Kim Selinske is a sophomore at CSU majoring in History with minors in Political Science and English. She will be spending Spring 2014 on a ship sailing to vibrant destinations such as Japan, China, Burma, India, South Africa, Morocco, and England. Keep an eye out to see where she is headed next! Her blog can originally be found at http://seafaringstudent.tumblr.com/.
[Originally posted April 11, 2014]
India is beautiful.
The first day was spent on my field lab for my Medieval Travelers class. We took traditional canoe-like boats and saw a guy make coconut wine, which tasted like the sweet rice wine from China. Then we were rowed over to a different island where they had already picked a basket of coconuts for our class and they cut them open, stuck straws in them and gave them to us to drink. No one was particularly fond of the coconut water, but we got them to cut the coconut open, so we were able to eat some of the coconut flesh before we moved on to watch a local man pull up some of the mud crabs that were being raised on the island. After that, we saw local pottery being made, and some people in the class learned how to climb a palm tree! Then we learned all the different uses for coconut husks, and we got to eat fresh clams that they had just cooked for us. Then we rode a tuk-tuk (which is like a taxi in India,
except it’s open air and the driver steers with a handle system like a bike, instead of a steering wheel) and wandered the city in the rain for an hour or two.
The next morning I rose before the sun to leave on my Jaipur & Taj trip through SAS. The first day was just a day of going through airports, since we had to fly all the way to New Delhi from Kochi, which is a long trip north. The only real upside was finding 50 cent samosas at the airport… and getting 10 of them. That night we stayed in an extremely gaudy hotel in New Delhi, where the Taj Mahal Group A was staying as well. A few of my close friends on the ship were on that trip and it was fun to see them. The hotel lobby was quite entertaining though—the piano man played Wrecking Ball (by Miley Cyrus) and a variety of other contemporary American songs on the piano. It was… confusing.
Anyway, we left bright and early again the next morning to take the train to Agra, which is where the Taj Mahal is. The train was a bit sketchy and a little rough, but we got to see a lot of the countryside, which was really nice. Once we got off the train, we were bused to a hotel where they served us a breakfast buffet. It was interesting that most of our meals were served at hotels, as that is one of the main places where you are sure to get clean water and safely prepared foods. After breakfast we drove to the Taj Mahal!
The thing about India is that there are Hawkers everywhere. Everyone is trying to sell you things and they don’t take no as an answer. People were selling us things all the way up to the gates of the Taj Mahal and they followed us around Agra for the rest of the day. It was very strange.
But the Taj Mahal… that is worth all of the hawkers and long transportation. The entrance is off to the side, so you don’t see the Taj Mahal until you turn a corner and it’s all very dramatic. To be honest, it wasn’t as large as I was expecting, but it was ten times as beautiful. I can’t even begin to explain the awe, excitement, happiness, you name it, that was all over the faces of all the SAS kids. This was India.
We wandered around and took lots of photos and walked around the inside of the Taj Mahal (something that is apparently not going to be possible for much longer?). They had us leave relatively quickly so we could make it to the next stop, but we all had a hard time tearing ourselves away from the gorgeous building. We ended up going to the Agra Fort, also known as the Pink Fort. We also went to a marble carving place where the men working there were all trained in the traditional carving style of their forefathers, who did the carvings on the Taj Mahal. It was amazing to see. Also one of the men there told me I looked “very Indian” as a large compliment, which was weird but hey, he was being nice. Then we drove 6 hours to Jaipur (and saw our first thunderstorm in months!).
In Jaipur, we rode elephants up into the fort on a hill, which was an amazing experience! As we rode into the main plaza, they had people playing traditional Indian procession music and it felt like being Indian royalty. Imagine the Prince Ali musical scene in Aladdin, and that’s about how we felt, without all of the extra people. Just elephants (as if that’s a normal thing to say). Then we wandered around the fort for a little while, saw a snake charmer, and wandered back down to the base of the fort. We got off our bus and took pictures of the floating palace and found tons of camels by the side of the road (camels are like horses here).
After, we wandered through a traditional Observatory (it was like Disneyland for astronomers), and then we wandered through the markets and we each bought a saree to wear at the Ambassador’s Ball. We met back up at the bus with our group and went to a dinner show. They had traditional dancers and then a puppet show that was all done in the traditional Indian style. Then we were back to our swanky hotel (really though, we had a glass bathroom area that was larger than the sleeping area. And you could automatically lower and raise the shades so you weren’t looking in on the bath. Plus, they had 2 restaurants and a “hip new night club” in the lobby.
The next day was another transportation day to get us back to Kochi. This day was a bit of a mess. Some of us had to check our backpacks because the plane was tiny and then we were supposed to have a 1 hour layover. That layover quickly turned into a 6 hour layover, with half of us only having our wallets and things to do, since that was all in our backpacks and they sealed them before we could pull things out. That was a fun adventure, but when we finally got a flight out, it was a relief and we got back safe and sound from there.
The final day in India was spent wandering through Kochi with my friends. We went to a market to get last minute gifts that people had been looking at all week, and then we found internet to download TV shows and get applications turned in. We found some great Indian places, ate some great gelato, found a place that sold Nutella (a serious find!), and one of our friends got into a shouting match with one of the tuk-tuk drivers. We ended up having to take a tuk-tuk back to the ship with our friends who had befriended a driver on the first day. Let me tell you a thing about tuk-tuks: They are made for 3 people. Four people can squeeze if you’re determined. So of course we crammed 6 people into one tuk-tuk. 5 crammed in the back and I was half-on the driver’s seat in the front. Halfway through, the driver offered to let me drive! I of course said yes (when do you get to drive a tuk-tuk again?? All week people had tried to pay drivers to let them drive tuk-tuks), and apparently I’m very good at driving tuk-tuks, so long as the driver actually lets me have the brake pedal.
We got back on the ship about 20 minutes before On-Ship Time, which is closer than I have ever cut it, but we made it on without dock time and it was well worth the experience! India was a place of adventure but mostly it was overflowing with beauty.