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India Travel Guide

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There are few countries in the world that can match the diversity of India. With a landscape that ranges from featureless plains and arid deserts to the spectacular Himalayas and dense forests. India is a true culture shock; the poverty is as appalling as the wealth is ostentatious, the way of life a confusing mixture of religious tradition and encroaching western consumerism (albeit somewhat behind the times). Gilded temples share space with English looking Victorian town houses, street hawkers work the pavements outside huge department stores officials and Indian guides go about their business in temperatures of around 100 degrees wearing blue wool blazers. It’s a strange place indeed and if you can deal with the smells and the hassles and the scenes of abject poverty, you are in for a fascinating time.

India’s capital, Delhi is as overcrowded, smelly and noisy, as it is magical. The city contains some of the country’s most striking urban architecture, serves the best food and has some of India’s most intriguing and colourful bazaars in the district of Paharganji. The main places of interest include Connaught Place at the city’s heart, the Red Fort and the largest active mosque in India, Jama Masjid, which holds over 35,000 worshippers each Friday. India’s rich-poor divide is probably most apparent in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) where the largest movie making industry in the world shares the city with Asia’s largest slums. Bollywood is celebrity central of India and in all honesty looks rather like a giant film set itself with it's Victorian architecture and regular cricket matches. Here too you’ll find India’s most notorious red light area and some great beaches at Chowpatty. Mind you, those looking for a beach holiday usually head straight for Goa where the sun and sand are only marred by the incessant hawkers and hedonism that is rife amongst the young and chemically imbalanced. Calcutta on the other hand is virtually a microcosm of the Indian nation where bureaucratic institutions like the ‘Writers Building’ go head to head with goat sacrificing at Kali’s temple.

Virtually no one makes the trip to India without stopping in at the country’s ultimate tourist symbol, the Taj Mahal in Agra, one of the most beautiful and extravagant buildings ever to be built in the name of love. It does not disappoint and at closer inspection only confirms what a wondrous work of art it really is. Jaipur also has it's share of treasures - broad avenues and striking architecture, the famous Johari Bazaar jeweller’s market and ‘pink city’ with it's seven gates. India is so different it is hard to imagine anyone not finding it fascinating. Sure there are hassles - bureaucracy, street hawkers, poverty and pollution but there is so much to marvel at that after only a short while you’ll find yourself warming to, even falling in love with India.

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