India - View from the Inside

"If you’re willing to give all five of your senses a good workout you’ll be well rewarded with an unforgettable experience"

June 2014 • David Worley, Operations Team Leader

India - View from the Inside

India isn’t the sort of place to dip your toe into. Rather I recommend you to plunge in headfirst, in order to fully appreciate its vastness and variety. If you’re willing to give all five of your senses a good workout you’ll be well rewarded with an unforgettable experience, wherever your itinerary takes you. I’ve been lucky enough to travel reasonably widely in India over the last few years, so this is more of a summary of experiences, but there are still so many undiscovered places - you really are tempted back for more. One thing you’re likely to discover anywhere along the way is a sense of wonder of it all (make that six, then?); how does this colourful, vibrant, noisy, sometimes infuriating but always compelling country somehow hang together?


 The answer must lie with the people; considering the sheer range of religions, languages and cultures found around the country what you’ll expect to find anywhere you go is a warm welcome from the locals, sometimes mixed with a bit of natural curiosity but unfailingly polite. Co-ordinating our arrangements is our local team from VJV India whom with their wide resources throughout the country and expert local guides prove that the best way to see India is with an organised escorted programme, such as we provide! 

Thanks to our main carrier Jet Airways’ extensive internal network, you can criss-cross the country with ease. This is backed up with a comprehensive rail network as you’d expect; of course we don’t ask you to risk life and limb up on the roof or hanging out of an open doorway, in fact the network of express trains, many newly refurbished, offers a comfortable air-conditioned ride often accompanied by a copious amount of multi-course refreshments brought to your seat (do try make room for the ice-cream). There have also been some serious efforts to improve the road networks, especially on the main ‘Golden Triangle’ routes. Even what might seem the daunting prospect of, say, a five-hour road journey to the next city can be enlivened by just soaking up the atmosphere outside the window, whether it be the street scenes as you pass through the local villages or the breath-taking scenery as for instance you climb above the clouds en route to Shimla. Of course all this will punctuated by the incredible scenes on the roads themselves, from the lovingly hand-decorated long-distance trucks to the oxen and carts that take you back to, well any time you like really – sometimes in the more rural spots it does feel as if you’ve stepped back into history, but then the noise of the car horns kicks in again and you’re right back up to date. 

On an average itinerary you can often expect to stay in a variety of accommodation, from modern upmarket chain hotels with all mod cons to your more traditional ‘heritage’ properties, often former royal residences and sometimes still lived in and run by the original families, which have an appeal all of their own. Dining styles vary but you will normally be able to find a western style breakfast followed by either a la carte or buffet for lunch and dinner, this can be mixture of Indian and western cuisines. Of course there are the many stories of Delhi belly and its regional counterparts; well the fact is any change of climate or routine can upset the hardiest of constitutions anywhere in the world. My three tips are; keep well hydrated – complimentary bottled water is commonplace whether it be in your hotel bedroom or on your tour bus, keep ‘hand to mouth’ to a minimum – if you’re a nail chewer like me try and stay off the habit for a few days, and don’t be shy with the food – it’s tempting to play safe or ‘go veggie’ as you might have been warned to but the quality of hotel restaurant food throughout our programmes is such that you’d be missing out on some delicious fare. The local cuisines have such a choice of taste and flavour that you’re liable to be seriously spoilt during your trip. But if your western cravings get the better of you and there is this sudden urge for the home comforts of beans on toast, your local hosts will endeavour to oblige, quizzically but politely of course.

It’s true India can be maddening on occasion, but that in a way is also part of its charm. Remember that when your rural heritage hotel suddenly finds itself without power momentarily, or going through the umpteenth airport security. But the flipside is that when for instance you have shuffled your way on a warm afternoon through a hefty mass of excitable body heat to the front of the queue for the Wagah border ceremony just outside Amritsar, the spectacle that awaits you – plumed goose-stepping foot guards like some juiced-up Ministry of Silly Walks, against a soundtrack of hard-core Bollywood beats - will leave you grinning from ear to ear. And your first glimpse of the Golden Temple lit up at night is an image that will remain with you always. So may I invite you to plunge right in and indulge yourself in a trip full of sensory overload. Be curious. Ask questions. You’ll begin to see India’s rich history open up in front of you and rather than a succession of random dates and muddled up Mughals the whole jigsaw will start to make sense, where the more you invest yourself in the experience the more you will be richly rewarded. Enjoy!"

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