During our time in Thailand, Leslie and I spent many hours over beers at Mr. Poong’s Bar discussing our next adventure. We deliberated long and hard between Burma and India, and China was even an option at one stage. But one day we discovered flights to Kolkata from Bangkok for $60, and the decision became an easy one. Besides, I’d been waiting to return to a country I’ve loved since my first visit 12 years ago, and it has been on Leslie’s travel bucket list for years. So decision made, and after a nervous wait for our Indian visas, we, after 4 wonderful months in Koh Yao Noi, said our sad farewells and hit the road once more.
I said India was exhausting. Here’s why:
Our Average Temperature: 33°C or 91°F. A high of 39°C. Very hot!
Our Total Distance Traveled: 3,609 miles or 5,809 km. That’s an average of 85 hot, bumpy miles a day for 6 weeks. Far!
Our Total Hours in public transport: 116. A lot!
The Break Down–
Train: 28 hours / 1,710 miles = avg speed 61 mph. Decent if asleep!
Bus: 43 hours / 1,547 miles = avg speed a terrifying 36 mph. Aaahhhh!
Taxi: 29 hours / 1,144 miles = avg speed a mere 39 mph. Shit, felt way faster at times!
Flights: 4 hours / 1,294 = avg speed 323 mph. More like it!
Rickshaw: 12 hours approx, avg speed about 2,409 mph, at least!!
The Other Breakdown– Leslie on a daily basis. Sorry love!
Okay, so the distances aren’t massive, but India moves slowly. The trains are efficient but rattle along at a modest pace. And the roads…what can I say other than horrendous. Buses are cheap, but painfully slow, hot and very uncomfortable. Taking a taxi might be a little quicker, but 5 times more expensive and way more stressful, with drivers dodging in and out of impossible gaps and playing chicken with anything coming the other way. No images, sorry…I was too scared.
But our most stressful journey was strangely the last. The bus from Jaipur to Delhi Airport was a manageable 5 hours. Easy, right? Wrong! Half the roads were under construction, and at one point when our psychotic driver thought the traffic was too heavy, he simply cut across the central divider, and for 5 miles dodged his way through the oncoming trucks, cars, buses and motorcycles…even oxen drawing carts had to swerve to avoid death. And all in the dark!! Guess he thought he was being clever. A younger me might have punched him on the nose, but luckily I’ve mellowed enough to hit him with only a few choice expletives. It was shocking, but we made it and lived to tell the tale, and only 2 hours late. Oh India!
Despite all this, I can’t deny that to travel across India is still great fun. The scenery, especially up in the lower Himalayas, is subliminal, and as long as you can hold your nerve while hugging narrow crumbling roads whose edges plummet hundreds of meters into canyons and raging rivers, then it’s well worth the stress.
Highlights of this crazy trip for me were: to visit the hill station of Darjeeling, rekindling my love for the Taj Mahal, hanging out with Tibetan monks in Dharamsala, including the Dalai Lama, hiking in the Himalayas at Mcleodganj, rafting the Ganges in Rishikesh, visiting some rural schools on assignment with Leslie in Rajasthan (article to follow), and crawling like an ant around Jodhpur Fort. Just click the links to read the posts and see some cool images.
Regardless of my love for India and the amazing experiences I’ve had there, India will always have its issues. I got myself into many debates with Indian people about the state of the streets and the poor service I found during the trip, and it raised some interesting questions, some of which will be debated in a soon to be published post. In it I’ll compare how I feel India has changed in the 12 years between my visits, and some dialogue with locals about how they feel their country is developing. Gonna get heated!!
As a nomad who’s traveled to almost 50 countries, some of them many times, I’m often asked, ‘where is your favorite country?’ It was always a close call between Peru and India, as both have given me some of my greatest travel experiences and memories, but when pushed, India came out on top. It is just so unique and spectacular that I have always loved it. But how do I feel now? Well, India is a kind of love it or hate it country, and most people swing one way or the other. I used to love it. Now, I’m torn. It offers some unbelievable experiences, but at the same time constantly tries its best to wear you down, so much so that I have to say my love is slipping. I understand that, having traveled now for 20 years, my patience isn’t what it once was, and maybe my expectations of India were perhaps too high this time. Sadly, I felt a little underwhelmed by some parts of the trip this visit. But…
Do I still love India? Yes, just about.
Do I hate it a little too? Hmm…yes, a little.
Will I ever go back? Absolutely, 100%. But it can certainly wait a while.
Would I recommend those who haven’t been to go? Without doubt, GO!!!
Have you guys been to India recently, or indeed, ever? I’m keen to hear your thoughts, and how you rate it as an experiential destination.
Love it or hate it? I’d love to know.
All Images By The Nomad
See more of my posts from India here:
India Is Her Name a poem