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Indian Sub-Cont. From Kathmandu to Colombo, and Islamabad to Dakha, one billion smiles, treck in the Himalayas, bathe in the Ganga, dance to Hindi pop ! Namaste !

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Old 01-23-2004, 05:22 AM   #1
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Hi guys! I'm planning a long awaited trip to India. Since it will be my first time there, I would welcome any and all suggestions, thoughts and comments. I probably wouldn't plan for more than a month, initially, purely for budgetary reasons. But who knows what may turn out, right? Hmmm... in addition to experiencing India as a traveller, I would like to make this somewhat of a spiritual pilgrimage too, perhaps by planning my travel route through the cities that house important (hmm... this is not the right word, but cannot think of an alternative at the time) holy sites, practice some meditation and yoga. If North to South is to vast an area to cover in that preliminary period of time, then I would prefer to cover Central-Northern India first. Any suggestions on budgeting, mode of travel, places to stay, places to visit, culture/food/security tips - would be appreciated!
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Old 01-23-2004, 07:29 AM   #2
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My friend went there. On the "upside," most people there do speak English. So, at least communication shouldn't typically be much of a problem. I don't know that much else about it, tho...
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Old 01-25-2004, 03:29 AM   #3
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I have not been to India, though I have spoken to a good number that have. A couple things I've been told to watch out for:

* India is "hard" on your senses, from what I've heard. It might be a good idea initially to start out staying at places "one level" above what you normally do. That way you can insulate yourself from some of the more jarring culture shock. So, if you normally stay in 1 or 2-star hotels, for the first few days move up to a 3-star. If you normally do hostels, treat yourself to a decent, clean hotel. That way you are not overwhelmed by India's noise, crowd, poverty, et al.

* You say you are planning this as a pilgrimage, of sorts. Be aware that just because there ARE "holy men" there, and all kinds of religious sights and experiences, there are scammers, too. I was told by one veteran traveller that they look for and target those westerners that come in for the spiritual experience. They want to be "adopted" by you, play on your good soul, and slowly steal your resources. Some of the more sensitive types who are not prepared for this cynical thievery can "go over the edge," so to speak.

So, by all means approach travel in India eagerly, just don't let your guard down because it is a "spiritual" destination.

I apologize for my cynicism...

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Old 01-26-2004, 05:12 PM   #4
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voyd, wwm - thanks for your good comments! I've also heard similar things about India, so I'm doing a lot of research and talking to people who've lived and traveled there as well.
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Old 03-08-2004, 10:57 AM   #5
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i heard the train ride through the darjeeling tea fields is spectacular.
india is high on my list of travel destinations, so, i eagerly await your coming and going... good for you carisia!

one negative point, made by a female friend of mine who travelled to india solo last summer - the men are supposed to be really agressive toward western women - maybe some of our sisters have been over there acting loose, giving us a bad name / whatever the case, she had a very bad time with cat calls and was constantly fending off advances... and she was dressed conservatively, by western standards - this is one experience, but i bet not much of an exageration. i won't go solo there now, but rather with another girlfriend or preferrably my boy.

more positively - my boyfriend and i did meet this cool indian dude on our way to amsterdam, he made some suggestions on places to visit -noted in my tj- i'll check that at home soon and get back to you
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Old 03-08-2004, 12:06 PM   #6
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carisia, you may want to invest in some typical Indian clothing to bring with you, like a salwar kameez. It can help cut down on being a tourist target and it can also help with aggressive men who like to zero in on western women. Just make sure that your upper arms and thighs are covered when you're in rural areas. They are also called Punjabi Suits or Shalvar Kameez.

The good thing about salwar kameez is that they're really comfy and keep you cool! If you don't already know you can see what they look like here. You can get them cheaper on ebay too. Good luck!!
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Old 03-09-2004, 09:47 AM   #7
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Thanks JOA and SV! I love that site you sent me SV, I might get some of the outfits just for me to wear them in the US, they are beautiful! I tried them on when I was in college, I used to organize yearly international talent and fashion shows, it was a lot of fun.

I've been wanting to go to India ever since I was younger, hopefully I can go very soon... I had applied for the development fellowship, but it didn't work out, unfortunately, so I'll have to explore other avenues, not so fond of going on my own, backpacking I mean...
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Old 03-16-2004, 12:31 PM   #8
 
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Years ago my hometown girlfriend and I traveled for 8 months in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka on U$6 / day for BOTH of us!! Recently I checked out an LP guidebook on Nepal and the costs haven't changed hardly at all. You can still find accomodation for U$2 to U$5 and meals for 50 cents and U$1. Bring U$1000 after all your airfare and you could live and travel in India for maybe 6 months.

I'm taking off back to the subcontinent this Sept. 2004 to the end of November via Cambodia, Laos, Burma.
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Old 03-16-2004, 03:19 PM   #9
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woaaaa!!!! sounds awesome philbill! how was india for you? which cities did you go to? what was your favorite? how is it for a woman traveling alone? pictures?
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Old 03-16-2004, 09:08 PM   #10
 
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Well to tell the truth simply is shown by where we chose to stay the longest; we arrived in New Delhi, headed for Haridwar ( Hari=God, dwar=Gate ) on the way to Rishikesh before heading south to Agra for sightseeing at the Taj Mahal. After the almost transcending experience of visiting the this fantastic monument we headed for Benares ( Varanasi ) located on the Ganges River, one of the most spiritual places for the dead to be burned and remains allowed to drift down river. Total Stay 3 weeks!

Then we headed north for Kathmandu spending 3 months between Pokhara and Kathmandu, hanging out with several Sadhus before heading for Darjeeling, India and Sikkim. BOOM SHANKGAR! Boombalay boombalay Boom Shankgar!

Then headed south to Calcutta and the worst slum in the world, Howrah, near the train station where numerous limbless homeless Indians in their late teens and early 20s ( during one severe draught in the 60s thousands of Mother's amputated the limbs of their children so they could survive the conditions of starving by begging! Again back in India it was quite an adventure going south to Madras, Madurai and Mahabalipuram where there's so much incrdible Dravidian architecture known for it's hand carved statues in stone placed otside their buildings structural walls on stairway like tiers. Again Total Stay 3 weeks!

Then we took the ferry over to Sri Lanka where we traveled all over the island, falling in love with our first tropical paradise. Total Stay 3 months.

We were heading back to India but our triple entry visas were rejected for NO REASON other than the political tension between the Tamil separatist rebels in Sri Lanka being funded and aided by the Tamils in India of Tamil Nadu. So we were pissed off and returned to Columbo to find visa processing at the Indian Embassy there took a WEEK! So we took off early to Thailand instead.

There is a tendency for world travelers who do NOT care for India to LOVE Thailand and vice versus those who LOVE India could do without Thailand. Traveling India like traveling China can be frustrating and sort of a negative although adventurous experience. I'd NEVER live in India but could always enjoy going back to Nepal and Sri Lanka for long term stays. But I still wish to go back to India to check out what I'd missed, the whole west coast from Trivandrum to Ladakh, Leh in the north where the Tibetan Buddhist exiles settled down.
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Old 05-24-2004, 03:43 AM   #11
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Don't forget to rent scooters and ride them through the city. I dont think anyone would give a damn about a licence. :greenguy:
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Old 05-24-2004, 10:42 PM   #12
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For her 60th birthday, my aunt went to India for a couple of months. Beforehand she arranged to stay at an ashram, which was cheap and allowed plenty of opportunity for spiritual pursuits. If you know someone at home - yoga/meditation leader, perhaps - who has contacts in India, perhaps they could recommend a place to you. I think I would try to arrange that in advance, and with someone you trust, rather than fall victim to the scams others mentioned.

Incidentally, on a later trip, she got hit by a motorcycle and spent three weeks in a hospital, cared for by the Sisters of Charity. Cheap accommodations, but not the trip she'd planned! Look both ways!

Have fun.
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Old 05-26-2004, 11:05 AM   #13
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Thanks tumbleweedz! Do you know what ashram she went to? You can also PM me with any other information that might be helpful! Thanks!
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Old 05-26-2004, 10:09 PM   #14
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Hey Carisia, I'm afraid I don't have the name of the ashram - don't even remember where it was. She found out about it by asking around the people she knew - I think she was taking a yoga or meditation course and that opened a lot of doors for her. If you're in a town of any size, there's likely to be an Indian community that can give you some suggestions.

My inlaws just got back from two weeks in India - it was 54 C while they were there. UGGGGHHH! Got an email that they arrived back safely after 43+ hour flight, but no details about the trip. Maybe there'll be something in their next email that can help you - I'll post it if I find something.

Sorry don't have more immediate info - we are "geographically displaced" from our families, so can't get the instant answers.
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Old 05-27-2004, 07:52 AM   #15
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Thank you so much tumbleweedz! Can't wait to hear about your inlaws' trip to India - that's exciting! Keep in touch!
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