When we decided to add India to our itinerary many people wondered why we chose this part of the world as a travel destination. A few individuals tried to change our plans by telling us horrible stories about thievery, scams and diseases.
I have to admit that on the one hand, some of these tales made me worry, but on the other, they made me even more curious about India.
I couldn’t wait to find out why people say that “There is India, and then there is the rest of the world”.
We spent two months in India, and we have a very hard time trying to summarize the experience. Here is why.
We love India for:
Colorful houses, flowers, shops, foods, but most importantly, saris (traditional dresses). The amazing colors of fabrics brought so much life to India’s scenery.
2. Accessibility of Vegetarian Food
Eating out was very convenient. So many vegetarian restaurants and so many great veggie meals. Even if there was meat on the menu, there were never pieces of meat on my plate like in other restaurants that understand vegetarian as “not too much meat”.
3. Diversity of Religions
India is a land of diversity so all religions are accepted and honored here. It was amazing to hear chanting coming from one window of the room and a muslim prayer coming from the other.
It was shocking at the beginning to walk the streets next to cows, but within a few days it became so natural to have them stroll around. There were also monkeys, camels, dogs and even elephants walking here and there. I know this might sound crazy but it felt good to be around so many animals.
5. Ayuverdic Medicine
The oldest medicine in the world that comes from Vedas, just like yoga. The main concept is to look and cure the root cause of the disease, not only the symptoms. They say that every illness could be treated with herbs, oils and massages. I ended up leaving India with a set of 6 different oils
But we hate it for:
Some places were so polluted that it was hard to take a deep breath. I think Agra was the worst, dark clouds of smoke and dust were hanging over the city. Unbelievable.
It looks like the saying “Out of sight, out of mind.” came from India. People are throwing out garbage everywhere; on the side of the street, on the sidewalk, out of the bus or train windows. It was so hard to spot garbage bins, it’s as if they are almost nonexistent!
We got used to the complicated structure of unsecured cables hanging over our heads and the power going out on a regular basis, that we took it as part of the India experience and laughed about it. However, things became less entertaining when a boiler caught fire when I was taking a shower in one of Delhi’s hotels.
4. Use of Plastic Bottles
Back home, for the last four years or so, we have been using only filtered water so having to buy water in plastic bottles was a huge deal for us. Since it’s not safe to drink tap water in India and not many hotels provided water filtering machines we had to buy at least 3 big bottles of water each day! We hated to see how much plastic we were using.
On top of that, a few things we are still uncertain about:
When we went to rent a motorbike in Rishikesh, only a passport and 500 Rupees were enough to get the key. When we asked for some kind of written agreement the shop owner smiled and said “Man, this is India”. Great! Same rules (or lack of) applied on the streets, especially in small towns. It was fun, but sometimes the lack of law worked against us. It was hard to drive as you never knew from which side another car/truck/cow/goat/pig was coming.
There were times where we absolutely hated when we had to bargain about every single thing, or when they tried to upset whatever was available in the store, or when the ricksha driver was taking us to 10 different places, but not the one we asked about, so he could get a commission. However, looking back we can say that we learned there is always room for negotiation. There are a few more things we took note of and are going to apply in our daily life. Maybe at the end of the day the haggling wasn’t so bad after all.
So many contradictions and mismatches. It’s hard to say if we loved or hated the country. Maybe we need time to digest the experience to understand it better or maybe we need to do it again.
All I can say right now it that this is definitely !ncredible India! – a very accurate country slogan that leaves room for your own interpretation.