For my 21st birthday I decided to go to India but I could not tell you why India. I don’t know myself but it proved life changing and I still hold India close to my heart.
As it was my first overseas trip going ‘solo’, I booked a ‘basix’ tour with Intrepid Travel. Because it was ‘basix’ it meant all our means of transport was by the local transport, no air conditioned buses. Amazing. This was a highlight and made for some of my favourite memories. We travelled by cycle rickshaw, motor rickshaw, local buses, trains, overnight trains and a few taxis.
I flew into Delhi and had a couple of days before my tour started. I was alone and in India. I finally got the courage to leave my hotel room on the first day to change some money and head to Connaught Place.
The security at the train stations are like airport security with the whole metal detectors and bag check – just to get on a train! The hotel receptionist had told me of the ‘women-only’ carriages at the front of the train so on I jumped.
Being white and blonde didn’t allow me to blend in and I could feel the stares at every turn. I had even made sure I was ‘covered up’ and wore respectable clothes.
Old Delhi (Chandi Chowk) was interesting and you could easily get lost amongst the busy streets, weaving around the wooden carts and ladies in their brightly coloured saris whilst looking up at the jumbled mess of electricity wires buzzing overhead.
On the day of the tour we all met each other, about 13 of us in total with a mix of nationalities ranging from Australian to British to American and even a Norwegian girl.
Our first stop was Agra to see the impressive Taj Mahal. You just don’t realise how breathtaking this place is and the size of it, all for the meaning of love. It is magical.
Traveling around India you notice whole families on one motorbike and what they can fit on a bicycle is amazing, I saw a guy on a bike with five to six boxes loaded on – how he balanced the ragged roads strewn with a mix of people, scooters/mopeds and livestock (especially cows), amazes me.
We went on to other places such as Jaipur, Pushkar and Udaipur in the Rajasthan region. The lake of Udaipur was stunning and ‘James Bond, Octopussy’ is played at most places around the place as a few of the scenes were filmed here. Sitting in a restaurant (see picture below) with the lake in the background is just incredible and one of my favourite views. Needless to say we went to this place often during our time in Udaipur.
Mumbai (previously named Bombay) was hectic – even people lining the streets with their gaze watching your every move. We had a few days here to wander around and got to have a drink and even lunch at Leopold’s (those who have read Shantaram will know what I am talking about).
From Mumbai we had a short flight (luxury!) to Goa where, after 15 days, the tour ended. We finished it off with a big seafood dinner down on Calangute Beach. The people I met on this tour were amazing and little did they know how much influence they had on my future move to the UK – what did I have to lose!!
After chilling out in a little beach hut for a few days in Palolem Bay with some of the people I had met, it was time to head home, quit my job to start temping and planning my move to the UK..!!
Some fun facts and info about India can be found here.