Molly Thompson Smith

Molly Thompson Smith
Edinburgh EYC 2013

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Gap Year Travels - India

Whilst I’m sat on this endless sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I might as well reflect on my time in India last week. Before I went to India, I was pretty confident I knew what I was in for.

I'll forever be in love with India's architecture - Jama Masjid.

During my 8 short days here I leant a lot and made a lot of observations. Firstly, India’s winters are fairly chilly; this may be slightly biased as I am one of the coldest people you will ever meet! Crazy right?! India, cold? Never!
Knowing I’d only be in India for 8 days before moving onto a hot & humid Thailand, and also having a backpack with a 60m rope, portable fingerboard and several draws in it meant I packed light with minimal layers and not much warm stuff. Bad Choice. Yes it’s pleasant in the sun but India’s mornings, evenings and shady spots are pretty nippy – I even had to buy an extra jumper to avoid freezing. This made sightseeing in the morning and even a night camping pretty difficult.

Baby faced me and the Baby Taj in Agra.
I also learnt haggling can be fairly draining, especially when you don’t know the value of things but know you’re probably going to get ripped off if you don’t get the price down a bit. As a baby faced, petite young girl I look like an easy target, however I’m fairly decent at standing my ground and not giving into the ‘I’ll give you this and together they’ll be xxx, best price, won’t find anything like it, handmade and of the finest quality.’ When clearly it’s not or you had no intention in buying the item in the first place. The sellers can be fairly aggressive and relentless in their efforts to achieve a purchase – very unlike what happens in the UK. It takes some getting used to but it’s all experience.

Doing my India travelling in a tour group ruined the experience for me. Of course it’s all personal opinion and preference, but following a group of people and just being one of those westerners on a tour took away all the excitement and adventure of discovering somewhere full of history, culture and unique people. And in that sense I feel as though I didn’t get a taste of authentic India – only one where I was a walking, talking bag of money with lots of other moneybag friends. And it’s not so nice feeling like that. Even though I think I’d have had a better time without a tour or even in a different country I guess it’s always good to experience something – I thought I wasn’t a tours person and now I know for sure that it’s not for me.

The Taj Mahal - Agra.
However, I did see some beautiful architecture, my favourite being the one and only Taj Mahal. It was hard not to be impressed with its scale, almost perfect symmetry (just ruined by an extra coffin being placed off centre!), fine paintwork and the story behind it. I think it was one of the highlights of the trip for me! Another thing I secretly enjoyed but did an awful lot of moaning during was camping in the Duhla Village. Now it wasn’t exactly camping – more glamping with beds in our tent and even a toilet. As I mentioned before I don’t do cold and so a night basically outside was difficult for me! But as soon as the sun came out the next day and we wandered around the local village meeting people and watching them carryout their daily duties I decided that maybe it hadn’t been so bad. And lastly I think I will remember the sky of Jaipur on the day of the festival of Sakranti – the changing of seasons. It’s a tradition to wear yellow and fly kites around India, particularly in Jaipur. A pink sky full of kites being flown on rooftops, the odd lantern and fireworks was definitely up there in my favourite sky collection!
George enjoying the chilly morning after glamping.

And I must also say that not everyone in India is trying to sell you something or take advantage of you! I know my blog has a slightly sour feel to it but I did meet some incredibly friendly people with incredible talents and skills. India is clearly a country very proud of its history and culture and is one where respect is highly valued and that is something to be admired!

Safe to say I’ll never assume a film representation of a country’s climate, culture, facilities etc (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was what I went off!) is accurate.

Next blog… Thailand. 

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