Tigers up close, the Ganges at dawn, elephant rides, opium dens, beautiful temples--India is truly an exotic place. We have been on trips around the world but this one ranks up near the top for its diversity and uniqueness.
The Indian people are very friendly and helpful--you really do feel that a recent and brief acquaintance very quickly can seem like a life-long friend. For example, we have never experienced waiters in restaurants inviting us to their homes.
In another instance, a bartender admitted he did not know how to make a certain drink. After instruction on how to do it (and writing it all down for future reference), he seemed extremely pleased that he had learned how to make such a drink. Later, in the evening, while we were having dinner in the hotel restaurant (in a room completely separate from the bar) he showed up with another identical drink in hand saying he wanted to present us with the drink with his compliments just to show us he knew how to make it.
As you can tell from these pages and photos, the Indian people are very religious and some of the world's major religions had their beginnings here. Some of the religions seem very different to us, with Hinduism, for example, having millions of gods. At the dinner with the Indian family, they stated that even dinner guests could be gods so that was a reason to treat us with great respect.
The country is growing rapidly economically although that is not as apparent in many areas as we expected. Until we arrived in Mumbai, we did not see a lot of modern buildings, expressways, etc so we conclude that the economic prosperity is limited to pockets of activity. In Mumbai, the contrast is particularly stark with some areas extremely wealthy and full of glitz and others showing the worst possible slums with thousands of children obviously destitute. But as an American president said once, a rising tide tends to carry all the boats so we hope that all of the population will eventually benefit.
We were particularly interested in comparing India to China (where we visited two years ago). In comparison, we thought China seems much more advanced with many more modern buildings, numerous expressways, and generally far superior infrastructure. Yet one cannot discount India's recent economic growth of about 8% per year (versus China's recent 10% rates) compared to much lower rates in the west. One cannot forget either the predictions that by the mid-21st century, the Indian population will be the largest in the world (surpassing China because of the restricted birth rates).
If you plan to see the world, you should definitely put India on your list. Their national tourism agency has recently been running ads in travel publications with the headline "Incredible India." That's not far from the truth--we hope you'll have the chance to experience it.
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