, to be correct 9,879 million of them. The city is coined by many time periods and has a variety of angles. But let’s not talk about boring facts because that’s definitely not what Delhi is about. It’s more about what you feel, the culture and the now. You take a step out of your accommodation and suddenly you hear people debating, honking, working, you smell all sorts of spices, you feel the sun burning your skin, and that all is wrapped in a cover off sewage smell. For most people in the beginning this might be quite overwhelming. But to be fair when you made the decision to go to India, isn’t that what you secretly signed up for? The unexpected, the new and maybe the not so comfortable.
Delhi is separated into 7 quarters. New Delhi, South Delhi, Old Delhi, North Delhi, East Delhi, West Delhi and Central Delhi. New Delhi stands for the time under British leadership while Old Delhi was the capital during the Mughal period. Delhi is loud, overcrowded and smells. But while all these attributes sound bad to you, that’s what defines Delhi and that’s good. When you’re in India you don’t think with your western mind. You simply adapt.
Firstly, getting out of the hotel, our plan was to explore Delhi, to let the first impressions hit us, but mainly to look for small shops to get those cool Ali Baba pants. Soon we noticed that we would be probably rather unsuccessful as we weren’t settled in the shopping area of Delhi. The streets around our hotel were filled with shops for motorbike and car parts. Most sold item seen: Horns. Horns everywhere.
You leave the house and all you hear is constant honking. You are in your hotel room and again – all you hear is horns. There are no rules on the streets of Delhi. In all of India. The only rule seems to be: survive. By non-stop honking. In all highs and lows, melodies and tones. People don’t honk because they are mad. They simply want to catch attention. An example: when they change lanes (for the case of them using lanes), they honk so they don’t get run over by other car drivers. But just as getting used to the smell or the staring, it doesn’t take long to get used to this as well.
We then got to meet all these nice people we were about to spend the next eight days with. Most of them from the UK, one american guy, an australian lady and, of course, our indian guide. And us germans right in the middle.
The plan of our guided trip was the following: We were to stay two more nights in New Delhi. After going for a street walk and exploring the city, we will be headed to Agra the next morning. 200 kilometers distance, 5 hours driving. On the first day in Delhi, we started our city walk by being guided by a former street kid through a nice part of Old Delhi, telling us all about what street kids have to live through. He told us about the kids that are beaten by police officers because living on the streets is illegal. When they beg for money, there is no chance to save it for another day, to buy something for their future. They have to spend it the same day because otherwise another homeless kid will steal it at night. He also asked us to give the kids food, if we wanted to help them. Because if we gave them money, they’d buy glue. Glue is cheap and glue makes you forget everything for a while.
We ended up in an orphanage, where young boys were practicing some kind of self defense. He told us about what their stories could be like and how they end up here. He then said something in Hindi and all the kids, who were sitting silently on a table staring at us before, started screaming, laughing and talking, running towards us. Some of them spoke english and showed us what they’ve learned. They then signaled us to play clap games with them and wanted to take pictures. It was nice that we could put a smile on these little adorable angel faces. When we left, they’d shake our hands again and yell “Goodbyeeeee“. Not only did we conjure a smile on their faces, but they put one on ours. Next the former street kid told us his story about how his father wanted him to become a priest and learn the Quran, which he was never interested in. He left home and ended up on the street. After a while living on the street, he was saved by a member of the Salaam Balaak trust.
This was, in our eyes, a wonderful way to start our trip.
(If you want to know more about the charity or want to donate to the Salaam Balaak Trust, please follow this link: http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/index.html)
The rest of the day was filled with visiting mosques and quite a lot, but not too much of walking. The next day we left Delhi early in the morning and once we got out of Delhi’s madness, we were on our way to Agra – the home of the seventh world wonder. On our way to Agra, we had time to ask our guide Manu all the questions that came to our minds and he would answer them all. One thing we all were interested in was arranged marriage: Manu told us, that it is still very very common. 95% of marriages are arranged. It’s still normal in India and he assured us, that those marriages weren’t like forced marriages. The kids grow up, knowing that their marriage will be arranged. Not only the boy chooses that he wants to marry a certain girl. The girls agreement is as important as the boys. Also, the wedding won’t take place before both turned 18.
Getting to Agra in the dark, we planned to meet up at 5:15 am the next morning to get to the Taj Mahal right when it opens its doors, to see the sun rise and to get there, when there’s as little people as possible. It was breathtaking. The sun rises at about 6 o’clock and at 6:15 am we could get in. The sun just got up and we could take beautiful photos.We were blown away by the beauty of the Taj Mahal and couldn’t stop staring. The Taj Mahal is enormous and one of the most beautiful buildings we’ve ever seen. The same day we went seeing the Baby Taj, what was almost as pretty, this time while the sun settled. The colors were stunning.
The following day we made a stop in Fatehpur Sikri, on our way to Jaipur.In this former mughal capital we visited the rulers fort. Next on we went to see another temple and went for a biking trip for five kilometers through a national park. Lazy as we are, we rented a bicycle rickshaw for 200 INR (which is 2,50€) and enjoyed the ride.
After that, we continued our trip to Jaipur, to the ‘pink city’. Before that we stopped at a thousand year old temple, where we got blessed. Explaining myself: Being blessed means, a local priest puts this familiar red dot on your forehead and you’re given a red and yellow bracelet around your right hand.
We stayed two nights in Jaipur, visiting the Amber Fort, the city palace and the Hawa Mahal. Jaipur is very beautiful with its architecture and happy colors, which sometimes changed its look, depending on what time of the day and from which angel you would look at the building. In the evening, we went to see a Bollywood movie. Lots of laughing and a lot of singing. We watched the second part of „Singh is Bling“ and we can recommend it. It was not the best movie we’ve ever seen, and it was half Hindi, but it was a lot of fun to watch and we enjoyed it. We were very sad to leave Jaipur as we really liked it and immediately felt home in the hippie-hotel we stayed in.
The last day came and we got back to good ol’ Delhi. We spent one more night in India’s capital city to let this part of our trip come to an end.
Early in the morning we were headed to the airport to catch our flight to the next stop of our world trip: Phuket, Thailand.
Tarzan and Jane