India is a place of fascination for me. For years the idea of its manic crowds, dirty streets and humid weather sounded like my worst nightmare. But as I’ve grown older, and my mind has widened, I now find that it is a country I would give up my job to visit. The manic crowds now look welcoming and exciting, the dirty streets a world to be discovered, and the humid weather a traveller’s old friend.
But while my views have changed, my learning has not. Having never been to the mysterious land, I am unsure what I’d find there. Some love it, some hate it: it’s your typical marmite country. So to explore India’s charm more thoroughly, I thought I’d ask a few of my favourite travel bloggers what they thought of the country, and what they learnt from their visit, so as to be prepared for when I finally make the trip I so long to travel.
This is a guide to India for beginners.
“It’s an assault upon the senses,” says Flora the explorer. “The colour, the noise, the smells – you never have a moment’s piece. Some people can’t handle it, leave it averagely quickly and tell stories about how they were a little overwhelmed. But others who ride it out end up with an impression of a country that’s simply indescribable – filled with all those sensory assaults, but also with beauty, personality and such a vibrance for life!”
Similarly, Cody and Giselle, from Mindful Wanderlust call the country: “MADNESS. To us, India encompasses every single human emotion. Every type of human being – the beauty, the hideousness, war, peace, love, violence, extreme poverty and lavish lifestyles. India is the epitome of juxtaposition.”
Earl Baron of Wandering Earl agrees that India is a difficult country to come to terms with. When I questioned him on his experience he told me: “Most travellers to India either love the country and can’t wait to return again and again, or they simply can’t wait to leave and never come back. However, regardless of whether you love or hate India, no traveller leaves this country the same person they were when they arrived. It changes you in some way, and as a result, your trip will certainly not be an unforgettable one.”
Author Alan Curr’s experience of India is much the same. “When I first arrived in India,” he said, “I had already spent a fair amount of time in Kathmandu, so I thought I would be prepared. I wasn’t.
“It was like Kathmandu on fast forward. So many people. So much noise. So much going on. That’s also my lasting impression; at any moment of any day there is always SO much going on in India.”
So if India is such an alarming place, and so different to anywhere else in the world, how are we, as outsiders, as Westerners, meant to deal with the sudden change in… well… everything?!
As Cody and Giselle told me: “Go to India with a very open mind. Forget your preconceived notions about the country. Be respectful, and dress appropriately. Breathe, and take it one step and experience at a time.
“Book train tickets in advance!” Was a piece of advice given by Connie, of ConnVoyage. “18 million people ride the trains in India EACH DAY and naturally, train tickets sell out, especially during Indian holidays.” Not to mention they’re completely rammed!!
If you’re not keen on the idea of diving right in to the madness of India’s cities, “get rural,” warned Alan. “Most people immediately think of the cities. The dust, the dirt, the crowds and the poverty. It can be quite hard hitting if you’re not prepared for it. (NOTE: “Carry Wet Wipes with you at all times. In case you haven’t heard, India can be dirty. Real dirty. Wet Wipes will come in handy at least half a dozen times a day.” – Connie)
“But to quote Gandhi – “The essence of India lies in her villages” so my advice would definitely be to get rural.
“Rajasthan is wonderful, but it is just a drop in the ocean. Kashmir is stunning – don’t be put off by the headlines. Ladakh and the Hill Stations leading up to it is also a world away from most preconceptions. Orissa and Chhattisgarh are two states in the east which are virtually devoid of tourists.”
The overall message these well-seasoned travellers seem to be putting across is to just go with the flow. Take it as it comes.
“Embrace the chaos.” Advised Connie. “There’s truly nothing that can prepare a first time India traveller for the chaos that is daily life in India. Stop trying to make sense of it, and getting frustrated when you inevitably can’t. It’s crazy and confusing, but it’s India, and somehow it works so just enjoy it.”
Check out this video by Wild Frontiers.
Cody & Giselle: @GiselleandCody
Wild Frontiers: @WildFrontiers