India is shockingly dirty. It is extreme in all aspects: colors, smells, heat, flavors, sounds – but these things can be adjusted to and even appreciated and loved. However, the amount of dust and trash and men peeing everywhere is impossible to get used to. It remains shocking the whole time. Even way up in Dharamshala, the current home of his Holiness the Dalai Lama, there is trash everywhere. People dump it down ravines and throw it on the street. Massive bulls wander around rooting through the trash for food and once or twice a week a truck drives around and picks up most of it and dumps it somewhere else.
Since Dharmashala has so many young hip cool tourists from everywhere, the whole green movement has taken root. The travelers are somewhat more aware of their impact, thus a plastic reduction initiative, in the form of refilling Nalgenes and water bottles for a few rupees has begun. This phenomenon seems to be sprouting up in a number of places in India, especially in places with more tourism. This method of reducing plastic is great, as long as the water is really clean.
In Dharmashala the water was double filtered and boiled, so it was very clean and available in a number of hostels and a few shops. Down in Goa however, the eco-friendly and green resort my mum and I stayed at, provided only filtered the water. If we hadn’t had such success in Dharmashala with the water being clean I don’t think we ever would have drunk anything but bottled water in Goa. But we did have that success, so we drank the filtered water in Goa. Alas, the water made us both very ill and our entire break was spent in very close proximity to the water closet.
This experience with unclean water is one anyone who travels will probably face at least once in his or her lifetime. Drinking only reliable bottled water, (in Cambodia they will sometimes repackage any old water into water bottles and sell it), seems to be the best option. Although you can purify water in a number of ways like boiling, using a Steripen, and iodine tablets, buying bottled water is often cheaper and tastier. It seems that India needs to come up with a better way of dealing with their trash, recycling would be a good start.