Thursday, October 25, 2012

India - Part 1

Travel in India in 2006

The ubiquitous Tuk Tuk
India blog is a 3 part series. Next week I will post Part 2 and the week after Part 3.

Heritage accommodation
I visited India in 2006. Although it could have been 1706. Almost every place I have visited has been somewhat affected by modern trends. People wear jeans, eat McDonald's and watch American programmes on TV. Not in India. Despite many years of British occupation and rule, and Indians have taken on some English customs to be sure, India is still a country wrapped up in it's own culture and ancient rituals. Women continue to dress in traditional clothing, curries are eaten by Indians every single day and Bollywood sagas are preferred to American box office movies.

Indigo coloured buildings in Jodhpur
Snake charmers
India is the seventh largest country in the world and has over a billion people, the second largest population after China. I was warned before I went to India that I would be captivated by the colourful people and rich history - but -  that I must also be prepared for poverty on a scale I would not be able to anticipate. Hey, I come from South Africa, please, I've seen poverty. Well actually I hadn't seen anything like I saw in India. And it is hard to take in. On arrival at Delhi airport I saw squatter settlements right next to the airport. I stepped over rows of women sleeping next to each other on pieces of cardboard in the toilets. I talk about my arrival and departure in - this - blog post and you may want to read it before heading for India.

India is pretty much divided into the north and the south. The northern people are fairer, have straighter hair, eat red tomato based curries and meat. North Indian women wear salwaar and kameez. In the south, people are darker, have curlier hair, eat yellow curries with coconut and rice. They are predominantly vegetarian, but they do eat some seafood. South Indian women wear saris.

Frescoed building
India is a hellava hot country. In summer, average temperatures are between 30'C and 40'C, but can nudge up well into the forties. The best time to visit is during the cooler months from November to March. Make sure you avoid the monsoon which arrives late May. I travelled mid season and I found it hot and humid. Big Indian cities are polluted and the combination of muggy heat and smog made me feel grubby. All I wanted was to wash and wash. My tip is to pack light cotton clothing and make sure you have wet wipes and toilet paper with you at all times. Many of the toilets are a hole in the ground and toilet paper is not always provided. You get used to it after a while.

Local pharmacy
Sikh Temple
I did the trip with a tour group - Imaginative Traveller - and I would recommend that anyone visiting India for the first time do the same. Con artists and pick pockets are everywhere. Beggars can surround and overwhelm you in a flash and make venturing out unbearable. Forty four percent of the population live on less that $1 a day so it's to be expected. On top of that, Indian people are inquisitive and super friendly. They love to speak English. At times I felt like an A list celebrity as people flocked around me to ask my name and hang on to me. For more statistics on India hit - this link.

Doing the tour with a group meant we had a guide who looked after us and knew the dodgy areas or people. Our group was safe for the most part but we did have a woman who lost her bag on a train. One of the porters brought her luggage onto our train and she turned her back to find a locker. Within seconds the porter had nicked her bag complete with passport, cash, medication, the lot.

And a week after we boarded that train there were bomb blasts right where we had been. Read more here.

Next week in - Part 2 - I will discuss food, shopping and the Golden Triangle and the following week in - Part 3 - I talk about temples, holy animals and the caste system.

Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.
One of these porters stole this woman's bag minutes after I took this pic