Similar to the idea of a township tour whilst I was in Cape Town last summer, a slum tour in Mumbai, an espionage into a poverty-stricken area, seemed like an uncouth thing to do.Taking part in Reality Tours’ Dhavari slum tour was far from that, however.What I saw was a tight-knit community which worked hard, earned their living honestly, operated with sustainability in mind, and quite possibly, some of the most enterprising groups of people I have encountered.
Varanasi is the epitome of India many people think of before they touch the soil: it is dirty, crowded, loud, noisy and crazy. When I arrived from an overnight train from Khajuraho, the tuktuk drivers proceeded to harass my friends and I; when we finally got a good deal on a pair of tuktuks (it took a lot of haggling), we passed through narrow streets littered with trash, which was also where skinny cows seemed to loiter around.
Bangkok in June: it’s hot and sticky, and the start of the monsoon season. Having arrived from an equally humid city (Manila, Philippines), it was fantastic to experience a little rain whilst I waited for my Uber to arrive. To my delight, it was a humble Mazda kitted as though it was a sports car: many different dials in the macho red and black colours, free wi-fi on-board and bottles of distilled water. I liked Bangkok already. What’s more, the security officer by the airport gate was ever so helpful in talking to my cab driver through the phone, kindly informing him of my exact whereabouts in the large arrivals bay of BKK.
Thankfully, the 30-minute ride was short-lived as we drove up to the back alley that paved the entrance to Good One Cafe Bar & Hostel.The monochromatic and bright interiors of the establishment glowed in the early morning darkness.
My stopover in the dessert city was as colourful as the city is multicultural. I was fortunate enough to be there whilst Sikka Art Fair dominated the Al Bastakiya area. In contrast to the modern vibes and expatriate-heavy culture of Sikka, the Heritage Village gave a wonderful insight into Dubai’s past in pictures and architecture. Of course, a trip to JBR will not be complete without spending Saturday on the Kite Beach, suffering from a Barasti hangover, and overlooking the mighty Burj Al Arab, the epitomic symbol of the city’s luxurious offerings.
It is long known that hostels are the best type of accommodation around to meet fellow travellers if you’re going solo. They’re inexpensive, located in the major backpacking spots in India, and you’re guaranteed a different experience in each location. Though not as cheap as guesthouses, the friendly atmosphere often created by social spaces and lounges, and probability of finding other solo travellers make it worth the extra rupee.
India was at the top of my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember.I’m not sure why or how I became fascinated with this South Asian country, but the promise of a colourful adventure was very appealing.Rick Stein’s latest programme on India and its cuisine re-affirmed my desire to visit the country.I just had to go.