Again, I’m just going with some random perspectives on what I saw and experienced… very much train of thought. You can see the pictures I took here.
- •The people are incredibly nice. Often, they want to practice their english with native speakers, so you will find yourself being engaged in conversation with everyone.
- •Even though you may be tempted, DO NOT ORDER A STEAK AT ANY RESTAURANT. It’s not that they will be offended. If it’s on the menu, it’s there for a reason. It’s not going to be good, though. I told a friend I was going to India and going to have a steak, so I felt obligated. It’s not that I wanted to offend anyone, I thought it would be ironic. Little did I know the levels the irony would take. It was the most dreadful piece of meat I’ve seen. Not only did that cow die of old age, it must have laid alongside the road while someone performed some ceremony for days on end.
- •Chinese food is really good there. India is part of Asia and pretty much every restaurant had some “traditional” asian cuisine on it, but prepared with very subtle Indian spices.
- •If you like Indian cuisine, you will be in heaven. Most places offered sampler meals. It can get pretty hot, so be prepared. Also, it appeared that the majority of people ate vegetarian. So, you will be asked (or not, so prepare to ask for) “veg” or “non-veg”.
- •Enjoy the ride where ever you go… the roads are packed with toy cars that make MG’s look huge. Well, about 1/3 of the vehicles are “cars”, another 1/3 are powered (kerosene more likely than not) rickshaws and the remainder being scooters. Helmets aren’t really even suggested and don’t be shocked when you see little kids sitting up front on the scooters. The Britt’s planned all the road ways so you’ll see everyone on the wrong side of the road, but side is really relative there. The lines are more suggestions than real restrictions. Think New York city with 3 times the honking, more chaotic driving, but with none of the road rage. Yep… again, see bullet number 1. Honking is just the way they let everyone know they are there. No one yells or screams, everyone is relaxed. They even honk at the traffic cops who sometimes try to direct traffic. It’s all a game. It’s more fun at night. There are no orange flags, flares or reflectors if there is a breakdown. Trucks just carry football size rocks in the back and lay them out around the vehicle as they fix a flat, for example. When they are done, they just drive away leaving the rocks in the road. Two incidents worth noting:
- →I saw only one accident. It looked like a bus hit a scooter. Everyone helped move the scooter out of the road. The driver was walking around and didn’t look seriously hurt.
- →I saw only one fight as a result of some traffic incident. Two men were in each other’s faces raising their voices and gesturing at the vehicles. A group of people gathered around them. Just as it looked like they were going to escalate into a physical altercation, they both broke out into big grins, waved at each other and returned to their vehicles. It was like they put the show on for us as a joke, but just couldn’t keep it up.
- •If someone offers, go sight seeing. My trip was 11 days with (obviously) a weekend in the middle. Get the vendor/company you are visiting to take you on a trip. They either a) want your business or b) want to keep your business. Most of them probably never will see the sights on their own, so they will enjoy it, too.
- →On saturday, we went on a tiger safari. Now, I’m sure I was safe the entire time, but it felt more like if Jurassic Park was set in the backhills of Kentucky. The bus was an old city bus that was closing in on 40 quicker than I am and our main source of protection was the chain link fence that went over the class of the windows. Well, all the windows except the driver window. I guess he was trained in special martial arts he could employ in the case of a Bengal tiger breaking through the windshield. The park was divided into sections with man made stone walls with gates made up of more chain link fences and steal sheets slid back and forth letting the bus through. It was actually pretty exciting (in a good way). The only ohmygodwhathaveIdone moments were when we went down a blind turn at the bottom of a hill and came face to face with a bus coming right at us (no edges/side rails on these loose gravel/dirt roads) and when the “tour guide” standing on the steps by the door (right behind my chair) opened the door so some guy could get an uninterrupted shot of the fully grown male tiger walking next to the bus. YES! YOU READ THAT RIGHT! He opened the door with the tiger right there. I quickly determined the kids looked like easier prey than me and slouched down in my chair waiting for the screams. Nothing… the tiger and tour guide were in on the joke together or he had just ate when the last bus came through.
- →On sunday, we went and toured some palaces dating back a few hundred years. They were really interesting and, surprisingly, the Britt’s did a decent job keeping them up after they took over. The odd part about this visit was, while waiting in line (5 hours from Bangalore), I ran into 4 people from AOL who I used to work with (one from here in Columbus). They were in Bangalore on business and decided to go site seeing, too. Makes you think the world’s a little smaller…
- •Learn to barter… if you are going to buy souvineers, do not pay full price. This is one of the countries (like 99% of the world) that assume you will barter with them. Don’t be nervous. Determine what you want to spend, offer less, don’t be rebuked when they act insulted and talk about their family, etc… When it’s all done and if you buy something, compliment them on the item and let them know you think they both got a fair deal. It’s part of the experience. You can make it bad or enjoy it. If you don’t like something, just walk away. But if you look and try, you can get decent deals on hand crafted silver, wood carvings and other fun stuff