Girlsontrain


India (part I)

By Dalila | Posted in India,travel

June 17th, 2017



I decided to go to India alone to celebrate my 30th birthday. I wanted to do it in an “epic” way. I was super excited about this trip and about seeing a country which I have always wanted to visit, and the thought of seeing the Taj Mahal?! Thrilling!! Despite all that excitement, my first impression of Delhi was not great. Emigration people were borderline rude and men were constantly staring at me. Then again, with my long yellow dress and my huge hat, I could not walk by unnoticed.
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My driver was late and my phone was not working. Great way to start your 30th birthday… That’s when India gave me its first welcome gift. A random guy saw my despair and kindly offered his phone so I could call the driver. Vijay (my best friend for the following four days) was waiting for me outside the airport and not at the arrivals as expected. Was I supposed to guess this?! I told myself “Dalila chill… It’s your birthday, you’re in India and the weather is normal, so no reasons to be annoyed”. So, after 25 minutes waiting, I got in the car. Funny moment of the morning: it took me 5 minutes to realize that in India people drive on the left side of the road. Yes 5 minutes! I was tired okay?

I was a bit afraid of travelling alone in a country as different as India. Especially because of the stories we hear. Also driving during 4 days with a stranger was not much more reassuring. That was definitely a first. Because of this my first instinct when I met Vijay was of course, to discreetly take pictures of him and of the license plate of the car and send it to my best friends, “in case I disappear just make sure this is all over Facebook” I said. ​

 
The road to Agra was quite chaotic as expected. It seems that in Delhi (probably in India?) it’s normal to honk every minute. Lanes? They don’t exist. Well they do, but people just ignore them. Turn signals? Nope… Priority rights? Nope… But I have to say, the cars are so cute. They look like toy cars. Tiny. Light. As if they were going to break at any minute. My driver had to put gas at some point and apparently, for the gas to go down the tank, the car needs to be shook from one side to the other. Please note that while all this action was taking place I was inside the car. ​
 
Halfway through the driver stopped for a break. I was hungry because I didn’t touch the food on the plane. But being new to India I was apprehensive on what to eat or not. I ended up buying a (melted) Twix, cookies of an international brand and a bottle of water. After I took a first sip I realized I hadn’t paid attention to whether the bottle was sealed or not. Needless to say that I didn’t touched that bottle of water again. 
 
Arrival in Agra. The smells are overwhelming. Cows. Cows everywhere. Only locals, no tourists. Where’s the Taj Mahal? In my head I thought I would see it from afar like the Eiffel Tower in Paris. 
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After driving a few minutes we picked up a guide – I didn’t know I would get a guide – and we parked in a chaotic roundabout wherefrom we would have to walk to get to the Taj Mahal. “Stay close to me” the guide said, “don’t talk to anyone”. That didn’t scare me at all. From this point I started regretting not going first to the hotel to change. Since I was expecting the site to be packed the whole day I decided to go straight to the Taj Mahal at 10h instead of stopping by the hotel first. Hence I was still wearing the bright yellow dress I traveled with. The staring made me extremely self-conscious about the dress and I tried to cover myself as much as possible. During my walk to the Taj Mahal I met two kind of people, the ones staring at me and the ones relentlessly trying to sell me stuff. I must have said “no thanks” 39 times.
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The Taj Mahal was smaller than I had pictured but just as beautiful. The structure kind of reminded me of the Sacré Coeur in Paris. The white marble. The domes. The massive appearance. I was of course marveled. After seeing it nothing that I saw afterwards could compare, and seeing it on my 30th birthday? What an amazing gift to myself. 
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After the Taj Mahal, the driver dropped me at my hotel so that I could change and rest and picked me up again around 16h.

Vijay and the guide took me to some commercial area in case I wanted “to buy some nice things”. No I didn’t, but they still took me there. I suspect they were in cahoots with the stores and would get some sort of commission if I bought something. I have to say that at some point I got very tempted to buy some emerald rings. Emeralds are, according to the shop assistant, the Taurus stone. Despite his various attempts, and me trying around 15 rings, I was smarter than buying precious stones in a dark basement. I felt guilty because he probably thought that after so many trials I would finally buy one. But no, I know better. Emerald ring would have to wait for another (more legal?) occasion. I went back to the hotel around 18h. I was exhausted and had a long trip to Jaipur the next day.

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