I finished strong in India, by visiting the Taj Mahal. I had heard so many mixed opinions about the Taj Mahal and Agra (the city where it’s located), that I had considered skipping the cherished mausoleum. Logic ultimately prevailed, and I booked a hostel in Agra. It was an interesting day, one that was at times both overwhelming and underwhelming. In the late morning, some fellow travelers and I headed to the Taj’s southern gate, and after pushing through hordes of touts and shop-owners, we were finally admitted into the site. The palace was far more spectacular than I had imagined it would be. I couldn’t tell you anything about its history, but just seeing the massive, white-marble structure was enough to make my jaw drop. However, I found that the building became boring after about an hour or so, and was far more enjoyable on the outside, than it was on the inside. I was also a little bit bothered (but not much) that foreigners were charged 750 rupees for entry (roughly $11.75), while Indian citizens only paid 20 rupees (30 cents). 750 rupees may not seem like much on the surface, but it can go quite a long way in India.
After the Taj Mahal, we walked through Agra, eating street food and visiting random neighborhoods. Our walk took a turn into a small slum, where we were greeted by dozens of children shouting “hello!” to us. It was a very inviting and friendly place, especially compared to the tout-heavy area we had just come from. Later that day, I took a bus to Delhi, the capital of India. Here I am in Delhi, sitting in a dirty hotel room, waiting out my last few days in India. It feels surreal that my three-month trip in South Asia is coming to a close in just a few short hours. Very soon, I’ll be on a plane to the Middle East, far away from the sights, sounds, and smells of India.
It’s really been a wild ride. When I finished the Southeast Asian leg of my journey, I figured that a few months in India would just give me another country to explore. I think I under-estimated how intense my experience would be. The few months felt like years. Time never flew by in India; every day felt like a week, because I was constantly bombarded with new things. Whether good or bad, I saw sights I never thought I’d see, tasted foods I never thought I would taste, heard sounds…well, you get the picture! On every sensory level, India was the craziest place I have been to. The trip was life-changing in many respects, as I was able to see a way of life that is virtually non-existent in my home country. I highly recommend everybody come here, simply because it will make you rethink many things. What you think about depends on you; however, you will not leave without having learned something new about the world.
I can also tell you this, though: it won’t be long before I return.
Why will I be returning to India, a country that I’ve already spent so much time in? There are multiple reasons.
For me, India is located in a very ideal part of the globe. It is not too far from Southeast Asia, a region that I desperately want to return too. Additionally, it borders several countries that I would like to visit in the near future, for example: Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. It is the perfect Asian “middle zone;” it’s a very cheap place to hang out for a little while, before heading to nearby country. India is also very big, and I was certainly not able to cover as much of it as I would have liked to. Many regions, such as Kashmir, the Himalayas, and (frankly) the entire eastern half of the country have not yet been seen by yours truly. Finally, India is still a developing country. Therefore, it will be nice to come back intermittently just to see how much it has “developed.”
So, I’m going to new horizons. Next time you hear from me, I’ll probably have just celebrated New Year’s in Lebanon.
Hasta la vista, India!
Photo Credit: Lisa Berkman