Day one in India 🇮🇳
Wow, #India, we‘re here! I did not realize before this flight, just how long it would be. I flew from SFO to LAX to meet the rest of our tour group. From there we flew 13 hours to Beijing, China. Then another 7.5 hours to Delhi, India! With layovers and such I was traveling for 23 hours! This is the first day and I’ll say it’s been worth every second. I’m writing this post from our tour bus as we drive into Old Delhi from our hotel, and before I share about the rest of the day I need to warn you about Air China.
Bring your own food. Just trust me on this. I’ve eaten A LOT of airplane food from previous international flights, Air China, is the worst as of yet!
All three meals consisted of rice and unknown saucy, tofu veggie mix. I didn’t eat it and seriously wished I had brought a couple salads from Trader Joe’s! I don’t consider myself a picky eater but I also refuse to eat something that just doesn’t look like a good idea for my body. That food looked, smelled and tasted like a bad idea. Ok rant over, moving on.
Our trip was planned and organized by Elena, a nurse from LA .Provides CEUS as a bonus to her trips!
So far I’m completely amazed by how friendly and welcoming the 30+ women on this trip are! We all met at the baggage claim in delhi. However, throughout the airports, on the plan and during our layovers we identified each other, chatted and got even more hyped for this first day! Turns out the majority of these nurses come on every single trip wih NEIC! The guy who passed out on the plane, found himself lucky as 5 nurses jumped up to help him!
When we arrived in Delhi, we’re met outside the airport by our tour guide who held up a “World Spree” and “Nurses Group” sign. I volunteered to do our roll call, and then we headed to a private bus. Sure comfortable, exceptionally clean and lots of bottled water waiting for us. Thirty minutes later we were at our hotel, The Vivanta, where our tour guide checked us all in as we sat in cushy sea ts and enjoyed a weird but tasty blue mocktail
After check In we all headed to bed for a short 3 hour sleep! Ah! It was better than nothing. We checked in around 3am and met at 10am today for a briefing before our tour. I chose the option to room #solodolo since the two women i know on the trip already decided to room together. I’m glad, the room was large, the bed was so comfortable and I got a great 3 hours of sleep. I forgot to take a pic of my room but this is what the double looked like.
The bathroom was marble with a jacuzzi tub, waterfall shower head and detachable nozzle.
Luckily breakfast was exceptional and the strong coffee made up for the lack of sleep.
I wish I had taken a picture of breakfast. It was great and a huge buffet with both traditional american staples, an order-on-demand waffle, pancake and omelet bar, as well as traditional Indian foods.
After breakfast we got a quick brief on our day and headed out for our tour. The first stop was The Birla House where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life and where he breathed his last breath as he was shot during his prayer meeting. I was shocked that this monument was not jam packed with tourists. It was quite empty, extremely peaceful and calm. We were able to walk the path he walked to his final prayer meeting and read about his story and life. It was beautiful.
Our next stop was Jama Masjid, built in 1644, is the largest mosque in India. It was beautiful. We walked up the many red steps and were met with a worker who asked us to remove our shoes and to place on a gown. I thought I was covered enough to enter mosques. I had on a long sleeve flannel, and ankle crop jeans, but i was still asked to wear a gown as well. Also, we were charged 300 rupees for each camera device we carried. We were prepared for that ahead of time, and decided in small groups who was going to bring their phone vs leave it behind in the bus.
Within this mosque was the first time I really experienced a creepy crawling feeling. Locals took so many pictures of us. Sneaky pics, walking ahead of us and then taking a selfie that had more of us in the background than themselves in the foreground. Some photobombed our group photos. Others asked if they could take pictures with us. I felt a little like a spectacle. But we got over it quickly and did our thing. Taking in the red facades, watching men in prayer, and reveling in the large courtyard with hundreds of people walking around. Being in this space made me so excited to see more, ancient architecture.
We regrouped, and walked pack to the bus, pushing past rickshaws and men trying to sell us decorative headgear and snake charmer boxes. We also had to push past a family who was begging and followed us all the way to the bus. It was so heart breaking and also surreal to see this mother with 3 children, holding a baby begging with their hands out. When we got on the bus, one of my friends Jackie, went through all of our snacks and gave them the fruit, juices and waters we had brought with us from the hotel. Then we got a brief on a rickshaw tour of the bazaar we were going to go on.
So on this tour I am the odd man out. I'm rooming by myself because there's an odd number of people and this also means I had to go on the rickshaw alone. No way. A rickshaw looks like a Tuk Tuk, if you know what that is. Basically a small two seater carriage being pulled by a bicycle. There was no way I was going to get on it alone. I had been traumatized by a HORRIBLE Tuk Tuk driver in Cambodia a few years back who tried to scam me and my friend Stanislava out of our money.
Kendra, hopped on with me, and we took off. The bazaar of Old Delhi was captivating. Stall after stall in an alleyway so narrow that you could only walk three abreast. The rickshaws had to slow to a stop as they passéd in opposite directions to ensure they didn't hit each other. Coming as close as a few centimenters apart. This ride was beyond colorful and magical as a rainbow of saris passed us on both sides, followed by flower garlands of marigolds and endless gold jewelry, gold bells and gold everything. We saw men frying up food on the sids of the alley ways, others rolling up tobacco and spices in leaves to chew. And the whole way the begging children kept up and followed us, which was easy since we hit traffic jam after traffic jam and were forced to stop. Old Delhi is loud. The rickshaw drivers honking and yelling at people and motorcycles to move as we went by. We saw monkeys running along the tangle of scary power lines overhead, children smiling through red teeth because of the chewing tobacco, people and all the colors of the rainbow everywhere!
Our tour lasted maybe 30 minutes then we hopped back on the bus and hit the road. We passed through the goverment square and saw palaces that are now government buildings. We passed and stoped at the India gate to take pictures. I wish we could have gotten out and walked up to see it, but we were short on time. This is a huge monument left behind by the British as a thank you for all the Indian lives lost as they helped aid in the First World War and the Afghan war.
The traffic coming from Old Delhi to New Delhi was insane. The streets are jam packed with cars, ricksaws and small yellow and green cabs. Our bus creeped along like an ant as we passed through endless honking, people crossing in the middle of all the traffic. Quite contradictory to the "Zero Tolerance" signs we saw that stated you would be arrested and driving permit suspended for more than 3 months for speeding, texting while driving etc. Hilarious. I couldn't drive. It seemed our hotel wasn't far away from Old Delhi, but it took over an hour to get back.
During our drive we had an incredible conversation with our tour guide Som who left me with something HUGE to reflect on. I made a whole video on IGTV about it, check it out HERE. But someone asked him what men in India think of as "sexy". Funny right, and I was so embarrassed that she even asked that question! The tour guide stuttered, was obviously uncomfortable but was also sweet enough to give us an honest answer. He said that traditionally men find "plumb" aka plump women's to be sexy. He also said that more recently due to the influx of western culture and media, there is more representation of skinny fair skinned people in media and advertisement in India. To the point which fair skinned, and thin is becoming more and more attractive. Sound familiar? Sound like the U.S.!
Crazy! even just after a few hours in India, you'll noticed that most of the population is rather track skinned, my color or darker. Then the disparities in wealth are also huge, which makes it easy to understand why, traditionally, a women who is a little more plump would be more attractive. Plump = more food, more resources, more wealth. Its crazy how much our media influences culture.
We had two hours to rest and get ready for dinner which was amazing. So amazing that I stuffed my face and of course forgot to take pictures. Daal, paneer, roti, naan, chaat, salads, different soups, fruit, pastries, cakes. The meals at this hotel are buffet style and beyond decadent.
The first day anywhere is always full of so much to marvel at and so much to reflect on! What were some of your best memories of India or of your last trip abroad? I'd love to hear in the comments.