Travelling in India

An old friend once said that you only need to return from a holiday with three stories, whether you're away for two days or two months. After three stories the conversation will drift, or people will change the subject.

(This same friend once pretended to be on holiday so they'd have a week to themselves. It meant they had to keep the lights off at night but they thought it was worth it. Although, looking back, if they were devious enough to think about faking a holiday, how do I know they weren't faking that they'd faked a holiday?)

I've made more than three posts about India, so I hope I've not tried anyone's patience. There are just a couple of posts left now. One is about bookshops, and the other, this one, is a collection of thoughts about my holiday. Hopefully they'll come in useful to someone:

  • Delhi is a fairly intense introduction to India. Fresh-faced tourists can be easy prey for scammers and touts. Fortunately the Lonely Planet did a great job in warning me what I was likely to face. It did feel, at times, like every person who spoke to me in Delhi was a petty cheat of some type. The touts lie and give false directions, anything to take you to a place where they get commission. The cynicism of Delhi's tourism can make one wary about people met in other places, which is a shame. India Mike has a great thread on How to handle touts. One commenter reminds readers that, while touts might be annoying, none of them is ever likely to have the opportunity tourists have to fly around the world.
  • Delhi, and Parahganj in particular, might be busy and noisy – but
    the German couple wearing blue facemasks and earplugs were probably
    overdoing it. If you feel you need to wear a surgical mask on holiday,
    you'd be better off staying home.
  • It took some time to get used to the constant touts. No sight was sufficiently sacred that there wasn't someone
    intrusively selling souvenirs or trying to make commissions. It was like real world spam: change money? want smoke? cigarette? need rickshaw?
    I hated the banal conversations the touts started before they made their pitch.
  • The most hassle I received was in Khajuraho, which I think was having a quiet spell. It seemed to be one tout to every tourist, and sometimes felt as if the rickshaw drivers were 24 hours from physically forcing visitors to take rides. One man shouted furiously every time I passed him on foot. I did end up hiring one guy who offered me a ride in his 'helicopter'. It looked like a normal cycle-rickshaw, but it was a very cheap helicopter ride.
  • Weirdly there seemed to be little correlation between hotel price and quality in the places I stayed. The best hotels I used cost about 400Rs (about £6) and the worse was around 1200Rs (about £17). The cheapest I stayed in, at 250 Rupees (£3.50), was described in the Lonely Planet as 'tolerably clean'. This was not true, and was the first time I left a toilet cleaner after using it.
  • One of my favourite things was travelling by train. I made some epic rail journeys, and loved sitting at the window watching the landscape pass by. The overnight trains were great: cheaper than a hotel, you would leave one town and wake in a whole new location. At their best you were gently rocked to sleep, although I had some long, sweaty, sleepless nights where I couldn't settle. It didn't help that some of the passengers were very noisy. I feel bad about the person playing minimalist jazz at midnight on one train, who received a rather curt request to turn it off.
  • Most of the trains I took were on time, but when there were delays they were substantial. While I was away one the the BBC World Service's main news items was about delays on the Eurostar. Apparently these had been quite long, sometimes "up to six hours". I was underwhelmed by this.
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