India’s tourism motto is “Incredible India” and their advertisements show dazzling scenes of the Taj Mahal, wild tigers, the imposing Himalayas, medieval forts and brightly dressed locals. From these carefully selected images one would conclude that India is no doubt incredible.
India can be a challenging place to visit with shocking poverty, relentless touts, overcrowded trains and almost certain gastro-intestinal illness awaiting all visitors.
Some travelers use the acronym:
One thing I know is that people who have traveled to India always have strong opinions and crazy stories that would be unbelievable if they all were not so similar. People I know who have been there either love it or hate, with little in between.
When we told our friend and Indian travel veteran Joe that we were thinking about going, he shook his head and said, “Kristi will hate it,” with emphasis on the word hate. “Haaaaaate it,” he reiterated. As he told us some tales from his travels, he’d refer back to his original assessment and say again, “Haaaate it,” while shaking his head.
“Why do you like India so much?” we asked Joe.
“Because it is filthy.”
Not really the response I expected, doesn’t exactly sell India for me. I can just see India’s new slogan now.
Having said that, here are a series of pre-trip thoughts and expectations and two goals I have for the trip.
I fully expect that at some point I will step in cow poop on a city street.
It seems to be a certainty that I will not only get stomach sick in India, but the degree of my gastrointestinal illness will make me wish for death. I just hope that when it hits me I am near a bathroom and that I am able to loose a couple of pounds through the ordeal, as I am a little chubby right now and need to get down to something approaching my target weight before my Disney Cruise in December.
From my reading I have learned that alcohol is not widely available, and I am fairly certain that there will be a hot day when I am tired of touts and touring and all I will want is a cold beer and no beer, cold or otherwise, will be available.
I really don’t know if I will miss eating beef, but I do know that when I return to Oklahoma I am going to eat a steak and it will be amazing. I am planning to be somewhat of a vegetarian in India – we will see how that works out.
I expect and hope to see a dead body floating down the Ganges.
I am sure that at some point I will lose my patience with the touts, hassles and demands for baksheesh.
I expect to be awoken before sunrise by the earsplitting call-to-prayer of a muezzin blasting out over crackling speakers.
I expect that at some point I will eat a McDonalds chicken sandwich, fries and a chocolate shake, and it will be one of the best meals of my life. I almost never eat Mackers when I’m in the states, but something about a chicky sandwich and chocolate shake is pure nostalgic heaven after some time on the road.
I am pretty sure people will stare at my blonde wife a lot and most likely want pictures with her. All across China and several times in the middle east, locals would hand me their camera and go pose with her. They didn’t want pictures with me which made me sad – so very sad. On one occasion at the Pyramids of Giza, some guy wanted Kristi to hold his baby while he took their photo. She is a celebrity overseas.
Goal #1 – To not be robbed by a monkey.
I am still bitter about the last time a monkey robbed me. If a thieving primate comes after my stuff again, I will not hesitate to whack it with a stick or throw a stone at it. I really hate monkeys. From what I understand, you are more likely to be robbed by a monkey than by an Indian.
Goal #2 – To not die in a terrorist attack or at the hand of religious zealots or during an anti-American demonstration.
Some members of my family are nervous about me going to India and think that if I am going overseas, it ought to be some place like New Zealand. If I die in India, it needs to be dramatic, like falling from the fort walls in Jaisalmer, eaten by a tiger or drowning in the Ganges with Hindu pilgrims. If I die in a terrorist attack, at the hands of Al-qaida – Pakistan or at the hands of a roaming gang of street kids, my relatives will shake their head and say, “I told him not to go there.”
I can just see my grandmother, parents, their friends, dressed in black at my funeral, shaking their heads and saying, “I tried to warn him. You go to India, the Middle East, Mexico, pretty much anywhere not America, and you die.”