Dubai and India

 the first journey

This post is long overdue.

Earlier this year I went
on a journey overseas. It was really an opportunity I couldn’t refuse,
but I was unsure if it was the right decision to root up EVERYTHING I knew,
within a few days, and leave with a small bag on a journey to the far and wide
unknown. And by a small bag, I mean no more that 8kg’s for 6 weeks.

See,
dear readers, I was in difficult place before I left. I felt unsatisfied and frustrated with many situations I found myself in – all related
to the fact that I had many opportunities, but couldn’t grasp any of
them. See, for I had far too long, took on too many tasks and felt tired. I had no idea where to start and where everything was going. For far too long I was doing things purely because it needed to be done and not because I really wanted to do it. The thing with always wanting things to be perfect, is that you end up feeling entirely empty – what did I get out of it? Why the hell did I do this, just to feel miserable in the end? So, I had a
blocked mind and a heavy heart, I had no idea what I wanted to do with
what I had.

Five days before my journey I was still not
entirely sure if I wanted to go. Know the feeling? Well, multiply that by a 1000 and you might get to how I felt. After long talks, walks and sleep, I eventually got on the plane on my journey of
42 days, but really a trip of a lifetime to two amazing
destinations.

I was going to travel to two different
countries – United Arab Emirates, where I was based in Dubai, and India.
Two TOTAL opposite countries. Dubai being a first world city where literally EVERYTHING is spectacular, from the cars to the shopping malls and the
night life. You think everything is bigger in America? Think again.
Dubai is larger than life and everything is basically man-made. They
built a multi-billion rand urban oasis in the middle of the dessert. Complete with man-made islands, the largest shopping mall in the world
and the tallest building in modern times – The spectacular Burj Khalifa.

Dubai
is rich and young and to be honest a big, fat show off. You think here in Camp’s Bay the girls and guys are living in luxury? Try Dubai. It’s great for
shopping, driving fast and beautiful cars, going to luxurious beaches,
man-made water parks and hanging out in spas and hotel bars. I spent my
days on the metro sight-seeing, in the massive pool, in the dance studio or
sitting on the hotel room’s balcony taking in orange sunset after orange
sunset.

Burj Khalifa Dubai

Dubai is nothing like you’ve ever seen,
believe me. EVERY SINGLE building is different. The people live
fast-paced, luxurious lives and they show it in every way possible- from
beautiful yachts at the ‘waterfront’ to the glamorous apartments and
even their expensive designer clothes. Have you seen the Palm Island?
It’s like you can’t actually wrap your head around what they’ve done
with that place. Once you stand on that beach and you see the orange sun disappear behind the waters, you realise that it might all just be dream – the warm water, the massive water park, the sunset, golden beach and the buildings looking down at you with all their lights and unbelievable architecture. Dubai is proud. Proud of what it is today. I give it to the Arabs, they really really don’t mess around.

The hotel apartments where stayed, had a beautiful spa, gym, restaurant and pool area. I tried to
wake up every morning as early as possible, so I could get the most
out of every day. The hotel offered the biggest buffet I had ever seen –
donuts, bread, cereals, nuts, salads, cake, muffins, juice, Nutella,
honey and the list goes on and on. After breakfast, I went for a run in
the gym and then for a swim. It is extremely hot in Dubai and
even swimming will hardly cool you down. In fact, it’s more like doing a
few laps in a giant jacuzzi, then anything else. 

I visited the Palm Jumeirah (for
those that doesn’t know, this is the gigantic man-made island) on the coast of Jumeirah in Dubai. I also went to The
Atlantis Water Park – the most expensive park I’ve ever been to, but so absolutely worth it. I spent most of that day on a tube cruising through tunnels and different beaches and even went off a few waterfalls. The giant tube rides were my favourite and I nearly died the first time the tube shot into the air by itself only to land on a gigantic trail again. One day is not nearly enough to see the whole park, but I did get to eat some fresh fruit on the golden sand and had a cocktail on some private beach somewhere in the park in the warmest water ever. I also went on a very crazy desert safari in the middle of, well. the desert. I smoked a hooka pipe in real Arab style, got a henna tattoo and downed a Dubai Heineken, after which some traditional dancers entertained us on a giant stage in the middle of the desert. I also saw the singing fountains, Burj Khalifa and incredible ‘waterfront’.

It’s very
difficult to meet people in Dubai. It’s almost as if everyone is too
busy with their own thing to notice anyone else (except for at the clubs
where guys wouldn’t hesitate once to chat you up). It’s not as if
people are unfriendly, but they are very caught up in their own Arabian
paradise. Dubai’s nightlife is unbelievable. It’s not uncommon to go to a hotel with its own nightclub, where you will see things you will never see in Cape Town. Private lobbies (in every nightclub) with its own bar, giant champagne bottles, fountains, mini stages with girls in the most spectacular costumes, catwalks over the swimming pools, multiple dance areas with highlighted floors, LCD screens as big as my house, cigars and girls and Ferraris and champagne and champagne and champagne.

One of the highlights of visiting UAE was
driving through Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is quite conservative (you
basically have to cover your knees and shoulders and at some places even
your hair), but it is so different from the mighty Dubai – it is very
much a dessert area. Temperatures can reach 50 degrees and sweating like
a gypsy is not uncommon.

Dubai desert

Dubai desert
Desert Safari Dubai

After two weeks of luxury,
shopping and meeting crazy Arabs, trying to convince you that you are
queen of the dessert, it was time to pack up and leave for India – my
luggage 10Kg heavier.  

On to India… 

India with its old soul, incredible culture and people. A country so rich that the people became incredibly poor.

On
the plane to India, I still felt very overwhelmed, not sure if the time spent in Dubai made a difference to how I felt at the beginning of the journey. But the moment I
stepped out of Bangalore’s airport and into the incredibly humid Indian
air, I finally just let go. I don’t exactly know of what, but it was as
if I had an enormous sigh of relief and for the first time, in a long time, I
could breath (not that the air in India is very clean or fresh).

India
is not pretentious in any way whatsoever – the people are beautiful,
friendly and humble. My daily experiences with the people were both very much a culture-shock and a humbling thing. I could take off my shoes and visit small
temples, dirty over-populated streets and incredible night markets. In
the streets of Bangalore and Kolkata I could breath out the old air and
could just allow myself to be. There were absolutely no judgement from anyone in India. No
one knows you and besides the fact that you are young, blonde and white (which
is something quite different to them), no one really cares what you wear, where you come from or who you are. Yes, they will stare, but more out of fascination
than anything else.

Touring India
Incredible India

I visited temples, markets, old
buildings and authentic restaurants and it blew my mind. Everything inspired and fascinated me – the old people, the religion, the clothes they wear, the history and even the nightlife. Everything became an unique experience and I wanted more and more and more. But with all magical places, there are a dark side as well. There were times where I didn’t
want to leave my hotel room, due to the heavy toll the sights of
poverty took on me. Things you see on the streets become too
much. I saw children no older than 4 years beg for a coin or a piece of
bread. I saw a lot of malnourished old people selling anything from
rocks to bananas on the streets and then I saw heavily disfigured and
ill people trying to beg anything off you… My heart broke every single day.

It can eat your heart. And it did mine.

There
were moments when it really became too much to witness. We think we have
it rough in South Africa. Well, try Kolkata  – old people bathing on the
sidewalks, children singing at the markets for a Rupee or two and people so malnourished, you think they might die at any minute. The
worst thing I saw, was a heavily disfigured man being dragged through the
streets on a piece of wood. I didn’t know how I was ever going to feel
okay after what I saw, but it became bearable after you talk to some
locals and they put the life back in you, by inviting you into their
homes, talking about their amazing culture and history. 

Dhobi Ghat India

I spent all my money in India. Everything I had. I bought jewelery and clothes and gave to people in the streets. Shopping in India is an experience on its own. They sell EVERYTHING. And everything is beautiful. 

I visited the Bull Temple, Dhobi Ghat, had masala tea in my room, went for dahl makhani, walked through the streets of Ranchi and saw some live Indian rock music (yes, really). 

I spent 4 weeks in incredible India, took about 10 flights through the country and just allowed myself to take everything in. Never in my life had I been so tired, so inspired and so humbled in my life. On my last few days I walked through Bangalore’s streets until the sun went down, just talking to locals, eating vegetarian food and buying gifts for family and friends. 

India Bangalore Touring
Markets in India

In the early hours of the morning of my last day, I took a very overwhelming bus trip to the airport to catch my plane home. With a gigantic lump in my throat I said goodbye to India and my journey and flew back to Dubai. Both flights home were almost unbearable and I allowed myself to sleep the entire, over 20 hour, trip back. 

The journey was real. It was real and happy and crazy and sad and incredible and overwhelming and just… 42 days of mind blowing experiences. 

If you ever have the opportunity to go somewhere. Anywhere. Close your eyes and go. No matter how crazy it seems, it’s something you can never ever say no to.

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Contact me: eliinthecity@gmail.com

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