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Just how "different" is India?

Old Sep 20th, 2011, 12:37 PM
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Just how "different" is India?

We are looking into a trip to India, and I often hear that India is so overwhelming and all-encompassing and different etc. that people either love the country or hate it. (I'm guessing/hoping we'd fall in to the category of those who are intrigued by it because we like different travel experiences and prefer to immerse ourselves in diferent cultures.) We've done a lot of international traveling, including to a number of developing countries--Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Vietnam, Guatemala--where we've been off the beaten path in both large cities and into rural areas that don't normally see tourists. Is it the poverty, the smells, the dirt, the chaos, the contrasts, the architecture, the cultural expectations or what that makes people always say India is completely different? Or, is it mostly different to those who have a difficult time getting out of their own comfort zones and sacrificing some of their creature comforts to going with the flow and experiencing a new scene? I am just curious and would like to hear some perspectives on this. Thanks.
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 01:06 PM
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Hi,

I would advise to please visit this beautiful country with a positive mind.In the mist of all the points u mentioned above,India is a very historical,colorful & loving country.Take a trip to Delhi,Agra & Rajasthan & i assure u will be filled with joyful memories for the life time.Real India is a mixture of all the spices of life(these include the flavours of hot peppers along with the sweetness of cardamom).So to enjoy all the flavours of life one have to taste them both.
Wish u a memorable tip.
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 01:17 PM
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Hi Julie.

My wife and I will be in India for the first time shortly. We are visiting the Golden Triangle for about 1 1/2 weeks.

Like you we enjoy experiencing different cultures. Admittedly India has us feeling the most guarded/cautious given what we have heard/read about topics such as sanitation, scams, cleanliness, etc. But we believe there is only so much a visitor can/should do and are looking forward to exploring this country and interacting with its people.

I will try to remember to post some thoughts after our trip is completed. Thanks.
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 01:54 PM
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India is all of what you said. For anyone who has traveled without a sense of entitlement and instead has a sense of openness, wonder, curiosity, and friendliness, India will present a colorful, enticing, enriching experience. There is the poverty though. An Indian friend suggested that I go with an attitude of acceptance and decide ahead of time to give appropriately where money can be used well to help--which may mean giving once you are home again to a charity work. Take India for what she is!
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 03:41 PM
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here is my take after an 11 day trip in 2006 and an upcoming 25 day trip, all in the north...

it is fascinating, overwhelming, crowded, backward in some ways, lavish, cheap in all ways but hotel costs, poor but rich, huge, slow in movement, difficult to understand on some levels, religious, odd, and perhaps the most fantastic place i have ever spent any time...

there is extreme poverty, dirt, filth, cows wandering everywhere, dog and dog mess where you might not expect it, bicycles, motorbikes, cars coming down roads on the shoulder towards you, people walking across highways, fabulous markets with no refrigeration, dirty water, people bathing and ____ in rivers while also washing their clothing there....

yet there is some of the most fabulous buildings you have ever seen, many hundreds of years old, bright colors everywhere, good food if you are careful where you eat, unbelievable hotels both old and new, lovely kind people, great shopping, huge inconsistencies at every corner, people living on the streets, beggars and fabulously wealth.

some how it all works....

you must go and see it all for yourself. you will hate some experiences and some sights, but they will be far outnumbered by the fabulous sights and experiences that you will have...

we were very glad to have had the assistance of a driver for our 11 days in 2006 because he lightened the burden for us... on the upcoming trip we will again have a driver for about 2/3rds of the time but 1/3 we will be on our own except for limited help in places like varanasi.

an excellent place to start is delhi and the golden triangle area, with a side trip to varanasi if you have time...

we are also taking a 5 day side trip to kathmandu, nepal from delhi...
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 05:23 PM
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It's a different country with its own culture and history. It continues to hum along regardless of obstacles. I don't recall knowing anyone who "hated" visiting India. It moves at its own pace so you must be flexible. People there are kind and gracious, but like any travel, you must keep your wits about you and not be overly trusting.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 02:00 AM
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Julies I went to India with my kids and hubby and we had the most amazing time, we fell in love with the country and the people. I got some great advice from the people on this forum and helped me make up my mind about India.

Like you we were first timers to India and didn't quite know what to expect, but it was the best decision we have ever made. Yes there is poverty, pollution etc but all that is swept away by the magic that is India.

Please do go and travel with a open mind, India is the type of country that will teach you a lot about yourself and force you to see things differently. India is not like any country on Earth, the best I can describe it is you get on a plane in LA or anywhere and you land on Mars.

It's amazing, awesome, beautiful, dirty, polluted, crowed, everything you can say about India is true but also not true. I am sure you are going to have a great time, enjoy your trip if you do go.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 02:56 AM
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The hardest thing that hit most first timers is the filth, squalor & the stench.The disorder and the dirt,which one would invariably come across,that is overwhelming.So is the stark contrast between the rich & the poor.Get there & look at the beautiful India.You'll keep going back.
It'll open your eyes to another culture.The country that has changed the perspective of many a traveller.I'm sure you'll agree with me once you are done
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 08:24 AM
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Is it the poverty, the smells, the dirt, the chaos, the contrasts, the architecture, the cultural expectations...

It's all that and more - the different peoples, the different religions, the stark contrasts, the history, the food, the hundreds of different languages, the heat, and, especially, the different "Indias". Bangalore is not New Delhi, which is not Jaipur, which is not Dharmasala...

Just a tiny bit of history about both China and India will help greatly (I hope!) when you approach the vast populations of these two countries and their attendant ills. Both countries were able to increase their populations because of centuries of peace - China because of the 350 years of the Manchus and India because of the nearly as long duration of the Mughal Empire. Both empires fell to European and American expansion when the countries were fragmented and were unable to control their own destinies for about a couple of centuries.

I write this with no praise nor condemnation for any of the parties involved. History is history. It is what it is.

However, for myself, taking the longer historical perspective has helped to understand and appreciate the local cultures more. In today's India, I see millions of people trying to regain their past identity as well as reaching out to a brave new modern world. There are super duper engineers in Bangalore as well as holy men bathing in the utterly filthy waters in Benares.

Hope you don't mind my sharing my own perspective when I travel in Asia.

If you are anything of the adventurous type, as you seem to be, and are as open-minded as you seem to be, you will enjoy India. Do go!
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 02:26 PM
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Thanks much for all of the thoughtful replies.

I've seen immense poverty in other places (enough to often make me ashamed of the life of realtive ease I've had), and I've been in other places with markets with the meats sitting out in the sun with the flies buzzing around, and I've put up with beastly heat, and I've used the bushes for bathroom facilities, and I've hiked to remote villages on dirt paths, and I've stayed in places with no hot (or running) water, and I've been in places where the traffic was so crazy we ended up having a little old lady lead us across the street because we couldn't quite figure out how to make it across, and I've eaten street food in what were probably questionable places. And, I thoroughly enjoyed all of these experiences and don't regret going any of the places I've been. So, from what all of you have said, I think if we choose wisely as far as things to do and places to go, we'll enjoy India a lot. Now all we need to do is to make certain we can arrange sufficient time for this trip to happen. If we can, I know you'll be hearing a lot more questions from me. Thanks again.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 04:08 PM
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This is a great thread (and makes me want to visit India before it changes, although that won't likely happen in my lifetime )
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 07:35 PM
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in fact i sense the differences in india today from even 10 years ago are immense....

think call centers, computers, health centers, an emerging middle class... all recent changes...

20 years ago might as well have been 1920..
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 07:36 PM
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how did i forget cell phones and the like
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 10:35 PM
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julies,
From your insightful questions, it is clear to me that you are ready to take on a trip to India. India is big...in terms of size geographically, vast culturally---not just different culture from what you might be used to, but the differences within various parts of India. Variety of foods, climactic differences, diversity of people and cultures, and many languages (although they are all, mostly, from the Indo-European family of languages so they are all similarly connected to Sanskrit). And we have not yet talked about the many religions that exist in India.

When you decide to go, do plan a decent length trip and focus on one part of India that you can see comfortably. Do soak in the culture, and give yourself time to enjoy your trip.

One suggestion would be to check out a DVD called "Story of India" to get some insight into the vast history of the sub-continent that is India. Your local library probably has a copy of this DVD...it's about 2 years old.

As rhkkmk and others have mentioned above, India has everything....from poor to rich, from old to modern, super 5+ star hotels to dirty public latrines. And you can find enchanting palace hotels in big cities and small. You will get to see a huge democracy at work, which has a very long history of feudalism and monarchy going back basically to the start of Aryan civilization in North India and Dravidian civilization in South India. In India you can find whatever you want.

India is changing fast...however, India is huge so it will not be much different a few years from now. I see changes every time I go to India, yet it still feels the same over the last 40 years or so.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 01:46 AM
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There are some great books, docos etc on India. You should also get on youtube and type in India or Incredible India and see some great videos, created by toursit etc in India.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 02:32 AM
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OUTSOURCED best funny movie I have seen on what it is like.
Jeffcoat handles the ostensible cultural differences gingerly. The movie's approach to Outsourced, it was first an indie movie. about Indian culture www.rottentomatoes.com/m/outsourced

If u can look past sometimes seamy seedy material

u will find an amazing spiritual country of

beautiful people and places best in the world for me.

Compared to places in Haiti and Africa I have been

poverty is not too bad but if beggars shysters poor children

bother u to distraction I might skip it...

insuremytrip.com a must

mdtravelhealth.com India be VERY careful with food water

www.indiamike.com great site for planning your journey.


Happy Travels!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 02:38 AM
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One of the funniest things you will see but also very astute

Folks eat right handed and visit the loo/wipe with the left

Very sensible health measure when you think about it...

Careful not to offer your L hand to shake considered an insult

Will get a very chilly reception...
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 04:37 AM
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Quovadis--Thanks for the reminder about Outsourced. I saw it several years ago and loved it.

Now I have another recommendation--a book that I really enjoyed. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is a fun read and an interesting novel; I learned a lot about several of the different cultures in India and got some interesting insights.
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Old Sep 24th, 2011, 12:32 PM
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Julies, this is a great article that answers some of your question. It is from Indiamike, the best forum for advice on India:

http://www.indiamike.com/india-artic...dia-confusion/
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Old Sep 24th, 2011, 05:16 PM
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Julies make sure you give us and nice long trip reports, I love reading the reports gives you a different take on India, love to read how different people react to India.
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