« Outstanding in the Field | Main | Adventures in India, Part Two »

Adventures in India, Part One

Nina in a Saree

This is a long overdue entry, since this trip happened in May last year, but better late than never!

My friend Yamini decided on a wedding date in June of 2009, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to attend her wedding and visit India. I was going to have a travel partner, but those plans fell through, and I found myself with a plane ticket for three weeks in India. It ended up being an oddly pieced together trip, but in the end I had a lot of fun and got to experience amazing things.

After buying tickets, I was looking at possible itineraries to explore. The state of Himachal Pradesh began to look really appealing, mainly because it was one of the few places in India at the time where the temperatures weren't blazing hot. Intrepid had a tour from Delhi into HP and Amritsar whose dates happened to work perfectly with my dates. The tour started the morning after I arrived in Delhi, and it ended with enough time for me to do a day in Agra before heading to Chennai for the wedding. So much to my mom's relief, I booked the tour, drastically shortening my alone time in India.

I think the rumors that India is really unsafe for single female travelers is mostly false. It was definitely easier to be with a tour guide for my first experience, but I would have been okay on my own, though probably harassed more. Any time I was off on my own, some guy would inevitably approach me and ask to be my friend, then follow me around for as long as I would let him. Very strange experience for me, but I did make the first guy take me to get a SIM card for my phone and to an ATM. :)

Spice Markets in DelhiShimla sunset

The tour (called "Mountains and Mystics") really showed a lot of different sides of India. We started off with some time in crazy Delhi, taking cycle rickshaws through Old Delhi and exploring the markets in 110 degree temperatures. The morning before the tour started, I'd taken a rickshaw to Humayun's Tomb, but there were definitely a lot more Delhi attractions that I didn't make it to. I was thankful we didn't stay that long because I wanted to get out of the heat. The next morning, we took an early train to Kalka, where were transferred onto the historic toy train that wound its way up, through tunnels and over pretty bridges, to the hill station of Shimla. I'd looked into the logistics of doing this trip on my own before booking the tour, and by then, there were only wait list positions open (and they were pretty high numbers) since those hot months are high season for Shimla. I was curious how we got tickets for the train. Turns out, we didn't have confirmed reservations, either, and our tour guide kept bribing the train guy, first to let us get on the train and a few times afterwards so he would let us stay on. Ah, India. :)Monks in McLeod Ganj

Shimla was quite a contrast from Delhi, the temperature drop reflecting a corresponding drop in insanity. This was where the Indians went on vacation to escape the heat. We met quite a few families who were on holiday, including one whose daughter had just gotten married. We admired her saree, and she told us that if she wasn't on her honeymoon, she'd be dressed like we were! The highlights of Shimla were the bazaars, full of little shops, the Viceroyal Lodge (which now houses a center for higher studies), and the Jakhu Temple, which was full of mean, evil monkeys. We saw one steal the glasses off a guy's head and another one eat a vendor's samosas. They rent sticks at the bottom of the hill you have to walk up, and I had to use mine to fend off an attacking monkey! He was holding someone's broken glasses, and I wanted to take a picture. However, he misinterpreted this as a trade gesture, so he dropped the glasses. I didn't think my camera was a fair swap, so I didn't give it to him, and he got mad. All of the Indians who were watching us fight found it very amusing, though.

After Shimla, we took a private vehicle with an insane driver to Dharamsala. See, it's one thing to pass a car on a 2-lane road. Then there's passing a car on a winding 2-lane road where there's not much between the outer lane and the death cliff. Then there's doing all of the above without slowing or looking for oncoming traffic. Or seeing the oncoming traffic and creating a third lane.

We spent three days in Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj, which we all agreed was a bit excessive. The highlights were the Tibetan things, like the Dalai Lama's residence (we got to see monks debating) and the Norblingka Institute, where we got to see Tibetan arts and crafts. But the rest of it was very touristy, geared towards hippie Westerners. The setting was very beautiful, though, and the idea was to relax for a few days before heading on our trek.

Okay, that's enough for one day. Part 2 to follow!


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 4, 2010 11:52 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Outstanding in the Field.

The next post in this blog is Adventures in India, Part Two.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.