Well I've made it to India, the last real stop on my adventure! Can't believe I'm already here...
Getting here was an adventure in itself. My flight left Ghana fine and originally I was supposed to have a 4 hour layover in Addis Ababa, but apparently there were weather problems in Delhi and my flight was delayed one hour, then two hours...finally 3 hours late we left. When I got into Delhi the line for immigration easily had 300 people in it...and only two people behind the counter! Oh India...two hours later I was through customs and immigration, and miraculously my bag AND the driver from the hostel were both waiting for me..I was shocked!
My hostel is in Paharganj, a crazy, seedy neighbourhood that consists of one main street lined with shops, rickshaws, and tour agencies, and many tiny alleyways; my hostel (and most others) is on one of these alleys. Delhi is just as crazy, dirty, crowded, chaotic as you imagine it - and there really are cows walking around the streets! The poverty and the dirtiness and the crowds are all things I've dealt with in other countries so the adjustment hasn't been too bad, but I can imagine how hard it must be to come to India straight from a western country. Talk about culture shock! I think my trip has really prepared me for the chaos here. The one thing that is hard to get used to is the hassle - about 100 times worse than anywhere I've ever been! In Ghana when strangers talk to you on the street, usually you say hi back, answer where you're from, and move on or stop to have a nice chat. But here if you do that, which I did on my first day since I wasn't used to India, they will follow you for the rest of the day! At one point I had 4 younger guys following me as well as a tour agent trying to sell me a $1000 tour of Rajasthan! Craziness...yesterday walking around I realized that you just have to be rude and not answer anyone who calls after you...which is hard for me - I'm a good Canadian girl and very polite! The other annoying thing about the men here is that they stare at you and deliberately bump into you when walking by...but I can get used to that. And Delhi is supposed to be the craziest, most crowded place in India so it doesn't get any worse than this, and I've had a fine few days!
Yesterday I spent the day in Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi. After walking around awhile I stopped in a small heaven - a coffee shop. Then I went to the Tibetan market and bought lots of new clothes that are more India-appropriate. While the hassle from the men was annoying, it's not all bad - I couldn't find the way into the coffee place because of construction, and a very nice man showed me the way and then wished me a good day! And then in the coffee place, another man was trying to flirt with me, and started singing Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On...I couldn't help but laugh at him!!!
Today I met a lovely couple who met on a travel buddies website, traveled South America together, and fell in love! So romantic. She's from Argentina and he's from Holland, and after they finish traveling India she's moving to Holland! We also wandered around with an older guy from the US. We went for a fabulous lunch - can't stop eating here I love the food so much! - and then went to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in Delhi. I wasn't really impressed - the architecture is beautiful, but the mosque is in terrible shape and really needs repair. For the most important mosque in the city it really needs work! We were able to climb up the tower and get a great (although smoggy) view of Old Delhi. Then we wandered the chaotic markets in Old Delhi before heading back to the hostel, completely exhausted!
Tomorrow I have a very early train to Agra, where I'll spend the day at the Taj Mahal. Then tomorrow night I take a train to Jaipur where I'll spend a few days shopping and sight seeing. Matt, the American guy, is taking the same train so we'll go to the station together (wasn't looking forward to walking there myself at 5:30 in the morning) and then spend the day at the Taj together.
India is absolutely crazy, but there's something about it I really love. I'm hooked!!
Pictures coming soon...internet here is unreliable (even in a city as big as Delhi!) so I'm going to try to upload them in small batches...