After a few recent conversations, I have been thinking a lot about when Si and I went backpacking round India and East Asia.
I wanted to dig out the emails I sent back home from then to see what I thought of it all back then compared to my recollections of it now, 8 and a half years later. We set off from Birmingham on the afternoon of 15th February, 2006.
So here is the first from 19th February 2006 - copied and pasted verbatim, typos and all, and timestamped to the correct date. I was 22.
Well, here's the first of my potentially boring emails. Read on or
just aknowledge I've sent it and know I'm back around 17th May. If you
don't read the email, fine. If you don't know I'm home, then I shall
hunt you down!
Anyway - Flights were pretty uneventful. Royal Jordaninan put us up in
a hotel overnight free of charge so all was nice and good. Reminded me
a little too much of a Travelodge and Heaven knows I've seen enough of
those for a while! Watched some damn awful US film called Playaz Court
about some badass B-Boys basketballers who are 'trying' some white guy
on the court for shooting one of their niggaz... see how the title
India blows me away! We left the airport to get a taxi, and the
operator banged a coupla parked taxis to see who woke up first and got
the privelege (spelt?) of driving us (it was the guy who belched
loudest). We got a ride with a couple who'd been round India before
(the 15km ride to our hotel cost 400 rupees, about 3.50 in pounds) and
recommended a few places to go to us, most of whcih we were hoping to
see anyway. Right - The roads are manic - everyone; bikes, cars,
motorbikes, rickshaws, buses, autorickshaws (cute little yellow and
green morris minor-style things), people all jostle frenetically for
space. Most motorbikes have a few riders. There are cows wandering
freely everywhere. A lot of Hindus around means they get treated well.
This was all only at 6 in the morning! It's a lot worse in the day! We
have a balcony on our floor overlooking Main Bazaar (A big backpacker
area - lots of cheap hotels and a street lined with shops, stalls and
running markets) and last night, with our body clocks still outta
whack, after giving up on sleep at 3am me and Si spend mosta the night
on it, playing card games and watching the cows sleeping outside our
hotel. The buildings are as I imagined but moreso. They look dropped
in place, some landing on top of others and knocking bits down or out
of the way as they land, others squishing in-between. And like this
has been going on for a coupla hundred years by looking at the styles
of them. It looks like a hen night of drunken spiders then decided to
go crazy and add a wiring system to the city! Every time I press a
light switch I tremble a little.
Went on a tour of Delhi today. Very nice man called Mukesh driving.
Most helpful - A brilliant man to have show us around. VEry open to
all sortsa questions about his marriage, sex, British occupation, his
hand in his kids lives, etc. Very interesting. Have avoided the
rip-off his company were trying to set us on - an overpriced tour of
Rajastan in 2 weeks. Instead he's gonna pick us up tomoro and take us
to Agra or Jaipur and leave us there. Delhi started well but once
you've seen one fort, one mosque, and one tomb, and you've started
with some of the biggest in the world, you've seen, well some of the
biggest. The others are smaller and as far as touristy things go, I
think we've seen enough. If we stay in Delhi much longer we should
probably get jobs.
Oh - interestingly, i noticed soon after we got here, bloke are much
more tactile here. They of\ten walk down the road laying their arms
across each others shoulders. I think its nice that they can do that.
And today we saw loadsa guys holding hands. Mukesh tells us we right
in guessing they're not gay - it's just a done thing here.
Anyway - times nearly up so I'm gonna love y'all and leave ya, and git t'going!
If I've missed anyone, sorry. Not much time and a big lista people.
I'll try to getcha next time!
Miss you all and big love!
PS...Sandra:How did your exam go? Hope you were sober when you took it?
Liz: Have a great time in Canada! I'm glad we got to catch up. This
place is amazing - you'd love it!"
It's weird re-reading this. Until now, this whole experience had felt fairly distant. Reading it now, this could be last month! I remember bits of it so vividly. I remember the face of the boy and of the guy doing his photography. I had completely forgotten the taxi-driver and his frankness but as soon as I read that, I remembered Si and I being surprised at just how frank he had been about things like sex. I'd forgotten how we couldn't sleep but now I remember just how awful our first hotel room had been and how we were worried they would all be like this. I remember watching the cows bedding down for the night in the half-ruined building across the street from out balcony.
My opinions of Delhi haven't changed. It's a riotous delightful mess of a place and could so easily be overwhelming, but it is so vivid it's sights and sounds are etched up here [taps his temple sagely] forever. (Degenerative neural conditions notwithstanding)
1st day, we headed out towards Connaught Place just to get our
bearings. It's fairly central. Within minutes, what was to be the
running theme of this trip began. People cannot get enough of my hair!
Seriously! I thought it was bad in England?! I kid you not when I say
people literally FOLLOW me around in groups like I'm some kind of
Messianic figure. And when I turn around, they're just stood grinning
or squinting at me. Everytime I walk down the street, people ar
constantly stopping me saying "is this your original hair?".
Apparently I look like some kinda prophet or something to called Sai
Baba. People are dropping outta normal society to look at me. I may
cut my hair so that we can go out without spending every half hour in
the hour telling people it's my hair.
Anyway - these guys were on some kinda tour hustle. Then a kid came up
"I just want to practise my English. I don't want money". Showed us
the way to Connaught, and some of the sights. Gave us some advice on
avoiding hustles and scams, usually involving a trip to a shop he
handily knew. "Buy Indian clothes so you don't look like tourist. Buy
ones from this shop I am showing you." Kid's on commission from these
places. Liked him though. More chirpy than most of the others since.
Spent a lot of last night drinking Chai tea with this cockney guy
called Mick. He's spent the last 2 and a half years outta the Uk round
Sri Lanka, Oz, India, and now he's off home. He's doing a photographic
book on low-class working life in India. He's been travelling on and
off for the last 10 years or so. Been doing lots of different jobs and
picking up skills, volunteering etc, now putting them all to use in
his book. Very envious of him.
Couldn't sleep last night for more than an hour so we ended up on our
balcony all night chatting, playing cards etc.