The rest of India

It’s been far too long since my last update, I can’t say I’ve been too busy but it seems whenever I am in the last month of my travels or just recently back home from my trip I never want to update my blog. I now have some motivation and more updates will come more regularly. I looked back at where I ended my last post and it was actually with a repost of Sara’s blog which ended off with us leaving beautiful Nepal on the horrendous bus and arriving in the north of India countless hours later. Nainital was the pit stop location for 2 days before we would finally arrive in Rishikesh. Nainital reminded me of a month earlier when we had the rickshaw and cruised up to the hill station of Kodai. Our experience was quite similar minus the rickshaw problems… Here is the post in case you missed it. The only bus leaving Nainital to Rishikesh was at 5 a.m and to anyone who says travelling is easy, piece of cake, you live such a dream… the stuff that you don’t hear much about are the travel days. There is nothing glamorous about waking up at 4 in the morning walking 2 kms with 50 pounds worth of bags and then sitting at an empty bus station with sketchy people walking around for an hour while you wait to get on your shitty public bus that you’ll be squished on for the next 12 hours. Regardless how shitty it is at that moment, it is those experiences that teach you lessons, lessons about patience, lessons about how others live and what others need to deal with on a daily basis, but most importantly it keeps me grounded. Sometimes I need to be reminded how lucky and fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work and make good money and the freedom to take time off and explore the world. It is hard to realize these things when you get into a routine of working everyday and having a roof over your head and food in your fridge, it’s hard to think about people less fortunate then you when you don’t see it first hand or on a regular basis. I believe that is one of the most beneficial things about travel.

Anyway I am getting off topic here, so after our 12 hour bus we ended up in the beautiful city of Rishikesh. Sara and I desperately needed some chill time so we planned to stay here for a week; Rishikesh is known as the yoga capital of the world and is a really cool place full of yogis and hippies. The town became famous in 1968 when the Beatles stayed at an ashram there and it seems like the town and people have been holding on to that for awhile and are still using it as a selling point at restaurants, cafes and hotels. I didn’t mind though because I love the Beatles and who doesn’t want to be singing their favorite songs while they eat food at Beatles inspired restaurants. I REALLY enjoyed our time in Rishikesh, some of my favorite memories from Rishikesh were explore the Ashram where the Beatles stayed and seeing all the Beatles graffiti everywhere also white water rafting on one of the coldest days we had on our trip, bungee jumping and riding the giant swing from 273 feet and of course doing all of these things, good or bad with my girlfriend!

After our relaxing time in Rishikesh it was on to our second last destination in India. Amritsar! Now Amritsar is home to the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) apparently this Sikh shrine gets more visitors then the Taj Mahal. I can see why, there is no ridiculous entrance fee like the Taj and also no standing in lines to get in. The golden temple is equally as beautiful as the Taj but it’s hard to compare the two. Obviously the Taj Mahal is an iconic landmark but I feel the golden temple should get more credit. Amritsar as a city is blah, nothing too special about the place. If you placed me in the middle of Amritsar and ask me where I was I might say Delhi? Madurai? Chennai? Or even Varanasi. I guess the only thing that would give it away is when we were in Amritsar there were 1000x more turbans because of the large Sikh population but looking at infrastructure you could’ve been in any Indian city. During our stay we also checked out the Pakistan/India border closing ceremony which was such a weird experience and I’ll just leave it at that, if you ever have the chance to do it, obviously take that opportunity but I’ll let you see for yourself. The time finally came for OUR LAST INDIAN TRAIN and boy did we enjoy it. We coughed up the extra rupees to give ourselves the ultimate train experience, First class. It didn’t disappoint, Sara and I had a berth to ourselves and had so much space, the door locked, free chai, A/C, amazing service and overall a great experience. We arrived in Delhi and immediately got a taxi to our hotel, we hadn’t been back to Delhi since the start of our trip about 4 months prior and our last memories from Delhi weren’t the greatest. The second time around really changed my mind about that city, This time we stayed in a nicer, more expensive location but it was worth it. Things were cleaner and less packed and the vibe of everything just felt a lot better. (This could’ve had a lot to do with knowing what to expect and already being able to tolerate the things that we couldn’t tolerate a few months back) We spent a day at the markets and the Lotus Temple and a night at a nice pub where expats go, we drank a little too much and watch some cricket. Our time was running out in India and we only had 3 days left, but before we left we had one more thing on our to do list. HOLI!

Now Holi is a Hindu festival which is also known as Festival of colors, it’s a two day festival and it is wild. There have been horror stories about tourist girls enjoying this festival in the heart of Delhi and all these India guys groping and getting free grabs so obviously Sara was a little nervous at first. We did some research and found a festival that is privately run call Holi moo festival. The tickets weren’t cheap but they had everything we needed within the grounds and they advertised a safe and fun environment. All the reviews from last year were great and no one had anything bad to say about this festival, we weren’t disappointed. The festival had DJs, bands and other performances all day and night; it was the best way to finish up our 4 months in India.

At this point it’s about March 26th 2016 and our flight to Canada isn’t until 10 days from now. Both Sara and I agreed that after surviving 4 months in India it was time for us to treat ourselves to some Thailand action! It worked out that we were in Thailand the same time as Sara’s brother Josh so he tagged along and we explored a little bit of the country together. 10 days isn’t very long and I don’t recommend ever doing a country like Thailand in 10 days especially if it’s your first time going but we had no other choice and I’ve seen this country more than enough times so it was time for me to be a tour guide.  We flew into Bangkok and immediately went south to the islands; we saw Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. A few highlights of the trip were the snorkel trip to Nang Yuan Island, a beautiful private island just off of Koh Tao. Another highlight was drinking beer towers on Khao san road (the main tourist street) getting foot massages while drinking and looking into buying fake Ids, degrees and pretty much anything you want or need. The 10 days flew by and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to Josh and on our way to the airport to finally finish up our amazing trip.

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What I can take away from this trip is that everyone’s cultures and beliefs are different, respect the way people think and act; don’t judge someone based on their looks or what they are wearing. Give everyone a chance and get to know them before you assume things. I know that if Sara and I didn’t give the country or the people the time and respect they deserved, our trip would’ve only been a week long. In the end this trip was amazing and took me to my breaking point on more the one occasion. It’s been hands down the hardest country I’ve ever backpacked and everything seemed to blow me away, but it was worth it. I’m so glad I got to spend this time with the girl I love and feel so lucky that we live a life that allows us to travel and experience different countries and cultures. I have a feeling this won’t be my last time in India.

 

P.s

I have a pretty exciting winter booked up, instead of doing one big trip and being away for months at a time I decided to switch it up and do shorter mini trips so I can spend more time with family and friends plus I can finally have a white Christmas. I’m really excited to be heading to Hong Kong and Japan next month and in November Sara and I are going to Morocco, it’s my first time there and in Africa! Also in the January Sara and I have Philippines booked! I’m super excited to get on a plane again and see what these places have to offer. Also instead of writing these blogs I might try video blogs instead just to make things easier, just a thought.


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