Month 9 Round-Up (Feb ‘19): Diving Into India

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There’s one main thing to announce in this update – I’m in India!

Say whaat?!

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

I don’t know how this happened. Well I do, obvs! I booked my ticket and bought my visa, after much deliberation and ‘am I ready to do this solo?’ discussions in my mind. Am I glad I did?

Well, I write this from my sick bed of one week after getting a suspected parasite on like, day 3 or something ridiculous. How does that even happen so fast?

If you don’t know, I spent a month in India in 2015 and I was in perfect health the whole time. Turns out my stomach isn’t invincible, after all! Despite all this, I’ve had some bucket list experiences here in India already, and Dharamshala (where I am now) is fricking stunning.

But let’s get chronological for February shall we!

Finishing up my month in Chiang Mai

Doi Inthanon National Park just outside of Chiang Mai

I didn’t fly to India until the 19th so most of February was spent based in Chiang Mai, living in a co-working hostel and exploring the city at a slow pace. The highlights were hiking the Monk’s Trail and visiting Doi Inthanon National Park which is part of the Himalayas. I’m becoming such a nature girl apparently!

I thought Chiang Mai would start to feel a bit small but actually, it was perfect. There’s a lot to do for a relatively small city and I actually liked having my routines and favourite cafes in Chiang Mai, as well as friends who stay as long in a place as I do.

Read next: 12 fun and unique things to do in Chiang Mai

The only downside was that Chiang Mai’s annual burning season was approaching. This is where local farmers burn their fields after the harvest, and air quality sucks. One day during my last week, the sky looked suspiciously grey and I felt like the world might end at any second. Yup, probably time to move along…

Taking a trip to Chiang Rai

I didn’t book a bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and just rocked up on the day… Only to rock back home because they were all booked up! Not only that, my bed had been given away and I had to lug my stuff over a new hostel for one night just to try again, Travel fails!

Once I made it to Chiang Rai, it was all worth it. The town itself isn’t much to speak of but the temples around the outskirts are really gorgeous. They’re all relatively new, built in the last few years. I wonder how much of it is to attract tourists over from Chiang Mai? The White Temple, Blue Temple and the Goddess of Mercy on the hill were the best bits.

The White Temple

Nice, right? Definitely include Chiang Rai if you’re reading to Northern Thailand.

Off to India

I took a 10-hour bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to catch my flight to Amritsar. Funny story – when I got to Bangkok it was dark but I grabbed my backpack from the hold and dived in a cab. I realised that it felt lighter than usual and I noticed my tripod wasn’t sticking out. Damn, had someone nicked my brand new tripod?

I marched back to the bus with SASS and demanded my tripod back. A worried-looking boy who couldn’t have been more than 19 said ‘that’s my backpack’ and low-and-behold, I had stolen and made off with his backpack! I’m a nightmare. Thank God we swapped them back as otherwise, what would I have done in India with none of my stuff and a bag of teenage boy’s clothes? That really would have been a bad start to the trip.

Arriving in Amritsar, India

I was the only non-Indian man on the plane and everyone at customs snapped at me for being in the wrong queue and not understanding the process. I had a lil cry in the loo and pulled myself together, just in time to BOSS the taxi journey to my hostel: the driver threw a stop when we arrived, saying I owed him more than what we’d arranged. I remained firm and gave him what was fair. India was going to be a wild ride, that was for sure!

Amritsar travel guide

Amritsar was a busy, hectic city outside of the main attractions but my hostel, Jugaadus, was a saving grace. I met a nice group of travellers and the hostel offered so many tours and cooking classes for £2. The best things to do in Amritsar are:

  • Visiting the Golden Temple, the world’s most important Sikh temple and pilgrimage site. It’s also home to the biggest kitchen in the world and feeds 100, 000 people daily.
  • The Wagah Border – the border between India and Pakistan hosts a daily dance show where participants from both countries do wild and crazy performances as a sign of competition. It was so mental with all these high kicks – plus their game faces were so strong!
  • Learnt about the sad history of Partion at the museum and at Jallianwala Memorial where the British gunned down 2,000 Indians for having a peaceful protest. Learning all this awful stuff about my ancestors has really moved me and changed my perspective on a lot of things… But isn’t that what travel’s all about?

Despite being a bit crazy, I really enjoyed Amritsar and had some memorable travel experiences there – I’m glad I went.

Sickness and heading to the mountains

Unfortunately on my final night in Amritsar, I got sick. All the types of India sick! Instead of travelling by bus up to the mountains of Dharamshala, the next day I lay on a cushion and felt sorry for myself. Sod’s law – I was fine all day, but the next day when I made the journey I violently threw up in my snack bag within 30 minutes of bording, with 7 hours to go! Grim.

Now it’s the end of February and I’m extending my stay in Dharamshala because I’m still not well. I’ve been hot and tired with a dodgy tummy for a week and I just don’t feel like myself. Boo! I’m on some meds and hoping they work soon. To get to Rishikesh I need to catch an overnight bus with no bathroom which is not on my priority list right now! I have a two-month visa for India and I’m not in a rush, so that’s something to feel grateful for.

On the plus side, Dharamshala is so bloody beautiful. If there was ever a place to relax and be sick, it’s here. Most people think of India as hot, busy and hectic but here you will totally change your perspective.

Um just wow!

Once a British hill station, it’s now home to the Dalai Lama and countless other Tibetans who have fled from persecution. Dharamsala is the region and the town I am staying in is Mcleod Ganj. If you come here, I’d recommend staying here because there’s more to do and some lovely cafes, plus the Tibet Museum.

I’m learning a lot of stuff I had no idea about previously – yet more proof that travel changes and challenges you.

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

Thanks for reading

Read my other monthly round-ups here.

Rose

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