There is everywhere else in the world, and then there is India...
The collection of our first minutes in Delhi seem to melt together. We shut the door of our tiny room, choking off all of the hot air from outside, and sank into the bed and said nothing to eachother. I had been to India once before and knew the extreme bashing your senses experience, but I was not sure how Trevor would heal from his initial beating. In one, ten minute auto-rickshaw ride from the metro to our hotel in an alley in Old Delhi, our senses took hits that are indescribable. We were uppercut with the combination of delicious spices and nose-stinging urine; slammed in the ears with blaring horns, bells, and shouts; and our vision was blurred with dirty, tired, and hungry bodies all on top of one another, pushing towards any space that they could absorb. You think that you can handle the shock a culture presents to you, but then India will quickly humble your thought process.
I guess, we did not plan on throwing ourselves right into the chaos of Old Delhi, but we also did little to no planning and knew to expect the unexpected. It was a total rush. We zoomed around in rickshaws and pushed our way through crowds from forts, to mosques, to museums, and bazaars. The air was hot, and we (especially me as a woman) had to dress modestly with our limbs covered. Every evening ended with time to breathe on the rooftop of the hotel. We would eat serving after serving of the exotic food and watch the sun drop down past a sky of kites being flown from the thousands of rooftops.
From Delhi we took a bus to Agra, known for the Taj Mahal. It (of course) lives up to being a wonder and is definitely one of the top highlights of our trip this year. Currently, it is stained yellow from acid rain, so the staff is in the process of cleaning it using the same methods used from when it was first built. Nonetheless, it was stunning as ever and should be on everyone's list.
From Agra to Jaipur, we hopped on a train and rode in second class. We highly suggest using trains in India, the sleeper beds are great and we could not peel our faces from the window. There was so much to see as we sipped chai, snacked on samosas, and made small talk with others in the car.
Our hotel in Jaipur was an old Colonial style home complete with the most relaxing garden where we could enjoy the Hindu statues and a warm, comforting meal. We spent an entire day at the Amer (also called Amber) Fort, losing ourselves in the endless halls and corridors. We also walked around the City Palace (which was not at all that we expected and could be skipped), and shopped amongst the city's endless shops and stalls.
Jodhpur was next in the route, and it became our favorite city thus far. The Mehrangarh Fort was the most impressive and unique yet, with one-of-a-kind views overlooking the Blue City.
From Jodhpur, we headed north to Amritsar, which is famously known for its Golden Temple. It is a must for the Hindu people to visit here at least once in their lifetime, but for us, it provided a genuine look as to what a Hindu pilgrimage is like.
We braved a winding, breath-taking road by bus north to Dharamshala and ventured further up the hill to Mcleodganj for a week away from the chaos. This small, mountain town is home to the Dalai Lama, as well as many Tibetans in exile. We spent our days reading about Tibetan history, hiking to waterfalls, drinking tea in tiny shops, and wandering around the Buddhist temple. This town ended up being a refreshing way of ending our travels through India.
To be honest, it was uncomfortable, but that is what we were seeking: To be shocked, humbled, and compassionate on a level that we did not know we were capable of. India is one of a kind: You cannot quite express it, and you will never forget it. We have so much more we are looking forward to exploring in this colorful country.
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-Bree and Trevor