Once I left Tibet (see blog) I spent a few weeks in Nepal and then headed straight to India. My goal was to hit a beach and take some time to relax before deciding where in the world to go next. My choices were back through SE Asia/China or keep going through Pakistan into the Middle East.
The first thing that I noticed about India was that everyone was so friendly and accommodating. You are constantly bombarded with people who want to know where you're from and where's my wife (I was alone at this point). Everyone seems to know English and wants to practice it with you. The food is excellent and everything is so cheap that you can get by on $15 a day living very well. It was like the anti-China of the world. .
The first town I hit was Varanasi which turned out to be one of the oldest "continually inhabited cities in the world" as well as a one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations. It is situated on the banks of the Ganges River where people crowd almost 100 ghats (bathing holes) for various religious reasons (see pics). I was also surprised to see open (and active) crematories where the Hindus believe that dying here ensures release from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth.
After that I headed to Mumbai (Bombay) which is the largest city in the world and you can feel it. For once the women weren't wearing the traditional saris and the men were all in jeans instead of dhotis. I went to a theater to see The Simpsons and get back to my America roots. I couldn't help but laugh because at the start of the movie everyone stood up and the national anthem started playing. All I could think about was how they're about to see Apu say "Thank you come again".
I finally made it down to Goa which is considered the resorty area on the West side overlooking the Arabian Sea. I spent 3 weeks here decompressing from the last six months of going through 11 countries. After Goa I decided to at least see the Taj Mahal before I left.
India is a huge country and would take at least 2 trips of 6 months to see everything. I have finally come to the decision that I'm not going to be able to see everything everywhere and was tired of Asia at this point and ready for something different. So I ended up getting on a plane and flying into Budapest, Hungary to pick up where I left off in Eastern Europe from the year before.