Delhi to Kathmandu, India and Nepal
I have always been adverse to taking ‘tours’ or more realistically the idea of ‘package holidays’ as we call them in the UK. The all inclusive trips where you’re picked up and ferried around on a coach with a large number of other very much British tourists. When Kathryn and I were figuring out our trip we started to feel more and more that travelling India on our own may not be the easiest way to start our travels. And so after a lot of people’s advice, our own research and me sucking up the fact we were doing a ‘tour’ we booked a two week trip with STA starting in Delhi and ending in Kathmandu. Taking in Agra, Jaipur, Orchha, Varinassi, Lumbini, Chitwan and Pokhara in between. My god it has been whistle stop, but it has been amazing and definitely a fantastic way to see these two great countries, especially if you are looking for a mix of Urban and Rural.
Despite all the repeated lectures I got from people, both in the UK and Canada, about bag safety, looking after belongings, having a money belt or little money bag tucked away, if you are sensible and generally aware of your belongings you shouldn’t need to worry about too many extra safety gizmos. You will be I’m crowds at times, Indian cities are as expected crazy busy but no one in our group of 12 was targeted, not that it doesn’t happen; a lady leading a different group lost her bag, but she left it open and unattended in a train station. Kind of goes without saying of you make it easy they’re not going to just leave it there for you! Be prepared, take care, but don’t let people panic you!
India lived up to pretty much all expectations. It’s hectic, crazy, busy, cows fill the road, dogs run wild, rubbish is everywhere, poverty is not hidden away, it’s dirty, it’s smelly but oh my is it just buzzing with colour and life. It is a sensory overload! Be prepared to haggle and haggle hard. And learn to say NO. Something I think British people struggle with. By the time you leave you will feel like the rudest person in the world but if you give to every begger, young or old, girl or boy, you will be hounded and end up giving all your money away as you’ll generally struggle to have anything smaller than a 10 rupee note. Word of advice, take toilet paper in your rucksack at all times and hand sanitiser or wipes. And learn or practice squatting. Although western toilets do exist, outside of the hotels they become few and far between and when they do come up are usually in worse condition than some of the squats. Also Imodium tablets are a must. It happens to everyone, generally! Touchwood I got lucky, my luck will probably turn in another country though, and I never had to use mine, but some form of Delhi Belly caught I think most of our group. The tour does pass through a Malaria zone when you cross the India/Nepal border. I chose due to money, the tablet I’d bought for SEAsia and hence decided that I wasn’t going to bother taking it for the four days we were at risk. Probably not the cleverest idea, I spent the whole time hoping I didn’t get bitten and panicking that I might have contracted malaria, when a cold id caught suddenly got really bad. Fortunately the cold was just a cold type bug. Small perk of having a doctor on your tour to check you in front of the whole group and tell you despite how you feel, your temperature is still normal.
Our tour guide for the trip CP was excellent and I dread to think how we would have coped dealing with sleeper trains, rickshaw drivers, taxis and all the other hustle of India without him! His advice on getting around, places to go and added little events to the itinerary was fantastic. Also some great choices on where to eat. Some feel less Indian than others. If you really like truly authentic Indian food you may want to push a little as they will take you to restaurants they have good relationships with but who think because you’re western you can’t handle any spice at all, some dishes were definitely altered. Some of us finally convinced CP to take us to a really authentic street food cafe where he would go to eat and boy was it worth it for the experience! Anything I particular you want to do, see or buy just ask and your ‘chief experience officer’ will go out of there way to help you sort it, or at least ours did!
One last thing! Go with low expectaiotsn of the accomodation and then you’ll be generally surprised, none were really that bad at all. Just don’t expect western standards and go with an open mind. They all had normal toilets, I.e. No squats so that pretty much kept me happy!! And everyone we met running the hotels was so helpful. We did read some shocking reviews in advance of arriving in the hotels but like I said before they always trumped expectations.
I think for many India may be a bit of a ‘marmite’ country, you will love it or hate it, but it is definitely not to be missed!! On a side note, rural Nepal is beautiful!