India is a country like no other, which promises you a trip to unknown places. India moves, India shakes. A first trip to the land of Gandhi disoriented literally. One loses one’s codes, its markers.
Too much noise, too many people, too much heat, too much rain, too much poor … But what grace in the smiles, what elegance in the movements of a sari, in the winding of a turban, which natural in the spirituality, what majesty in its architecture and what fervor in its prayers!
The harshness of life, we meet at every corner. Beauty too. It is this permanent duality that disconcerts. The mixture of opposites. India, the largest democracy in the world, accepts its contradictions. It’s a lesson in energy. Nothing is easy.
It has officially (and legally) got rid of castes, but continues to apply segregation in social and cultural practices. Freedom of expression is complete, but corruption devours the administration and the police. Religious tolerance is the rule, but extremists are on the lookout. Equality between men and women is written into the texts, but the situation of women in the countryside is often deplorable.
We come from northern India for the temples, archaeological sites and splendors of the Himalayas, but we will remember the magic of meetings, the colors, the moments of grace offered by an affable and curious population.
We come to South India for temples, archeological sites and teeming nature, but we will keep in memory the magic of meetings, the colors, the moments of grace offered by an affable and curious population.
A trip like no other, full of flavors and strength. Spiced. Initiatic very often. At the same time a journey in history and an expedition in the future. India does not give in the half measure. She offers another look at the world and comes to pick you deep in the guts.
Capital of India, city of space, city of trade and government, Delhi is very different from other big Indian cities. There are more than anywhere else the rich, the India of tomorrow, India that will get out … maybe. Delhi is also the turbulent history of 11 cities, erected one by one by the Mamluk, Turkish-speaking – from Central Asia – Afghan, Mughal and British rulers who have succeeded each other at the head of the region, fused in over time in a metropolis of an elusive dimension …
Built around wide boulevards lined with bougainvillea, flamboyant and frangipani, New Delhi was for a long time more famous for the cacophony of its birds than for that of its car traffic. While the roaring cars and rickshaws have invaded everything, there are vast green parks to the west and south of which the upscale neighborhoods gather.
Connaught Place, with its concentric avenues, somehow marks the heart of modern life, just steps from the backpacker neighborhood of Pahar Ganj, invaded by a constant whirlwind of honking vehicles, cows, vendors and other travelers. Further north, Old Delhi, heiress of medieval urbanization, is even more bubbling and agitated. Take a rickshaw ride or walk to explore the main Mughal monuments.
The arrival and extension of the metro network, the development of industrial satellite cities or business centers (such as Gurgaon and Noida in the south) are gradually changing its face and the habits of its inhabitants.
Goa is a state, not a city, which stretches for about a hundred kilometers from north to south and about fifty from east to west. This enclave of 3,700 km², Portuguese until 1961, is bathed by the Arabian Sea. The capital, Panaji (Panjim), is a small town of passage but not devoid of charm.
There is little left, as the majority of tourists (more and more Russians) come to Goa for the beaches! The state has 120 km of coastline on which so many Indians and foreigners bask in the beautiful season. From November to March, the smallest state in India sees its population doubling (to more than 1.3 million).
Goa, it is already all the South India with it is light, its climate, its fertile and green lands, its tropical vegetation with the bright flowers, and landscapes of coconut trees and rice fields, all lined with long sandy beaches.
Rising north or inland, asleep under palm trees, scattered churches, and very pretty houses, decorated with azulejos (Portuguese ceramics of blue and white colors) or with more dilapidated charms (witnesses of the past Portuguese grandeur), coexist with Hindu temples.
In general, the beaches of Goa are beautiful, wide, but not always very clear. The waters are clean, their temperature is ideal.
Kerala, we love it. This southern Indian state stretches nearly 600 km from Mangalore (the southern boundary of Karnataka State) to Trivandrum (the capital of Kerala), forming a long strip of land bordered by the Arabian Sea and the chain of Ghats, long mountainous massif of the hinterland.
Between the land and the sea, from Cochin (Kochi) to Alleppey (Alappuzha), the backwaters (a vast and fascinating aquatic area, made up of lagoons and a multitude of canals, channels, and rivers, the tropical climate all year round and the presence of beautiful sandy beaches make Kerala an important tourist destination.
Kerala always bears the mark of abundance, and generous nature: lush vegetation, plantations of spices, coffee, tea, cocoa, rubber (latex), fruit gardens. A nourishing and green land, never hit by drought!
Is it a coincidence that the meaning of the word Kerala in Malayalam (the local language) means “country of coconut palms”? These majestic trees grow as in the Garden of Eden. Along the coast and beaches, they make up a beautiful green border in the shadow of which are nestled villages, beaches, seaside resorts.
East of historic Kashmir, the high Indus Valley creeps between two giants: the Himalayas in the south, the Karakorum in the north. It is here, at an average altitude of 5,300 m, in grandiose landscapes of desert mountains, that lies Ladakh.
The bulk of the population of this ancient Buddhist kingdom, dubbed “Little Tibet”, lives on the banks of the river and its meager tributaries – whose waters, with fantastic milky turquoise reflections, can irrigate patchworks of small fields wheat and barley, orchards of apples and apricots. Willows and poplars create oases in ribbons, contrasting with the ubiquitous pebbles.
Ladakh is divided into two entities: in the west, Kargil district, mostly Shi’ite (65%), from which the influence of Islam rises; in the east, the district of Leh, the capital, Buddhist in an equal proportion. It is from the latter that we will speak in this guide.
The population is completed by a strong presence of the Indian army. To keep this strategic border region, no less than 150,000 soldiers are divided into dozens of military camps.
Step on the Silk Road, Ladakh is an authentic crossroads of civilizations. And if Tibetans have found refuge in numbers since the annexation of their homeland by China in 1951, we also find, in the depths of secret valleys, authentic descendants of Alexander the Great …
More recently, trekkers have had to get used to sharing this vast and wild territory with newcomers: Indian tourists, attracted by the set of Bollywood blockbusters.
And if the amchis (healers) and astrologers keep a large audience, the Ladakhis, put off by the rough nomadic and rural life of the past, are guides or officials.
Although many still call it Bombay, the capital of Maharashtra is called Mumbai since 1995.
Mumbai, with its 20 (or 22 …) million inhabitants, is the most populous city in India (albeit one-to-one with Delhi) and is one of the world’s leading mega-cities. Commercial, the industrial and financial capital of the country, it is also the largest factory of syrupy romances and passionate dramas: it is here, in the huge studios of Bollywood, that turns the inimitable Indian cinema.
In perpetual evolution, the Indian economic capital, the great rival of Delhi the official, offers itself to the curious visitor as a concentrate of contradictions and contrasts of contemporary India.
Dynamic, with its towers that grow as soon as a piece of land, is released, its dense traffic, its affluent youth who ignites for the latest trendy restaurants and its middle class addicted to shopping malls, huge and gleaming … but village as soon as one gets lost in one’s residential neighborhoods; struggling a bit to change its infrastructure; blind to misery.
Because Mumbai is also one of the Asian cities that host the most shantytowns: the biggest fortunes side with the hardest misery.
Finally, go for a walk in a rush hour, in the abundant neighborhoods of Church Gate or Victoria Station, a real human tide, which, all “castes” confused, evolves among the vestiges of the English presence … … Old bus double-decker, cricket parties in the city and old colonial homes, on Marine Drive and Colaba (the tourist heart of Mumbai), continue to give this city an anachronistic cachet.
In short, whether you are fascinated or scared, Mumbai will not leave you indifferent.
Why does Rajasthan fascinate so much? The answers are as varied as what it has to offer … We enter here in a world apart, of breathtaking richness and surprising diversity. The desert has always shaped people, the past is strongly expressed in an extraordinary architectural heritage, ancestral beliefs and religion still mingle, as indifferent to the rest of the world.
The main cities – Jodhpur the Blue, Jaipur the Pink, Udaipur the White and Jaisalmer the Yellow – are dotted in increasingly arid landscapes towards the West, towards the Thar Desert.
Of course, in Rajasthan, as elsewhere in India, poverty exists … But we rarely meet the crowd of megacities of the country. Then, by visiting the incredible rosary of sumptuous palaces and impregnable fortresses, we unravel little by little the skein of centuries that are superimposed …
To discover Rajasthan is to go through its history: quarrels and rivalries between maharajas, marriages, betrayals, vengeful wars. It is also to be carried away by its magic and its poetry … Where, except in Rajasthan, is it possible to sleep in a royal residence without being a millionaire or maharaja? And then, the Rajasthanis exude elegance and a disturbing aesthetic sense of natural, sublimated by their colorful costumes.
So many superb images that mingle dust, camels, sacred cows, mud villages, wonderful temples, and dream homes with walls carved with a thousand stone illuminations.