Clueless Boy travels to India (Part 1)
First published: Sunday June 26th, 2022
At the time I was 15 years old and I've only visited a few european countries so far and Japan was the only country I've been to outside of Europe. I absolutely have no idea why my father came up with India, but I agreed on it. What could possibly go wrong? Well a lot. Here is the story:
Just a little bit of background. Both of my parents have traveled a lot, my father owns a travel agency and went up to 60 countries on different tours they organized. He went to India before and knew what to expect, so did my mother who went to Kolkata alone when she was young, as well as other countries like Syria or Soviet Union during the Cold War so she has some guts. As a completely clueless inexperienced boy I was, I just naturally trusted my parents on everything. I didn't even know how India looked like, if I can get food there or if I have to be afraid of cobras.
My father was working abroad so the plan was to meet in Delhi, which meant flying alone and finding him at the airport (my mother didn't come). The flying part was not the problem, but as dumb as I was back then, I didn't think of what would happen, if I didn't find him. I didn't bring any money with me and my father booked the hotels for me so I wouldn't even know where to go. (Which I should've known, because of immigration purposes) I wonder how but everything went as planned.
The Beginning of the Journey...
On the way to the hotel in the taxi, I already had my first culture shock. There was a traffic jam on the highway, not because there was an accident or something, but because a group of poor people stopped the traffic to knock on taxis with tourists to beg for some money. When we got closer to the hotel, a kid tried to steal some cash money from our taxi driver through the open window, but his mother stopped him doing that. I knew it's not a wealthy country, but seeing that with my own eyes was just unbelievable.
We left the taxi and this was my first impression about India. I really liked the way this street looked like. So many signs but none of them was from our hotel we were looking for. We struggled a lot trying to find it and seeked for some help by the locals. They were very friendly and they called the hotel for us. Turns out that there was no sign at all and was hidden in a small building on the top floor.
The hotel had a really nice view and I really loved it. Had a nice conversation with the employee and it was the first moment I could finally feel some relaxation. (Especially after hearing constant honking noises in the city) She gave us 2 bottles of water, but we were a bit hesitant to drink. I remembered my mother telling me, that she had a refilled bottle at the hotel, so I should always look closely, if it was already opened once or not. It didn't look like it and after politely asking if it is safe to drink, we could finally drink some water.
The day was already long and it was finally time to eat some lunch. All I knew about indian cuisine was Curry and Samosa, but this was something new for me. It is called Dosa, a south indian dish with fillings inside wrapped around in a pancake. In my case it was spiced potatoes, which tasted really good. As you can see, it is served with many different sauces and I asked myself, how am I supposed to use all that sauce. I hate wasting food so after finishing my Dosa, I just ate the rest of the sauces.
For the rest of the day, we spent hours in a train ticket office to buy some tickets to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located. So we didn't do much, except for visiting the stunning Mosque of Jama Masjid.
On the way to Taj Mahal
The train leaves at 6am so yesterday, we ordered a taxi for 5am. We were waiting but noone showed up. We had no other choice than waiting for the taxi. Well it came eventually... but 20 minutes too late. We planned to get to the train station quite early so shouldn't be a problem despite the delay. But then... when we got there, I realized he took us to the wrong train station! With full speed, he drove us to the correct train station and we just made it. Even had time to take this picture.
We arrived in Agra and rented a taxi for 8 hours. Our driver was very friendly and calls himself Mr. Bomb. He took us to the Taj Mahal first where we struggled to find a locker for our backpacks. It took us almost an hour to do so, but eventually, we got inside.
Everyone has seen it but do you also know what's inside? Unfortunately, I don't have a picture, but there is an emtpy tomb, a cenotaph of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is believed that the Taj Mahal was only meant to be a tomb for his wife only and the Shah himself would rest on a second Taj Mahal, right behind it, across the river. You can even see the foundation of the second Taj Mahal.
After that, Mr. Bomb brought us to the Agra Fort, an impressive building and actually have good memories about it, because the architecture was interesting to me.
For lunch, we ate a delicious curry I can't forget about (To be honest, everything I ate in India was great). My father ordered a beer and it came in a can surrounded by an aluminum foil with a ceramic cup. They didn't want to know that it's beer and I wondered why. My brief research only told me that alcohol is viewed differently among the people.
We still had some hours in Agra left so our driver took us to a tour through many different shops to convince us to buy something. This by the way, can happen anytime you take a taxi, that they don't drive to your destination directly, but making a short stop at an often overpriced shop for tourists. In Agra, we didn't mind because we weren't in a hurry and we didn't know what else to do, but to me it felt a bit uncomfortable first, because we always left the shop without buying anything after them explaining a lot about their products.
Many shops were selling handcraft items and it was just unbelievable to see putting so much work on items that makes me wonder how they make a living out of it. Some of the shops actually did interest me, like the carpet shop where we got to see how they make carpets. In hindsight, I should have bought something, maybe not a carpet but just a small souvenir that also helps the locals. I wanted to buy a souvenir anyways but at the time I had an emotional blockade of buying stuff, because they told me to.
We went back to Delhi and started preparing for the next day. We were planning to go to the city of Varanasi, some say it's the Jerusalem of Hinduism, a very holy and religious place. I've never heard of the city so I didn't know what to expect, but it was incredible. Stay tuned for the next part!