We arrived in Vijayawada via a short flight from Delhi. While our time in Delhi was interesting, as we adventured to the Taj Mahal, this stop would be completely different as we would be (luckily) spending loads of time with our friend’s family members. This changed everything! Traveling as a tourist in India is certainly overwhelming (but nonetheless an experience). Traveling as a local, though, unlocks a new world of experiences and perspective. I was definitely excited for this and fortunate to have the opportunity to see India from another lens.
The airport in Vijayawada is quite small, as our driver picked us up and drove us for about 30 mins into the city.
The city is quite large and, as I learned, growing quickly. Over 1 million people live there today, but that number is sky-rocketing. This was my first taste of truly massive economic development (reminded me lots of Central and Southern China). Everywhere you look, you see construction — new roads, new buildings, new businesses sprouting up. The politics of the region are quite interesting, as there was a recent political divide and formation of a new capital for the “territorial state.” This has led to even further development of a “brand new city,” located just across the water (with a big bridge) to the original land. The industrialization of India, in particular these types of “on the cusp” regions is quite amazing and I am incredibly optimistic in the future of this population. I worry about who is laying the tracks…who is paying for all of this? Is it some foreign country meddling in world politics? Or is it locally supported?
My friends family had put us up in a hotel (which was really clean and nice) and also packed our schedule throughout out stay. We were given awesome tours of different parts of the city, as well as of more unique aspects of the developing economy. For example, we visited a lentil factory and watched the manufacturing process. We also visited a few construction sites. So obvious and inevitable that this economy grows in the next decade. Just figuring out how…what is the best path…is it sustainable…etc. These types of questions are important to answer but everything is moving so quickly (and relatively unregulated) that I do think lots about the unintended consequences of world power transitions.
One cool thing about India: all the semi-trucks are custom painted and decorated.
The best part about staying with family in India is that you get access to home cooked meals. This is particularly important in India for two major reasons: hard to trust restaurants and homemade Indian cuisine is some of the best in the world. We ate a ton. I emphasize: we ate more food than I have ever eaten ever. Ever. This was an incredible amount of food…curries…chutnies…potatoes…rices…breads…similar to “American Indian food” but at the same time a lot different. It was all vegetarian too! As you sit down, and perhaps we were especially lucky, we were served rounds and rounds of food.
One of the days, we drove about an hour outside of the city to visit my friend’s cousin at his boarding high school. This was not a typical boarding school that I picture from the United States. This was perhaps the nicest school building I have ever seen. The school is practically brand new and rated as best in the region. In talking with the kids, they study 6.5 days a week, tons of work, all in preparation for big exams at the end of the terms. But they still do like to have fun! Amazing how powerful soccer is…we played soccer for a few hours with a bunch of kids and it was super fun…
Impossible to describe the inequality as you drive from perhaps the most rural, impoverished communities you have ever seen into this beautiful school. Really stark differences leave your head spinning…”how did this happen?”
We also visited a temple at the top of a hill that overlooked the city.
We went bowling!
Much like Cambodia and Thailand, you can take “Tuk Tuks,” called Rickshaws in India, that take you short distances. They are cheap and an easy way to get around.