This will not come as a surprise to anyone, but India is one of the most colorful, crowded, and chaotic places is the world.

Take Mumbai, for instance.  A cacophony of car horns and street vendors compete with the sound of motorized tuk-tuks as they weave in and out of traffic. Shop owners stop tourists in their tracks every five seconds, trying to sell them scarves and tapestries. From the minarets of mosques, muezzins issue the call to prayer, which echoes throughout the city. Men, women and children chatter in rapid-fire Hindi. Music blares from every direction.

It’s overwhelming to say the least, and keep in mind, this coming from a person who prefers crowded places and restaurants packed with people. Those first few days I found it hard to process the fact that I had finally arrived in India – I felt like I was in a dream that I couldn’t pinch myself out of.

I now recognize those initial feelings as sensory overload – a term I’ve grown accustomed to throwing around when referring to Baz Luhrmann films or thrift store sales but had never actually experienced. Until now.

There were of course, calmer moments. Many of the hotels and havelis (traditional, ornate guesthouses) were beautifully adorned with marigolds in fountains and woven-fabric cushions on balconies and under arched terraces. There were rooftops that overlooked cities and offered spectacular views of sunsets and of the surrounding ancient hillside forts.

 

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Jodphur – The Blue City, and by far my favorite!
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Outside a massage parlor in Udaipur

But if sensory overload is what characterized the beginning of the trip, gratitude is what characterized the end of it. We visited 8 cities in 20 days, traveled as far north as the Pakistan border, and as far south to the beaches of Goa. I swam in the waters of the Arabian Sea for the first time, and rode a camel through a small stretch of the Thar Desert. I drank about 300 cups of Chai (maybe?) because I couldn’t resist it’s price point (20 or 30 rupees, which is the equivalent to about 50 cents) and it’s rich, earthy flavor.

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India is a place I will always go back to. But for now, I couldn’t be happier to be home. ♥

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