A land of many contrasts

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India is the land of many contrasts – the phrase I kept on hearing the moment I bought my ticket to this extraordinary country. My family was worried I would die from some sort of infection or a mosquito bite, my friends kept on admiring my adventurous spirit and me… Well I didn’t really see anything adventurous about this fact. For I wasn’t going to be there alone, and I knew deep in my heart that nothing bad would happen… I was just excited to see an old friend, and experience his country through his point of view. And so, late August 2013 I hopped on a plane, and after excruciating 24h of flying and waiting at the airports I was finally there.

At the immigration desk a short lively man examined my passport – so where are you from? – he asked with an adorable Indian accent. – Serbia – I said. He diverted his eyes from my passport to me with a question in his look – And where is that? This, later on, was the only question I kept on hearing from people. No one seemed to know anything about my country or its former identity of Yugoslavia. It didn’t even exist on the Wi-Fi networks on the airport, so I was unable to connect to the internet and I almost fainted when I didn’t see my friend waiting for me. However, to all of you who are planning to go to the south of India and are landing in Bangalore (which is where I was going) be aware that you must go out of the airport in order to meet the people you are supposed to meet, because only the people that are travelling are allowed inside the airport. This was my first (of a few) culture shocks! And the next one came short after. I met with my friend… And then we sat in his car… And drove… And drove… And drove… For almost 3h. On the way from the airport I saw a dozen or so cows walking around freely, with their cute faces looking at cars and people with curiosity. I also saw a group of pigs at a construction site, a lot of autorikshaws, the craziest traffic jams of my life, and all that in that 3h drive from the airport to one of the many city centers (yes, you read that correctly)… Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew cows are sacred animals, and that there are autorikshaws there, but, I didn’t expect it all to be so… Sudden… And… Dare I say, In your face? Also, for those of you who are reading this and are not from Serbia, my country is pretty small, so a 3h drive from point A to point B for me is pretty long, especially by car. And my Indian friend kept on shocking me by saying that that was nothing, and that that is his regular day driving from home to work. And here I was, thinking 1h was too much to get to University. That first glance of India was really overwhelming.
IMG_0898That was the beginning of a three week travel experience through a small portion of South India. From Bangalore industrial areas and the ‘’Sankey Tank’’ park (by far my favorite place in Bangalore), to Mysore’s beautiful palaces and art and Coorg’s extraordinary nature and cold, fresh air (finally I might add), all the way to Goa’s crazy party life and the celebration of Ganesha in Pune. Those were 3 weeks of confusion, happiness, colors ( A LOT of colors!), crazy parties, elephants, a LOT of cows, and other animals, crazy junkies with a pure American accent, the best food I ever tasted in my life, the weirdest toilets I have ever seen in my life, and the list goes on… So, in conclusion, if you are traveling to the south of India, be sure
to visit Mysore and see The big Mysore palace, especially in the evenings when it’s illuminated. I was lucky enough to have a translator and not get ripped off, so be careful of that!
If you are a lover of nature, don’t skip Coorg and the beautiful hill from which you can get an exceptional view over the morning mist and the beautiful nature, rivers and lakes that lie in front of it. For those of you who are more adventurous, there is also a hitchhiking path through that nature, but be sure to take boots and long sleeves because there are a lot of leeches due to the humidity of that area. I didn’t go for that walk, but I was assured it’s magical… I just didn’t have proper clothes.
If you are more of a party person, Goa is the place for you… Now, while you are in Goa, there are a few options – you could stay in any of the city centers, and explore the cultural heritage of that area, that is, I was assured, very interesting. The other option is to do what me and my friend did, and hop on a random bus with some random people and go to the areas that are closer to the beaches and the party life, or you could rent a cottage-like place (that they call a villa) on the beach and stay there for a couple of days.Me and my friend met a couple from Poland (I think) who did exactly that… 😀

Oh and if yIMG_1267ou can be in India for any of its festivals, don’t miss that chance. The Ganesha festival was by far, the most intense and inspiring experience I had there – the streets are literally closed by rivers of people following the drummers and the dancers, and the streets are full of street vendors who are selling Ganesha statues, which are supposed to be drowned in the river as the sign of a new beginning… But my biggest wish is to visit India on the ,,Holi’’ (,,The festival of colors’’) and throw some paint on random strangers… 🙂

And, for the end of this blog post, if you are a dancer that is interested in Indian dance styles, especially Odissi, don’t miss the dance village near Bangalore called Nritryagram. It’s very beautiful and relaxing, and they also offer dance courses over the summer months for anyone who would like to learn more.

All in all my experience in India was a positive one, but be aware that I wasn’t traveling alone and that I had a friend that knew the language so it was a lot easier to manage than if you are traveling by yourself and your only language of communication is English… If you are going to India soon, I wish you an unforgettable experience, full of extraordinary adventures and a lot of enjoyment! And, who knows, maybe I will see you there soon…

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