Friday, January 04, 2008

Incredible India

Dirty, dusty, noisy, beggars everywhere, people pulling at your arms asking you to buy this or that, can't drink the water, no hot water in the hotels (OK, lukewarm) - Does this sound like the type of place you'd want to visit?
Well, let me tell you, in spite of all of this, Aki and I had a fantastic trip to India.
We were there the last 8 days of 2007.
Taj Mahal on x-mas day was pretty cool.

There were also helpful and friendly people who didn't want a thing. And the children, some of the brightest smiles you've ever seen. A delicious curry and nan could be had for a dollar fifty. All those cups of hot chai cost only 15 cents.
Beautiful and unforgettable sights are still fresh in my mind (eg. The Ganges River at sunrise).

Shopping (or should I say haggling) in the old bazaars was always a fun challenge. Seeing cows in the middle of busy streets and even on train platforms was something I never got used to. Wandering around an old village, exploring a back alley or just watching the people go about their daily business, there was never a dull moment. Another thing we liked was the "Ayurveda" (ancient Indian herbal medicine/healing) treatment which roughly translates to "Knowledge of long life".

India has to be the most exotic, unique and mystical country I've ever visited. I think it's a country that's easy to love and equally easy to hate. The poverty and corruption is so right there in your face it's hard not to feel for the majority of the billion plus (2nd only to China) people who live there and make just $100/month. However, India is a country on the rise, a country whose economy will only continue to grow stronger. It's a country full of bright young people and for these reasons I'm optimistic that poverty will slowly be diminished.

Have you heard the stereotype about "bad Asian drivers"? You hear that a lot growing up in the states and I always wondered what they were talking about. But then after traveling in Asia and after just returning from India,
I totally understand what they mean! :) LOL. Actually, the drivers in India may not be that bad, they may even be a bit skillful but their complete disregard for the safety of everyone, including themselves put a scare into me every time I hopped into a taxi or auto rickshaw. Every driver was fighting for pole position and wouldn't let up on the gas or their horns. One-way streets don't mean a thing there either. And driving at night with no lights on (maybe this was an attempt to save electricity) was pretty common practice too. But it was dirt-cheap, especially considering the price of gas there (which cost about $5 bucks a gallon or 150 yen/liter). A trip across town (15 minutes) usually only cost about a dollar. Of course, they'd ask for double that at first but you get to be pretty good pretty quick at bargaining. And in my case I've had some practice because my mom is the "Queen" of bargains, haha :).