Faces of India

Local women in the market at Orchha
Local women in the market at Orchha

No matter how much you read about India, nothing can prepare you for your actual arrival. You’ll experience all the usual clichés – the chaos, the colours, the friendliness, the aromas, the food, the landscapes, as well as the hassle, the filth, the poverty and the begging. But stay a while and it’s the kind of place that really gets under your skin.

Enjoying the Republic Day festivities in Jaisalmer
Enjoying the Republic Day festivities in Jaisalmer
Guard at Mehrangar Fort, Jodhpur
Guard at Mehrangar Fort, Jodhpur

My first trip was at the beginning of 2009 to Rajasthan for just a few weeks and I was so enamoured of the place that I was back by September that year on a 3 month tour from Varanasi in the north to Kanyakumari, at the very southernmost tip of the continent. Although in many ways it was an amazing trip, in the end I was exhausted, having experienced everything from bedbugs and filthy bathrooms to chronic food poisoning which laid me up for 5 days in Varkala. I vowed never to return.

Boy making rotis in Orchha
Boy making rotis in Orchha
Schoolkids seem more interested in me than their tour of the Five Rathas in Mamallapuram
Schoolkids seem more interested in me than their tour of the Five Rathas in Mamallapuram

I was back last year for a five-week journey up the east coast from Chennai to Darjeeling and this proved to be one of the best trips ever. India exerts a strange pull over some travellers, me included. It’s certainly not an easy place to visit, but for me the good points outweigh the difficulties.

Waiting for a train in Darjeeling
Waiting for a train in Darjeeling

I love the food, so every day is an adventure as I seek out a different dish. The climate is great, although I have yet to experience the monsoon season. The countryside is astonishingly beautiful and varied, but the thing I hate most is the litter which lies everywhere uncollected. It’s a real eyesore.

Coconut seller, Kerala
Coconut seller, Kerala
Morning rituals in Varanasi
Morning rituals in Varanasi

Above all, though, it’s the people you meet and see along the way who really make your visit memorable. That’s why I have concentrated on photos of people for this post.There’s an openness and genuine curiosity and wherever you go, you’ll be approached by people eager to make conversation and have their photo taken. I can’t wait to go back and I am already planning my next trip for next year. It’s impossible to stay away.

Local women in Satjelia, the Sunderbans, West Bengal
Local women in Satjelia, the Sunderbans, West Bengal
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ianworldtraveller

I'm British, lived in London most of my life, but am currently travelling the world.

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