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About India


Overview

Activities

  • Trekking
  • Tea
  • Tiger
  • Himalayas
  • Temples
  • Palaces
  • Safari
  • Bird-Watching
  • Rice Boat
  • Beaches
  • Taj Mahal
  • Agra Fort

 

 

India is vast – so many contrasts and such diversity: from the quiet waterways of Kerala through arid northern plains to the ice capped peaks of the Himalayas.  The chaotic, noisy, cities of the north are a far cry from the gentle, rural landscapes of the south, where people have time and birdsong is sweet. 


Each visit is but an appetiser, leaving you wanting more.  It is impossible to appreciate India in one bite.  Let us help you to prioritise your wish list by suggesting an itinerary suitable to your interests, the time you have available, the time of year you wish to travel and your budget. 


In a country of over a billion inhabitants speaking 17 major languages, and 50% of them under 25, India’s place in the future world economy is assured.  Cultural and social diversity is one of the fascinations of India, from the poor farmers scratching a living from the arid plains, the ubiquitous beggars in the towns and cities to the growing, affluent middles class of the commercial centres and ‘Silicon Valley'.  But after technology, tourism is one of India’s new ‘cash crops’. 


The ‘Golden Triangle’ of the north offers the wonderful architecture of the Moghul era; the breathtaking Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, the blue city and Meherangarh Fort of Jodhpur and the dramatic lake palaces of Udaipur. Delhi, a teeming city with 15,000,000 people, offers the best and worst of modern life. 
World class hotels and shops rub shoulders with desperate poverty.

Many ancestral homes, palaces and havelis (town houses), have been transformed into boutique hotels, having a warmth and character unknown in modern, corporate style hotels.

If wildlife is your thing, enjoy the safari style towns where guides and jeeps will take you in search of the elusive tigers and leopards.  On the way you will see many of the more common animals and be dazzled by the legions of brightly coloured birds and butterflies.  Tented accommodation is often more Hollywood than Boy Scout – relax in beds, and shower in your en suite bathrooms.

Horse riding is a joy, especially when there are stables full of magnificent horses. Elephant riding in the forests and camel safaris in the desert can become an unforgettable memory of your holiday.

Serious walkers can opt for exploring the hills and forests of the Western Ghats staying in the many charming hillside villages, or head for the Himalayan foothills.  In spring and autumn the distant peaks look down on alpine type valleys, which are awash with carpets of flowers.  Even seasoned trekkers will be in awe of the lithe native porters who dash past them, carrying their possessions onward to the next night’s lodging.

So many decisions to make: lazy days on the beach or waterways in the south, dusty, dazzling days in Rajasthan, or the pure mountain air of the North.  Talk to us, and let us help.


Downsides 

1, Remember that distances are vast between major areas and, though much improved, roads often show the wear and tear of the monsoons.  Be prepared for early starts to beat the heat and the crowds.
2, Prepare early for your holiday.  Popular hotels and travel routes book up way in advance.  Let us help you to find more interesting, less well publicized venues.
3, Except in far south India, drivers may not speak English.  You may begin to feel like the subject in a ‘Pass the Parcel’ game as you are handed from guide to hotel representative, to guide, etc.  This team of people is, however, necessary for a smooth running itinerary.  It is not our way at Boutique India, but it is India’s way.
4, Beggars can be a problem, and it is difficult for us to accept the vast difference between rich and poor.  The best advice is never give, especially to children.  
Even trinkets, pens, etc will not be used, but traded on.



When To Go


The weather patterns may decide where to go and when.

The main monsoon travels from the South West in the first weeks of June, heads north and covers the whole country by mid-July.  The North East monsoon sweeps down to the South East coast between mid October and December.

For sightseeing in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh it is most comfortable from late September to the end of March when there is a dry heat and little humidity.  
From December to February be prepared for cool mornings and evenings, with warm sunny days.

Goa and Kerala enjoy warm to hot sunny days with comfortable nights from October to March; perfect for beach holidays or boating. 
Walking and sightseeing in Karnataka is most enjoyable from September to February, though wildlife enthusiasts may choose the April to May dry season which encourages the big game such as leopards, and elephants to the main waterholes, e.g. Nagarahole.

It’s often much less expensive to visit at these off peak times, particularly for ayurveda treatments.  The beginning of the monsoon is a particularly auspicious time for ayuveda.

In Tamil Nadu and the Andaman Islands you need to dodge the monsoons. December to March/April or June to September is recommended.  In the Himalayan Foothills winters are extremely cold, and mid summers are unbearably hot.  Spring and autumn are ideal for trekking or simply enjoying the old colonial hill stations and luxury spas there.

 

Food & Drink

If you are staying in a major international hotel it is likely you will have a large choice of familiar foods.  Kelloggs and bacon & eggs for breakfast if you wish. However in smaller, more rural establishments the meals will reflect the region.  Bear in mind that Indian food in India will not be the same as your local ‘take-away’, which has been anglicised.  Sweets are very sweet, fruit is good and plentiful, and tea and coffee always available.

Alcohol may be available, depending on the religion of the owner, the size and sophistication of the establishment, the date (if a particular religious festival is on), and if they have a license.  City hotels have well stocked wine cellars, but more rural venues may just offer beer – or a local speciality.

Regional food is interestingly diverse and many hotels will offer specialist chefs to cook local delicacies.  Tandoori ovens were brought originally from the northwest and delicious chicken dishes with spicy curry sauces are enjoyed in Rajasthan.  You will not find beef on the menu, and in Muslim areas there is no pork.  Much of the cooking is vegetarian eaten with panantha, roti, naan and chapattis.  It is accompanied by chutneys and pickles, sweet and sour, which stimulate the appetite.  Remember that right hands are used for eating.

A noticeable north/south divide operates as the meat and vegetable dishes of the north give way to the fish and coconut bias in the south.

Goa and Kerala are the only states where vinegar is known to be used– courtesy of their Portuguese heritage – and their gift to the world is a delicious pork vindaloo.

Restaurants in hotels are usually reliable, booking only required in some luxury hotels.  Meal times are generally from noon to 3pm and from 6pm to 10:30pm.  To try local cooking look for a restaurant full of locals to ensure a quick turn over of freshly cooked ingredients.

Sadly not everywhere has escaped KFC, Pizzahut and McDonalds.

As everywhere, water is becoming a diminishing resource.  Please be aware and avoid waste.  Drink only bottled water (check the seals) and use for cleaning teeth in rural areas.  You will need to buy it from the hotel – there are no supermarkets outside the major cities.

General Rules

• If you can peel it or cook it – its OK
• Beware of ice cream, except in the major hotels or restaurants
• Avoid ice in drinks, unless you are assured that it has been made from purified water
• Salad – may not have been washed in purified water.



History and Politics


On the whole, far too intricate and detailed to explain in a few paragraphs.

3000 – 2000 BC the Aryan Population gave the world Sanskrit metaphysics, astronomy and the origins of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

For centuries this world was invaded by Huns, Scythians, Parthians and Greeks, Turks, Afghans and Moguls and more latterly by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British.

The ancient race survived to tell the tale and Hindu and Muslim architecture combined to produce the grandiose style of the Taj Mahal and Delhi’s Red Fort.

The Hindu language combined with that of the invading central Asians to become Urdu.  Colonial architecture took its place in modern Indian life and the widely spoken English gave India an advantage on the world stage.

After a couple of centuries of English domination the Nationalist struggle for Independence became a reality in 1947 under the first Indian Prime, J Nehru.  The subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the Muslim States of Pakistan.  In 1971 following further unrest East Pakistan became Bangladesh.

Five yearly elections are held for the Lower House.  In 2004 the ruling coalition was replaced by one led by the Indian National Congress President, Italian born Sonia Gandhi, wife of the late Rajic Gandhi, Nehru’s grandson.  The wheel had come full circle. 



People

Religion in the Northern Plains: Hinduism is the religion of most people.  There are also pockets of Jainism,
Islam, Christianity, Parsi and Sikhs.

In the North Western Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, and Bhutan, Buddhism is the main faith.  In the South, particular Goa and Kerala, there are many Indian Christians, Syrian Christians and Roman Catholics, and a few Jews.

 



Language

The adoption of Hindu as the national language was a political decision taken in the North and not appreciated by many other groups with their own language – Urdu, Gujarati, Bangali and Tamil.

All of these languages can be heard today but predominantly Hindu and Rajasthani in the north and Tamil in the southern states.  English is widely spoken and taught in schools from an early age.