AsiaIndia

A quick note on India

India Travel Blog

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India is a place where beauty and ugliness strongly stay together. It's very dirty, noisy, dusty, full of annoying scams but also such a colourful and beautiful place with its nature and rich heritage from the history. That's how so many travelers love it but hate it at the same time I guess. It's chaotic but somehow has its own harmony (just like the way traffic works there) as well. The conflicts and contrast within it are quite intense, so does their hierarchy.

Surprisingly, I didn't have too much culture shock as I had expected when I stepped into this country (BUT I had more reverse cultural shock when I was back in Taiwan). Maybe it was because I heard too many dramatic experience and things about India from other travelers before. Besides the chaos, dirt, cows, noise, and men just pee everywhere in the street, I heard many scary stories about getting robbed even by the police, having the worst diarrhea ever in a long-hour bus journey and had to shamelessly shit on the bus from time to time, getting raped by the guest house owner, getting sick or bitten by the animals there ( and was in a great danger of getting rabies) but the local hospitals all looked terrifying and deadly untrustworthy. Many travelers went to India only got to see what Indian emergency rooms and toilets looked like because of suffering from non-stop vomiting and diarrhea. I am glad that non of these happened to me.

All the major problems travelers have to encounter there, it didn't happen to me and my European friends, or at least, not too much (My friends and I even tried a lot of street food and tea there, 真是不怕死). We were quite lucky.

The first thing I noticed when i arrived in India was the smell (even on the plane flying there). It was the smell of dirt, uncertain rotten things, urine, food with strong flavour, excrement, trash, fresh vegetable, sweat, and the smell I've never experienced before. It's out of my knowledge to put them in words. Although most of the smell couldn't be called as "fragrance", I sort of agree what Gregory D. Robers described it as "the worst good smell in the world" in his book Shantaram.

And then, it was the traffic. The traffic there was awesome. The whole street was full of horns, non-stop. 99% of the cars in the street all drove in an aggressive way (and the rest 1% were hair-raised tourists in their rental cars) in India. I never knew how these racers figured out who should pass first, sometimes it was decided by gestures (including "asshole, let me pass first" gesture, but most drivers just ignored all kinds of gestures), sometimes louder/longer horn or bigger cars won, but sometimes I guess you just have to believe in your 6th sense or instinct. The most scary and unaccepted thing for me in the beginning was there were no lanes in many places, Indian drivers were all magicians who made 6 lanes out of 2-lane space. In other words, many cars drove just right towards us in the speed of 50 km/hr, at a heavy traffic loading city center. I am not kidding but I thought I could get killed for so many times. As when it comes to crossing a road, I had to brace myself to walk out in front of oncoming traffic. But it was not like Vietnam, cars would sort of slow down for me. Cars never slowed down in India except for the traffic jam.

Before going to India, I read a lot about it. There's a bunch of advice for a female traveler on how to behave and dress properly in this conservative country.

Low cut, tight-fitting shirts, tank tops, shorts or skirts that show too much legs are considered as inappropriate attire for a woman there. Friendly conversation with male strangers in public would be confused as flirting. This long list of advice goes on and on but I tried my best to keep everything in mind for the safety. As soon as I got out of the airport, many men started to stare at me... (To be continued)


Morle says:
Nice blog and good writing. I had kind of a reverse culture shock as well when I came back from India a few weeks ago, so I can totally relate to that. And about the traffic, yes, it was crazy indeed, I sometimes was close to writing my last will while on a bus or rickshaw :-)
And great that you mentioned Shantaram, it´s one of my most favourite books and I remember the part where he wrote about the worst good smell in the world.
Well, I´m planning to go to India again this summer (but not only because of the smell :-) )
Posted on: Apr 20, 2010
parabellum says:
Thanks for such a penetrating review Sabrina! :)
Posted on: Apr 02, 2010
sabrinac says:
Ha ha! Try India then! I thought of getting a driver's license in India so that I could be "invincible" in driving. Btw, the city buses in Calcutta all had no doors and seemed never to stop for passengers, they only slowed down. Passengers have to run and jump to get on. However, during my entire stay, I never mastered getting on a bus.
Posted on: Apr 02, 2010
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