“Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
My life is forever changed from traveling to India and Nepal over this past month. From sunrise to sunset and all the momentous moments in between here is my travel blog of experiences, photos, and video edit to share.
Before the trip even started, I wasn’t sure if I would make it! Due to a passport case in which I was jacked in Brazil a few years ago, the India Consulate in Hong Kong was requesting me obtain a police record of this incident before issuing a visa! With help of all the surrounding energies and having done all the preparation, it was processed and went through at the last minute. It was literally two days of not knowing if it was going to go through. That and my last name is BEGUM so they thought I was from Pakistan.
Arriving just a few days after Diwali – the largest holiday in India – the pollution was at extreme heights. Highest ever recorded type of shit, and now here I am going straight into it with a bit of a my pre trip sickness and temperature. On heavy antibiotics and other medications I was praying for good health for the adventure. Luckily I was fine after a few days. But there was some serious struggle at first. I had to use every ounce of energy just to get out of Hong Kong, then once airborne all the problems were gone. Awe …. That feeling of flying and freedom is irresistible.
Only a 4.5 hour flight from Hong Kong, I was ready to go after arriving in Delhi and couldn’t wait! Upon arrive in Delhi I immediately felt at home. There is something about India from the moment you arrive that is unforgettable.
After a meet and greet the following morning with the other traveler’s in the group from Overseas Adventure Travel, and my Dad and family, we hit the bus for Old Delhi and the Jama Masjid Palace. The palace itself was which was beautiful and amazing, but the most exciting part about the day was the Rikshaw ride through the jam packed, incredibly colourful with all senses awakened at once, type of streets in old Delhi. Where hundreds of electric / telephone wires intertwine above as the foot traffic energetically flows below. Thousands of people at once as we ride via rickshaw through it all. It was the most exciting welcome to India anyone could have asked.
From Delhi we flew to Jaipur which is where we upon landing, learned that Donald Trump won the president election. This news was so challenging for me. Everything that man represents conflicts with me so deeply on every level. How could our system be so broken and unjust that same American political disaster could happen again. Now an expat I feel less affected, but I worry for my family in the states.
A good bowl of comfort food plus a few beers I was at least over the tragic news. I said fuck it, I have no control over this outcome therefore I’m not going to allow it to eat away at my experience while I am here.
From Jaipur we traveled for 8 hours by bus to the annual Pushkar Camel Festival where we lived in tents, partook in the largest livestock festival in the world, and hot air ballooned with the sunrise.
Riding camel back through the desert with the sounds of energetic Indian music, surrounded by thousands of camels, horses, cows, and goats all there to be traded and sold as the main reason for the gathering. The sunset was spectacular, and the entire experience from the fire dancers at night, to the incredible atmosphere throughout the day. I have never seen or felt anything like it. And, what was even more memorable for me was the Hot Air Balloon sunrise ride over the next morning.
Rising up 4am early to take this optional excursion, I went for it and it turned out to be one of the most epic experiences on the entire trip. BOOM! Seeing the thousands of tents from below, with all the animals, and carnival from above was breathtaking and a butterfly in your stomach feeling. Then we got up to about 2,000 ft. where the sunrise came up over the Pushkar lake and mountain top temple.
Flying high above the morning lit sky and far away from our camp I enjoyed every moment of it. The scenery was like out of Jurassic park! The hot flame every time our pilot moved us up or down also added to the experience. Then as we landed about 50 children from the nearby village greeted us with the most vibrant exciting energy full of smiles. The morning light backdrop with now all the village children as we waited for the pick up crew was unforgettable. A 45min bumpy truck ride back to camp and we were ready for breakfast and the next city.
After Pushkar we drove to the Ranthambore Tiger park and visited the Grand Circle Foundation school and surrounding rural villages.
On our first jeep safari into the national park we saw the wild Tiger. Not for long, but I saw it as it majestically crawled through the bush, only peaking its head out from under the Banyan tree for a few seconds. It was just lucky perfect timing as it’s a 90% chance you don’t see a tiger on the safari cruise. The next few hours were spent driving through the grounds seeing monkeys, an array of deer, wild boar, alligators, many unique birds and beautiful scenery. That night we literally slept in a palace. I felt like we were sleeping in the movie Aladdin under the super moon lit sky.
More moving for me during our stay in Ranthambore National Park area was when we visited the local Grand Circle Foundation school and village where we were able to donate the books, hygienic supplies and athletic equipment to these children, where proceeds of our traveling tuition is donated towards those in need. I saw first hand how hundreds of these small children, all under 6th grade are tremendously benefiting from the Grand Circle Foundation. Knowing that I was on a small scale helping these kids by traveling with OAT was warming. I met a young boy named David, and showed him how to use the Gopro.
Simple life yet these kids are all happy. It was wonderful to be around. They go to school there for under $3USD per month, and live on very little yet vibrate on so much warmth and smile. That experience alone changed my life and I love traveling with OAT because of that reason. In this village GCF contributes by building school buildings and sanitary toilets.
After the Tiger park and visiting the GCF school we took a train to the city of Arga for the Taj Mahal, and Sheeros Hangout.
I remember as a second grade school child having a map of the world in the classroom, and on that map there was a little picture of the Taj Mahal that I always dreamt of going one day. Arriving there for the first time was truly special. Yes, it’s packed with tourists but there’s a reason it’s one of the 7 wonders. Every moment spent in the grounds of the Taj was mind blowing with love! It’s the worlds largest mausoleum of love and then when you go through the amazing structure dim with lights but filled with the most special marble and gem stones from around the world, you leave feeling as though you’ve just walked through a love cleansing mystical marble emporium. I felt this burst of happiness walking out of the exit, with the river and all the people who pilgrimage from all around the world to experience this majestic place. I felt so much love for having experienced it with my father.
After the Taj Mahal experience, capturing tons of pictures and memories we ate lunch as an equally as impactful restaurant for lunch.
The cafe is named Sheeros Hangout. Pronounced like Hero’s but She – roes, and it’s an artistic cafe built and run by female survivors of Acid Attacks in India. The scope of this terror is unfathomable, as the survivors are left physically mutilated for life. Now to see and openly meet and speak with some of these women, and learn about what they are doing to combat these acts is She-roic. We watched a small documentary and learned first hand why they were initially attacked, and what they are doing both politically and with the campaign around India in attempt to solve this awful crime.
The stories were tragic. Something as simple as not being able to have a boy child, or getting into a small argument with the husband. Can you image?! You name it the list of cruelty goes on and on for why these women were attacked and now because of Sheroes the survivors have a place of refuge and hope. With the help of Sheroes Hangout they have been able to pass laws that makes these acts punishable for life in prison, and are starting to seen a decrease in the prevalence of these acts.
They have now expanded to three Sheroes Hangout cafe locations around northern India all providing opportunity and hospice for the survivors of acid attacks. If you’re ever in Arga India, this is a must see spot.
Learn more about Sheroes Hangout here and give them some FB love. The best way to help is to spread the awareness and tell the world what these incredible women are doing.
After an amazing experience in Arga, we drove via bus to Khajuraho the visit to Kama Sutra temples.
A long and adventures bus ride later and we landed in this cool small city called Khajuraho. It is known for its amazing temples where Kama sutra sculptures originated by the carving hands of teenage boys. This was by far the coolest temple we saw not just because of the erotic and amazing sculptured temples, but this was a place that recognises all religions and spiritual belief with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity intwined within the architecture. The energy here was special and so captivating. I loved every minute of it. Plus we had this incredibly knowledgeable philosopher and historian who guided us around the temple grounds explaining the meaning of and history with humor and grace.
After Khajuraho we flew to Varanasi which is also the most holy city on earth for Hindus.
Tuktuk riding from the hotel into Kushi was insanity! 80,000 people packing the small city on the banks of the Ganges river where they hold thanksgiving rituals every evening for lord Shiva and celebrate with an array of ringing bells, incense, and candle ornaments. Coupled with live music and chanting with thousands of both participators and spectators, the experience was out of this world! Then sail down river to the most holy cremation site, the site of where the eternal flame lives, in the world for Hindus.
Then to watch the ceremony take place! OMG It was crazy. First they immerse the body into the river, then wrap it in special cloth, then throw lots of wood, and dump the body into the massive fire. With the assistance of a special priest and the highest member of the family, they do the rituals, and never look back. It was beyond explainable. We finished the boat ride it off with lighting a candle and sending it down the river with good wishes and intentions. The entire thing was so far out. Unlike any thing I’ve ever seen.
In the morning we woke early for the sunrise cruise. Where we watch the sunrise over the Ganges surrounded by rituals and beauty. Hands down one of my favourite places we visited in India. Ending our Indian tour with a live set by a master Sitar and Tabla musicians from Varanasi. I fell in love with Varanasi. Located on a vortex, it was spiritual supercharged.
On the following day we were in route for Kathmandu Nepal. Saying goodbye to India for now, I know I will go back and give more to that country and people who gave me so much.
Wow! Nepal was so much different that it was almost challenging to absorb and digest everything from India to then jump right into a completely different place. Upon arrival and after being physically exhausted and yet so excited, Nepal was like an elevated blend of both high altitude as an international traveler destination, contrasted with extreme witness able poverty, much from the earthquake aftermath.
Since we only had 5 days in and around the Kathmandu area we were only able to see a small portion, yet it was still packed with full on cultural immersion everyday.
Our first morning in Nepal, and on Thanksgiving day, my Dad, family and I took a flight around the Himalayas with perfect visibility of the Mount Everest.
It was a spectacular morning with not a cloud in the sky! I could see the shimmering snow from the tallest mountain on earth. It was so cool. I felt so grateful flying on top of the world with my family. We then had a champagne toast and shared wonderful presence on that unforgettable day.
What made that flight even more impactful was the preface to the Mount Everest by an amazing young woman named Shailee. A local climber from Nepal, she herself has not only climbed Everest, but she is apart of the most successful women’s group to climb all seven of the tallest mountains on earth. Now she devotes her life to a number of women causes such as: empowering trafficking survivors, providing teaching support and education to the community, and contributing to rebuilding schools after the devastating earthquake 20 months ago.
She told us about the stories of the other six women on the team, her best friends, in the group and their stories were equally as jaw dropping with sadness and inspiration. From survivors of sex trafficking that escaped the brothels of India and ran back to Nepal, to one who was cast out from her family due to traditional beliefs of daughters and dowery.
The heart wrenching stories went on about these women and I couldn’t help but shed a tear for both the trauma that these women overcame, and yet how inspired I was by the way Shailee along with her 7 Summits Sisters are now giving back more and more to their communities in incredible ways.
Please check them out on FB and give them some love! This is another amazingly empowering and wonderful story of women who overcame the tallest of obstacles, no pun intended, and now inspire and help thousands of people.
Our final days in Nepal were spent visiting the Boudhanath Temple for the Tibetan Buddhist, touring through the old city of Kathmandu, and shopping through the Dunbar Square markets.
Sadly, I witnessed first hand people moving rubble from the ancient temples that were destroyed during the earthquake. It was this peril yet a beautiful mixture of impermanence and it’s importance to life and to free one self from suffering.
I said goodbye to Dad, family and the fellow travelers in Nepal and Delhi, then flew back home to Hong Kong filled with new memories, friendships, experiences, and knowledge to share. I am so grateful for this unforgettable adventure.
A few people on this journey that made it unforgettable were:
AJAY Singh – This man was our tour guide in India, and within only a few days he was also my brother from another mother. He bonded with our family so wonderfully and filled our days with excitement and knowledge. He also took us to his beautiful house where we me met his family, and offered me the rooftop loft for the next time I come back to India. Just the most amazing person that I could never forget from the journey.
PUSHKAR Shah – I met a man who has traveled to 150 countries on his bike. He was given $1 for his journey and is still going! We met at a Nepalese wedding one night at the hotel alongside his photographer and the grooms men. It was surreal to hear his stories from Hong Kong to New York, a 9/11 lucky survivor and now Nepal hero, this man was so interesting and so captivating to chat with. 150 countries on a bicycle with $1 USD to start…. Unbelievable
Some of my most favourite take aways from the entire travel experience are:
A Hindi saying incorporating the concept of reincarnation, and the belief that we are living our past, and creating our future.
A Buddhist belief in some of the three most important values: self belief, tolerance, patience.
Finding the flow states during traveling. Completely submerged in a different location, culture, language and how because of that new stimulus growing exponentially spiritually, mentally, physically. Traveling is why we live. Sometimes lost but never scared. Hyper presence in the process of exploration and adventure.
Please join me in supporting these causes:
Stop Acid Attacks – Sheroes Hangout
Lastly to any of my friends who want to join me on an adventure sometime. I support a company called Overseas Adventure Travel, that also gives to an organisation called Grand Circle Foundation which improves lives all over the world. Check them out and leave me a comment or message if you want to also get it on the travel adventure fun. They are life changing.