I said goodbye to India, at three in the morning this past Sunday. Now, in Bangkok I’ve been asked, by several fellow travelers what I thought of India. Now that I’ve had some time to process my time in India, I thought I might share my overall impressions here.
I almost didn’t write this. The thing about India is, when trying to come up with ways to describe it, I find I have a very difficult time. India is, unique, an experience. But that experience will vary so widely amongst travelers that writing my own seems almost futile, even if I went back, it would never be the same. The best I can say is, go and see for yourself. It is a wonderful country, filled with incredible people. It is the same as anywhere else, and yet, completely unique in its subtleties. My best advice is to remember that despite the few aggressive touts and scammers, most people in India are simply interested in you, and genuinely good people. It’s easy to keep up such a guard that you shut out the world around you. It’s easier than feeling vulnerable all the time, sure, but if you block everyone out, you’ll miss out on some great conversations. Don’t be rude. I hate seeing travelers being rude to people who are simply trying to help them. I saw a higher amount of this then I normally do. And when you do get ripped off, as you likely will, try to not let the experience taint the whole trip. For all the hassle, India more than makes up for it in other ways.
I generally consider myself extremely open minded. But I certainly went to India with western ideals, especially related to women and family. While I would absolutely never push my views on someone else I found India forcing me to try to understand the complex and deeply rooted ideologies. The idea that women are oppressed here is far more complicated than I could even begin to grasp, and modernization, while generally good for women’s rights has caused many other issues, especially related to cultural conservation. And at the end I have to say I even became a bit envious of some of the deeply rooted traditions. Though I’m thankful to make my own decisions, and have a personal life I really wish we in the US had a higher emphasis on family. It is after all, everything. For example, back in college I would have said, that to live with your parents in your mid twenties was usually an indication of failure. Now it seems ridiculous so many kids flee from home right when they can. If it makes sense for everyone, saves money, and allows family to be close to one another, why wouldn’t you? Even many of the young Australians I’ve met say there’s no point in leaving home until they settle down themselves. The more I travel, and see “opposing” cultures the more I realize the US is the odd one out, we are the exception in many cases. In good ways, like social freedoms, and in detrimental ways like materialism and displaced family systems. India, for me really illustrated those differences in a way other countries haven’t. I suppose it’s the sharp juxtaposition within the country itself. Modern and ancient, rich and poor all living within a few kilometers of one another. The causes (costs and benefits) of modernization are so rapidly apparent it’s impossible not to take notice.
It made me appreciate what I have, sure, but more importantly India has helped remind me what’s really important. What gets lost in the climb to “success” and pursuit of material gains, which is very important to many in India as well, where the wealthy show off their worth in jewelry and cars. And occasionally, how many white people they have at their party (weird).
Do I want to go back? Yes, absolutely. There’s much more to see. Someday I’m sure, I will.
I left India on a good note. For all the chaos, the dirt, heat, and general in your face-ness, I loved every minute (or nearly). I doubt I could have asked for a better experience.
Now in Bangkok I felt an initial shock, women, in SHORTS! Everywhere!? Scandalous!
I’m staying near Khao San road, because the hostel I’m staying in had such phenomenal reviews (Nappark)-all of which are true. I knew a bit about this infamous party area, but really, I had NO idea the extent. First, there are white people everywhere. Everyone is out in the streets all night, drinking, smoking, and engaging in various debauchery. It’s insanity, fascinating, but insanity. The people watching is superb. It doesn’t bother me really, give me some pad thai from a street vendor and a beer on a balcony overlooking it all (with some new instant hostel friends) and I could just watch for hours. I’ll see “real thailand” soon. The morality and implication of whats happening aside, it is quintessential bangkok-an experience. This is how I spent my first night. I thought making friends in India and Nepal was easy enough, here, within hours of walking in you have a group of friends, dinner plans, and suggestions to drop whatever your doing because “a group of us are headed to the south islands.” Overwhelming, and fantastic. Though the first two people I met were two guys from the states barely twenty, clearly drunk at two in the afternoon yelling and running about in their boxers, discussing the strippers from the previous night, everyone else has been great. Most are mid twenties, laid back, interesting and not bent on getting drunk. Those other two guys though? Who think seeing temples is a “waste of time, and boring as shit” should probably just home, they need to stop representing American travelers. Or, travelers in general.n
Tonight is my last night as a solo traveler! I can’t believe it’s been almost seven weeks.nAlex arrives tomorrow night and I am beyond excited to have my travel companion back. It certainly feels as if this trip is coming to an end, and a brand new one begins tomorrow. So to celebrate, I’ll be joining my hostel friends, as a solo traveler for a night out. And then tomorrow, a new adventure begins. I can hardly wait.