I actually wanted to write about this yesterday as it was a throwback Thursday, but now we also have flashback Fridays. I like this throwback/flashback idea and one of the reasons for this blog is also to record as many of my travel stories as possible (there are really so many). Since I got this Google Photos app on my phone I’ve been browsing through my pics more. And India has been a lot on my mind lately. It was my first solo trip so far away and for almost four months. I worked for a year to save money for my India trip. I was so looking forward and really prepared myself so much. Still now I don’t know why exactly it was India, but somehow I wanted to see India. And even though I read a lot about it, got tips from other travellers, I was not at all ready for what I was about to see.
It was October 2006 when I arrived in Delhi.
As I wanted to be the »true backpacker« I didn’t take a taxi to my hotel, I took a bus. Big mistake. But before we arrived to the center of the city I enjoyed the ride. To say I was surprised by what I saw would be an understatement. It was like a new world for me. People sleeping on the ground, waking up, all dusty. Cows and monkeys on the road. Traffic has been just chaotic. And when we were nearing the city center things were even worse. I could have never imagined India would be like that. For me India was all about mystic, incense, temples, yoga. So real life in India hit me right in my face. I read about it before arrival. They call it culture shock.
Rickshaw ride to the hotel in Delhi.
The airport bus dropped me close to the New Delhi train station. I just stood there for a while, soaking up the smell in the air and watching all the bustle around me. Soon bicycle rickshaw drivers surrounded me and were offering me a ride. They all said more than it wrote in my guidebook! I told them that and they lowered the price a bit, but it was still not what I wanted (if I think about it now, the amount was so small…). After a few minutes I decided I should take a rickshaw as I had no idea where I was. It was the time before Google maps. So we went. I felt horrible when he rode the bicycle rickshaw up the hill. We arrived to »travellers headquarters« in Delhi or Paharganj. My friend told me that hotel Vivek is the best on that street. So of course I went there. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Is this really happening, I thought. Well, I was tired, so I entered the hotel.
My hotel was terrible on the first look, but one of the best during my whole trip.
The guys at the reception seemed unimpressed by my entrance to the hotel. It took some time to get one of them to talk to me. It was morning, but they gave me the room. I just simply couldn’t believe that it’s even possible that room existed. It wasn’t cleaned probably for a while and the sheets were maybe never changed. At least that’s how I felt it was. The bathroom was ruined down, but it worked (what a luxury, I learned that later on). On the window there were cages and I locked my door with a padlock. After that the guy that showed me the room left, I sat on the bed and cried. I cried and cried maybe for a few hours. How stupid I was to go alone to India and for four months! How on earth will I survive,… That’s how I felt.
I pulled myself together and had some chai.
India suddenly seemed better. Those were the times before wifi so I felt completely alone and lonely. I sat in that rooftop restaurant in my hotel for hours. Drinking chai and eating sandwiches. Observing life on the street below. I just couldn’t believe it was possible. So much dust, so much traffic. Cows and oh so many people. Suddenly I saw all the colors too and I could suddenly smell the incense. Suddenly I started to enjoy this utterly amazing conglomerate of smells, colors, people, animals, things that is India. And before I went to the airline office and ask if I could return home the next day I opened my guidebook and made a plan. The next morning I bought my first ticket at Indian Railways.
There will be more stories about my first trip to India. After all the travelling I did, I still believe India is so special. I remember everything from my first visit just like it was yesterday.