Tag Archives: India

The Greatest Man on Earth

It’s just been over a month since I have been home and I’m still in disbelief that I had the opportunity to see such a diverse country, such as India.

I came across this video named “The GREATEST MAN on Earth! CNN Hero Narayanan Krishnan”. It brought tears to my eyes because after experiencing the level of poverty that is very prevalent in India, a man such as Narayanan Krishnan is able to be so selfless and caring towards people who most wouldn’t give the time of day for. It is very inspiring and makes me think of how I can do more good within my community to help those who are forgotten. Can you imagine a world where everyone just cared and looked after one another without hesitation and unconditional love?

I hope this video inspires you and let me know what great acts of human kindness you have encountered.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8sKgv4FJdg

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So…how did you like India?

Sorry for the delayed post, I have been sick since I got home and have not been able to muster up the energy to post. So my apologies for the long-winding sentences and possible incoherence.

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As we went around visiting many of S’s relatives, there were a couple of questions that were routinely asked of me:

  1. What do you do?
  2. Where do you work?
  3. Questions about my family, what my parents do and if I have any siblings
  4. How do you like India?

The first three questions were always easy to answer because they were things that have been constants in my life. The last question was something that I wasn’t quite ready to reply to because I realized that I hadn’t seen enough of India to make a good assessment of the country as a whole.

My answer always revolved around aspects that I had the pleasure of enjoying, such as the food and people I had met as well as the different places that I had been to. I always ended the response with “I’d like to come and visit different places” because I felt that even having only been to a couple of the major cities in India, there was a different feel for each of them.

The response would most certainly be along the lines of: ” India is so big that many people come and stay for months or years and have not been able to form a whole opinion about India.” I completely agree with that. There are so many things to experience and everyone goes to India for different reasons: some to seek spirituality, for the shopping, for the food, to volunteer, etc – whatever the reason maybe, it will help to define one’s opinion of India and whether it was a positive or negative experience.

I went to India because I wanted to cross two things off my bucket list: attend an Indian wedding in India (I was very lucky to have gone to two) and to see the Taj Mahal. However, both of these were achieved within the first two weeks of my visit so with the remaining two weeks, there wasn’t a purpose/goal that I wanted to achieve. However, what I found was that there are many beautiful temples in Southern India that are still well maintained and used regularly by locals, as well as an opportunity to feel as if I was living in India.

In Chennai, we stayed with S’s aunt and family for the full two weeks. It was very much a luxury – sleeping in until 10am every morning, three home-cooked meals a day and went about our planned activities. In retrospect, it felt more like I was living in India rather than being a tourist because we lived with family and went through the daily routines of life with them. I got to know the neighbourhood and could walk back if I ever got lost (I wasn’t really allowed to go anywhere by myself so this didn’t apply – but if I ever did get lost, I could find my way back).  I recognized landmarks and different parts of the city as we were travelling. The two weeks went by very quickly and before we knew it, it was time to go home.

All in all, my thoughts on India are as follows:

  • The food, shopping and sights were all amazing! Regardless of which city I was in, each one had their specialties, tourist attractions and local cuisine to offer.
  • I love the people I’ve met along the way, aside from S’s family members. Everyone is always willing to help out, especially if they know you’ve already been sick once and will always inquire about your health
  • The modes of transportation are abundant, cheap and super accessible. I will forever want to have auto rickshaws at home because they are a way to travel short distances and cheaper to take than taxis. You can bargain for how much you want to pay.
  • There is definitely a lack of privacy/personal space. All family members live in close quarters and often share bedrooms with one another. Also, no questions go unasked regardless of how personal they may be. I’m very glad to be back in my own bedroom, sleeping in my own bed.
  • Political events and issues are discussed and on television all the time. There are shows that have a devoted hour for current issue debates where different people within the community are featured as guest speakers on the show. Very interesting comments are made, especially in light of the gang-raped victim and the general treatment and attitudes towards women. I wish we had more of this at home because it would help inform the general public on which policies and issues the government needs to work on/working on.
  • Home-cooked foods are made differently depending on the cook. Many people cook the same foods but have their own spice blends that are added to the food so it’s always slightly different when you try it. There are no recipes, they are just ingrained and learned from parents and grandparents. This has inspired to cook more at home and to revisit old recipes that I can add my own twist to.
  • Traffic lights, pedestrian walkways and lanes are all used as guidelines. At times when walking through markets and streets, vehicles and pedestrians fight for the road. The sidewalks are not often used for walking but more for vendors to display their goods so people just walk on the side of the road in between parked and moving vehicles. Kind of scary at first but you get used to it. The traffic is very congested, especially during rush hour! All vehicles on the road fight for space, you honk to signal you want to pass and you don’t have to stay in your lane when waiting to cross an intersection, smaller vehicles will just fit into any space they can find. Something that I got used to but don’t miss.
  • There are a lot of wild animals wandering everywhere! I have seen the following animals just walking around: cows, dogs, buffaloes, camels, pigeons, crows, peacocks, goats, pigs, horses, elephants, Indian squirrels (they look like North American chipmunks), chickens, roosters and parrots.

I definitely want to go back to India and experience more of the nature/outdoor adventures it has to offer. Also, wouldn’t mind seeing more beaches 🙂


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Chennai – home away from home

I was very fortunate to call Chennai home for two weeks. We stayed with S’s family and I’m so grateful that put up with all our antics and disrupting their daily routine. I found the best thing about Chennai were the people. Everywhere we went and everyone we met was very polite and helpful. To me, I could see a fundamental change in S’s personality and attitudes – she truly felt at home. I was very lucky to meet a lot of her family members – many took me in as an extension of her.

The city itself is big yet super walkable. Shops usually surround neighborhoods so you can walk out and grab groceries or take a short auto ride to where your destination. Street shopping in Chennai is best found in Pondy Bazaar and T. Nagar. There are a lot of stalls and a lot of people so you need to keep on moving and looking at the same time. The pricing is a little higher than Bombay and Delhi because they don’t have as much competition.  Also, the variety is not as good as the other two cities but you’ll be able to find most of what you’re looking for. Spencers plaza is a mall that was built in three phases and has a combination of retail shops and offices. We managed to find some north Indian souvenirs there.

Do not eat street food there because there isn’t much, but what is there is not that great. You’re better off going to a nearby restaurant.

I really felt like I was living in India rather than just visiting because we fell into a daily routine of getting up, bathing, eating breakfast and moving on with the day’s activities and then coming home for dinner. It felt nice to live with a routine for a bit compared to the constant on the go schedule.

We’re currently on our way back home, so I’ll post more when I’m settled in.





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Indian Modes of Transportation

As my time in India is coming to an end, I’d like to give you a list of ways I’ve been travelling throughout India. Most modes of transportation are an adventure, at least for me.

  • Car – this may seem like a standard for most people in North America, but here in India, it’s a luxury. Most people with cars will hire a driver instead of driving themselves. Also, you can hire a car for a day through different agencies. Ask a local for a recommendation. Most are equipped with A/C. It’s a good way to travel if you have multiple people and travelling long distances – the cost can be divided between all passengers.
  • Taxis – if you don’t have someone to pick you up from the airport, you can always hail a taxi. There are different companies that are more trustworthy, like the black and yellow ones in Bombay are better than the blue and white ones. I’ve never been told the difference though. Also, you can order a taxi for a pick-up but depending on when you order one, you will end up paying an ordering/processing fee. All taxis are metered.
  • Motorbikes/two-wheelers – these are very prevalent in all parts of India. They weave in an out of traffic and can hold various numbers of people. I’ve seen up to five but have heard eight can fit on one – this includes children. I went on one for the first time and it was pretty awesome. We went slow so it was a nice ride. It felt really liberating!
  • Auto rickshaws – these are three-wheeled motorize vehicles that have seating in the back, driver in the front. Depending on the city you’re in, you will have to bargain for a price prior to getting in. If you think the drivers are charging too much, you can just walk away. There are enough of them around to hail down another. In Bombay, they are metered so there’s a standard price for the first kilometer or so and then it starts going up in price.
  • Bicycle rickshaw – humans powering bicycles with a carriage attached in the back. We went on one in Jaipur and it was a nice way to see the city at a slower pace. Also, this is a good way to travel short distances if you’re just too lazy to walk. You will need to bargain for the price. I’m not sure if they are available in all places.
  • Share Auto – a converted jeep that has two benches on the main cabin of the vehicle and two additional seats in the trunk. These vehicles run a set route and pick up passengers along the way. You have to hail them as well and ask if they’re going to where you need to go. I’m not sure how the pricing works, possibly based on distance.
  • Bus – This is the most economical way to travel between cities. There are buses that run inter- and intra-city. You just need to know which route you’re taking. We travelled to Kancheeparum for ~100 rupees return/pp, It was about 3 hours on the bus but a great way to see the country side and how people live outside of the urban areas. It can get crowded within the city so be prepared to get squished. To get on and off buses, you have to hail them and somethings you need to run to catch it. There are no doors, so people can hold onto the rails and hang.
  • Train – This is my favourite mode of transportation because I’ve never been on a sleeper train before. So much fun because it was an overnight train ride so we didn’t have to deal with the sweltering heat and humidity of the day. There are different prices depending on what type of ticket you get – regular seat, sleeper, 1 A/C, 2 A/C, 3 A/C and possibly others (I’m don’t remember what other classes there are). The sleeper doesn’t have A/C but it was fine and a fraction of the price compared to 1 A/C. I’d recommend travelling by train for over night trips. Bring your own blanket/sheet because I’m not sure if they provide it for you.
  • Horse carriage – this was a touristy thing to do, but so much fun being pulled in a horse carriage and we got to see parts of Bombay this way. You have to bargain for the pricing in touristy areas and cannot be found everywhere.

These are so far, the ways I’ve travelled, what other ways are there in India?


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Madurai – Temples

We went to Madurai for a two day adventure and I finally got to ride on a train!  The sleeper beds weren’t that bad and since we took the overnight train, it was a peaceful enough sleep. I really enjoyed Madurai because it wasn’t as hectic as other places we have visited.

The temple we went to was huge! It was kind of ironic to be visiting temples on Christmas day but it turned out we weren’t the only ones doing it. I found out that December is a very auspicious month so many worshipers make the pilgrimage to various temples in the surrounding towns.

One thing that has been apparent in most temples is that foreigners and non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the most inner sanctums of the temples. There are blatant signs that forbid it. As I am not super religious, it still would have been nice to see the architecture and the statues of the inner sanctums.

We are heading for a one day trip to the beach tomorrow, regardless of how rainy it may be.


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Bombay Dreams

After being in Bombay for the last six days, there are some observations that I have made:

  • The gap between rich and poor is enormous – it can be seen in everyday life from people living on the streets to one of the richest man in the world building a multi-storey home complete with a ballroom floor and helipad in the roof 
  • Anything can happen in India – such as a man riding a white horse down a busy street and totally owning it
  • Tele-communication is very fast in this country – a lot can happen with just a phone call
  • The cost of living has to be compared in the local currency rather than converting it back to our currency because it has to be relative to what it’s worth in India. For example, a top can cost 300 rupees which is around $6. To us, that’s not a lot to us but in reality, it’s probably only worth 150 rupees. Knowing market value is an important piece of knowledge
  • Getting sick in India is not fun. I got something like the 24 hour flu/food poisoning symptoms and it felt horrible; luckily it was after the wedding festivities.  I’m very grateful for having a friend who knows what to do when someone falls ill. My sickness was most likely a result of exhaustion, eating a lot of street food and not staying hydrated enough. With a lot rest and sweating out the fever, I eventually ate a little bit. I was given some herbal medicine, peppermint and mint tablet, glucose water and harjmola (a candy that helps me to suppress nausea), which in the end made me feel a whole lot better.
  • People have huge appetites here. We would meet up with friends after work at 6 and we would go for a “snack” but in meal portions, walk around and then go for dinner at 9pm, eat a full, meal and then walk to get dessert. Insane amount of food that I would never imagined eating, especially so late at night
  • Working is a way life. Many people will leave their homes for work at 6am and don’t return until 7-8pm. Then when they get home, dinner still needs to be made and then possibly more reviewing of work and then bed. Work-life balance doesn’t exist here. You’re expected to pick up your phone and check emails when on vacation as well as respond to them
  • Street food!!!!! Keep cannot imagine why any city would limit the varieties and availability of street food because what I’ve had in Bombay was amazing!! Pani puri is a little puff ball filled with lentils chutney and mint water – one of my favourite foods of all time. Vada paved which is bread stuffed with deep fried potato patty with red and green chutney – had this at a street stall that was delicious. Kareem’s was a street side restaurant. That served great tandoori food. Paneer, tandoori mushrooms, chicken, raita, dal and a Thumbs Up (similar to Coca-Cola). The food is worth the wait
  • Shopping – one of my loves of life. Both street shopping and showroom shopping (going to the actual brand’s store) is heaven!!! The amount of variety plus low cost is bound to put you over budget – that is if you had one to begin with 🙂 We’re shipping some items back with my friend’s cousin so that we have more room to shop in Delhi

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Bombay because Delhi is our next stop. More adventures to follow!


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Chaos of packing

It’s been a long day and I’m finally done packing!! Off to bed and we fly out tomorrow afternoon…




All finished!




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Two days to go!

Two days till take off – two suitcases and two carry-ons to pack.

There is a lot to do before leaving the country for a month. The last big trip I took, I left the country for six months and didn’t stress this much about it. Most of this stems from travelling to a country that is varying in weather (it’s winter but the temperature can range from 0-30 degrees depending on which city we’re in) and the fact that I don’t speak the language.

I’m feeling emotionally drained because I’m not going to be spending time with my family and friends during the holidays; I don’t get to bake lots of goodies; one good thing is I don’t have to stress about gifting. I plan on collecting souvenirs along the way and sorting it all out when I get home.

As you can probably tell from this post, it’s all over the place because I’m nervous, anxious to get on a plane and just tired (I’ve been engaged in some sort of event after work everyday for the last couple of weeks).

I’ve started throwing stuff into a suitcase but won’t start packing until tomorrow night. One of my best friends is coming over to help me pack and be my voice of reason for not over packing. I’ll post pictures of the packing process…my room is already a mess and I haven’t even really started yet.

What are your essentials when packing for an extended vacation?

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Our journey is about to begin…

The thought of travelling to India started seven months ago when my friend asked me if I wanted to be her plus one at a friend’s wedding. Without hesitation, I said “yes”, not really knowing I was getting myself into. First of all, I didn’t realize that the wedding was going to be in India and second, how can I maximize a trip to India? I had no intention of just going for a week because the cost of travel to get there couldn’t be justified for such a short period of time.

We settled on travelling around India for a month – that’s a combination of taking vacation time and being off for the winter holidays. Next, finding a reasonably priced flight took sometime but eventually, we found a good deal with Jet Airways that would get us to Chennai on Dec 10 and have a couple of days to spend with my friend’s family before heading out to the wedding in Delhi.

Over the last couple months, we soon learned that one my friend’s cousin just got engaged and will most likely be getting married at the end of the year so I knew our plans would definitely change if she was getting married while we were in India. Low and behold, my friend confirmed the date of the wedding, Dec 7 – three days before we arrived in India. Devastated with this news, my friend took it upon herself to look for other options so that no matter what happened, we were going to attend that wedding!

There had been a couple of changes already with our original flight so we had the option of changing our flight – free of charge (the first change was free). However, it wasn’t going to suit our needs anymore because Mumbai was going to be our first stop now, not Chennai. So with that said, another hunt for flights and my friend’s travel agent found a flight that suited our needs that was a little pricier. It didn’t matter at that point because it was a better flight option for us, so we booked and cancelled our original flight – we got a full refund 🙂

Our trip itinerary is at best very loosely planned. I have my trusty Lonely Planet India to go through to see what suggestions they have for the places we’re going to be visiting. Also, some of the planning will happen when we see my friend’s family and see what suggestions they have for us.

Now we’re in the home stretch – five days to go with a string of events still happening. Packing won’t happen until two days before we fly. Should be some interesting times – stay posted for pictures from packing apocalypse.

What are some of your pre-travelling rituals?


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