Thursday, January 22, 2015

Christmas Trip to India The Final Chapter:Goa

     After our tour of the Golden Triangle, we headed to Goa which is a two and a half hours flight south of Delhi.  Goa is known for its beaches and relaxed atmosphere. We were staying at the beautiful North16 hotel. Our friends from Al Ain were also staying there for five days so we had a wonderful time.

     The pool was the best part of the hotel, I also loved that they had these 'fishbowls' that you could order by the pool. 

   We arrived on Christmas Eve and it was nice to see that the hotel was playing Christmas carols and had beautiful decorations. 

    On Christmas Day we decided to go to Calangute beach which was a 20 walk away. The other thing I loved about Goa was that it was really safe compared to the other cities we had travelled too in India and it was nice to be able to walk the streets in the day and night. 

The beach was packed and it was also nice to have locals come up to us and wish us Merry Christmas and shake out hands. We were celebrities for the day with many people coming up to us asking to take pictures with them and their family.
   Goa also has a bumpin night life and we went to club Mambo, I was surprised at how much techno they played, but all in all I had a fun time at the in. The one thing that was ideas that you had to buy a drink card, Kim of like a debit card. You went to the station and put money on the card and then you used the card at the bar to get drinks. I guess they do this so that the bartenders don't have to handle money. 

   When we weren't walking we were riding tuktuks. We had to bargain up a storm, but we always found one driver that would pay our price. It is funny because when you ask the first driver they will tell us that we will NEVER find anyone that will take us for that price. Well, it may take us asking 4 or 5 drivers but we always found someone who was desperate enough to take us. 

    This is Baga beach which was about a half an hour walk away from out hotel. These lounge chairs had wifi access and we ordered food while we relaxed.

Spices for sale.

Fun chip flavors, the best was the West Indian Hot and Sweet Chili. 

Every Wednesday Anjuna market is the place to be. This maze of stakes was great for shipping but also overwhelming, everyone was hustling and trying to sell you something. After awhile, I just had to get out of there. If one more person asks me to buy a bracelet I swear...

    When we booked our hotel room we were told we HAD TO pay for the NYE gala. I was furious, yet as NYE approached my anger subsided because the streets of Goa were packed on NYE and there was not a taxi to be had. I was happy that I could get dressed. Put on my heels and just walk downstairs to the gala. We had Aubrey buffet dinner, dj, aerial gymnastic show, drinks and fireworks. One of the most memorable nye's ever. 

After midnight, we jumped in the pool, why? Because we could!

All in all another fantastic trip for the book. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

India Part 3: Jaipur

     The third stop on my Golden Triangle tour took me to Jaipur. 

   Our first stop was a 20 minute elephant ride up the Amber Fort. Now, I am not afraid of a lot, but something about sitting on the back of an elephant looking at the scene below as my foot touched the wall freaked me out a bit.  Just a bit. 

    At the top we ran into some traditional dancers that were filming a commercial, they were kind enough to pose for a picture. 

   The fort was extremely impressive, but the icing on the architectural cake was the 'wall of mirrors'.

   Pictures do not even do this wall justice. Imagine thousands of mirrors cut in geometric shaped that are over hundreds of years old, yet they are sparkling like they were placed their yesterday. 

  I also got henna (mendi) done.  Henna is pipped onto hands and feet and is usually done for weddings in India, although here in the UAE it can be done just for fun. The henna is pretty much herbs that are ground up into a paste and pipped out onto your skin in various designs. You wait until it is dry and leave it on for about an hour before you wash it off.   The henna usually lasts a week before it starts to fade. 

    One of my favorite pictures from this day was take in front of the 'winter' door. 

    This stunning piece of architecture is know as the Palace of the Winds. Granted it is not a palace but more of a wall that is composed of 953 windows.  This was was created so that women of the royal court could look out at the streets below because they were not allowed to go out in the streets. 

My friend got this for me in Egypt when she went last Decenber. I used it to carry around my rupees. 

Next stop Goa. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

India Trip Part 2--Agra

     After we left Delhi, we took a 5 hour drive to Agra.   We arrived in Agra around 8 pm. We were told REPEATEDLY not to leave the hotel by the driver, the bellhop, the front desk and even the greeter from the company. That was fine with us because we were tired from the drive. My only complaint about the hotels in India was that they did not have wifi included and we had to pay for it. Since I am a social media junkie, social media is a must in my life and wifi is a must. 
    The next day was a big day, we headed to the Taj Mahal. Sadly, the weather was super foggy, but that added to the mystery and made the pictures more majical. 
  To get to the doors of the Taj, we had the choose between taking a horse, motorized bike or camel to the doors of the Taj; we took a camel.

    I got to ride the camel for a bit, it was great.

Jumping for joy at the Taj Mahal.

 The Taj took 22 years to build and is built of white marble and semi precious stones. It was built as a memorial for the Emperor's wife. It was breathtaking. Larger than life. 

After the Taj Mahal we headed to the Amber fort. 

     I am always so impressed with all these strictures that were built so many hundreds of years ago are in such great condition.

    I have never been scared of snakes. Actually at one point I wanted a pet snake but my mother said she wouldn't be a friend anymore. 

   These snake charmers were in front of the restaurant and let me take a picture for a dollar.

    As a black traveller there are some funny things usually happen to me. People are amazed about my hair. On the way back from the Taj Mahal, I felt someone looking at me. It was a soldier with a huge gun. He asked my tour guide about my hair. Was it real? I explained to my guide that my hair is not real and it consists of fibers that are hair like. It takes about 5 hours to do. Do I have to do it everyday? No, no. By the end, my tour guide had a group of soldiers, schooling them on my hair. Hilarious. 

Next stop Jaipur. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas Trip to India--Part 1 Delhi

     Hello readers from near and far, thank you once again for taking the time to read my blog and leave your comments and questions, they are always appreciated. 
      This Christmas I took my wanderlusty self to India. I have to admit that although India had been on my bucket list, I had erased it for awhile because there was so many rapes in the last little while that I was scared to go. Nevertheless, many of my UAE friends went during eid and that settled my fears. Kaitlin (my travel bestie) and I decided that we would buy a Groupon tour and explore the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) for five days and then we would spend the rest if our time in the relaxing Goa.
    We arrived in Delhi and we were taken to our first hotel. The streets were littered with stray dogs and individuals begging for money. Whenever our car stopped at a stop light, someone would knock on our window either selling something (Santa hats seemed to be a favorite) or asking for money. 
    I was extremely impressed with out first hotel Hotel Vikram, it was clean and the room had more than enough room. Since we had been travelling all night from Dubai, we decided to just chill in the room and relax.  We did order some yummy indian food.

  From the top right we have vegetable jalfrazi, garlic naan and fish tikka. #yummy

     The next morning our guide Sunil took us to the largest mosque in India.

    After the mosque, we took a rickshaw ride through the streets of old Delhi, since it was still early in the morning, shopkeepers were just starting to set up for the day.

    The rickshaw ride was insane, we passed people selling everything from fruits and veggies to saris. Cows were walking up and down the streets and stray dogs watched the world go by. The drivers in Delhi make the UAE drivers look like saints.

  We then took a drive to visit the memorial dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi. His ashes were spread in the Ganges river but there is an eternal flame that burns day and night in dedication to him.    Since this is such a popular place there were many kids on field trips with their school. Many of them screamed HELLO and looked at us in awe.
     We got many stares as we walked the streets and I was a bit surprised, since I am almost the same skin color as most Indians, yet our tour guide told us that many people who are on vacation at this time have never left their villages ( or rarely do) and many of them have never seen a foreigner, yet alone a black person. 
    We then proceeded to the presidental area and saw the Indian gate.

  I was shocked at the number of hawkers that were trying to sell items here. We were told by our your guide to just ignore them, because even saying no is acknowledging their presence. This was so strange to me, I always fell so rude just ignoring them and I often slipped up and said, 'no thank you.'

That night we left to head to Agra.