Why do you so often hear it called “Incredible India”? Simple, it’s truly a remarkable place!
From the bustling markets, mouth-watering cuisine and extraordinary temples, to the astounding history, culture and stunning landscapes, you’ll love discovering more about this soul-stirring country on your tour of India.
Maria Metusela, of Gate 1 Travel Australia, recently returned from 11 Day Kaleidoscope of India and we couldn’t wait to hear all about her first visit to this fascinating South Asian country.
Q: What are 3 of the best things about India?
A: “1. People; 2. History; 3. Everything else!
My trip to India would not have been nearly as enjoyable or interesting if it wasn’t for the local people, their history and their culture. People watching in India is seriously a highlight in itself. From the women in their colourful saris, to the school kids waving to you as you go past, even the hawkers trying to sell you their wares. There is always a friendly face and never a dull moment.
The history of this country is so fascinating. Every city, every palace, every fort and every ruin has a unique story to tell. You learn about the maharajas and maharanis of the past and the Persian and Arabic influences that are very much a part of India today.
Our Tour Guide described India’s traffic as “organised chaos”. I believe India as a whole is a bit like that too. It is a country so rich in culture and life that there is constantly so much to experience and do.”
Q: What did it feel like to see the Taj Mahal?
A: When I saw the Taj Mahal for the first time I was completely blown away. I remember just saying “wow” for the first 10 minutes and was in total awe of the place.
You can see it so many times on T.V or in magazines and brochures, but it’s just one of those places where you need to see it to believe it. It truly is a beautiful creation. It is amazing to think that it was built way back in the 17th century, and with years of labouring using white marble stone it became what it is we see today.
You might want to consider making an early morning visit. We took this option and it was great. Though it can still be busy at this time of day, seeing it in the cool light of dawn is a brilliant way to start the day.
The symmetry itself is unbelievable, the carvings and patterns are beautiful and an incredible a work of art. It is a monument of beauty and love and for my first visit to one of the 7 Wonders of the World, I did good!”
Q: What was the highlight of your Gate 1 Travel tour?
A: “My favourite experience has got to be the morning boat ride on the Ganges. You will need to wake up at 5:30 am for this, but it is well worth it and more.
Everyone starts their day really early in India, so it was great being part of that in the holy city of Varanasi. Our guide took us to a tea stall for cardamom tea (which was the best), then we walked along the banks of the Ganges to our boat. Along the way you see Hindus performing their early morning prayers, then there are pilgrims who come from all over India to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges. Even the washing starts early.
I must say though, watching the sun rise on the India’s most sacred river was a magic moment for the ages. One of the best!”
Q: Any tips on what you should pack for India?
A: “When packing for India you need to think light. Light clothes with lots of air flow. I went in October so we had days that were hot and nights that were cool (especially Delhi and Jaipur), so a lightweight jacket is ideal. I would also recommend comfortable sandals over sneakers, to allow for some air circulation.
One thing that we did not take with us, that we probably should have, was cold and flu tablets. Quite a few of us ended up with a cold, however we only brought medicines to combat the big ones you hear about, like malaria and Delhi Belly.”
Q: What is the most helpful thing to know before you go to India?
A: “You can now apply for an Online Visa for travel to India, but the system has its flaws. Applying for the travel visa online does not mean your visa is approved. Upon arrival into India you still need to queue up at Customs & Immigration to go over your visa application before you receive the stamp of approval. There were people in our group who were at the airport for 3-4 hours to complete this process.
Therefore I would recommend obtaining your visa prior to arrival if possible. In Australia, once you hand in your application and passport to the local office in your city it only takes about 5 business days to process. When arriving in India you can then avoid the lengthy verification process and probably won’t have to wait at all.” For more information please visit http://www.vfsglobal.com/india/australia/
Photos all taken by Maria Metusela while travelling with Gate 1 in India.