Let’s talk : INDIA

March 2016 marked my first trip to Asia. The first of two trips this year. The first of many. On March 28th, I flew from Heathrow to Indira Gandhi International Airport for a week in India’s capital, New Delhi. A trip ran by The Global Leader’s Programme. A programme I am enrolled on at Coventry University. If you are a student here, I totally recommend you look it up and get involved. They offer some fantastic opportunities and looks great on LinkedIn!

First Impressions

Okay, so when we landed, It was already at least 30 degrees. Which is heavenly. I will always prefer to be in a warmer climate. Due to lack of sleep on the plane and the fact that we were now 4 and a half hours out of sync – we were all so tired. However, there was no time to nap. We were taking the 45 minute journey from the airport to Iris Park Hotel to freshen up before heading to NBA Group of Institutions. 

NBA Group of Institution

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When we first arrived at the university, we were greeted by 3 women in beautiful saris who gave us a traditional Indian welcome with floral garlands, bindis and showered us in dry rice and petals. It was such a lovely feeling knowing we’d only been on Indian soil a few hours and we were made to feel so welcome. Everyone at the university was so friendly.

This university has been awarded the best university for Mass Communication in India. I was expecting a huge campus, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was the most non-university looking place ever.

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The classrooms were built under a huge tent looking structure and separated with just wooden walls. They had air-con though which was needed. There was also this random helicopter in the middle of the garden?

The first lecture we participated in was a practical so it was pretty fun! We all had to create a human machine with a real function! Richard, Rachel, Claire, Sam and I created a machine which turns rubbish into energy for a car. We won first place – shame there was no prize! It was fun and a great bonding activity!

The second lecture of the day was all about the new-media. The lecturer knew how tired we all were though so was generous and only went through the first few slides. It was a real struggle to keep our eyes open and I felt so bad!

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New Delhi

As a place, I’ve never seen anything like it. You can tell just by looking around how over-populated it is. With homeless people on every corner setting up camp wherever they can. There is also traffic, EVERYWHERE. You would need to add another half an hour of journey time onto any journey you take because of this. Also, THE ROADS – I’ve never been so confused. They just drive everywhere they like with no indication. Lanes? What lanes! Flying through cross-roads in a Tuk Tuk was basically a death wish as you never know when a car is going to appear!

We also checked out a few markets – something we couldn’t not do. With bargains EVERYWHERE I couldn’t resist not treating my friends, family and myself to some Indian goodies. With trousers for £2, marble boxes for £1 and lovely scarves for 50p, it was DELIGHTFUL! New Delhi was that cheap, that I only spent £95 the whole time. £50 of that was souvenirs!

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Taj Mahal

Got to tick off another one of the modern 7 wonders! The drive there seemed to go on forever – but it was good to drive down south and see lots of rural India. Our ticket was included in the price of the trip so we were able to go straight through (once we passed the strict security)

I was surprised at the lack of international tourists I saw. Most the people there were Indian and were all so fascinated to see a large group of young white people. I must have got photos with so many Indian people that I could be a viral sensation in India. They were so sweet though and were so appreciative of the conversation that we made.

Inside the Taj were replicas of Shah Jahan’s Tomb and his wife. The inside reminded me of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, as it was like a maze and you have to walk your way round. Out the other side, we stood and looked at the view of where the second Taj Mahal would have been built. Imagine if that happened! It would be the world’s best landscape.

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Food

Indian being my favourite cuisine, I couldn’t wait. Curry for breakfast? so wrong, but so right!
My first Indian meal in a restaurant near our hotel consisted of Tandoori Mushrooms. They were so spicy and the portion was huge. I loved it! Accompanied by a Mojito which evidently they did different out there.

I also ate ALOT of lentil soup. Being a vegetarian in a predominantly vegetarian country was really convenient as there was always an option! It was always delicious too!

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Top 10 Tips for visiting India

1. EXPLORE
With not a lot of free time on our itinerary, we were slightly gutted and there was no way I was coming to India and not seeing as much as possible – and with two days bed ridden due to food poisoning, I was upset to be not seeing more of this mad city!
Rachel, Claire, Sam and I took it upon ourselves, no matter how ill we were feeling to get in a tuk-tuk and see as much as possible. I am so glad we did. We saw much more than we could have done if we stuck to the itinerary and didn’t do anything in the evenings. We spent one of our evenings at India Gate and paid a tuk-tuk driver just 500 rupees for him to see as much as we could in the area and then take us home. We saw The Gyarah Murti Statue which was incredible. Admittedly, I didn’t even know it existed! We also saw the Indira Gandhi Memorial – the former prime minister! As well as these, we also explored more markets and took many tuk tuk rides around the city.

So, without cramming in these extra activities into our hectic schedule, we wouldn’t have seen much of Delhi at all. So no matter how tired or run down you are feeling – just take the chance and go and see as much as you can! We’re so glad we did!

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2. KEEP HYDRATED
With temperatures up to 40 degrees, it was absolutely a necessity to keep hydrated. Especially with how busy we were and the long flight prior. When drinking water, only go for bottled water and make sure it CLICKS! 

3. PICK POCKETS
Just like anywhere you go as a tourist, you may be a target. I always use my bum-bag and keep my money in the closest zip. With lots of young children begging, this can also be a set up so just be fully aware of anyone that approaches you. Keep checking you have all of your personal belongings as often as possible.

4. DRESS RESPECTFULLY
It may be hot, but going out in short shorts and a small vest top wouldn’t go down well. You will get a lot of unwanted attention and may even offend some people. Get yourself some elephant pants for £2. They’re baggy and kept me cool! I also stocked up on plain t-shirts from Primark for just £2 that were absolutely fine!

5. BE PREPARED FOR ATTENTION
As a White British person, foreigners are considered exotic, and our fair skin appeals to Indians. I must have got approached at least 20 times for a photo. It felt like I was a celebrity which was weird. One moment I will never forget: Rachel, Claire, Sam and I were at the India Gate and there was a group of young female school girls. Probably about 30 of them, all singing in a choir. As soon as they saw us, they stopped singing, screamed and ran to swarm us. We were there for about half an hour having our photos taken as more and more people approached. We really didn’t mind though as they were so friendly, sociable and you could tell they were just really happy to talk to us!

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6. BARGAINING
When at the markets, chances are you could get an item for at least a third of the price. Example, Rachel and I bought leather wallets that should have been 2495 rupees, for just 100. If you offer a price and they don’t accept. Just walk away and they will waste no time in chasing you trying to compromise. Also, it is sometimes worth it to buy more. The more you buy from one vendor, the most likely you are to get a better deal!

7. CARRY LOO ROLL
I don’t need to go into too much detail on this one. But most toilets come with a shower as opposed to loo roll. Something that is definitely a more hygienic way of cleaning once you’ve been to the toilet, but just carry loo roll to be sure! 

8. PERSONAL HYGIENE
This is something that we took quite seriously whilst in India. Constantly using hand sanitizer and washing our hands whenever we could. Being a country that has a lot of poverty, cleanliness I felt was one of the last of their worries. Whenever you have handled money, it is also a good idea to clean your hands as the money is very old and dirty. Thousands of germs that could then end up being consumed if you then ate!
There was a lot of rubbish on the streets of Delhi and stray dogs. These must be avoided due to disease! Even if you’re a dog lover like myself and feel sorry for them – don’t give them any attention.

9. BE AWARE WHEN ON THE ROADS
A basic tip that is the same for everywhere you go – but here, it’s ten times worse than anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s not uncommon to meet oncoming traffic or to cut up the car next to you with a near miss or even come across cows in the middle of the motorway. With no seat belts in the tuk tuks, you just have to hold on. 
When crossing the roads, we just tried to go whenever anyone else did as the locals know what they’re doing. There wasn’t always a pavement to walk on either so be prepared to cars driving very close to you. 

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10. GET INVOLVED!
Eat the food, visit the temples, ride in a tuk tuk, go see the Taj Mahal, visit the markets, wear bright colours. Do everything you can to immerse yourself in this hectic but truly beautiful culture.

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