3 reasons to love India

 

About Robyn (1)

India is awe-inspiring and life-changing. We planned our entire trip specifically to include Holi – The Festival of Colour. That was definitely a highlight. The country is nothing like the stereotypes that are portrayed by the media. We expected to arrive to so much poverty and disparity, only to be welcomed by its unrivalled beauty and diverse attractions that largely outweighed any negative depictions.

India offers an equal dosage of old and new, traditional and modern, adventurous and serene. There is something for everyone.

The original Holi Fest can’t be beaten

The entire country takes a break from their daily lives to partake in the tradition of throwing coloured flour. Days before the event, every city is beautifully decorated with ribbons and colourful mosaics which are painted onto buildings. We were lucky to celebrate Holi with some local children who lived near to our hotel. The joy and look of enthusiasm on the children’s’ faces, during the event, made the experience all the more spectacular.

Related: Finding Solace in Mozambique

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Nothing like the makeshift Holi festivals that have been popping up all over the world; experience the original Indian colour festival. (Photo/ Simone Franks)

Must-see attractions

The Taj Mahal’s architectural beauty is breath-taking. It’s without a doubt, a must-see attraction. I will never forget sitting in the gardens just staring at it, not even realising that hours had passed by.
Also great to see is the Amber Fort in Jaipur. The fort was built on top of a large hill and overlooks structured floating gardens (which were designed to look like a carpet). We trekked to the fort on elephant back!

Related: From Bellville to Grenoble

The food will steal your heart

Indian food is incredible. It took a while, adjusting to having curry for breakfast but the variety and range of dishes will entice even the fussiest of eaters.

There is always something new to try and experiment. Many of the restaurants we ate at had an open-plan kitchen so we were able to watch the chef prepare our food, and get a whiff of spices and other ingredients –  always fresh and usually made with seasonal vegetables.

Indian cuisine is not just about simply eating a curry; emphasis is placed on the preparation of the food, the presentation, and the etiquette involved with eating certain dishes. One restaurant used underground fire pits to cook dishes wrapped in banana leaves. The dish would arrive at your table as a steaming hot, banana leaf parcel, and the chef would stand next to you while you’re eating to discern if you enjoyed it or not. The food is also quite affordable – we were able to have a three-course meal for two  at a hotel for about R120.

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Oh nothing, just travelling via elephant. Something spectacular to experience in India. (Photo/ Simone Franks)

3 Tips for travellers visiting India:

Keep an open mind

Travelling in India can be quite a culture shock, especially if you’re travelling to rural parts of the country. Hawkers may pester tourists and sometimes this can be quite invasive but it helps to understand that these people are desperately trying to make a living.

 Do your research

It helps to research cultural practices and customs but don’t let the research govern your opinion of what to expect in India. A lot of the travel blogs I read before my trip warned about various sordid elements prevalent in India and yet I experienced none of these on my trip.

Pack light

Shopping in India is extremely addictive so you’ll need to pack light to make space for all your new purchases. We had fun shopping at street bazaars.

You may also want to read: I toured London in 10 days and this is the short of it

Did you enjoy this story compilation of India? Find more photos of Simone’s trip on her Instagram feed via this link.

I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Photos by Simone Franks

 

 

Finding solace in Mozambique

About Robyn

Perhaps there was something hazy in the afternoon air but Mozambique brought a sense of calm to all of us. It’s an aquarium; tranquil, natural, and humbling.

I travelled to the South of Mozambique with a group of surfers. I didn’t know them personally, but we shared a common love for surfing and the ocean. For a novice [surfer], it’s the perfect place to get into the water and experience the silence and overall beauty of the ocean. The sheer magnitude of the reefs and marine life is incredible.

We free-dived a shipwreck about a kilometer out to sea — that experience is something that I will never forget. A huge, once-grand, old boat lie on the ocean floor, fish swam in and out of the portholes, monster-sized crayfish settled inside little crevasses, and cute little seahorses kept popping up. I wondered if the crew had made it out alive. I wondered what it must have been like for the Captain when he’d realized that he’d hit the reef and that his boat was going down.

RelatedFrom Bellville to Grenoble

The landscape was unspoilt and rural. The air was clean and there were no tarred roads. I loved that it was off the beaten track – no large cities nearby, and the locals were quite friendly. In the town’s local market, beaded accessories were sold, locally designed clothing, cashew nuts and the infamous Tipo Tinto – an unforgiving Rum native to Mozambique, and best served with raspberry flavoured drink. Just ask for “R&R”.

Rich Culture

Strolling along remote beaches in Mozambique. (Photo/ Callan Blount)
Strolling along remote beaches in Mozambique. (Photo/ Callan Blount)

Houses in the village are built with whichever materials are available and so are the little sailing boats that the locals use for fishing — called Dhows. The simple and practical designs of the Dhows are beautiful. Due to Mozambique being situated on the east coast of South Africa, the weather is warm all-year-round, even in winter. The water is also warm. Coming from Cape Town’s icy cold water, this was a welcomed experience for me.

Beautiful Beaches

Some beaches had pure white monumental sized dunes and sandy bottom beaches. The water was so clear that you could see right to the seabed, while other beaches had rocky reefs on the ocean floor. Another valuable memory was the sunset chats with the crew, whether on the beach or on the boat. I was very blessed to have travelled with legends of the surfing community. Each evening, we would have a cold beer and enjoy the lazy afternoon humidity while the veterans told stories and so forth.

You may also want to read: I toured London in 10 days and this is the short of it

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Cold beers and sunsets. (Photo/ Callan Blount)

 Mozambique survival hacks:

  • If possible, travel in a group. You’ll have so much fun.
  • Pack light. It’s hot, even in winter.
  • Go in winter. The weather is awesome, it’s Malaria free, and there aren’t many tourists during winter.
  • Very important: Bear in mind that you will be driving on dirt roads. You’ll need a 4×4 of some sort.

Did you enjoy this story compilation of Mozambique? Find more photos of Callan’s trip on his Instagram feed via this link.

 

I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Photos by Callan Blount

From Bellville to Grenoble.


As the first in a series of stories by South Africans, in pursuit if their dreams, Lynn Cupido highlights her own story, which was always to live in France.

If it’s meant to be, it will be. I was a digital intern at a world-renowned magazine. I’d lived in a quiet neighborhood, with a spacious backyard, and compared to other parts of South Africa, I’d say that I’d come from an extremely privileged background.

It’s been a dream of mine to live in France for almost my entire life. My fascination with French culture and language only grew as I got older.

The work that I was doing made me realize that I wanted something more, and that if I didn’t follow my dream now, I’d never do it. Ultimately, my goal is to start my own language school within France.

It’s really difficult to get a work visa. One of the first things that you have to do is prove that you’re not going to be a freeloader and that you’ve already found work.

For more info on how to obtain a work visa, go to, Expatica.com.

Right now, I’m teaching little kiddies English, which is both a frustrating and rewarding task.

You generally need to obtain a TEFL course in order to teach English as a foreign language, go to GlobalTefl.uk.com for more info regarding course offerings and fees.

I’d been really lucky enough to find a quaint apartment attached to the home of a local French family in the city of Grenoble. They’ve helped me adjust to the French language and way of life. The only thing that limits me is the language. One of my biggest highlights has been the eagerness with which many of the French embrace me.

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The closest ski resort is roughly about 10 kilometers, if not less, from where I live. The bus stop leading to main stations, that would take you to the city and surrounds, is about three minutes away. [And] the city centre is a hub of activity, no matter what the time of day. Cars aren’t even able to drive through the centre, leaving space for trendy bars, restaurants and typical French architecture.

I’d say that the cost of living is quite similar to South Africa. You pay for where you shop and live. If you’re living in the city with a beautiful view of the French Alps, you’re going to be paying more.

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The one thing that constantly surprises me is the level of diversity in France. Race is not something that dominates France like in South Africa; it’s both refreshing and unnerving. From Moroccan Muslims to Scots, all cultures are well integrated and influence French culture. I’ve met some amazing people… There’s one little lady from North Carolina, in particular – we often gawk at how similar we are.

Moving to a different country makes you appreciate the familiarity that you often take for granted.

Whether I plan to stay for the rest of my life, or a year, it’s definitely an experience that will influence me forever. France is the siren and I’m the sailor.

To find out more about Lynn and her life in the French Alps, visit her blog, here, or follow her on Instagram.

If you’d like to share a story of how you or someone you know is following their dream, post a comment in the section below, or email me directly to robyn@bewhole.co.za

Story compilation as per interview. Images supplied

I toured London in under 10 days and this is the short of it.

I’m definitely going to go there again.

The homeless people are clean, the walkways are organized, and the street performers are another blog topic to discuss all together – top class acts.

First, here’s what you need to know about travelling to a foreign country:

1. Always plan an itinerary before you go.

There’s nothing more stressful than getting lost in a foreign country. I was lucky enough to have the luxury of a local showing me around, guiding me through the London Underground system, but if you don’t have an awesome cousin living in the country you’re visiting, you should over prepare on travelling arrangements and alternatives before getting there. This ensures that your vacation run smoothly; you avoid wasting time asking for directions and feeling confused about what to do next.

2. Convert your own money into foreign cash before you go.

There’s always uncertain danger when you’re walking with a stack of cash on hand – anywhere in the world, but it’s good to have some money handy when you’ve just arrived and you need to hop onto a train, buy a coffee or buy a new sim card for example.

3. Pack according to the climate but pack light.

You don’t want to pay an extra fee for overweight luggage when you get to the airport. I’d arrived in London just as all the stores were having sales. The British Pound Sterling exchange rate is ridiculous compared to the South African Rand (1£ = R18, 70 – 26/12/14). Needless to say, I didn’t shop up a storm, but one does as one would when you see a SALE! sign, so I bought one to two things. Hence, pack light, just in case you’re bringing something home with you.

Visiting the monuments.

A photo posted by @robyn_ruth on

The *touristy places didn’t intrigue me as much as the local hangouts. I had more fun trying Belguim chocolate crepes in a shoebox restaurant in Brixton.

Character lies in places where you find small crowds of people, and that’s usually where the rewarding ‘this-is-it’ feeling spurts from. It was nice to see Buckingham Palace; I thought that after I’d gone to see the palace that something would surge inside of me, you know that feeling like you’ve finally arrived. But there was nothing. Only after I’d walked through Brixton Village and had my cousin point out the famous Electric Avenue that Eddy Grant sang about, did I feel as though I’d arrived. I couldn’t stop singing… “We’re *gonna rock down to… Electric Avenue…”

We’d also gone to the National Portrait Gallery – a museum of British faces. There, I saw Charles Dickens, Diana Spencer, Rylan Clark, and I was introduced to the work of Grayson Perry, whom I’ve come to appreciate as an abstract genius. His Map of Days was my favourite.

A photo posted by @robyn_ruth on

London’s food and culture.

Gaining experience is worth more than attaining material things. Some people are reluctant to try foreign foods and drinks because we commonly fear what we don’t understand. A large portion of your experiences in a foreign place will be based on your enthusiasm to try a new things. Sometimes adventure lies in simply tasting a foreign dish. Be adventurous.

About an hour’s train ride to South Harrow from Canary Wharf, where I stayed, my cousin, Lemarc, and I, visited another relative for lunch one day. We were welcomed with a wide variety of traditional English and St Helenian food. I was familiar with many of the ingredients but some I had never eaten before like Parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, and boiled pudding.

The main purpose of my excursion to the UK was to visit my family. Having an opportunity to enjoy a meal with some of them was more than I could have asked of a vacation. I always tell my friends (a quote by Robin Esrock); “people you meet create the paradise you find”.

London is quite diverse. It’s as if each district has its own personality and each culture tries to maintain their roots as much as they can. Crêpes are made by the French, Pizza by the Italians, Dumplings and Sushi by the Asians, and so on…

Belguim chocolate crêpes at Senzala Creperie Bar and Café.
Belguim chocolate crêpes at Senzala Creperie Bar and Café.

In Soho, we went to a Korean restaurant called Bibimbap. We had some Korean green tea with popped rice, and the renowned Bibimbaps. You’re actually served raw food in a hot stone bowl and the food cooks as you eat. It’s incredible.

In Islington, Lemarc and I met with a friend of mine from Cape Town, who is now living in the area. We had lunch at one of the many hipster restaurants in the city but I forget the name. “Its Rustic chic”, Lemarc said. He’d ordered a Scotch egg and hand-cut chips and that’s the first time I’d come across something like a Scotch egg. I was sure to order one at a Heathrow Airport restaurant, before my flight back to Cape Town. It tastes exactly like an egg that’s covered in mince – and that’s all it is. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Camden Town was by far my favourite district to visit. Amy Winehouse lived around these parts, I was told. And Camden Market is filled with a feast of all sorts – drinks, food, art, live music and clothing stalls. “Anything goes in Camden except pretentiousness”, I’d heard. I had my first drink of hot mulled wine, which was interesting, and of course soothing because it was so cold that I could see my own breath.

 

I’d spent my last night in London at the Duck and Waffle restaurant, located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. That was something to write home about. The view, the bacon wrapped dates, and amazing company complimented each other beautifully. You know that it’s good when your cocktail is served with a stick of sugar cane as its sweetener.

I’d also spent one day of this trip in Glasgow, and one day in Edinburgh, leading up to New Years Eve. Check out my Instagram profile to watch New Year’s Eve Fireworks at the Hogmanay Street Party, in Edinburgh.

Have you been to London? What was your favourite district to visit? I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment in the section below or send me an email to robyn@bewhole.co.za.