Welcome to 'World Journeys' (the blog)! Formerly known as 'The Greater World', World Journeys is written by Andrew Boland, a traveller approaching 40 who has visited 69 countries, and counting!
This blog features any travel I am doing, and thoughts, memories and the like from my past trips, not to mention photos. Please come back regularly to read about some of the interesting, and different places I have visited!
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Top Ten Destinations Number 2: India
If someone was to ask me what is one country in the world
that you should visit before you die, then I absolutely without hesitation
would say ‘India’. Why? When you go there for any length of time you will
certainly see poverty like you have never seen before. You will be confronted
with some stark realities – beggars on the train with no legs on trollies for a
start, endless slums. You will probably get sick. People will try to rip you
off, you will face long delays on the trains, and no doubt you will be overcome
by the sheer number of people in the cities.
Children in Darjeeling
However, it’s this dose of reality amongst the colours, the
smells, the beauty of India which completes the picture and you find yourself
faced with simply the most stunning, varied, adventurous country you can find
on this Earth. Well, top two at least! I swore after one trip to India I would
never ever return. I did twice, and would be up for another trip there any day
someone gave me the tickets! You don’t just learn about India, or the world
when you are there. You don’t just learn about history, colonialism, about the
irrepressible force of life. You WILL learn about yourself.
Calcutta - remnants of the British Empire.
Ok so I’m being or attempting to be rather deep and
philosophical here, but it is just the most amazing country on Earth. Over a
billion people now, rickshaws, spices, temples, trains, dodgy people, amazing
people, good honest people, cricket-mad, economy-growing, one day the world may
well revolve around India, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Travelling by train is my favourite way to get around, and
the Indian Railways are deservedly legendary. Yes, they don’t go very fast and
you can experience big delays (my first time at Delhi station I heard a train
being announced as 24 hours late for example), but they are the life and soul
of India. People cook on the train, travel inside the carriages, on top of the
carriages, between the carriages…
Gateway to India, Mumbai.
The food is spicy. There’s no way around that if you’re like
me and haven’t even the slightest tolerance towards spicy foods, however I did
find milder dishes in most places. If you like a curry, well, I don’t need to
complete this sentence.
As for highlights. Living a day in India is a highlight.
Nevertheless, I found Mumbai to be my favourite big city in India. You can see
the home of Mahatma Ghandi, the gardens are full of people playing cricket, the
bay has something epic about it and Victoria train station is really stunning.
Goa is wonderful to get away from the ultra-craziness of it
all. You can party, or if you go down south in Goa you can relax with a lot
more privacy. The beaches are as good as they get in India, even if you do have
to share them with the odd cow.
Delhi is, in all fairness, a slice of hell, so naturally
where I spent the most time in India. It’s the central hub to most of the
country, it’s big, polluted, crazy. I arrived there late one night in 1999 for
my first taste of India, and believe me I won’t forget that moment. Leaving the
airport to see thousands of people at around midnight waiting for loved ones to
exit behind a tall fence.
But Delhi is not all bad. There is good eating, and you can
find the backpackers’ area not so far from the station. Of course you don’t
want to hang with backpackers all the time you are away from home, but in the
midst of the craziness, and Delhi’s traffic is out of this world (the horns
never stop in India wherever you are) the backpackers’ area is almost a bit of
a safe haven.
But there’s a bit to see and do as well, from the Red Fort
to Qutab Minar, and the beautifully elegant Baha’i temple.
Agra is a few hours south by train, and is famed primarily
for the Taj Mahal. Give it its dues, it’s stunningly beautiful and not to be
missed. I stayed at a little, cheap guesthouse just literally around the corner
from the Taj when I was there in 1999. And then I saw my first Bollywood film
the afternoon after I saw the Taj in the morning. Oh yes, don’t miss a taste of
Bollywood whilst in India!
Varanasi. On the Ganges. Up at 5am in the morning to take a
boat on the river as the sun rises. That’s what it is all about. Another sacred
and special place in India. Beautiful, crazy, with more alleyways than you can
poke a stick at. The life of India is the Ganges, and the BEST place to view
it, experience it is Varanasi.
Amritsar and the Golden Temple. The centre of the Sikh
faith, a golden temple surround by water. Unless the water is drained for
cleaning as it was when I was there. I went by fire truck to the temple. It was
Darjeeling – fancy a ride on a toy railway? Who doesn’t? Up
in the mountains where it’s a lot colder, in a charismatic town with a Tibetan
There’s so much more too… but there’s only so long I’m
prepared to make a blog post. GO TO INDIA. I can’t promise you won’t regret it,
but it will change your life in ways you might not have ever expected! If you
want to know a little more about some of my experiences in India, then: