Wednesday, March 13, 2013

India, everything, everywhere

The weight and excitement of an impromptu trip to India started to kick in as I packed my bug spray, malaria pills, and my 1000 page Winston Churchill biography for the 20 hour flight. Flying halfway across the world was an event in itself. We skipped an entire day, and the long travel time made me feel like I'd been transported to an alternate universe.

Wanna see more pictures? Sure you do, with so many, this post needed a page break!
Hey look, bus shelter cum!

After our 20 hour flight, we arrived in Delhi at midnight, slept a few hours, and embarked on a 5.5 hour taxi ride to the Taj Mahal in Agra. The driver told us it was a 3 hour trip. Meh huh. The drive was educational in a lot of ways, it was a nice way to see the landscape and get a feel for the place. Although I did spend a decent amount of time concerned that I didn't have a seatbelt. That's what motherhood does to you.

When I think of my first impressions, I'm surprised that I wasn't more surprised. My expectations of drivers weaving all around, cows randomly walking on the road, shacks on the side of the road, were all quickly validated. The biggest surprise was just how curious people were about 3 American girls. When teenage boys asked to take pictures with us, and rotated through one by one, it was odd. When a random woman stood by us silently while her husband took a picture, it got odder. A couple hours and 30+ pictures later, we knew the drill, strange as it was. Our guide told us it was because we were more beautiful than the Taj Mahal. A more realistic explanation was that the Taj Mahal has a ton on Indian tourists from villages that rarely see foreigners.



After our crazy day of driving, we took a domestic flight to Goa, where we spent most of our time. I was nervous that the flight would be crowded and horrible, but the domestic flights were great. In Goa, we met Krista's friends, who became our Indian family, complete with advice and lectures. My first order of business was to get my eyebrows threaded. $26 in New York = 50 rupees ($1) in India.

Goa was full of ups and downs. On the one hand: relaxing on the beach and shopping at the market
On the other hand: One day we went for coffee. The first place, inappropriately named "Cafe Coffee Day" was out of coffee. Two growly young men were being paid to tell us this. We went to another place and were told (five minutes after we order, naturally) that they were out of cups. This was the moment that I stopped being annoyed with India, and started to be annoyed with myself for going to India. These days, I prefer convenience to adventure. It was an unsettling discovery that rendered me helpless, like the moment you realize that Girl Scout Samoas are laced with coconut but eat them anyways.
Some beach henna, which is just starting to wear off
Sisters
Our evening home away from home
Girl on the beach
Lynnea and I with our $1 beer

The thing about going without a plan, is that you have no idea what you're jumping into. We ended up staying in Baga, which is Goa's party town. We were super excited for some Bollywood dancing, and everyone raved about Tito's. Every night, ladies drink free! While we waited for them to open across the street, we noticed the crowd of men gathering, at a ratio of about 25:1, and decided against the free drinks. Indian Mario was super disappointed that we didn't join him.


Our Indian family in Goa and Bombay, plus some random men who wanted a picture with the blondes, and the Starbucks guys in Bombay. I don't actually like Starbucks at all in the US, but the 4 month old Bombay store was beautiful and served great espresso, and the guys were so nice and friendly.

Cows, cows everywhere. Tons of cows, stray dogs, a few monkeys, camels, elephants. In a touristy vein, we did ride an elephant, and I have to say that I wish I hadn't. The "driver" had this little stick and kept nudging his ears to move, and in the end, I just felt sad about it.


We spent our last day in Bombay, which was beautiful and fascinating in its own way. With the help of our Indian family yet again, we saw the Dhobi Ghat, a huge open air laundry facility.
Instead of tanning oil

A nice break from "Jewelry? I make you good price!!"
In front of the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay

I took most of my favorite pictures while we were in a moving taxi. The traffic was like a concerto. The honking was friendly, and sharing the road felt like a team effort. A honk meant "Hey, I'm passing" and without exception, people moved for each other. Although it looks like chaos when you're heading 100 km/hr in the wrong lane toward another car, it's an organized chaos. That pretty much sums up India, to the extent an outsider can sum it up.

GOA:

 
  


BOMBAY:

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