Monday, August 22, 2011

Fodor's Essential India

Fodor's Essential India, 1st Edition: with Delhi, Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal & Mumbai (Full-Color Gold Guides)
Fodor's Essential India, 1st Edition: with Delhi, Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal & Mumbai (Full-Color Gold Guides) ( link, my user review on

A welcome break from the usual parade of travel books on India that, for the longest time, were a hideous mix of the cliched and the condescending.

These travel books would either target the hippie traveler who was looking to travel through the country on a dollar a day (drawn to the country no doubt due to the influence of the Beatles, Pt. Ravi Shankar, and transcendental meditation), or would write about the country as if it were one long, mystical place where you would find fakirs on elephants mingling with snake charmers on the ground.

Part of this paint-by-numbers approach was also because of India's anemic economic development, which meant that it was a poor country with poor infrastructure (you know which political party to thank for this largesse) - which meant most travelers were loathe to travel anywhere that required taking a train or the roads; its closed economy - which meant that few business travelers visited the country, and those who did stuck to the metros (primarily Delhi and Bombay); and the general tone of these books oscillated between a "I-told-you-these-natives-wouldn't-manage-without-us" and "oh-the-fakirs-and-natives-are-so-exotic". Things are a changing.

Based on an initial reading, this book does seem to break from the past. Information provided about the country and the places to visit actually reads relevant and accurate, and practical and common-sensical. Advice is generally geared towards the foreign traveler. For the Indian tourist, the Outlook Traveller series may be a better bet.

To wit, sample these sections, spread over 75 pages, that cover the city and region of Delhi.
- Top Reasons to go
- Eating well in Delhi
- Delhi's holy sites
- Planning (when to go, airport transfers, emergencies, Internet, mail, and shopping)
- Exploring Delhi
- Old Delhi
- New Delhi
- South Delhi
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Nightlife and the arts
- Shopping

As you can gather, it is detailed. The section follow a consistent labeling and liberal use of icons for convenience.

You can find some inaccuracies nonetheless.
For example, on page 55, it erroneously states that Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in 1971. That actually happened in 1975, the infamous period in India's modern history where the fundamental rights of its citizens were suspended for more than a year

Note that the book covers only the states of Delhi and Rajasthan, with a little bit of Goa thrown in. The Taj Mahal, in the city of Agra (state of Uttar Pradesh), and the city of Mumbai are also covered. The temple town of Khajuraho and the holy city of Varanasi are also included, for reasons best unknown.
Delhi (or Mumbai) is the city where most tourists to North India fly into. The Taj Mahal, the palaces of Rajasthan, and Delhi form a triangle when plotted on a map, and are referred to as the "tourist triangle" or "golden triangle". This book then targets this most popular tourist circuit in India.

There are of course a dozen more books that could be brought out on travel within India, but this is a good start.

Yes, I like this book.

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.