I first went to India on one of those package tours where you stay in a tourist class hotel, get ferried to the sights in a coach, and your only contact with the people is pushing through the beggars and hawkers.  I hated it, but knew it was the bubble we were wrapped in that caused it. I went to Goa a while later, and that was delightful.  I’m vegetarian, and eating in India is bliss.

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I went back more than ten years later and had a wonderful trip.  The Adventure Company uses local businesses – hotels and tour arrangers – to provide its customers with a more natural experience.  Our trip started with delays in Bahrain and Muscat, Oman; we couldn’t get to Delhi due to fog there.  We arrived in India two days into our holiday, and should have taken a train to our first national park the night before.  They rebooked us on that night’s train – not easy on what was now Christmas Eve – and we travelled third class but it was better than our first night on the floor of Bahrain airport.  We arrived at the national park and went straight off looking for tigers!

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We visited five national parks as well as temples and castles.  I had been to Agra and Fatephur Sikri on my first trip, but the magic was just as enveloping on this trip – maybe more so as I didn’t find it so hot, being acclimatised (and it was winter).  These castles stayed in my memory, though, and influenced my books.

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The best thing was the wildlife.  I’m keen on birds, and two of us had our heads together with our guide to identify them.  But all the animals were great – especially the tigers.  The system in these national parks is that a number given to your jeep at the park entrance; if a tiger is spotted, you congregate at the place nearest the spot and take your turn to ride an elephant (four per elephant usually) over to where the tiger is.  The intention is not to stress the tiger too much.  It’s a balance between preserving the wildlife and financing the locals, yet giving visitors the excitement they seek.  Sometimes the tiger leaves before your turn arrives.  That’s life.

I could talk a lot about ecotourism, so feel free to talk about it in the comments.

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I is for India
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33 thoughts on “I is for India

  • 10 April, 2014 at 7:32 am
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    What a splendid trip that must have been. I worked with a number of Indians in Dubai in the late 70s and early 80s. Since then, India, particularly the southern part, has been very high on my list headed “One day, if money ever permits”. Meanwhile, I shall enjoy it vicariously, through posts like yours. Thank you.

    • 10 April, 2014 at 11:12 am
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      You’d love it, Keith – and it would indulge your love of birds of prey! The most frustrating one is the Variable Hawk – I kid you not – which we saw lots of – and every one was different. I think my favourite was the Black-shouldered Kite – think Hen Harrier in Kite scale, but with black epaulettes!

  • 10 April, 2014 at 2:11 pm
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    Oh my! How wonderful! I dream of going one day! I also want to travel to Switzerland and other lovely countries. I wish!

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:07 am
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      Everyone should see the Taj Mahal – it is the most exquisite, breathtaking, floating masterpiece. Not until you’re right up to it can you believe its solid.
      I hope you get to travel some day.

  • 10 April, 2014 at 2:35 pm
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    You sound like quite the jet setter

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:08 am
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      I used to take quite adventurous trips to far flung places. Now that air travel has changed, I don’t want to go anywhere unless by train. And mostly I stay home looking after the animals. 🙂

  • 10 April, 2014 at 2:39 pm
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    I love to see through the camera’s eye other people’s world travels. We will never be able to afford such an extravagances as foreign travel, but even if we could then I would be too much of scaredy cat to go by airplane or cruise ship. So, all of my travels must be done by car. The exotic location must have been a pleasure to explore and soak up. It was nice taking a trip across the world without having to leave the comfort of my chair. Thanks for stopping by this morning for the #a2zchallenge connections!

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:10 am
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      Well, I’ve never been too good travelling by road unless I was driving. And that means you don’t see the best bits since you keep your eyes on the road and snatch glimpses of the wider view!
      Thanks for enjoying this trip 🙂

  • 10 April, 2014 at 5:21 pm
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    An indeed delightful post on India and your overall experience. Hope you have nice memories of our country…I do appreciate your interest in India.

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:12 am
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      I do indeed have lovely memories of your country – and your people 🙂

  • 10 April, 2014 at 5:33 pm
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    Wow, sounds like a great trip! I’ve never seen a big cat close up (nothing larger than bobcat, and that’s hair-raising enough!).

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:17 am
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      They are truly magnificent animals. India is doing a good job at protecting its wildlife in many places, but it’s a complex issue. How do you make a nature reserve and also look after the villagers within it?
      Historically, Europe has done a really bad job at protecting its larger animals, but we are learning from the experiences of other continents. Did you know we’ve re-introduced beavers in some small areas?

  • 10 April, 2014 at 6:15 pm
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    I remember the first time I saw the Taj Mahal – she took my breath away! Isn’t India incredible? I am glad you enjoyed your trip,Jemima!

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:19 am
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      Thanks, Vidya. This was my second visit to the Taj Mahal and I wondered whether I would be disappointed. I wasn’t – still breath-taking and more time to savour her.

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:21 am
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      “Stop off at Vidya’s” – oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful!!

  • 10 April, 2014 at 8:23 pm
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    Wonderful post. And you and I both like birds! Everyone told me I would be entranced by the birds in Kenya, and I was. Bought a bird book so I could identify them and spent more of the tour looking up! Magnificent tigers!

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:24 am
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      I’ve stayed away from Africa since I was brought up on stories of it in the 30s and 40s. But birding makes all the places you go so much more fun (not twitching, which is running off to see rarities). I love seeing the wildlife in its own home – and birds are generally so much more accessible.

  • 10 April, 2014 at 8:40 pm
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    So when are you coming for another trip here? This time I’ll take you around! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed and hot inspired by our incredible India!

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:25 am
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      Thanks for the offer, Aditi – I’ll let you know!!

  • 11 April, 2014 at 2:04 am
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    How beautiful and these trips stay with you for your whole life. To be close to wildlife is to experience heaven

  • 11 April, 2014 at 6:48 am
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    Wonderful post!
    I’m glad you could see quite a bit of India, and you enjoyed it.

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:28 am
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      I’m glad you enjoyed my post – thanks for visiting again!

  • 11 April, 2014 at 10:41 am
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    A wonderful post about your experiences traveling in India. And beautiful pictures too! I like what you say about the “bubble” during your first trip to India 🙂

    • 11 April, 2014 at 11:32 am
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      I still see tourists in their bubbles even here in the UK. I remember joining a tour group in Greece once, for a day trip to Sounion, a temple on a cliff above the sea, and nearly all the rest were on a package tour. Mosty couldnt remember which country they were in that day. Sad.
      These days the same thing happens, but on cruise ships, which also wreck precious coastal habitats. But I’m in danger of ranting!

  • 12 April, 2014 at 2:30 am
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    I think #Teamdamyanti should plan an India trip together! What a hoot that will be 😀

  • 14 April, 2014 at 6:55 pm
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    Glad you enjoyed your India trip Jemima. My husband and I have gone for numerous forest safaris hunting for the big cat, but in vain. Hope to be able to spot one soon. Thanks for visiting my blog! Appreciate you taking the time out to comment.

  • 14 April, 2014 at 6:57 pm
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    Oh! by hunting, I meant, hunting to be able to catch a glimpse of it, not otherwise 🙂

  • 14 April, 2014 at 8:50 pm
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    Wow..what an interesting way to try to see tigers…I do believe that travel fuels the imagination.

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