I must say, the thought of travelling to India scared me a little initially. The unfamiliarity of travelling to a foreign land, danger of being in a place with such bad media reputation, and one where hygiene standards isn’t exactly the highest.
Ok maybe slightly more than just a little.
As far as I was concerned, the thought of travelling through India never once crossed my mind in the 22 years of my life. Like all traditional parents, my mom periodically fed news of how dangerous India is, fuelled by the media to the world.
Yet, 2 weeks ago, I packed up, buckled up and set off for the airport. We were going to India. A part of me wanted to jump out there and satiate my adventure cravings, but another part of me wanted to turn around and make a run for it. I was torn between wanting to stay in the comforts of Singapore and embracing the excitement that was to come with the novel experience. What choice do I have right?
I bid my farewells and left for a country so unfamiliar, unsure what’s to come next. At the India airport, I was constantly on a look out. I was expecting the environment to be drastically different, and waiting to spot something bizarre and odd. But nothing. Everything seemed strangely normal. The streets felt like those I’ve seen at Malaysia and the noise somewhat like that of Thailand.
I guess it might not be as bad after all!
Let go, keep an open mind, be willing to try
During our entire trip to India, I’ve learnt to let go and keep an open mind.
I was never really a huge fan of Indian food back in Singapore. Not when I was surrounded with Chinese and Japanese and Korean cuisines everywhere (sorry I’m a huge sucker for Japanese and Korean food heehee).
I literally can’t live without meat. But in India, vegetarian food was everywhere, and in some areas, finding non-vegetarian restaurants can be hard. And so, I was left to try the million types of Indian dishes that they served. Surprisingly, I grew a liking to some of the dishes, though not quite, for those with strong spices. In fact, for the first few days, although we had vegetarian meals everyday, it entirely slipped my mind that we haven’t been having meat!
I guess I was really getting used to Indian food. They really aren’t that bad and are way better than any of the Indian food I’ve tasted in Singapore.
Remember your medical supplies
Of course, we all knew the dangers of liking the food in India too much. It’s easy to get lured into a false sense of security and forget how unconditioned our stomach is. Delhi Belly is real.
Throughout our trip, we had a couple cases of minor food poisoning. While it was usually just a slight discomfort that went away in a couple of hours, we learnt to be on guard. Any symptoms of Delhi Belly immediately warranted a bottle of Po Chai pills. We even joked amongst ourselves that we should replace our daily vitamins with Po Chai pills. Hahah. Along with Po Chai pills, we also brought Denzen, Paracetamol, Charcoal pills, flu medicine, antiseptic cream, hand sanitisers and an endless supply of wet tissues and plasters.
Yeaaaaap, we might have went a little overboard with the medical supplies. But hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to health. You’ll never know when you might need it.
There was an incident when Zed fell, resulting in a broken nail and some scratches. Thankfully we were all prepared for self-help. #Truestory
Be comfortable but not too comfortable
The reason why I say you should try as much as possible to be comfortable with the Indian culture is because I know many Singaporeans will find these behaviours queer and disturbing.
Here’s what I mean. Imagine yourself walking along the streets, walking through the Taj Mahal, sitting at a restaurant or riding a tuk tuk. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, because EVERYONE will stare at you. We were told by a guide that this is because in India, they’re taught from young that it’s ok to stare. Whereas in Singapore, we’re taught that it’s rude to stare. So really, just try not to be offended.
The locals also have no qualms at approaching you for a photo. They literally walk up to you with a standard sentence, “Hi Madam/Sir, one selfie please!” Before you even have the chance to respond, they’re busy snapping away. Some will even try to capture shots of you from their phones, with no attempts at being subtle. Before you cringe or curl up in awkwardness, my best advice to you is: Just be firm, say no and walk away if you don’t want to.
Perhaps it’s because they do not meet foreigners very often and are curious about us. It’s funny cause even though we are the tourist, it sometimes feels like we are the attraction instead.
Be on guard, but not paranoid
Bear in mind that when travelling, always be on guard too. Mostly, Indians are actually very friendly and helpful people who try to help when you ask them for help. But there are exceptions for everything. Sometimes they’re just nosy. Other times, you need to watch out for them.
Actually not just in India, but if you sense that anyone from anywhere is being overly friendly, chances are, he/she probably is.
Be alert and don’t wander off alone at night. I learnt that the (almost) hard way, where I was nearly robbed when our team decided to head out to find food on one of the nights. Yikes.
Here are a couple of travelling safety tips:
- Only take your camera out when you need it. If you really rather hold it, make sure you’re holding your camera in front of you. Don’t sling your camera on your shoulder and leave it at the side.
- Never keep your phones in your back pocket. Yup I forgot that I left my phone in my back pocket that night, and the thief almost rode off on his bike with my phone. (Thank goodness for long shirts that caused him miss. Phew!)
- Keep your bags zipped.
- Watch each others’ back.
That said, it’s important not to be so afraid of everything and spoil the experience. We met many locals who were very nice and just wanted to share their stories. The key is to be aware of your surroundings but not paranoid.
At the end of the day, I think I’ve taken away a lot from this trip to India, be it memories, experiences or lessons learnt. It is certainly a trip that has slightly moulded my perception about people and about the world. At least I lived to tell the story HAHA. I can now say that I survived 2 weeks in India!
Read more: Jaipur Survival Guide – Experiencing Life in the Pink City 300 Years Ago
What are some of your best takeaway from your travels? Let us know in the comments section below!