New Delhi, India
When I arrived at the New Delhi Airport that morning around 9am, I immediately went to get a chai latte that was in this ceramic type container which was neat/different, and then got some cash out of the ATM. Then I ordered an Uber to my hostel which was about 30 minutes away in traffic - I had booked this hostel that Paola had suggested to me called Mustache (which I later found out is a popular chain in India). When I walked in, it was quiet with only a few backpackers up having some coffee in the shared space and then I filled out that big reservations book yet again with all my information. My private room wasn’t ready yet so I got some masala chai from the little machine and sat around the shared space as more people woke up and started to chat about the tours they were going on that day. One of the guys sitting turned out to be the tour guide for the hostel so I chatted with him to see which tour I would be interested in participating in within the next few days. After about an hour, my room was ready, right at the same time as when Dev (the guy I had met in Brazil) showed up to pick me up for brunch. We had been chatting about going to brunch that day so I had changed and got ready as I waited for my room and then quickly brought my bags up before catching an Uber to the brunch place. It was funny seeing Dev again (all dressed up) after about 3-4 months, but it was nice seeing a somewhat familiar face. As soon as we showed up to the brunch place, I realized I was underdressed for sure as it was a fancy all inclusive top-rated award-winning restaurant (and I was in yoga comfy pants and an elephant t-shirt). We arrived being the second guests there, the place was empty and Dev argued with the hostess to sit outside but didn’t have a reservation so we sat inside which was just as fine. The buffets were still getting set with their finishing touches of fancy dishes - each section had a theme from seafood to pasta to cheeses to veggies. Since it was all you can eat and drink for 5 hours, we started off with some fancy alcoholic beverages as Dev informed me that a few others might be joining us along the way. Then we went to fill our plates with the first course and started to catch up as one of his guy friends showed up and then another girl from a program they were all in showed up about an hour in, so it was the 4 of us drinking and eating and getting to know one another. So my day started off in the mountains of sacred Rishikesh followed by a crazy Indian feast with alcohol which my body was not used to (climate change and diet shock galore - what's a girl supposed to do). As brunch was starting to come to an end, the girl that had joined halfway in was informing us that protests were taking place and getting worse and worse so she had to leave to avoid traffic and said I should probably not go back towards my hostel since that’s where the prime protesting was taking place (India had just passed a non-muslim civilian law -surrounding countries not allowed in-that same day so many Indians were angry). So the 3 rest of us took an Uber to another bar across town at this other fancy bar/restaurant as it was approaching dusk where there was salsa dancing taking place inside this big ballroom area. Dev's friend left and then his other friend, GT, joined us as we watched salsa dancing, drank many more drinks and then finally went to eat again at this fancy restaurant I barely remember eating at but it was so yummy. I'm pretty sure that's where I lost my Nike sneakers - you have to take your shoes off in some places before entering so someone could have easily snatched them up as we were eating inside. We ended up having to sleep over at GT’s to avoid the protests since it was too dangerous and the next morning Dev and I caught an Uber back to my hostel where there were buses in the middle of the streets that had been torched and trash everywhere - it was a scary scene. I said goodbye to Dev, thinking I would probably see him again before leaving India, but that was actually the last I saw him.
I was really tired and feeling hungover and the receptionist at the hostel told me the market was closing that afternoon so if I wanted to get food that I needed to get it as soon as possible. I grabbed my bag and we walked to the market together (he was nervous about the protests and wanted to show me where to go) which was quiet and nothing much going on but grabbed some food at 7-11 and lunch to go at this restaurant nearby. I was completely out of it and struggling from drinking so much the day before, but went to my room to shower and the hot water wasn’t working so I had to wait for that to work, but it didn’t. So I ended up showering in the cold from the short hose instead of the shower head which was very difficult but completely necessary at this point. I napped for about an hour, organized my clothes and did some laundry and then heated up my lunch and sat and ate at the group table downstairs. I was thankful to have a private room at this hostel because I really didn’t feel like dealing with anyone else (there were random guests coming in and out). Everyone was just chilling watching an Indian show and then this Indian guy, Salman, started talking to me as I ate my lunch. He started talking about promoting my Instagram and traveling and making money while traveling. I didn’t really understand where he was coming from but he certainly enjoyed talking about traveling. I wanted to walk a little since the protests weren't happening so we decided to walk to the market to get some wine and he showed me some dessert place where I tried these dumpling-type flavorful liquid desserts (kind of like a hot donut) which were tasty and another interesting milk drink with fruits in it that came from from a huge pot/paella-style looking container and then we ended up chatting all night while listening to music up on the rooftop. It was a very relaxing evening sitting up on the rooftop with all the other backpackers chatting about random life things.
I was planning to go to this monument in the morning but slept in instead and then decided to do a tour of Delhi, which ended up just being me and the tour guide. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a good idea with just us two, but it actually ended up being really fun and cool...and probably one of the best experiences I had in India. He took me to all the main attractions including many temples and markets as we stopped at different points to try various street foods. We even went off track (not normally included in the tour) where we walked through these tiny alleyways filled with tons of ancient broken down buildings and hanging wires, dirt/trash/food all over the ground, stray dogs everywhere - it was a very eye-opening experience. I didn't understand how there could possibly be so many wires hanging from above in one space, it was all tangled up and falling all over the place (I felt like it could burst any minute) but still everything was functioning normally and everyone was going about their day..pulling carts, selling things, driving tuk tuks along these tiny busy alleyway streets. I was really happy he took me to the spice market filled with huge hay bags of multiple types of spices on the bottom floor and above floors as well. As we walked up the broken steps (literally broken in multiple parts) to the rooftop of the spice market building, I saw many monkeys and locals flying kites. The view from the top was breathtaking (not in a good way, more of a bad way, but also just surreal). I felt like I was in a movie because of how high we were, you could see everything going on around beneath you, many buildings in the distance with hanging clothes drying and dust in the air, a site I'll always remember.
After walking through various neighborhoods, we got a beer at this one local bar in the middle of who knows where (more of an Asian cuisine area where we tried these spicy beef skewers) and then headed to Connaught Place on a tuk tuk (I told him I wanted to check it out since I heard it was a cool place). It ended up being a modernized neighborhood with restaurants, bars and shops around and he had to buy sneakers to get into this one bar so we bought $4 vans at the flea market nearby. The bar was big and filled with mostly locals. We found a seat at a high top and ordered beers as we chatted about traveling and cultures and backgrounds. Then a drummer came on stage and it was awesome watching him play this Indian music, the happiest drummer I had ever seen. We enjoyed listening to this smiling drummer play and had a fabulous time chatting about life for a couple hours. Afterwards, we took a tuk tuk back to the hostel and I went back to my room to watch a Lewis CK special while I packed for Agra. After packing, I sat outside with the group of backpackers, same group as the night before (with Salman and this other guy I had met, Salim too), except a few new faces from various countries and we all chilled for a while before I went to bed. The tour guide and I had been exchanging notes on my phone that night as he was trying to tell me something...that he was “harmless but wants to escape this bullshit” so I was very confused what he meant by that. During the tour he had told me he doesn’t have a phone AT ALL - he said he doesn’t need it and doesn’t want to be found by his parents (he. was raised in a very serious religion that he doesn't want to be apart of). Basically, I think he wants freedom and was just making a statement. It was interesting...I really enjoyed his company, and there was something soft to his personality, I hope the best for him. The next morning I said goodbye to everyone and then was on my way in an Uber to the train station to Agra to see the Taj Mahal!