One of my favourite things about travelling is learning about different cultures around the world and beginning to understand different people, different religions and seeing how different life can be for people living just a few hours away. This is what I looked forward to the most before travelling to India, because I knew it would be different to anywhere I had been before. Of course there are different and interesting cultures, history and ways of life to learn about all over the world but I expected that travelling to India would give me a larger culture shock than anywhere I have travelled before, and that it did.
Arriving in Delhi was just as I expected. Crazy. Just driving to the hostel was an adventure on its own. I have experienced the wild driving of taxi men in South East Asia, but it was nothing like in India. Although the worst taxi ride we had in India was an eleven and a half hour journey with a taxi driver that was falling asleep at the wheel for the whole journey. Luckily for us he had an aux cable, so our lovely loud singing kept him slightly more awake.
One thing I noticed is that everything different you experience in South East Asia is just exaggerated in India. Driving is one example, but staring and photo taking was majorly exaggerated. People don’t just stare, they stop on the streets and listen to your conversations and follow you around. But the most shocking thing was how many people wanted a photograph with you, or just wanted to chat with you. At the Lotus temple we had queue’s of people waiting to take pictures with us, or wanting us to take a picture with their babies or children.
EXPECTATIONS VS REALITY
Before travelling to India, as usual I heard all the warnings and do’s and don’ts from loved ones and friends and family who have travelled there before. I also read up online, which I always do so I know vaguely what I am dealing with before I get there. So normally I know what to expect, but with India, even after reading up expectations did not meet reality. To be honest after hearing lots of rumours and reading a few “horror stories” – so to speak – online, I was quite nervous/scared before visiting India. However, after arriving and being there for a small amount of time I found that I felt more comfortable, and a lot less scared in certain situations that I was in other countries I have travelled previously. The people were so nice, and so helpful everywhere we went. And when people did stare it seemed different to how they would stare in other countries. In India they were just fascinated by us, the majority didn’t seem to be looking at us in any other way than this, with the odd disturbing exception.
LEARNING, CULTURE AND HISTORY
Throughout my journey in India I was learning constantly about so many different things. Our walking tour through Old Delhi was informative and interesting in different ways and we were lucky enough to learn lots about the history of Delhi, in particular, its history with Britain. Jaipur was also a very interesting city where we were lucky enough to learn why it is the Pink City, why the Hawa Mahal was built, and we got a tour around the Amber Fort from a very enthusiastic security man.
Jaipur was painted pink in 1876, when the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India. The Hawa Mahal was built so that the women of the royal household could see festivals and life going on outside without been seen by anyone on the outside.
Mumbai was also very interesting for me, as our tour of the Dharavi slum taught us a lot about how much we have, recycling and what happens to our rubbish, and it showed us how little you need in life to be really happy.
But the most interesting place out of everywhere we visited in India, for me, was Varanasi. A city which was raved about by my friend, who has travelled there before, and I can completely understand why. It is full of culture. It is a city more than 5000 years old, and full of interesting places to see. If you are interested in more than beaches and sun-tans, and you travel to see life, then Varanasi is the main place in India I would suggest visiting. I will be writing a blog post all about my experiences in the amazing city of Varanasi shortly, which I recommend reading, especially if you plan on travelling to India. As much as the cremation of the bodies, by the Ganges was fascinating…it was my whole experience in Varanasi which made it so interesting. A sunset boat tour of the Ghats is the one thing you need to do whilst in Varanasi.
India is an amazing country, one that made me appreciate what I have so much more, and no doubt will have changed me, and everyone I travelled with as people. I look forwards to telling you all more about my journey around amazing India.
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