Welcome to India
I must recognize the beginning has been quite hard. This country has nothing to do with what I lived before. I thought 4 years in latin america would have help me to resist to the men harassement, the poverty or the chaotic organization, but here it’s an other level! You don’t eat, wash yourself, walk, dress in the same way. Once you get that, and get rid of the fear or hanger you can have, I think you can start to like India, and it’s where I am now, enjoying every smile, every color, every smell of this magic country.
So I arrived to Mumbai by night, where I saw entire families sleeping on the streets, and found a dark hotel at 2.30am where they put me in a dorm on a mat without sheets. I couldn’t sleep and thought « what the hell am I doing here ». The day after, a golden sun was lightning up this same hotel, and it was gorgeous! I discovered a busy and noisy city, where you risk your life everytime you want to cross the road, but with a so special light and so beautiful people you can forget the bad sides.
The first day I just walked around the city, visited Victoria Station, went to the Indian Gateway place to see the nice Taj Mahal palace, walked down Oval and Cross Maidan parcs, Crawford Market (I booked a bus there for Hampi), and saw a gorgeous sunset on Marine Drive with Kohulan, a south american I met in the hotel. Then we took a local train just for fun, and arrived to Grant road and enjoyed a nice street market by night.
The second day we’ve been together to Elephanta island to breath and to discover very nice temples built inside of the mountain.
I took a night bus to Hampi, a countryside city where I thought it would be more quiet. But when I arrived there was a celebration, and a loooot of people. I visited the ruins alone the first day, where I was bothered every 10minutes by people asking for a selfie. With families and women it was ok, but the guys have an insistant way to ask very annoying. Even if you say « no » they will take it, or worse : they’ll do it discretly while you’re walking (I must recognize I also love to steal portrait of people in the street, but I don’t take selfies!)
Anyway I passed the first day trying to visit the ruins around the city, and enjoyed the celebrations with the owner of the hotel and his friends. A first very local experience I really enjoyed !
The second day I shared a bicycle guided tour of the south sites with a couple of english travelers, and finished the day invited by the guide to see the sunset in a temple while a monk was singing. A magic experience I strongly recommend, even if I don’t remember the name of this temple!
The third day I crossed the river to visit the north side of the river, renting a moto.
I’ve been amazed by the visit of the ruins in Hampi. You find in the same site a pyramid as the mexican one built by the mayas, walls like the inca’s ones in Cuzco, arabic architectures, and roman columns and viaducs. You also find temples which looks exactly like cambodian’s (I heard they were built by the same people, and the cambodians destroyed the indi statues to replace them by buddhist ones).
Infos for Mumbai:
Prepaid taxi from the airport to the center: 800Rs
Hotel: New Vasantashram boarding and lodging house (350Rs / night in a dorm)
Boat to the Elephanta Island: 180Rs with return
Elephant Island entrance: 500Rs
Infos for Hampi:
Bus from Mumbai : 1200Rs for a sleeping (so with beds), started from Sion Circle (I took a Rickshaw from the Crawford market – I paid 300 but it’s usually 150Rs) – Takes 13 hours to reach Hospete
From Hospete to Hampi : 300Rs for 3 people, and 100Rs to go back with 2 people (me and an indian who knows the price). You can also take a bus for 20Rs.
Hostel : Shambu Guesthouse – 900Rs a night (expensive but it was because of the festival)
I took an other night bus to go to Mysore (it wasn’t a sleeper one and I couldn’t really sleep because of the crazy driver), where I finally found peace in a gorgeous hotel, a house built in 1907!
The city is not so big, there’s trafic but it’s ok, I walked around a lot of streets full of traditional dress shops, and a huge market where you can find oils, spicies, fruits and vegetables. I also took time to visit the fantastic palace of Mysore. I was the only foreign tourist, but there was a lot of indians doing the tour without shoes, a great experience to live!
Bus from Hospete to Mysore: semi sleeper 700Rs (it was actually 550Rs but I passed through an agency which took its commission)
Hostel : The Mansion 1907 – 500Rs + 100Rs for a breakfast in a dorm, fully recommended!
People I’ve met during this week
Meeting other travelers helped me a lot to share my feelings and see they were thinking the same. I’m thinking about Kohula, from South Africa, Joe and Jack from London, Jeanne and Pascal from Perpignan (in France), Melis from Turkey, and many other great indians who helped me a lot on my way! You don’t choose India to have a fun experience or to relax like you would go to Ibiza or the south of France. People are here for a spiritual reason. They’re looking for peace, or answers about themselves or their life. It really feel good to meet so interesting people !