This article is based on a recent 3 week trip that I took to India. This was my first time visiting the country and this is what I learnt.
I had seen before leaving on a number of travel websites that it is recommended to take ear plugs to India if you are traveling there as a visitor. As this is something that I normally use at home, this was something I brought with me, but I was interested to see why it was so recommended.
My experience of noise in India came in three different types.
The first was the incredible noises I heard whilst in Goa. This came in the form of the amazing noise that was created by the wind as it came in from the ocean, through the palm trees and up and around my beachside accommodation. This was truly an incredible sound to wake up to.
The next set of remarkable noises I experienced would be in New Delhi. This is probably the type of situation that the travel writers were recommending ear plugs for. It was loud, very loud. The principal noises that would keep you up at night include the sound of vendors disassembling their stalls and then reassembling them in the morning. Surely there must be a way to keep them up the entire time? The other major noises that I experienced were the sound of vehicle horns, which persist throughout the night and the chorus of stray dogs barking which can be very loud at times. We will see more on this shortly.
The last remarkable noises that I experienced were whilst camping in Alsisar. This included the incredible sound of silence that you would hear between 07:30 and 09:00 after the music had stopped and before most of the festival goers had awoken. The moments of silence were breath taking. The other major noise was what I believed to be the sound of cows but was in fact a nomadic goat herder passing by with his ensemble of adorable but very loud goats.
Overall the noises you experience in India are incredible, I have mentioned but a few in my description here.
2. Stray animals
The stray animals, principally the large number of roaming cows was something that I knew about but that I was not fully prepared for when I saw it with my own eyes.
I hope my list is complete, but in total I remember seeing stray cats, dogs, cows, pigs, camels, donkeys and chickens. These are animals which in most other countries are highly domesticated and not seen outside of agricultural or domestic settings.
Overall, you have to visit to see with your own eyes, as nothing can prepare you for the sight of numerous cows walking along extremely busy streets and highways in a major metropolitan area. The sight is truly incredible.
The toilet situation was something that I read a lot about before visiting and not much of it was good. That being said, I thought all of the facilities that I came across were of a decent enough standard, taking into account that India is a developing country.
The main issue that I encountered on a far more frequent basis was the hand washing, or rather lack of hand washing facilities. I found these to be on the whole largely inadequate and more often than not lacking soap or a place to dry your hands afterwards. This is especially problematic in India, as it is a country with a lot of cuisine that you eat with your hands. Overall, this is only a minor problem; just remember to pack hand gel and to bring it out with you.
This was probably the the thing that most blew me away. The incredible friendliness of the Indian people knows no bounds. I am not just talking about the friendliness of people who are providing a service to you, or hoping to provide you a product or service.
The standard of English among the general population is phenomenal. Just walking along a street or waiting at at train station people will talk to you and ask you questions. I have to say in the whole time I was in India I never felt under threat or like I was under duress to comply with anyone’s demands.
Overall, the friendliness of the people you will encounter whilst in India is truly remarkable. Just remember that when you are talking to people on the street that some of these people have a product or service that they are trying to nudge you towards, so speak to them and have a good time, just don’t comply with any of their demands. That being said, the majority of the people you encounter who are friendly are sincerely interested in who you are and where you are from and what you make of India as you pass through their country.
I like to eat a lot of Indian food when I am at home, so the food was a big aspect of why I decided to visit India. I was expecting the standard of cuisine to be very high and for me it was even higher than that.
The main treat that I picked up that I had not experienced before was the delicacy of enjoying an aloo paratha in the morning for breakfast. Pictured above is one of my morning aloo paratha’s which I would regularly wash down with a delicious cup of chai.
The tea in India is also of an incredibly high standard and I would encourage anyone who travels to India to try a few cups from restaurants and also to buy a cup from the walking vendors known locally as chai wallahs. One of the cups that I bought from a vendor in New Delhi is without question the nicest cup of tea I have ever drunk.
The main curry dish that I sampled that I had not enjoyed before was the vegetable kolhapuri. This is a fantastic dish that has all of the key elements that make up a great curry. The spices and the aroma are hot and fragrant, whilst the sauce is thick and delicious making for an all-round great curry.
It is impossible to talk about food in India without talking about the prevalence of vegetarian lifestyles in this country. As a lifelong vegetarian, the UK and Europe can feel like a lonely place for this choice of lifestyle. India is the only country I have ever been to where the vegetarian menu in restaurants is almost always as big and is often larger than the number of meat options. This is truly a country where being vegetarian is totally mainstream.
Overall, if you like great food, you should visit India. If you like vegetarian food, you must visit this country.
6. Work ethic
I had a pretty good idea that like most developing countries, people in India probably work a lot harder for less money than people in developed countries. But I was not prepared for what I came across. The owner of the first accommodation I stayed in seemed to be awake and working whether you arrived at 06:00 am or if you were getting back in from a night out after midnight. He was seemingly doing these hours 6 days per week and would also pop in on Sunday. I also heard anecdotal evidence from waiters that I spoke to that their day would start at 05:00, they would have a two hour lunch from 11:00 and that their day would start to wind down at 23:00 but that it could be later if they were needed. These are simply phenomenal hours that people are putting in. The work ethic is simply incredible.
That being said, in and amongst the hard working and intrepid workers, you do see instances of laziness, sending two people to do a job that one person could do and sloppy workmanship. But the overall trend is towards a country where the vast majority of people work extremely hard.
7. Incredible potential
One of the main things that I realised about India after visiting for the first time was the incredible potential of this nation. If you have so many hard working, intelligent people who speak great English in one place, that is a recipe for becoming a successful nation. The country was probably poorer that I expected it to be and there are some instances of poverty particularly that which afflicts children that nothing can prepare you for. But I would say overall, the country is full of people who care deeply about ensuring that these problems don’t go unsolved. India is an incredible nation with tremendous potential and could one day be the richest and most powerful nation on earth.
What you need to know
This was an article based around 7 things I learnt after visiting India for the first time in December 2017. India may be a very loud country, with stray animals and questionable toilet facilities. But but it is also a country with a friendly population, incredible food, an unbelievable work ethic and tremendous potential. Overall, I would highly encourage anyone to visit this great nation.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Have you visited India, if you did, what did you learn on your first visit?