I went to India a few times. The first time was the visit to Leh (my all-time favorite), Taj Mahal, and Delhi. My stories during the first time were about my feeling about these places.
The second time I spent a couple of months in India for work, and I traveled across Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. I collected a lot of personal stories about my long duration this time.
10.16.2013 – 10.21.2013 Leh, Delhi, Agra
An Indian Guy in the Female Restroom
This Delhi airport is so big and it takes forever to walk to Gate 45. I decide to use the bathroom while waiting for my 5:35 am flight to Leh. I am shocked to find an Indian guy using the sink and I am unsettled when he just stares at me. I muster up the courage to ask, “Excuse me, is this the men’s room?” He says “Sorry” and then quickly runs away. Geez!
I have been doing cardio exercise for an entire month to prepare for my trip to Leh. I am anxious about the possibility of Acute Mountain sickness as the altitude is notoriously high in the Himalayas.
The scenery is out-of-this-world, and there are many military soldiers with snow-topped mountains at their background. This is my second “wow” moment in India within two hours.
It’s only 2 degrees Celsius today. The driver shows me the hospital while on route to the hotel and seems very caring. The town reminds me of Peru, with a high altitude and dark-skinned and friendly local people. There are unleashed dogs everywhere, impoverished village houses and breathtaking mountain scenery.
I have already fallen in love with this place. The hotel Thongsal is very serene and peaceful. I am welcomed with the traditional Tibetan silk scarf ceremony and acclimatized sweet herbal tea. I feel so warm and welcome that I almost wanted to cry.
It is advised to rest for at least 3 hours – apparently, it can take up to 3 hours for you to become sick after arrival.
I wake up at 11 am with a headache. However, because I took my Diamox, I am fortunate that I am not suffering from breathing problems like Becky.
I visit Hall of Fame, Magnetic Hills, Spitu Monastery, and Shanti Stupa. On the way, the breathtaking landscape with clear blue skies and white marshmallow clouds. It looks so good that I want to eat it. Stop by a Hindu temple where the people are so friendly and offer free milk tea (which is extremely sweet), a free lunch and yellow snacks. The area is swarming with military personnel and they even serve in the temples.
Tibetan Monasteries and the Monks
I enjoy my visit to the monasteries, which are a bright yellow and white color, in contrast to the colorful Tibetan flags that dance in the wind on top of the hills. Although the temperature is cold, the altitude makes the village so close to the sun that I still get burnt.
The Night Market
At night, we visit the market. It is relatively busy, considering there are virtually no people out anywhere else. Flea-ridden donkeys, cows, and unleashed dogs roam the streets at will.
I order 5 Tibetan specialty foods for dinner: butter tea (salty milk tea with butter), Amdo special soup, Amdo momos (dumplings), Amdo fried wanton with hot sauce and mutton stew. Everything is delicious (but covered in spicy sauce) and only costs $6 USD in total! I am so content and satisfied. The restaurant is in a hidden alley: if you didn’t know local people, there would be no way that you would find it. The servers in the restaurants are teenagers too! I fall in love with this Tibetan village and the simple Tibetan people.
I feel much healthier than when I arrived. I have stopped taking the Diamox and have no problems with the oxygen level. I arrange a taxi ride (costing 2500 Rupee) to go to Thiksey Gompa, Hemis Monastery, and the Shey Palace.
This place is so remote that humans are scarce; the main creatures are donkeys, cows, horses, and dogs. These monasteries are 50 kilometers away from Leh, in a town called Karu. The monasteries have been built on a steep hill; the most impressive one is Thiksey, which was built 600 years ago with 12 storys, one of the newer temples was built in honor of the Dalai Lama’s visit.
At 4 pm a local Tibetan restaurant for dinner: soup noodle momos and mutton fried rice. It is good, but the bowls are so greasy that they look as though they have never been washed. I hope I won’t get diarrhea. Well, it’s only $1.5 USD (95 rupees) for the entire dinner, so you can’t really complain!
10.19 Agra – Taj Mahal, 6th Milestone to “Seven New Wonders of the World”
I reserve a taxi at 7 am but it does not come until 7:30. Hindus start praying at 6 am before the sunrise and again, at 7 am. There is no picture in the world that can properly demonstrate how messy this place is.
I have been waiting to see the Taj Mahal for so long and watched countless documentaries about it. This will mark the completion of my sixth “Seven New Wonders of the World” and India will be the 30th country that I have visited.
Agra is a mess too, with many unfinished houses… dust, dust, dust, black, black, black – that is the only way that I can describe it.
The Magnificent Taj Mahal
There are four gates, two castles for the two wives of Shah Jahan and a guest castle. The Taj Mahal is exceptional, marble, and each Arabic word on the wall, each flower sculpture on the stone….it is all worthy of appreciation.
There are 11 small domes on top of the mosque front and back in a symmetrical fashion, 22 in total representing the number of years that took to complete this wonder. If you put a flashlight on the flower stone, you will be amazed by its transparency. The guide knows many tips on how to take a good picture through the holes of windows and, yes, it is worth hiring a guide. In the end, I pay him RS 300 tips or USD 5. He is extremely pleased because he says there are 800+ guides waiting and he can only do one tour each day.
For more details of my journal, please refer to “My Book” section.