That Time We Went to India and Didn't See the Taj Mahal
"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great-grandmother of tradition."
Justin and I finally realized my dream of making it to India back in October for the Eid break. I have to say that, for me, there has always been this draw to that place. I always felt it calling. No matter how many people told they didn't like it, it was too loud, too many people, too much everything...I have always been Team India and totally dismissed it.
I wouldn't say that I'm a religious person but I would say that I'm a spiritual person and I completely believe that some sort of essence of myself was once in India buying veg from a street stall or selling cardamom in a shop. I was there somewhere. I'm sure of it. Everything there felt so normal and natural to me. Being there among the food, the smells, the people, the culture was like having a glimpse at the many facets of your life that your soul reflects and collects during your time on this plane.
Deep, man. Basically I totally dug it.
So first off, we went there for a short three day period on a food tour with Intrepid Travel in which we did NOT get to see the Taj Mahal because it was closed. CLOSED. CLOSED!! What the...ugggh. Anyways, we went to see another famous-ish landmark that was still beautiful but was ultimately not the Taj Mahal.
But before I get all wrapped up in telling you how we didn't get to see the Taj Mahal (insert side eye to the Taj Mahal powers that be), I'll fill you in on all the amazing food we had. So. Much. Food.
Thankfully Justin and I are pretty adventurous eaters and only suffered the Delhi Belly for maybe 24-ish hours so I would also say that we both have a pretty strong stomach as well considering how much Indian street food we ate...by ourselves...without a tour guide. Also no one spoke English so naturally it was the most fun of our trip.
Our first stop was our tour guide's home in which we were taught by her mom several recipes (read: Justin was paying attention to the recipes and I was paying attention to the end product), talked about Indian culture, looked at saris on Instagram and went through her mom's wedding album. Seriously it felt like we were just hanging with a friend and I super enjoyed it. We could hear the other tenants clanging there iron mesh doors shut, the vegetable seller singing his vegetable songs as he walked down the street, the teenagers hanging out and talking on the bottom steps. You could just hear all the life going on around you. It was such a wonderful and stark contrast coming from where we currently live where we get excited if we hear a bird outside. Just one bird. That's all it takes.
Also, they dressed us up. :D
The next day we went with another tour guide (who was equally as friendly) to the Chandni Chowk for a massive all day food tour. Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest and largest markets in Old Delhi. She told us that we would be having about twelve different things and of course I'm all, "okay, 12 is no big deal. I can eat like...a lot. I love food" BUT I have to say that after completing that food tour, I have never been so horribly and uncomfortably full in almost my entire life (I think this is a pretty good contender for Thanksgiving 2013). However that is not to say that I didn't totally enjoy it. I'm sure other travelers who don't want to contract some form of e. coli have seen tasty looking street foods but have been too hesitant to try them and just pass them by. However this time we were with someone who knew where the best places were hiding and also if something was safe to try or not. It was pretty awesome to just walk up to a street food vendor and be all like...uhh..that thing on the skewer! give it to me! i have no fear!
We then got the amazing opportunity to visit a Sikh temple and learn more about that religion. It was incredibly interesting and that is always something that I love to experience when traveling to a new country. When you're allowed to experience with them their religion, I feel like you gain a greater understanding of their culture, their food and their life.
Lastly during our last day in India, we went from different old, cool place to different old, cool place until we eventually found ourselves back to our awesome hostel only to find that there was this huge night market going on right outside our door. What? More food?!
We ventured out on our own into this market where absolutely no one spoke English and we were definitely a sight. There were clothes vendors, food vendors, sweets vendors, trinket vendors for as far as you could see down this narrow road. Because we're American we figured we could probably deal with stuffing more food into ourselves so we went looking for dinner. omg.
For this I actually didn't take one photo since I really wanted to just be present in that moment and also to just kind of keep something for myself. I will, however, let you know that we eventually found amazing dinner in this makeshift dining hall on the side of the road. We pointed to some stuff and they put it on a plate and we stood around with everyone else at these waist high metal tables and ate with our hands and it was so, so delicious. Maybe my unwashed hands was the secret spice. ;P
We then walked up and down the street eating and drinking everything we could get our hands on. We watched people buy incense, cds, clothes and religious idols all while cars were still, very aggressively, trying to get down this road without killing anyone.
Also, did I mention that we were totally by ourselves? No tour guide to guide our food choices. Whoa!
p.s. we only were reminded of our food choices and it's ramifications for one flight and one layover. :| sorry, airports.
India had us definitely craving more. More food, more cities, more landmarks, more amazing people, more chaos, more peace, more incense, more religions.
Maybe one day we'll find ourselves back there to keep exploring this huge, multi-faceted country.
Oh, and also to see THE TAJ MAHAL!