Monday, 20 June 2016

Taj mahal and a taste of real India

I can't believe we visited the Taj mahal today!! I've wanted to see it for so long and it was a significant reason for me visiting India. the 4.45am wake up wasn't fun but was sooo worth it as by 6am I was already sweating! We got ready (the others elaborately dressed, I wish I'd had my sari!) and then got a tuk tuk the short distance to the Taj mahal. We had to walk quite a bit to get there but it wasn't busy. It was amazing!! The inside is a bit underwhelming as it's a tomb but the outside is stunning! I lost the others and sat outside for a while where i was asked for sooooooo many photos!! It's not a rarity here; we frequently get asked for photos by people on their own or with their children or family but this was crazy!Families kept appearing and at one point like 10 people were surrounding me taking photos! Most of the other volunteers refuse or see it as offensive which i kind of understand but they're not doing it rudely! A lot of them rarely see people who aren't Indian in real life and it's like a strange novelty; they're always complimentary if the comment on our appearence and I just find it funny!

We got a tuk tuk back to the hostel where we had a buffet breakfast which was nice but who really wants spicy curry at 9am?? Then we packed up, checked out and went to a café called Sheroes, owned by victims of acid burn attacks. It was an amazing place; so sad to learn of these women's past but so lovely to know that they'd turned what had happened into something positive. They were beautiful and their stories heartbreaking.

Afterwards we got a tuk tuk to a water park which was pretty far away (I somehow managed to fall asleep despite the awful road surfaces!). We went in and were immediately approached by a member of staff telling us to follow him. He told us we were to be escorted round the park by staff. The others weren't happy with this and said they wanted to go on their own, but i just thought this is obviously happening for a reason and happily obliged. All women wear a waterproof top and trousers so we weren't stared at for being exposed, but honestly everyone acted like we were celebrities. It was so, so bizarre. The men showing us round were nice and friendly but the whole thing was just so funny! There was an open slide with 3 lanes; friends were racing, going down on their fronts or backwards, but when we went we had one of our guards go first to wait at the bottom, then we were allowed single file lying down with our hands behind our heads. It was hilarious, having our own special safety procedures!

People would follow where we went; we went into a room where water came down like rain and danced to Indian music (which was so fun) but when we left so did everyone! We obtained a couple of families who were obsessed with us and posed for entire aquatic photoshoots. While it was funny it was definitely necessary to have the guides; even with the additional protection a couple of men managed to touch me under the water. The water was murky (cute) so the guards couldn't tell quickly enough but a couple of men would touch my leg as I passed them getting out of a pool. It wasn't a big deal but it was very good that the two men with us stopped anything worse happening, shouting in Hindi when they noticed. We also went into a wave pool, usually divided into male and female but not when the waves were on. A huge crowd of men circled us, seeming harmless but it was just a bit intimidating so our men helped us to leave. The park were clearly trying to keep up their reputation, giving us free drinks and offering food which was very sweet. It was just very strange and I wanted to remind everyone that we're no different to them!!

At 5.15 we got a tuk tuk back to the train station, hung out there for a bit where i bought some food for people who clearly needed it and then at 7 we got our train. It was absolutely mental. I can't even explain it and no photo shows it properly. It was so full that people were hanging oUt of the doors but no one got off so everyone was just shoving into the bursting train. We had reserved seats and someone noticed my ticket and tried to help me to move forward which was completely impossible as I couldn't physically move! We finally managed to get to our seats, separately, shouting down the train to work out where we all were! It was so full that people sat on the luggage racks and a guy was sat on my tray table which would have been fine but he wouldn't stop talking to me in English that just didn't make sense. When he asked if I was married I put my headphones in to ignore him. He wasn't a threat; he was about my age and took the hint at that point but he was just so annoying! Fortunately at one station most people got off, through the window I should add as it was too busy to get to the doors. It was great to not be so close to other people!!!

We arrived at the station about 9.30 and our driver collected us and took us home. It was such a good but busy day! I had a bit of dinner, showered then went to bed.

Laura x