Finding Adventure In India
“Vicki and I are in a village outside of Bombay (Mumbai), our first stop on our first trip to India,” writes ever-roving Correspondent Paul Terhorst.
“A driver picked us up at the Bombay airport, and, within two hours of our arrival, we were settled down in tiny, peaceful, spiritual Ganeshpuri.
“Over the years, I’ve heard from tourist friends who came to see the Taj Mahal…Varanasi…this and that temple…the Indian highlights. Whether they love it or hate it, I hear the same report: India is crowded, dirty, noisy. They fight traffic, rickety buses, delays, and detours. They get ripped off by vendors, innkeepers, and travel agents. They almost always get sick, frustrated, and irritable on the trip–again, whether they like India or not.
“But Vicki and I came straight to sleepy Ganeshpuri with a different agenda. Vicki plans to spend a month at a Ganeshpuri ashram. After I drop her off, I’m off to run around India with my friend Jose–not as a tourist, but to check India out as a place to live.
“We’ll go beyond tourist India, beyond the music, movies, temples, religion, ceremonies, palaces, gods, statues, festivals, and shrines. Instead, we’ll take a look at expat, residential India. Temples and religions will take a back seat.
“With living in mind, we’ll head straight to Kerala on India’s southwest coast. From Kerala we’ll work our way up to the beaches at Goa. Kerala and Goa offer better food–seafood instead of beans, coconut milk instead of palm oil–than the rest of India. These places also offer some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and, in Kerala, charming backwaters.
“We’ll check out cities, including capital Trivandrum and the port of Kochi (Fort Cochin). We’ll see Indian and what’s left of Portuguese culture in Goa, from when the Portuguese ran that part of India. We’ll consider what retired life would look like and who we’d play with.
“Before coming to India, Vicki and I walked over to the Indian consulate near where we live now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and picked up our single-entry visas, good for six months. I asked what other visas were available and was told that, if I apply in my home country (the U.S.), I can get a 10-year, multiple-entry visa for about $150. Each entry is good for six months, and there’s no maximum on how long I can stay in a given year.
“So, for example, I could go to India for six months, pop over to Oman, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, the UAE, wherever, for a short break, and return for another six months. Sounds almost too good to be true, but I got it from the Indian consul himself.
“I have an American friend who visits India often, and he confirms that he has a 10-year visa.
“This same American friend tells me that, although Indian law provides for foreign ownership of real property, in practice, it’s not possible. People have tried it, and, in most cases, have never gotten clean title. Forget it, is his advice. Even if it were possible, which it probably isn’t, the time and hassle in what might be the world’s most tedious bureaucracy would punish.
“As an alternative, I’m told foreigners can incorporate in India and buy property in the corporate name. Again, figure on delays, lawyers, costs, paperwork, and brain-dead bureaucrats.
“For now, I’m a renter. I’ll check out apartments, guesthouses, and other living alternatives. Presumably, the goats are extra.”