Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 18, 2017
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Amazing India

The Land of Prayers is as safe and beautiful as ever

Since the heartbreaking terrorist attacks on Mumbai, people have been asking me if it’s okay to go to India. For me, there is probably no safer time to visit. Now more than ever, the moment is right to visit this sprawling, throbbing, dynamic, wonderful cacophony of a country.

The variety of India is exhilarating, but one unifying feature is the resilience of the population. By the second day of the recent attacks, much of Mumbai was back at work, showing by its actions that terror can’t win here. Hotels and transportation hubs have increased security, but the fact remains that you have a greater chance of being hit by a car than having something happen on vacation.

With so much to offer, from heli-skiing in the Himalayas, to eco-tourism on remote atolls, India covers the gamut of human experiences. Is it okay to visit India? For me, it’s the only place to be. Here’s a quick overview to tempt you.


The Golden Triangle

Within the Golden Triangle formed by Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are six UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each leg of the triangle is about 250 to 300 kilometres, depending on how much you deviate for sightseeing. Roads are surprisingly good, but there are still errant cows and camels and bullocks. You can do it all in four days. Or four weeks. Or four months.

Delhi (http://delhitourism.nic.in) is home to two of the sites. The first is the 16th-century Humayun’s Tomb with its elegant Mogul architecture. The second is the Qutab Minar, an extensive set of buildings erected around a 72.5 metre-high carved pillar that rather marks the Muslim conquest of that part of India in the late 12th century.

Agra (www.up-tourism.com) is the Taj Mahal. But it’s also Agra Fort, one of the Mogul capitals. And, just outside town is Fatehpur Sikri, a hilltop city built by Emperor Akbar in 1571. Akbar founded his own religion, an idiosyncratic mix of Hindu, Muslim and Jesuit teaching. He hoped it would unite the world in understanding. It didn’t work. And the city itself only lasted about 15 years before being abandoned.

Jaipur (www.rajasthantourism.gov.in), while not a UNESCO site, is still worth a visit. The “Pink City,” is the land of the Maharajahs and at the heart of the walled city is the still occupied palace.

The final UNESCO World Heritage Site is Keoladeo National Park, a restful bird sanctuary that hosts over 364 species of chatty birds, including the rare Siberian crane.


The South

Every part of India is different, but the difference between the North and South is dramatic. Southern States, such as Kerala (www.keralatourism.org) and Tamil Nadu (www.tamilnadutourism.org) have a feel all their own.

Kerala has lush forests, tea plantations, ornate temples (some with their own elephants) and lazy backwaters plied by everything from prawn fishermen to luxury tourist houseboats. This is an India that is more relaxed, where literacy rates are close to 100 percent and standards of living are relatively high. The State’s official slogan is “God’s Own Country.” Anywhere else this might seem presumptuous; here it just fits.


Mumbai

The metropolitan area of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is home to close to 20 million people, making it one of the largest cities and economic drivers in the world. This is the home of Bollywood, high-tech gurus, slums and skyscrapers.

The city has grown wildly, with some areas choked off by traffic and thriving new neighbourhood springing up in unexpected places. Mumbai (www.maharashtratourism.gov.in) is a great city — several great cities actually. A trip from the airport to the old centre of town can take up to two hours. As a result, there are now many Mumbais, each with its own feel.

The Gateway of India area is classic Mumbai, with imposing colonial buildings lining the graceful curve of Marine Drive, with views out over the Arabian Sea. This is tourist central; it’s where the Taj Hotel was attacked. But the physical scars are healing, and the hotel itself is open for business.

About halfway between the Gateway and the airport is Parel. This once industrial area has become one of the city’s fastest-growing high-end business centres.

Mumbai is a hustle-and-bustle (and even more hustle) sort of town. People don’t have a lot of time, so meetings are often held in the Airport area to save visitors the long commute into town. As a result, the area is booming, with some of the most luxurious and innovative hotels in the region.


Getting there

One of the best ways to get to India, especially if you’re not heading to Mumbai or Delhi, is Emirates Airways (www.emirates.com). From Toronto, there are direct flights to Dubai, and from there on to hard-to-reach destinations throughout India.

There has been an explosion of low-cost carriers in India and one-way tickets are now affordable. Visit www.yatra.com for flights and costs.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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