You know when you visit some countries, and they're unlike anything you could ever have imagined?
India is not that country.
India delivers everything it promises on the box. Sure, there's fine print, but you didn't come here to read that. Open your eyes and take a look around instead:
Cows? Got 'em. Traffic? Shocking. People? Smiley. And the food? It's impossible not to close your eyes and moan like Matt Preston with every morsel. It's simply that good.
This is one of the reasons India gets under your skin - there's something so familiar about it that after one day you already feel at home.
With each delightful revelation, India starts to unfurl itself right in front of your eyes. It's like a game; India is giving you a little wink as if to say, "Come on - trust me." So you forget any ideas you had about controlling your trip, and simply...let go.
The first time you're at a tiny Internet cafe in Jaisalmer and a cow wanders in, you might get a bit of a shock. But by the fourth time you don't even bat an eyelid. And when it starts licking your keyboard, you simply give her a little shove and tell her to bugger off.
Posing in front of the Red Fort in New Delhi can feel a little awkward when 14 young Indian men decide to jump in the frame. But you quickly get caught up in the excitement (and the absurdity of knowing they'll never even see the photo) and throw your arms around them. And even if all you know about Shane Warne is that he dated Elizabeth Hurley, you'll soon know his batting average by heart simply because you've heard it recited a million times.
The Taj Mahal
Last, but never least...the Taj. After seeing it for the first time, I sat down to email my thoughts but ended up writing: "I'm too hot and sweaty to discuss the Taj Mahal right now. It should only be spoken about while wearing designer clothes and speaking in hushed whispers."
Because at the end of the day, even your best words will never do it justice. You've seen the postcards, bought the t-shirt and cried over the Princess Di pics. But nothing can prepare you for the sheer, breathtaking majesty of this enormous marble monument.
The Taj lives in Agra. And I won't lie, it ain't a pretty city. These people live, breathe and sell the Taj - everything else seems to fall by the wayside. But their passion for it is unmistakable, and it's not hard to see why.
Construction started around 1632, and took 20 years to finish. The Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal in memory of his third wife, instantly setting the bar impossibly high for future husbands. Trust me - you guys could have a bunch of puppies tumble into the room carrying roses in their mouths but you will NEVER top this bloke in the romantic gesture department.
One thing to remember: If you want to recreate the Diana pose - don't be shy. I talked about it for months, but when I actually got there I thought, "This is ridiculous. I'm not going to make an idiot of myself in front of all these people by sitting on a bench looking sad." But my boyfriend knew I'd always regret it, so we sought out the infamous seat and lo and behold, there was a queue!
It was beautiful - all these women trying not to laugh as they looked up shyly from under their lashes. There was a real sense of sisterhood as we empathised with poor Di. Imagine being all alone in the world's largest testament to love, while your shit of a husband was potentially getting off with another woman?
But after all the photos have been taken, and you've done all the posing you can possibly muster, you put the camera down and just look. Not through a lens, but through your own eyes. It can be hard to take it all in. And it's not until you get home and print out the photos that you realise the enormity of what you've seen.
India is the type of place you could go a million times and always see something different. But the real beauty is that some things will always stay the same; the cows, the traffic and the beautiful smiling faces will all be there when you go back.
You can't change India, but it sure as heck is going to change you.