Notes Post India

This is a wonderful letter from my friend to those who touched his life whilst travelling in India. He is from Singapore and had an amazing whirlwind of  a trip through India. This is a glimpse into his crazy time…

Singapore sucks without all of you here
Not that I’ve no friends back home, but just wanna let all of you know that I’ve been missing you, loads.
My india trip has been nothing short of fucking incredible. From the eclectic mix of Mumbai’s million subcultures, and the hippies and stoners of Goa’s Arambol, I managed to make my way to Hampi, Kerala, Kanyakumari, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Pushka, Delhi, Dharamsala, Varanasi and Agra. I’ve seen the beaches, backwaters, deserts, mountains and Indian spirituality, often accompanied by Indian filth. The sights were breathtaking, but the people I’ve met, you, were, and still are, fucking beautiful.
Many of you has been great company, making sure I was never alone and always had someone to share my drugs and joy with. More importantly, it’s you that have made me realise that the world is full of solid, ace peeps. People that are chilled out, easy-going, adventurous, sincere, and naturally nice and wise.
It’s been 8 days since I’ve gotten home, and it’s really a little different in cosmopolitan Singapore. I’m suffering from a severe Indian hangover, pasting Shiva stickers all over my room, listening to loads of Mantras and dubstep, hanging prayer flags all across my ceiling, and dreaming about the good times we’ve shared with one another.

Thanks for being the “in” of my incredible india trip. And wherever you are right now, I sincerely hope that you are still enjoying the time of your life and smiling everyday. Do send me some updates on your lives, however mundane they might be, whether you have been having fun or not.

And I’m seriously planning to move to London next spring / summer. So if you need a writer, I’m up for it. And I’ll be visiting all you european white people soon. Love loads.

Kai – the pioneer of good times.

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Dreaming of India

You know it’s time to dust off the travelling shoes and start planning the next trip when your favourite destination is popping up in your dreams.

The other night I was dreaming about being in India with my Indian family. In their home, in my Indian sisters room. Laughing together. Enjoying the sites and taking in the sounds. I really felt as if I was there! The best part, My mum was there too! She got to experience the country I love so much.

India is a country that engulfs you. You don’t see things in India, you feel them. You don’t smell the flowers, your senses are awoken. It really is a place that once experienced, never leaves you.

I cannot speak more highly of this incredibly diverse country and I cannot wait to get back there.

Some of my favourite things, that I truly miss right now:

  • Sailing in Bombay in front of the magnificent Taj Mahal
  • Tasting the sweetness of Gulab jamun
  • Laughing with the people
  • Thanking the people for their kindness, Dhan ya vad
  • Cooling off with a Kulfi
  • Sampling the spices of Goa
  • Roaming the grounds of the Taj Mahal
  • Late night Butter Chicken Roti Roll
  • Dancing Bangra style at the Sangeet
  • Smiling, laughing and crying tears of Joy!
  • Wearing a Sari and feeling like a queen
  • Eating amazing Lobster Curry at Apoorva
  • Viewing Jaipur from the Amber Fort
  • Patting an Elephant in the Streets of Agra
  • Watching the Sunset over the Gateway of India, Mumbai

So check it out:

Incredible India

http://www.incredibleindia.org/index.html

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2009 Summary

Only 8 hours left of 2009 and it’s time to reflect on the year that was. I thought 2009 would be a big one for me, but I don’t think I realised how life changing some of the events would be. When you face the year ahead you make goals, plans and set targets for yourself, having direction is a great thing. Often though, it’s the unexpected and the changes, the things we never could have foreseen that really make us.

I’m not making any really big new years resolutions. I made a list of plans and things I would ‘like to’ achieve as I feel this is a much more flexible and approachable way to look at our future. The list of resolutions can often be reflected upon at the end of the year as a list of failed attempts. We shouldn’t feel discouraged and let down if we don’t get to do everything that we set out to do. So I’m saying for 2010, give it all you got, have a blast and make mistakes, it’s the best way to learn. Most of all, enjoy! Nothing is a waste of time as long as we learn from it and at differently in the future.

These are of few of my highlights from 2009:

  • Ringing in the New Year in London and spending New Year’s Day in Mexico
  • Spending 4.5 months in Monterrey, Mexico on Student exchange
  • Losing my Grandmother and having a tattoo done as a memorial to her
  • Doing an 18 day road trip from the Cancun – Oaxaca, Mexico with 3 Aussies and a Belgian
  • Visiting the incredible Mexico City, not once, not twice but 3 times!
  • Facing a pending Pandemic (aka swine flu) and fleeing Mexico for the United states In April 2009
  • Attending the Indy 500 qualifying weekend with my Cousin Bill and big brother James, May 2009
  • Sitting on a crocodile and riding an airboat in the Everglades, Miami, USA with my new German friends
  • Visiting all 4 Disneyworld parks in Orlando as well as the 2 Universal Studios parks over a period of 2 days.
  • Attending the FAPAA 36th Consecutive Council meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, for my work in Freight Forwarding.
  • Competing in the Easter Uni Games, Australian University Sports Competition in Soccer for UTS, and getting the Wooden spoon. Bathurst, NSW, Australia
  • Attending the UTS Ski Trip in Thredbo, Australia
  • Competing in the Australian University Snow Sports Competition at Thredbo Australia.
  • Breaking my back at the Australian Snow Sports Competition. Successfully fracturing 2 vertebrae, spending 1 week in hospital and 9.5 weeks in a back brace
  • Starting my blog – https://lovellyinc.wordpress.com
  • Attending my friend Khushboo’s wedding in Delhi, India
  • Riding an elephant in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
  • Visiting the charity www.roomtoread.com based in Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Seeing the Taj Mahal for the Second time in my life. Agra, India
  • Achieving my 5 yr dream of taking a vacation to the beaches of Goa, India
  • Returning to my beloved Mumbai and learning about the great history of India
  • Making it home in time for Christmas in Australia with family and friends

What a great year! 2009 has taught me a lot. I just can’t wait to see what 2010 holds.

HAVE A FANTASTIC NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Return from India and Nepal

Another trip over and another return to Australia. My fourth visit to India and my second visit to Nepal have yet to satisfy my cravings for these cultures. It appears that each time I return to this great country I call home, I am instantly ready to turn around and visit the foreign lands that I love.

Well for now, I am back in Sydney and enjoying the time with family. I will keep my love affair with India and Nepal going through my writing  for the time being.

28 days, 2 countries, 1 wedding, an elephant ride and a multitude of beds. This doesn’t even come close to summarising the great trip I have just had. I’ve been driven through mountains and laid on beaches, I’ve danced on river boats and sung with children, I’ve washed clothes by hand and eaten the finest Seafood of India, but still there is so much Iam yet to see or do.

Over the next month I will be reflecting on this trip with many stories, tales, recounts and tips, but for now here are some of the highlights:

– A fabulous 4 day wedding in Delhi, India

– 1 day trip to Jaipur with spur of the moment dance in Wedding Procession to finish the day off

– Return to the Magical Taj Mahal for my twice in a lifetime experience

– Flying into Nepal in the midst of Maoist Strike mayhem and a 6 day hold on Petrol across the country

– Visiting the most popular sites of Pokhara, Nepal, on the back of a motorbike

– Watching the sun go down at the serene Lake Begnash, just outside Pohkara Municipality, Nepal

– Taking a riverboat ride to the Elephant Orphanage Chitwana nd naming a baby elephant, Malachye

– Riding an Elephant through the Jungle of Chitwan National Park

– Making Momo’s and washing my clothes by hand in a real Nepalese home

– Learning to count in Nepalese from a 3 yr old and practicing the alphabet in English

– Taking the morning Everest Flight past the mystifying Himalayas

– Visiting two community schools built by the amazing organisation Room to Read, http://www.roomtoread.org

– Cruising the Bars of Baga Beach, GOA, India

– Staying with an Indian Family in the South of Goa, friends of friends I met in America- small world!

– Taking a tour of the senses at the Tropical Spice Plantation, Goa, India

– Being treated like a movie star on the Swastik River Cruise near Panaji City, aka being asked for many photos by Indian Tourists.

– 12 hour train ride on the Indian Railways from Goa- Mumbai. A meal and 4 cups of tea will cost you just over $1 and for less than $20 you have a sleeper in an AC compartment

-Watching a friend’s friend in a  Stand up Comedy club in Mumbai, only to be the butt of the Australia Jokes, thanks Rohan Joshi!

– Eating Seafood at the famous Apoorva restaurant, a favourite in Downtown Mumbai

– A weekend in Daman with a group of 5 young Indian Professionals

– Sailing at Sunset in front of the Gateway to India and Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, India

– Visiting the World’s largest Laundry- The Dhobhi Ghat, Mumbai, India

A fantastic trip with many more highlights to come. Please visit India and Nepal. You will not be disappointed by the diversity, beauty and interesting culture of these 2 great countries.

Please post your requests for stories below in the comments section and read about the destinations you most wish to see!

(more…)

Delhi Delights – My Top 8

New Delhi is the National Capital of India and one of its most fascinating cities. Being the Political centre and having the second largest metropolis by population, the city has a strong effect on the people of India and the direction in which the country has developed.

 

I love Delhi for its amazing diversity and interesting culture. The markets, the temples, the bustling business, the stunning sunsets and the great night spots. I would be difficult to ever get bored in this city. Here are 8 of my favourite things to do and see when in Delhi:

 

1. Bahai Lotus Temple

This is a temple dedicated to the Bahai faith and is a more recent addition to the architectural jewels of Delhi. I have never been close to it but I have driven past many times and it is just as spectacular at night as it is in the day. Reminds me somewhat of the Opera House and the Waratah Flower of Australia, maybe that’s why I like it so much. It took me at least 4 sightings of this to finally get an understanding of what it was and it is always at the top of my list for must sees in Delhi!

http://travelinsider.qantas.com.au/lotus_temple_south_delhi.htm

2. Qutub Minar

The World’s tallest free standing brick Minaret. An islamic structure which has a number of beliefs surrounding it. The intricate detail and craftwork which covers the entire structure is worth a look alone. Entry here is cheap and there is a fabulous mix of cultures all marvelling at the magnificence of this unusual sight.

http://www.info2india.com/rajasthan/qutub-minar-delhi.html

3. Dilli Haat Markets

Resembling the traditional craftsmen and trade markets, Dilli Haat offers the traveller a chance to experience a unique style of shopping . It’s the first permanent fair for regional foods, crafts and cultural activities. It’s a completely new experience and a great day out.

http://www.delhi-hotels-india.net/dilli-haat-delhi.htm

4.Red Fort

The Unesco World Heritage Site which could easily be mistaken for the Taj Mahal…. except that it’s red. I was very confused when I first saw it as it was so similar to the Taj Mahal in style, but once you see them in comparison, you understand the difference. This is where the Prime Minster addresses the people at the celebrations of Independence day, 15th August. If anything, it’s a beautiful building to see, octagonal in shape as is the style of such Islamic architecture.

http://www.tourmyindia.com/states/delhi/red.html

5. GK1 M- Block Market

A trip to Delhi is not complete without visiting this more upmarket area and the great set of shops and stalls located at the centre. The areSouth Extensiona is called Kalisah and it’s where the wealthy come to do their lower end shopping (so my high end.) There is fabulous jewellery, great snacks, luscious hair and beauty salons and shoe stalls as far as the eye can see. You may even spot an Indian Celebrity (I saw the queen of Beauty and skin care products of India… well, you couldn’t miss her! Diamonds covering every spare bit of flesh- LOVE IT!

http://www.delhilive.com/gk1-m-block-market

6. Shalom (Restaurant)

Amazing Mediterannean lounge bar with great decor and a very trance vibe. You can smoke sheeshah (hubbly bubbly) with flavours like apple and cherry and you can sip on sumptuous cocktails! Chill out sessions playing in the background with low lighting provide the prefect relaxing atmosphere for a great night out.

http://shalomexperience.com/


7. New Delhi Parliament

The Indian Parliamentary Buildings and India Gate are essential to the Delhi City Tour. It’s best to go here with a guide who can explain the area and chances are you will probably only see it from the car. Security is quite strict in this area and it can be difficult at times to get close. It was only in the 1920’s that Parliament was moved to Delhi from Calcutta and it has remained their since.

http://www.indiasite.com/delhi/places/parliamenthouse.html

8. India Gate

A slow drive down the Rajpath will allow you ample photo opportunities of the India Gate. This is a war memorial to over 90,000 Soldiers who lost their lives serving in World War 1. It’s a magnificent structure and a testament to the Indian people and their contributions during British Colonialism.

http://www.indiasite.com/delhi/places/indiagate.html

I hope you are able to see some of these great sites in Delhi. I strongly recommend going on a city tour or hiring a tour guide for one day to really get a good understanding of the history of the city and the many facets which make it the wonderful city it is today. To find out about the best markets and where to eat, chat to a local. The Indian people are very friendly and always more than happy to stop and give some advice to visitors.

Royal Bombay Yacht Club

A 12 hour flight, a bustling airport, a sea of dilapidated temporary houses, an overwhelming stench and a blur of a car trip begin my second visit to Mumbai, India. This would sound like hell to most travellers but to me, it’s like coming home. Mumbai has a feeling, a vibe, an attraction which is indescribable and a familiarity that is as good as a warm hug from mum. My return to India through this Airport and to this city was very welcome.

 

I would only be in Mumbai for one night as I would then continue on to Delhi the following day. To assist me in my brief stay a dear friend had arranged for me to stay as a guest at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.

 

Arriving at night I was unable to see the standard of my accommodation or the location but it was described in detail to me by my wonderful driver on the drive over. The friendliness and openness of the Indian people never ceases to amaze me. Upon first inspection the building seemed old and fairly run down and as it was night I had no idea of what the local surrounds looked like.

 

I was told immediately upon arrival that my friend Mr Vinoo was waiting for me and we would have dinner together. It was now 9pm. In India, this is an early dinner. As much as I love the Indian hospitality, after a long flight, all I wanted to do was sleep.

 

My Badipapa (Indian Grandfather), as I would now call him, had arranged my transportation, stay and return visit to the airport. I really do know how lucky I am to have such great connections in other countries as well as such kind and generous friends. An American woman on the plane had invited me to stay with her in her house in Mumbai if I didn’t have somewhere to stay but after informing her about my accommodation at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and my friend, she recognised quickly that I was certainly not in need of help.

 

Seeing my dear friend was wonderful and the meal absolutely delightful, but I was exhausted and simply needed rest.

 

I was woken at 6am by my startling alarm and I was all but ready to pull the covers over my head and beg for more rest until my eyes were drawn to the window. There sat the most perfect circle of golden light I have ever seen. The sun was just rising over Mumbai and I think  I had the most incredible view of the whole city to watch this day begin. My stunning heritage framed windows allowed for the many colours of the skies early morning light to be framed perfectly and to reveal that just in front of my window lay the famous landmark, the Gateway to India.

 

 

 

The beautiful Royal Bombay Yacht Club is a heritage building which sits facing the Gateway to India with the Taj Mahal Hotel towering beside it. Behind these great structures still and calm in the early morning was the great Harbour of Mumbai. The The Bombay Yacht Club was founded in 1846 and was established after regattas were held there since 1830.

 

I could not believe my eyes and I simply stood at the window and watched the sun shed it’s light over this beautiful city. The photos speak louder then words, though they too are not necessary as the images in my mind are as clear and vivid as if it were only yesterday.

 

 

Though you must be a member or the guest of one of the members to stay at the Hotel, you can visit and admire the history of this wonderful landmark. The Harbour is lively and busy during the day with local markets, the famous Taj Mahal hotel and the tourist favourite, Gateway to India. The Bombay Yacht Club offers fantastic meals and a stunning view for a beautiful night out with a difference.

 

This has to be one of the most interesting and culturally rich hotels I have ever stayed in. I know how lucky I am to have been introduced to such a gem of India’s history. It’s a must see when visiting Mumbai.

For more information on this amazing establishment:

http://royalbombayyachtclub.com/

(This trip was taken on 25th January 2006)

Taj Mahal: Twice in a lifetime Experience

I would have thought seeing one of the seven wonders of the world and one of the most famous buildings in the world would be only a once in a lifetime experience. I have just been informed however that for me the Taj Mahal will be a twice in a lifetime experience.

 

The magnificent Taj Mahal is situated in Agra in the North of India. This sacred site is considered one of those must sees in one’s life and millions of people make the trip to see the great structure every year. It is one of the most recognised and identifiable buildings in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

As my second trip to the famous Taj fast approaches, I thought I would reflect upon my first siting in 2005. After a business trip to the amazing Udaipur and a quick stop in Delhi, my father arranged for us to fulfil one of his lifelong dreams of seeing the Taj Mahal in person. It was to be a long day trip from Delhi to Agra, but an unforgettable journey.

 

We started the day with a 6am ride on one of the famous Indian trains, though we of course took 1st class so I feel I was somewhat robbed of the true experience. Upon arriving in Agra we were met by our guide for the day and taken to the closest car park to the Taj. There are no cars allowed within 1 kilometre of the great structure and so the last leg must be done on foot or as we chose, by horse and cart.

 

The trip leading up to the Taj Mahal is incredible with the typical indian life of markets, farm animals and busy people bustling about the streets. There are tour guides and souvenirs as with any popular tourist site but it all seems to be more cultural and relevant here.

 

Once up close you must walk through a series of red buildings and courtyards before you are met by the four gates. You then turn to face the Western gate which leads to the site you have travelled so far to see. My father could barely hold in his excitement but I wasn’t feeling the same way. I know it’s important and it’s so very famous but I had seen so many pictures so I wasn’t expecting to be dazzled or overwhelmed. The lead up and suspense to actually seeing the structure really does help the experience and I would be lying to say that I was anything less than speechless once faced with the Great Taj.

 First view of the Taj

The experience begins as you walk through an enormous gateway with indian styled architecture into a dark middle section where the Taj Mahal is first framed in a natural window.

 

 

This is the typical photograph everyone has seen. As you continue forward, the gardens and  the enormity of this site are revealed to you. Once you have walked all the way through the arch and stand directly in front of the Taj with all it’s splendour laid out before you, you can but simply gasp at this amazing spectacle. I didn’t think it would affect me that much but I felt a shiver down my spine and a sense that I was experiencing something spectacular.

That famous Image

 

We spent a good 2 hours there strolling around the gardens, taking the mandatory 100 photos, viewing the river that runs out the back, seeing the muslim mosque and replicated temple which stand to either side and entering the Taj Mahal itself. Once close to the building you can see the true expense that went into it’s construction and the 17 years for which it took to be constructed. It is made of white marble with semi precious stone inlay both inside and out. The tombs of the great Maharaja who built the temple and his wife lay at the centre as a reminder of what the building was originally for, a final resting place of the kings beloved Queen. I most certainly recommend a guide to walk with you through the site as there is too much wonderful history and questions to be asked for you to miss out on.

 

My experience at the Taj was further cultured by the wonderful Indian people who were also viewing the site that day. It was Indian Tourist season in June when we went so for a rare time there were actually more Indian tourists then there were foreign tourists. To the delight of many of the Indian tourists that day they not only got to see the great attraction of the Taj Mahal but they were entertained by something else new and intriguing, ME!

 

As I stood on the main viewing platform at the centre of the site I began to notice a crowd forming near me. But instead of viewing the magnificent structure ahead, all eyes were on me. Slowly one by one, people came up to to shake my hand and speak to the white skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed girl who said “dhanyawaad” and “Namaste”. I didn’t realise until my guide informed me that many of the people may never have seen a white person before as they were coming from villages and towns where tourists would never go. Before I knew it, a busload of tourists were there and I was posing in a photo with 20 odd Indian people all wanting to hold my hand and say hello. This went on for at least 15 minutes before I gave Dad the signal to come and take me away from the madness. For me it was a truly humbling and special experience. To have people be so excited to meet you and interested in you for simply being different was a joy. I’m glad I could share that special moment with them in such a wondrous location.

 

Walking out of the garden and looking back over your shoulder at the Taj Mahal for one last time is almost as exciting as the first glimpse. You feel as though you have accomplished something great and you now have this memory to cherish until the end of your days.

 

I cannot wait to make the acquaintance of the Great Taj Mahal again. They say that you could visit it every day for a year and it would never look the same because in every light it has a new and different beauty. I will also be going with an Indian family as part of a wedding ceremony and a cultural tradition which will add to the experience. I am interested to see how culturally important this site is to Newlyweds and how important this structure has been in the Indian way of life.

 

For more information on the history of the site and how to get there visit:

http://taj-mahal.net/

http://www.tajmahalindia.net/

Quick history and background:

A beautiful story of love and Tragedy. The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is Mughal Architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic aarchitectural styles. Building began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, and employed thousands of artisans and craftsmen.

Soon after the Taj Mahal’s completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son and put under house arrest. Cruelly locked in a  tower in the nearby Agra fort, where he was forced to look at his beautiful creation everyday. Shah Jahan had previously planned to build a second structure identical to that of the Taj Mahal but in black marble. He wanted to be buried in the tomb which would face his beloved wife’s final resting places so that they could look upon one another for eternity. Sadly, due to his don’t intervention, it wasn’t to be. Upon Shah Jahan’s death his son buried him in the mausoleum next to the centred tomb of his wife, making it the only unaligned or symmetrical part of the entire tomb.

Since 1983 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim Art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”