Sunday, 20 May 2012

India in perspective - tips for future travellers

We arrived in Bangkok yesterday morning and I feel like we have come home. It was so nice landing somewhere and being familiar with where you are, what the people are like, how much things cost, where to go etc. When you are travelling you generally have no idea of these things and your brain is in overload trying to get from a to b for the first few days. It was an absolute pleasure coming back to beautiful Thailand.

We spent 15 hours waiting for our flight yesterday. Rather than spending the day in New Delhi we headed straight for the airport, a much safer and happier environment! As we sat over the first real cup of coffee for eight weeks Luke and myself talked about our time in India. It ended up turning into a prime time style debate, me fighting for India and Luke against!!

I will not deny that India is an extremely difficult place to travel in every sense of the word. It was a funny debate because as I listened to Luke I agreed with everything he said. Things like:

- how it is near impossible to get information from anyoneeveryone wants to sell you something or make money from you somehow. As a white person, regardless of your income, you ARE rich to these people and they will exploit that.

-the place is filthy

-there are far too many people

-getting from one point to another is unbelievably stressful and chaotic

-the awful treatment of women and the horrendous trend of foeticide

And there are plenty more cons of travel in India, believe me! However, if you are willing to work through this I believe what you get in return far surpasses any other country we have been. You can spend days without seeing a single tourist and so you really do get a true feel for the country, unlike in South East Asia. Although there are plenty of cons there are also positives and these positives paint images in your mind that will last a life time.

Moments like watching groups of homeless people sitting on the street around a brewing pot of chai, laughing and sharing stories. Groups of men gossipping outside their shops and playing cards sitting by the rivers edge in Udaipur. The beautiful women dressed in decorative saris, ordained with lots of gold jewelry, their hands elegantly displaying intricate henna ink work. Joking with street kids and sharing chocolate with them. Travelling by train through barren desert land, waking up to see the sun rise and a lady in an illuminous orange sari walking through the barren land. Discovering ruined castles and run down temples decorated with the most intricate and imaginative artwork I have ever seen. Brightly painted houses with vibrant washing hanging outside. Tantalising spicy food and my vice....chai!!

Travel in India isn't for everyone but I think everyone should experience it just once. If I had to give some future travellers tips they would be as follows:
Be tough! With regards to people selling you things you have to be assertive and stand up for yourself or your money will be gone within a week.

Never tell a tuktuk driver or anyone else providing a service that it's your first time in India, they will rip you off.

If you are travelling with a boyfriend/girlfriend they are how your husband/wife. It makes things a lot easier and is more acceptable to their culture.

Have a sense of humour. You will be annoyed by people/transport, it makes it easier if you can joke about it and not let the moment ruin your day!

Drink lots of water and stay out of the sun. India is bloody hot!

Don't be scared about getting sick. I was terrified I would end up vomiting for days but I was fine, my stomach was actually worse in Thailand! Be sensible about where you eat, don't eat pealed fruit/salad and always check the seal on your water bottle hasn't been broken and filled with contaminated tap water.

Speak to the Indian people. You can meet many lovely people here so take this opportunity to get to know how they live.

Don't spend too long in New Delhi, it will kill your soul.

We usually avoid the Lonely Planet guide book but I have to say it was our bible in India. Especially with regards to prices for travel and entry fees to tourist attractions, it's great in the fight against people trying to fleece you!

Go, book that flight, and explore it for yourself :)

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