LAST CHANCE TO ENTER: Win airfare for two to India through our Desi to Delhi contest!

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

It’s just under one week to go before Vancouver Desi’s Desi to Delhi contest ends, so be sure to get your entry in soon – if not right now. The prize is airfare for two from Vancouver to New Delhi, India, valued at $4,000.

To enter, visit Facebook.com/DesiVancouver and click ”Desi to Delhi Contest” underneath our cover photo and fill out an entry form.

Kashmiri fishermen throw their nets into Dal lake at sunset in Srinagar. Where will you go in India? Tauseef MustafaAFP/Getty Images

According to local travel professionals, a trip to India should be on your bucket list.

“It’s such a beautiful civilization – a gift from nature that I think is almost everybody’s duty to come to know,” said Bestway Tours and Safari Chief Explorer, Mahmood Poonja.

“It’s a mosaic by itself and it should be on everybody’s bucket list.”

“There are few countries in the world that one would think of and you would get an image right away,” continued Poonja. “You think of India and the Taj Mahal. Every prime minister, every president who visits India on an official visit will take a day off to visit the Taj Mahal.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper did just that on his recent trip overseas. He took time off to visit not only the Taj Mahal, but also Humayun’s Tomb – a UNESCO World Heritage site and the 2004 venue for the Aga Khan Architecture Award.

Owner of Bains Travel, Dolly Bains, spent 22 years living in India and she can still remember the first time she set foot in the Taj Mahal.

“(It’s) something – when I entered the gate I literally had goosebumps,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Oh my god – this building is out of this world.’”

But the subcontinent has much more to offer than one of the seven wonders of the world and its 27 UNESCO world heritage sites: there are over 18 official languages and almost all world religions are represented.

“(Tourists get to) see history, they see culture, they see people of diverse languages, diverse culture – and they live together,” said Poonja. “It’s a cultural mosaic – a cultural homogeneity.

“You have everything.”

According to Bains, “to really see India would take a good three to four months.”

“The culture, the language, the food, the clothing – everything changes from one state to the other,” she said. “It’s a very, very different culture all over – it’s like travelling in Europe, you go from one country to the other, it changes – it changes much more in India.”

It’s not the ordinary tourist destination.

“It’s not like Thailand, New Zealand or Cuba – it’s not only for beaches,” said Sushil Singh with Tourism India. “We have a different kind of tourism project, which requires time.

“Beaches, desert, historical monuments, classical dance, culture – India’s for everybody.”

And it’s not just for the South Asian community.

“The interest in India is not really confined to people of Indo-Canadian origin,” said Poonja. “Most of the visitors from Canada to India are of other origins.”

Most tourists are enthralled by the country’s history.

“Here in one city you can get as many as three to four world heritage sites,” said Poonja. “Canada’s history begins 300, 400 years ago at best – then you go to a country with 5,000 years of continuous history – you can imagine the difference.”

For first-time travellers to India, Poonja suggests starting north and visiting the ‘Golden Triangle’ – a tourist path covering Delhi, Agra (where the Taj Majal is) and Jaipur.

The Golden Triangle also includes the city of Varansi – the oldest living city in India. Hundreds and thousands of people dip themselves in the Ganges River as a sign of purity on a daily basis.

“You find people over there on any given day – it’s nothing staged, it’s just a natural thing,” said Poonja.

On a second visit, go to southern India: well-known for its Dravidian origin and Ayurveda, the ancient Indian method of longevity and natural healing.

“A lot of people from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland go over there for treatment,” said Poonja.

India offers more than history, too – it caters to many special interests, like its indigenous textile industry and its architecture – dating back about 5,000 years.

Before travelling, Poonja only suggests to prepare for the amount of people.

“The population over there is 1.2 billion and there’s 35 million in Canada,” he said. “You’re going to see 10 to 15 times more people on any given day than you’re going to see in Canada.”

But language won’t be a barrier, because the majority speak English, he said.

“You’ll be able to speak to anybody and everybody,” he said. “People are extremely friendly, you’ll find a lot of people wanting to practice their English and coming to talk to you.”

Singh suggests to allot enough time for the trip.

“(Travellers) should go for a long duration, not for seven days or eight days because it’s not justice to India,” he said. “Go for one month or 15 days at least, so that they can at least see some parts of India.”

And of course, before your departure, all the proper documents need to be in order, like an India visa, which needs a valid passport, said Bains.

But she also suggests to ensure tours are booked with a reputable company that has a base in Vancouver as well as India.

“You have to sort of see who’s been in business a long time, a well-established company who’s been doing tours to India and they have people who have been to those places,” she said. “Basically people who have lived there, know the place well.”

To enter our Desi to Delhi contest, go to our Facebook page here. Good luck!





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