Travel in India isn’t easy.
The streets are loud, busy and dirty and there is constantly people staring at you – not always in a friendly manner. I wouldn’t believe anyone who says that they love everything about India; the sheer number of people alone can be quite overwhelming. Seeing a train go passed with people hanging out the windows and sitting on the roof is entertaining, but also a stark reminder of the dire poverty that is life for many Indians.
However, for all the shocking things that you might see, travelling India will inevitably include some magical moments. Once you get passed all the craziness on the streets, you often find yourself quite alone in nature and enjoying peaceful natural beauty in a country of 1.3billion people.
India offers some of the most different and exciting cultural experiences out of any country I have visited. But different doesn’t always mean pleasant and travelling in India comes with great challenges. It is not like other countries in mainland Southeast Asia that are very much geared up for backpackers and full of other travellers to hang out with. It isn’t really a place you go to party (although Goa might be an exception during peak season).
Deciding on India
To be completely honest both my partner and I were quite reluctant about visiting India. I wasn’t really comfortable visiting a country where I had to significantly adjust the way I dressed, yet still receive the unwanted attention of leery men. While it might be respectful to local customs to cover up, I’m not sure I support customs that are blatantly misogynistic and suggest that it is a women’s responsibility to protect herself through the way she dresses. Between all the people we know who had bee to India there were mixed feelings about travel there – all warned us about the tough times. However, we were ready for a challenge and decided that we would take some of the bad for those special times unique to India.
Another reason we were hesitant to add India to our itinerary was that the only time of year we could fit India into our plans was during August-September – the tail end of the monsoon season. Many people will warn against visiting at this time and with good reason, it is after all the most famous weather system in the world. Thankfully, I can say that for the places that we visited the rain did not affect our trip negatively at all. In fact at some destinations, the fact it was low season meant we could save a bit of money.
With our worries and preconceptions firmly in the back of our minds, we flew into Kochi bracing ourselves for a tough month. In the end we had a very mixed experience. There were many moments we just wanted to escape and then times of total serenity that made it all worthwhile.
My 30 days in India felt like I was on a constant roller coaster. There were so many moments where I just couldn’t be bothered anymore. One too many motorbikes had aggressively horned at me; three cows had caused a traffic jam that held us up before our bus; we stepped in yet more poo in the streets; and, the constant staring and request for selfies just got too much. But then we would reach our destination and be greeted with a truly spectacular view and things would feel tolerable, almost worth it again.
In my next post I discuss some of the best experiences we had in India followed by links to dedicated articles on organising these for yourself.