This obviously doesn’t reflect on the whole of India as the country is so vast and varied and we barely scratched the surface. It is however my personal opinions based on the areas we did visit.
- The culture– it is so diverse, so steeped in history and so completely different to anything I have ever experienced before. It takes a bit of getting used to but once you have acclimatised it assaults the senses in a mostly positive way.
- The architecture– things like the Taj Mahal are stunning, that goes without saying, but there are also so many other amazing things to see. Yes, there were times on the trip when I couldn’t help myself thinking “Not another fort!” but each had its own charm and therefore can be considered worth seeing.
- The food– now this may seem an odd one to include for anyone who knows me as I am a notoriously fussy eater. I don’t like rice or curry and I was having to be slightly careful about what I ate for medical reasons, but I know other people on the trip enjoyed what they were having. I also did find one of my new favourite foods- Mutton Sheekh kebab. The places we ate in Delhi served the best food I had all trip. There are also lots of options for eating on-Indian foods such as chips (French fries) and pizza, although be aware that most Margherita pizzas we found were so spicy many of us struggled to eat them.
- Easy communication– most people in India speak English to at least a basic level which makes things a lot easier for English speaking tourists. We also noticed many of the street vendors could also switch into Spanish and sometimes German when required. I would love to be able to communicate with them in their native tongues, but my language skills are poor so this is a definite bonus for me.
- HOLI FESTIVAL– both Little Holi and Big Holi were such fun to be involved in. I was a little apprehensive beforehand as I had heard tale after tale of how foreigners were hassled, given a hard time and inappropriately grabbed if they went out for the festivities, but we experienced none of this. People just seemed to be out to have a good time and welcomed us with open arms. It was so exciting and I am glad I ignored the warnings and just went for it as it is a real once in a lifetime experience.
- The litter– it is everywhere.
- The touts and hawkers– again they were everywhere. I managed to pick up a good technique to fend them off but others didn’t have so much luck (just don’t look at them and say no very firmly). At one point we had a man hanging off the edge of our jeep whilst we were driving just so he could make a sale. I know many cities and tourist countries struggle with this but they were often so pushy it became tiring to fight our way through them.
- The prices for foreigners are hiked up a ridiculous amount- again something I’m sure happens all over the place but it was often rubbed in our face. One restaurant accidently gave us both the tourist and the locals’ menus and the tourist prices were more than doubled.
- The traffic– now this one could be both on the good or the bad list. Good: because it was a crazy experience, bad: because there always seemed to be such a great chance of getting killed. There are seemingly no traffic rules other than “use your horn as much as possible”, “just pull out of a junction” and “make as many lanes of traffic in any space as you possibly can”. Also pedestrians have to just walk to the edge of the curb, then just put your hand out and walk in front of oncoming traffic in the hope that it will stop for you. Scary stuff!
Overall though India is such a melting pot of cultures and is well worth visiting. Now all I want to do is go back and travel around other areas of the country (South India, I’m looking at you!)