India Blog Post
India was a place I have only dreamt of visiting, yet here I was on my way to this colorful, diverse country. I was ecstatic, to say the least.
Our ship arrived in the port of Cochin, India located in the state of Kerala. I woke up that morning, opened my port-hole to see a few local authorities standing outside. They noticed me peeking out and waved with laughter. Great start, can’t wait to step off the ship!
Finally I was able to disembark and I and one other friend headed out into Cochin without much plan or idea of what we’d do – just eagerness to get off the ship. It actually went pretty well! We managed to push through the dozens of taxi drivers begging us to use their service, and got a ticket to ride the ferry to the other side of Kerala. Once we got there, we realized with the bustling streets that it would not be the safest to walk along the area (nor would it be the most productive, considering both my friend and I had a 5 day trip planned with a tour group and we had to be back for pickup in the evening.) A local pulled us aside and said “100 rupees for tuktuk tour! Interested?” Now, a tuktuk is this sketchy, tiny, open-air vehicle that locals and tourists take as taxis. We heard about these tuktuk tours before, and actually this was the cheapest offer we had heard. Not only did it seem convenient, but also fun. So, we took this guy up on his offer and he took us on a short tour of the area.
We stopped by museums, old churches, shops, and even the beach. The beach was particularly fun – there were goats and dogs everywhere, as well as locals playing Cricket. He also showed us the local life, and we had a stop at a laundry place, where locals washed all their clothes by hand. We ended the tour with a stop at a place to grab lunch – The Dosa House. I never had a dosa before, they are kind like spicy, flavorful pancakes with assorted chuttneys on the side. (pardon any misspelling)
When we got back to the ship, I packed my bags and was ready to rock n’ roll to my text India adventure. I had a 5 day, 4 night trip planned with a tour group organized by one of the other Semester at Sea students. Our first flight would take us to Hyderabad, India.
We got to the airport that night, boarded our flight and eventually arrived at out hotel in Hyderabad. The guy who organized this tour for us was actually Indian himself, and his grandma (who lives in Hyderabad) came along with us and met us at the airport. She greeted us with bottled of waters and smosas – quite possibly the sweetest woman alive. We also had a meal ready for us when we got to the hotel, which was Biryani, a spicy indian rice-based dish served with yogurt and breads. It was delicious, but quite frankly I thought I was going to die by how terribly spicy it was….it was…the good kind of pain though. Yummy..satisfying…but painful.
The following morning we stopped at various museums, but what really highlighted the day was a visit to a local all-girls college that was actually run by the grandmother I mentioned before. This was absolutely amazing. The girls all excitedly greeted us with hugs, served us snacks, and we spoke to them about college life in the US and our experiences in India. Turns out, we made the Hyderabad newspaper!
That evening was something absolutely mind blowing. We had the opportunity to see Hyderabad’s famous night-time laser show! Lasers reflected off of water and presented beautiful images and told a beautiful story of India. Bollywood music played in the background, locals all danced together. The laser show, which was conveniently in English, spoke of how India came to be with it plethora of religions. At the end, it brought Islam, Christianity and Hinduism together as one in complete harmony. Seriously, I pay for a plane ticket back to India just to see that laser show again.
In the next few days we got to visit Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal in Agra/New Delhi. Both of these places were surreal. I could not believe I was actually there, and I did my best to absorb every second of its outstanding beauty.
The Taj Mahal, as many of you may know, is one of the world’s greatest wonders. Built in around 1632, it was created by Mughal Muslim emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved and dearly departed wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Inside rests her tomb.
On the final day we took a trip to down town Delhi for a visit to the Jama Masjid Mosque. When we arrived the mosque-keepers (for lack of a better word?) covered the women in scarves and clothing, and we removed our shoes and were able to enter the mosque. Somehow I wondered away from the group and found myself floating about. The inner mosque was filled with tourists, however as I got to the back of the mosque there was a second exit. The back was higher up on a platform, and presented an absolutely beautiful view of Delhi. Only locals sat in this area, praying, listening to music. I instantly felt out of place, and all eyes were suddenly on me. Family’s found me amusing and asked me to take photos with their children. It was embarrassing, but part of the cultural fun travel brings.
At the end of this day our tour operator surprised us by taking us to a place where we could celebrate India’s holiday known as “holi”. It was a little early, but it was just for fun. The tradition is throwing colorful dust on everyone around you and screaming “HAPPY HOLI!” It’s supposed to be a lot of fun, and it brings friends and family together during this time. It WAS a lot of fun, although getting that stuff out of my clothes, hair and skin proved to be a challenge
And so ended our tour and we were transferred back to the ship.
On my final day in India I spent it at a local boy’s orphanage. The boys at the orphanage were all once street-children, working and begging for any penny possible before picked up by the orphanage. The kids all danced and preformed for us, we played games such as soccer or basketball, and finally had a traditional Kerala meal served to us on banana leaves (probably the most delicious thing I ate on the trip!)