Sunday, November 22, 2015

Day 3 - Jaipur

Disclaimer - The contents of the following post are strictly intended for the female readers. The curious sex may note that this does not mean, there are hidden references of "lingerie" "lacy underwear" etc.

Not in a blogworthy mood but just wanna record everything before I forget.

Day was splendid, woke up barely in time to get breakfast on the hotel's gorgeous terrace garden and bumped into the cutest Mumbai boy ever. We hit it off instantly with our stories of coming back to India and I was just beginning to feel that rush which was instantly broken by the news that it was his last day in the city, and he would be driving off to Bikaner with a bunch of travelers in the night. He mentioned going gem shopping for his mom before and asked me if I'd like to help him pick something out. The words Jaipur and Shopping sounded like a big joke since my zillion visits to the city ended with living in Jaipur Palace, driving to amber fort or nahargarh and spending quiet moments contemplating. Besides, he said he wanted a woman's opinion and the firangi women he was traveling with weren't of much help as they wanted to do their own thing, and my own friends had plans to see Amer fort which I had seen already a zillion times. Having never even seen 'the city side' of Jaipur I decided to venture out, besides did I mention he was cute? Ah well.

So, we walked down to this market place which wasn't very far from our hotel. Its called Chameli Market and located on M.I Road. The market starts off in an alleyway, and can be really hard to notice. As we ventured inside, we could see lots of silver/gem stores huddled together. The shops seemed average, and I was still wondering why the fuck am I wasting time doing all this, well anyway, now that I was there I might as well feign interest. He already knew which shop he wanted to go to and had a piece selected from the previous day. The shop's name was ____ - and its owner was a huge guy named Girish. He showed us the most spectacular bracelets, rings etc made with gems. This market is perfect for all kinda silver shopping and Gems! They do mostly wholesale - but the designs are modern, unique, dainty and extremely reasonable. I found the ruby necklace I had fallen for in Agra which was priced at $20K there, but only 80K rupees here. Expensive still, but just citing an example. He bought a stunning silver bracelet encrusted with the most gorgeous crystals ever for his mum (or gf, who knows, who cares!). I instantly loved it and we negotiated it to a reasonable price of 4K before heading off.

We then had a long lunch at Moti Mahal and soon realized it was well past afternoon. All this jewelery shopping had got me excited, and I decided to buy something made in gold for my mom. The Chameli Market may be great for silver, but if you're looking for gold "Jauhari Bazar" is the place. Its right next to Bapu Bazar (which is the clothes market) and is further down on MI Road. We decided to drive since it was getting really hot, and came back to the hotel where his car was parked.

Jauhari Bazar was whole different ball game, nothing like quiet alleys of silver market. It was hundreds of shops in a long stretch along a busy road. The shops all look small, but don't let their modest appearance deceive you since they hide some of the most gorgeous gold jewelery India has to offer. I looked at almost a billion designs before realizing I didn't wanna buy gold after all, and wanted gems which means going back to Chameli Bazar. I decided to do that by myself tomorrow. Besides men and shopping don't really go well together :P

As we walked back the parking, we saw a huge sweets shops and casually entered just to check out what was going on, and I saw a huge board stating "Famour Paneer Ghewar", which was on my recommended items list. Having no clue what it looked like, I asked an aunty to point me in its direction. We decided we were craving something sweet, but were hardly interested in buying anything, so we started asking for a taste of different sweets. We tried ghevar, gajar halwa, gulab jamun, some chocolate burfy thingy etc before the manager realized we were just fooling around. Still, it was fun :D and the sweet doze uplifted our moods.

We drove back to the hotel as the sun was beginning to set. We went back to my room since I wanted him to meet the girls, but they weren't back from their adventures. So we just chilled for a while, laughed over the day we'd had, exchanged numbers, travel plans and bid goodbye. I'm beginning to love goodbyes, cause it leads to a early happy ending instead of an inevitable disappointment eventually.

Back to my black and white lawyer life tomorrow. The courtrooms await ;)

Hyderabad : The city of pearls.

Been three months in this idiosyncratic city, and life more than demands recording all that's been experienced, learned (if anything), and the varied experiences this charming old town city offers. At times it feels like my learning has reached nowhere. On the other side, the nomad in me feels restless feeling the exploration has reached its peak and time to move on might be quite near.

I've met all kinda people in this rustic city, people who love it to their core, people who wouldn't want anything more than getting out, and others who have spent years making up their mind. I'm just an observer who may not connect with this town ever.

For the eternal romantics there's plenty in this town to keep em satiated, from the cloudy evenings at Hussain Sagar Lake, late night walks along necklace road and what nots.

And for the nomads there's the old city, where charminar and Haleem entrances and lures you to their heritage.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

11 things Hyderabad taught me.

Friends are, and will always be my only true family.

India is the most incredible country ever.

People may look different, but they all have the same heart.

Long distance relationships are the most hurtful things ever.

An evening spent home with good friends, is better than being at any trashy Pg3 party.

Music has no language.

Money cannot buy you happiness. And being materialistic is the most empty feeling ever.

You cannot fight destiny.

Education leads to contentment, in unique ways.

Just because you care about the world, doesn't mean you have to bear the world's unhappiness on your shoulders.

It's good to take risks, you always learn something out of it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 2 - Taj Mahal!

Day 2.

The sleep was extremely disturbing, cause as cute as the hotel was, the walls weren't! So all night footsteps in the hallway felt like footsteps in my head, which led to us waking up bleary eyed at 6ish. I decided to wear my HLS sweat shirt which I bought in Boston, since Boston cold can easily kick Agra cold's ass! Girls on a mission - we were dressed and ready to hit the road in less than fifteen minutes! It was Taj time baby!

As we reach the ASI office to buy tickets we get mobbed outside by rickwallas and tour guides speaking their best Englisss! We quickly duck inside the office, where I get my ticket for 20 bucks, and my poor traveler friends pay 750 bucks each for theirs. But on the flip side, they got a free bottle of water with theirs! Racism?! I thinkk so!

Its about a km walk from the ticket office to the Taj entrance, so we preferred walking, since we needed a warm up in the freezing cold anyway. Now the amazing thing is, you can see tiny parts of Taj from all over the walls, but you can only see the monument in all its glory as you cross that entrance, cause its elevated high over the ground on a stage like structure. They don't allow you to take ipods/phones/water all kinds of things inside, and give you these funny red coloured socks to wear over your shoes (you need to wear these as you go get closet to Taj, and go on stage - and it looks really funny cause everyone is wearing giant red shoes :D).

As we entered, and saw the monument in its entirety, I could hear myself sighing. The spectacular view of Taj kicked the Ranbir encounter finally out of my head. Its magnificence has a charm, and you perhaps need to be in love or something to see it. As I recall the view now, it makes me go *sigh* all over again. My last visit to Taj as a kid, was quite a waste cause I remember being awfully bored. I felt different this time. Maybe it had something to do with the melodramatic play last night, or someone who kept popping into my head while I was there, or the dreamy idolizing sorts I have become off late, who knows. I'm a walking talking question mark, with no answers for anything.

So we spent a long time around, soaking in the history, the amazing facts about it, clicking like a billion pictures of the monument, its reflections in water, the sunrise spectacle we decided it was time to have some fun. So we started following random Chinese travelers around to have a chat (they're always fun). One of the ladies while discussing Taj asked me where I was from. So, I rummaged through a list of countries before saying I'm from Canada. She looks at me, and goes like "Oh, that's so beautiful isn't it. I've been there. That's where LA is right?" I just quietly nod and walk off. Told ya!

Meanwhile, Betsy was having more fun clicking pictures with the village-cool-studs who were around in plenty. Then we started walking towards the entrance and got into the usual time to get crazy pictures stage, but not the "Hey! look look! I'm holding taj from the top" which has been done to death. I tried one licking the Taj, didn't quite work out, then Betsy managed to get a more decent one kicking Taj! Oh well, Shahjahan can turn in his grave. We realized we'd been wasting too much time chatting with random travelers and it was almost noon, time to eat something and hit the road for Jaipur!

As we started walking back towards the ticket office where our car was parked, we saw a bunch of cute guys across the road. I barely mentioned the words "hawt scandinavian dudes - 11 o clock" to Betsy, that I saw her run across the road towards em' saying " "hey! wait up - cute Indian bride for sale, who wants one" *Fuck me!!!* Now maybe I should explain her retarded behaviour, ever since she has landed in India, she had been on a husband hunt for me. This has ranged from chaiwallas - porters - watchmen who I always flatly reject, with good reason!! So, when she heard me call some guys cute, her excitement went OTT. Anyway they had good humour, which made it easy to get over the embarrassing moment. They were actually really nice, and after some exchanges about our awe of Taj, we all bid adieu. Phew!

I've been asked to concentrate more on advertising the food than the actual trip, so for all curious people, eat vicariously or try to. The lovely lunch previous day basically consisted of paneer nan and raita and ginger tea!! The lunch was simple, but the ambiance was what was lovely, not the food. We're sticking to two meals a day, early lunch and early dinner - travelers huh?! We however went for lunch today to a place called Taj restaurant something (yeah, everything in Agra has the word Taj attached to it, big fuckin surprise). The restaurant was really nice, and we decided to share two thalis. The thalis were ellaborate with several veggies, chicken curry, shahi paneer, chicken biryani lotsa papads etc. Once we were fed (read stuffed beyond measure), we just walked around the road a bit, and I saw a shop selling pethas, and remembered my mom's love for em. So, I got two boxes of the famous 'Agra ka pethas' packed for home, and we were good to go.

The drive from Agra to Jaipur is fantastic, with beautifully finished roads and we covered about 241 kms in four hours. We managed to enter Jaipur before it was even five, and that includes two tea stops.

As we got into Jaipur, and drove and drove around the city to reach our next 'lonely planet' recommendation "Sundar hotel guest house". Its quite away from city, and in a residential neighborhood. As we enter the hotel, I was hit by the same familiar sight of travelers-laptops-surfing-vagabond, where I feel instantly at home. The hotel is gorgeous! We have a HUGE room for 1250 bucks, and quite lavish to boot. Includes food, atleast breakfast as far as I know.

We were planning to meet a coupla girls in Jaipur from the Haridwar Orphanage who are working here, so we call em' and turns out they live right behind our hotel, in one of the houses. What are the chances. We all went out for dinner again to Pizza hut :P and treated the girls to a lovely dinner (pizzas + salads + desserts) before catching up with what's happening in their lives. One of them wants to come to Delhi and get a job there. Its so endearing to see how well the girls are doing in life! We drop the girls off to their PG, and return back to the hotel. The hotel lobby is full of all travelers returning after a busy day, surfing net, planning next destination. The girls retire to the room, and I just hang around to chat with this lovely new yorker I'd met before. She's leaving for jodhpur-jaisalmer day after.

As I'm back upstairs, contemplating, maybe I should join her and explore the Rajasthan I always long to see but never quite manage to. Maybe?!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Golden Triangle Dot Com.

Day 1 - Agra!

I'm sorry if I may get into long boring details, but this is kinda for my journal keeping purposes too!

Considering the crazy kinda days I've been having its no surprise the last thought every night before hitting the sheets is always 'I gotta slow down and take a break'. Thus, when my Canadian gf's suggested we move our traveling plans from Monday to Sunday, I could only respond with a *mental groan*. My late night patters also didn't align with the need to wake at seven am and hitting the road soon thereafter. So, as usual a late saturday night happened, but we managed to hit the road on time and I decided to catch up on my sleep in the car *as usual*. Road trip for extremely uneventful, with all three of us napping away to glory, we tried to play a couple of car games, but I dozed off during my turn while thinking of the next something *Can't remember*.

Anyway, we got into Agra way past afternoon, starved, tired and super excited to see Taj. It seemed to be a little late in the day, so we decided to see the historical beauty tomorrow instead at six in the morning. We drive towards the hotel which is highly recommemded by lonely planet. They called it a tiny little oasis away from the main touristy noisy areas in Agra. Its called 'Tourists Guest House'. We reach and are obviously surprised, as from outside, it looked abandoned, yellowy and way away from our traveling path. We decide to pay the room a tiny visit to see if this place is worth staying in after all. As we move past the reception, I see the most beautiful little garden, full of backpackers just lazying the afternoon away, surfing their laptops. Instantly, I think - " free wifi and perfect place to meet fellow travelers, love it already!" The room was reasonably decent, and they added an extra bed for no extra cost. All in all, 750 bucks for three people. No complains. So, we started filling in the register at the check-in which had several columns asking address, occupation et al. We noticed some bloke from the UK had filled in his occupation as "professional kite flier" Baby jesus! And almost, instantly Betsy decided to make things more interesting, and fills in hers as "super-model" and mine as 'super-lawyer'. So, we're standing waiting for her to finish writing for which she's taking ages, and losing patience Theresa tells her to hurry up. To which Betsy is quick to reply "Come on, gimme a break, some of there questions are really hard for a supermodel". Touche!

So, we got fresh, had a lovely lunch in the beautiful garden, met some travelers, a lovely Italian couple biking away to glory across India etc etc. We headed out, all excited to get a distant glimpse of Taj. Now say all you want about it, I think it is and will always be incredibly spectacular. Ofcourse when you are an Indian and its in your face zillion times a day, nothing may seem graceful thereafter, but it'll always be the most charming monument ever architecturally created. But heading out seemed really futile considering we didn't have the choice of seeing any monument/fort since it was almost 4:30ish. We had decided to catch this show about Taj later in the evening that everyone had been recommending besides it was better than idling around the hotel. Two hours to kill, which can seem a lot in Agra.

We got off at the Taj parking lot, and started our walk towards the monument looking for the perfect rooftop restaurant to have a cuppa tea with a good view. Finally, we come across a gorgeous little hotel called 'Taj resorts' (its not affiliated with the chain). The people in the hotel were really warm and nice, and set up a chair and table for us at the roof, and we decided to forget tea and have beer instead watching the sunset. A superb evening had begun. We got so lost in the view of Taj, and our frivolous conversations that we almost forgot we're late for the show. We rush to pay the bills, call a cab and make it in time for the show at Kalakriti.

For travelers interested, there are three ticket ranges, 300 bucks, 750 and 1000. The two expensive ones come with audio interpretation devices since the play was in hindi/urdu, but we decided to go for the cheapest ones in case its trashy enough to be walked out of. And, most obviously I was the elected interpreter. Great! Now imagine scenario : The play being in hardcore Urdu went way over my head. So I had to first translate urdu to hindi, and then to english for two very curious canadian girls wanted to know how on earth mumtaz died. Halfway through the play I got so exhausted that I decided to just fuck-it and take a nap. The play by itself, was quite neat. Its a must-watch if in Agra. There's no need to spend money on expensive tickets, since the view even from the balcony where we were in was great. It has lots of songs and dances with stunning costumes, c-grade hindi music, mumtaz dying, a melodramatic akbar crying (which made me break into fits of laughter, and victim of audience glares :D) but towards the end of the show, they display a giant replica of Taj on stage which was phenomenal. And once the show is over, you can walk over to the stage and see it up close. I would gladly pay 300 bucks, just for a glimpse of that. Anyway, they don't let you take your own pictures, and you have to get snaps clicked with the professional photographer (which we did, but I didn't bother taking a copy), so I wish I could put up a picture here. Post-show we caught up a quick but late dinner at Pizza hut :P and finally returned to our rooms after what seemed like a good day!

We're to wake up at six am tomorrow to get a quick sunrise view of the taj before leaving for Jaipur, and its elevenish already. Another, long day ahead :)

Will keep thee posted!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Day In LA!

This entry comes first evening out at venice beach, typed verbatim from my travel journal.

"I am finally out, by myself. At the moment my hopes are really low, and some brief encounters would prove for this journey to be a success. I am sitting on the beach at the moment, and its nice, breezy and quiet. Peaceful even.
Flight was great. I was sitting next to a middle-aged actor (or so he claimed). Beau Baxter. He had apparently quit acting and was returning to LA for a week to sell his old beach house on Venice Beach. He mentioned knowing a really good hostel in Venice and offered lift from the airport. After due consideration I picked on the offer. What had I got to lose, I had to see venice anyway. And here was my option of a free lift to some hostel, saving me a huge cab fare.

So we got off, walked over to baggage claim. He saw something, excused himself, and I saw him walk over to a few people who seemed somewhat familiar, from TV. As my tubelight lit I realised it was cast of 'everybody loves raymond' who was also on our flight. Barely ten minutes in LA, and celebrity sightings already!! He introduced me to the old lady who plays mother, and she seemed really cool - asked me about my trip, and then bid adieu. So we collected our bags, and went upto the car rentals. As we walked over to the car he had chosen, it turned out to be a 'Maserati'. Whoosh! I guess it really was my lucky day (beginner's luck?!) Off we went, driving around LA streets, till we reached the hostel and he dropped me off. It was a close drive from the airport, and I was almost disappointed, hoping to see more of the city by car :)

Anyway, finally I was on my own.

My hostel is called 'Venice beach Cotel'. Its more expensive than I had expected, and for its worth. There's scribbling on the walls, and the staircase leading up to the dormitory was dingy, and stuffy. Dorm mates are two unbelievably tall aussie guys. Phew! so much for asking for an all-female dormitory. I met the two briefly before heading out, there were the usual hello's. On the plus side though, the hostel has a gorgeous location, being located right on the beach. Its located on boardwalk, so there's a whole street market starting right adjacent to it.

California is much prettier than I had expected. Lovely palm trees all around the roads, planted in an almost fashionable manner, as if to decorate the road. The houses run along the beach, and are located closely huddled up on small cliffs. The architecture is pretty, and there are innumerable colours running through the houses.

I'm looking at the map, and from what I understand, LA has three main divisions, atleast for traveler's purposes. Hollywood, Santa Monica & Venice. Santa Monica is just a fifteen minutes walk from Venice, and it starts where boardwalk ends. Santa Monica is also the place where most of TV shows and movies are shot. Tonight is supposed to be Santa Monica's 100th anniversary, and there would be a fireworks display. Sadly, there's no way I could attend that, since being out after sunset isn't safe in Venice. Venice, was quite a hotspot for the 'beat generation' hippies (remember, the beach in 'blow' and 'the doors'?!). It still has traces of the culture, and is a modern day homeless people hub, who start hovering over the entire beach after dark. Visually they resemble the zombies from MJ's Thriller video. Even as I sit here, there are a few shady characters lurking by. Still looks alright, and everybody is minding their own business.

I will walk over to Santa Monica tomorrow, since its highly recommended and perhaps explore hollywood a day later. Will click pictures there as well.

What's unbelievable in this country so far is, the cultural diversity. Even in the remotest areas, the infiltration is unimaginable, so unlike UK. At the moment I can count the number of white guys around me on my fingertips and its a busy time. I can see hispanics, african-americans, indians even.

I've caught minor cold, and will cut out this entry here, as I'm going to head back into the hostel after having a quick dinner. Besides its almost seven, and the zombies are coming out of their graves! "


This is the leg of my journey i like to refer to as 'hitting a brickwall'.

With a very vague idea of what I aimed to achieve from this trip, I landed in New York. Full of excitement, ready for adventure yet scared of taking the first step. The next few days disappeared with me idlying around in my NY-Home, not sure of how to put my plans into play. Kept hitting a brickwall. Sun rose each morning, and it went down, but the confusion never did. Where do i start, should i take a bus, train, flight, and where to, what was meant to be my first destination. After a slight push from my uncle my first domestic flight was booked, I would be departing for LA in exactly a week.

Seven days.

Too close yet too far. The anticipation rose, yet there were abundant things around me at home keeping me distracted.

Intermittent weekend was a long weekend, and it went off in a blur with a visit to the U.S. Open, Six Flags and before I knew it, it was the day before departure.

And yet I had no idea what I was headed for. Reading up forums of experienced travelers, backpackers, the head just got more and more clogged. Was I looking for some earthy adventures or just a week at some beach, or maybe endless vegas chilling, or a mix of all. Packing was another ordeal. Since I had no idea where I would be, what would be the essentials. Did i require camping gear, or a party dress, summer shorts, or a thick jacket? One tip which clicked in my head was 'the lighter you travel, the further you can go'. After much reluctance, and endless cajoling from my uncle, i packed light. Out went my boots, and in came Converse. No fancy stuff, no creams blah blah. Hell! Was I doomed to look like an alien if god forbid, I land in Vegas?

So anyway, with a backpack and a small bag I was set.

And the date was, 09/09/09.

My last thought before leaving home - "Everyone looks so excited about my journey, you bet I'm gonna be back home in a couple of days." But ofcourse that was before I rediscovered myself :)

How is all started!


The idea started before I was set out for my law final year exams at Cardiff university. Everyone seemed to have become a victim of the so-called travel bug. Constant talks before-during-after exams, planning, scheduling, tickets. Library PC's reeked of travel itineraries, printer dustbins full of waste ticket printouts, students sitting with a coursebook in hand and travel website in front. After being constantly exposed to such a dangerous atmosphere, we started out with our own travel plans. These plans rotated between a lavish holiday, backpacking, tour package, euro-tour, west coast to east coast, carribean, south india, bangkok and finally giving up! I seemed to be 'done' and just needed to get away, go home and sleep. My sleep seemed more important to me than anything else in the world at that point, exams came a close second. So exams ended, and there seemed to be just one solution for the post-exam restlessness. A flight home.

As it turned out, being home wasn't very fruitful either cause my need-for-sleep disappeared within a few days, and then started the constant charade of what next, what not next. My head was too full of my last two years, making the transition into work life an ardous task. I figured the only way to make it happen was some time alone to clear my head, away from the life i'd had, and a month in an unknown land seemed like the only way to find answers. So two months went down in research, series of misconceptions, constant fickle-mindedness and finally I knew it, California was the place. An awesome family that I have, they encouraged the idea and almost in a daze, there it was - my return ticket to new york :)

All about my first destination, my experiences, the different perspectives on america, the reality behind the silver screen, is to follow in my future entries. Hope I can keep the readers mildly engrossed. Please do subscribe :-)

Thank you Mom, Nitin Mamu and Srishti Mami for the encouragement, advice and for making this possible ( this is not meant to sound like an oscar-acceptance speech) - I love you guys alot.