Notes from India
I wasn’t in India for long enough apparently, since every Indian I talked to explained that you need ‘at least a month’ to see India. So I don’t know too much. But I got a taste.
Wrote some notes on the roads and honking in India, but there are more notes.
- I flew in to New Delhi. I ended up going to New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Turns out this is called the Golden Triangle ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Triangle_(India) ), a set of some of the most popular tourist cities and attractions in India.
- New Delhi is huge. It’s in Delhi. But it seems people use them interchangeably. It seems Delhi (city) contains New Delhi ( urban district?), but I don’t know if that distinction matters to anyone. For me when there are cities in cities it’s always a bit confusing.
- The Indian head wobble is a thing. It’s like bobbing your head side to side. It means yes, but it is also just something I am not used to at all because it does not seem like the head gesture for yes. Kinda like this.
- Namaste means hello. Shukriya and dhanyavaad mean thank you. It seems dhanyavaad is more formal. Unfortunately was not quite able to pick up Hindi…
- India may be the only country I have seen (in the world?) where it is cheaper to pay by credit card. They actually reduce the price in many places, especially certain tourist sites, to go cashless. You would usually save 50 Indian rupees. It seems this is part of a cashless initiative in India, possible to reduce crime, I don’t know. But still mostly I was using cash.
- India was very cheap. It’s the cheapest country I have been to so far. You could stay in a hostel for $5 a night. You could eat a full meal for maybe $2. And for $10 or $12 you would have a very nice meal.
- From everything I had read about going to India, and from some info from friends I was warned to be careful about the water and food safety in India. After going there, it makes sense. India is dirty. And it seems the water is not safe to drink. So I drank only bottled water. It seems there were 3 brands that were good, in order: Bisleri, Kinley, and Aquafina. So I tried to stick to those almost exclusively.
- It turns out, or at least it seems to be the case, that some people take tap water and refill that into bottles of water. I don’t know if this is common or not. But it had me inspecting caps of water and listening for clicks very intently.
- And on the food, because the water is dirty, this means that uncooked vegetables or juices can also get you sick.
- I left India not getting any stomach issues, which was good, and still got to try quite a range of food. I also took probiotics which was a tip I had found on an India travel blog. Did it help? Who knows.
- I went on a street food tour of Old Delhi. That was also one of the tips I had heard, don’t eat the street food. So I was a bit nervous but this was a tour so it seemed ok. Everything was pretty dirty, but quite interesting. I had never had many of those foods before. Lots of lentils and chickpeas and various breads and chutneys.
- I learned from the guide that honor killings are still a thing in India in 2019. This is pretty horrifying: it means they kill family members who have brought shame upon the family. Googling now there are articles about it from this week. It seems this happens in certain cases with the caste system, but it was not something I observed, but maybe I was oblivious. It sounds like also there may be different generational views, where the younger generation does not place as much emphasis on it.
- They love selfies in India. And even more they like selfies with random foreigners. I was approached so many times in different sites in different sites by people who want to take selfies with me. Some asked, some were pretty insistent, some seemed to sneak it in. Some parents asked for some kids. Someone who worked for the airline in Jaipur asked as I was going to enter security. Many times I was fine with it and it was funny, other times I just said no. But wow, this was a new one.
- Some sites: first ones in New Delhi.
- Visited Lodhi Garden, a nice large park.
- Went to Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, and also Lotus Temple. The architecture on Lotus Temple is really unique, it’s a Bahai temple, and as you enter it is silent. In several of these spots the security guards acted as impromptu guides and photographers, many times encouraging us to take photos in particular spots. I guess they are here every day so they know.
- Went to India Gate at night, and it’s lit up with the colors of India. And there are vendors all around selling different things. A tuk-tuk hot spot.
- I do not know the nuanced differences of Indian cuisine, though I had some North Indian and South Indian. Had several dosas, but also most of the menus that I saw I really did not recognize anything on it — it was not quite the Indian food I knew from US Indian restaurants.
- Some notables: Idli, a rice cake thing, which you dip in chutneys.
- Dosas, like crepes, which may be filled, also dipped in chutneys.
- Vadas, lentil donuts, also dipped in chutneys.
- Is everything dipped in chutneys? I don’t know but it seems like it.
- Most of the eating is done with your hands, and I think many Indians just eat with one hand. One of the Indians who was at dinner with us who was traveling explained how to eat many of the foods, otherwise I really would have no idea.
- Took a train to Agra, and visited Agra Fort, which is pretty huge. There’s also a site referred to as “baby taj mahal.”
- In Agra, I visited the Taj Mahal. It is quite the spot. Though it seems it was the low season, both because it was quieter, also because it was so hot outside, and also because it seems that some of the lawns and pools were not really fully maintained or full like they may be other times.
- Took a bus to Jaipur. It seems they are in no rush to get anywhere, when we had a 20 minute rest stop it was at least 45 minutes.
- Jaipur had some really interesting sites. It is called the “Pink City” because of the color of many of the buildings, but the color isn’t quite pink. The Hawa Mahal, Patrika Gate, and Jal Mahal were all cool to visit. Patrika Gate is a series of colorful arches, it is really unique.
- Also masala chai tea, it is in many spots, and after having it a lot of times it grew on me.
- And the breads. So many types of breads. The one I was most familiar with, naan, was the last one I ate. Maybe I had… puri, roti, chapati, paratha, dosa… all before naan.
So I’m glad I visited India. India was intense though. The combo of the heat, the massive amount of people, the craziness of the streets, and also the questionable water and food hygiene makes it a lot. I think it would take me some time to get used to it, it really took a lot of energy out of me.