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INDIA: Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights

by Drew on May 4, 2015 24 comments

I just finished my crazy 2 Month Backpacking Trip Around India.  And ohhhh boy, crazy it was!

In total, I went to 15 cities and 8 states, starting from the South (Goa) up to the North (Amritsar).  I took 15 train rides and 7 buses over a distance of 4,000+ kilometers.   It was a wild journey, to say the least.

Here is a map of my entire trip:

India is a country of ups and downs. As they say, if you can travel solo in India, then you can travel anywhere in the world.

To be completely honest, there isn’t much you can do to prepare yourself for traveling India. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. One day, I can’t stop smiling. And the next day, I hate it and I want to go home. But it’s all part of the experience, and that’s what makes India so unique!

Overall, I highly recommend anyone to travel in India because it will be incredibly life changing, regardless if you like it or hate it.   This trip was by far the most eye-opening trip that I’ve taken in my life. I now see the world with a much different perspective.

In this post, I will lay out my top 10 best and worst experiences in India, in no specific order.

Please comment below with your questions and enjoy!

Top 10 Best Experiences

1) Admiring the Taj Mahal – As the frontrunner of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World,’ the Taj Mahal lives up to every part of its high expectation. This iconic landmark, located in Agra, took over 22,000 men to build over a period of 20 years in the 17th century. I went to the Taj twice in one day, for sunrise and sunset, and I still can’t believe how incredibly perfect this building is. The symmetry is flawless, down to every little millimeter. Even the shadows from the sunlight were exactly perfect on every angle. Just amazing.

2) Attending the Ceremony the Border of Pakistan – The ‘Wagah Border’ in Punjab, between Pakistan and India, has been holding a daily peace ceremony for decades. I attended one of the ceremonies, and I witnessed Indians gathering on one side of a fence and Pakistanis on the other side. Each country took turns doing patriotic things with the crowd cheering, and then generals from each country start taunting each other with aggressive walking and fist clenching. Finally, the two sides met in the middle and raised both flags together. It was s really cool experience!

3) Going Bungee Jumping – In Rishikesh, I went bungee jumping for the 3rd time in my life! This jump was from 83 meters (275 feet) and it was set in the foothills of the Himalayas over a beautiful river. I did it with my new friends with Portugal and Argentina and it was such a thrill!

4) Seeing the Golden Temple – Located in the city of Amritsar, this temple is made of pure gold and it’s one of the most impressive temples in India. It is the central religious place for members of the Sikh religion. The temple is free to enter, stays open 24/7, serves free food to over 100,000 people daily, and offers free rooms to sleep in overnight. How amazing is that?

5) Exploring the Hampi Temples – Hampi is a historic city in the Southern state of Karnataka. I spent 4 days there roaming around and being dazzled by the 900-year-old temples that scatter the city. My Israeli friends and I rented motorbikes to explore around, and we saw some nice rice fields and prehistoric rock formations that seriously felt like dinosaurs were romping around the land. Hampi was the most peaceful place that I went to in India, and it’ll stay with me forever.

6) Enjoying the Jodhpur Fort & Gypsy Festival – Jodhpur, in the Rajasthan state, has one of them most impressive forts in the world. It was build some 500 years ago to protect the kingdom from their neighbors. Today, the fort remains in perfect condition and you are allowed to tour inside of it. When I was in Jodhpur, there happened to be the annual Gypsy festival that was held inside the main gate of the fort. There were 50+ musicians from all over the world playing Spanish guitar, bongo drums, and violins. I met some Indian guys and we all went together and it was great!

7) Partying on the beach in Goa – I started my India trip on a 7-week party binge in Goa, and had the time of my life. I met so many new friends, specifically guys from the UK and India, and they took me out to the best psychedelic trance beach raves all night long. The hippie scene in Goa is like none other in the world, and I am definitely going to make a return to Goa in the near future.

I also had a bizarre experience at Holi Festival in Goa – AKA the festival of Love & Colors!

8) Going on a Camel Safari in the Desert – In a city called Jaisalmer in the desert state of Rajasthan, I went on an overnight camel safari. Basically, for 2 days, we rode camels for miles and miles out into the desert and into the sand dunes out near the Pakistan border. We slept overnight on blankets and our tour guide cooked us meals using local ingredients and tree branches to make a fireplace. The midnight stars were the best I’d ever seen, and it was an experience that I’ll never forget.

9) Touring Dharavi – the Biggest Slum in Asia – In Bombay, about 60% or 13 million people live in the slums. But none is as big as Dharavi, the same slum that was made famous from the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire.” I took a 3 hour guided walking tour of Dharavi and it was the most eye-opening experience out of all my travels. More than 1 million people live within 2 square kilometers, and there is an average of 1 toilet per 1,450 people. But despite the crowded living conditions, the slum is actually a billion dollar industry that produces everything from leather, plastic, pottery, clothing, and aluminum. I was most impressed by how organized the slum was.

I made a short GoPro video with untouched footage, and you can view it below:

10) Acting in a Bollywood Film – Bollywood is India’s film industry that is much larger than Hollywood. When I was in Mumbai, I was recruited on the street to be an extra in an upcoming movie. I agreed, and the next day I spent 12 hours on set which was set inside of a 5 star hotel nightclub, and I was told to drink beer and watch sexy Indian models pole dance. Not a bad way to spend my day, and I even made 500 rupees!

Do you want to know how to be an extra in a Bollywood film? Check out my blog post! 

Top 10 Worst Experiences

1) Being in a Deadly Bus Crash – I took an overnight bus from Udaipur to Jodhpur in the Rajasthan state. About 1 hour into the ride, in the middle of nowhere, the bus driver slammed on the breaks and turned the wheel and the bus flipped over on it’s side off the freeway. There was about 5 seconds that I thought I was dead. I was completely covered in tiny pieces of glass and dirt, and everyone was screaming and panicking in Hindi. I was the only foreigner on the bus besides a Korean couple, who spoke minimal English.

I managed to escape with only a few pieces of glass and blood in my foot, but others were severely injured and some were stuck trapped under the bus. From the words of others, they told me that those people had died. It was devastating. After this incident, I boycotted buses and only took daytime trains. If you go to India, I highly advise you NOT to take any buses, because crashes are common.

If you want to read the whole story, then check out this detailed post about the devastating bus incident.

2) Getting Food Poisoning in Goa – On just my 3rd day in India, I was out to dinner with my friend Rachel from Hippie in Heels, and she took me out to her favorite local Goan restaurant. I got some chicken curry that tasted pretty good… But unfortunately, I spent all night throwing up and having bad diarrhea. I was so sick that I slept on the bathroom floor, naked, because I couldn’t move.

I learned my lesson and I decided to go vegetarian after this for the rest of my trip, and I never got sick this bad again. I’d recommend you NOT to eat meat in India, because many times it is unsanitary.

3) Haggling with Indians – This isn’t a specific incidence, but rather something that occurred everyday and I got sick of it. Indian people are very talkative and manipulative, and they are excellent salesmen. I felt exhausted to constantly haggle with them for every purchase. From my experience, most Indian people aren’t there to be your friend (although it may seem like it), but rather, to get every last Rupee out of your wallet. I felt like a walking ATM machine to these people (tuk tuk drivers, street food vendors, markets, etc).

4) Suffocating on Overcrowded Trains – Some trains in India are unbearably crowded, especially the cheaper ones. A few times when I was booking tickets, the first and second class seats were sold out, so I had to take the cheapest seat on the train.   It was so packed that I was smushed between 10 bodies at once and I could hardly breathe. That wasn’t fun.

5) Sweating in Taxis with No A/C – Unless you call for an Uber cab, then your taxi won’t have air conditioning. It can be miserable in the 45+ degree heat (115 Fahrenheit). I remember in Bombay being in a traffic jam in the middle of a hot day and I almost started panicking.

6) Getting Scammed by Tuk Tuk Drivers – Tuk Tuk (or Rickshaw) is the most popular form of a taxi in India, and the drivers love to rip off foreigners.  My advice to you is to never, and I mean NEVER, agree to the first price that they tell you. Many times they will ask for double or even triple the actual price.   I recommend asking your hotel or a local Indian person how much it should cost to get from A to B, and they negotiate the tuk tuk driver down to that price.

Also, make sure that you always carry exact change (small bills) otherwise if you pay with big bills, they will lie and say that they don’t have change… just so they can to keep the extra money. Just be careful.

7) Stepping on Cow Shit – Did you know that there are more than 600 million cows in India? To put that in better perspective, there are 2 Indian cows for every 1 American person in the world!

In Hinduism, cows are considered holy and scared, so people are refrained from killing them. No matter where you go in India, cows are to be seen everywhere. In the streets, in alleys, in parks, in fields, etc. Watch out for their shit all over the ground..

8) Witnessing a Little Boy get Run Over by a Motorbike – This was horrible.   When I was in Hampi, I was riding my motorbike through a tiny village. Right in from of my face, I saw a little boy running around naked and get smacked by a motorbike driving in reverse. The boy hit the street hard and was severely injured. Someone came to pick him up and took him away. But who knew where his parents were. I am sure he survived, but it was haunting to see this happen.

9) Getting Delhi Belly in Delhi – My version 2 of getting sick happened in Delhi. I got the every-so-predictable “Delhi Belly.” I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but I had diaharrea for about 3 days nonstop. At least there was no throwing up this time!

10) Getting Anxiety from all the Attention – To conclude my “least favorite experiences in India,” I began to develop some anxiety from all of the attention that I was getting. I no other country did I receive half as much attention than I got in India. Beggars would grab my leg on the street, people would ask to take a photo with me, people would invite me over to their hose for dinner, etc, etc, etc. It was nonstop, every time I left my hotel. I got sick of it after a while.

India is a crazy place. After reading this, can you now see why I have a love/hate relationship with the country? Can you see why I had so many ups and downs?

If you have any questions about travel in India, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to help you!

Namaste!

Join me across 20+ countries in 2016!
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Drew

Hello! Since 2012, I've been traveling and partying my way around 74+ Countries. Shortly after I graduated from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, I took a job as an English Teacher in South Korea for 18 months. Now, I'm traveling and blogging full-time on a never-ending voyage around the world. Please comment with any questions you have, and feel free to join me on Snapchat & Instagram @drewbinsky :)

DrewINDIA: Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights

24 comments

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  • Nora - November 21, 2016 reply

    Thanx for your blog! I am going to India in December and I am excited as well as scared. Reading your blog posts intesifies both feelings. Wish me luck!
    Does any one have any extra tips against diarrhea apart from what one reads in every guide book? Does the drink Gin before food trick work?
    Thank you!

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  • Maria - July 14, 2016 reply

    Thanks for your blog, very helpful as I am going to India in August and am trying to read as much as I can.
    However I’ll just say that I find it very rude of you to film the slum even though you were asked not to, I thought that one of the most common rules when travelling is to only photograph and record things when you are allowed to, I find it very uncool!

  • Yasie - February 23, 2016 reply

    Hey Drew!
    This was probably one of the best blogs I’ve read about India, i also really enjoy “hippie in heals” , I’m off to India as a solo traveler in march (2016) do you have any main do and donts for a solo female? 🙂

    Drew - February 27, 2016 reply

    Thank you!! You will have a great time, I am excited for your trip 🙂

  • Shikha - June 7, 2015 reply

    Hey Drew,

    I am a new visitor of your blog and now it is one of favourite! 🙂 Great reads!
    If you even plan to come back to India, do visit East and Northeast India. You will experience a whole new India here and it will definitely add up more points to your “Good Experiences”.
    And apart from India, I have been following you in Instagram for a long time. Great gallery! Happy travelling!
    Namaste. 🙂

    Drew - June 8, 2015 reply

    Thanks so much, Shikha! I would love to visit the East and NorthEast the next time I visit 🙂

    Namaste!

  • shikha - June 7, 2015 reply

    Hey,

    It was really a good read. If you ever come back to India, do visit east India as well as North east India. You will definitely see a completely different India there. And I hope , it will add some more points to your “Good experiences” 🙂
    Namaste! 😉

  • Debonita - May 20, 2015 reply

    I stumbled upon your blog via the social media post you wrote. It’s really helpful I love travelling and your blog posts are so interesting and inspiring. I am a fashion blogger who wants to combine fashion and travel on my blog. I am struggling to transition into a full time blogger although I have been lucky to work with different brands my blog doesn’t make any money and I am unable to quit my day job. I was hoping if you can give me any tips. Thanks so much again 🙂

    Drew - May 21, 2015 reply

    Hey Debonita! Thanks for the comment 🙂

    I would love to help you out, and give you some suggestions. The best would be to skype talk. Please send me an email and we can set something up!

    Drew

    Debonita - May 21, 2015 reply

    Hi Drew,
    Thank you so much. I will send you an email shortly. I am so grateful to you.

    Debonita 🙂

    Drew - May 21, 2015 reply

    Thanks Debonita! Can’t wait for your email!

    Debonita - May 22, 2015

    Hi Drew,

    I sent you an email this morning. Did you receive it ?

    Drew - May 22, 2015

    Responding now!

  • evan - May 5, 2015 reply

    great Best & Worst list…
    India is very much a love and hate relationship…
    if your skin is thick enough or your ability to ignore becomes great enough after a few months in India is does get easier…
    upon returning home I said I never wanted to go back…a few months later and that all changed, india has muted all the other places I travel too now and I seem to compare them all with india. it truly is the best and worst place to travel too all in one.
    Namaste

    Drew - May 6, 2015 reply

    Evan – I couldn’t agree more. Namaste man, happy travels!

  • Farooq Hammad - May 4, 2015 reply

    That was a nice reading. Indeed, India is a unique country on all seven continents of the world. It has so much diversity that you won’t experience such vastness anywhere in the world. It is said on every 5 miles, language changes in India. With this, one can guess the cultural vastness on this land. By the way from the listed highlights, it seems you didn’t give much time to the capital city of India. Delhi is ‘India’ in itself.

    Well anyways, I am getting your updates on my mail regularly and to be honest, I feel interesting going through your experiences. Best wishes to your next tours. Between, what will be your direction now?

    Will love to meet you once if you arrive in Delhi.

    Thanks.

    Farooq
    (Delhi)

    Drew - May 6, 2015 reply

    Thanks Farooq! I did spent 5 days in Delhi, but nothing I did there was in my “top 10” list. I will be traveling around the USA and then Europe until OCtober. Best wishes!

  • Danni @Two Peas in a Pack - May 4, 2015 reply

    This is a great list. India is one place I’d love to visit again. I have to say I think of all the things you mentioned constant attention and constant haggling would be the hardest. I almost lost my mind in Marrakesh when we were being aggressively manipulated before I figured out my own way of dealing.

    Drew - May 6, 2015 reply

    YESSS I almost lost my mind several times when haggling.. I’m happy to be home in Arizona and not have to worry about any of that anymore hhaha

  • Heidi - May 4, 2015 reply

    Enjoyed your post… definitely agree with a good part of! We have a saying after being there a while – ‘India-ed out!’ But we keep returning time after time.

    Drew - May 6, 2015 reply

    Thanks Heidi 🙂

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