“Why would a guy who hates spiders choose to keep 11 in his bungalow bathroom?
Did I make it to an Indian wedding?
Did I not get woken up at my stop on the bus and find myself wandering a new city in the dark at 4am?
For the answer to these, and more questions here is month 14 😉
After spending a month in Sri Lanka, mostly in a very relaxing setting of beaches and island paradise, it was interesting returning to the chaos of an Indian city, that is Madurai.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to react, but immediately I was happy to see the cows and goats in the streets, the garbage, the crazy traffic, the strong smells and sights, the loud and non-stop honking of the cars and motorbikes on the streets (this is actually my LEAST favorite thing in all of India). I’ve come to the realization that India is the most vibrant place I have ever been to. There seems to be energy and life oozing out of everywhere you look.
After spending a few days in Madurai mostly exploring the beautiful and impressive Meenakshi Amman Temple, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meenakshi_Amman_Temple)
and walking around getting reacquainted with the chaotic beauty and magic of India, I made a 25 hour train and bus journey to a place everyone who has gone will recommend to you, Hampi.
Hampi is unique and famous for having what seem like billions of rocks, stones, boulders spread out as far as the eye can see between the beautiful green landscapes. It is also a Unesco World heritage site for its temples and ruins. I arrived and had a well deserved meal and then went looking for a place to stay, and found a magical place with a view of the river and the temples and what sealed the deal for me, 2 slacklines (ropes for practicing balance, like for tight rope walking).
I ended up spending 10 days in Hampi as I loved it there and met some great local people and travelers and enjoyed exploring on scooter around to rivers and lakes, temples, nearby villages, and was able to practice some slacklining over water in absolutely beautiful settings (waterlining). Also I was able to practice some more drum playing and participate in a few jam sessions. Life was very good in Happy Hampi.
After the super chilled out atmosphere of Hampi, I took a 15 hour bus up north to the mega city Mumbai, or Bombay as it was once called under British colonization. I only spent 3 days in this huge 22 million people city that is India´s finacial capital, as I wasn’t in the mood for a big city at this moment. The city is home to the famous “Bollywood” movie industry, which is actually the biggest movie industry in the world (there are always people looking for westerners to be extras in their movies in exchange for around $8 usd a day, and a chance of being immortalized in the background of a scene in an Indian film).
I was not interested in this, but instead in seeing both the beauty and the beast of this city. The closest beauty I found in Colaba, the posh neighborhood where my hostel The Salvation Army, the cheapest option I heard of for backpackers ($5 USD for a dorm bed, but felt more like a homeless shelter), it was in an amazing location next to famous sites with amazing buildings and architecture and museums and galleries that I was able to visit.
The best thing I did in Mumbai and the further away beauty I discovered in Mumbai came after a nice guy I met in my dorm told me he had visited a “slum” and an organization there that works with children in an after school program with local children.
I went with my friend Peter from England, whom I met in Hampi and ran into at the hostel, and we had a great experience helping the kids with their homework and with their English and also had a chance to walk around the neighborhood and see some very interesting factories and businesses, and after everything we finished the day with a fun football match. I fell in love with these amazing kids and was sad to leave them.
From Mumbai I took a 12 hours bus further up north to the city of Udaipur in the northern state of Rajasthan. While I was there it was quite hot. How hot? Well, one day it reached 51 degrees, the hottest day in Indian history!
Udaipur, was actually featured in the James Bond film, Octopussy and to me set the tone for Rajasthan, where I felt like I was in what I imagine the Middle East or Northern Africa would be like as besides the weather and architecture of palaces and fortresses, you also see most of the men in this region wear turbans, which I began to develop a fondness for and eventually bought my own. Udaipur is a really pleasant place and I loved walking around with the mission of getting lost in its winding cobblestone streets and saw some amazing deteriorated buildings and was able to witness life in these colorful neighborhoods.
From Udaipur I decided to change my direction of south to north, as I wanted to visit a famous religious festival I had heard about by the name of the Kumbh Mela, that rotates every few years between a few holy cities, and this time would be in the city of Ujjain,(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbh_Mela ) that is actually the largest religious gathering in the world, where pilgrims come from far and near during one month to bathe in the waters of the sacred Shipra river, to wash away their sins and be purified by the nectar of the gods that legend tells fell here and made this a holy place.
In Ujjain I walked around for hours and hours observing and taking in as much as I could while I was there. It was really interesting to see masses of pilgrims coming and going constantly as the roads are packed with congestion and people making there way down to the Ghats, or steps down to the river) and seeing people doing religious ceremonies and prayers by the water. Of course I also bathed in the river (twice), and met some really friendly locals, including some holy men that smoke hash for religious purposes.
From Ujjain I went back up to Udaipur, and took a bus the same day to Jodhpur, also known as the blue city where I went to see the famous Mehrangarh Fort, ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehrangarh_Fort),
which was beautiful and really impressive.
From Jodhpur I went to Pushkar (a holy city that is also a pilgrimage site for Hindus and is home to the ONLY Brahma temple in India) I spent a week there and loved it mostly because of the colorful dresses the women wear and the turbans the guys wear, walking around the old quarter of the city. I also discovered a gypsy campsite and made some friends there and ended up going 3 days to hang out and take pictures and help them out.
I also had the pleasure of visiting an animal rescue center that does great work treating sick and injured street animals…from dogs, cats, goats, cows, etc… I tried to play with and cheer up all of them.
And how about this…The day I was going from Jodhpur to Ajmer to get to Pushkar , it was a night bus and it was supposed to arrive around midnight. But of course it was several hours behind, and I fell asleep and no one woke me up, and when I woke up I was 2 hours past my stop and I woke up in Jaipur, and this is where I would be heading after Pushkar. So it was around 4 am and I got off the bus and started walking along this dark creepy underpass avenue looking for a hostel. Never found one and decided to get a bus in the direction I came from to get to Pushkar. On this bus the guy sitting next to me was nice and we were chatting and he ended up inviting me to his brothers wedding in 5 days.
I wasn’t sure if he was serious, so I didn’t get excited even though I had heard Indian weddings are amazing.
The day of the wedding I also ran into my friend Javier from Spain, on the street whom I had met and had last seen in Varkala almost 3 months ago and with him and Charlotte and our friend Federica we all went to the wedding expecting a small simple affair…
Look what we got instead!
There were amazing costumes, dances, food, and all of this before the wedding began…including a parade through the streets with the groom riding a white horse to the fancy hotel where the wedding was.
After Pushkar, I made it to Jaipur, a bigger city that I didn’t like that much, but I had the pleasure of exploring the sights with my friends Max and Orianne that I met in Sri Lanka, so that was a treat to see them again and spend time with them
This month in India was excellent. Madurai was a great re-introduction to India and Hampi was a really special place that I fell in love with. Mumbai was interesting and I really enjoyed Rajasthan, as I felt like it was one of the most distinct places I’ve been to, and thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the culture and style that they have in this part of the country and the world. I felt like I saw the most colors I had ever seen in my life on one street with all the colors that the men and women wear in their outfits. And having the privilege to have been to a Kumbh Mela was amazing.
It is also hard to see how much necessity and poverty there is in India, that people wear with a dignity like I have never seen. It is almost unheard of to hear of physical violence and of stealing, while in most parts of the world that don’t have the same necessity is plagued with it. India is the most vibrant place I have been to, and I am looking forward to continuing learning and growing spiritually and personally here.
I finally joined Instagram, so please follow adventures there as well:
Hottest day in Indian history:
Are you familiar with the Indian headbob?: