As the title probably explains, India is a crazy experience with so much happening at once. India for the three of us was like a roller coaster of highs and lows, one minute you just wanted to go back to Southeast Asia and the next, you never wanted to leave. The main problem we had in India happened straight away, by getting scammed in New Delhi. However, we tried to be as open minded as possible and tried to enjoy the rest of our stay.
Arriving from Tokyo in the early hours of the morning, like most travellers, we just wanted to get to our hostel and sleep. However, the next couple of hours were the most unexpected and most annoying of our travelling lives. As were in our taxi to our hostel, we came across some police barriers where a guy told our taxi driver that we could not pass due to the riots. He continued to explain, that he should take us to a tourist information centre, where they would help us out and find us a new hostel. However, what did happen was a (seemingly) nice and helpful Indian man scammed the three of us out of £60 each. He did this by saying that we needed to leave the city as there were no point in staying in Delhi as the riots meant most of the city was closed. He also encouraged us to phone other hotels up, where he would dial the number and the person down the line would quote us hundreds of pounds per night. What we later found out, was that it was just a person in the other room and that there were many people in on the scam. In the end we ended up paying £60 each for a taxi to Agra, which obviously really frustrated us. Nevertheless, we found out that many people who chose not to pay, later were mugged of all their belongings, so we were glad that we only paid £60. It seems many people are falling for this scam all across India, and our only advice would be if this happens to you just get out at the point where you’re not “allowed” to cross, before you’re too far in.
After being scammed and being really annoyed, we decided to enjoy our time in India and make Agra our first proper stop. We started our day by hiring a day’s long tuc-tuc so we could tour the city. Our tuc-tuc driver recommended a lot of different places that we should visit. Firstly, we visited Akbar’s Tomb which personally we didn’t think was that good. As the name says it was just a tomb, and not something we would recommend going out of your way to see. However, as it was part of our tuc-tuc tour we didn’t mind doing it. Afterwards, we visited Mariam’s tomb, but only from the outside gate as Vickie, our tuc-tuc driver, said it was not worth paying to get in as there was nothing inside. One of our favourite parts of the day was going to a Sikh temple and meeting some of the nicest people we will probably ever meet. Vickie told us that we could get a free meal here, but as we didn’t know what to expect we walked in to look where to pay. As soon as we went inside, people came up to us giving us free food, and water. Without even asking, they kept refilling our trays until we didn’t want anymore. We all agree that the Dal we eat was one of the best meals that we have ever had (although very spicy). It’s not compulsory, but we did leave a donation as we enjoyed the hospitality we received. We finished the day by going to Mehtab Bagh gardens opposite the Taj Mahal for the sunset. The friendliness and hospitality we received from different people was really what we needed after being scammed.
The next day we again chose to do a day tour with Vickie where we would go and visit the big attractions in Agra. We began by visiting Agra Fort which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Costing 550 Rupees, about £6, I have to say was really good value for money. Agra Fort was one of the best attractions we visited in India. After spending nearly 2 hours walking around the Fort and its surrounding gardens, we set off to visit the Baby-Taj. As the name suggests it’s literally just a smaller version of the Taj Mahal, but it was actually really cool to visit and again like the Fort, walk round the surrounding gardens. Here we also met some Indians who were jumping into the Yamuna river, where it was absolutely filthy. Vickie found our reaction funny as he said most people bathed and washed their clothes in this river. Our last stop on our day tour was at Chini-Ka-Rauzah, which is older than the Taj Mahal. We really did like this place as it was filled with spectacular gardens, walkways and history. Everything that we did during our second day in Agra we would fully recommend for anyone to do.
During our last day in Agra, we woke up early so we could visit the Taj Mahal for sunrise. As we had already visited the gardens opposite for sunset, we decided that it would be better to see the sunrise so we could see them both. However, unlike the gardens, the entrance fee into the Taj Mahal is 1000 rupees for foreign visitors. We expected that when we got inside we would never be able to look at it properly, or take a good picture, as there would be so many tourists. Surprisingly, this was not the case, and it was actually really enjoyable to see the views of the city and of the Taj itself. We must have spent around 3 hours at the Taj Mahal, seeing what can only be described as the perfect sunrise. Seeing the sunrise at the Taj Mahal was truly an incredible experience, and we can fully appreciate why the Taj is a World Wonder. As we were leaving Agra that day to catch a train to Jaipur, we stayed at one of our favourite local restaurants playing games and trying to eat as much Indian food as possible. The restaurant is called “Good Vibes Cafe”, and we would recommend this restaurant to anyone, as the food is good and cheap, and the the owner is very friendly.
We had already pre-booked our train from Agra to Jaipur, and this is an important thing to remember as Indian trains get booked up months in advance. The only problem with this is, that when there is a delay all you can do is wait. Annoyingly, our train was delayed for 8 hours and meaning we didn’t get the train until 2.30am. As you can imagine, by this time we were knackered due to waking up extremely early to see the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. Arriving in Jaipur in the early morning, we decided to just sleep as soon as we got to the hostel. Before sleeping we had arranged a tuc-tuc tour of the Amber Fort and Jal Mahal as we only had one day in Jaipur. Due to this, we wanted to prioritise the main attractions from our original plan. Although we really enjoyed the short time we had in Jaipur, we really do wish we could have spent more time here and is somewhere that we would like to return too.
Flying to Goa the next morning, meant we had to try and arrange a taxi in the early hours. The problem with this is we struggled badly trying to organise anything. The hostel said it booked several taxis all for them to cancel our booking. This meant that we were cutting it really close with missing out flight. But luckily, we managed to find in the end. Some advice would be, if you need to get a taxi early in the morning make sure you give plenty of time so you don’t miss a flight or bus etc. When we got to Goa we had a really strange experience where during our taxi ride, our taxi driver got out off the taxi and started arguing loudly with another driver. We were told that the South was much more chill than the North but at first this did not seem the case. However, during our stay in Goa where we stayed at a beach resort to just unwind before ending our 13 week Asia trip, it was one of the most chill places we have been. Even though we really didn’t do much in Goa as we just wanted to relax on the beach, it was exactly what we needed.
During our trip to Goa, we also decided to take a 10 hour ride to Hampi. What we can say is about Hampi, is it is a MUST DO! Hampi was beyond incredible, from all its different temples and it’s Palace, to all its different random rock formations, Hampi was a traveller’s paradise. Hampi, like Fuji and Pai really felt like a proper travelling place and not just a tourist destination. This is why Hampi was such an incredible place, because not everyone goes to Hampi, which means the things you do and see aren’t setup for tourists, and also aren’t overpriced.
India is a place which for us is filled with many different emotions and feelings. During our stay, it was a place that gave us a lot of frustrations, such as being scammed and our train being delayed 8 hours. However, seeing the Taj Mahal and being able to experience places like Hampi, Goa and Agra were incredible. Many different we met during our trip kept telling us that you cannot prepare yourself for India, which may not be useful information. But when it comes to India it really is a roller coaster experience because you never know what is going to happen next. What we can say is visiting India really makes you appreciate so many different aspects of your life, giving us a better understanding of extreme poverty (although it really isn’t all poor), as well as different cultures and just helping us become better travellers in general.
View the rest of our India pictures here.