Things I learnt when I travelled to India for the first time

Things I learnt when I travelled to India for the first time

In the summer of 2018, I travelled to India for the first time with my family. As a British born Indian girl I was excited to discover my roots and explore my heritage. I wrote an article about my experiences on Gal-Dem so give it a read!

But what did I learn about the specifics of the Indian way of life which is a contrast to the British Indian way of life? Visiting my family in India really solidified this. I decided to write a blog post about it!

  1. It’s common for people to eat on the floor at mealtimes. Sitting cross legged with a plate of bateta shaak ( potato curry) on my plate, eye level with my family I found myself eating more mindfully, really taking in the taste and visual imagery of the food. As I was balancing food on my lap, I couldn’t really eat and scroll brainlessly through my phone at the same time
  2. Even though I’m Indian, I found there was a stark contrast to the way I was viewed by Indian natives. It was obvious I was a tourist from everything to the way I dressed to the way I spoke (more on that in the next post). Relatives would often ask me if I spoke Gujarati (my mother tongue) and I would hear workers talk about me thinking I couldn’t understand them.
  3. The blunt inequality was made blindly obvious to the amount of adult and child beggars on the streets. It forced me to appreciate the fact that I had a roof over my head and food and I that I was travelling India as a tourist, able to visit restaurants and stay in hotels.
  4. Family and culture share different vibes to the UK. The relationship between caste and marriage is a significant value in Indian culture whereas in the UK, it is more overlooked.
  5. The driving in India is WHACK. Constant speeding, hanging on for dear life and cows in the way! There are no rules.
  6. In parts of India, it is the norm to dress modestly, no miniskirts and keep shoulders covered. People will stare.
  7. Navigating the markets is a strength. Big contrast to Camden. People’s persuasion will be dialed up to a 100 and you will have to put your bargaining skills to the test.
  8. If you think Indian food in the UK is good you’ve underestimated how unbelievably Peng and beautiful the food is in India. I developed a serious addiction to Aloo Parathas at breakfast with Indian tea and don’t get me started on the Paneer.

If you enjoyed my post, read my article on Gal-Dem for a deeper discussion on how I reclaimed my roots:  https://gal-dem.com/wanderthirst-reclaiming-my-roots-in-india/

Let me know what you think in the comments x

Twitter: @Naveeshaaa

Instagram: @Naveeshaaa

Jodhpur – Exploring the ‘blue’ city

Jodhpur – Exploring the ‘blue’ city

My next stop after Jaipur was of course, Jodhpur, likened to the being the ‘blue’ city in contrast to Jaipur’s pink paradise. Full of beautiful scenery, more magnificent architecture and colours, I was excited to see it.

The main stop on my Jodhpur Jaunt was architectural beauty, Mehrangr Fort. The fort is 410 feet above the city and boasts terrific views. It also contains a road leading to the city which is great if you want to do your exploring on foot.The fort divides up several palaces which are a must-see such as Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana Dude, Takht Vilas, Jhanki Mahal.There are also two temples. From paintings to palanquins, Mehrangr Fort is showcases the wonderful scenery of Northwestern India as well as a majestic palace. The fort and museum also contains pieces of heritage art includng costumes, carvings and decoarations.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see as much in Jodhpur due to time constraints, but on my next visit I will journey to sights such as Bal Samand Lake, Mandore Garden, Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park and Kaylana Lake.

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Jaipur – Exploring ‘the pink city’

Jaipur – Exploring ‘the pink city’

I must apologise for the backlog of India posts that I haven’t uploaded but quarantine has given me the chance to finally update these and post it!

Known historically as ‘The Pink City’, Jaipur exceeds expectations to become a terracotta paradise.  But why is it called ‘The Pink City?’. The Maharaja of Jaipur sought to impress Prince Albert during his trip to India in 1876. This included building lavish buildings and gardens as well as repainting the city pink in order to create an atmosphere of hospitality. To this day, the pink colour scheme remains.

My exploration started with arriving at the Pearl Palace guesthouse which blew my mind. A heritage hotel, it combines traditional indian architecture and art for a truly authentic experience.

 

Amer Fort

My first stop was the Amer Fort. Mughal architecture, lavish marble walls and an opulent courtyard, I couldn’t wait to get a slice of Rajesthan history. It also contains Sheesh Mahal, an ornate display of mirrors. I was in awe of how beautiful the fort was and the courtyard gardens were nothing to sneeze at either. The stunning backdrop was a pretty picture of Indian countryside.

Usually, when I want to build something beautiful I stick to decorating my Christmas tree but it looks like palaces have always been in style as India is full of them! Mosaic patterned walls, sculptured mirrors, no wonder so many people flock to see this important piece of Jaipur’s history. The palace is divided into four different levels with different attractions such as the Diwan-i-aam (Hall of Public Audience), the Diwan-i-kaas (Hall of Private Audience), Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) and the Sukh Niwas where winds blow over waterfalls to create a cool climate.

There is also two light shows every evening. One is in Hindi which starts at 8 and the English one is at 7.30. There are also puppet shows and a classical dance program which can be located in Sukh Mahal.

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Bapu Bazar

If you want to go shopping for gifts/specialty items and traditional wear then look no further than Bapu Bazaar. Famed for being the place to sharpen tourists’ bargaining skills, Bapu Bazar is a delight with a plethora of items which appeals to all sorts of people. I picked up some colourful trousers which unfortunately reminds me of this meme*:

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*Substitute for India.

But I didn’t care because they were pretty and cheap! I also took the time to stock up on Lehengas as it had been way too long since I’d bought new ones. Colourful Bangarees and jewellery were also selling fast and I took this opportunity to pick up some.

 

 

Chocki Dhani

Authentic Rajasthani culture? Cultural performances? Great food? The Chocki Dhani village enticed us because it was a chance to see a glimpse of the ‘real’ India and satisfy my urge to delve into my roots. Chocki Dhani is an ethnic resort and model village attracts both tourists and locals, not only for their promising attractions but also the culinary experience with an extravagant open air buffet restaurant.

Walking inside after paying the entrance fee, I was lost on what to check out first. I opted for a puppet show where a man was using a wooden control bar and string to move a few cute doll figurines who were decked out in traditional Indian wear including little minature cloth saris.

 

In the village there were different performances going on. We stopped to check out two Indian girls in gagra cholis (traditional skirt and top with intricate designs and colours) who were dancing energetically. A man was providing the background music by using a tabla (classical drums). There was so much spirit and passion I stopped to watch.

There were other dance performances going on. One in particular was enjoyable because one of the girls tried to coax audience members into showing off their moves too! Eventually, one woman did come up and dance proving that positive energy is contagious.

Another performance which I coudn’t tear my eyes from showed a young woman dancing on glass!

There was lots to do and see at Chocki Dhani. From the unconventional art of palm reading to a merry-go-round to games for kids. After seeing the many attractions, we settled down to eat at the candlelit buffet dinner. There was so much to choose from. You could have Rajasthani cuisine or more Western cuisine as there was a pasta bar. My favourite was the pani puri which came served with different chutneys and dips that I had about 13. No regrets!

Overall, my experience visiting Chocki Dhani was amazing and I loved that so much Indian culture was showcased here.

 

 

 

Raj Mandir

For the ultimate cinematic experience, I strongly recommend a visit to the grand Raj Mandir, a luxurious cinema in Jaipur. With two staircases and a magnificent foyer. Odeon, take some notes. It is worth noting the cinema exclusively shows movies in Hindi without subtitles. I am not fluent in Hindi but can understand it to an extent, (before anyone calls me a coconut, my mother tongue is Gujarati) so I was looking forward to testing my language skills.

 

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Miami: Where to get ‘litty’

Ok so you’ve satisfied your tastebuds but where can you quench your alcohol deprived thirst? Here are some reccommendations:

Bacon Bitch

  • The first bar I visited when I reached Miami. Burger place by day, speakeasy by night. Bacon Bitch transforms into cool retro bar ‘Shhh…’
  • Arrive in a small, understated bar, go through a bookcase with a secret button and order some drinks that come wrapped up for that authentic secret bar vibe
  • Graffitti, luminous neon walls and happy hour…what’s not to love?

 

Liv

  • Ok so you’re in Miami but where was the glamorous lifestyle you were promised? Right here in Liv of course!
  • I started my night by predrinking in Catalina Hotel and Beach club as part of a deal that included wristband entry and free drinks
  • Word of warning: when ordering a mixed drink specify how much alcohol you want. I ordered a double vodka lemonade, took one sip and nearly died because they’d added the same amount of alcohol and mixer
  • After having our fill of drinks, our group were transported to the club with a limo – the Miami lifestyle has its perks!
  • We arrived in the club in good time and realised it was the ultimate boujie nightclub experience – 22,000 square feet of dancefloor, a lavish stage and VIP access. Did I also mention that Tory Lanes was performing?
  • Apart from the prices which nearly made me cry (36$ for a double mixer and spirit), I partied like a princess

 

Cleveland Hotel

  • We visited this decadent hotel on Ocean Drive on our last night, wanting something chilled and fun
  • There was a salsa dancing night on and I was eager to learn something new without my two left feet messing up
  • 3 bars, a nightclub and live music lounge outdoors, this exotic location offers an alternative night out to dancing in a sweaty filled club

Wet Willies

  • Their signature drink choice of a frozen Daiquiri will keep you wanting more and more – the limit does not exist, welcome to brain freeze
  • Wet Willies have become such a popular franchise they even sell their own merch
  • Food, drink and a view of Ocean Drive…a great lowkey place to relax

 

Studio 23

  • If rap, afrobeats, hip-hop and bashment is your thing then this club is the perfect place for you to get ‘litty’
  • A premium lounge with the hottest names in the buisiness with artists like Summer Walker,
  • The club is quite small so if you don’t mind being squeezed in like sardines, this one is for you

American Social

  • Happy hour and American cuisine after a hard day on the scooters? Count me in
  • Sports bar that is perfect for a lowkey pint yet highkey dining experience
  • Craft brews and cocktails

Señor Frogs

  • Impressive drinks menu with an “All You Can Drink” for $50
  • Bar to club experience on the cheap
  • Fun, Multicoloured booze guaranteed to turn your tongue into a rainbow

After a vibe check of Miami’s drinking scene I can confirm that it is indeed, ‘litty’.

 

Miami Munch: Where to eat

Miami Munch: Where to eat

Thought food in the USA just consisted of massive portions of congealed lard and a double portion of fries? Well you’re half right. Some portions are supersize but I found that there was a whole range of deliciousness in variety of cuisines Miami had to offer. Read on for my reccommendations!

 

  • Limonada Bar and Breakfast
  • I really fancied some eggs and this brunch place served me up with a tasty Eggs Benedict with a breakfast potato and hollondaise sauce of course which really hit the spot.
  • There were loads of other brunch options such as steak and eggs, multiple healthy variations of avocado and toast, a ‘craft your own omelette’ for the creatives, quinoa for the health freaks and sweet options such as waffles and Nutella french toast. Hangover brekkie is sorted and it’s a good ‘un.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Pink

  • This 50s style diner came with massive portions of comfort food on the menu and vibrant red canteen style tables and chairs for that extra chill factor
  • I ordered the Portobello Mushroom wrap which came in a substantially large tortilla wrap filled with salad and onions, served with potatoes
  • Did I mention the portion was supersize? It looks smaller in the photo I promise!
  • I washed it down with a shot of tequila which must have been at least two shots because this doesn’t look like the one I normally get at Spoons…
  • Is everything double here? Am I meant to share? What if I don’t want to?

 

Rosetta Italian Bakery

  • The perfect little bakery filled with lots of luxurious savoury and sweet slices to nurse that hangover after a night on Ocean Drive
  • Nutella doughnuts really satisfied my sweet tooth enough and there’s more custard and jam pastries if you’re still craving some sugary goodness
  • A lot of the late starts we had meant we missed breakfast so I was more than happy to grab a florentine or margharita slice which did the trick
  • There are also fresh juices and a range of breads.

 

1-800-Lucky

  • Set in a location that can be hailed Miami’s answer to Boxpark, there were a range of Asian foods from ramen to Vietnamese sandwiches with a variety of different flavors
  • Stir fried noodles mixed with sizzling veg and tasty tofu was the dish I opted for – are you drooling yet?
  • Hip Hop played from booming speakers outside and there was a cocktail bar which served a range of cocktails for $9. Did somebody say happy hour?

 

Chef Créole

  • Carribean food in Little Haiti? Let’s go!
  • I managed to find a vegetarian dish which consisted of flavourful rice and kidney beans, sweet plantain and salad which really satisfied my taste buds
  • Naturally, there was a variety for meat eaters to choose from like oxtail, barbequed ribs, stewed conch and fried fish

 

Burbowl

  • Takes the contender for one of the best burgers I have ever tasted
  • First you pick the choice of meat or veggie filling you want, then you can choose between a pretzel bun, lettuce wrap and potato bun, choose the type of cheese you want and salad and lastly an array of sauces to choose from
  • Served with waffle fries, this meal is the ultimate source of comfort food and it put me in a severe food coma

 

Bodega

  • Classic Mexican joint with a twist – the interior is small and resembles a Subway size seating plan but there’s a door at the back which opens up into a substantially sized casual Weatherspoons style bar
  • Waitresses are on hand to take drink orders and you can sit back, relax and enjoy the range of food options
  • I opted for soft veggie taco shells which were so good I have to order some more and paired it with a cocktail so I could start my pre-drinking early

Mega Pizza

  • Ok so this place may serve congealed pizza and bucketloads of cheese and fries but it was the perfect spot to get food from a night out when you’re drunk and craving junk food
  • Pizza, burgers, wraps, sandwiches, wings and side orders…this is the perfect place to pig out.

 

 

 

 

Travel goals for 2019

Aloha! The first week of 2019 has come and gone and I’m excited for a year of new opportunities, dreams and most importantly…travels!

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The thing spurring me on most to get those dolla dolla bills is the excitement behind exploring new cities and places. I want to get lost and I want to do it on foreign ground.

2018 was a brilliant year me for in terms of travel as I got to see the beautiful India and get in touch with my roots. Gujarat and Rajesthan are such different places to London and it was good to experience life in an alternative community. I also visited Zadar in Croatia with the family which was a new experience as I had no idea what to expect on that trip as Zadar isn’t as well documented or touristy a location as say, Dubrovnik or Split.

My 2019 travels will depend heavily on my bank balance as at the moment I am unemployed. -insert crying face-

As of now, I have a trip to Copenhagen which I am very excited about. The Danish city boasts great architecture, cycling and lovely Scandinavian culture which I can’t wait to get my teeth into. My recent read The Little Book of Hygge has motivated me to love all things Danish and I am also intrigued to see their way of life up close!

I also have another trip booked in November to see Miami!

Beaches, cocktails and cruising through the streets blasting Will Smith’s Miami…I can’t wait!

I also plan to explore more of London, I live in such an extraordinary city and I think I take it for granted a lot of the time. I need to step out of my comfort zone a bit more and I believe 2019 will be perfect for this

 

Elephant village

Elephant village

On the way to Jaipur our driver stopped off at Elephant Village ‘Hathi Gaon’ as me and my sister had mentioned we were fans of the cute trunk carriers. We were told that the the things we could do here ranged from riding, painting, bathing and feeding the elephants. Personally, the thought of painting elephants for entertainment made me uneasy and I oppose riding them because of the incessant cruelty these poor things are put through! Here’s an article on elephant abuse.

Another thing which concerned me were the reviews I read online about this place. It seemed that a lot of tour guides were teaming up with the owners and scamming tourists by charging more than what was necessary. It seems tourists are also not getting what they paid for e.g. riding the elephants for less time than what was agreed. This is disgusting and I felt sorry for the poor elephants as they were forced to carry families and endure abuse.

So instead the owner just let us feed and stroke them and I got to get up, close and personal with Nelly and her friends.

I loved the short but sweet time spent with them and in the future I’m definitely going to go to some more ethical elephant sanctuaries.