The good, the bad and the unbearable

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Before writing this article my heart had hardened and I thought I had no advice for people wanting to travel to India. On a budget option it’s difficult to know what you’re getting and even the best made travel plans are sure to go arry in this crazy country. My travels through the ‘Golden Triangle’ will forever be remembered for their utter chaosness. From the time the driver says “You are here”, and you’re left to your own devices to disembark the safe, air conditioned confines of the car, you are exposed.

As if you have a flashing light above your head ‘they’ must have alarm bells going off. ‘Tourists! Quick run tourists! Let’s see how many of us can get in front of them and totally kill their sightseeing experience, be relentless, don’t give up, sell, hard sell!’

This past week we have had the privilege of visiting some of the oldest and most beautiful historical sites in the world, in the cities Agra and Jaipur, but quite frankly it is ruined by ‘Indians’. At any one time you may have 2 and more hawkers badgering you with tardy merchandise and encroaching beyond the boundaries of personal space. I stopped making eye contact or responding verbally because it’s just too exhausting, I want to go home!

Albeit it is out of season and the many who have chosen this career in tourism are fighting with the other 1.1 billion in the country for ‘bread’ the beauty of India has waned. The haggling is tiresome and pricing is  inconsistent. If you’ve paid for anything it’s still not enough…as if they want the life force within you squeezed of every penny…”I’m South African, no dollars here buddy, aaargh!” I’m not sure how travelling in tourism season could be any improvement when the thought of more people, longer queues and steeper pricing are the add-ons. How would I have coped when just the thought is unbearable.

Okay, maybe some advice. Be careful of sharing too many cups of chai (tea)…delicious for sure, but famously the indiscreet way to do business, and an easy way to be fooled by pleasantries.

Our first night in Delhi after a horrendous train ride in ‘sleeper class’, dirty and delayed, was typical of bad communication amongst staff and management here. The room had not been booked by the owner with his night manager, and I was more than disappointed with the outcome. A crummy room which couldn’t compare to my home at the ashram. Staff were generally unprofessional. It’s very difficult to explain this in words, my dumbfoundedness will maybe put it into context for you. And we found out upon checkout, when the owner was trying to save face, that he had taken over the 3* Star deborchment just one month ago, but we should try his restaurant nearby. Before it was too late we had staff in the lobby apologising by his orders…humpf! Avoid Shelton Hotel on Main Bazaar.

I can only be thankful for AC and a bit of extra space to move in our Glitz Hotel room, Jaipur. I think little fruit flies had been breeding in our bathroom for a while and although not bothersome we still had to watch what we ate and drank and checked the toilet before sitting. A trickling of cold water from the bath tap. The bed is like bricks, really really hard. The in-house restaurant is costly and the food portions are small…actually it seems anything outside of Rishikesh has doubled, trippled in price.

We had an honest, trustworthy tour operator from Delhi arrange a fantastic tour, and were escorted by a middle aged knowledgeable driver to our destinations over the three day period. A trip which cannot be comprehended or arranged without help. I’ll write more about this once all the pictures have been downloaded and edited…hundreds.

I’ve heard many say India stands for ‘I’ll never do it again’, but I’m indifferent to this statement because it’s one place you just simply have to see and experience once in a lifetime. To understand the sheer size of the country and it’s sustainability. The signs, brochures and any other promotional material printed in English is bound to be full of bad spelling and grammatical errors which will keep you chuckling. Like the ayurveda services brochure offering ‘endo crime’ (endocrine) treatments, and the hotel questionnaire would you refer friends and family to this properly (property).

Never again will a honking hooter make me jump or grimace behind the steering wheel…I’ll send a honk of good fortune back as it’s merely overused as a signaling device here, as you’d expect with the masses on the roads.

If you’re travelling to India for the first time, be prepared for anything, expect nothing, and keep your heart wide open. This country will astound you, humble you and make you cry. The words freedom, tolerance and respect were tattooed on my shoulder in a peacock feather (the national bird of India) 2 years ago…how this rings so true in my life now, and how grateful I am for a wonderful life.

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Comments

  1. Trudy Tosh on Facebook  July 26, 2013

    an awesome memory for your old age 🙂 🙂