Right now, I’m sitting on an overnight train from Delhi to Jaisalmer. It’s packed with both Indians and foreigners, it’s sweaty, and it smells like fart.
It’s only my second day in India, but despite the current conditions, I’m already loving it.
I spent the last week in Bangkok laying low, replenishing my supplies (i.e. stomach meds and elephant pants), and seeing some friends about a few rooftop cocktails. I spent relaxing hours wandering the streets of my favorite big city in Asia, eating some much-anticipated Western food to recover my belly after Myanmar, and drinking delicious coffee and Thai tea wherever I could find it.
Then on Friday, I boarded a flight to Delhi, and found my senses assaulted as soon as I touched down. Just getting a cab into the city was an adventure, and once I got into New Delhi to find my hotel in Karol Bagh, I was stunned by the manic chaos and colorful crowds on every street corner.
Yesterday, I wandered the streets of Old Delhi in a city tour. I visited Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in India, drank masala chai from an old tea cart in an alleyway, sampled delicious curries I’ve never heard of, and learned about the Sikh religion in one of the most sacred Sikh Temples in India.
I felt overwhelmed with stuff to look at and think about. All day, my mind was constantly reeling, re-adjusting, searching for understanding, and being challenged. Everyone told me to be prepared for this. They all said “India is intense.” But how could I prepare? India is unlike any place I’ve ever been. It’s got so much character in it’s chaos. It’s vibrant in ways I didn’t think were possible.
What I’m trying to say is this: India woke me up. I’d been feeling burned out from travel lately, coasting on autopilot, not really engaging with the places I was seeing. I was road weary, but being here has started to revive me. I feel fully engaged, ready for the next three weeks of travel here, ready to take on whatever challenges India can throw at me, and ready to fall head-over-heels in love with this incredible country.
Come at me, India. Let’s do this.