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JillianV Jun 9th, 2011 05:33 AM

Back from AMAZING India....
Hello everyone I have just got back from an amazing/awesome trip to India, I do not really know the right words to describe this country, because I do not think words can do it justice.

The kids loved every minute of it, and did not want to leave, after a lot of tears and tantrums we finally managed to drag them onto the plane back home to Australia (lol). But I think we have all found another home now, we left our hearts in India, but we will be back to get our hearts back from India.

Don't get me wrong there were a lot of ups and downs, this is India after all and India always likes to test one's patience or throw some monkey wrenches at you.

India to me seemed to be a country in rebuilding, renovating and dragging itself into the 21st century, but yet has a foot in another century as well, it is quite amazing. So much construction everywhere, a new this and a new that.

There is so much confidence in the country as well, led by the young people, there is so much effort to try and help the poor and start to uplift them as well. Life is still hard in India with the poverty that I have never seen or imagined in my life.

It moved us to tears some of the things we saw, the first week was a massive shock to the system, especially to the girls, I have to admit they hated it the first few days, and I was left wondering what I had dragged us all into. It was all too much for them and for us to take in all at once.

But after our first weekend my friend who we were staying with decided to give us a taste of the real India and took us into the slums. Our eyes were opened, our minds were opened, what we saw in the slums was life, in all its glory, in all its sadness.

We saw kids the same ages as my kids smiling at us, inviting us to their homes, wanting to talk to the girls. Even though life is so hard and it is so heart breaking to see people live this way.

We couldn't help but admire these people, these people who have nothing yet find a way to get their kids to school, or men and women who work 24 hours a day in the hot sun, to just put a piece of bread on the family table for dinner.

I broke down and cried when a family invited us into this little shack and gave us their last piece of bread to eat without expecting or wanting anything from us. My girls went back to this family's house with clothes and books and some toys.

I was so proud of them, they did this on their own accord, without prompting from myself or my hubby. I saw my girls grow in front of my eyes, growing up in a Western culture they are used to having things and wanting things, but WOW they have changed so much now.

One night while we were getting ready for bed, they actually told me they were glad I didn't listen to people who told us not to go to India. I was worried about how seeing the poverty in India would effect them, I was very worried.

But after this amazing trip I needn't have worried, the people in India love kids and would fall over themselves to touch the girls, or have photos taken with them. My youngest who is 7 was the star of the show and she milked it for all it was worth.

We were only going to go for about 7 weeks but I have literally just got back home this morning, we extended our trip on the urgings of the kids and I must admit the kids didn't have to do much to convince us either.

Everything one can say about India is true and not true at the same time, I must thank all of you on here for your wonderful blogs and advice and help. We have already booked out tickets to go back in November of 2011.

It was easily our best overseas trip and I think India has seeped into out blood, we hated a lot of things, but we loved more things than we hated. To anyone out there wanting to go to India please GO, enjoy everything India throws at you, travel with an open mind and enjoy everything she throws at you.

India loves to test people, India also loves to surprise you and throw you for a loop, you won't know where to look or point your camera, embrace India the good, the bad and the ugly and India will love your right back.

I am sorry about the long rant, but I am still dreaming about India, I think I will end here I do not want to bore all of you. Thank you to all of you once again, for your wonderful blogs, comments and helpful insights.

PS. Please excuse any typos, grammar errors etc.

Marija Jun 9th, 2011 05:54 AM

Welcome back, Jillian. I'm so glad your family had an amazing trip. (Here's Jillian's pre-departure angst thread: ) And thanks for coming back to tell us how it went!

JillianV Jun 9th, 2011 06:00 AM

Thanks Marija, I think I was lucky to find this site and so many of you who encouraged me to go.

Kathie Jun 9th, 2011 06:41 AM

Wonderful! I'm glad it worked out so well for all of you.

thursdaysd Jun 9th, 2011 07:25 AM

Wonderful post - so glad you and your kids had such great experience.

rhkkmk Jun 9th, 2011 08:07 AM

when you have time, i hope you will be able to tell us in more detail what you did for 7 weeks...

i can't wait to return to india on nov 1

indianapearl Jun 9th, 2011 09:11 AM

Bravo for you and your family! I'm so glad you went with your heart and that you loved India -- an incredible country with wonderful people. Here's an article from today's NYT about how India has been developing its economy and the problems and solutions her citizens are making:

Craig Jun 9th, 2011 09:53 AM

Awesome thread - would love to hear more.

lcuy Jun 9th, 2011 10:07 AM

Yes, please tell us details. after all the pre-trip discussion, I'd really like to know!

Wondering also how the folks back home accepted it when you never sent them e-mails saying girls kidnapped, please send cash! ;-)

BostonHarbor Jun 9th, 2011 12:09 PM

I love the passion in your voice. More please AND pictures! What a wonderful and meaningful adventure you have had.

atravelynn Jun 9th, 2011 01:11 PM

Welcome back. What a meaningful trip for you and your children.

dgunbug Jun 9th, 2011 05:55 PM

Can't wait to hear more. I remember your thread prior to your trip. So glad the kids loved India.

JillianV Jun 9th, 2011 06:30 PM

Hi guys, thank you all for the comments and the support before I left for India. I don't think I would have gone if it hadn't been for all of you on here.

All of your experiences and blogs on Fodors, all of your positive messages and support helped me a lot, especially with the girls.

The whole trip we were with friends who organized things for us, helped us and opened up their homes to us. We spent one weekend at the Taj Lake Palace Udaipur just the family and it was a amazing experience.

But it also is very expensive since there were 5 of us, but the treatment we got was 6 star, it's a very romantic place and I can see couples, honeymooners etc spoiling themselves here.

I don't really know where to start and what to say, there is so much we are still discussing about the trip and so many thoughts still in our minds and hearts.

For me the biggest thing was seeing my girls mature in front on my eyes, to be honest I didn't expect them to love India as much as I did. In fact I expected my eldest to hate me for dragging her to India.

But the opposite has happened, India has brought us closer, I can't really explain it. The poverty and the struggle of daily life my kids saw I think has effected them on a deep level, almost in a spiritual way.

The changes in them after the first week where it was hard, very hard, where they all wanted to go back home on the next flight. Constant tears and complaining, to a suddenly not wanting to leave India was a bit mind blowing.

I don't really know what happened, and it's hard to explain.

We went to Kerala, Goa, Delhi, Agra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, we were based in Mumbai. Did a little bit of back tracking a few times but we didn't really mind that, as we were traveling at a very slow pace.

We are very lucky in that we have friends in India and we were welcomed into peoples homes to stay etc. We were in a way eased into India.

Mumbai is a great city, it is a rat race in a lot of ways, but if you give Mumbai a chance it sort of grows on you. I read a lot of tourist tend to get in and out of Mumbai, but I loved it.

As for the family and the negativity before we left, well when some of them picked us up at the airport they were shocked we were all so sad to be back home.

They were all upset that we decided to extend our trip and even tried to get the girls to get us to go back home, but the daughters would have none of it.

I still think a few of these people are a little upset at us, more so now that they can see we had such a wonderful time there.

When we got picked up at the airport the first statement was "We can't believe you are all still alive" I almost lost it at the airport. And I can't believe these people think they are educated.

Not really sure what else to say I don't want to keep ranting on and on, there is so much to type and so many thoughts. But like I have said we have already booked our tickets to India for November.

rhkkmk Jun 10th, 2011 05:26 AM

i for one would be interested to learn about what you did in kerela and more details about what goa was like...

i read both positive and negetive about goa, so i have mixed emotions about spending time there...

don't let your friends bother you... i find that is typical of people who have never travelled and who are in fact very "narrow" people.

dgunbug Jun 10th, 2011 09:48 AM

I am curious about what you saw and did in southern India and how you compared it to the Rajastan area. Were there any particular places you enjoyed more than others? Any particular hotel or restaurant recommendations or places you disliked? Those would all be helpful.

Half our family members and friends are appalled that we are going to India while the others think it is fascinating. We can't wait to go and know we will love our trip in September.

How wonderful that you had this time and experience with your daughters. These are the memories they will keep forever.

JillianV Jun 10th, 2011 04:40 PM

@rhkkmk - In Kerala we did the usual house boat cruise, we loved it, very chilled out and relaxing, we hired a houseboat for 24 hours. But you can book a house boat for longer, it's a good way to escape the hustle and bustle and recharge the battery's for a few days.

We visited the Paradesi Synagogue, it's a pity that a lot of India's Jews have left and gone to Israel, there are not many left now, but they are trying to restore it. With the help of the Indian government and also the Israeli's.

Went to Varkala beach as well, also the Chinese fishing nets but they don't seem to be catching a lot of fish, could be due to over fishing as well.

Went up to Ponmundi Hill Station as well very beautiful.

GOA:- I think I have mixed feeling about Goa to be honest, don't get me wrong we had a pretty good time laying on the beaches, enjoy the sun and the sea.

I think the thing that worked in our favor was that we went when the peak season for Goa was winding down and hence there weren't the hordes of young kids from the West looking to just party.

The beaches were quite empty and most of the time we had them to ourselves. But of course in India there is no escaping the touts, and one has to be pretty tough and stubborn in ignoring them.

We tried to hit a few beaches, went to Candolim Beach, Baga Beach which in reality is just a extension of Calangute, but Baga is way more quieter. Calangute is where the hordes of tourist are.

Went to Old Goa as well and saw some of the architecture, churches from the Portuguese era.

Also went to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception which is in Panaji, beautiful place.

I think we lucked out when we went to Goa, the weather was pretty good as well between 28 - 35c, it wasn't as busy as Goa can get during the peak times, things were just winding down.

It's an interesting place, but I think I love Kerala a lot more, although I can see why people like Goa as well.

If you want beaches, relaxing and lots of sun with a bit of sight seeing thrown in then Goa is a good place to head to.

But I think you are going to India in November? Around that time Goa really starts getting crazy, with tourist and kids wanting to party, do drugs etc.

@dgunbug - Southern India was very different to the Delhi - Rajastan area, we loved exploring Rajastan.

We stayed in a place called the The Desert Resort (Rajasthan Desert Safari Camp) in tents, it was a great experience and the food, hospitality was top notch. It is about 45kms from Jaisalmer and we did enjoy ourselves.

Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur was awesome, a massive structure and we think it's is close to one of the best maintained forts in India.

Jain Temple - Ranakpur, I think this place is definitely worth a detour, the beauty of the carvings, the temple itself is amazing. We were asked to remove any leather we were wearing etc, but I have heard that this rule isn't applied that strictly. We had a great time and we spent about 4 hours exploring the temple.

Neemrana Fort Palace, we went here and did the zip line (Flying-Fox) and it was a great adventure and the views are stunning, the kids had a ball and did it quite a few times. One thing here I was very impressed with the staff and the way they made sure all safety norms were stuck to, very professional.

We did a quite a lot of things, also remember we had a lot of time and we were traveling with 3 kids so we did take it nice and slow.

Also when we were there the weather was starting to warm up, but we did not find it too bad, yes it did get very hot up around the 40 - 45c mark, but we made sure we had plenty of water, sun cream, and also worked at our pace.

magical Jun 10th, 2011 11:10 PM

Glad you had a great time, and the kids loved it too.

India is constantly changing...we notice the changes every time we go. And yet, India is still the same in a lot of ways.
Ancient in many ways!

Of all the countries I have been to, I can honestly say India is the most interesting. India gets you "involved" , and there is no getting around it.

Waiting for more details of your trip when you get a chance.

indianapearl Jun 11th, 2011 05:58 AM

Did you get to see Kumbhelgarh Fort near Udaipur and Ranakpur? It's quite wonderful and not written up much in guidebooks.

rhkkmk Jun 11th, 2011 06:52 AM

we loved our time at is so unique....we went before the zip line..

JillianV Jun 11th, 2011 04:55 PM

@magical - You are so right India does get you involved, it's easily the most unique place our family has been to. It's a little like traveling through different countries, where the culture, the dress, the food, the religion is changing all the time. At the same time it is also like traveling through pages of history as India changes, it is such a amazing place.

@indianapearl - Yes we did go to the Kumbhelgarh Fort another wonderful experience in a sea of experiences. I wonder why not many people go to this fort, and the guide books do tend to ignore it quite a lot.

@rhkkmk - Are you going going again there? Do try out the zip line if you do go, was wonderful, and like I said the staff are very professional and safety is very important to them.

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