Incredible India

By alison - April 28, 2011 (Updated: November 21, 2014)

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Incredible India.
Parliament Building in Bangalore

Parliament Building in Bangalore and the city’s never ending construction work

It’s been over two weeks now, since we returned from India, and I’m still processing the experience. There are so many posts I want to write about our time there, but describing this amazing country in words seems an impossible task.

The country’s new tourism slogan is Incredible India. I’ve seen it in travel magazine ads and on TV for the past couple of years. It wasn’t until I visited that I truly got it.

These days we tend to define incredible as something we really like; That cake was incredible. But actually, I think India’s tourism slogan is closer to the original definition of incredible – so extraordinary as to seem impossible.

Because India does seem impossible; the contrasts are truly hard to believe.

The smells – One moment you are holding your nose from the overwhelming odour of sewer; the next you are inhaling the scent of the flowering trees overhead.

Flowering trees in Bangalore

Flowering trees in Bangalore

The colours – You walk along a street clouded by pollution and dust, feeling hot and dishevelled, and suddenly a pair of women in brilliantly coloured, immaculately clean saris walk by, utterly unfazed by the dirt and chaos around them.

Tranquility in the city - Bangalore

Tranquility in the city – Bangalore

The sounds – There is constant noise: horns honking, chanting from the temples, bells ringing, birds singing, planes landing. And yet, even in a city as chaotic as Bangalore, there are pockets of silence and tranquillity.

Traffic in Bangalore - ordered chaos

Traffic in Bangalore – ordered chaos

The tastes – spicy, sweet, tangy, bitter, refreshing – sometimes all in one meal.

Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa – our favourite south Indian snack

The construction – It’s everywhere: new modern buildings, roads torn up, a new metro system going in. But the construction techniques are ancient, mostly done by hand and hard hard work.

Indian Scaffolding

Modern architecture with traditional scaffolding

And through it all, you can never escape the contrast of wealth and poverty. In India, it’s not hidden away, or swept under the rug, as in many western countries. It assaults you wherever you look.

I can understand why outsiders desperately want to solve India’s problems. But I can also see why the only possible solutions must be internal.

Microsoft office in Bangalore

Microsoft office in Bangalore and construction workers in a truck

You can’t control India. You can’t make her adhere to your schedule or cooperate with your plans. You can’t discover her; she reveals herself to you in her own good time – sometimes long after you have left.

You love her or you hate her – sometimes both at the same time. But never are you ambivalent.

She is incredible – hard to believe, difficult to understand and next to impossible to describe in mere words.

Over the coming days I promise, I will have some factual destination posts on India – Bangalore, Goa, Kerala and Lepakshi. Please stay tuned while I continue to process my thoughts (and my photos).

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by Nomadic Chick

    Nomadic Chick May 18, 2011 at 09:16

    I love this, because you succinctly describe her. She leaves you gawking, in wonder, in love, in hate. All of it.

    You’ve captured some great moments on film. I look forward to more. 🙂

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison May 23, 2011 at 10:22

      Thanks so much Jeannie! I feel like we barely had a taste of this incredible country in the short time we were there. I’m already ready for more 🙂

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