Top 10 List: India

21 May

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Top 10 Things to Know About India (in no particular order):

10. The driving. Lanes are completely disregarded and the idea of driving on a particular side of the street appears to be completely foreign. The rule of the road seems to be yield to honking, if someone honks, you move. (Being in a car or tuk tuk felt death defying at best.)

9. The pride in appearance. No matter the area, most everyone is washed and dressed to look impeccably neat and clean despite the dirt, dust and lack of clean water.

8. The animals. Humpback cows, thieving monkeys and piglets on train tracks. India is certainly not devoid of animal entertainment!

7. Crossing the street. There is absolutely no regard for lanes or right of way and as a pedestrian the worst thing you can do is to hesitate. My advice is to find a local crossing the street and play shadow – whatever he or she does, you do.

6. The shameless display of affection amongst friends. Everywhere we went, whether it was school girls or grown men, friends would be holding hands as they walked down the street. (To clarify, I never saw grown men holding hands with a school girl, it was always members of the same sex of about the same age.)

5. The sensory experience. India can be both a treat and an assault on the senses. For the eyes, the sunsets, the colourful dress, the textiles market, poverty-stricken people of all ages, family and togetherness, devotion to religion and spiritual rituals; for the ears, the local music, the honking of cars, the sales pitches, the hum of a fan or if you’re lucky an air conditioner, religious chanting; for the nose, the kitchens cooking in the many restaurants, the various spices sold by street vendors, human and animal excrement, body odour, incense; for the taste buds, spicy curries, cooling dairy-based sauces, steri-pen/chlorine tablet treated water masala tea; for the touch, the soft, silky fabrics used in the elaborate traditional dress, rice in your hands, dust, dirt and pollution on your skin, the thin mattresses and pillows available from the hostels (that’s not to say the higher-end hotels offer the same experience, as I’m sure they don’t, but this trip is being done on a shoestring).

4. Delhi belly. It’s inevitable, it will happen: the sudden and dreaded need for immediate evacuation of everything in your stomach. You just have to keep telling yourself this too shall pass.

3. The power of yoga. After only a couple of days, the hectic chaos of the Indian cities we visited previously was replaced by a feeling of physical exhaustion (the good kind!) and complete relaxation that only 3 hours of yoga done to the soothing sounds of birds chirping and soft religious chanting can bring. Total zen.

2. The Taj Mahal. The story behind this Wonder of the World is so romantic and to see it in real life, to walk through it, is surreal.

1. The posing with locals for photos. It didn’t matter where we went – hiking along trails, a place of worship, from our hotel to dinner, a tourist hot spot – someone was always pulling out a cell phone while their friend or family member posed beside us before walking away giddy and giggling. (My personal favourite was when a mother rushed up, handed me her baby and backed away to take 3 or 4 photos of me holding her child.)

 

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