Up, Up and Away

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All good things must come to an end. We arrive at the Delhi airport extremely early for our 10:35 PM flight. This airport is huge and also the most secure I’ve ever been in. They had guards at each door. To get in, you had to provide your ticket and passport and it could only be a certain number of hours before your flight. We got in before the ticket counter even opened. My friend had been able to check-in and par for the course; I had an “error” and couldn’t check in. Wonderful.

Checking in was interesting. It ended up taking four or five agents to figure out the issue so I could get my boarding passes. Luckily my luggage was checked all the way home. Winning.

Security was super secure. Ironic I know. We got through, only to learn we were supposed to have these tags on our hand luggage so they could stamp them. There are no signs telling you that, and there also aren’t bins of these tags just around. To make the experience even more special, my backpack was completely unpacked and everything was run through the scanner alone. It was pretty cool. Or whatever the opposite of cool is, yeah it was that.

My main goals were food, shopping and shower. Mind you at this point we had been up since 7AM, slathered in Deet and sunscreen, plus a layer of sweat and dirt. The last thing I wanted was to sit in my own filth for another 25+ hours going home.

Side note: the shopping in the Delhi airport is fantastic! We could have spent hours in those shops!

After our dinner and shopping it was shower time. We didn’t have any kind of lounge pass, but we ended up buying a pass to the Air India lounge. We got three or four hours of access, internet, food, drinks, and nice chairs. For some additional ruperts we got access to showers. All in all it cost about $20 –ish dollars each, Yeah cheap.

I’m not sure what I expected from an airport lounge shower, but I have to say it was one of the nicest showers I have ever been in. We each got our own room with a sink, toilet and shower. They provided anything you could need, which I also didn’t expect. The shower was so great that I washed everything twice. Seriously amazing.

Showered, fed, and happy-ish we had one final Kingfisher in the lounge and said our final farewell to India. It was sad, that is, until this happened.

Last Kingfisher


Be warned, Delhi airport rant about to start…

On our way to the gate, I got two bottles of water from the bookstore. I am all about staying hydrated when I fly and this was going to be 14+ hours in a steal tube up in the air. I needed water to survive. So I was a happy camper. Upon arrival to our gate, we realized there was another security checkpoint. Wait, I already went through all this. In my naive brain, I thought okay no problem, security again but since I got my water IN THE AIRPORT it will be fine. Wrong, I was so wrong. I had to throw BOTH of my brand new, un-opened half liter bottles of water away. To say I was livid would not be saying enough. I’m still pissed about that now almost a year later. I appreciate security yes, but at least warn us. Say that we can’t buy them. Or make us put them in a sealed bag or something. It was ridiculous not to be able to board a 14+hour flight with water. Absolutely ridiculous. Okay, rant end.

This was going to be the longest flight I had been on. My previous record was flying from Fiji to LA in 2007. Luckily I was exhausted and ready for sleep. As the amount of people getting on the plane slowed, I realized I had been given the greatest gift one could ever hope for sitting in coach on a 14+ hour flight. An entire row to myself. Me, just me! Ahhhhhh (angels singing). As a taller person, this was one hell of a win. It would also mean the flight wasn’t full, so there were not as many people up and down and it was just a quieter flight because of that. All good things.

Our plane coming home was an infamous 777. I hadn’t flown on one in years. And this quite possibly could have been one of the oldest planes I’ve been on in a long time. It was totally fine until my headrest actually broke. Eh, I guess I did have three seats so it was alright. But still, it broke! What the what?! The other odd thing was that our flight map didn’t work the entire journey. So we had no idea where we were as we were flying in pitch-black skies all night. Creepy. Overall I expected it to feel like I was flying FOREVER and be so ready to get out of a plane. It turns out I did not feel that way at all. The flight was super easy. So easy that it makes you think about how “close” other destinations are.

We landed in lovely Newark around 4:35 AM and got through customs with no issues to drop our bags and make it through security for our final flights home. Sadly we said goodbye as I headed toward my gate. Luckily I had pre-check because even at 5:45AM on a Monday, Newark was bumping.  Picture this, I’m in the pre-check line in my yoga pants (huge shutout to my first pair of Lululemons. I would totally make that decision again and again. They felt like wearing nothing even after 14 hours), hair in a bun, zero makeup on, henna everywhere and all of the other travelers were completely suited up. I fit right in. Not!

On my last flight I was asleep before they finished the safety demonstration. When I woke up, I wasn’t even sure we were in the air. We were. That flight was easy and getting through the airport to an Uber home was no big deal. The return journey was so easy that it restored my faith in flying. And confirmed my addiction.

I was home again. Though my soul felt like it was still a world away. I wondered when it would return? Until then, food, shower and laundry.

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Something Old and Something New

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The dawn of our last day in Delhi was bittersweet. We were excited to explore, but super sad that at the end of the day we had to leave. Plus we were without our friends and it just wasn’t the same.

Our tour in the morning was a student led subway tour of Old Delhi. We had no idea what to expect, but were excited to see the city like a local.

As it turned out, our guide Arun, had studied in the US and spent a good amount of time in the states. His English was great and he made us feel at ease. Walking into the subway station you would not know you were in India. It was seriously so nice. The only “different” thing was the sign asking people not to spit. Its cool I won’t, promise.

Arun bought our “tickets” for us after explaining how the zone map worked. The map had all these areas with big numbers in them. He explained that the numbers represented how many ruperts (as we so lovingly called the Rupee) it cost to ride. So if you were in a 5 zone, it was 5 ruperts or $0.07 dollars. Yes that math is correct. Or at least it was when this was written! They also don’t have tickets. They use these silly little chip coins. I’ve only ever seen the chip coin one other place in my life and it happens to be in a parking garage where I live. They are literally the dumbest things ever. Arun told us that if we were there longer than a few days, that a metro card would make sense. For this it did not. But you better hold on to that little coin because I’m pretty sure they’d never let you out if you lost it.

Once we made our way to the platform, Arun told us that the first two or three cars in each subway train were for women only. We thought that was really cool. You also had to go through security getting into the station. Again, totally okay with that.

Ascending the staircase into Old Delhi was almost like we had traveled back in time. No, that’s actually exactly what it was like. I don’t know what I thought we would see, but it wasn’t this.

So picture a narrow street lined with light poles or power poles. In a normal city these poles would mainly be for lights and you wouldn’t see any wires or anything attached to them. In Old Delhi, there were wires EVERYWHERE. To the extent that I thought if someone accidentally pushed on one of those poles hard enough, the whole web would come crashing down completely blacking out that part of the city. Like am I the only one seeing this? How is this even working?! The fact that anything has power in Old Delhi is extremely impressive. I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging wide open for at least the first five minutes we were there. Poor Arun, I have no idea what he was so passionately talking about.

We grabbed a rickshaw and the three of us climbed in. As we slowly made our way through the streets, we passed men getting haircuts, people arranging their produce to sell, shop owners setting up for the day, food being prepared, animals of all kinds, and people, lots of people. It was noisy, smelly, dirty and unbelievably fascinating. We couldn’t get enough.

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How is this working?!

Arun took us to three different temples that morning and each one was so totally different than the other. But one thing was the same. They were all playing super loud music and there were people everywhere. Some places you had to cover your hair, others you didn’t. It was a really cool experience.

We ended the morning with some lunch at a place that had a mixture of northern and southern Indian food and was very good.

That was the end of Old Delhi. Walking back to the subway I could have happily gotten lost in all of the streets and markets. By this time a few hours had passed and the number of people in the area had at least doubled. It was wall to wall. Old Delhi is seriously so captivating. And it’s a photographers dream. We will be back for you.

The last part of our day turned out to be a perfect ending to our trip. We went to Swaminarayan Akshardham, temple (I highly recommend clicking that link, especially since we couldn’t take pictures). So one interesting fact is that if you are Indian you can get into any of the heritage sites in the country for free. It’s really nice. And this one was actually free for us as well. Score!

Right, so this temple. First of all it’s HUGE. Second of all, you couldn’t bring anything in with you. No phone, camera, gum, jewelry, nothing. If you had those items with you, you had to check them. Not happening, I’ll just go with nothing. My friend carried our passports in a money belt and the last of the ruperts we had.

So as we were waiting in line to get in, it became very apparent that we were the ONLY white women around. Both of us realized at the same time that everyone was casually, or not so casually, staring at us. Thank goodness they couldn’t have cameras or we never would have made it. Finally after some more security we made it inside.

The temple itself was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But since there are no photos of it, or of me there, you’re just going to have to believe me on this.

There was still a lot of day left (well we assumed, not having a phone or watch) so we decided to check out the attractions. Yes there were attractions. The first one was a series of rooms with animatronics telling the story of the temples founder. It felt very Disney. The other “ride” we did was on a boat. You got on and it starting playing “It’s a Small World,” no it didn’t, but it may as well have.

The oddest part was at the end of the ride there was a room full of propaganda to stop eating meat. Like cutouts of animals with speech bubbles saying “we have feelings too” and things of that nature. It was pretty crazy. Not exactly something you’d see in America.

I will say snacks and drinks were silly cheap which was nice because it was about a million degrees out. We also got the most attention of the entire trip this day. It was Sunday, but there were tons of school groups. One group was staring at us (like mouths open, whispering and pointing) so intently that I waived at them. That was all it took for the group to run over to talk to us. They were so sweet and innocent, that it was cute. Again so glad they didn’t have cameras or phones.

After wandering around a little more we deemed it time to leave and headed to the airport. That was one quiet car ride. We were sad.

On the Road Again

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Our last full day together started out with yet another infamous India road trip back to Delhi. I’m not one to stay awake in cars, but there was SO MUCH happening the whole time that I couldn’t fall asleep.

India has the craziest trucks on the road I’ve ever seen. They are kind of like dump trucks, only smaller and they are totally decked out in bright paint, tassels, writing, everything. It’s super cool. And when they honk their horns (just like everyone else does) it plays a fun little song.

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Crazy decorated India truck and of course cows


Traffic on this road trip was literally insane. They diverted the highway onto a dirt road for part of the way and it was like four lanes of traffic all squeezed into one. We were completely surrounded by huge trucks for a vast majority of the time. Our driver got an A++ that day for sure. And some extra Ruperts for his efforts!

Lunch this afternoon was comical. We got delayed by quite a bit getting into Delhi, so I told our bus driver to just find somewhere quick and simple for us to eat. This is a moment where I wish I had spoken the language. We ended up at just the opposite. Walking in the front door of the restaurant where we were dropped off, the servers were in suits boarderinf on tuxes; there were linens on the tables and families all around. We roll up slathered in deet and sunscreen, in clothes that desperately need to be washed, just looking for a sandwich. It was a great lunch actually and the staff did not care at all what we looked like, so it worked out, but it was not a simple place for a sandwich at all.

Because it took longer to get into Delhi than it should have, we ended up having to kind of run through our tour that afternoon.

We saw Qutb Minar and Humayun’s Tomb right at golden hour, which made everything pretty beautiful. Plus they used that red sandstone I enjoy so much. Unfortunately none of us thought our tour guide brought much to the table, but we had fun all the same. After a whirlwind day, we went to check-in to our hotel before our friends had to go to the airport to leave. Insert super sad face here.

What surprised me about driving through Delhi during the daylight was how much traffic there was, yet how organized the city was. It felt very European to me. Come to find out, it was developed by the British, so duh it’s organized. But I had no idea. You can find me living under a giant rock. The one thing that set it apart (okay not the one thing, one of the things) was the fact that you would be driving by the embassies and there would be monkeys ALL around, just running and having a grand ole time. Hey Mr. Monkey!

So our hotel for the night was really adorable. It was an old house that you have a room in, but it has a common room shared with other guests and then a rooftop “restaurant.” More like a kitchen on the roof, but hey a round of Kingfisher was like 600 ruperts or $9, yes $9. I miss you ruperts. I really miss you.

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Last Kingfishers


The only unfortunate thing was saying goodbye to our friends. It was awful. We absolutely did not want them to leave and they didn’t want to leave either. The four of us just got along so well it was perfect. Clearly if we had hated each other at this point we would have been like “okay, bye, see you later (or not).” But that was not the case.

It was an absolute fact that India had stolen our hearts.