Places where Indians like to go

Places where Indians like to go

Foreign Shores

Places where Indians like to go

Simply Singapore. Photo Subodh Gupta

Historically, Indians have never really been renowned for their travelling abilities.
When the Arabs and Chinese were sailing across the world, when the Europeans were discovering new worlds, we Indians were, well, not. We have never really been comfortable tourists, we love our food too much, we love our way of life too much and frankly, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

As a child, I remember the summer holidays to hill stations. We covered them all, Ooty, Mussoorie, Shimla, Kodainakal, Srinagar, Darjeeling and more. These are amazingly beautiful places and best of all we feel right at home here. They are all the benefits of home with all the thrills of travel. But that has changed over the last few years. Indians now have the purchasing power to go to the furthest reaches of the globe and afford the best of what the world has to offer. And therefore places like Thailand are the new Shimla or Mahabaleshwar. There are many places easy on the budget, truly exotic and still allow us a cuisine rich with flavours and spices and most importantly, are foreign destinations.

The new hotspots for Indians are Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and now the final frontier, China. Let’s try and list out why these are the most popular destinations now:

Easy access: A flight to Sri Lanka or Singapore is not much in terms of the cost. These flights could often be cheaper than many Indian destinations, for example, Delhi-Trivandrum-Delhi is well over Rs 20,000 whereas a return from Bangkok is only Rs 16,000.

Cheaper accommodation: Lets face it, we just do not have good medium range hotels in India. We have great five stars but subsequently most three stars are just terrible. It is super value for money therefore to visit these countries where you are spoilt for choice. The $50 - $100 a night range will suit most tastes and very importantly most budgets.

Geared for tourism: Most of these countries are successfully promoting themselves as great destinations. They are well organised, offer some great attractions and many things to do as opposed to Indian hotspots where the choices are very limited. A small place like Singapore, for example, has a bird park, night safari at an incredible zoo, flyer for aerial views of the city, Merlion park to just hang out, easy access to everything, Sentosa Island with its amusement parks, Segway riding areas, great parks for picnics and the list is endless. Match this to any Indian destination and we come up short. Most of these exotic places offer many family based attractions.
Great food: The influence of the two mighty cuisines — Indian and Chinese — can be felt in all the Asian countries to a very great extent. The food, therefore, is wonderfully alien with a great familiarity for the Indian palate.

The spices used in Malaysian cuisine for example are very much like home. In fact, you can get great biryanis and some awesome curries there. A little different from what you would get in India but, oh, so familiar. The ‘Nasi Kanda’ food in Penang in Malaysia for example is the food brought by Indian migrants to Malaysia in the 1940s. The taste is now truly Malaysian but the flavour and the origin is very obviously Indian.

Warm friendly people: A very important factor for many Indian tourists. The essence of Asia, the warmth and hospitality of the people is predominant in these places. There is an acceptance of other Asians which puts Indian travellers straight into a super comfort zone. There is none of that aloofness and detachment of the west and we thrive in this environment.

Great weather: Most of these countries are tropical in nature, lots of sunshine and great weather too play a big role in making up our minds. Heavy woolens and sweaters are not required. It is warm or pleasant throughout the year, just the way we all like it.

Other Indians: You will always be able to catch a few words of Tamil, Urdu and Hindi in most of these places.

Hopefully you will smile a bit more in the new year and be a little more tolerant of the world. After all they say ‘love is what makes the world go round’ it is also what is making us go round the world.

(The writer is the anchor of ‘HOMP Rocky and Mayur go foreign’ on NDTV Good Times.)