India: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

India: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The reaction that I got when I told some people that I was going to India was hilarious. They were so surprised that out of all the countries in the world, I chose India as my next destination. The usual question was “What’s in India?” followed by “Are you trying to find an Indian husband?” which would elicit fits of laughter from everyone. I live in a multicultural city where one nationality lives harmoniously with the other, but Indians in this city has a reputation of being “difficult to deal with.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, they’re just very persistent with getting things their way which can annoy a lot of people. So when I said, I’m going to India they were all so surprised. The easiest answer to their raised eyebrows was “I want to see Taj Mahal.”

impressions on india

While Taj Mahal did not disappoint, it wasn’t the only reason why I went to India. For the longest time, I have been so curious about the culture of India and I wanted to experience it. I told myself 5 years ago that my India trip will happen this year, but as 2016 drew closer I realized that maybe my dreams were too far fetch as I couldn’t see how to make it happen. First off, I’m not brave enough to travel alone in India so unless I can find someone to travel with, this India trip will never happen. But as they say “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and no matter how cliche that saying is, I truly, honestly believe it.

impressions on india

So one desolate summer afternoon, a week after someone flaked out on a local trip with me, another friend suddenly told me that he’s going to India. It wasn’t even an invitation, he was just letting me know that he’s already booked for India on October so I can stop bugging him about going somewhere on October. I wasted no time and immediately invited myself, asking if it was okay to tag along with him and his friends. He said they’re cool with it and in fact an additional headcount will lessen the expenses, so I was welcome to join. I was excited but indecisive because I was already running out of leave credits. I eventually found a way to make it work like I always do, and booked a last minute flight.

impressions on india

Few days before this trip, I was actually worried because I was traveling alone from Singapore to India. All of them are coming from Shanghai and their flight will arrive later, which means I would have to go to the hotel alone. Although an airport pick up was arranged for me, I still cant help not to be paranoid. I have all sorts of wrong perception about India. I was expecting the worst but to my surprise, India wasn’t that bad at all. The airport was huge, carpeted and modern. When I approached the airport pick up guy, he seemed trustworthy and treated me courteously. While we were in the car, I kept looking for something that would culture shock me but the drive to my hotel was uneventful. I didn’t even see any cows. It was just traffic and modern buildings.

impressions on india

There are parts of India that are modern but there are also parts that are just as crazy as you would expect it to be. Old Delhi for instance, it was the most chaotic place Ive been to. The loud honking of vehicles, the traffic jam, the heat, the crowd, the endless chatter of people haggling and talking about god knows what, it will drive you nuts but at the same time it will fascinate you. And yes, the cows are everywhere in Old Delhi, even more so in Agra. Delhi was our point of entry and Agra was a 4 hour drive away. Agra felt more like a province as compared to the chaotic metro which is Delhi. Our guides kept telling us to be careful in Agra because there are so many scams and the people are not so friendly in Agra, but thankfully we didn’t have any bad experiences so I cant really say if its true. Our 3rd city was Jaipur which was again about 4-5 hours from Agra. Jaipur was my favorite in this trip, its a charming little town splashed in terra cotta. I don’t know why it’s even called the pink city when the buildings were not in pink, they were actually in terra cotta. I really loved the vibe in Jaipur and wished that I could stay longer. I love the best and the oldest lassi shop, I love the flea markets even when the touts can sometimes be very persistent and I was blown away by the beauty of Amer fort. I think Jaipur deserves a separate post, I’ll tell you all about what to love in Jaipur on my next post.

impressions on india

impressions on india

The thing that surprised me most about India though, was the food. I thought I could never like an Indian food. I have tried a lot of Indian restaurants before and I never liked it. I hate cumin and this spice is pretty popular in Indian cuisine. My mind was set, I was ready to starve myself and live on chips and crackers (as if!) during this whole trip but to my surprise I actually really liked their food. First impression always lasts I guess because our first meal was divine. It was in a chic restaurant in Delhi called Masala House. It’s a high end, fine dining restaurant, so Im not gonna lie, they are expensive. We were shocked when the bill arrived because we paid around P1200-1400 per person and there were six of us. That was our most expensive meal during this trip, but the food was to die for, it was so good that it made me change my mind about Indian cuisine.

impressions on india

Indians are actually very fond of butter, yogurt and cottage cheese which I seriously love. They always try to incorporate these ingredients in everything they cook. Oh and they love their thick and creamy sauces which I love too! Id always get excited when the food arrives in our table because its always bursting with flavour. We ordered almost the same kind of food all through out our trip and some of my favourites are: palak paneer (both spinach and tomato sauce are yummy!); butter chicken (the sauce is so buttery and delicious); tandoori chicken (the meat is so full of flavour and so tender!); mutton curry (the spices and the tender meat are so good); garlic naan (can’t get enough of this!). Honestly, my mouth is watering right now as I write this. And don’t forget to drink lots and lots of lassi, they’re cheap, healthy and delicious! It’s their version of yogurt but its tastier and creamier. The best lassi shop was in Jaipur called Old Lassiwala, they’ve been in business since 1940’s so you know they’re that good!

impressions on india

India is a lot of things, it’s fascinating, it’s beautiful, it’s a photographers dream, it’s a foodie paradise but it can also be frustrating, chaotic, confusing, even repulsive. It depends on how you look at things. Scams are everywhere that its almost normal and expected in every tourist spot that you will visit. People will try to collect money from you pretending that they’re manning the entrance gates, when in truth they’re just random people who are trying to intimidate you because you’re a tourist. Photogenic old ladies in beautiful sari’s who seem to always sit at the right place with beautiful doorways and beautiful light, they will even smile and ask you to come closer if you point your camera at them but after which, they will collect money from you and they wont take no for an answer. Almost everything you do here is equivalent to money. You have to pay them for everything, tipping is almost mandatory. But I can’t blame them because poverty is apparent in this country.

impressions on india

impressions on india

Another thing to expect when you visit India is how they seem to have no regard whatsoever to the environment. Delhi is heavily polluted. The trash and the garbage are everywhere. There are no proper disposal bins, people actually throw their trash on the street. It’s crazy! We were even encourage to do the same, after eating food on the street and looking for trash, they told us to just throw it on the street but we insisted on looking for a trash bin. You can literally see piles of garbages on their street. But then again this is just in some parts of India, on major highways and modern areas, of course you won’t see this. Also, the weather in India is so humid, you will be sweating like a pig the moment you step out of the airport. So if you can, try to visit during winter (Dec, Jan and Feb) so your trip would be more pleasant.

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

impressions on india

Impressions on india

If you want to get a glimpse of our trip, I posted a video here. You can also check out my photo gallery of Taj Mahal here.

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