India (Jun 2016)
Heading west from South Korea brought us some serious “first world problems.” Most of the world was at our fingertips, and with a solid two months to go, there was no need to take a long haul flight just yet. We wanted to make a few stops, but we didn’t know where. We knew for sure that we wanted no part of the Middle East. India and it’s neighbors Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and Sri Lanka all sounded pretty interesting. After much research and debate, and seemingly against all odds, we settled on India – a country that Christine said she would never go to, in the midst of record heat waves reaching up to 137 degrees in some areas. This would be the ultimate food and culture experience, and we would either love it or hate it, as we had been warned by so many people we met on our travels.
India is a very large country, and determining where to go was a challenge. We decided to do something that we have never done, which was to use a tour company (one that happened to specialize in food tours) to help us put together an itinerary and handle all of the logistics for us. We ended up with a quick seven day trip to see the main sights in New Delhi and Agra, with a side trip to Varanasi, a cooking class, food tour, and a few special dinners.
Our first day was pretty low key. We arrived at 2am and were taken to our hotel to get some sleep. That afternoon and evening, we had a marathon cooking class with an Indian chef that covered everything from the spices to chai to breads. It was hands-on, educational, and awesome! The next day onward, we got to experience the real India.
What’s the real India? Cows roaming the streets..or just laying down in the middle of them. Cow pies and trash everywhere. Traffic patterns that make no sense, with the constant noise of horns, and the constant feeling that you’re about to be in an accident (we were involved in one, but it was very minor). Too many people living and sleeping in the streets. Beggars approaching and following us. Homeless children coming up to the car windows at traffic lights. Staring. Nondiscrete, lingering stares. As well as smiles, and requests to take pictures. The best food in the world (for us). A country rich in culture and religion. Controlled (or uncontrolled?) chaos.
Navigating this chaos with a guide by our side, we got to see some really cool things. The hectic markets of Old Delhi. A step well right in the middle of New Delhi.The rituals of life and death that occur along the Ganges River in Varanasi. One of the new wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. Aside from at the Taj Mahal, almost the entire time, we were the only western people in sight. We’ve become used to this, but the amount of staring made us a little uncomfortable at times. We definitely wouldn’t have done most of this without a guide, and the few other tourists that we did see out and about were doing the same.
India isn’t for everybody. But we really enjoyed it. Seven days wasn’t nearly enough, and we hope to return one day. Until then, we’ve got an education on spices, memories, and of course, pictures!