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India with DC. Kerela? Golden Triangle? Both? Or somewhere else?

(6 Posts)
NoonarAgain Fri 23-Oct-15 12:06:50

I'm deseparate to book a trip to india with Dh and dds who will be aged 12 and 14. We are limited to a 2 week trip in April, or 3 weeks during August.

I love the sound of a relaxed Kerela tour, but not sure if this will feel too touristy. I like the idea of seeing northern India, but am not sure is seeing a succession of historic sights will be our highest priority. I am most interested in people, culture, scenery., wildlife (for the children).. and keeping our children safe and well.

What would you advise, for a gentle introduction to India? If we choose the Golden Triangle, will we just feel like we are being herded along with hundreds of other tourists for the whole trip? that really doesn't appeal!

And climate is also an issue, as i realise neither of of our possible dates are at a particularly good time of year.

i suppose I'd really like a bit of both itineraries, but think that 2 weeks would be too little to do that. this would mean going for 3 weeks in august, but Kerela in August sounds like a bad idea from what i've read.

I want to see 'the real India' but also want a relaxed pace for part of the trip. I'd quite like to see the coast, but beaches are not going to be a priority as we've been on numerous beach holidays and that's not what this trip is about.

(btw i am a very open minded person with an adventurous spirit, but i am moderately anxious about health and travel safety. I have been to Malaysia, Bali, HK, Singapore but nowhere really brave!) Any thoughts? Advice greatly appreciate.

iloveeverykindofcat Sun 25-Oct-15 08:10:47

Well, I' may not be the best placed to answer but seeing as no-one else has I'll have a go. I did a long volunteering stint in India just after college and traveled the Golden Triangle - no dc but some of the volunteers were teens.

1) Do not do August. It will be unbearable and you won't be able to do anything except lie around in air-conditioned spaces. No coastlines in the Golden Triangle.
2) It can be as touristy as you make it. If you want to see the real India I would not advise large hotels. If you want to go full on, you can do a homestay (I did this) with an Indian family. DC will need to be relatively mature to deal with this - there may not be a western style shower or toilet or seating arrangements and they'll need to eat what they're given. There may not be meat or dairy. I'm pretty close to vegan anyway but may be an adjustment for the kids. If this sounds a little too authentic, family run guesthouses catering to tourists can be a decent compromise. Eating out can be done for pennies, and you can find places catering to Western tastes very easily in the cities.
3) The Taj Mahal, the Agra forts, the Jaipur palaces and the desert camping experiences are beyond words. Real once-in-a-lifetime stuff. I'm not much of one for architecture but walking into the Taj and seeing it rise up over the horizon brought tears to my eyes. The whole city of Jaipur is one of my favourite things. It's techinically still a kingdom but the monarch is a figurehead and the palaces are either open to the public as museums or converted into hotels.
4) You will see elephants, camels, monkeys and cattle in the cities, in addition to 90823402384 street dogs. The monkeys do very well for themselves - watching them leap and dash over the rooftops at sunset is quite a sight. Go to the monkey temple outside Jaipur. It's fabulous. Street dogs can be upsetting - some do fine, others are sick/dead, having puppies all over the place, etc. The Hindu philosophy seems to mean that the people don't interfere with the dogs - they certainly don't harm them, but nor do they go out of their way to help them.
5) For tigers you will need to go to a wildlife preserve. There are hardly any left.
6) Finally, the poverty can be very confronting and distressing. You may be opening some challenging conversations with DC about global economics, capitalism, etc. If you give to one child beggar you will be mobbed. You'll have to make your own judgement about when, where and if to give.

All in all I think you and DC will have an incredible time. It changed me and changed my life. The 12 year old particularly may struggle with some aspects but it will never forget it for sure.

iloveeverykindofcat Sun 25-Oct-15 08:34:16

Oh yes some health and safety tips
- drink bottled water only (check seal). You can be it everywhere for 10-20 rupees (a few pence). Buy more than you think you'll need.
- Peel fruit (this was my mistake - one night of d and v).
- Bring hand sanitiser.
- No meat off the street. I'd say no meat period if you can.
- Weigh the pros and cons of anti-malarials. They can make you ill, and if you wear plenty of mosquito repellent the chances of contracting malaria are very small. Even if you catch it, it's very curable if caught in the early stages.
- Light cotton long trousers and shirts/kurtas are the way to go. Do not expose skin to the sun.
- By and large the people are amazing, very friendly and slightly protective towards young women. Inviting someone you've just met home to dinner is normal practice. I felt safer in India than in London. Still observe the obvious - don't get into a rickshaw alone if possible, keep mobile charged, valuables secure and hidden, try to stick together on public transport.
- Physical danger felt very minimal to me, but as tourists, local business operators may try to rip you off moneywise, especially when it comes to transport. Shop around if you have time but don't stress too much about it; remember that when you convert the rupees back to pounds the difference isn't as anywhere near as much as it seems.

JeffreysMummyIsCross Sun 25-Oct-15 15:06:04

If it's a gentle introduction you want, I'd definitely go to the south. It's still "real India"! Kerala is quite limited on historical sights, but you could combine it with Tamil Nadu or Karnataka and see some ancient temple complexes (eg Mamallapuram, Belur & Halebid, Hampi). Tamil Nadu also has a slightly different monsoon season than the rest of India, so may be OK in August.

spydie Sun 01-Nov-15 08:48:49

Unfortunately I can't offer a comparison, but I have done Kerala twice. I first went in '98 aged 14 with my parents. Back then there were not many tourists and it was still quite untouched! Next went a few years later, this time with my parents late arrival, who was 2 at the time!

As an introduction to India I'd say it's as good a place to start as any, particularly for kids. It's one of the most affluent States of India, and whilst by our standards there is poverty, there was minimal distressing poverty. English is spoken by the majority of the population and certainly as a 14 year old, it was great to be able to talk to people without much of a language divide.

We visited Tamil Nadu and the western ghats, as well as some of the local sites ie in Trivandrum. You could easily do a few days by boat on the backwaters and do both ends of the state to offer more variety.

Safety/health wise, it's really about taking precautions as you would in any Asian country. We did it with a 2 year old and it was absolutely fine. No dodgy bellies for us on either trip, however my mum and I did both pick up

spydie Sun 01-Nov-15 08:55:09

Posted too soon!

We both picked up dengue fever which is mosquito borne on our first trip. My mum was actually really ill and it was right at the end of the holiday, whereas I showed much milder symptoms once we were home. It is a malaria zone, however on our second trip I stopped taking the antimalarials as they were causing severe migraines. Drugs have improved since though, this was one of the ones they generally don't dish out anymore!!

When to go; the dry season is December through to April. December you might still get some showers but a half hour downpour once per day and then nothing. Temperatures then are high twenties with lower humidity (although still in the 90%ile). April is the hottest and the humidity then is meant to be very very high. And then the weather breaks! Don't go in monsoon season; the place floods and roads/bridges get washed away... ??

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