(1) Incredible India - Why Go

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Jan 29, 2017 02:07
Some people who come back from India will joke, “India: I’ll Never Do It Again!.” Every time I see that, I can’t help but laugh because I know exactly how they feel. Just as the advertising slogan “Incredible India,” by India National Administration of Tourism tries to say, this nation is incredibly unique, differing from many other countries in millions of ways. Some travelers hate India, some others love it. It depends on what type of traveler you are. If you particularly seek out luxury and hygiene, you may hate India. If you wish to explore and would appreciate a culture TOTALLY different from yours, you’re going to love it.

In China, upon any mention of India, the Chinese may instantly think of three words: “craziness,” “slums” and “rape,” because the Chinese media has covered much of the India's dark underside over the past few years. After all, in journalism, if the stuff isn’t exotic or appalling, it isn't qualified to be news at all. The constant reports about rape cases in India have left a strong impression on the Chinese. In India, both indigenous and foreign, some grils suffered gang rapes in broad daylight, say, on buses, and these atrocities have been sensationalized, which is mind-boggling to many Chinese people.

Two years ago, my free plane tickets were going to expire and I had no idea where to go, at which point one of my best friends was assigned to Mumbai to take charge of a smartphone sales campaign. Thereafter, I staked out India on the world map. Upon looking up India, I became mesmerized by its culture. I decided to arrive at the national capital of New Delhi first, then go to Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. Afterwards I would go on to Varanasi, a Hindu holy city on the bank of the Ganges, and finish my tour in Mumbai, where my friend was working.

(2) Incredible India - Preparation

I started to plan my itinerary. I first booked a round-trip plane ticket to New Delhi, and then began learning how to book Indian train tickets. Railways are India’s main means of transport. The guidebooks suggested that I reserve sleepers, or at least air-conditioning seat tickets. Otherwise, I would have to cram onto over-crowded second-class seating trains, which would probably be a nightmare. Thanks to the IRCTC (the Indian railways official site) and Cleartrip (an Indian online agency), reserving train tickets was very convenient. It did indeed live up to India’s reputation as a software powerhouse.

But, here with confirming the seats came a problem: I should’ve booked tickets at least two months earlier, and now all the tickets available were waitlist ones, which meant that I could buy a ticket, but it was on the waitlist and I had to wait to see if some customers would cancel their seats. If I was still unable to get a seat right before the train's departure, my money would be refunded. For me, this was a huge problem. I later discovered that I could go to buy confirmed tickets reserved for foreign tourists at New Delhi Central Station. Therefore, I ended up only paiying for the ticket with the waitlist number within 10. A number greater than 10 meant that I would unlikely be able to board, and I didn’t want to risk that. I didn’t have much time - only nine days; it would take a whole day to ride a train from the North to South, so I bought a plane ticket from Varanasi to Mumbai. After that, I proceeded to book hotels on Booking.com.

Would I see sacred cows on city streets? What will authentic Indian curries taste like? Was the Ganges really as divine as depicted in books? I just couldn’t wait to travel to this giant in the East. Kick off in New Delhi. Ride the rails south to Jaipur, renowned as a “pink city.” Catch a train eastbound to Agra, where Taj Mahal stands. Continue east to the Holy city of Varanasi for a boat trip along the sacred Ganges. Catch a Jet off to Mumbai, the most prosperous metropolis on the Indian subcontinent.

A guidebook said, “India loves to toss up the unexpected. Adopting a ‘go with the flow’ attitude is wise if you wish to retain your insanity.” I didn’t believe this because I’d already printed out and stapled all the necessary materials such as the tickets, the hotel reservations, and city maps into a brochure with a hard cover I'd designed myself. “How could I possibly get lost in India if I stick to my flawless plan?” I said in my mind.

However, it later turned out that I was just too naïve because I was later forced to change my plan due to some unexpected incidents.

(3) Incredible India - Departure

I originally planned to travel alone, but Wang, a colleague of mine, saw me preparing for my trip, became very interested and persuaded me to let him in. But he wouldn’t go to Mumbai, because I was going there to visit my friend, and he could save money by not buying a ticket to Mumbai. In the beginning, I was concerned that Wang, purportedly a boring person, might be a bummer, but he later turned out to be a "deus ex machina" – without him, my trip would’ve been totally screwed because I wouldn’t have been able to cram onto the later over-crowded Indian train* on my own.

*Over-crowded Indian trains:

On a sunny morning in June, I waited for my plane at Guangzhou airport. There were only two Chinese people, me and Wang, in the waiting area. Over the past few years, there had been a rapidly growing number of Chinese nationals traveling overseas. Be it NYC, London, Paris, or Tokyo, the duty-free malls were packed with customers from China. However, very few of them would go to India. I guess, now in 2017, things might have change a bit, because recently, a couple of blockbusters set in India have been screened in China, which possibly sparkled the public interest in India.

At the waiting area, I noticed a few Indians fixing their eyes on me. I felt embarrassed and looked away. They were probably thinking, “What’s this young Chinese man goin’ to do in my country?” I felt puzzled and thought, “This is the plane from China. Haven’t you guys seen enough of Chinese people... There are 1.4 billion here!” I then inferred that, perhaps in their culture, staring at strangers might not be considered impolite. I later discovered during my trip that the locals were actually very friendly, and loved to invite me to take pictures with them.

On the plane sitting next to me was a middle-aged Indian man, reading an English novel. “The Indians’ English is excellent!” I thought. There’s an urban myth here that most Indians are good at English because it’s one of the nation’s official languages, which is also part of the reason for its advanced software industry. Upon noticing my self-made guidebook, he broke the silence and recommended me several high-rated restaurants. From the conversation, I learned that he lived in a satellite city of Delhi, and religions and ethnicities in India are diverse – he was Islamic and had many good Hindu friends.
有些人从印度回来,回开玩笑说:“所谓India,原来就是I’ll never do it again! ,首字母缩写罢了。”每当看到这样的言论,我总会不由得会心一笑,因为我知道他们的感受和体验。正如印度旅游局的口号:“Incredible India”一样,印度这个神奇的国度和世界上其它地方有着万般不同。旅游归来,有人恨透了印度,有人却爱上了印度。这取决你是哪一种旅途人,如果你要求享受奢华,并有些许洁癖,那印度绝逼不是你的菜,但如果你渴望深度探索、接纳和并能欣赏截然不同的异域文化,那你会爱上这个国度。