I have always had the tiniest attachment to India - I'm not really sure why but I think it's partly to do with the fact that my Mum lived there for many years as a child and she still has fond memories of it. She also incorporates the culture into our daily life (curry? Yes please!!) I have also always been a fan of the vibrance, the diversity and the amazing history of the country, which is absolutely huge, might I add, and yet everywhere you go is different to the last. I say this because I had the great privilege of going to India for just under a month recently to volunteer at a primary school in Himachal Pradesh and teach English. A group of us from my university were there for a few weeks and then we spent the last week travelling to some notable cities, which I'll get onto in a minute. India consists of 29 states. It is the seventh largest country in the world and is the second most populous country, which is insane. Himachal Pradesh is right at the tippy top, not far from Tibet in fact, and we were staying in a lovely guesthouse in a town called Palampur.
The area we stayed in was so, so green and mountainous. We woke up to incredible views everyday. It was also monsoon season when we went, meaning we were regularly soaked from, er, head to toe. When we weren't soaked from the rain, we were soaked in sweat because of the humidity. Basically we were just never really dry at any stage. Volunteering at the school was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We helped make the school colourful and fun by painting a lot of it and then we did many games and activities with the kids. They were all so smiley and so enthusiastic - they also absolutely loved the camera on my phone and wanted to take pictures pretty much all of the time.
Whilst staying in Himachal Pradesh we got to do lots of exploring as we were there for a good three weeks. Whether it was walking about Palampur and trying out new dishes each day at our local restaurant or playing cards for hours on end with stunning views of the rolling hills, I loved every minute of it. We went further astray too, right up to where India meets Tibet, home to one of the Dalai Lama's temples. We went to a tea plantation, made clay pots, tried out tea at a local inn and went on walks through the forests.
After the three weeks of volunteering, myself and two friends went off to travel. We hit up Amritsar, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi before flying home. Being in different parts of the country, these cities were all quite different and provided us with a unique experience. The large Sikh community in Amritsar meant we were able to view some absolutely stunning Sikh temples; being on the border of Pakistan as well meant the merging of cultures was very much prevalent. Jaipur - the pink city - was grand, aesthetically pleasing and a cultural learning hub whilst Agra of course was all about the Taj Mahal. Delhi was the craziest - it was bustling, dirty, contrasting and spectacular. In short, the whole thing was something of a whirlwind - that included the seemingly never-ending train journeys!
I'm longing to go back so much. There is just so much more of this beautiful country to explore and I know it will probably take several more trips to even just get a feel of India...but I'm willing to try! Anyone wanna join me?