If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that I have been in India for 5 days. I have another 10 days to go. I like to travel alone and independently. Normally I don't make many plans, I just sort of wing it. My friends who have been to India, told me that India, for a woman alone, is not a good idea. I am not a tour person,and in a place like India, I really did not want to deal with other people´s culture shock. I checked out lots of options before choosing Namaste India Tours. They arranged the hotels, the car, and driver. They also provided an agenda. I pay for monument entrances, any guides, food. This is close to perfect for me, although I feel a little bit like "Driving Miss Daisy."
India is not an easy place to move around in, at least this part. There are so many men in India, sometimes you don´t even see women. Women do not go out alone. It is uncomfortable at times so I am glad to have the driver and the car. I am usually mobbed inside the monuments, I just talk Spanish to them and eventually they go away. The funny thing is that everyone wants a picture with me. I think that I have had my foto taken over 100 times. I am probably trending on Instagram India. However, don't let any of this keep you from coming here. I love India. It is a beautiful country and I am happy to be here.
I have met so many kind and lovely people. In the airport in Doha I met several people, all who were eager to talk to me. Everyone on my plane was Indian, and being blond I really stuck out. People were very friendly,all wanting to give me advice. An ode to things to come.
On Facebook, friends keep asking me if I am suffering from culture shock. Absolutely not. Perhaps it is all the years in Argentina. It could also be my extensive travels through Mexico. Or other parts of Latin America.Yes, there is poverty in India, but Argentina has had as much as 42% poverty while I have lived there. Yes, at times it is not clean, but unlike Argentina, all the toilets have flushed without having to put the toilet paper in a basket. At one road stop, the toilet was close to being a hole in the ground, but I experienced that, years ago in Mexico. So no big issues here, although I am sure for others, this place might be a horror story
I love the food. I have had some amazing hot and spicy dishes. My driver thinks I am crazy. He had to give me his lunch one day, because it was too spicy for him. Being a celiac is hard here. I have pretty much given up trying to explain. The poor vili in my intestines probably miss Argentina. I am usually very strict with my diet, but here there are not many options. I have not gotten sick either. I am eating in restaurants and dabas,
So what stands out so far? In Delhi, I arrived very early in the morning. The hotel offered me a temporary room to shower, relax, and change my clothes. After 27 hours of travel, you can only imagine how that felt. In all the years I have been traveling, I have never had a hotel do this. That and they were insistent that I do it, and also made sure that I understood that this was just a transitory room, that my room would be much nicer.
On my second day, we stopped so I could see a temple on the way to Mandawa. It had rained, and you cannot wear shoes in the temples. It was cold and icky. Out of nowhere a beautiful woman came up to me with her family and asked to take my picture with them. Her dress was magnificent. A beautiful purple, gold, and green, with a matching scarf. She draped the scarf around my neck, and insisted that I keep it. I was very touched. I tried to give it back, but even her husband insisted I keep it. 10 pictures and 1 scarf later, I was on my way.
I love the old and graceful buildings and temples. Many are 400 years or more. Mandawa is a city with many heritage properties. I had a local guide take me through several of the Havelis. He was smoking beedees, the Indian clove cigarette. He was surprised that I knew what they were and offered me one. I used to smoke beedies when I was a teenager. I don't even remember where we bought them, but I used to love them. In those days I smoked cigarettes. I smoked a little bit of the beedee. It wasn't like when I was 17, but is anything? I am going to buy some, so when Gigi and Jane come back to Buenos Aires, we can smoke them!
After Mandawa I went to Bikaner. A hotel with no hot water my first day. They changed my room. My 20 something Bollywood wannabe bell boy brought my luggage to the new room, and then showed me how there was hot water. As the water was streaming out of the faucet, he turned to me and said "It's hot like you!" Queee??? I laughed it off and then he asked me how old I was. India is definitely not the land of the political correct. I think he expected me to say something like 40, but I told him my real age, which elicited "You are like my grandm0ther...but my grandmother is not like you." OK. Rolling eyes. Youth, Bollywood or not.