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.
I am thrilled to interview Samuel Jeffery. He’s a Canadian expat English teacher, model, photographer, freelance writer and not to mention a wandering nomadic soul. He has spent most of his 20´s as a wandering nomad. A few years back, he was in India and he has been kind enough to share his Indian experiences.
Interview with Nomadic Samuel
When did you visit India?
I was fortunate enough to have visited India back in 2010 from late October until mid December. Overall, I was there for seven weeks.
Which parts of India did you see?
I visited quite a few destinations in Rajasthan including Jaipur, Pushkar, Johdpur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer. I then backtracked to Delhi where I headed up north to Mcleod Ganj and Amritsar. After another quick pit-stop in Delhi I visited the Taj Mahal in Agra. My last two destinations were Varanasi and Kolkata before travelling overland to Bangladesh.
Pangong Tso is a lake of breathtaking beauty in Ladakh, lying just about 160 km from Leh. A nearly 5 hour drive from Leh is a wonderful journey in itself, which first passes through huge monasteries and then a vast expanse of endless mountain range and finally cuts through the Changla Pass- the third highest pass in the world which has access to motor vehicles.
About Pangong Tso Lake
Pagong Tso means long, narrow, enchanted lake in the Tibetan language. It is situated at the height of about 4,350m, and measures nearly 134 km in length, though, at its widest it is just 5 km. Despite the fact that the lake is full of brackish water, it freezes to a depth of several meters in winter season. The lake changes in color during the day, appearing deepest hues of blue when the sun is high, a turquoise shade near the bank and deeper hues in the middle of the lake. It loses its shades and turns dull as the day progresses with the sun moves towards the horizon.
Kathryn Burrington is a professional travel writer, graphic designer and photographer in the travel industry for over 15 years. I have been following Kathryn on her blog and I have found it very entertaining and have learnt lots of things from around the world. She has been kind enough to share some of her experiences of her travels in India. I was impressed that she brought a sari from India as a souvenir. Equally impressive is that she has a print of a Raja Ravi Varma painting on her wall.
Here’s Kathryn’s interview
When did you visit India and which parts of India did you see?
I’ve been to India twice. Firstly in 2004, when I spent an unforgettable three weeks exploring Rajasthan. The intention was that this would be a one-off, trip of a lifetime. We stayed in some amazingly luxurious and historic hotels and some rather quirky hotels, including one built out of camel dung. It was all organised by a good friend of mine, who has spent many years travelling around India.
I enjoyed it so much that, when I was invited again the following year to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, I couldn’t resist. Our visit was planned for what turned out to be just a few weeks after the dreadful Boxing Day Tsunami. The first two hotels we were staying in were flooded but they were up and running again in plenty of time for our visit. Sadly, a couple of people pulled out worrying that it might not be a good idea to go just then. Most of us, however, felt it was even more important to go and support the area’s tourist industry, spending our money in the local shops and restaurants and so on. The local fishermen, for example, had lost their boats and so took it in turns to sell seashells on the beach outside one of the hotels. I was more than happy to buy some.
The Indian Railways constitute one of the largest rail networks in the world. The first passenger train in India left Mumbai (then Bombay) on 16 April, 1853 for Pune. The rail network in the country has come a long way since. Currently it employs over one-and-a-half million people, links 28 states and three union territories, operates over 6,000 locomotives running on more than 60,000 km long tracks spread across the country and ferrying over 10 billion people (more than the planet’s population) every year. This gigantic network offers an unmatched variety of trains – from notoriously crowded trains whose photos you often see on the web to cruise trains that offer an unrivalled luxury – and unique way to discover India.