Back in February when all this travelling lark started, I made the deliberate decision to start in the south of India and work my way up to the north. Why? Well, a few reasons really.
The first is the weather. India has a distinct monsoon season which soaks the country from June until September, and it starts in the south, slowly making its way up to the Himalayas in the north.
I wanted to avoid heading right into the water’s pathway, although I do get the overwhelming feeling that I’m being chased now, and anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely hate being chased. Yes, I will punch you. No, I’m not sorry.
The second reason was that I’m a little bit of a pansy when it comes to travelling. I like a little peace and quiet, and my home comforts every now and then, and I knew that the south would be a nice way of easing into India’s chaos.
So I shouldn’t be surprised that now I’m kicking myself for leaving the madness until now.
I have this little quirk, that I’m always blaming ‘yesterday Hayley’ for today’s problems. Yesterday Hayley didn’t pack her bag and now I have 10 minutes to catch the train. Yesterday Hayley ate too much cheese and now I have monster thighs. Yesterday Hayley is a total bitch sometimes, and now she’s messing with me big time.
Yesterday Hayley spent too much time sunning herself on the beaches of Kerala and Goa and now Today Hayley is forced to endure 45 degree heat in the north of India thanks to the monsoon’s looming arrival.
I’m now in Pushkar, in Rajasthan, and although a lot of Rajasthan has been wonderful, the constant scams, aggressiveness and hassle from the small minority is really starting to get to me. That, along with the heat and it’s almost too much to bear.
Pushkar is a holy town, meaning that every restaurant here is vegetarian, you must cover yourself at all times, alcohol is strictly not allowed, don’t even think about PDA’s, and you must respect the local culture and people.
I have nothing against any of this. Of course it is a given that you must respect the way of life in any place you visit. The thing that I am getting tired of is the constant touts and rip off merchants using ‘respect for the local culture’ as a way of shaming you into parting with your cash.
On a quiet walk to the ghats earlier this morning, a man got very aggressive with me because I wouldn’t pay him 1,000 rupees for a ‘blessing’. After telling me over and over again that ‘no money’ is expected, and he is a ‘100% truthful man’, still the request for cash came, of course after the blessing had been received. He then began to shout at me, telling me I am disrespectful to the local culture because I refused to pay up.
Our rickshaw driver bailed out halfway through our planned day out with him and another driver took his place halfway down a street with no explanation… Surprise, surprise, he tried to charge us more for the journey when it ended, despite us reconfirming the agreed cost to him.
Even shopping, which should be a relaxing experience, comes with its own drawbacks. Shopkeepers give you one look up and down, decide you are a rich foreigner and inflate every price by at least 100%.
Listen, India. I am all for experiencing and respecting the local culture. Believe me. But I am not going to part with the equivalent of two night’s accommodation cost so you can hand me a flower and tie a piece of string around my wrist.
In India’s southern states of course there was the odd bad egg that tried to make you part with more money than you should, but at least they were good enough to do it with a smile on their face, and to generally take ‘no’ for an answer.
A simple question here; ‘how much?’ is almost impossible for people to answer. They will avoid this question like the plague until you are so far down the line that when they finally do give you the (hugely inflated) price, you’re pretty much committed. This happens over and over again. Every day. Without fail.
So come on, people. Can we just all get along and be fair about pricing? I saw you offer that top to an Indian woman just two minutes ago for 100 rupees, and now suddenly it’s 300? Let’s just cut the crap, OK?
Maybe it’s the crazy heat up here, or maybe it’s just that there are a lot more tourists to prey on, but boy, am I sick of being shouted at, constantly ripped off and straight-up bullied for money. Looking over your shoulder all the time does not a good travelling experience make.
I knew the north would be a challenge, but I’m tired now. I’m not 23 anymore and I just want to be left alone.
So I have decided to bypass Jaipur, Delhi and Agra (for now – I may feel brave enough to come back in a while), and head yet further north to the Himalayas. On Thursday I have a 21 hour train journey to contend with, ending in Amritsar, home of the Golden Temple. Then the plan is to head into the mountains and their cool, crisp, open arms.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘If you hate the north so much, why are you going… erm… north?’
Good question! I think what I’m stressing about the most is the crowds, the heat, and being ripped off, so heading to Himachal Pradesh and perhaps Kashmir, home of yoga, Buddhism, zen and landscapes so pretty you can’t help but stand in amazement, is just what the doctor ordered.
The climate will cool off, and there will be plenty of adventure sports to try too. I’m thinking white-water rafting in Manali, trekking in the Indian Himalayas and perhaps even some paragliding!
So bring on the (further) north! I’m ready to love India again!
Pin this —>