The Old One, Two Knock Out Punch

13.December 2009

India

We entered the ring with more bravado than we felt. India in one corner, looming large and wearing her well deserved big, shiny, heavyweight champions belt…us in the other corner wearing our six months of travel like it really mattered.

She took the first punch…Delhi…a hazy, smoggy, smelly, garbage-filled, poverty ridden soupy mess of a city that left us breathless, reeling and wondering what the hell we had gotten ourselves into. Dazed, we wandered into a tour agency and signed up for a 3 week itinerary that would see us through Rajasthan, on to Agra and Varanasi and leave us in Goa in the south.

First though, we would head to Amritsar, see the Golden Temple and recharge in our five star hotel birthday splurge. We came out swinging, sure that our new plan would throw some punches her way and give us some defense from any more of her heavy blows.

It was immediately clear that she was not going to back down…nothing could have prepared me for driving on the roads. All manner of vehicles loaded (and I mean loaded) with cargo and people careening down the roads, passing whenever they like, wherever they like, missing each other within inches. Surprisingly, I got quite used to seeing a bus or lorry hurtling straight for us and pulling in at the very last moment. J and I took to sitting one behind the other on the passenger side thinking that if we did get smoked it would be the drivers side that would sustain the most damage…small comfort, I know.

We were brave though, kept our chins up, our elbows in and our faces covered…we weren’t going out that easily.

But India kept peppering us with small jabs to our middle. Promises of beautiful forts crowning great cities and towns in the desert proved to be great bastions of once-upon-a-time in more dirty cities and un-walkable towns. We defended, finding bright spots in the bleak outlook, trying to make the most of what we had to work with but India is a very, very experienced fighter and she found a way to break through and knock the wind out of us…we both came down with colds.

For a few days we managed to fight on, avoiding the worst of the jabs and sleeping as much as we could but the knock out punch came when we realized we could not go on the tiger safari in Ranthambore…we were both miserable, Jason slept every moment he wasn’t in the car and I had been crying for two days. We looked up from the mat to see the ref holding India’s hand high in the air…another win for India.

We’re leaving. We’re just not having any fun and putting another month in here seems like a high risk investment with a low possibility of return.

As you read this we are on a plane to Thailand. We have a line on a happy place there where we plan on spending a couple of weeks hanging out and figuring out our plan for the next five months. We’ll let you know what we come up with.

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13 Responses to “The Old One, Two Knock Out Punch”

  1. liz Says:

    Wow so sorry to here you’re having a rough stretch (although it sounds similar to our reaction to our 2nd visit to Peru). If I can possibly through in a suggestion, if you haven’t already booked your ticket to Thailand – Don’t leave India just head south to Kerala. So chill so relaxing – compared to your experience. The worst thing that happened to us was a flemmish couple who decided to get intimate in the bunks next to ours on the train.

    But if you’ve already booked your ticket, I’ll say now at least you’ll think that Bangkok is a piece of cake.

    Buck up little campers.

  2. Glenda Says:

    Sorry to hear things didn’t go well. Things may have improved in Goa….but who knows.

    Sending you happy thoughts in your happy place. Big hugs to you both. G & K

  3. Lisa Says:

    We are on an island in Thailand. It is our ‘Happy Place’, looks a lot like your pictures…hmmm..we had an itinerary, now where is that itinerary? You see we must have misplaced it as we were meant to do so much more these first few weeks, there were more islands and a national park. But we have not budged. We laze in the sun and get Thai massages on the beach every other day. It is pretty rough but someone has to do it. I think you may have found your cure for India.

  4. Shawn Says:

    Well, each country is different, once your away from the west the comfort level drops, or at least from what a person is use to.

    If you didn’t like India, avoid Egypt, you wont like it there either.

  5. Dawn Says:

    Well said on India. Its a tough one, but I definitely hear the north is tougher than the south. I am trying to talk myself into going to the south someday, but it is hard….
    I thought Egypt was challenging in a different way than India-you are asked for tips frequently, and there is the poverty, but it does not feel as crushing as India (we went from India to Jordan then to Egypt). I wouldn’t skip out on the ruins in Egypt if you did not like India-I don’t think they are that similar that you would want to miss those Pyramids-awesome.

  6. Keith Says:

    At least you tried. In planning our RTW trip India was dropped in the first round. However I am writing this sitting on Koh Somui off the coast of Surat Thani in Thailand. Bangkok was great and you will love it. We spent 5 days there and if your hotel is near a skytrain stop it is very easy and cheap to get around to all the sites.

    We are planning on heading to Koh Tao for some diving from the 17-21st, so if you dive come meet us. We follow your blog and if we end up in the same town would love to meet you both. Enjoy the flight and Bangkok.

    Regarding Egypt, I think of Egypt in two parts Cairo (dirty smelly, hard to get around, etc) and the rest of the country. You need now more than 1 day in Egypt to see the sights then get out of there to Aswan and Luxor, and hit the Sinai for a little sun and beach.

  7. Akila Says:

    Aw, that’s too bad that you guys didn’t like it. I can definitely say India isn’t for everyone. But, at least you realized you didn’t like it and got out of there. Have fun in Thailand!

  8. Dirk Says:

    When does The Plan stop becoming The Plan and become an obstacle to your happiness? We are currently wrestling with this question too. Sounds like you made a good decision. You gotta roll with the punches, to steal your metaphor.

    • Gillian Says:

      Thanks for all the encouragement everyone. We’ve been in Bangkok 24 hours now and are already feeling like our old selves. Leaving India was the right decision. It may have been different in the south but we just couldn’t imagine that it would be different enough. I’m glad we went, she has left her mark on me but enough was enough.

      Dirk: My thoughts are with you and Michelle.

  9. Shawn Says:

    Yep, I have met some people that love India, and some people that hate it, there seems not to be an in-between.

    Concerning Egypt, I realize you two are not going to visit on this trip, but I stayed for five months as my first country two years ago, and it is challenging, although it makes most other countries just easier.

    I might visit India, but it wont be in 2010, as it looks at least.

  10. Cindi Says:

    I felt the exact same way about India – completely overwhelmed! I cried more in India than I did on the entire trip. Once we crossed into Nepal – I was so relieved and then we did the same thing you did, flew to Bangkok and spent Christmas in Thailand. Much, much better! I hope you enjoy SE Asia as much as we did – my only advice is to make plenty of time for Laos and Vietnam (LOVED them both!) and watch your bags at ALL times – esp. on the buses from Bangkok to the south of Thailand. It’s the only time we were robbed on our entire journey. Happy Holidays!!!

  11. Keith@Traveling-Savage Says:

    Interesting read – I liked the boxing metaphor. Just found your blog and I’m enjoying it. Consider me along for the ride!

  12. Clark Says:

    Your experiences in India have scared us a bit, I must say. Maybe Southern India would have treated you better? We would like to focus more on the south, but I’m not sure the weather will cooperate with us.