Things I learned in India:
1) Bring Ryan Singh with you. There’s no way around it. He’s got a minor in history, knows all the facts, speaks Hindi, and knows where to get all the good food. We were blessed to have him with us, and doubly so that his Dad opened his home to us for Diwali, it was the cherry on top of this trip.
2) Get a driver while there. You don’t need to have a big group, the hotel can get you a driver for the day (1,500 – 3,500 rupees) and they will take you out in a sedan or similar and drive you to the market, to sites, to dinner, ect. It’s indulgent, useful, and worth every penny. Plus it’s not that much. A good driver will even offer a few tips along the way about sights or places to grab a snack.
3) There’s a lot of trash in Delhi, and much of India. It’s quite off putting. India, you really have to get your act together on this one. Letting the trash create mini landfills strewn with trash along the roads is not doing you any favors. Burning the trash in the same fashion, also not helping.
4) Luckily, the people of India are outstanding. Whether it’s because we were tourists or not I cannot say, but I can say that most everyone we encountered, was gracious, friendly, and a pleasure to interact with. Take that China.
5) In India, the world is your toilet. Again, not happy about this one. We would easily pass 5-10 people per day taking a piss on the side of the road, sometimes on long stretches of highway (understandable, to some extent) others in the middle of the city.
Let’s get some plumbing running here guys, you can do this.
6) India, to this day, is still a National Geographic photographers dream come true. Every street corner, every person we crossed looked like they had a story to tell and should be photographed. There were regal Sikhs with their turbans, broad shoulders,
and beards, scraggily kids pan-handling for change at stop lights, old women in saris walking to the market, and everything in between.
7) India is colorful. The clothes, the people, the buildings, there was color everywhere, and it was wonderful.
8) There are a lot of stray dogs in India, more than Greece I think. I’m not sure why this caught my eye, but it was just very unexpected for some reason.
9) There are animals abound in cities and villages. Two blocks down from our hotel in Delhi, we came across pigs making the rounds, and cows relaxing in the shade, as cars, auto rickshaws and bikes whizzed by. They seemed unfazed by the traffic. In a
cute neighborhood in Delhi, we came across a peacock wandering around a yard, it was not fenced in.
10) Traffic in India is crazy. Driving in India is crazy. Neither is for the faint of heart. Somehow the system works. It’s not uncommon to drive the wrong way up a one way street, to see people backing up against traffic because they missed their exit, and to bob and weave in and out of lanes depending who you are dodging in front of you. Near collisions are a given, but somehow they are avoided for the most part.
11) Honking is used to signal the following (in no order): Watch out, I’m passing, you’re going to hit me, you’re in my way, you can pass me, hey how’s it going, look out for that cow, nice weather we are having, and everything in between. Basically, it’s a good idea for you and everyone else on the road to just honk periodically to let them know you are alive and here. The resulting cacophony of noise is constant on any journey, but somehow after long day of walking, we still managed to catch power naps on the rides home (did I mention how sublime it was to have a car service?)
12) The sights, sounds and tastes of India were amazing. The history, the monuments, the landscape were all wonderful, and we only got to explore a small part of the country. The land and culture is very varied, seeing just the part we saw is like say you visited California and claiming to have “seen America”.
13) Most prices at the market are negotiable, but keep some perspective, at 1USD to 50 Rupees, it’s hard to feel ripped off when buying small trinkets. You can get worked up about spending 400 Rupees on a shirt or small souvenir, or you can stop and think gee, that’s about 8USD and go on about your day. You can only feel ripped off if it’s more than you wanted to pay.
14) Jaipur was my favorite part of the touristy stuff. It’s a manageable size town, a little cleaner than Delhi, and a little slower pace. The palaces and forts we saw there were great as well, full of intricate carvings and details.
15) I can’t wait to go back and see more.