India has been the most amazing experience that we could possibly have expected. It is colourful, loud, spicy, welcoming and eye-opening. We have met lovely people; explored temples; been followed around by (three legged) dogs for a day; been treated like royalty by local children and eaten like kings. We have also been bitten raw, had to struggle to find cash, been stared at everywhere we go and have been pretty overwhelmed by the intimidation in some cities.
Arriving into India with a 30 day visa, we planned to travel the whole of the North, as well as the South that we have explored. Obviously whilst planning, we forgot to allow time to eat, sleep and relax – we were trying to cram a huge country into very little time. However, as the money situation was pretty dire, we have made the decision to move onto pastures new, instead of struggling to travel up the country whilst scrabbling cash together. We came travelling to relax, and found the money problem just lumped a load of stress onto us, especially when a lot of travel was involved. India is also notoriously difficult to travel across, and we didn’t want to rush up and down the country before our visa ran out – especially when sleeper buses are added to the equation…
We have also spoken to loads of people who have done the Norh, or who live there. I would still love to visit Varanassi and see the Taj Mahal at sunrise, so we will most definitely be back one day. Getting advice from others has told us that cities such as Mubai and Delhi need a few weeks of getting used to in order for us to really enjoy them, and we just didn’t have that time seeing as we had used up half of our visa down south. In honesty, everyone apart from 2 Delhi born and bredders told us never to venture there, so that was definitely off the list! We really have enjoyed the more low-key, chilled out areas so are sticking to what we know we will love for now.
In hindsight, I would like to have explored Goa more, as well as staying in one hostel longer than we did so that we weren’t rushing around so much. I was scared off too much by the neon plastic necklaces of Anjuna to venture further. People ask us why we went to India first considering I’ve only ever been for a week away to villas in Portugal and Italy or camping trips to North Devon (the best!). In all honesty, I have no idea – and it’s fair to say that it was a huge culture shock. Despite this, I’m so unbelievably glad we went to India – I adored Hampi, Kerala and Goa and I will absolutely treasure the memories we made there. It was an amazing step into travelling; doing the hardest part first will inevitably make the entire trip so much easier for us now that we have the confidence to haggle, cross frantic roads, and suss out scary situations.
My main advice for anyone visiting India is to just go with the flow, and not set yourself a strict action plan. A second tip is to practice saying “no thanks” in increasingly impatient tones for when you’re offered tuk tuk rides, local maps, tour guides or even asked for payment for a bindi they have drawn onto your forehead without your permission. I am so glad that we didn’t book anything too much, as it meant that we were able to leave any areas we didn’t like immediately, and has now ultimately meant that we were able to hop on a plane out of there when we felt we had had enough, and that it wasn’t the right time to be in India financially! So, I am writing this from a bar in Siem Reap in Cambodia – you can find out all about our journey here in the next few posts. India, you were amazing – thank you and goodbye!