Sunday, October 24, 2010

Only in India...

On October 22nd I arrived in Chennai, India.  Aveni's cousin who she had not seen in ten years acted as our tour operator and organized all of our transportation for a weekend to the Taj Mahal.  We flew from the Chennai Airport to Dehli on Spice Jet (a three hour ride).  The evening we stayed at a hotel which was run down and had no showers.  The 12 of us had Indian food ordered to the hotel and although rather spicy the Naan is delicious (bread that comes buttered, garlic, or with cheese).  Afterwards (meaning 4 am) Aveni's Cousin offered to buy me beer so we each had 3 40's and I politely accepted the offer since it would be rude to decline even though I do not like beer.  We could not communicate, yet he seemed to enjoy the company and I ended up going to bed around 6am, only to be awoken by the receptionist at 7am.

The second morning I piled into one of two taxis and drove  from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  Not including stopping for the lunch, the drive took 5 hours each way.  This structure is not easily accessible but highly worth the wait.  Upon arrival our tour guide took us in a tram car to the actual entrance.  The Taj is enclosed in a large courtyard structure with several other buildings, palaces, & guest houses.  The Taj itself took 17 years to complete and the surrounding structures an additional 5 years.  The Taj is a devotion to love from the King to his favorite wife and they are both buried inside the Taj, which is a tomb.  Our tour guide got us tothe front of the line to enter though security and then again cut through to the front to actually enter the Taj (instead of waiting an hour in the line that wrapped twice around the tomb).  I was surprised we did not get in trouble but he kept pushing us along and took all of the cliche photos of us jumping in the air in front, and holding the taj with our fingers, and many other snap shots which you normally have to pay for but all was pre-organized so we did not have to worry about hiring a tour guide and a photographer.  After watching the sunset over the Taj we had dinner where I ate more Naan and Sweet & Sour Chicken, completed different than in the US, it is spicy and grilled, not fried, and comes in a soup bowl.  We then drove 5 hours back to Dehli where we stayed in another hotel and I caved the following morning and took a bucket shower (so gross but I survived).  Also the water is not potable so you even have to brush your teeth with bottled water.

The following morning, Aveni left with her Cousin for Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India (I declined his drink offer the second night because I did not want to go sleepless for another 24 hours).  I went to the market before heading to the airport.  The Dehli airport is incredible, just like a major US airport.  There are luxury stores, and plenty of coffee shops and food outlets, including Pizza Hut.  I drank a caramel frappuccino and ordered food while Ali, Lindsay, & I waited for our flight on Jet Airways.

Transportation in India is mostly through Rickshaws.  They are automated three wheeled carts that cram as many individuals as needed.  Three comfortable but we did 6 with luggage when needed.  They are relatively cheap and convenient because they can go through traffic and therefore cut your transportation time during rush hour drastically.  Unfortaunately no one can be trusted and the drivers continuously stop and will take you to their friend's stores which are always open while they claim other stores and the markets are closed.  You have to be direct with them or they will continue to take advantage of you.  Ultimately, never believe anything they say and come prepared with your own itinerary and do not side track.

I made it home, back to the ship, safely and took a shower as soon as I unpacked.  It felt so good to clean the dirt off of my skin and face and hair.  After showering last night and this morning I feel back to normal but each time I step outside in the dirt filled air I immediately feel gross.  There is trash everywhere on the streets and nothing is sanitary.  As with many countries there are squat toilets, no toilet paper, and certainly no soap.  It is crucial to always carry tissues and germ-x with you at all times.

Until I depart on Wednesday I am going to go to the markets and enjoy Indian food and cultures.  Overall I love India but am anxious to see the rest of Asia.

Rickshaw: the only form of transportation.  Fits 6+ luggage

Fried Cheese!

The most beautiful symbol of love.

Me at the Taj <3

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