Bangaluru (Bengalore)

Known for its booming IT industry, Bangaluru offers green space, craft breweries, and indoor bouldering gyms. This city was the most progressive, clean, and at times Nick and I forgot that we were in India. We noticed a change from the north to south, the food became spicier and the aggressive personalities became more rare.

IMG_0388

We spent time walking around Cubbon Park, Lalbagh Botanical Gardens and MG Road. However, we most enjoyed spending time with our wonderful CouchSurfing host. She lived in a quiet old neighborhood and the second we walked into her home it felt comfortable. It smelt of essential oils and we spent hours with our feet up on her coffee table discussing gender inequality, demonetization, GMOs and labor conditions in the Middle East (as she previously lived in Saudi Arabia).

IMG_0392

Her views were extremely progressive and she helped explain to us why conservative Indians view women of rape as stained or adopted kids as less. Being the first single female local willing to discuss these deep topics with me we were able to laugh about how ironic it is that in India you end up apologizing for having something stolen or your body sexualized. Perpetrators play it off so casually you question weather or not you are yelling or accusing someone of nothing. She answered some of our questions, like why transgendered woman clap in your face on the train asking for money. She told us that transgendered kids are taken away from their families at a young age to live in communities. They are believed to have a sort of “magic” where they can bless you (for a fee) or curse you. It is common for Hindu men to give as many fear this magic.

Our CouchSurfer took us to a local theatre to see a documentary, we ordered late night take out and ran errands. Nick and I have been to uncountable markets, however exploring the Krishnarajendra Market with her was a treat. We picked up cottons and silks for her dressmaking, jewelry, vegetables, and kitchenware. We were thankful for this experience so our host but also thankful for our passport. As we have been constantly reminded by CouchSurfers how lucky we are to be from a country that has valued currency and access to visas. However, we are also reminded how much fear our current administration is creating worldwide.

IMG_0387

IMG_0390

Eats:

Indira Darshini- try the paper masala dosa (curried vegetables in a large crisp crepe), kesari bhath (sweet polenta like texture with nuts and raisin) and filtered coffee

IMG_0382

Sweets – between fadoola, curd, sweet balls, jalabis and vermicelli noodles soaked in saffron milk, anyone with a sweet tooth will go nuts

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.28.09 PM
curd
Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.27.11 PM
Fadoola (noodles, basil seeds, ice cream, jello, saffron juice, and curd)

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.27.42 PM

Sajjan Rao Circle – street food

Toit Brewpub – 5 microbrews on tap

IMG_0389
“Sending it since 2010”

Ice apple – an asian fruit with a texture similar to lychee, rambothan or longan, this palm fruit is now one of my favorites

IMG_0422
Ice Apple

 

Mumbai (Bombay)

IMG_0342

Mumbai sits on a narrow peninsula that juts into the Arabian Sea. This congested and densely populated city is home to 25 million people. The public transit system is poor, however the business district is booming and many famous Bollywood actors and actresses live here.

IMG_0351

Nick and I spent 3 days Couchsurfing in Mumbai. Our host took us out for late night rides to the beach, kulfi ice cream, paan (refreshment leaf) and tours of Bollywood homes. I particularly had an interesting experience as his views of women made for a unique experience. However, not negative as I was excluded from conversations and actives. Nonetheless, it was a cultural experience and we were thankful for the hospitality.

We spent time wandering the south and taking in the old architecture: High Court, Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (awesome train station), Taj Mahal Palace (high end hotel), Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, and Rajabai Clock Tower.

IMG_0340
Gateway of India

 

IMG_0344
CSVMS – Prince of Wales Museum of Western India
IMG_0350
High Court

We explored the bazaar district and loved the variety of fruit sold at the Crawford Market, the largest market in Mumbai. We were lucky to be there during the beginning of Alphonso mango season. We paid 400 R ($6) for 12 delicious locally grown mangos and drooled over beautiful papayas, pomegranates, cashews, dried fruits, spices, and figs.

IMG_0348
Crawford Market
IMG_0349
Alphonso Mangos

Dharavi slum- Nick and I decided to visit the Dharavi Slum, as 53% of Mumbai’s population lives in slums. This slum is home to 1 million people and stretches over 432 acres. Parts of the movie “Slum dog millionaire” were filmed in Dharavi. There are over 10,000 government registered businesses located in the slum, mostly in the leather, recycling (plastics), and pottery industry.

We were torn whether or not visiting was ethical, however decided that in order to address issues within our society we need to educate ourselves in every way possible. In addition, by booking a tour through Reality Tours & Travel, 80% of the proceeds went to community centers educating youth. Nick and I found the experience fascinating as it didn’t feel like we were in a “slum”. It felt like we were in any other part of India, walking through back alleys to a bus station. The word “slum” simply means a settlement residing on government land. The degree of poverty within slums vary, however the West puts such a negative connotation on the word. This community had shops and did the work that others would not. The jobs were dangerous (burning paint, melting aluminum and recycling plastics) and takes years off of the local’s lifespan. Since photography was prohibited (rightly so) check out the great photos we were provided.- read more on slum tourism

IMG_0353
Crossing the bridge to Dharavi
31364575501_ebf020a1b7_o
Dharavi Slum – photos below by Reality Tours & Travel

31364564861_da63e4efc3_o

31364583241_b32a809c03_o

31364570831_3c5d73e4a6_o

31480286185_f75687b418_o

Marine Drive – Here, Nick and I watched the sunset over the Arabian Sea. The twinkling night-lights of Mumbai were nicknamed, ‘the queens necklace’, and hundreds of locals gathered for the evening. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually see the sun set due to the dense air pollution.

IMG_0343
Sunset at Marine Drive

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat- This 140 year old area is known as the largest human powered washing machine. Thousands of kilograms of clothes are cleaned a day and there are over 1,026 open air troughs.

IMG_0356
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat – human powered washing machine

Bombay Panjrapole- 300 homeless cows are located in the middle of the city. Goats, donkeys and dogs can be found and they are all provided shelter and fed.The Mumbai Wall Project – Nick and I wandered parallel from Bandra to Colaba train stations. The 2 km wall of street art addressed issues regarding pollution, gender equality, aborting females, and child abuse. Although the majority of the wall seemed to be repainted, the murals left were thoughts provoking and beautiful.

IMG_0354

IMG_0355

IMG_0352

Malabar Hill- At the tip of the peninsula, Nick and I roamed around an exclusive and quiet neighborhood. The homes were large and it felt like we escaped the chaos of Mumbai for just a few minutes. Hidden between streets, we visited Banging Tank where kids played and Hindu pilgrims bathed.

IMG_0358
Banganga Tank

Food:

-Try a bombil (Bombay Duck) thali, it’s sun dried fish that’s then deep fried.

 

-Near Marine Drive there is an amazing kulfi shop that serves pre sliced ice cream between wafers.

IMG_0346
bhel puri at Chowpatti (beach food trucks ) *excellent fadoolas