India is awe-inspiring and life-changing. We planned our entire trip specifically to include Holi – The Festival of Colour. That was definitely a highlight. The country is nothing like the stereotypes that are portrayed by the media. We expected to arrive to so much poverty and disparity, only to be welcomed by its unrivalled beauty and diverse attractions that largely outweighed any negative depictions.
India offers an equal dosage of old and new, traditional and modern, adventurous and serene. There is something for everyone.
The original Holi Fest can’t be beaten
The entire country takes a break from their daily lives to partake in the tradition of throwing coloured flour. Days before the event, every city is beautifully decorated with ribbons and colourful mosaics which are painted onto buildings. We were lucky to celebrate Holi with some local children who lived near to our hotel. The joy and look of enthusiasm on the children’s’ faces, during the event, made the experience all the more spectacular.
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The Taj Mahal’s architectural beauty is breath-taking. It’s without a doubt, a must-see attraction. I will never forget sitting in the gardens just staring at it, not even realising that hours had passed by.
Also great to see is the Amber Fort in Jaipur. The fort was built on top of a large hill and overlooks structured floating gardens (which were designed to look like a carpet). We trekked to the fort on elephant back!
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The food will steal your heart
Indian food is incredible. It took a while, adjusting to having curry for breakfast but the variety and range of dishes will entice even the fussiest of eaters.
There is always something new to try and experiment. Many of the restaurants we ate at had an open-plan kitchen so we were able to watch the chef prepare our food, and get a whiff of spices and other ingredients – always fresh and usually made with seasonal vegetables.
Indian cuisine is not just about simply eating a curry; emphasis is placed on the preparation of the food, the presentation, and the etiquette involved with eating certain dishes. One restaurant used underground fire pits to cook dishes wrapped in banana leaves. The dish would arrive at your table as a steaming hot, banana leaf parcel, and the chef would stand next to you while you’re eating to discern if you enjoyed it or not. The food is also quite affordable – we were able to have a three-course meal for two at a hotel for about R120.
3 Tips for travellers visiting India:
Keep an open mind
Travelling in India can be quite a culture shock, especially if you’re travelling to rural parts of the country. Hawkers may pester tourists and sometimes this can be quite invasive but it helps to understand that these people are desperately trying to make a living.
Do your research
It helps to research cultural practices and customs but don’t let the research govern your opinion of what to expect in India. A lot of the travel blogs I read before my trip warned about various sordid elements prevalent in India and yet I experienced none of these on my trip.
Shopping in India is extremely addictive so you’ll need to pack light to make space for all your new purchases. We had fun shopping at street bazaars.
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Did you enjoy this story compilation of India? Find more photos of Simone’s trip on her Instagram feed via this link.
Photos by Simone Franks