Now that we are back home, recovering from the jet lag and my horrible cold, we have been discussing the questions that most people have asked us, namely, “What was the best and worst parts of the trip?”
Among the worst are the long flights, especially if you are in coach. An aisle seat is best, which I had going to India, but not returning. And, if you have an empty one or two next to you, even better. However, our flights were just about full each way. So, no luck with stretching out to sleep. Sleep came and went in small segments, which was helpful.
The best was seeing totally different lifestyles, customs, religious activities and rituals. Of course, you can’t discount the history of India, its magnificent architecture, the craftsmanship used in so many aspects of Indian life and the unique flavors of India. I loved Indian food before going, but the level of spice became an issue for me. Even “not spicy” meant about a 6 on a scale of 10. Lesson learned! I still cook Indian, but considerably milder in intensity.
What you notice most is the disparity between prosperity and poverty . In New Delhi, the boulevards are generous, the buildings pristine and you could be in almost any large city. In the older areas however, whether in Delhi or other towns, it is chaos, with teeming tides of humanity, outrageous noise from honking horns and vehicles of every sort moving helter-skelter to get to their destinations. To see four or more people on a motorcycle, no helmet, barely holding on, was disconcerting, to say the least.
Jim describes the towns as bee hives, with everyone seeming to have a purpose, moving constantly and we were just the observers. It was a unique perspective. The volumes of people affect everything, mobility, infrastructure, day to day living… Families stay close and live multi-generationally. And, their Hindu beliefs are strong and deep, which also guides their lives and lifestyles.
Many friends have said that India was not on their travel radar, because they didn’t think they could handle the sites and sounds of this amazing country. You just have to keep an open mind. These differences are what make India unique and exotic.
Kathmandu was a stark contrast, in that you perceived order, road courtesy, admonition that honking was not allowed and helmets required by the driver, if not the passenger (no more than one). It was almost calm in comparison to India. The Buddhist influence also defined how they live their lives.
We would recommend this trip (and especially the tour company, Smartours) because of the excellent guides, the ease and professionalism. Their prices are very good, too. Thank you all for enjoying our trip with us. The next one is coming in the spring…