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How do I introduce a web page on some of the amazing encounters to be had in India? I could recount some history, tips, advice...but you could read that in books, or on-line. To have a true appreciation of what India is all about there's really no substitute for the experience itself (in fact, I'd prescribe it).
It can be a little over-whelming at first, but I've attempted to give a feel for the place, by distilling some of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and emotions that go towards making that experience: one that is second to none. (An indexed photogallery can be accessed at the end of these descriptions)
SIGHTS OF INDIA
Temples, great and small, mingling with architecture from the British Raj; women in fabulously colourful saris with henna'd hair, tending paddy fields,mixing concrete, building roads, washing clothes/children, and sifting grain. Rickshaws, buses, Ambassador Classic cars, bicycles, trucks and camel carts; all vying to be first away at the traffic lights, soon swerving and weaving past impervious holy cows. Mum, Dad and two kids; four-up on a narrow-wheeled motorbike, ignoring the roadside mounds of crash helmets for sale in the city. Market stall barrows piled high with fruit/veg'/eggs; a huge, half-built shopping mall looming out of the fog on the outskirts of Delhi. Dhobi wallahs bashing clothes on rocks in the river; shops crammed with stock, piled high to the ceiling; while pigs and cows feast on rubbish tips. Waiting at a level crossing as the endless trucks of a freight train rumble past. The almost biblical scene of oxen, goats and camels, clustered in front of a Rajasthani homestead; infants playing in the dirt, perilously close to the road; dancing girls balancing flaming pots on their heads. Bicycle repair shops; garage mechanics surrounded by mountains of old lorry parts; strips of foil-sealed sweet packets, fluttering on stalls; men spitting the juice from chewing paan. Fields of rice and dhal stretching away into the horizon in a verdant tapestry. Handblock print textile factories; marble inlay workshops; gem-polishing equipment; fabulously intricate paintings and your name on a grain of rice; and the impossible orchestration of hundreds of threads in baffling hand-operated looms. Arthurian mists over early-morning lakes; dense jungle with occasional sightings of chital and langurs, with the promise of a tiger. Glorious representations of Hindu deities, such as Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesh, from enormous bronzes to windscreen stickers. Diamond-shaped kites flying with eagles above the rooftops of Varanasi; teetering stacks of wood on the steps of a cremation ghat; heaps of marigold garlands, sandalwood and shrouds.
Sunrise over the Ganges and sunset on Khajuraho.
SOUNDS OF INDIA
The chime of a prayer bell; the marriage of sitar and tabla; the moo of a nomadic cow, first thing in the morning; the cacophonous clatter of the looms; the laughter of children in the countryside; traffic horns announcing an imminent over/undertaking manoeuvre; the haunting sounds of the jungle at dawn; the shrill bicycle bells of the cycle rickshaws; the insistent luring cry of the shopkeepers; the splash of oars in the Ganges and the crackle of flames from the funeral pyres; the baying of a camel; the distant alarm call of a spotted deer; the rumble of a generator as it kicks in at a power drop; the exotic tune of a snake-charmer; the ubiquitous call of "Garam Chai."
TASTES OF INDIA
Sweet/salted lassis, masala chai, Kingfisher beer and Pipers' Indian whisky; samosas, chapatis, poppadoms, naan breads, dosas and puris. Proper lime pickle, breakfast masala omelettes, pistachios and cashews; after dinner sugar-coated minty fennel seeds; the self-contained joy of a thali; coconut , syrup, and fruits.
Above all, the most fabulous range of curry dishes you'll ever have.
SMELLS OF INDIA
Incense, cow dung, boiling masala chai, diesel, sandalwood carvings, freshly cooked street food, ayurvedic massage oils, tar, elephant dung, wood smoke, roses, recently poured concrete, the ink of the Hindustan Times, musty mounds of cloth in textile shops, musk and patchouli, the sparking electrics of auto-rickshaws and mouth-watering restaurant aromas.
EMOTIONS OF INDIA
Heart-racing excitement at the majestic vision of a tiger; terror at the head-on approach of a Tata lorry; voyeuristic fascination at the funeral ghat, frustration at the overly-keen touts and salesmen; bewilderment in the back streets of Varanasi; naughty school kid dormitory spirit on the overnight sleeper train; the humbling privilege of taking part in a ritual; delight in the gentle sway of an elephant ride; guilt/pity/irritation at the persistent street beggars; genuine wonder at the grandeur of the Taj Mahal; amusement at the antics of the Langur monkeys; and incredulity at the stamping, signing, inspection and lassitude of bureaucracy.
We travelled with Footprint Adventures Ltd; we can recommend them whole-heartedly.
They put together a tailor-made package for us. Everything went incredibly smoothly, the accommodation was excellent and we were made to feel really welcome, and very well looked after, everwhere we travelled.
If you're thinking of travelling to India (or any other exciting destination in the world) then visit their web site or send them an e-mail: you won't regret it.
Tel + 44 (0) 1522 804929
Their web site is : http://www.footprint-adventures.co.uk/
Their e-mail address is : firstname.lastname@example.org
Click Here to go to the India Photogallery
Copyright ©DJBurnham 2006 All Rights Reserved
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