It will be my first time back since 2014.
A LOT changes in 5 years.
I am traveling with my mom and Nakul, my husband.
To be honest, he and I STILL cannot get used to those words: husband and wife, even though we have been married for 7 years.
I think since neither of us actually wanted to ever get married to anyone, ever, the words husband and wife sound strange on our tongues. Don't get me wrong, we love being together, but marriage was only a thing that we agreed to so that we could be together, he in my country and me in his.
So its me, mom and Nakul, convening in Vancouver. Our flight goes through Shanghai, China, where we have an overnight in a hotel before continuing our journey onward to Delhi.
You might be thinking... hmm, isn't that a bit awkward, your husband and your mom staying in the same room? But actually, no.
Nakul was sweetly and sincerely delighted when I invited mom. Because of his culture, family staying in the same room is about as natural as roti and chai.
In fact, during our dating days, when his family was renting a 2 bedroom apartment here while their house was being built, I often would spend the night and sleep in the same room, between his mom and him, along with our niece, nephew and uncle. It was a giant slumber party every night and tons of fun.
So the concept of sharing a room did not phase any of us and I used the money we saved in doing so to stay in slightly more swanky digs, as per our budgets allowed.
The flight to Shanghai on China Eastern was uneventful and I would venture to say, even rather easy. Despite it being a 12 hour jaunt, the airline was delightful, the planes had space, everything worked and the service was actually good. Of course the food was inedible but that is par for the course for airline food anywhere.
So we landed in Shanghai around 5pm local time, got our transfer visas in the airport and took a shuttle to our hotel. Everything was a bit weird as none of us speak or read a lick of Chinese and the Chinese are not excited about accommodating ignorant foreigners. We ended up making our way ok, despite this.
We dropped exhausted in our hotel beds and woke up at 5am to discover a fabulous free Chinese breakfast buffet downstairs. All kinds of vegetable options, eggs, soups, spring rolls, rice, veggie wontons, salads, cheesecake and yummy garlic chili sauce. We were all so relieved to have a decent meal.
Once fed, we chilled in our room, waiting until it was time to shuttle back to the airport to catch our early afternoon flight.
Finding vegetarian food in a Chinese airport is not an easy feat. After mom and I gave in to the lure of Starbucks, Nakul held out and found a Korean restaurant, the ONLY restaurant in the place that made a vegetarian dish. Turns out it was one of the tastiest things we had on our whole journey here with its spicy peanut sauce and perfectly cooked rice.
The final leg to Delhi was smooth as well but felt long despite it being only 7 hours. At some point on the flight I hit the wall where you get super grumpy that you are still sitting upright and you are unable to sleep and everything is just wrong in your world.
Delhi view in the morning fog
I was happy to arrive finally in Delhi (though still rather grumpy), my mood finally lifted when we checked into our Delhi hotel which I had bought on a discount travel site. Turns out it was a gorgeous 5 star property for the price of what I paid once for a Motel 6 in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
The only pic I took of our beautiful hotel was of the hallway. hahahah
The room was ! What can I say? Bath tub, floor to ceiling windows, marble everything, carvings, lighting, art, comfy beds, stunning decor and the breakfast buffet, again free, simply knocked our socks off.
I have never seen so many delicious options in one spread in my life. Everything from homous to gouda, to made to order eggs, french toast, dosa or parantha, salads, eggplant dip, carrot halva and ALL your favourite Indian breakfast items... lovely bread and of course our first chai back in India. Oh! And don't forget the REAL honeycomb. A big chunk of real honeycomb, dripping fresh honey into a bowl. Wow! That was a first for me.
I ate slowly so that I could try as many things as possible.
It might be beginning to sound like this is all about food, but believe me, when you are flying for two days and are subjected to whatever is served on the plane, it's enough to put one into survival mode.
After stuffing ourselves with breakfast, we hopped in a car and drove to Rishikesh.
We left around 12:30pm and arrived here at around 7pm, so it was a longish drive with some delays.
Our driver seemed in a terrible hurry (even by Indian cab driver standards), he might have had a pick up in Rishikesh to take back to Delhi, I'm not sure.
I was finding it hard to relax and enjoy the drive as every 5 minutes there would be a terrifying jerk or swerve that had your stomach in your throat.
Total gridlock traffic jam!
I was grateful when Nakul struck up an intense conversation with him about religion, women's rights and freedom of expression because it seems to distract him enough that his hellfire approach to driving was abated.
A more calm section of the drive...
Phew! We WILL arrive there in once piece, after all.
We got in, it was dark.
We stumbled down the cobble stone streets to the house, finally home, where I proceeded to fall under the weather for about 2 and a half days.
I don't know what kind of combination of jetlag, culture shock, allergies, sinus headache and constipation was making me feel like I might not pull through, but I finally did and can say, today, that I am feeling finally back to normal and better than ever.
Ready and eager to begin exploring, yoga-ing and doing some interviews with some teachers here for the membership club.
My enthusiasm for being here has returned and I look forward to sharing it with you all.
Thankful for the loving care of my "husband" and his family.