First Impressions of India
Why India? A question asked by many of our family, colleagues and friends. Even an Indian national sitting beside the husband in the plane queried the same. Just what my husband told me when we’re planning this trip, he told the man that he wanted to capture its people, faces to be exact, to see the culture and somewhat experience it and of course to taste the authentic Biryani as he loves this food so much! As for me, I’m the supporting wife, willing to give up the cozy and chill walks and selfies in a modern city. Besides, going to India is cheaper than other mainstream destinations.
Arrival at Delhi
We arrived by 5 pm at Indira Gandhi international airport in New Delhi. It was a more than 3 hour journey from Dubai. The airport is huge with interesting design and clean. Since we applied an e-visa online and didn’t bring any check-in luggage, immigration clearance was pretty quick. There was no queue at all. After getting our fingerprints and photo, the officer said “Welcome to India!” It’s the first call for me to get my wanderlust woken up. Honestly, it was the first trip that I didn’t get excited beforehand not until I experience it!
Road to Hotel
After the meet and greet with the travel agency representative named Gordhon, we found ourselves riding a Toyota car with spotless white seat covers. Just like Indonesia and Sri Lanka, they drive on right side. As soon as we leave the airport ground, the blowing of horns started like there’s no tomorrow! Traffic was crazy too. Right and straight lanes weren’t a thing here. Gordhon advised that it’s a 45 minutes drive to our hotel but we ended up being on the road for almost 2 hours!
A pleasant mist of cold air welcomed us when we get off the plane. The weather in December was pleasantly cold in the morning of around 15-18 degrees and become high in the afternoon of 21-23 degrees. It was a perfect weather to tour India but the fog was very unfriendly for photos.
Spicy, colorful and tasty – three words to describe the Indian food in general. Our breakfast care of our hotel in Delhi was our first taste of Indian cuisine. It consists of local food with masala omelet. We ate masala omelet for our whole stay in India! The hotel serves fewer options so we didn’t really enjoyed the first breakfast. Besides, Biryani wasn’t available We had our first real taste of mutton biryani at the hotel we stayed in Agra. Then we had chicken biryani and other local food at different restaurants in Jaipur and Agra. The husband was fully satisfied. We also tried fast food chains here like McDonalds, KFC and Pizza hut. Our hotel in Jaipur serves tasty Italian and Chinese meal which we opt to have when we felt like we’re eating too much of spicy food.
As much as we wanted to try street foods just like what we used to with other countries we visit, India is an exception. As advised by many travelers blog, friends, our travel agency and Rotash our driver – Do not try street food in India. Street foods seem to be unsanitary not only in India but also in other countries if it’s placed in an open air with a lot of vehicle fumes and people around. A bad case of a diarrhea means losing out most days of the trip due to recovery. Anyone should always be traveling with health in mind. We didn’t have sick stomach for our whole trip!
Market & Streets
In the first morning of our trip, before our service arrives, we went out for a short walk to the public market in New Delhi. We were greeted by streets covered in fog! With 20% visibility, we walked the first side of the street where a driver approached us offering a tour service. As we continue with our walk, he persistently explained the tourist spots to visit. We decided to turn back not because of him but there were lots of dogs and I’m scared to death! :p
Another person came close offering his Tuk Tuk (motorized vehicle). But we declined as we’re advised that the market is pretty close and they’re right. In less than 5 minutes, we reached the market. Most shops are still closed at 8am but the roadside vendors are already busy setting up their makeshift carts. Beggars were getting ready to start business, positioning themselves along the boardwalk. Men stood in small groups on the street, sipping on their morning tea or waiting for their street food to be cooked.
Iah couldn’t be happier with the scene. It was what he expected – dirty, busy and many interesting locals here and there! With his camera on hand, he started taking photos in the middle of the street where Tuk Tuk, cars and bikes are passing by and in the street corners looking for potential subjects. Again, he used his charming way of talking to people. As expected, all of them agreed to take their photos in Delhi! And they we’re happy seeing their photos in his camera.
People & Language
In the streets, people stare at us maybe out of curiosity, smile at them and they smile in return, wave at them and they will wave back, ask them for directions and they’re more than willing to help us though language is definitely a barrier here. Most of the people we met in the streets, market, Tuk Tuk drivers cannot understand even the simplest English words. But in the touristy areas and of course in the hotels, the shop vendors, all were good in speaking the international language.
In the market, again people stare at us. It felt a bit overwhelming and intimidating at the same time but we can’t blame them as we’re the only foreigners present during our visit to their market. Some vendors tried to sell their products but in a good approach.
In the attractions sites, people say hi, shake our hands, have selfies/groupies with us and allow us take their photos too. They want to know which country we came from. Everyone seems to be friendly & helpful but again, with all those curious gazes. After a while it can get exhausting, some travelers might not like all the attention. But we have to respect and admire their enthusiasm and curiosity.
Still in the attractions sites perimeter, vendors tried to sell products we don’t really need and honestly it sometimes annoyed us. Actions like blocking our way, following us and passing us their products weren’t acceptable at all. There’s even one Tuk Tuk driver who’s trying to lower his fare rate followed us while we’re walking. My husband keep on telling him that we wanted to walk and we already visited those sites that he was telling but he’s so persistent. He got mad when he left us. Situations like this make travel a bit less attractive.
Even though there were many persistent sellers and drivers all along, we felt very safe in the country. And we’re very thankful that nothing happened to us despite the stories we heard from our friends who visited India before and awful experiences we read on the web. But of course, in any country we visit, we tried to be careful as much as possible but not paranoid. That’s totally different.
Journey Around the Triangle
Our 16 hours journey inside a small car around India’s famous triangle – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur was the time we get to see what it’s really like living in this country. Driving by car from one point to another takes about 5-6 hours. It was like stepping into another reality where the crowds were crazy most in the banks where people queuing to exchange their money. As per our driver, a person can only exchange a maximum of 2000 Rupees (INR) per day or about $30 only. The country prime minister has taken steps to scrap all INR 500 & INR 1000 rupee notes.
It was a difficult journey from Delhi to Agra as the traffic on the roads moved in all possible directions. Roads are almost covered with fog so the blowing of horns was extreme and endless. Basically every time they approach something that moves on the highway they honk at it, and when they want to do something like turn, accelerate, pass, change lanes – they honk even more! Trucks signs even say “Blow your Horns”. Imagine a 6 hours drive with all the noise, traffic jam, and bumpy roads. Definitely it was an exhausting and unpleasant journey from one “triangle” to another. Good thing, the roads and highways are way better from Agra to Jaipur and Jaipur to Delhi than Delhi to Agra route.
Other people were biking and walking along the slow lane of the highway. Some were carrying huge cloth wrapped things on their heads. There were lots of open markets and stalls selling stuff at the side of the road. Groups of school children gather together. Some were waiting for the bus, some walking and some younger ones being sent into motor rickshaws. Commuters here also feel like it’s completely fine to hang out of small pickups. Mothers carrying their children while selling fruits and vegetables. Beggars of all ages are a common scene on the road. There were a lot of things going on here!
With the sceneries, we enjoyed most our long journey from Agra to Jaipur and Jaipur to Delhi as some parts are really breathe taking! It was so green full of wheat, mustard and other crops where the locals get their living. Cows were freely walking on the roads. We’re informed by our driver Rotash, it is a crime to bump them as in Hinduism religion, cows are considered holy.
City areas with people houses and shops are dirty while areas without the locals are unspoiled and very pleasant. Most buildings here looks like it is half finished, as if they were planning to go up more stories but then just didn’t. It was kind of like the whole city areas were under construction.
We met the family of Mr. Rotash on our way to Delhi. We saw how their family was completely happy and contented. His daughter was taking care of 3-5 water buffaloes, his wife wasn’t present as she was in the farm, his grandson and granddaughter trying to help their mother. They were so happy to see us and we felt very welcomed at their home. The grandpas from this area of Rajasthan are playing cards and they were pleased when my husband asks to take their photos. Life here was very simple and straight. It was the kind of life I would like to have for our family.
Traveling in India is absolutely a chance to somehow experience life that is so different than the place many of us came from. It’s a country with entirely diverse social norms, culture, religion, and language. As we’ve chosen to skip most of the touristy places and visit the public areas instead, blend with locals, we ended up learning so much from this trip. I have so much to share from the country that I’ve never been excited about at first but eventually caught my wanderlust and captured my heart.
Originally posted on The Moment Keepers
Have you been to India? What was your first impressions?