Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paul's Country Review: India

At first I wasn't all that interested in going to India. We had heard all kinds of things about it's lack of cleanliness, crime and the very bad, but inevitable stomach ailment known as Delhi Belly. People made it sound as if we were going to get Delhi Belly as we got off of the plane. Thankfully we did decide to go and found India to be a wonderful place filled with very nice people and most importantly, amazing food.

It doesn't look appetizing...

...but it is delicious!

My go to meal when people didn't understand my allergies - chicken tikka

We arrived in Delhi and I was impressed by the clean and modern airport, clean taxis and clean streets. Where are the mountains of garbage people kept telling us about? All I saw were shady, tree-lined streets, small parks here and there and insane traffic. Our hotel set us up with a car and driver and we saw the main sights in one very long and tiring day.

The hotel also set us up with a car and driver for the next seven nights to take us to Agra (Taj Mahal) and through some of the more popular towns of the Rajasthan province. I imagine most hotels will do this as it's obviously more money for them and it is reasonably priced - especially when you factor in convenience and the amount of time wasted on public transport to reach the same areas. 

We really liked Rajasthan and the many forts, temples, museums and palaces scattered across the countryside. Each showcased architecture and use of colors unique to each city we visited. Jaipur is pink, Jodhpur is blue and Udaipur is white. Each city is also known for excelling in a specific craft, textile or trade whether it be inlaid marble sculpture, painting, clothing or spices and the quality is very easy to see and appreciate. My only complaint about Rajasthan is that Indian merchants are some of the best salespeople on the planet and Christine and I found it very hard not to buy things. We each got a couple of shirts and a pair of pants made to order and tailored to fit for about $20-25 a piece. You can't get a shirt off of the rack for that amount in the States and these guys made them in a couple of hours and delivered them to the hotel. That was a pretty cool experience because we were shown bolts of cloth of varying qualities and colors, picked what we liked, decided on a style, got measured up and paid. This is a big deal for a freak like me because clothing never fits. If the length of the shirt is right the sleeves are too short so I look like Frankenstein's monster or it isn't wide enough across the shoulders. In order for the sleeves to be long enough the rest of the shirt is 2-3x too big. This forces me to always tuck it in, but since it is so wide, the shirt gets billowy making me look like a pirate on those cheesy paperback romance novels Christine can't get enough of. Anyway - I like the shirts.

The only stain on our visit to India was our time in Mumbai - mainly because Mumbai is a stain on planet earth. Here it was dirty. Here the food was atrocious (somehow I didn't get sick - notice "I" not "we"). Here we felt like we would get mobbed and mugged at any moment (maybe it was the roaming groups of men just wandering the streets who all looked really pissed off at everything). The only thing to do was to go to the Starbucks and get a coffee - like everyone else. I have noticed that, generally speaking, anytime we are in a city or town with a Starbucks, there really isn't anything else to do. This forces people to go to the Starbucks as a form of entertainment so it is always crowded and noisy. Needless to say, we didn't do much except go to the post office to mail stuff home and we watched a guy box up our things and sew a piece of cloth around it. This had to be done because it is law that packages all adhere to a dress code? "You don't have to sew the boxes in your country?", the master packager asks incredulously. I simply made a comment that we have tape and our boxes can wear whatever they want.

"What, you don't sew your boxes?"

The end of our trip was spent on the beaches of Kovalam in Kerala, the very bottom of India. It is a very beautiful place and is referred to as "God's Own Country". We spent our time relaxing and stuffing our faces - the hotel had one of the best breakfasts we have had to date. The rest of the world doesn't revere breakfast the way people in the US do. Personally, I think the world hates breakfast. How else can you burn eggs? That's it, that's all you get - a burnt egg that I can't cut through. Anyway, this place had a pretty good breakfast. And lunch and dinner. It was very peaceful. We didn't go in the sea because of the double digit high waves crashing on the shore and rocks hidden beneath the water. We didn't see anyone go in. I just always assumed that if there was ocean people swim in it. I don't think we've been anywhere during this trip where people swam in the water. This is very strange to me having always swam in the ocean - a rare perk of growing up in New Jersey.

Doing what I do best

All-in-all a great time and we would definitely go back to see other parts of the country. One last thing before I go - Christine wanted to make sure everyone knows that she does NOT read those trashy pirate romance novels. She is more into the trashy Revolutionary War era romance novels.


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