By Sofie Schaffner,

My Gap year travel adventure to India with Sofie Schaffner - image credit Sofie SchaffnerMy Gap year travel adventure to India with Sofie Schaffner - image credit Sofie Schaffner

My amazing adventure to the Taj Mahal and that one time my mum (accidentally) got me stoned on opium in India.

First off, of course she didn´t do so intentionally! I´d rather call it sort of an inattentive Malheur. This whole story started at one of the most amazing locations I have visited so far- the Taj Mahal! We booked a two-week taxi tour from Delhi to Agra and on through to Rajasthan which is the easiest way to get around this part of India if you don´t have too much time. These taxis are relatively easy to find in Delhi and they usually have the most accessible taxi drivers/organizations in every regular guidebook. And as for the Taj words can describe it. We initially did not intend on traveling to the north of India but since we were so close (meaning in the same country but still super far away), I convinced my mum we had to visit the Taj Mahal!

So, we changed our plans and booked a flight from the very south of India to Delhi (aka the north). And I am so glad we did! Again, it´s unbelievable! You think you can imagine it, but when you stand in front of it it´s! So huge! And all white marble (Pro-tip: don´t forget your sunglasses! And let me tell you, a scarf wrapped around your face doesn´t do the trick)!

Despite the Taj Mahals fame, Agra, the town where the Taj is located has even more sites to be visited AND you get little discounts if you visit two sites in a day. Like the “Baby Taj” from which you have great views on the “real” Taj from the other side of the river. I only know from my mum´s photos though as I spent the rest of the day after visiting the Taj Mahal sort of occupied…but more on this below in the hinted story taking place in this amazing surrounding.

So, after a 3-day stay in Delhi, the day we left the city and went to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra I started feeling slightly funny in my stomach. This feeling worsened while visiting the Taj by the 35°C outside temperature and what felt like hundreds of locals trying to get a photo with me in the heat in front of the Taj. Honestly, I literally stood there posing for photos for solid 40 minutes apparently because I am a European blonde girl - go figure! I´m still convinced there are more people with holiday photos of me in India than I have! However back to the actual story - I wasn´t feeling too great in Agra and right after the Taj Mahal (around noon), I went to our hotel room and crashed on the bed. I had a high temperature, no appetite and slept as though I´d passed out.

My mum started worrying a little (seriously just a little, as she´s not the super worried kind of mum) and went to ask our taxi driver if he had any “local treatment ideas” because when you live and work with tourists there you would know of something -  right?

Well he did. Coming back to our room, my mum handed me a small chunk of brown doughy substance wrapped in cling film. After I asked her what it was and what I was supposed to do with it she replied casually “Opium, I got it from our taxi driver. Take some, you´ll feel better.” Riiight…but how much of that stuff should I have taken? Well, she kind of missed that bit of information and stated shrugging “Hmmm…don´t know, all of it I suppose. Drink it down with water,” was her response. At this point of the story: kudos to her for being really trusting and not concerned at all about giving black market contraband to her daughter.

I´m sure you guessed it: After taking all that weird clumpy stuff I obviously started feeling better within the next half an hour.

So, feeling abnormally good, I was all in for going out for dinner. As you can imagine, being sick AND stoned in the Indian heat and smelling all the different strong flavours was not a good combination. This super-duper good feeling therefore only lasted from our room, to the hotel lobby and the entrance of a restaurant across the street. I started to feel a bit too giddy and my stomach started rumbling, so I left my mum with her food and went back to our room. Barely an hour after taking the opium I made it to our bathroom just in time to cling onto the toilet bowl to throw up and laugh out loudly at my predicament.

The taxi driver came later to check on me and it seriously looked as though his eyeballs would pop out his head after he asked for the rest of his Opium, - and my mum told him I´d taken all of it! That night I ended up with a fever that was over 40°C and my stomach wouldn´t accept any food the next week. Which led to a lack of nutrients and having to go to an Indian Hospital – which provides enough material for another long story which I won’t get into here! And despite all of this, if someone offered me a ticket I wouldn´t hesitate a second to take it and go back to India right away, regardless this crazy but afterwards fun experience. It´s such an amazing and unique country! I really can´t think of a single reason not to recommend a visit (that is, if you´re into culture shocks and crazy fun stuff).

Cool links - find out more about the Taj Mahal and travelling to India!

The Taj Mahal on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.

The official Taj Mahal site by the Government of India.

The national portal of India - breakdown of Travel and Tourism in the country.