He Said/She Said: First Impressions of India

He Said/She Said: First Impressions of India

Before setting foot in India we had heard so many things, both amazing and awful that we had prepared ourselves for whatever India might bring.  The one thing we can say is that India is not like any other place in the world, here are our first impressions.




India, “it’s like no place you’ve ever been,” was said to me by several people.  Upon hearing it the first time I thought it was an exaggeration.  After hearing it a few times from very experienced travelers, I became nervous.  They would often add comments about things like ” the poverty”, “the garbage”, “the cows” and “the smells”.  I have to admit I was pretty anxious about coming here, I didn’t know what to expect and from what I had heard it wasn’t my kind of place.

Arriving into the Delhi Airport was a surprise.  Having heard horror stories of the chaos in the Delhi Airport we were so weary we booked a hotel pickup.  It was completely unnecessary.  The Delhi Airport of the horror stories is gone, replaced with a very modern, efficient and calm terminal.  Everything proceeded the way you wish an American airport would operate.  Towards the exit of the terminal though we were hit by the smog, seriously, there is smog in the airport.  However, overall the arrival experience was a pleasant surprise.

Our first days were a mix of shock, enjoyment and bewilderment.  India is like nowhere else I’ve ever been.  The chaos in the streets of Delhi is mind-boggling.  The pollution and litter is shocking.  The cows, well I still don’t understand why there are cows walking around everywhere, why they are chewing on old clothes, or if anyone owns them.  The sights we’ve seen are nice, but the most entertaining thing we’ve done is to sit at street side tables drinking chai and watching.

I really don’t know if I like it.  I am still not comfortable.  I’ve never had to brush my teeth with bottled water before, anywhere, but travelers here swear by it.  We’ve been eating street food and not had any issues, but I still dread Delhi belly.  This is a country that will take a while for me to figure out, good thing we have months here…




India is exhausting.  The sensory assault that greets you the moment you leave your room is indescribable. The cacophony of deafening car horns, screaming vendors and blaring music is still no match for the stench of Delhi’s streets.  The constant state of heightened awareness that you have to maintain to simply walk down the street without being hit by a car or grabbed by an aggressive tout is taxing.  Yet, somehow my expectations for India were far worse than what Delhi dished out.

While the first few days were tiring, I was surprised to find that the vendors were far less hostile than the one’s on Khao San Road in Bangkok, the people far more helpful than the Chinese whom I couldn’t even communicate with due to my not speaking Mandarin and the streets were cleaner than much of Nairobi.  Of course the cleanliness standards were a far cry to anything I would expect in the U.S. But I was in India, a place I have been excited to visit since we started planning this trip.

This is certainly not to say that my first impressions were all favorable.  I had, as many travelers do, prepared for the very worst and therefore was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t as bad as the “worst” I had imagined.  Of course it was still eye-opening to say the least.  Camels challenging pedestrians and cars for the right of way. Cows eating garbage in the streets, children and adults alike  treating alleys as public toilets and beggars approaching us constantly.

After just a few days in India, I am far less exhausted and adjusting quite well.  I love the thrill of crossing the street, the anticipation of what might happen next, because it could be anything and I look forward to the adventure of the next month of travels in Rajasthan.  India has made a great first impression and I am certain will provide some of the most colorful stories of our trip.

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» Bka :
Mar 28, 2012

From an ” outsiders perspective” it doesn’t sound like fun….I have seen it coming for months and I hereby declare you as travel junkies, not unlike the adrenaline kind…..to most, your tales of wandering cows, stench, dirt and fear of Delhi belly has little appeal…..could be broken leg, couch surfing envy on my part as well….as well……be safe and eat well……love dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, we didn’t make India sound fun? It is a lot of work, but thus far the vibrant colors, friendly locals and stunning palaces have made it worth it.

» Prefer Anonymity :
Mar 31, 2012

Haha, stumbled onto this website from the nytimes. Well, being from India, allow me to offer my own perspective. To me, the surface of what India is is horrible. All the things you said. The stench, the chaos, the hornking (oof! The honking!) these all make for a lot of weariness. However, India is a land of culture, history, and, as much as we Indians are tired of hearing it over and over again, diversity. Cuisine, clothes, customs and even entire languages can change in as little as 100 kms. This is what I find incredible about my country. Thanks for visiting it. Hope you enjoy your time here.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Thanks for the comments and sharing your opinions on India…it is all the things you said and we have just skimmed the surface of all the amazing cultural mixing and diversity. India is an incredible place and we look forward to exploring it further, thanks for reading and sharing!

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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