Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi will perhaps be the entry point for most foreign travellers to India. I have always wondered why this airport was not named after Mahatma Gandhi since he is considered as the father of the nation. Anyway, from a personal point of view, this is the worst International airport I have seen and rightly so, it was once considered as the worst airport in the world by an international consortium (can’t remember which one). The reason why I say this is because I have found the toilets semi unusable, absence of decent restaurants (good coffee by the way), unsupportive staff, long and slow queues, no decent baby changing facilities, overcrowding and so no; you get the drift. But anyway, you can’t judge a country by its airports!
Often the best way to travel to any destination within India, especially for foreigners is by flights. I prefer the trains as there is no other way to see India then by trains and coaches. But if you’re short on time, it not only reduces the travel time but can be a safer and viable option. With the advent of many private players in the Indian Airline Industry, flying has become cheaper and hassle free in India. You can choose from government owned airline services and many privately owned carriers. However, the suggestion would be to avoid the government owned carrier for the quality of service is not up to the mark of those that are provided by the private carriers.
The first “picture of the week” is a photo of a young girl performing “walking on the rope” trick in the city of Leh in Ladakh. I think the performance requires a lot of skill. You can see that she has a set of pots (I can see four) on her head and she is able to walk on the rope effortlessly with the assistance of the stick for balancing. There is a plate under the rope for spectators to leave money for her performance.
India Gate, originally known as the All India War Memorial was erected in 1931 in the heart of Delhi to commemorate the Indian soldiers who died in World War I and Third Anglo-Afghan War. India at that time was under the British rule and Indian soldiers were used extensively in the war effort. About 90,000 Indian soldiers died and every single name is engraved in the memorial. After independence, it also became the site of the Indian Army’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, symbol of India’s freedom movement.
There is a beautiful domed sandstone canopy behind the gate. The visitor can stand on both sides of the canopy and can see the entire Rajpath Avenue (the most important road in India that ultimately leads to the Presidents Palace and the Parliament Houses of India) at a stretch, which I used to find quite fascinating as a child and still do. India Gate is cordoned and viewers are not allowed very close to the moment hence the inscriptions of the soldiers and their battalions that lost their lives are not visible.
When you arrive in India for the first time, you are in for a big culture shock depending on which part of the world you’re coming from as far as traffic in India is concerned. At its best, its chaotic, which is perhaps a light word to describe the traffic in India; the word better used would be “manic”. As soon as you step out of the airport, you’re going to feel extremely hot. Imagine this, you have something cooking in the oven and you want to check if it’s done or not so you open the door with your face close to the oven and then it hits you, the heat of course. This is exactly what it’s like walking out of the airport in India in the summer.
The Harmandir Sahib or the Darbar Sahi is more commonly known as the Golden Temple situated in the city of Amritsar, Punjab. It is the holiest temple (called Gurdwara) of the Sikhs. It was built by the sixth Guru Guru Arjun Dev, in the 16th Century when he completed the Adi Granth, the scriptures of Sikhism and then installed it in the Gurdwara. One great thing about this Gurdwara is that any one of any religion can go and worship. It is estimated that 100,000 people visit the temple every day. I highly recommend visiting the temple in Amritsar if you happen to be visiting North India.
India is a big country. Painting with a broad brush, the average climate of India is said to be of tropical monsoon type. This, however, doesn’t take into consideration extreme local variations that range from alpine climate in the Himalayan region in the north to the tropical climate in the south. In the west is a vast stretch of desert known as the Thar while the east of the country boasts of plenty of flora and fauna and receives heavy rains each year. Couched between them, the climate of Indo-Gangetic planes is of continental type; very hot summers and freezing winters.
It is generally accepted that India is a safe country to visit but one cannot be too safe. Here’s a round-up of safety precautions and tips when travelling to India.
To start with, here’s a compilation of my 101 tips when travelling to India. The list comprises of how to keep safe to what to wear while India.
Act like a local
Although India has many languages, you just cannot escape Hindi. English will also do just fine but what better way to impress the Indians with some of your Hindi. Here’s a compilation of some Hindi words and phrases I recorded, you might need in India. Also the local language will make you look like as if you’ve been here before and cannot be taken for a ride.
Dani and Jess, the globetrotter girls have kindly shared experiences of their holiday in India. Jessica is an American freelance travel editor and writer while Dani is a German freelance photographer. Their passion for travel is really amazing. They have travelled extensively throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States.
Having lived Delhi, I used this think that Delhi was a relatively safe place for women. There used to be incidences of crimes against women but mostly it used to go unnoticed. But now I am very concerned about the security of women in India. Day in and out, there are cases of brutal attacks on women. Having travelled in public transport especially on local buses, I too had my share of unwanted activities such as being whistled at and being commented by anti-social elements.
But a crime of unspeakable horror has occurred in Delhi that has left not only Delhi, the capital India but the entire nation thinking. One that hit the Indian psyche is the recent GANG RAPE of a 23-year old student in Delhi by 6 men who then beat the woman with iron-rods, robbed her belongings, stripped of her clothing and dumped her dying on the road. The woman and her friend had boarded an unlicensed bus to return home after watching a movie. The driver and other occupants of the bus closed the door and hit the friend with an iron rod. The woman was dragged to the back of the bus where Ram Singh (one of the rapists) raped her. The five other men also raped and tortured the woman and beat her friend with iron rods while driving the bus around the city. (Update: She is now dead due to organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain).
India is one of the most colourful countries of the world. The Indian people love wearing colourful clothes, doing strange things and not to mention that Indian movies are full of colourful dance sequences. This makes India one of the most photogenic places on earth; hence those travelling to India must take a camera with them to capture the amazing things they might see while in India. No wonder, travellers to India such as Kathryn Burrington, Elle the Solo Female Nomad, Samuel Jeffery and Daniel McBane, all of them have recommended taking a camera with them. I agree with them completely, you never know what you will find in India.
Travelling by train is the best way to learn about India, its people, its culture, the villages, the smaller towns and the simple lives of the Indian people. A trip to India would not be complete without a train journey on the Indian railways.
However a traveller to India must be warned of the severe overcrowding in Indian trains. India has one of the biggest, the busiest and is the most connected rail networks in the world. With a population that is creeping towards 1.5 billion, it is no surprise that trains often runs overcrowded.
Did you know that India has a very vibrant Film Industry? It is considered as the biggest film industry in the world. So much so that, India’s film industry has been popularly dubbed as Bollywood. Although the main language in which the movies are produced is Hindi, almost every regional language of India has its own mini film industry catering for their respective areas.
Most of the Hindi films are produced in Mumbai or previously Bombay, the capital of the famous Maharashtra state of India. It is here that most of the movies are made and where most of the studios are situated apart from cities of Chennai and Kolkata.
One of the first concerns while travelling in India is where to get water from. Drinking water fountains are a rare sight and even when where there is one, an issue of quality crops up in the mind of a tourist. The golden rule is not to drink tap water. The safest bet therefore is to go for bottled water, but is it?
There are currently half-a-dozen major bottle water brands in India. The most popular are Bisleri, kinley and Aquafina. Of these, Bisleri has a longest presence in India. It’s an Italian company which came to India back in the 1960s. It’s a big player in the bottle water industry. There are smaller players too that claim to have very high standards. But that’s only a part of the story.