Month 10 Round-Up (March ’19): Surviving India

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I think I tempted fate by ending my February round-up like this:

Hopefully in my March update I’ll tell you I’m feeling better and seeing some more of India!

About two weeks later, I was doing the exact opposite of this: not being better whatsoever, in fact I was on hospital on a drip! 

BTW – I started this series when I started travelling full-time in May 2018. Read my other monthly round-ups here.

Being sick in India

I don’t know what exactly happened in my stomach during my first month in India but it certainly involved a lot of distress on my part. It wasn’t my upset bowels that bothered me; it was how totally exhausted and wiped out I was. I felt weak, shaky, scared, and not myself. After two courses of antibiotics, another lot pumped into me on a drip and a lot of Imodium and electrolytes to boost my energy, I just wasn’t getting any better. 

I also don’t know what I ate in Amritsar that made me so sick. Sometimes it’s not even food but some random bacteria you pick up on your hands; often it’s just a mystery. I did learn (the hard way) that food poisoning often isn’t as simple as your body getting out what’s bothered it – sometimes whatever bacteria gets in stays and can reek havoc for months or even years.

Maybe this is enough about my bodily functions!

So my first month in India wasn’t great. I did and saw some nice things but I just wasn’t myself or operating at full capacity. Or enjoying the good Indian foods, a crying shame!

Where was I in March?

I started the month in McLeod Ganj which is a gorgeous mountain town in Dharamshala. It didn’t really feel like ‘India’ but I think part of India’s charm is its diversity… So being totally different actually made Dharamshala typical for India, if that makes sense.

Meeting the locals in McLeod Ganj

McLeod Ganj was such a pretty place to relax and unwind. Waking up and sipping honey, lemon ginger tea (my stomach-safe non-caffeine option!) while watching the sun rise behind the Himalayas was a pinch-me moment each and every time.

The other interesting thing about Dharamshala is that it’s an exile sight for Tibetans fleeing China’s persecution of their country. The whole situation is really tragic and I got to learn about it at the Tibet Museum in Mcleod Ganj. If you’re interested, take a look at the video I made:

YouTube video

Rishikesh 

Next I took a treacherous night bus through the mountains to Rishikesh where I spent the rest of March. I was meant to head to Agra and Varanasi after and even had my trains booked but alas, I wasn’t feeling well enough.

On the plus side, Rishikesh was the perfect place to stay longer and focus on getting better. If you don’t know, Rishikesh is a hippie town in North India popular for yoga, meditation and its many, many cafes. While it’s nowadays a stomping ground for Western expats, it’s also got a very local side as it’s a holy city (with no alcohol or meat served) set beside the Ganges. You can visit ancient riverside ghats where locals wash, pray and perform daily fire shows. 

I stayed in the most amazing hostel of my India trip, Shiv Shakti. The staff were absolute babes and took turns at taking me to hospital, showing genuine dedication to my well-being. To start with, I wasn’t very social but as I got better, I made some lovely friends. Paige and Alice were also from the UK and we did a lot of fun activities together, heading out on scooters with the hostel guys and finding secret beaches and waterfalls.

Do go chasing them

Celebrating Holi 

By far the highlight of March (not that there was much competition when I spent so much of it in bed questioning my survival probability) was celebrating Holi in India

I mean, what a day! Initially, I’d heard a lot about Holi being dangerous, and girls getting groped or harassed. But let’s be honest, the internet would suggest India is about nothing but these things, when in reality I found that far from the case. I can’t vouch for more hectic cities like Delhi but I felt safe in Rishikesh for Holi, even if it was mainly men celebrating and they did want a lot of selfies.

I hadn’t considered the prospect of not making friends to experience Holi with but, when I went down to the main square with Paige and Alice, I realised it wouldn’t have been the same without them. It was definitely busy and overwhelming so I was glad to have a crew with me, plus it’s just nicer to dance with friends isn’t it!

In case you missed my IG stories, Holi is a Hindu festival dating back centuries and celebrating the start of spring. It also promotes love, forgiveness and repairing broken relationships. What an awesome sentiment – I think a lot of people in the West could use a Holi!

What’s next?

I’m writing this late (as per!) so it already happened, but at the end of March I took off for my India backpack adventures. I headed to Pushkar and Jaipur then down south. I was sad to be missing a second chance to gawp at the Taj Mahal (I went during my first trip to India in 2015) and Varanasi but I know I have to push myself less and control my FOMO. My well-being should be my number 1 priority but it’s not always. It’s something I’m working on. I have no doubt I’ll be back in India someday!

Safety in India as a solo female traveller

Despite all the ways India did not agree with me, I felt fine travelling as a solo female. India isn’t just one thing, and the attitudes in off-grid villages aren’t the same as those in modern towns and traveller havens. When you travel in India, you won’t visit the neighbourhoods the problems lie: you’ll visit awesome, tourist-friendly destinations like Rishikesh and Dharamshala. If anything, my only problem was escaping the tourist cafes and finding real local food! Oh, and dodging selfies which is a problem all over. India gets so negatively portrayed in the West and I felt totally safe the whole time. Nothing else to add, really!

Thanks for reading!

Read my monthly round-ups here. I started this series when I started travelling full-time in May 2018.

See you next time,

Rose

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