Incredible India

Hi friends and family,

These are my adventures and experiences in Incredible India:

Kolkata, October 20 – 22
I arrived in the evening, took the train and metro to the hotel, and found a small restaurant where both locals and travelers were having dinner. The travelers turned out to be volunteers at the Mother Theresa hospital and the Irish Brandon helped me make sense of the Indian menu. The food is amazing! You’d figure that Pak Aloo (literal translation: spinach potato) would be a simple, slightly boring dish, but it’s full of delicious spices!
I walked around the ugly city that was preparing itself for the Durga Puja festivities. The city is crowded, dirty, and I’ve seen a man tearing off the legs of live chicken… Awful…
Brandon informed me that the festivities are dangerous at night and that already 2 persons had died. I couldn’t wait to leave the city and took two trains to reach magical Agra.

Agra, October 23 – 29
The delay of the second train got worse and worse and it finally arrived in Agra at 19.30 (instead of 12.30). The (Big Brother) hostel I stayed at is new, cheap, close to the Taj Mahal, and has a friendly and helpful staff. I had lots of fun with all the other travelers. We played cards (camps), went to the beautiful Taj Mahal in the early morning, and enjoyed the view on the Taj Mahal from the close by rooftop restaurants.


On the way to Agra Fort I came across two Durga Puja cars with lots of people dancing in front of it and throwing colored (Holi) powder. A boy asked me to dance with him and it was a lot of fun. In India they really love it when you join their festivities or even dress in their traditional clothing.

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On the way back to the hostel I walked through the Shahjahan Park, where there are many monkeys (and rats). In all of Agra you actually see lots of monkeys. And next to all the cows and dogs on the streets there are also donkeys, goats, and pigs.

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After buying train tickets to my next destination I walked to the Baby Taj and the Taj Sunset Viewpoint. In the evening, a local girl cut my hair and dyed it with henna.
Since full moon was coming up I decided to stay in Agra a bit longer. During the five days around full moon the ASI offers Night View tickets to the Taj Mahal. You have to wait in line for two hours and there is a major security check, but it’s worth it. Only 400 visitors (in shifts) are allowed inside of the gates to ensure a nice and quiet experience. I was trying to take one good photo, when an older guy from Delhi told me to just enjoy the view. He was right. I had a nice conversation with him and his wife and he told me that he really could not understand that someone could love one person so much to build such a magnificent building.
The next day I took a bus to Fatehpur Sikri. There were no signs indicating the direction of the sights and a guy offered to take me there. He showed me the mosque and explained some of the history. Apparently, the king had three wives (plus 350 concubines…). One believed in the Islam, one in Christianity, and one in Hinduism. Although the wives did not get along, the king incorporated influences of all three beliefs in the architecture of the buildings.
On my last day in Agra I went for a walk in the nature park with Alan. The park is nice and quiet and there is a pretty view on the Taj Mahal. We noticed that there are multiple couples in the park who are a bit startled when you walk past them. In India you can’t show any (romantic) affection in public (even though guys hold hands) and therefore couples go to a park with an entrance fee to hold hands and kiss each other.

Khajuraho, October 30
I had to take two trains to arrive in Khajuraho. The stopover in Mahoba was in the middle of the night and a security guard sat me down in front of the security office for my own safety. He gave me chai and I read a book before resuming my journey. In Khajuraho I met Alan again and we visited the (very erotic) Western Group of Temples. The place is beautiful. Lots of nature with beautifully carved temples. On the way to the Eastern Group of Temples we got the company of three boys who showed us around the old village.




Jaipur, October 31 – November 5
When I arrived in Jaipur, Samar (who I’ve met in Bangkok) picked me up and we went out for coffee. The (Moustache) hostel is really nice and provides handy city guides with recommendations.
On November 2nd I went to the Amber Fort with Samar. His uncle works there, so we got a free guide showing us around. Samar’s mom had prepared a nice lunch, which we ate with a view on the pretty palace in the lake.




Back in the hostel I ran into Selena and 5 other travelers and they asked me to join them to the Nahargarh (tiger) Fort to see the sunset. Although we arrived too late for the sunset, the view on the city was really nice. On the way back the 7 of us squeezed into a slightly bigger tuktuk. The drive through the crazy traffic was a lot of fun, but the driver got fined for allowing too many persons in his vehicle.
The day after I got a bit panicked when I saw that pretty much every train is fully booked for the next couple of weeks, so I went to the train station to book all the trains for my stay in India. At the ticket office I met a woman from Australia who invited me to her home when I am near Sydney. How nice!
In the evening Selena and I went to the Raj Mandir cinema to watch a Bollywood movie. The experience is awesome. You really can’t understand what they’re saying, but the crowd goes crazy! They are cheering and whistling when the lead actress enters the movie, laughing out loud at the jokes, and in the end there was even a fight.
The last two days I’ve visited Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, the Monkey Temple (with Selena and Anna), a guru, and we got henna done.



Chittorgarh, November 6
My train arrived super early (4.30 AM) and after a loooong breakfast I went to the fort. A tuktuk driver agreed to take me to a place where you can rent a bicycle, but his poor English language skills took me to a store… His friend said that you can’t rent bicycles in Chittorgarh. I told him I knew it is possible at Padmini Haveli. His reply: “ah yes, but that costs 500 rupees, while this good tuktuk can drive you around for 300-400 rupees”. I left these annoying men to walk up the fort, find Padmini Haveli, and ride around on a bicycle (yes, very Dutch indeed). I visited the major sights and at the Jaimal & Patta’s Haveli I had only the company of two cows and many monkeys ^^.

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I noticed a group of tourists walking through a deserted area and decided to follow them. The group of the Palace on Wheels eventually led me to the stunning viewpoint.


Udaipur, November 7 – 15
After checking in at the wonderful Bunkyard hostel I went to the Peace Eye Bob Marley restaurant that Samar told me to go to. There were two volunteers of Animal Aid Unlimited, where I already wanted to go to. Talking to Raj made me even more excited to visit the place than I already was. Back in the hostel we had a reunion of people who also stayed at Moustache in Jaipur ^^.
We mostly relaxed, shopped, watched Octopussy (filmed in Udaipur), visited the City Palace, and enjoyed the rooftop view in Udaipur. Our rooftop had a gorgeous view on one of the lakes, so we always went back to watch the sunset.



We also went to the Bagore Ki Haveli for a show with traditional Rajasthani dances and a puppet show. Yes, you read that right. There’s a lot of puppet shows in Rajasthan… However, the dances were beautiful and especially the last dance was impressive: a woman danced around starting with one jar on her head, which they gradually built up to ten jars!

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The next day I went to Animal Aid Unlimited. They receive 15 to 20 calls a day about injured animals (mostly dogs) in and around Udaipur. They take the animal to their shelter, give him the medical and loving attention he needs, and return him to the place where he was found. They educate the locals, visit schools, and keep the animals that can’t be returned (blind or too handicapped) in their shelter. Raj showed me around and I met some foreign volunteers who took up all their holidays to come here. There are a lot of dogs, but also cows, donkeys, goats, and a few cats. We fed the cows and donkeys, which is quite fun. However, they do have some dying cows lying on mattresses. Since cows are holy in India, they are not allowed to take their pain away and euthanize them. He sat me down with the dogs and all I had to do was pet them, brush them, and give them love.
On November 11 was the most important day of Diwali. It is the most important festival in Hinduism and everyone decorates their homes with lights, sets off firework, and prays to Lakshmi for prosperity. Sara, Maria, and I got ourselves sarees for Diwali and we got help of local women to tie them properly. In the evening we walked through the streets, visited a temple, and watched the fireworks on the rooftop.



With a group of six we participated in a cooking class. Shashi told us her life story and showed us how to cook all those delicious meals.


On my last day in Udaipur I decided to join the yoga class in the morning. The guy is bendy and weird. He says stuff like: “eat less. Drink 5 to 6 litres of water per day. Only go to the bathroom twice a day”. How’s that even possible?! On my way to the big lake I stopped at Café Satori for coffee. I noticed that they have a book shelf and started browsing. It had a Dutch book of even though the sign clearly said “no book exchange”. I felt sad that the traveling book would remain on those shelves for eternity and offered to buy it. The manager was not aware of the book’s traveling purpose and gave it to me. Yeay, now the book can travel again!
I walked to the big lake, which is far more quiet and has nice views.


On the way back I met Khan and we talked for hours. He asked me to go to a wedding the next day. This led to a dilemma. You see, my bus to Jodhpur would leave that evening, but I really wanted to see an Indian wedding. After having discussed this with the hostel’s owners I went back for more information. It turned out that: No, I could not bring other people, and No, it was not possible to go there as just friends. So, I took a (very bumpy) bus to Jodhpur.

Jodhpur, November 16 – 19
Jodhpur, unfortunately, is not nearly as blue as it’s name The Blue City suggests. It is the second biggest city of Rajasthan and even as a pedestrian you’ll get stuck in traffic jams every day. The Clock Tower is the heart of the city and everyone seems to be either shopping or selling something.



Jodhpur’s biggest sight is it’s fort. I tried to find the southern entrance, since that one is closest to the hostel. Damn was it difficult to find! And I’ve been almost attacked three times by two aggressive dogs… Luckily, I was able to keep them at a distance. Apparently, the main entrance is the north entrance. That’s why I had difficulties finding it. However, if you walk in through the south entrance you do not pass the ticket counter and can just walk in without paying. You can’t see it all, though. And on the way out I got crapped on by a pigeon… Karma… I tried to forget it all AND celebrate the birth of my niece’s firstborn Morris with chocolate ice cream. Congratulations Maaike!




Jaisalmer, November 20 – 23
In Jaisalmer I stayed in the colorful Abu Safari hotel. Abu is a free spirit from the desert and says stuff like: “no hurry, no worry, no chicken, no curry” and “life is desert, desert is camel, camel is tourist, tourist is wind, etcetera”. He’s a really good guy, though. He employs poor people from the desert and really wants to open a school in the desert.
Jaisalmer is a lot smaller and more quiet than the other places I’ve been to and has got a good vibe. I’ve visited the fort and the lake. Apparently, Jaisalmer’s fort is slowly sinking, because too many people live inside it’s walls.

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I’ve also done a jeep safari to the sand dunes. We stopped at a deserted village on the way. The story I’ve been told about this village: a long time ago a king went to this village and picked out a girl to marry. He would come back the next day to take her with him. But she did not want to marry him and her family did not want this marriage. They decided to run. The villagers were afraid that when the king would return and not find the girl that they would kill everyone, so they ran as well leaving the village deserted. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it’s a nice story. At the sand dunes there were a lot of camels and we slept under the stars with the company of two stray dogs.

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Pushkar – November 24 – 28
I arrived in Pushkar during the last days of Pushkar Fair (aka Camel Fair) to see the ritual where all the Hindu visitors bathe in the holy lake that Lord Brahma created. They also visit as many temples as they can, but especially the Brahma temple (there are only a few around the entire world). I’ve also visited the Brahma temple and a student of the temple took me to the lake for a ritual performed by a priest. Let’s hope my wish comes true 🙂


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Because of the Fair there was also a carnival and a stadium with camel and horse races and some weird events (moustache competition). In the hostel there was a spontaneous yoga class and I enjoyed falafel wraps (yes, this tiny Indian town has got falafel!) near the lake.





Delhi – November 29 – December 1
Okay… I never intended to actually visit Delhi, but my flight leaves from this dirty and crowded place. There are also a lot of scams here. Tuktuk drivers try to convince travelers that their hostel is closed/fully booked/whatever (they sometimes even make a fake phone call), take them to a “government” tourist office, and try to let them book something expensive like a 10-day tour for €1000. Apparently, quite some people fall for the scams. The tuktuk drivers drove up next to me when I was walking down a road, trying to convince me that it is too dangerous to walk. It really wasn’t, so I kept on walking. I tried to make the most out of my stay in Delhi and visited quite some sights: Red Fort, Jama Masjid (big and beautiful mosque), the spice market, Connaught Place, Agrasen Ki Baoli (a big step well), Lotus Temple, Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site and museum, and Akshardham. Akshardham is the biggest Hindu temple in the world and it’s absolutely stunning (but you can’t take photos)! In the hostel I ran into Tim who I’ve met in Udaipur and I met a German guy who cycled all the way to Delhi and was on his way to Australia. Impressive!



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Singapore – December 2
Yup, that’s right. I had an 18-hour stopover in Singapore, arriving in the early morning and leaving again at night. Nice 🙂 Singapore’s airport offers free city tours and takes you to the Merlion (Singapore’s mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish), Chinatown, Little India, and a mosqueue that looks a lot like Alladin’s palace.


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On my own I went to the City Hall, Lau Pa Sat (lunch hall in the business area), the lovely Sentosa Island, Gardens by the Bay (with the Avatar-like trees), and Ce La Vi for a nice view on the entire city. These places were recommended by a friend of my brother. Thanks bro!




Singapore has got a good vibe and a lot of trees. There was also a Christmas market at Gardens by the Bay with live music and even a stand with Dutch poffertjes.

After Singapore I went to Cairns to travel along the coast to Sydney. I just had an amazing Sinterklaas-day, but I’ll tell you about that later.

Lots of Love

3 Responses to “Incredible India

  • Geweldig om je verhalen weer te lezen en je mooie foto’s te zien. Ik krijg zin om naar India te gaan 🙂

  • Lieve Romana, wat fantastisch wat je allemaal beleeft. Ik heb met veel plezier je verhaal gelezen. Veel plezier in Australië. Kus van oma!

  • Petje af hoe je het allemaal voor elkaar krijgt hoor; prachtige reis zo te lezen en aan de foto’s te zien!! Wat zal jij genieten! Lieve groet uit Lisse X

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