Note: This list only includes places that I have clear memories of, and it is definitely not exhaustive. I am being honest here but do not take everything literally. If you harbor strong nationalistic feelings, I would advise you against reading this piece, because I don’t know what’s going to make you tick. And, most importantly, if you have anything to add, please leave a comment below.
Do eat as much as you can, and don’t leave until you’ve tried everything from Chicken Xacuti to Bebinca.
Don’t piss the locals off by being loud and obnoxious, and throwing your litter everywhere. It’s one of the only clean places left, so please respect that.
Do roam around the old streets in town, if you’d like to find trees, a rich cultural heritage, quaint bookshops, and interesting people.
Don’t forget about the amazing nightlife!
Do go for a trek in the hills (preferably while sober). I know mushrooms grow there, but you don’t need them to feel like Alice in Wonderland.
Don’t whistle at women from your stupid tourist buses.
Do drink filter kaapi yevery maarning (sorry, I just had to).
Don’t visit during Jallikattu riots. You may or may not get stuck in a traffic jam for five hours.
Do go to Auroville, if you want to see one of the most beautiful and progressive spaces in the world.
Don’t expect the community to accept you immediately. Living in Auroville tends to make people a little haughty.
Do take the local trains for the experience of a lifetime!
Don’t stop moving. Mumbai won’t stop moving for you.
Bhitarkanika National Park
Do cruise down the river with the crocs, walk through the mangrove forests, chase monitor lizards, go birdwatching, sit ‘round a bonfire, camp under the stars, try to spot wildlife at night…
Don’t try to do it all in one day. You WILL fall sick.
Do eat, eat, eat! They say it’s the best place to experience culture, but all I can remember is the food.
Don’t, I repeat, DO NOT, take public transport unless you enjoy being squished between a crowd of sweaty Bengali aunties who will talk at you and then get angry when you don’t know how to respond.
Do soak in the peace (it’s possible, even amidst the bustling of pilgrims at the Mahabodhi Temple).
Don’t get tricked into buying useless souvenirs.
Do roam in all the gullies at the ghats. You will find amazing shops, delicious sweets and beautiful graffiti.
Don’t drink lassi if you know what’s good for you.
Do talk to the villagers – they will teach you an important lesson: that problems are only problems if you give them that power.
Don’t stay still for too long. You might freeze in position.
Do eat Sarson ka Saag and Makki ki Roti. Do not leave until you do this.
Don’t expect much from the place other than the distinct feeling of having entered one of those dystopian YA novels (what’s with all the sectors and numbered streets, guys?)
Do help out with seva at Harmandir Sahib.
Don’t try to swim laps in the Mansarovar. Bad, bad idea.
Do visit the Rann, and lose yourself in the blinding white landscape until the horizon is all around you.
Don’t argue with North Indians about whether or not Hindi is the national language of this country (it isn’t, but if you don’t speak Hindi, just listen and nod).
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Do go SCUBA diving (especially at the shipwreck!)
Don’t get psyched out if you see a shark. They’re pretty peaceful, actually.
And the last few points, for India as a whole:
- It’s not nearly as bad as the media makes it out to be.
- You will never find a place that has so much diversity coexisting in harmony (well, most of the time).
- Be mindful of the way that culture changes from one state to the next, or even from one village to another. I learned this the hard way, and it’s not worth it to upset people just because you aren’t willing to adapt.
- Happy travelling!