Honey I’m Home…

07.07.11

I’m back from India and what an amazing, incredible journey it’s been.  A tale of heart-warming smiles, gasps of wonderment, a meeting of minds between some amazing human beings, along with equal measures of heartache, longing thoughts of the comforts of home and stress.

It was a trip that I shall never forget, one that I shall treasure until I turn old and grey, for to see how people in India live will leave you downright flabbergasted.  The divide between the rich and poor is ever-growing, and boy does it show.  In fact we didn’t really come into contact with many ‘rich’ people, but then again on a traveller’s budget we were resorted to taking the ‘traveller’s’ form of travel – inexpensive overnight coaches and sleeper trains.  Train journey’s were a heady mix of noises and sights.  A feast for the eyes and ears, children cry, old men snore and wallahs pass through at a pace shouting ‘chai, chai, chai.’  You really begin to understand their true sense of family unit when travelling through this huge sub-continent.  Family is very important to the Indians, as is socialising and religion.  On not one street will you see stillness or calm.  People conduct their business through the lanes, whether it’s business in terms of money exchanging hands or if one must need to do their daily ablutions.  It all goes on for all to see, and to be honest this is what I kind of missed when I returned to the UK (well, not the latter mentioned).  I just loved the buzz and the atmosphere, although I can’t really say that I miss the pollution, dirt, rubbish and bulls scaring me onto the other side of the street.  I really hope that if I return to India, and I’m sure one day I will, I will see a much cleaner country.  Time will tell.

During the 3 months I was there, you may have read about my experience in both Goa and Mumbai.  Due to the rather frustrating Internet connection in some parts of India, I had to resign myself to the fact that my blog would have to be put on hold until I returned to the UK.

Well, now I’m home, and for all those who are purely only interested in fashion, I will keep my travel tales short and sweet.

Here is where we went.  16 major ‘places of interest’ in total, including that of Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand.  India is unfortunately just too big to see in 3 months.  There is so much more I’d like to see, and Kerala and Varinassi are top of the list.  It’s a vast place, and where else would you be lucky enough to witness desert, beaches, snowy mountains and jungle without even flying from that country.

This was our itenary for our trip, which most of which was decided on a limb – the beauty of being free.

Mumbai —> Goa —> Bangkok —> Chiang Mai —> Kolkatta —> Darjeeling —> Guwahati —> Cherapungee —> Delhi —> Rishikesh —> Amritsar —> Bhagsu —> Vashist —> Delhi —> Agra —> Pushkar —> Udaipur —> Mumbai

I shall not go into detail about my trip because it would simply take too long, but here are some of the things we were lucky enough to do and of which I’m quite proud of…

  • Explored North Goa on an Enfield Bullet – I got the motorbike bug.
  • Visited the living root bridges in Cherapungee (the wettest place on the planet but luckily didn’t rain when we visited!).  As seen on Human Planet.
  • Walked by the side of a slithering Cobra in the wild.
  • Completed the hardest trek of my life.
  • Completed 5 lessons of yoga in the yoga capital of the world – Rishikesh.
  • White water rafted down the Ganges River.
  • Rock climbed in the Himalayas.
  • Paraglided over the Himalayas.
  • Went to a teaching by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who by the way, seems like a very funny chap.
  • Made 3 pieces of silver jewellery by my own fair hands.
  • Tried my hand (and sadly failed) at learning Poi.
  • Learnt a bit about who I am.  Astrology is a wonderous thing.
  • Saw the amazing Taj Mahal.
  • Taught a Tibetan Monk the English language.
  • Watched the sun rise over Mount Everest.
I went there to have an ‘experience.’  I didn’t expect it to be easy but I didn’t think it would be as much as a cultural shock as it was.  I don’t think anything can prepare you for the stark differences between here and India. But I have to say, I would do it all over again! 
I’ll leave you with a few special photos.
So thank you Mother India, you will always be remembered for the smiles you gave me, the tears, the anger, the sorrow, the colourful experiences and wonderful friends from all over the world.
Sada Sukhi Raho – Always Be Happy.
xx

Gorgeous Goa – Happy Hippie Times

02.05.11

Now apologies for the lengthy post, but I have lots I want to share, so do bear with me!

On the second leg of our journey, we arrived in the Christian state of gorgeous Goa in the South of India.  On our taxi journey from the airport to Arpora near Baga (our first port of call) we came to realise that drivers here were also crazy.  Again, luckily making it to our booked hotel alive, we laid down our bags and explored the local area.

It turned out that our local area was pretty much not to our taste.  The place, although taking on the Goan hippie charm, attracted many families, and karaoke lovers.  We did, however, find a very cute little guesthouse situated just up from Baga beach, which housed an adjacent villa, comprising of a bedroom, and small adjoining bathroom .  The lack of hot water, cats living on the roof and the ants that moved in to share our little home took some getting used to, but after a while we grew to love the little room owned by a lovely Indian family.  Whilst there we hired a motorbike, a Royal Enfield, which was our mode of transport for the next few days.  Apprehensive to get on at first, after having seen the lack of driving ability in most drivers in India, I reluctantly joined my boyfriend for our first motorbike outing.  With the wind in my hair, sun in the sky and travellers whizzing past on various other bikes and scooters, it felt liberating and free.  Plus it’s an incredibly good way to get a tan!

After a few days in Baga we decided to head to beautiful Arambol, situated on the North coast of Goa on the recommendation of friends who’d been previously.  Baga was just too touristy, and I didn’t come to India to feel like I was in Spain.

Arriving in Arambol was a breath of fresh air.  Fairly quiet now, Goa is winding down for the end of the season.  I for one, enjoyed the quietness and this meant always getting a sunbed, and a table in any restaurant we wanted.  It also meant the travellers that were there, were brought together in unison.

The beach is beautiful, lined by green palm tree hilltops, cute beach huts and hippies roaming the area.  The sun always shining, and the heat was just something else.  Reaching 36 degrees most days, the breeze by the sea is a welcoming cool.  The food in all restaurants was delicious, and I have now formed a slight addiction to Dal Fry and quite a taste for Kingfisher beer.  As a dog lover, I was in my element.  Stray dogs roam the beaches but they are tame and friendly, and they got half of my dinner most nights!  Cows literally stood baking in the heat on the beach too, which was a fairly strange sight.

We stayed in Velcia beach huts overlooking the beach for the first two nights, later moving next door to huts called Dalwin’s Ark which was also home to family of pigs and their piglets, and a lovely dog a fellow traveller decided to name Winston. For around £4 a night between us, we very much enjoyed living on the beach with our own private ensuite bathroom, however basic – more rustic I would like to say. Here we met some lovely people.  The Indian family that owned the accommodation are just lovely and we really started to feel the warmth of the people here despite our first experiences in Mumbai of numerous taxi drivers trying to rip us off.  I love the waggle of the head from side to side, which is their happy agreeable nod – very catching to the foreigners! The travellers staying here come from all corners of the globe; Sweden, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Mexico, as well as from our native English shores.

This was our base for 2 weeks.  We honestly didn’t mean to stay in one small place for so long, but anyone who’s been to Arambol will tell you it’s incredibly hard to leave.  We made some lovely friends, who we sunbathed with most days and enjoyed dinner with of an evening.

In terms of fashion here, well you either wear a sari, or dreadlocks to fit in. No no, that’s a little extreme, but you have the Indian locals, the women who wear beautiful, colourful saris, working as beach sellers trying to sell you jewellery and sarongs very persuasively (!) or you have the hippies, some long-termers and some travelling around from place to place, country to country.  Many say there is nothing worse than a part-time hippie but I say embrace it!  Embrace the state of mind, and embrace those fisherman pants.  No not quite; *sarcasm hits again.*  I didn’t go that far, but I might  have been tempted into it, with the abundance of market stalls selling as much hippie attire, consisting of tie dye tops, Ali Baba pants and crafted silver jewellery, as you’d need to fully embrace the laid back style.  I have however been made to feel guilty by not purchasing an abundance of silver jewellery from the beach sellers – so I did (oops) and I also got a henna tattoo adorning my left hand (which I loved).  I might have also got my nose pierced and I very much loved walking around everywhere barefoot.  It’s a shame this can’t catch on in Birmingham.  To be honest you’d look pretty strange walking around Goa in skinny jeans and pixie boots so I enjoyed the style here whilst I could.  I don’t think this look would go down to well back in the UK, although maybe I can try to work this in to my daily look when I return to normality…

I shall surely treasure the memories made here, and the friends I have made along the trip so far – people from Nepal, Hong Kong and Mexico, people who work on creative projects, people who have lived in tiny villages in Africa, and those who’ve resigned from work to follow their dream (which make me feel a little better about my decision!).  A special mention goes out to the lovely Swedish girls (with the best tans that would make you insanely jealous and the loveliest of caring personalities), I hope to make a visit to Sweden and as one is a fashion designer we plan to visit Copenhagen Fashion Week.  Sophie, a native Britain, is a fab bubbly girl, and one with many stories to tell.  Having lived in Panama, Central America, for the past few years, and having travelled in India many times before, it was a pleasure to meet such an adventurous person.  Meeting such personalities along the way, inspire you to travel and meet more people who can ignite a bit of adventure in you.


So, on our second leg of the adventure we rode elephants, drank and ate far too much, spent very little (a Kingfisher beer is around 50p, whilst dinner is around £1.20), hired a scooter for the hair-raising trip to Anjuna Saturday Bazaar (a huge array of market stalls, hundreds of parked motorbikes and scooters and as much Trance music as you’d like), we’ve coated ourselves in mud on the Sweet Lake hills, lazed on a beautiful beach and now I even have some colour to my skin.  The season in Goa is drawing to a close, and as travellers leave for places far and wide, we too moved on.  This time to a different country altogether – Thailand…

xx

Mumbai, India – Vibrance, Energy and Total Mayhem

29.04.11

Sorry to all my fellow blog lovers, it’s been a while since my last blog post as I am currently in Asia, soaking up the sweltering sun and immersing myself in it’s diverse, vibrant culture.

As a fashion blog, Jonesloves.com will of course continue to be just that, but I also wanted to share with you, my travelling experience and invite you on my journey across Asia for the next 3 months.  My hope is to give you some insight into the backpackers journey across the vast sub continent that is India (and parts of Thailand and Nepal) through bite-sized blog chunks, whilst of course adding a sprinkling of both traveller and local fashion.  (NB. Please be aware that in the first leg of the journey, my style took a back seat, for the hectic experience in Mumbai, the heat and first exposure of sun on pasty skin in a very long time showed!)

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a vast city, housing (in very diverse situations) around 16.4 million people.  The slums are set up next to the rich, the poor lie begging on the floor, whilst the Indian wealthy population live alongside, showing the rich poor divide to extreme effect within the buzz and mayhem of this energetic city.

Arriving in Mumbai at the start of our journey on 4th April after a tiresome flight from the UK, and stepping out into the mass of people, animals and traffic was an altogether overwhelming experience.  Anyone who has been to Mumbai will be familiar with the overpowering humidity in the air and the noise.  Car horns beep constantly, and it is only until you step into a taxi for the first time that you truly experience the roads of Mumbai.  They are crazy, crazy drivers.  Marked lanes, wing mirrors and indicators seem to be non-existent and cars, motorbikes and lorries will dart in and out of moving vehicles.

Managing to make it alive and in one piece, we arrived at our hotel.  Now admittedly we did treat ourselves to a bit of luxury for the first 2 days to ‘settle’ us in to this hectic vibrant, colourful city. Unbeknown to us that we would be enjoying the air conditioning and hot water showers for the last time for a while.

The Marriott Courtyard Hotel


During our time in Mumbai, we ate in the legendary Leopold Café in the Colaba area, famed for its popularity amongst backpackers, delicious food, fantastic atmosphere, history of dodgy deals and work of other upstairs dealings. For those of you who have read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (amazing story of which I was recommended by several traveller friends), you will already know about this bustling café.  I opted for the meat on our second visit; Chicken Tikka Masala and garlic naan.  Now I was going to steer clear of meat, for the thought of getting Delhi belly wasn’t an appealing one, but after looking longingly into my boyfriend’s silver bowl of tasty curry, I couldn’t resist.  Luckily I’ve been sampling meat since my arrival, and have enjoyed every last flavoursome bite.

Leopold Cafe


From place to place we took Bumblebee taxi’s, of which I loved.  I loved the energy and mayhem, hanging out the window at every available opportunity to take photos (like a typical tourist!).

Bumblebee taxi’s, the bamboo scaffolding and Indian advertising


The Gateway of India is a magical sight, not only for the sheer beauty and grandeur of this monument, but for the hustle and bustle of India’s Mumbai.  We were the only westerners in a huge number of people swarming around this historical destination overlooking the harbour. The colours were beautiful, women were dressed in the most stunning sari’s and the sky as a back drop was a beautiful blue.  Sellers of jewellery, henna and food sat inviting you over and we found it very amusing when many groups of Indians approached us and asked for photographs with them.  Westerners are like celebrities, it was really quite bewildering!

The Gateway of India


During the rest of our time in Mumbai, we witnessed the rich and poor divide.  People lay on the streets wherever they could to rest their heads, shelters were built on every inch of spare land resembling mini slums, the most expensive house in the world ($1.2 billion) towered over the sprawling city near the beach of Chowpatty (built as all buildings in India are, with bamboo sticks for scaffolding!), and the homeless grabbed our arms as we walked through the colourful hectic streets lined with sellers of second-hand flip flops, necklaces and sunglasses.

The most expensive house in the world, alongside basic building scaffolding made from Bamboo


In order to get out of the city onto our next leg of the journey, we decided to get the overnight train to Goa.  Dadar train station was a scary yet eye-opening, somehow enjoyable experience.  Local people in India, mainly men really have no concept of queuing.  I did however stand my ground at one particular point, and was proud to keep my place in the queue regardless of the Indian men to my side shoving me out of the way.  No man would make me lose my place in the queue having battled my way through the humid station with a heavy backpack and dying patience! However, trying to ask for tickets in English was an impossible task, no one could understand what we were saying, and this, whilst everyone tried to push us out of the way, kind of did just resign us to a feeling of despair.  Whilst waiting for my boyfriend to navigate his way through queues of locals, numerous platforms and the immense heat, I waited patiently on the platform with the bags.  People strolled past, pointing to stop and stare at me.  It was like I was a centre display at a public exhibition.  Very, very bizarre.  Nothing like Euston Station I can assure you. People ran over the tracks to reach the trains on the opposite side, whilst people hung out of doorless carriages.  After being told various instructions we eventually made our way to Victoria Terminal only to find that trains to Goa were fully booked for the next two days, eager to move on, we settled on flying out of Mumbai the following day.

We spent 3 days in Mumbai, walking through the huge city and darting in and out of traffic in Bumblebee yellow and black taxis, during which we saw sights that shocked us, made us smile and left us in awe, now the next leg of the journey would take us to the beaches of Goa, where we could finally work on our tans and chill out amongst the hippies, crazy local drunks and fellow travellers from around the world…

xx

Dreaming of faraway places…

So I’m off to faraway shores in April.  I have wonderlust. I have resigned from work to explore sunnier parts of the world.

I want to go on Tiger Safari, see the Taj Mahal and sleep in a beach hut under the stars.  I’m off to India and Thailand to feel the sun on my skin, experience amazing cultures, meet some crazy people and take some photos of this colourful vibrant area of the world.

For the beaches I need some HOT swimwear.

I shall buy a scratch card first thing tomorrow, of which I will win enough to buy myself all of these above…

Top left: Bermuda High Waist Bikini $553 Boutique1.com

Top Middle: DVF £160 Net-a-Porter

Top Right: Quicksilver $84

Middle: We Are Handsome 165 Euro Colette.fr

Bottom Left: Thomas Maier £180 Browns

Bottom Middle: We Are Handsome 165 Euro Colette.fr

Bottom Right: Barneys $670

 

Images: Google Images, swimwear – Polyvore

xx