India has always seemed an exotic and fascinating place to me so when a group of friends said they were planning a trip I knew it was finally my moment to see the country and make a life long dream come true. It was a chance to visit this magical country and see its beauty for myself!
The biggest dilemma is what to see, as the country is vast and varies hugely from north to south. If you’ve never been somewhere before everything is, of course, new and amazing, especially in a country so unlike any other, as is India. This trip was centred around the more Northern areas of the country and took in some of the iconic cities and historic sites, including of course the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple. A normal length vacation will only enable you to cover so much so a return trip is probably a must. India is among the greatest places I’ve ever travelled to despite the long and at times arduous journey, but the moment we arrived at our first stop it all seemed incredibly worth it. The beauty of the country the sights, sounds, tastes and smells are all an absolute treat.
As you walk past street vendors you can’t help but be sucked in by the delicious scents wafting through the air. Sweet, homey, cosy chai vapour drifts from the large vats, as you watch locals huddled around enjoying their cup. You can’t help but imagine that you are part of their group and instantly want to join in. Chai is certainly something you won’t be disappointed with. A warm cup of chai on an Indian evening is just so satisfying. If chai is not your preferred flavour don’t worry there are numerous tea options, from traditional black tea to fruity infusions. In addition to the distinctive smell of chai, the aroma of spices and incense drifts through the air at all times. A quick stop into a local shop and you’ll be making space in your bag to bring as many of them home with you as you can.
Naturally, the smells lead to things to taste. You simply can’t have one without the other and the tastes of India are amazing, to say the least. Curry like you’ve never had it before, garlic naan that melts in your mouth and sweet mango lassi to wash it all down. In the north of India, the dishes are primarily vegetarian, but a lack of meat doesn’t mean a lack of flavour. Rich and creamy butter paneer, tangy dal fry and delicious korma. The options are endless, combinations you never knew existed and you’ll be anxious to bring them back home with you. Hence, the trip to the spice shop.
The sights are truly mesmerizing, colourfully dressed people are everywhere and almost all of them have a big smile on their face, happily welcoming you to their city. And of course the cows! They are literally everywhere, in the streets, on the sidewalks, outside restaurants and homes, you can’t look at India without seeing cows. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust, there is so much to take in. When we stepped onto the balcony of our hostel in Rishiskesh, our first stop, I saw a side of India I’d never imagined. Lush green hills, the rush of the Ganges river, and muted pastel colours surrounded us.
The sounds of India take some getting used to, but in some way, I missed them when I left. There is constant noise, people talking, men trying to sell various items on the streets. There is always someone honking a car horn, always. But if you listen closely there are the more gentle sounds as well, the prayers coming from mosques, the birds chirping, and the children playing in the streets. It is those sounds that lulled me to sleep at night and that I miss.
If you are an adventure seeker India is the ideal place for you and not just because of the diversity of its landscape. India is a land of contrast, at once chaotic and serene, spiritual and industrious, opulent and yet full of deprivation. It is a land and a culture that truly assaults your senses and makes you aware of them as never before. Embracing this experience and being more in touch with your own senses will affect how you perceive the world around you and how you absorb it.