Travel Information India, Northern States

Jammu and Kashmir 

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  1. Overall impressions:

Most of the state is inhabited by Muslims except Ladakh where most of the population is Buddhist. The views are incredible and we spent quality time in the region.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

At the Kashmir Valley there are many pine forests and the land is very fertile. There are many popular treks around the high parts of the Himalaya Mountains. The capital Srinagar is famous for its old mosques and pile dwellings. The floating city inside the Dhal Lake is very nice, though it is touristic and you are chased by street vendors all the time offering you to buy things or hire a boat.

 

  1. People:

Muslims mainly Sunnites. Out of the tourist part of Srinagar people are very hospitable. Men wear long, thick robes over their clothes. Women wear veils.

 

  1. Food:

Mainly meat with all kinds of cold cuts and rotisseries. The vegetable curries they prepare here have quite specific taste – usually sour or hot.

Traditional breakfast – oven baked round flat bread, butter and tea.

Try the fried lotus root!

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

Goes smoothly. The roads going direction Ladakh are terrible and dangerous. Trucks expect you to pay so you must clarify this in the beginning. The roads in the valley are good and people stop often. In the winter many roads are closed because of the snow.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

Today Kashmir still fights for independence or to join Pakistan and the region is said to be not so safe. Here they produce the famous Pashmina or Kashmir wool.

 

Inspiring experience: Rowing nine hours in a boat inside Dhal Lake, Srinagar and getting lost in the labyrinth of canals.

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: We met a librarian who cannot read, but at the same time is quite intelligent, his English is perfect and his vocabulary rich. He asks people to tell him what is written in the books at his library.

 

Ladakh 

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  1. Overall impressions:

One of the most surreal and magical places on Earth. It is part of Jammu and Kashmir, but in fact it is a separate own world on itself. Capital – Leh – one of the most impressive place we have been at.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Trans-Himalayan desert with average altitude of 4000 m. (13 000 feet) above sea level. Very raw sceneries and almost no vegetation.

Landmarks – old Buddhist monasteries following the Tibetan tradition and villages where people live exactly the same way as they did 500-600 years ago.

 

  1. People:

Vajrayana Buddhists, ethnically close to the Tibetans. Much more reserved that Indians. 90% of the people lead traditional way of life.

 

  1. Food:

Dumplings, noodles, tsampa (baked flour).

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

Slow and hard due to bad roads and lack of vehicles. Here you will again count mainly on trucks. On the road Padum-Kargil actually pass no more than 2-3 cars a day.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

In certain monasteries there are monks who go to secluded houses and meditate for 3 years, 3 months and 3 days – non-stop!

Inspiring experience: walking 700 km. on foot around the most secluded valleys and desert regions around the Himalayas; crossing a pass that was 5650 m. above sea level (18 500 feet)

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Walking for five days to a monastery where we saw drums made of human skin. No road for vehicles in radius of hundred kilometers around it.

 

 

Uttar Pradesh 

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  1. Overall impressions:

What we experienced in this state was unique and strange, but it never became one of our favorite because everything here is too crazy and shocking.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Nature is not well preserved here – the state is dirty and overcrowded. The lands are mainly agricultural.

The interesting places to visit are: Agra – sacred city on Ganga River; Taj Mahal, Varanasi, Vrindavan – Krishna’s city with 5000 temples in it. At Uttar Pradesh one can feel and see the traditional Hindu culture.

 

  1. People:

Mostly conservative Hindu, but there are also quite a lot Muslims. It is said to be not so safe. There we saw many people that looked “bad” to us, but there are also many nice ones. There are many spiritual leaders and people who follow different spiritual practices.

 

  1. Food:

The typical thali – rice, chapatas, vegetables, kovi curries. Milk sweets and other milk products (sweetened milk cream, yogurt etc.) are very delicious.

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

Roads are pretty good. Long distances don’t take much time. People stop easily.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

At the cremation grounds at Ganga River in Varanasi each day are burnt more than 200 corpses in the open. People in Vrindavan believe that the city in separate transcendental dimension and some of the statues in the city temples are alive

 

Inspiring experience: seeing Taj Mahal at 6 a.m.!

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Seeing an idol (statue) at a temple in Vrindavan where everyone believed that the statue is alive and has soft skin; seeing a dog that eats human bones and people who enter among the human dust inside the river to take the gold jewels of the dead; scoundrels attacked us at a village near Vrindavan.

 

Uttarakand 

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  1. Overall impressions:

Mountainous state with calm atmosphere and high concentration of yogis and spiritual teachers.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Many treks and pilgrimage could be done in the Himalayas here. There are excursions to the springs of Ganga River and Yamuna; Kedarnath and Badrinath.

Rishikesh is the world capital of yoga – small calm town with hundreds of ashrams where anyone can practice yoga, Ayurveda, Sanskrit, etc.

At the southern hilly part of Uttarkand there are two big national parks inhabited by tigers and elephants. Tourism is highly developed here.

 

  1. People:

Mountainous people that are nice and kind. Communication goes smoothly. Most are Hindu, but there is a small percentage who are Buddhist.

 

  1. Food:

We visited just Deradun, Rishikesh and Hardiwar so we couldn’t see anything different than thali and the usual north Indian meals and the Tibetan momo and thukpa.

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

As in all mountain regions in India traveling is slow, at short distances. The roads we traveled on were good and we didn’t wait long for the cars to stop.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

Selling of meat, fish and eggs is forbidden by a strict law in Rishikesh. Here you can visit the ashram where the Beatles meditated.

 

Inspiring experience: Meeting an enlightened Baba in Rishikesh; Sleeping inside Rajaji National Park where elephants passed 20 m. away from our tent and at night a tiger or leopard came close to us, but luckily it passed by uninterested.

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Visiting the ashram of a yogi who eats just milk and bananas – we had to acquire the same diet while being in Purkaji.

 

Rajastan 

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  1. Overall impressions:

Very interesting state with amazing local culture – it is worth to travel around it at least a month. We were very impressed by it.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Desert region; at the most western part there are real sand dunes.

Jaipur – the capital, a.k.a the Pink city has an interesting architecture where all the buildings are painted in different shades of pink. There are streets with thousands of craftsman shops and bazaars.

Pushkar – a small, romantic town built around a beautiful lake.

Ajmir – a town with mainly Muslim population. The pilgrim crowds (especially on Friday) around the tomb of Sufi (saint) Dargha Sharif is very interesting and impressive.

Other places we didn’t visit, but we heard are interesting: Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer

 

  1. People:

Rajasthani men wear white clothes – pants and a long shirt, colorful turban and long moustaches. Women wear long colorful skirts, long shirts and dupatta (shawl). People are traditional, mainly Hindu and much less Muslim.

The tribes that live in the desert are nomadic. Here live the famous cobra hypnotizers. The Rajasthani people love music and dance.

 

  1. Food:

Thali and curries have specific local taste

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  1. Hitchhiking:

Roads are good and hitchhiking goes well. In some village regions you can find yourself in poor areas where you will be surrounded by begging kids.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

The gypsies that live in Europe come from Rajasthan.

The only temple of Brahma in India is in Pushkar.

 

Inspiring experience: Sleeping on the roof of a Samadhi (in this case it means tomb or a place for cremation) with view to all of Pushkar and the desert. Meeting a group of musicians who play religious music 8 hours a day, every day.

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Sleeping at Rajputi’s fort (Rajputi – a family that belongs to a much respected military caste).

 

Madhya Pradesh 

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  1. Overall impressions:

As in Uttar Pradesh here too we encountered incredible historical landmarks and had some not so pleasant experiences.

There is a lot of vegetation here.

Our feelings about the state are mixed – not too positive, neither very negative

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Many green forests and national parks. Here is located the park with most tigers in it.

Historical landmarks we visited: the old city of Orcha with an incredible fortress in it and Maharajas’ palaces and Khajuraho – ancient stone temples covered with thousands of statues of gods and goddesses performing Kama Sutra. Architecture is unique. The Jain and Shiva temples are free to enter.

Other interesting places are: Ujjain and Mandu

 

  1. People:

We met pleasant and not so pleasant people. Most of the locals are traditional Hindu. In some regions the dirt and the misery are shocking.

In the more secluded areas live interesting tribes with unique preserved culture.

 

  1. Food:

We ate mostly chapatas and dhal (lentils) prepared in the local way of cooking traditions.

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

The east-west highway is perfect. Most of the other roads are terrible and sometimes with heavy traffic. The road between Khajuraho and Varanasi is really bad.

Hitchhiking goes well, but this is the only state where ate times we had to wait for an hour, an hour and a half till someone stops.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

Rudyard Kipling wrote the “Jungle book” when he lived in one of the national parks at Madhya Pradesh.

Inspiring experience: Walking in the savannah at Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary. Waking up in a field with view to Khajuraho’s temples.

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: A magic bus took us to the savannah passing on an unusual route. While riding at the back of a pick-up together with pilgrims we saw the back tire tearing off, but we somehow managed to stop before going down an abyss.

 

Bihar 

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  1. Overall impressions:

We stayed a short time here. The state is said to be unsafe in some regions because of some political frictions.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Forests and vegetation abound.

 

Bodhgaya – the tree under which Buddha ascended. At the town there are around 20 monasteries representing different Buddhist countries. Here come pilgrims from all over the world and the atmosphere is amazing.

 

  1. People:

People here are the least educated in India. In all the restaurants we ate they tried to lie us. Besides this we met many nice people.

 

  1. Food:

The usual Thali. Street food is quite interesting.

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

Roads are good and the highway is perfect. Hitchhiking is great.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

In fact the tree today in Bodghaya is a “grand-grand-grandchild” of the original tree under which Buddha go enlightened.

 

Inspiring experience: Meditating under Maha Bodhi tree.

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Camping on Kalachakra ground – the place where every several years Dalai Lama performs the highly spiritual ritual with the same name, which is located in the center of Bodhgaya.

 

West Bengal 

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  1. Overall impressions:

We weren’t very impressed by the places we passed through – Bodhgaya-Bihar and Kolkata-Siliguri.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Industrial land everywhere, overpopulated, endless villages and crop fields.

Kolkata – a clean and modern city. Tourists like it because none chases them to buy things, the people here are very well educated. Not many landmarks here – colonial architecture and an old Kalighat temple are one of the few tourist attraction

Tourists also visit a place in Bengal called Darjeeling with tea plantations at the foot of the Himalayas.

 

  1. People:

Bengalis are not very tall. Traditionally men wear a cloth as a skirt – often blue, checkered. Women wear saris and white bracelets made of sea-shells.

Kali and Durga cults predominate here.

Communication with people goes easily. They are mostly moderate Hindu following Shaktism. There are quite a lot of Muslims too.

 

  1. Food:

Kolkata is the heaven of foods with lots of meat and fish. Vegetarians are rare, contrary to other states.

Rolls with different fillings are sold everywhere. Street food includes puchka (it has spherical form and crispy crust with potato filling with sauce); mashed potatoes with herbs and sauces called batata cigars; milk Bengal sweets; road restaurants offer chapatas with French fries and chili

  1. Hitchhiking:

It’s good, but traveling is slow because of the terrible roads and this includes the main roads and highways.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

The other half of Bengal, East Bengal, is a separate country – Bangladesh (since 1971)

 

Inspiring experience: First train ride in India in a public compartment. The train has the beautiful name Kanchenjunga Express – from Siliguri to Assam. It wasn’t a bad experience at all.

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Walking around the craftsmen’s neighborhood in Kolkata where millions of creepy statues are produced non-stop.

 

Assam 

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  1. Overall impressions:

We arrived with the night train at Guwahati, the biggest city of Assam and then headed hitchhiking to Meghalaya, so we didn’t see much of this state. Other travelers we met say it is very beautiful and nice.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Tea plantations, beautiful hills with palm trees, rice plantations, abundant nature.

Guwahati – relatively clean and modern city. There is an interesting temple inside Brahmaputra River at the city’s center.

 

  1. People:

There are many different tribes in the region. In Guwahati there are people from other Indian states who came to live here. Most of the people have Asian features and is quite interesting to walk in the streets. People here are well educated and friendly. The young people are surprisingly modern and open-minded. The state is quite different from the other Indian states.

Religiously and culturally it resembles Bengal. The state is overpopulated.

 

  1. Food:

If you like eating fish this is your place. Different fish curries with rice are served in most of the places.

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

We haven’t hitchhiked here, but it seems people would stop. The road to Meghalaya is in perfect condition.

Hitchhiking in Cachar area is slow because of the high population. Roads are in bad condition.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

The black tea that is produced here is world famous and exported all over the world.

 

Inspiring experience: Meeting a spiritual leader in Silchar who eats only juice from leaves and milk.

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Party with 20 motor bikers at the house of the director of one of the biggest private schools in Guwahati

 

Meghalaya 

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  1. Overall impressions:

One of the most impressive states with unique and very different culture. This is one of our most favorite places in India. Very calm, clean and beautiful.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Hilly regions with big difference in the vegetation type according to height: pine trees and broad leaved trees in the high parts; tropical jungle in the valleys. There are interesting landmarks as the living root bridges at Cherrapunji, Sohra. The most visited bridges are at Nongriat Vilage which could be reached on foot  from Tyrna Village (2 hours).

  1. People:

Tribal society. The main tribe is Khasi. There are Christians too and most of them belong to the Presbyterian Church. People have South Asian features. They are calm and well educated. Most of them speak English and the young people are modern and open-minded. Women dress with cloth or blanket tied over the clothes on their shoulder. The society is matriarchal.

 

  1. Food:

Rice with different kinds of meet. People are allowed to eat beef and it is being sold everywhere. Vegetarian dishes are hard to find and have a strange taste – usually boiled potatoes with herbs. We didn’t like the taste of the food here.

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

Most of the roads are good and travelling is fast. Hitchhiking goes smoothly. No one asks you for money.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

Cherrapunji is said to be rainiest place on Earth.

 

Inspiring experience: Walking for three days in a magical jungle with sky blue pools and living root bridges, feeling as if we were in the movie “Lord of the rings”

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: We got sick and a car with people who were doing medicine delivery took us and then the driver gave us a bag of syrups and pills.

 

Manipur 

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  1. Overall impressions:

Non-touristic state with unstable political situation, fighting for independence from India. The land road to Myanmar passes through here. It is quite interesting and has unique culture.

 

  1. Nature and landmarks:

Hilly with flat lands around the capital Imphal. Tropical forests. There aren’t many landmarks – an old fort in the capital and a beautiful lake 45 km. away from it.

 

  1. People:

People have South Asian features. 50% Hindus and 50% Christians (Baptist).

The region is inhabited by the Meetai Tribes – which are 60% of the population, the other tribes are Naga and Kuki.

People here have interesting animist cults and rich culture. They are educated and hospitable. Women wear a piece of cloth as skirt and a blouse.

 

  1. Food:

Rice with different curries. The taste resembles the traditional Indian curries, but it is slightly different. Fish is the main dish. Tea is served without milk.

 

  1. Hitchhiking:

Roads are good – there are bad parts here and there. Distances are passed relatively slowly. When roads aren’t blocked by rebels or protests hitchhiking goes well.

 

  1. Interesting facts:

The sport polo originates from Manipur.

 

Inspiring experience: Seeing the rare stag Sangai and caressing Himalayan baby bear

 

Crazy stuff that happened to us: Staying at the organization UFO at Imphal where we met a guy who travels with NO money AT ALL!

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