I may have gotten a little carried away with the nostalgic, wishy washy, and ultimately unhelpful India posts in the last while, so I figured probably I should write one of those one-in-every-hundred-or-so posts that might be the tiniest big helpful. Obviously I only spent three weeks in India, and I only visited a handful of places, so I know next to nothing. ButI wanted to share the little that I do know.
Would I recommend India as a place to visit? Yes! But…I also admit I would recommend pretty much anywhere as a place to visit because go places, dude.
Anyway, India is incredible. Like crazy incredible. I would happily spend six months or even a year there exploring as much of what the country has to offer as possible. Everything about it is an adventure for the senses. But man, if you’re a little fussy about stuff, or if you’re a stickler for realistic expectations, there are a few things that you need to consider.
1.) Customs at the airport will make you rethink your life
When Ty and I landed at Mumbai airport at 4am we were convinced that it would be a sort of quiet version of the place because hey, it’s 4am. Holy cow (see what I did there?) we were so wrong! I have never seen so many people shoved into such a large-but-feeling-small space. That said, customs in Mumbai is efficient as hell and even though you’re standing in a queue of about five thousand people (ok I admit I don’t know how to estimate crowd size) the line goes really quickly and I think we spent only about an hour in a queue that we expected to spend three days in.
2.) The food really is the best you will ever eat
Sometimes I’m not even sure I like Indian food. My attempts to cook it always fail, for one. I get away with Indian-ish, but only ish. And the small town dorpie version of curry always used to make me super unhappy. After having a baby though, I started liking things like Indian food and coriander (birthing babies makes you go all weird, apparently) but I was still worried about having “only” Indian food to eat for three whole weeks. But guys, that food is so incredible I actually can’t deal. So good. So so so so so good. And the vegetarian options are even better than the meat options so wow. I wish I could cook like that.
3.) Delhi belly is not what you think
Ok so I know that food poisoning is not exactly an uncommon occurrence amongst those who travel, and it is certainly something that is feared within the community. But Delhi belly is not food poisoning. Food poisoning is cramping, vomiting, gastro, sweating, fever etc, accompanied by the need to be near a bathroom at all times. Deli belly seems to basically be the ability to shit through a straw without all the other unpleasant symptoms. In other words, even though your morning ablutions will be a little more lyrical than usual, you can still enjoy the rest of your day without feeling like you need to tie yourself to the toilet.
4.) Everything about India is Extra, with a capital EXTRA
Yup, all of it. The colours. The smells. The tastes. The sounds.
5.) It’s really dirty
Like really dirty. Like you will be surprised at how dirty a place can be. But you can either let that offend your uptight sensibilities or you can kind of go with it. It is what it is. And you might go mad wondering how on earth there could possibly be so much garbage everywhere, but you might also remind yourself that it’s none of your business, you’re just a visitor.
6.) The women will make you feel like an old shoe
Yes. The women of India are so beautiful and they all dress like princesses and have the most exquisite hair so it’s kind of hard to feel any sort of superficial external confidence while surrounded by all of that. On the bright side those babes are way out my husband’s league so it’s all good. (I’m kidding obviously my husband is God’s gift to women and I have special voodoo powers and I feed him magic potion on a daily basis to keep him under my spell)
7.) Take note of what things cost
The street vendors and tuk-tuk drivers will overcharge you. And not just a little. A lot. Like a lot a lot. Like so much that I still have anxiety over how much I overpaid for some stuff while I was there. With tuk-tuk drivers we started a habit of telling them how much we were willing to pay. And with vendors…honestly I just found one dude in Goa who didn’t do the haggling thing he just told you his price (which was decent) and I just bought most of my souvenirs from him because I appreciated the lack of hassle. But like in Mumbai I totally paid like 40 bucks for a pomegranate because man I am so white sometimes. Let me assure you: I am too stingy to spend 40 bucks on a piece of fruit.
8.) You might not be understood as well as you’re expecting
Even though English is a compulsory subject in Indian schools, I have to admit that I was surprised by how difficult it was to be understood in India. My attempt at procuring water pills for my really bad water retention ended in me consuming anti-inflammatories for days and wondering why the relief was so slow in coming. Then again, English people don’t usually understand me either so this could have been my fault.
9.) Don’t eat the beef
Eventually you’ll need some less spicy food. Don’t bother. Just eat the spicy. It’s far better than whatever Western-inspired meal that you’re considering ordering. And cheaper. Eat home food at home.
10.) Just go with it
If you’re going to go to India with expectations, don’t. Leave the uptightness behind. Leave the pictures in your head behind. Go and enjoy it for the wondrous experience that it is instead of bemoaning it for what it isn’t. You’ll miss so much if you get too caught up in your own self.
Hope that helps! High five to me for trying, right?