Here are the places we visited in India and the posts for each one:
A summary of our family travels through India
During our time in India, we travelled a long indirect path from Delhi in the North to Bangalore in the South. We now have an appreciation for the huge size of India; we’ve hardly scratched the surface of this interesting and diverse country. Our trip through India has included a mix of cities, some quieter rural areas including the Goan coast and we have spent many hours on the trains (and platforms) meeting some interesting people along the way. We’ve had our picture taken countless times and are probably all over Indian social media – with a few more contacts on our WhatsApp and Facebook accounts.
India is a country of great contrast. We have seen people living under makeshift tarpaulin structures by the roadside, and in tin-roofed shanty-towns – the roofs held down only by large stones and assorted junk. In one such area, almost all of the dwellings sported satellite dishes! It appears that the supply of electricity and mobile internet betters that of clean water and a decent sewer; confused priorities of the developing world! Within the same square kilometre you could have modern high-rises, gated mansions and fancy cars.
The buildings including shops and dwellings are generally in a very poor state of repair – there is apparently no money or desire to maintain them, and we have seen many buildings, some still occupied, slowly disintegrating into the street with piles of rubble around, some below what used to be balconies. Almost everything, no matter how small or large is constructed the same way – reinforcing steel bars strengthen pillars of concrete roughly poured into timber surrounds which are then removed. A building is a matrix of such pillars with brick or block walls built in-between. Stairs are also concrete, workmanship rough and ‘finished’ buildings look as if they need, well, finishing.
Reinforcing bars are left sticking out of roofs and sides of most buildings – allowing for future extensions. Whilst sensible this is pretty unsightly. As for the electrics both inside and out, as an engineer, I’m shocked – none of the places we’ve stayed in (and few of the places we’ve eaten in) would meet any international standards. I’m sure this is different in the modern city buildings and classier hotels, so this comment may be unfair and should be treated as a budget travellers perspective…
There is a lot of rubbish (especially plastic) in evidence in waterways and along the roadside – in ditches and trapped in bushes. The noise and smell of traffic in the cities is almost unimaginable – sitting in a tuk-tuk with horns going on all around you, and traffic coming from all directions (including head-on) is quite an experience albeit one that you quickly get used to. Similarly, the lack of seatbelts. A few people wear facemasks to protect themselves from the dust and fumes, but the majority literally take it all in on a daily basis and no doubt suffer accordingly.
In India, as with much of southern Asia, they drive on the left, so crossing the road isn’t too stressful if that’s what you’re used to. Traffic lights sometimes aren’t working at all, or if they do, drivers don’t stop. The same is true of pedestrian crossings – don’t assume anything! Once there’s a small gap in the traffic, which isn’t often fast moving, you have to just go for it – once you start crossing, the traffic slows and flows around you, or if you’re lucky all lanes will stop. With young kids these road crossings were a bit hairy at first, but we soon got used to them, and felt pretty safe.
To be fair the Indians are very observant and tolerant drivers – we didn’t witness any shunts or altercations despite sudden U-turns, oncoming traffic, pot-holes, cows, sleeping dogs and just general chaos. People walk in the roads all the time (sometimes pushing wooden carts) and they are simply driven around. Manoeuvres that would get you a driving ban in many countries happen all the time and are tolerated by all road users. Road-rage? I don’t think it would even cross their minds!
You could be mistaken for thinking that the women of India stay at home, cook and clean and look after the children, but we witnessed a lot of women working, out of necessity, in the city parks, on roadworks and rail works hefting pick-axes, carrying heavy loads of mixed plaster and concrete on their heads and working in the fields alongside the men, reaping the crops and stacking hay the way it has been done for centuries. On the train journey to Hampi, we saw a very basic plough being pulled by two oxen. Living in a highly developed country, it is easy to forget that much of the world doesn’t have access to farm machinery.
We had one day of rain during our time in India – in Tala. In general though the sun shone with an agressive intensity soon after rising, and until sunset with very few clouds to give respite from the heat. A lot of sunscreen was consumed – especially in Goa. Slowly and with much protestation, the kids are getting better at applying it themselves!
Some of our favourite foods in India: Soan cake, Malai Kofta, Tali, Pancakes, Bananas, Coconuts, Nan, Roti, Parantha, Chicken Tikka, Peanut Masala, Lassi, Chai and of course the occasional Kingfisher Beer.
Foods missed: Sausages, pies, decent pizza, Cheddar cheese, fresh milk, black tea without sugar, cereal (although we bought the latter occasionally and had it with UHT milk when we had access to a fridge). The ability to self cater more is going to be high on our priorities when selecting accommodation going forwards.
The sun sets incredibly quickly and it is dark by 7pm, but still warm – with southern India being very hot (in excess of 40degC with little respite overnight). Goa had a very different feel to the rest of India, being a seaside resort for both Indian and foreign tourists, largely catholic and, unfortunately, almost devoid of the very useful tuk-tuks.
We didn’t quite manage to stick to our India budget – going over by 8%. The overspend was due largely to the cost of travelling around, which we could only guess at before we started our trip. We coud have travelled 3rd class on the trains – but I think we’re all glad that we had air conditioned carriages and space to move around a bit – a little bit of luxury on the long journeys!
Summaries from the kids
Elliot: The best bit of India was Goa, and the worst bit of India was Delhi because it was noisy and polluted and Goa was best because it had amazing beaches. In India it got as hot as 40 degrees in Hampi! I liked it a lot more in the quiet areas than in the big cities. Tala was brilliant because of the safaris.
Jessica: India was full of temples and traffic, my favourite places being the Taj Mahal, Amber fort, India gate, Jaipur’s central park and Pink City. The locals travel on foot, or by rickshaw/bus/train. No taxis for them! My favourite Indian meals are all the pancakes, Malai Kofta, Paneer tikka masala, chicken tandoori/tikka and the bread is delicious! The gifts or presents bought in India are my scarf, my balloon trousers and white top, Mum’s sarong, my Goan pens and my jewellery box containing Mum’s and my anklets.
The bananas are better here than in England. The best places were Goa and Tala/Bandhavgarh, and the worst easily Delhi because it was smelly, busy and holds the world record for the most polluted city in the world! Therefore, we only stayed 2/3 nights.
Jaipur had parks and Amber fort, Agra the Taj and Agra fort, in Bandhavgarh we did safaris and had our first, dry coconut, Goa was seaside, etc. Goa was enjoyable (for me) because of the songs playing into the night, the sea, and we didn’t just stay in Anjuna beach in north Goa, but went to Vagator and little Vagator too. In south Goa, we stayed near Varca and journeyed to its neighbour Benaudlim. Hampi had lots of temples, and a couple of bazaars.