Finding myself. And my Imodium.
Just a heads up: I’ve written this on my phone, so apologies if the layout/formatting is a bit weird – I have no idea how it all works on here 😬
SO, it’s been a long time coming but as most dates do, Friday 3rd march finally came around. Now one month into my seven month adventure, I’m still not convinced it’s sunk in that I’ve spent almost a month in India. But what a month it’s been.
I’m not gonna go into every detail because I’d be here for ages, but I’d thought I’d share a couple, mainly for me to remember them and for my number one fan (hi Mummy). So, it started in Delhi, with what can only be described as one of the longest sleeps I’ve ever had. And those who know me will tell you that sleeping is in fact one of my greatest talents. After arriving in the afternoon, Flo and I explored a little bit of Delhi, and by that I mean walking around the block before being slightly overwhelmed and returning to our room. Anyway, we managed to hold off going to bed until 9pm ish having been awake for about 24 hours. We had a whole day by ourselves to explore Delhi the next day, but we decided we didn’t need to set an alarm having gone to bed super early. How wrong we were. 15 hours later we woke up at midday very confused about how we’d slept for so long, slightly embarrassed at how we’d missed half the day already, but feeling refreshed. Our first day exploring consisted of a fair amount of staring from the locals (which we have now got used to), numerous requests for selfies and most importantly, our first proper Indian meal. Good old trip advisor suggested we visit a nearby restaurant, which we were pleased to see was full of locals. This was our first experience of Thali, which is basically a large serving dish with a number of different curries, dips, relishes and breads. What we didn’t realise was that they bring you more and more of each dish to your table and keep re-filling until you think you might actually explode. Nonetheless a really delish meal leaving us very happy but very full.
Flo and I decided that we wanted to do an organised tour in the north of India to kind of ease ourselves into it all and we were really pleased we did. The north is crazy busy and undoubtably would’ve been rather overwhelming doing it on our own. Also as a group of 18 we got to meet a whole bunch of people from around the world and get to know them all.
I’d say my absolute highlight from our 20 day tour was definitely Holi. The festival of colour really did not disappoint. Throwing paint power over everyone and anyone was indeed as fun as it sounds. Lucky for me, my hair is pretty dark so the colour didn’t stain it too much, but the blondes of our group suffered from orange, red and green hair for a fair while after (much to our humour). Day drinking is always a laugh, but add a splash/a tone of colour and you’ve got yourselves a cracker of a day (minus to casual bum groping from a man on a scooter).
I also really enjoyed our camel ride through the desert. However, three hours of camel riding is sure enough to give you DOMS for days and a sore bum like never before. We arrived at our lil campsite and got our first taste of Chai tea, which I grew to absolutely love. A spice infused and generally rather sweet tea became something I craved, and a source of entertainment when sellers walked up and down the trains yelling “chaiiii”. Anyway, after enjoying our chai I whacked out my mini rugby ball and gently forced everyone to play catch. The rugby coach in me came out and we played “the name game”, which turned out to be a brill idea because despite being a couple of days in, we had no clue what everyone was actually called. Turns out there wasn’t a Brenda in our group and there never had been.
Unfortunately it started to get super windy towards dinner time so we had to move inside. Meanwhile I nipped to the toilet, which was a very unbalanced toilet in a pop up style tent cubicle thing. The wind threatened to blow the cubicle away at any second, leaving me out in the open sitting on the toilet doing my thing. Thankfully I squeezed out a quick wee as fast as I could and escaped unscathed, although that was definitely the most claustrophobic wee I’ve ever had. (TMI? Absolutely not, you’re welcome). After heading inside to a powerless hut, we watched some locals perform some traditional Indian dancing, while we ate our meal. Bizarrely our dinner started with some chips, followed by some deep fried courgette, then some soup, with a buffet set up later on. Weird, but again, very tasty.
A cinematic experience
Another highlight was watching a Bollywood movie in a local cinema in Jaipur. Despite being in Hindi and not being able to understand anything, I really enjoyed it. There was an interval half way through, where our guide was able to catch us up on what was actually happening, but much to my delight my deductions had actually been pretty good. The plot was a classic love story like the standard Hollywood film, however the Bollywood counter part took a somewhat downturn when the main actor casually threw his girlfriend in the boot of his car and assaulted a couple of people including his best friend.
The cinema served the usual popcorn, fizzy drinks and sweet treats but of course served a range of Indian snacks. I could definitely get used to eating a samosa in the cinema. The theatre itself was massive and with super impressive decor. Our screening was pretty full – from groups of teenage boys to mums with their families, there were lots of people watching, enjoying and hollering with us. Putting the casual GBH in the plot to a side, it was actually a pretty good film and a great experience.
Come Dine With Me
We also did a cooking class in Jaipur, which naturally I bloody loved. We were invited into a family’s house where the mother had set up a little kitchen in her garage for us to stand around and watch. We helped her with a couple of things, including veg pakora, which tasted like vegetarian popcorn chicken but better and SO GOOD. We made a couple more dishes and I loved the whole experience. The fam were so welcoming, introducing us to their son as well as making his friend come and meet us all. The father proudly told us that they were sports captain and head boy, and how his son had sustained an ankle injury playing cricket. The detail he went into was very cute, he’s clearly a super proud father. The family, including grandparents, attended to our every need before we even knew what we needed ourselves, as well as learning all our names in a couple of minutes.
I can’t talk about India with mentioning the Taj Mahal and before you ask, yes, it was pretty much all it’s cracked up to be. It was another painfully early start for us, but it meant we got in at sunrise with not too many other tourists there to ruin our pictures.
Our tour finished back in Delhi and it was sad to say goodbye to everyone and had a fab time, but we were kinda ready to do our own thing. Next we flew to Goa to meet up with my cousin and relax for a few days after our crazy busy tour.
Goa was pretty much exactly what people say about it – not true India, but beautiful nonetheless. By this point I was definitely ready to take a break from curry and welcomed the western food on offer with open arms. It was the perfect place to chill and catch up on sleep. I played catch in the sea (one of my all time fave games), got my tan on, went to my first yoga class with the most bendy man I’ve ever seen (and probably ever want to see), took to the waters at sunset on a kayak and sipped on cocktails. Our beach hut was super cute, but haunted us on the last night with the discovery of three cockroaches. My cousin and her pal had checked out so were showering in our room when the first one was discovered. Picture this: four English girls in their towels screaming while two Indian men frantically chased a cockroach around the room. I mean it’s hilarious now, but I was terrified for my life. Despite being told over and over that cockroaches (or frogs and spiders for that matter) cannot hurt us, we proceeded to make it a massive deal for a fair few hours. Anyway, the third and final cockroach was retrieved by our new hero and we finally got some sleep. Only to discover another in the morning.
Sweaty toenail removal (ooh how delightfully enticing)
After Goa, Flo and I took ourselves off to Kochi, Kerala. Have to say there wasn’t that much going on here, except 37 degrees of sweaty, humid sun. And I also took a trip to hospital to get my big toenail removed. SUCH FUN. The nail had been bruised all season thanks to rugby but I managed to catch it on my other foot, ripping what was left of the nail and leaving it flapping half on half off. Delightful. Anyway my hospital experience was actually pretty good – I was in and out in about 45 mins and it only cost be £11, including local anesthetic, antibiotics and painkillers. Not gonna lie the actual toenail removal was bloody painful and not made any better by the lady on the table next to be absolutely wailing. 3 injections into my nail bed but then deciding not to wait until the anaesthetic took effect – can confirm it was not fun. I’ve broken a fair few bones but I don’t think anything was as sore as that! But hey ho, it is was it is.
So it looks like I’ve rambled on quite a lot – classic me. But before I finish, I’m gonna enlighten you on a couple more points to summarise a few things:
1. Delhi belly. I was lucky enough to not suffer too much, but others I met didn’t fare so well. I had about 10 hours where Imodium was my best friend, and another 90 minute episode just before an overnight train where I thought I was going to vom everywhere and pass out, but I sat under a fan for a bit and was completely fine in about 10 mins. Think the 37 degree heat got to me. Classic Brit abroad.
2. Trains. I experienced a fair few trains while in the north, and in general they were all pretty okay. I would even go as far as saying I enjoyed the day trains. 6 hours on a train in the day may seem grim, but they were really sociable and we could get up and walk around. The overnight trains on the other hand weren’t quite as fun. By all means they did get better train by train, but my first one consisted of eight hours of me trying to sleep surrounded by snorers, and a man pulling our blankets off us at 5am.
3. The service. Service doesn’t seem to be a top priority for Indians. Obviously traveling in a large group sets you up for some delays, but simple things like sorting out change was incredibly inefficient, and I found myself wanting to do it for them a lot of the time. Indians never seem to be in any kind of rush. Unless it’s on the roads.
4. The roads. You do get used to it, but a lot of roads, especially in the big cities, are bloody terrifying. Genuinely amazed at how they don’t have crashes every few minutes. Cars, tuk tuks, bicycles and cows dominate the roads, making it hard to drive as well as cross any kind of road. Lanes aren’t a thing, indicating isn’t a thing, giving way at a roundabout isn’t a thing, but thankfully they do pay attention to traffic lights. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely all part of the experience, but we did almost shit ourselves on a fair few occasions after some near misses.
5. The food. As expected, the food was incredible. So. Much. Yum. However I did get to a point where I couldn’t eat any more curry. I bloody love fresh veg, and there simply isn’t much going in India. Despite being vegetarian throughout my time in India, I really missed vegetables. A lot of oil is used in pretty much every dish, which left my tum feeling a little unhappy throughout. Breakfasts mainly consisted of omelettes and white sweet bread with a banana if you’re lucky, which all in all was fine. Before I went I was told that most people lose loads of weight in India, but I have absolutely no idea how! The greasy food and copious amounts of carbs at every meal were tasty, but left me felling pretty bloated and lethargic. But boy oh boy is naan and roti good.
6. Being a girl. So we knew the whole being a female thing might be of significance while in India. Generally, we didn’t notice it too much because we were traveling as an organised group. We did however notice when we were in smaller groups that men would always get served before us – frustrating by not too bad. Some guy did however grope my bum during Holi while driving past on a motorbike, not pleasant but we were warned it might happen. We definitely found that a few locals tried to tag along and tell us where to go in a slightly aggressive way, and from what we’ve heard, this doesn’t really happen if you’re with a male. Luckily we didn’t experience anything too bad, but I did hear first hand a couple of pretty horrific experiences in Delhi travelling as two girls.
7. The dogs. THE DOGS!!! Like a lot of Asia, there are so many street dogs in India. This is both brill and heartbreaking. Obviously I spent a fair amount of time taking pictures of the doggos, especially if there was a pupper around. At first I restrained myself to just looking, but after about a week I had to have a stroke of one. The most heartbreaking/heartwarming was seeing a motionless unresponsive puppy on the beach. We managed to force feed him some water and long story short, we think he was okay in the end. He did however leave four English girls sobbing on the beach. Heartbreaker from 6 weeks old.
So, have I found myself yet? Well if that means finding and cuddling dogs then yes, absolutely. Right. Think I’ll call it a day here. There’s so much more to say and I’m very good at rambling, but this is already an essay and I don’t want to bore you. (Don’t worry mum, I’ll tell you it ALL when I see you in Bali).
Can’t promise I’ll keep this lil blog up to date, but I’m sure they’ll be a couple more posts while I’m away. Anyhoo, got to go now. I’m in Yangon, Myanmar and there’s some Burmese food that needs sampling before my night bus.