Adverts, Facebook posts and tweets any type of information on a travel deal, opportunity even nightmare ( I am not fussy) will grab my attention. It normally involves considering it, some calculations, excitement creeping in and then unfortunately the “realistic me” kicks in and I move on with my day.
With India it was different. I had been considering it for a while and had an itch to travel. Every time I saw a deal something came up and I would move on but after the fourth India opportunity I could not take it any longer.
Called the travel agency (who was awful, was forced to use them for price reasons) and just like that the two week count down began! India is an untouched beauty which is a shame because it is just amazing!! Before I go on as adventure capitalist of the year, I dragged the Boyfriend with and we joined a small but awesome tour which was 15 diverse travellers that needed to find out what was really going on India. Not the “it smells awful, Delhi Belly, do you know how many people live in India” story we are always hearing about!
What I absolutely love about India is that it does not feel the need to westernise everything, capitalise on every tourist. Bend over backwards trying to please people that do not even live there! Yes I am not going to pretend I was blind to the poverty but I felt that people were content. They did not long for silly materialistic “things”. Karma is a big factor and people were happy to give with open arms, welcoming us into their homes and without a doubt when you walk into shops between 10 and 12 lunch will be offered. Yes that is their way of guilt tripping you into buying something but bear with me for this heart wrenching moment!
We did the Golden triangle which included Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. There is actually so much more to India than the Taj Mahal. We have the Agra Fort (loved it), Wind Palace, Amber Fort and the baby Taj! Every town we went to had some hand crafts indigenous to that city. The Taj Mahal for example is in Agra which is well known for its hand engraved marble known as inlay. 1o days 3 cities means tons of driving. For some this may seem like a drag but I love being able to just absorb the little things we do not even notice at home such as trucks. All countries have them but India takes trucks to a whole new level. Trucks are seen as a girlfriend so they will always be beautifully painted, wrapped in ribbon and sometimes jokes written all over in Hindu ( I had to take the tour guides word for the words being jokes).
I am not much of a foodie so the food was wasted on me. What type of traveller would I be if I did not try the food though. A common misconception is that all Indian food is hot, very wrong. I always had lots of options. We always went to touristy restaurants and the menu was still not always in English so it was often a guessing game. Fun fact you do not get Delhi Belly in Delhi, it is ten times worse than people make it sound and just because you have the runs does not mean you have Delhi Belly. Indian food is cooked in very fatty ingredients which our little uncultured tummies take a while to warm up to. Street food is always a no go, bottled water is life and if you love chocolates, sweets and coffee India is not the country for you!
The heat is unheard of but they know this and most indoor places have an aircon going. Unfortunately all the beautiful things are outside so the best is to just embrace it and be ok with tied up hair and being sticky 23 hours out of your 24 hour day.
Why is India a must for South Africans? First and my favorite is that flights are cheap, we got two flights to Mumbai for R4800 each with Ethiopian Airlines which before you even question Ethiopian airlines was really good. Had an 8 hour stop over in Addis Ababa on our way home so got checked into a hotel and food was great. There is still room for improvement with inflight entertainment but would not question using them again.
Secondly you do need a visa for India but it is for free only need to pay R48 admin fee. They are very specific with documents all being filled in correctly so always double check. 5 days to process and you are on your way to India. Take note you need to have at least R5000 in your bank account to get a Visa. There is a helpline to call, very friendly and helpful.
Thirdly one of the few countries with a weaker currency than ours. R1 gets you roughly 4 Rupees. Price wise I felt we were on the same page as India so whatever you can get here for R100 you can for 400 rupees in India. I would not live by this theory for budgeting purposes always budget extra.
Lastly the history is extremely interesting and definitely in abundance. One thing that is not a lie is that India will most definitely be a culture shock and definitely something every person should delve deeper into even if it is only a crash course.
I wish this mini devotion to India could do it justice but unfortunately you will never know until you go yourself!
5 things I wish I knew before I went and read 100 blogs hoping to find out but did not:
*Mumbai has an international airport and a domestic airport which are not walking distance from each other. Give yourself at least a 15 minute drive to get from one to the other.
*Tax is not included until the bill comes, so if you are trying to calculate your bill as you order add 100 rupees for contingency!
*Many places add a “Camera charge” for every camera you have even a phone. So choose which one you prefer and leave the other one at the hotel or with the guide if you are on a tour.
*Most places you have to take your shoes off so flip flops are never a bad idea.
*India is not your one stop shop for souvenirs and pressies for people back home. Anything you can find is most likely cheap and terrible quality. A real pashmina will set you back R1000 so if you find anything cheaper it is most definitely not 100% pashmina.
5/587 of my favorite photos:
- Amber Fort
2. Glamping in a small village in Rajasthan.
3. It goes without saying of course the Taj Mahal (Crown Palace). Fun fact not its real name, when the British came to India they thought it looked like a crown palace, decided they like this name better and the rest was history.
4. Trucks, beautiful trucks everywhere! It is really the simple things in life that make travel amazing!
5. In India it is just a man and his goat against the world.
The TravelBug 🙂