I’ve always wanted to visit India ever since I took an Indian literature class at university. So when one of my best friends moved there for a year, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go visit her. Gwen filled our itineraries and our bellies with unforgettable moments and the most delicious food! It was difficult to whittle my trip down to my top 5 experiences but here they are:
1) Being paparazzi’d
Although it happened less often in Delhi and Agra, being asked for “selfies” happened regularly in the north. At the Dalai Lama’s temple, a large group of kids on a field trip started asking me and my friend for photos. It turned into a 15-minute ordeal where every one of them wanted a combination of individual and group photos. I dare you to turn down a group of giggly 10 year old girls! Whether it was a shy girl, a mother handing me her baby, or a man my age, it made me feel like a rock star. I’m sure I am all over Facebook in India right now. I like to imagine the captions they may have written. Their curiosity was always endearing and never intrusive.
2) Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
5:45 AM – Gwen and I roll out of bed to purchase our tickets and head to the Taj to beat the sunrise and the crowds. It is so worth it! While access to the inside of the Taj is limited and underwhelming, the view from anywhere on the campus is breathtaking. Upon our arrival, the clouds turned dark and lightening flashed behind the Taj, only adding to its wonder. As we sat on a bench in the courtyard the clouds broke and the sun gave us a whole new appreciation for this edifice of undying love. Several times on this trip, I cried from overpowering emotions: the joy of being reunited with my best friends, gratitude for the hospitality shown to us, and awe for the beauty that surrounded us. This was one of those moments.
3) Sunrise yoga in McLeodGanj
McLeodGanj is built into the side of the Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas which means that I was able to watch the sun rise over snow-capped mountain peaks each morning. As a girl from the hills of the Appalachian Mountains, these soaring summits were enough to take my breath away. I didn’t know that taking a rooftop sunrise yoga class in the Himalayas was on my bucket list but I was able to immediately check that box!
While you can go paragliding almost anywhere, doing it at the home of the World Cup of Paragliding and an elevation of 8,500 feet takes it to another level! Prior to take off, my only instructions were “no sit, run, run, run.” If you can get behind that and trust your driver and pilot, paragliding is an amazing experience. As you “run, run, run” off the mountain plateau, the wind picks your canopy up and you’re cruising for 30 minutes to the landing area. In addition to the view of the Himalayas, I watched kids playing cricket and farmers herding livestock from above. This was another point on the trip where I looked around and couldn’t believe this was my life and I was flying through the air in the Himalayas.
Most western tourists attend parties that are specifically for tourists, in fear (and rightly so) of being egged or groped in the streets. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a large family gathering on a farm outside Chandigarh. Within seconds of our arrival, several people came up to wish us “Happy Holi!” We played in the sprinklers, danced until we couldn’t, and drank bhang and roh (sugar cane juice). Our friend’s family welcomed us warmly and I am so grateful for the unforgettable moments we shared. We drove home with our new friends blasting early 2000’s pop music and singing at the top of our lungs. Six weeks later my hair was still streaked with purples and pinks. I could have covered it up but I treasured the visible souvenir of the best trip of my life.
I hope to return the hospitality that was shown to us one day. Not once was I worried for my safety or my stomach. I ate mouthwatering food, met wonderful people, and had monumental experiences.
Want to visit India? Plan your trip here.