India Was:

By - April 13, 2011 (Updated: November 21, 2014)

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Incredible India.

India was:

  • sitting in the back-seat of a taxi, watching mesmerized, as cars, auto-rickshaws, scooters, trucks, buses and pedestrians dodged from lane to lane without any concern of being hit.
  • lounging on the floor mats of a beach café in Goa, listening to the waves and watching pasty white tourists bake in the sun, while Indians strolled the beach and took water taxis as transportation.
Fruit sellers and tourists on the beaches of Goa

Fruit sellers and tourists on the beaches of Goa

  • witnessing the constant contrasts of excess and destitution co-existing

  • being overwhelmed by brilliant rainbow colours – in the clothing, buildings, flowers, foods
  • waking to the sounds of chanting from the temple down the street, celebrating a festival for the entire week we were in Bangalore
  • eating some of the most incredible food I’ve ever had, and having to pass it up for close to a week, while my body belligerently came to terms with my new diet
Curry at Chandni Chowk

Curry at Chandni Chowk

  • being draped in stunning saris, beside a wall of the most beautiful fabrics I have ever seen
  • being hounded to buy drums, carvings, fruit, sunglasses, watches, clothes or to just give money because my whiteness labelled me as ‘rich’
  • watching the backwaters of Kerala slip silently by, while relaxing on a traditional houseboat
Laundry day on the backwaters of Kerala

Laundry day on the backwaters of Kerala

  • drinking litres of the horrible ‘Electrol’ rehydration drink and forcing Andrew to do the same, in the hope we could conquer whatever bug was making us so sick.
  • being constantly assaulted by smells and sounds – both delightful and nauseating
  • watching thousands of flying foxes take to the sky, in a black vibrating cloud, in search of their evening meal
  • seeing every fruit and vegetable I can think of, and many I’ve never seen before, being sold on every street corner
A typical street scene in Bangalore

A typical street scene in Bangalore

  • being one of the tallest women dancing ’til dawn, in a packed club in Goa, something that has never happened to my 5’3” self
  • becoming completely blasé, within a day, to cows wandering on the roadside, sidewalk, highway or even in standing in storefronts
  • screaming and dancing with crazed fans as India won the World Cup of Cricket
  • wandering through timeless temples and being blessed in the same way the faithful have been blessed for centuries
Detail of Lepakshi Temple

Detail of Lepakshi Temple

  • breaking down in a shopping mall and feeling like a failed Western tourist, after eating at Subway, because my body couldn’t tolerate the curries I wanted to eat
  • giving up on plans I was so excited about because I knew our bodies just couldn’t keep up with the pace of our travels
  • racing to catch flights and rescheduling travel at the last minute because of delayed trains that turned out not to be delayed at all
  • being rewarded with an upgrade to the most fantastic room I’ve ever stayed in, with our own private pool
  • watching the sun slip silently into the sea with a drink in my hand and a smile on my face
Goan Sunset

Goan Sunset

  • being immersed in the unending gracious hospitality of our dear friends, while also being catered to by their neighbours and total strangers
  • surrendering all control and letting events unfold before me
  • knowing there is no way I’ll ever be able to sum up all I have experienced over the last two weeks
Andrew and our fabulous hosts in Bangalore

Andrew and our fabulous hosts in Bangalore

Many stories and photos, from our India adventure, will be coming over the next days and weeks. Stay tuned…

Read more from this series...

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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+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


  1. Comment by Leigh

    Leigh April 13, 2011 at 17:15

    I can’t believe you’re back already. As always India sounds like an incredible experience but what a shame being sick for so long!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 13, 2011 at 18:14

      I can’t believe it’s over already either! Despite the sickness it was fantastic and we were forced to time our time a bit more which is not necessarily a bad thing. Sad I missed out on some of the food but still was able to enjoy a lot of yummy dishes.

  2. Comment by jen

    jen April 13, 2011 at 20:40

    Alison! Welcome back …wonderful blog and photos …I know you put into words
    A lot of similar sentiments I had during my first India trip!!! Surrendering all control
    a very good one for me 🙂 that’s how I might have ended up with swapnil!! 🙂
    Best moment in my life 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 14, 2011 at 11:56

      Thanks Jen! It certainly is an overwhelming place but wonderful too!

  3. Comment by paris (im)perfect

    paris (im)perfect April 13, 2011 at 20:56

    Wow, wow, WOW! Really great post. Sounds like an incredible experience. I burst out loud picturing you as your 5’3 self as the tallest woman dancing all night!

    I’m sorry you got so sick, but it sounds like you made the most of your time there and really surrendered to the experience.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 14, 2011 at 11:57

      Thanks Sion! Being sick was all just past of the experience I think. Sad that it cut in to our limited time but we have even more excuses to go back now 🙂

  4. Comment by expatraveler

    expatraveler April 14, 2011 at 00:56

    Oh it sounds like an amazing vacation that you did not want to end! I can imagine how much fun it will be to go through all of the photos! I’m still day dreaming over that incredible sunset photo you took. And at 5’3″ being tall; it reminds me of what I first thought of men in Victoria being fairly short or the same height as me at 5’9″.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 14, 2011 at 11:59

      Lol, you’d be a giant in India! It was a pretty funny experience for me as I looked around the room. I was as tall as most of the guys too 🙂 Definitely a change from my time in Holland!

  5. Comment by Tez

    Tez April 14, 2011 at 11:20

    I’d just like to say, at 5’3″ 3/4″, I am the tallest woman in my family. 🙂 Fabulous post, Al. It makes me want to go there even more than I did before!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 14, 2011 at 12:00

      Thanks Tez! I think you’d love it. The south is incredible although hot hot hot! Just wait until I mention the shoes… 🙂

  6. Comment by Amy

    Amy April 14, 2011 at 11:21

    Looks and sounds amazing! Sorry to hear you were sick, but it seems like you were still able to experience so much! Can’t wait to hear more. Love that shirt too, by the way!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 14, 2011 at 12:01

      Luckily we were both sick at the beginning while we were with our friends who took super good care of us. By the time we set out to travel we were doing a lot better. I think the heat had as much to do with it as the change in food. Next time we need to remember to take it slooow 🙂

  7. Comment by Nomadic Chick

    Nomadic Chick April 14, 2011 at 20:24

    What an earthy, forthright tome to India, in all it’s ugliness, beauty and life-altering images. It so does that to you.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 15, 2011 at 08:44

      Thanks Jeannie! I think I’ll be processing the effect this trip had on me for a long time to come. You’ve spent so much more time there so I can only imagine it’s effect on you has been even stronger!

  8. Comment by Jen

    Jen April 14, 2011 at 21:22

    I have to say I felt like “home” when I was in India… somehow it felt so real, so down to earth, so much like it satisfies your soul in so many ways… as well as horrifies it sometimes… but its REAL. not fake.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 15, 2011 at 08:46

      It definitely does seem real and not manufactured, like many places do. I didn’t experience the ‘home’ sensation I’ve felt in other places but I was only there for a short 2 weeks. I think I was too busy taking everything in to feel settled this time around.

  9. Comment by Shweta

    Shweta April 14, 2011 at 21:55

    It would be an understatement if I said I missed your posts. I stopped by CW at least once a day to find out your impressions of my home country. I am glad you loved it there, sad that you got sick..
    Welcome back! And looking forward to your take on India!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 15, 2011 at 08:47

      Thanks Shweta! Sorry I wasn’t able to post while we were away but we were on the go all the time. I have lots of stories and photos to share over the next few weeks so I hope you enjoy them!

  10. Comment by Nihar

    Nihar April 15, 2011 at 15:14

    Lovely captures Alison!! they look so colorful and ethnic as India is… this is so different from the stereotypical snake charmer shots of india 🙂

    Hopefully you and Andrew make it here once more and get to see the other parts as well!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 15, 2011 at 15:56

      Thanks Nihar! Lol, we definitely didn’t see any snake charmers but we did see a lot of beautiful sights. We’re already planning where we want to go on our second visit!

  11. Comment by Angela

    Angela April 17, 2011 at 03:39

    Right on, you summed up the contrasts and all amazing things India can offer pretty well. I too got sick in India (who hasn’t??), and I too am sorry I missed out on some delicious dishes, maybe that’s why I’m already planning my second trip to that amazing land!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 18, 2011 at 09:53

      We’ve already got the ‘next time’ list started too 🙂

  12. Comment by Joya

    Joya April 18, 2011 at 06:42

    I love this post Alison! We haven’t read the details yet but it reads like the trip meant a lot to you. I have always been intimidated by India but your post makes me want to go there now!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 18, 2011 at 09:52

      Thanks Joya! India can be intimidating the first time but I think the best advice is to take it slow. I’ve been told that the south is a bit easier than the north so maybe that’s a good destination for your first visit 🙂

  13. Comment by Bluegreen Kirk

    Bluegreen Kirk May 17, 2011 at 18:19

    Seems like India was a wonderful experience! Subway huh? I guess all the curry got to you.

  14. Pingback: What to see in Bangalore India | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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