Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Visiting India as a foreign tourist : Experiences

Steve McCurry writes after his visit in March 2006.
India is a country of paradoxes and contradictions, symbolised by its constant contrasts: in the streets of the bazaar, the stench of rotting garbage is suddenly replaced by heavenly fragrances of sandalwood and frangipani; religion is expressed by frozen superstitious rituals and fanaticism as well as refined scholarship, sublime poetry or deep devotion. Deep spirituality and rampant corruption rub shoulders everywhere.
Mike Gilbert writes after his visit in March 2006.

-Many of the rural areas are beautiful
-Many temples, forts, and complexes are incredible
-The Taj Mahal is as cool as I thought it would be
-It is a lot of fun and good experience to travel in India
-The food is amazing and spicy
-The ice cream is the best I have ever had
-Airlines in Asia rock
-The country is fascinating
-The religion is fascinating
-The culture is fascinating
-The experience is fascinating
Wes Olson writes after his trip in Feb 2006:
That was the title of my journal the last time I came to India. I’ve been in India for about a week, now, and it’s as crazy as ever. Although I’m far better equipped this time than the last, which is good! I had forgotten about the smells and the feeling of breathing the dense and humid air, which surprised me because it had stayed with me for months after coming the last time. But it hits you like a brick when you get off the plane, no other place I’ve been has such a distinct feeling to it. It’s simultaneously intoxicating and smothering, and wonderful. Surely the most chaotic place on Earth is somewhere within India’s borders, and yet there is such a rhythm and order to it’s chaos. Yes Andrew, I still love it as much as the first time!
Being in the south is so nice now, what a different world to northern India! So much less hassle, more laid back, more beautiful, tropical, lush, coconuts, beach huts, warm breezy train rides, superior in most every way. Except, that is, for the heat!
Rachel Vicary writes after his visit in Feb 2006:
Phew! I don't know where to start – life here is totally crazy. India is overwhelming – it invades your very soul and I love it. Well, some of the time. Other times I hate it…
Martin writes after Jan 2006 visit:
With the exception of the tiger reserve, the landscape in India has been pretty much flat, so it was a pleasant change to have to cross a mountain pass to get from Ajmer on the main road up to Pushkar.
Bobrail writes after his Feb 2006 visit:
there was little to connect such vastly disparate places as Gujurat and Tamil Nadu, Kashmir and Kerala: Not language, not climate, not history, not even religion.
chuhui writes after her vist during Feb 2006
I like India a lot. I wish I didn't have a life to get back to so that I could travel even more slowly, savor the smallest pleasure for days at a time. I hate leaving a place and feeling like I might never see it again. But I know I will, one day.
TreeHugger writes after Feb 2006 trip:
The food, however, has been really great and cheap thus far. Lots of curries that are suprisingly good and this mornign we even found a bakery with...wait for it.. cappucino!
David Cox wrote after Feb 2006 visit:
On our way back to the hotel we got caught up in a parade to celebrate a muslim festival. I don't know what festival they were celebrating, but it involved the curious ritual of grabbing the mearest white girls breasts - something to which Marlene can attest.
Kallaboo writes after Feb 2006 visit:
The highlights of our four-day-long adventure are the Chopta and Yumthang Valleys. Honestly, if you showed me photos now of both, I wouldn’t be able to tell which is which. But I can tell you for sure that they are both sublimely beautiful. At about 12,000 feet up, the silence in the air makes you feel like you’re alone in the world. Well, at least until the car of Bengali tourists come putting around the corner.
Ian writes after his trip during Feb 2006:
India an incredible experience so far. And although I have enjoyed the temples, monuments etc the most fascinating aspect has been the people.
Lee Gimpel writes during Feb 2006:
You can stay at really, really nice hotels and eat really, really nice meals here. India has, by some accounts, the best spa resort in the world now. There truly is luxury to be had here. But with even a very minimal budget you can do a lot and enjoy yourself while doing it. Almost every meal I've had has been well under $5. Well under. More like $2. And that's often at a sit-down place with real tablecloths. Coke in a bottle will run you about $.30. An all-you-can-eat buffet will set you back a dollar. Travel a few hundred miles by train and you're talking $10 or $20 unless you go deluxe and the price doubles to a whole $40.
Jessica in writes during her Feb-March 2006 tour:
With the variation in culture, history and landscape, India's 25 states could almost be separate countries unto themselves. India is home to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis and others. The landscape ranges from the deserts of Rajasthan, to the high Himalaya of Himichal Pradesh, and the tropical forests and beaches of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. There is intense poverty and concentrated wealth. India seems to encompass the heights of the first world and the depths of the third, particularly in its cities. India supports huge, contemporary industries such as software, automobiles and luxury tourism, while millions of its inhabitants continue to do all their work and chores by hand. You can watch a young girl fill her cast-iron clothes iron with actual burning coals to iron the days wash and around the corner purchase the latest computer technology.
Kelly writes during March 2006:
It has been said a million times since before we got to India by many faculty, and people on the ship- As much as India has its ugly parts, it has its beautiful parts, for everything you can say about India, you can say the opposite and that is true.
Leah Rust writes during her trip in March 2006:
I thought long and hard about how I should start this blog because it seems as though every time I sit down to write about a country I just want to say… “Well this has been the best country so far”…. But honestly… India has BY FAR been the best country that I have visited on this voyage. There just are not really words that can describe the way that India feels, smells, looks, sounds, and tastes. It is truly a different experience than anything I have ever come into contact with. South Africa and Brazil were just as amazing, but India was just such a different kind of amazing. Being in India and seeing the poverty and tasting the food and hearing the busy traffic noises for myself was so much different than anything that I have ever read about the country and anything I was even prepared for. INDIA IS INTENSE. There is no other way to describe it. Intense in a good way, but intense. I am going to attempt to do the country some justice in the following paragraphs and I have no idea if I am going to be successful or not, but here we go.
Kim writes during March 2006 trip:
India was an incredible experience. It is so vastly different from America and anywhere I’ve ever been. It was overcome with dirt and trash, yet the culture is so rich that it’s hard to not like, or at least be fascinated by the country and its people.
Mark Mason during March 2006 trip:
Maya. It is a Hindu root concept probably 4,000 years old. Roughly translated, it means veil in Hindi, but is best represented as “What is apparent is not real, and what is real is not apparent.” It is both the imperfection of our senses and an illusion that is easy to get lost in. On the streets of Chennai, Delhi, Agra and Mamallapuram it is hard not to get lost in maya—this is the raw and powerful and yet disturbing image of India, the second most populated country and largest democracy in the world. People hate and love India at the same time. Walk down the streets, and you are overwhelmed by beggars and unusual smells and strange sights. Meanwhile, the Indian government is alarmed that very few people who visit India ever return, 3% exactly—a serious problem for tourism. Here on the Indian sub-continent, cut off and nestled south of the Himalayas and among the holy rivers of the Brahmakutra, the Indus, and the sacred Ganges, is one of the most diverse and unique lands in the world, with 17 officially recognized languages and a culture, dress and food unique only to South Asia. India, not Britain, is actually the second largest English speaking population in the world, a language that now binds the language divide. (Britain is the third!) Officially known as Bharath Matha, or Mother Land in Hindi, this is India—vibrant, alive, and powerful. According to the overwhelming majority religion Hinduism (80%), the purpose of life is to penetrate Maya, or this veil, and see the real life. My goal is the same, to make a passage to India and see beyond some of the horrors of daily Indian life into the resilience, richness, beauty and power of the Indian people and culture.
Frank-Joseph writes during his trip in March 2006:
No amount of research or studying can prepare you for India. Unless you’ve been there, nothing I tell you will enable you to understand it. You will not get it. India was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never felt so lost, out of place, and foreign. Likewise, I’ve never felt so many conflicting emotions about a place or group of peoples. Aptly put, India is a place of paradox...........................................
.........there is so much beauty and mystery about India. The architecture is amazing, and the people I did meet were incredibly accommodating and friendly. The colors and sights were beyond inspiring, poetic almost, and the experience is something I can never forget. This has been the most exotic and overwhelming country we’ve visited.
A student at Concordia University writes during his trip in March 2006:
The city of Chennai was very interesting. There were large buildings, billboards and signs everywhere. There were so many people. The people were beautiful. The Hindu women wore bright colors of sarees and panjabi suits, while the men wore cotton pants and button up shirts.
Erica writes during her trip in March 2006:
I don’t know if I see myself going back to India anytime soon, but I’m really glad I’ve had the chance to see what I saw and have the experiences I had.
Zach writes after his journey in March 2006:
Wow! It will be impossible to sum up India in this blog. The word one professor uses to describe it is ‘intense.’ It is definitely that..............It is the first place we have visited that I actually felt culture shock, and I loved it! I will probably think of a million things I forgot as my experiences sink in, and I may add them later. The government’s tagline for promoting tourism is Incredible India, and it is definitely that!
Timothy writes after his journey in March 2006:
India has always though been exciting, amusing and ultimately rewarding. Incidentally, for this leg, and for those that don't know them, I travelled with Keeran - a friend from the house in Birmingham, Matt - a friend who I met through Keeran andMax (Mumbai and Goa) - also a friend from Birmingham.
Molly writes his journey details during March 2006:
INDIA!!! This country is amazing. I found it to be the country of opposites...................................................................
It was really sad to leave India because I had such a wonderful time there. I defiantly want to go back after I finish college. (and by the way mom and dad I took 10 rolls of film too, I hope they came out well). I love India a lot and could defiantly spend a lot of time there. It was by far my favorite port so far. Myanmar is next we get there on the 15th. :)
halcyon writes his journey details during March 2006:
I began to really like the country. I saw lots of amazing places – Gandhi’s assassination site, Jaipur, the Amber Fort, the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort... The Taj was beautiful, but in my opinion, it couldn’t compete with the Amber Fort, an old royal capital built in the hills around Jaipur.
As young Westerners, we were the subject of intense curiosity and fascination. It was almost like reverse tourism – the observers being observed. Everyone everywhere turned their heads and just watched us. I can’t tell you how many India men and women came up to us at the Taj and asked to have their photos taken with us. Some SAS students refused, which I think is rude. I thought it was actually quite an honor to be so admired.
laurasmash writes the journey details during March 2006:
India is incredible. what a difference from america. i believe that may be an understatement as well. aside from being so different, it’s so much different than the previous ports as well, truly an amazing experience.
Christina writes the journey details during March 2006:
as a theme for India, is that it is a country of paradox – it’s a place of riches and poverty, happiness and despair, love and hate, etc. While quite absurd there is no better description. Anyways, now to the fun stuff!.............INDIA WAS AMAZING – if you ever go, COUNT ME IN!
Darren writes his trip details (March 2006):
Incredible India, ..................... Nevertheless, it's still a beautiful place. Really memorable
Spike writes his experiences in India during March 2006:
Fantastic: Sitting in my room, I hear loud music from outside, a marching band. I see a parade of people and lanterns. I head downstairs. The brass band is playing away at frenzied speed, the drummers furiously pounding away. There's a guy on a horse, glittering like a raja, with money pinned to his vest. People are dancing. It is of course the start of a wedding.
I apologize, I feign jetlag, I wish the happy couple luck. I am invited back for the cousin's wedding next winter. I offer him my condolences and we joke for a while before he heads to the ballroom and I return to my room.
How can you not love people who are so warm and open?
Failal writes his experineces during March 2006:
Just had lunch, and as my two work colleagues always had something much different then mine I asked if I could have the same for my lunch but as the 'hotel's' do not have this food un-spicy one of my work colleagues offered theirs and they would eat something else. At first I could not accept and so they kept on offering and saying it was ok and that they wanted to eat something else so in the end I had to accept. Well their food was made by the mother so it certainly tasted good. It was enjoyable.
Thank you guys for making me feel so welcomed...
meganhprescott writes her experineces during Jan 2006:
One of the funniest things were the children that surrounded us on our camel journey. They all hoped to get a picture taken and meet the foreigners.

Oh, then we got a glimpse of the most incredible hotel in Agra. This was our second mission on the trip; visiting all the 5 star hotels in India but this one topped it all. It was absolutely beautiful and knew we needed an entrance ticket for admission but we walked in with our flip flops, day packs and t-shirts. At dusk we enjoyed a drink on the veranda which had a magnificent view of the Taj. A true Kodak moment.
photo-philosopher writes during his Jan-March 2006 trip:
Okay... Since I'm at it... my entry won't be good for the day if I haven't rant about how GORGEOUS Srinagar in Kasmir really is... Kashmir is simply wonderful... I went there during winter and was this place COLD!!! I mean, it's -10 degree celsius (or could have been even colder) at night!!!
Claire writes during his November 2005 trip:
Incredible India, that's what the brochures boast and so far our experience would not dispute this claim. Incredible, literally beyond belief, can have both positive and negative connotations. India is clearly a country of contrasts, from the sights (beautiful countryside vs. dusty, polluted cities) to the sounds (the rhythm of traditional music vs. incessant pleas from the begging masses) to the smells (the soothing aroma of chai or the savory smells of Indian food or the ever present, fragrant nag champa incense vs. the all-too-frequent wafts of human waste on the street). It is a land of extremes that takes you from exhilirating highs to sombering lows, at one moment lifting your spirits, at another knocking you down. An Irishman we met put it this way: "One minute, you'll have the biggest smile on your face. The next, all you want to do is escape from the bloody place..." Incredible India, indeed................Then back to Delhi to enjoy some wedding festivities. And festive they were. You've seen it on t.v., they aren't exaggerating. It was a truly extravagant event (and long, lasting into the wee hours of the evening), from the brides attire, to the horse that the groom rode in on, to the band, the massive spread of food, the colorful decor, and most of all the dancing.
John writes his experineces during March 2005:
Impressions of India are highly favourable (despite the hit-and-run attack of our Varanasi tuk-tuk driver on a cyclist, which was the only downside to the whole two weeks). I would definetely like to come back in the future here. The food was just incredible (I think a conservative estimate of one stone would be roughly the amount of weight I have put on in two weeks!). And believe it or not, my friends, I ate veggie (with the exception of one meal) for the entire two weeks - hope you are suitably impressed!
Kasia writes her living experiences during March 2005:
This is how my adventure in India goes. So far it has been an amazing time and I am looking forward to the next 10 months.
Holi Mubarak Ho, It is one of the most crazy festivals i ve seen. We stayed in our friend's Raj house in Bareilly. Very hospitable family, trying to show us as much Indian culture as possible i.e. for a moment i became an Indian bride as they put all the jewelery, clothes that the Indian bride has, on me - you have to see the picture. We prayed with them as well - puja in front of the house temple. In the evening they took us to the street party - neighouring house and as the tradition says we made a huge fire and they played colors. That was just the intro of Holi.
The next day from the very morning people were coming with dry or water colors and putting on us, starting from tikka - dot on the forehead to all over your body - literally everywhere. They wishing Holi Mubarak Ho, sharing sweets and dancing. Then you start the tour around the neighbours' houses and repeat all of it. The best part is that everyone is playing colors starting from kids to eldery people, everyone is colorful and the day becomes very joyful. Do see the pictures. So we had lots of fun, in the afternoon you wash yourself and your clothes, but some of the colors stay for a while.

yizong low his living experiences during March 2006:
Every lunch or dinner, curry will be served, be it Indian, sambal or mutton curry. Personally, I like mutton curry the most. It tastes so good even when it's cold and so tender and fresh when it's hot. Fish that is cooked doesn't taste fresh probably because they are stored for days already...Uniquely, the rice they cook doesn't stick together as they appear as fine grains. The tea/coffee/milk served there is fresh and tastes great! And the people who served us are on attachment basis, meaning they are university undergraduates studying hotel management. They are friendly, cheerful and speak a little bit of English. For meals, they always wore pressed shirts, pants with a tie. Unfortunately we don't get to enjoy curry every day. Out of all the days there, we had to endure eating combat rations for 5 days spread over the 2 whole weeks....before we left, another batch of students had arrived to take over the current one for attachment...
Kewl Nitrox writes his visit during March 2006
the contrast between the rich and the poor is pretty startling - the hotel is quaint and very well maintaned. Service is superb (bordering on intrusive), with a buttler call button in every room that works 24X7! Went to the gym while I was there and it was the 1st time ever in my life that someone comes up and offers me water and a COLD towel at the treadmill!
and I will continue this blog as I see some other comments.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

India is the country of its own..There's no comparison to anything else on earth. To know about India, or even to say an opinion about it, u need so huge amount of information. And not only that, u also need an understanding and a habit. I've been in India all together almost 14 months, first as an exchange student for one year, and then at the moment as a visitor. However i feel that everyday, still i find myself wondering and experiencing new things..It's not a country that one can easily adapt with. But still, after all, i would say that this is my other country, which i love very much!