I arrived in Mumbai a few days ago. Everything since has been an absolutely amazing whirlwind experience. Big thanks to a friend of mine from Boston who met me here and offered his family’s place to stay in. A personal guided tour? Why thank you!

So far India has not been at all what I was expecting. Everyone enjoys providing unsolicited opinions and it seems everyone I met who’d been to India had a completely different experience to share. Travel can (should?) be a very personal experience, so it makes sense that everyone’s opinion of India has varied widely. But there are a lot of negative myths out there regarding India and I haven’t found a single one to be true yet.

India is a big big country so obviously each state, each city is going to be different. Different cultures, different foods, different people. I landed in Mumbai and have spent the past several days in a suburb about an hour outside the city (Nerul/Seawoods area). The family I’m staying with couldn’t be nicer and it’s been a wonderful experience so far.

So, what are some of the things people told me to expect when I entered India? And what, after less than handful of days, have I experienced?

The smell

There must be some sort of requirement to make fun of the smell of India. I don’t really get it. So many people (I’m not even sure if they’ve been to India themselves) said I would experience an overwhelming dirty smell the second I stepped off the plane. That’s not the case. Yes, it was humid and hot when I arrived. But that’s about it. Maybe Mumbai smells better than Delhi?

The toilet

The airport had western toilets. Since then, I’ve been using squat toilets. Surprisingly easy. Toilet paper is easy to come by, too. Rumor has it that squat toilets are better for your bowels, as well. After getting over the initial suspicion, using them is quite fine.

The food

So good! Seriously. It’s authentic, it’s delicious, it’s amazing! It’s also not nearly as spicy as I was expecting. Some things aren’t even spicy! (Again, this may just be a consequence of the region I’m in. Like everything, there are regional differences.) I can’t really tell you what I’ve had, but I’ve got several photos already and I’ll be sure to share once I upload them.

The people

I’m very lucky to be staying at a friend’s family’s home, so my experience may be different than others. The family has been so welcoming and accommodating that I’ve had a very easy time so far. It was especially nice to be able to celebrate Diwali with them.

I realize the first few days in a new country are usually exciting and interesting, and travelers are usually blind to things they don’t want to see. So it is possible I’m still in some sort of honeymoon phase, but I don’t care. This place is wonderful.

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