So I know I've only been in India for just over a week, but it's been a pretty eventful week so thought I'd return to the trusty blog for any update-wanters. Arrived in Delhi around 08.00 local time. The flight itself was pretty fun. Met Sunni on the first flight to Bombay who has been travelling for a while and was telling me about his memories of India from when he was little (hasn't been for a while). Then met some other nice people on the way to the connection flight before I got comandeered by a 9 year old Indian girl called Barbie who kept telling me about how much she loved fashion and how we could go shopping in Delhi for accessories, which was really sweet but at roughly 3am I have to admit I was quite glad she ddin't manage to swap seats on the plane as she had informed me she would so we could further discuss accessories. Instead I slept for the next couple of hours, and arrived in Delhi feeling semi-rested. Sadly my airport transfer was nowhere to be seen (although the hotel informed me he had been there, he was clearly hiding if he was). So while I waited to see if he turned up I went and got an Indian sim, which I very nearly spent about 40 quid on by accident, still adjusting to rupees but managed to save it at the last minute. I got a meter run airport taxi who was very nice and a good driver (and turned out to be a few pounds cheaper than the transfer anyway) and arrived at Hotel Amax Inn without much problem. Delhi was not what I expected it to be, it's busy and dirty but dirty in terms of lots of rubbish on the street and rundown looking buildings. Hotel Amax was very nice although on arrival it turned out that the early check-in they'd told me I could have was no longer available as no rooms were free apart from the (conveniently) more expensive ones. Welcome to India. I took the chance to dip my toe in for a first try at walking down a street alone, which was nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be. A bit of hassle from people trying to get me to use their rickshaw/taxi but at worst annoying and didn't feel at all threatened. Actually, although I know I have only been here for 8 days, I am not finding India anywhere near as scary as I had thought it might be. Having said that, when I reached the end of the road a man (who in hindsight was obviously a tout) told me it wasn't safe to go on to the next road (an absolute lie). Not wanting to pay for his services as a guide but also feeling pretty tired I decided that was a good first try and retreated to the hotel. I went up to their roof terrace for a bit where I met Tegan and Will, who had arrived from England a couple of days ago. We went down to the National Art Gallery in the afternoon (after being deposited at a "Tourist Information Office aka touts in a building by our first autorickshaw who told us we had to buy tickets there). We left and went on to the Gallery, which you can buy tickets for at the door and had a really nice time walking around some really cool paintings with some lovely air conditioning. There were some interesting Indian paintings and styles as well as lots of other good paintings, which I'm not really sure where they're from. That evening Tegan and Will left Delhi and I had some korma on the roof terrace and got an early night. The room in Hotel Amax was pretty nice, clean and a bolt on the inside of the door (which there has been actually everywhere I have been and I think is the standard here, which I'm grateful for).
Met some more people during breakfast at the roof terrace and then headed off to see the Red Fort. Here I got my first taste of being a celebrity, when I offered to take a photo for a family and then spent the next five minutes being photographed with various members of this family. This happened several more times, and since I've discovered it's quite a common joke among tourists that if we charged 10 rupees every time someone wanted to take a photo with us we'd be able to pay for our whole trip. Bizarrely this wasn't just locals, a Korean tourist also came up and asked me for a photo. There will be photos of me all over the world by the end of this trip. The Red Fort was impressive,and an insight into the possible luxury of India. The museum there was not a delight, I was expecting some chilled air conditioned respite, instead it was crammed and hot and I walked around as quickly as I could. After that I went to the big mosque, Jammu something I think, which I had to pay 300 rupees to go into because of my camera, despite me saying I was not going to use it. Again interesting, but once you go in and see it's architecture for a few minutes then you're kind of done. After that to the Gandhi museum which was nice and interesting, very serene although I found it slightly freaky they had on display one of the bullets he was shot with as well as some of his blood soaked cloth. Each to their own. After that I went to Connaught Place, having searched for it for ages I realised I was in it and it was just a very Western row of shops. Not really sure why the Lonely Planet recommends it, I was not impressed and went back to the hotel instead. Later I met Krista for a walk around the local bazaar (which I had been searching for all day and then discovered was right around the corner) and couldn't resist a little bit of shopping. That evening I met lots of people on the lovely roof terrace over dinner. This included Magui, from France who was lovely and Ange from Australia who had been in Uttarakhand during the flooding and who told us about her crazy journey with her friend to get out of there, which included her leaving her passport and all her money in a car in the rush to get in a jeep going their way. Still she seemed in pretty high spirits. I also met Chris who I went with to the bazaar the following day, via the train station to book an early morning train to Amritsar, where I met Dave who was also travelling there. i accidentally got first class so wasn't in the same carriage but still it was nice to know he was around. Later on I made some more friends on the roof terrace, most of whom had been in India for a good few months, and made me wish my visit was a bit longer! (I'm not planning to extend don't worry).
Train to Amritsar was pretty kushty, sat next to a lady with a really cute baby who obviously found me completely confusing and stared at me for a quite large part of the journey. In the afternoon I managed to get a little lost trying to find the Golden Temple, which noone I told understands how, but had a nice explore of Amritsar bazaars. Finaaaally found the Golden Temple which is just unbelievable. I think it's one of the best things I've ever seen. It's surrounded by water, a bit like a really fancyand minute motte and bailey which has the effect of making it seem even more spiritual. I met a lovely Indian lady who I went to have some of the free chai they provide with and then I went in to their communal eating room for a yummy meal (also free, so kind). I then headed back to my Guest house, where I watched the owners kids play cricket for a bit in the front yard/ I was going to attempt some Indian-English cricket banter but decided I didn't know enough about cricket to try. The next day I checked out of my Guest house and went to stay in the Golden Temple's dorms for tourists (again donation based). Met some more lovely people and went to the India-Pakistan border closing cermony with a big group. The border closing ceremony was quite random but fun, there were loads of people and the women started dancing before some quite odd marching things by each sides officers in their big hats. After we got back from that we went for dinner and then had a stroll around the Golden Temple in the night time. Which was such a good idea, it looks even more magical because it's dark apart from the lights lighting up the central temple which reflect in the water. It was also less busy so we got to go inside and have a look around, so intricately decorated.
Sadly there is no such thing as a free lunch and awoke the next morning to find that the dorms bedbugs had gone to town on my arms, face and neck. Not ideal. Set off for Daramsala with some of the people I had met the day before, snoozed most of the journey although my bites were getting progessively itchier. Finally arrived in Bagshu, a little town about 20 minutes out of Daramsala and collapsed in to Sky Pei hotel to put lots of cream on les bites. After dinner and thoroughly checking all my stuff (a lot of people said that I shouldn't carry them on because my sleeping bag liner is too thin for them to hide in, and they have not reappeared since thankfully) I tried to get a good nights sleep, but my bites kept me up for most of the night. Luckily it's much cooler here and so they were better than they could have been. The next day I tried out meditation, which involved us "Shaking" for around 10 minutes and then dancing for 10 minutes and then doing deep breathing. At first I felt like an absolute tit and was struggling to keep a straight face but by the end I actually found it pretty calming and an interesting experience. Since then I've pretty much been chilling out here, doing a bit of meditation and relaxing. I also did a cooking class and made some yummy veggie kofta malai which I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to recreate.
My bites are pretty much better now which is a big relief. Today I went for a hike up to Tergund (I think it's called) which was amazing. It was really cloudy which was a bit of a shame because I couldn't see the view, but it also meant that at the top we were in the clouds, felt like we were in a song and all seemed pretty mystical and magical.
Tomorrow I'm meeting Krista in McLeod Ganj, which I popped to today and seems really fun, just in time for the Dalai Lama's birthday. I bought these (I think amazing) elephant harem pants from a Tibetan guy there who told me lots of people will be dancing from early in the morning to celebrate although sadly no show from the Dalai Lama himself.
So that's everything so far I can think of, having such a good time and being surprised by things every day. Also in love with how cheap it is here, going to try not to do too much shopping but it's not easy!
Love you all lots, hope everyone is having fun xxx