You are curious and intrigued, maybe you’re looking for some kind of enlightenment or adventure. You are however, like most people, just a little bit scared of embarking on your oriental odyssey. Questioning yourself why India should be your next destination.
“Was it even a holiday?” Someone asked us.
Our response being; it’s actually more than a holiday it’s an “experience” and like the word suggests you have to experience it.
So in the spirit of making lists here’s our 5 reasons why you should visit India asap, paired with some advice on common misconceptions.
The Italians have nothing on the Indians. Get ready for a taste explosion normally accompanied by interesting smells, open gas flames, lots of ingredients and eventually chai.
Chai is the word for tea in India and you will be offered chai wherever you go. It’s sort of rude to reject it unless someone is selling it to you. Be sure to bring home some chai spice. (We’ll link our fine tuned recipe here later)
Besides for an array of restaurants you will have to sample some street food and the best is to eat where the locals do. Opt for the busiest spots, turnover implies hygiene. You will, however, quickly learn that food doesn’t really have to be as hygienic as you think.
Water is another story, not only did we carry bottled water everywhere, we even used it for brushing our teeth. Also try to remember not to open your mouth in the shower although most hotels have filtering systems.
In one bazaar you can find anything from spices to raw food, to saris, jewellery, copper cups and stainless pots. Yes, you can score some fantastic bargains, but you will have to “bargain” hard. A good rule of thumb is to half whatever the first offer was. This doesn’t always work but you’ll quickly learn what the cost of things really are. In local markets prices are better but expect to get harassed. Casually walking past a shop is not the Indian way. Westerners = money so you’ll constantly be called in or they will say anything to get your attention.
Famous broken English phrases include; “yes please”, “no problem” and “excuse me” the latter being pronounced something like ex choose mi. When you eventually give up on the bargaining and don’t buy anything they would dumbfoundedly say “what went wrong”? It’s best to be polite but don’t get bullied into buying something, you’ll probably find it around the corner for a better price.
India is a spiritual journey, whether you are religious or not, you cannot wander through the streets or into the temples without it touching you in some kind of way. Everything has importance and is symbolic, it is really quite amazing to see what a huge part religion plays and how peaceful such a densely populated nation is.
For us India is the perfect place to take a moment and learn how to stand still, take it all in and make the most of this life we were given. As cheesy as this may sound, hopefully you’ll understand this comes naturally there when you visit…
You will most likely visit a few temples and you will have to remove your shoes, our tip is to take a spare pair of socks for walking in the temples so you don’t have to put your temple trappers back into your shoes. Some wipes also help although most temples are very well kept and the sensory experience of a barefoot walk is the Indian way.
Look left, right, left again and right again, repeat a few times and hope for the best.
The roads are crazy and to avoid any injuries double check before crossing the road, motorcycles and auto’s (what they call tuk tuk’s) come out of nowhere and everywhere. As one of our local guides said, a driver in India needs 3 things;
good brakes, a good horn and good luck.
Taking an auto is a great way of to get around. The price is normally negotiated upfront but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Drivers have agreements with shops and as part of your trip you’re going to have to browse for a while, but hey at least it was a cheap ride. On the other hand if you are in a hurry make sure to tell them no stops.
Indians are very friendly, helpful, generally well intentioned and definitely good business people. They have invented an amazing squat sitting position probably because it’s either too dusty or too dirty to sit on anything. They do this nifty party trick where they drink from a bottle without their lips touching the rim, it’s apparently a hygiene thing. Personal space? What’s that, there is none in a country with 1.3 billion people. A spoon and your hands are the only tools you will ever need and you will definitely see some balancing acts as ladies in full saris commonly ride side saddle on motorcycles.
Besides for the fact that Indian Tourism is going out of their way to make it easy for foreign visitors this should be your next destination just because it’s so different. In a special kind of way. It’s normally the the unfamiliar that turns out to be the greatest experiences.
You probably might just end up learning something about yourself too.