During our trip to South East Asia in 2009, we traveled to Thailand for two weeks. We covered a lot of territory. The first leg of the trip was spent in the south with Uncle Hugh in Phuket. For the second leg of the trip, we went to Ko Pang An and Met our friends from Ottawa, Janelle and Mel. After a short stop in Bangkok for a night or two, we spent our third leg of the trip in the North, in Chiang Mai, with Helene’s Great Aunt, Rachanee.
In December 2008, Helene and I were fortunate enough to take a month off of work. For our first big vacation abroad, we decided to visit South East Asia, and our first stop was Hong Kong. I couldn’t imagine a more futuristic place to visit. Going back to Canada after Hong Kong felt like we were traveling through time.
Some people love India. Others hate it. Close friends warned us that the food would make us sick. Family cautioned about safety. And almost everyone agreed that the country is met with extremes: extreme weather, extreme poverty, extreme wealth, extreme joy and extreme frustration.
Personally, there were times I loved India and times I hated it. Above all, though, I found the country to be quite lovely and an absolute must for those looking for new experiences in a completely different country.
Before you leave, there are a few things you really should do before you hit the road:
- Use India Mike, an invaluable resource, to plan your route. The community can tell you if your planned route is realistic, answer virtually any question and get you really excited about the trip.
- Book all your buses and trains in advance. India is a busy place. Trains will be sold out if you show up last minute, unless you want to pay top dollar or change routes. Most last minute bus and train cancellations only cost 2–3 dollars. These are the sites we used for the bus and train.
- In Canada we have a Cholera and travelers diarrhea vaccine marketed as Dukorol, but it may have a different name in your country. I’m certain this vaccine prevented us from getting into a nasty situation ;).
- Get informed about Malaria. It isn’t everywhere in India, but Malaria is something you should know about before you leave. We ended up taking malaria pills for about a week, but I ended up having an adverse reaction. The side effects were not worth the trouble. A couple things we did to help lower the risk of catching malaria were:
- slept with mosquito nets;
- stayed indoors at dusk;
- made sure there weren’t any mosquitoes in the room at bed time;
- used repellent with deet;
- Google the incidents of people catching malaria in the region we visited.
- Try to eat in restaurants that look busy and avoid restaurants that do not have a high influx of people.
- Try to avoid street meat. Avoiding street meat is probably one of the more contentious pieces of advice, given that street meat could be both the best and the worst part of a trip to India. I think the main concern is that a lot of street vendors are using local water that may contain bacteria that we are not immune to.Just use your judgment and make sure the water bottle seal is not broken.
And one bonus tip:
- Embrace the frustrating moments. Thinking back, the frustrating moments were among the highlights. My favourite — getting dropped off in the middle of a busy five lane highway and literally screaming over being scammed out of a dollar. One dollar!