To India and Beyond!
From visiting the top of the tallest building in the world, to riding in rickshaws winding in and out of the INSANE Delhi traffic, to bartering in markets, to celebrating at the most beautiful and luxurious Indian wedding, our trip to Dubai and India was jammed packed every minute with adventure.
If you’ve been following along with us on Instagram, you know that over Thanksgiving week we flew to India for our friend's wedding in New Delhi, and it was truly the trip of a lifetime for us!
The long trek began as we drove with our friend, Jessica, and her coonhound, Curtis Lowe, from Chicago to outside DC in Virginia. We were super pumped to embark on this journey and we definitely would need the adrenaline to keep us going over the following few days of travel as we drove 12 hours overnight Thursday into Friday, only to again fly all day Saturday into Sunday from DC to Dubai.
Dubai: Upon arriving at 8AM in Dubai, our bodies were ready to sleep but with only a 14 hour layover we pressed on to explore this United Arab Emirate wonder.
Driving to the Burj Khalifa, we were struck by all of the extraordinary and futuristic architecture towering over the downtown of Dubai (and by how little they all looked up from the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa!!).
After taking in the views from the Burj Khalifa and walking around the Dubai Mall (the most extravagant shopping experience ever, not to mention the huge aquarium with SHARKS), we headed out of downtown Dubai to the area of Deira, which boasts souks and bazaars filled with gold, spices, clothing and so much more, all at a "special price, just for you" ;)
After a long day of trekking around Dubai, we were ready to just about fall over by the time we got back to the airport. In fact, we barely remember the cab ride there. But somehow, someway, we were back in the air on our way to Delhi later that night.
New Delhi: Now we arrived in Delhi at 3 in the morning, local time, but we were still able to take note of two very abruptly different occurrences in Indian culture compared to life here in the States: driving is insane and the lines, or as they call them "queues", at the ATM go on for hours.
In regards to driving, we are still not quite sure if some sort of subliminal order exists that we as foreigners were simply unable to interpret. To us, it seemed like an unplanned (and highly uncoordinated) dance with too many dancers, and not enough choreography. Although the streets are marked with lines for lanes, these white dashes are at best mere suggestions. One may drive straddling these lines or wavering back and forth to and from various lanes for miles on end without even thinking of it as odd!
Driving down any road is a constant state of blaring horns, flashing lights, and watching with amazement at how no one is crashing into each other at all of the 6 point roundabouts that make a game of Frogger look like a breeze.
After we became familiarized with the driving and how traffic is maneuvered, the sheer fear of zipping in and out of cars progressed to a nervous laugh by mid-week to by the last day hopping in a small motorized rickshaw like it ain't no thang (well...mostly! ;) )
The other interesting phenomenon occuring in India during our time there was a nationwide invalidation of the most commonly used rupee notes.
This meant that most cash transactions now were occuring with their smallest bank (or potentially much larger) notes and meant there was a limit to the amount of cash one could withdraw via ATM. The lines were incredibly long, and unfortunately this did prevent us from being able to get Indian rupees for buying from smaller shops that did not accept card. It was fascinating to learn about the reasons behind this ban from people we met and through some publications. Check out the linked article above for more details on their currency crisis.
If chaos can summarize our experience on the Indian streets, luxury would define our accommodations at our hotel.
We stayed at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi and the experience was nothing short of top notch. We felt incredibly blessed to get to experience this iconic hotel during our stay!
As the name suggests, there were many British influences in the design of The Imperial and we loved wandering through the halls just to admire the aesthetic and notice all of the beautiful and elegant details.
The Wedding: Of course the main event which brought us to India in the first place was the wedding of our friend Rohit to his beautiful bride, Ekta! After hearing so much about their love story over the last few years it was amazing to see them finally together and the love they shared.
The gracious bride and groom invited us to also attend, and we (Jen and Jessica) were able to participate in the mehndi!! It turned out absolutely beautifully! That night we also attended Rohit's mendhi and joined in for the dancing and festivity.
The wedding celebrations began two days before the wedding ceremony starting with Ekta's "mehendi function" which is where the bride's friends and family come to have their mehndi (henna) done!
In India, a couple is technically not "engaged" until they have an engagement ceremony shortly before the wedding. So the day before the wedding we then attended the engagement party. The engagement party was an incredible celebration complete with (SO MUCH) amazing Indian food, gorgeous choreographed dances by the couple as well as various family members, and followed by celebratory dancing that all could join in. We did our best to really sleep hard that night since the next day was the wedding!
On the day of the wedding, Rohit and his family participated in a ritual involving pouring oil on the groom's head, putting tumeric on his skin, and then tearing his clothes! After that we hurried to get ready for the wedding which was quite an ordeal but not a story for elaborating here... (let's just say it involved booking a trip to the Taj Mahal, standing in a terribly long "queue" for an ATM, and learning to wrap a saree via youtube!!) We were terribly late for the parade (or Baraat) on which Rohit rode on a horse, but for once the Indian standard of timekeeping really swung in our favor - the parade started quite late but we arrived just in time to be part of it.
The parade was such an experience - the noise of music, talking, and laughter filled the air as his family danced their way down the street. Once Rohit finally arrived at the end of the parade, Ekta made her grand entrance. I think our hearts stopped beating for a moment as she walked in to the most beautiful wedding song and her flaming red veil floated around her held up by various attendants. She was perfection! As the ceremony began we started to realize that most friends and family were getting up and walking around, talking, and getting food. Eventually we realized the ceremony would be intimate- between only Ekta, Rohit, the priest (I believe called a Brahmin) and some family members. There are no microphones, and the ceremony is looong. So we followed suit and chatted with others at our table, ate some (again AMAZING) Indian street food. After they were announced we all had an opportunity to take photos with the happy couple. We're seriously THRILLED for them and can't wait to get to know Ekta when she makes her home here in the Chicago area!
After the wedding we had about 1.5 days to pack in any other sightseeing we wanted to accomplish.
The day after the wedding we woke up at the crack of dawn and headed to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.
It was truly incredible to see, but also completely mind-blowing to see an entire town living in poverty and unsanitary conditions yet in the midst of it all rises up one of the extravagant Seven Wonders of the world!!
Whew! Well if you made it through all of that, we applaud you! We packed in a lot in 9 days but it was absolutely worth it to see the other side of the world and celebrate with our friends' marriage!
With love from Chicago (home sweet home),
Daniel + Jennifer