After 2 weeks of eating hot Indian food for every meal, I was curried-out.
So I was thrilled to find that Goa definitely caters to the vegetarian-eating-yoga-practicing-hippie-crowd and was filled with great restaurants that served smoothies, acai bowls, tofu dishes, buddha bowls and the like.
These were my favorites:
Ma Cafe in Pernem - EXCELLENT vegan food, we went back 3 times for the banh mi and the tacos
Bean Me Up in Vagator Beach - delicious buddha bowls in a beautiful garden setting
Natti’s Naturals in Anjuna - good smoothies, killer patio
After Jaipur, we headed to Goa for the last leg of our trip.
We’d wake up early every morning to work from our hotel in Calangute Beach then around 1 PM we’d hop on our bright orange scooter and head north to explore a new area on the coast until the sun set.
There are dozens of beaches all up the coast but my favorites were Vagator, Arambol, Morjim and Querim.
Jaipur is a massive city that seemed to include a bit of everything: colorful regal palaces, glistening modern buildings, lush green parks, smooth efficient highways and meandering alley ways.
In one day, you could feel like you traveled both back and forward in time.
We would visit dusty ancient forts in the morning and then stop in to ultra-futuristic shopping malls like The World Trade Park, in the afternoon.
We navigated the bumpy, hilly city streets to visit Jaigarh Fort and get a birds eye view of massive Jaipur.
The fort was built in 1726 AD and is considered to be the strongest monument in Jaipur.
We left Pushkar and rode 100 miles northeast to Jaipur, “The Pink City”.
Hawa Mahal, built in 1779.
It was built for Rajput women (a social class that adopted the custom of “purdah”, the practice of female seclusion). The women were not allowed to appear in public places but could hang out in the fort be able to watch the royal processions and see what’s going on in the city from the windows and small balconies. It was said to give the women a sense of freedom, without appearing in public.
The city was painted pink in 1876 for the arrival of the Price of Wales, who later became the Emperor of India.
I think it’s actually more of a “terra cotta” but what a welcome.
Pushkar is a pilgrimage site for Hindus and Sikhs (along with being a major destination for the Holi Festival) and is also well known for the Pushkar Camel Fair which brings over 50,000 camels from distant places to be bought and sold.
Bordering the desert, it’s a dusty place and has a holier vibe than anywhere else I visited in India with it’s temples around every corner, ghats for pilgrims to bathe in and the sacred Pushkar Lake glistening beneath the hills.
My favorite moments from Pushkar include:
emerging from the darkness of our hostel room after 12 hours of throwing up to be greeted by hordes of stoned Israeli’s, covered in rainbow paint
hearing a vehicle approaching from behind and turning around to see a giant camel cart being driven by a 7 year old
discussing app development and startup ideas with Kapil and Sunil, 2 young students from Jaipur we shared momos and fried rice with at the local Tibetan Restaurant
realizing an elaborate, multi-person effort to get us to pay to put flowers in Pushkar Lake was pretty much just a well organized sales funnel
thinking that this dusty little town was cited in the Mahabharata (a 2000 year old text that I read in Asian Studies class in high school) as the oldest religious hub in India… and here I was rolling through it’s purple stained alleyways on the back of a motorcycle in 2018.
170 miles later, we rolled up in Pushkar — just in time for Holi.
But then, a few hours later, Scott and I both fell deathly ill.
Like, yacking in an alley way… can’t eat for 24 hours kind of sick.
It hit me first and then Scott soon after. I think some “bottled” water we bought on the road was the culprit. It was rough.
So unfortunately, the closest I got to Holi was seeing mini-parades of people heading to the center of town from the hostel window while I took small sips of ginger ale. From the thumping techno I could hear echoing from the main square, it sounded like it was quite the dance party. Though I’m still not sure what trance music has to do with Hinduism.
But 24 hours later we were both fully recovered and ventured out to see the aftermath — it looked like a purple powder bomb went off — and we got a solid recap from 2 lovely Indian students from Jaipur who joined us for momos at a Tibetan Restaurant.
So, that was a bummer — but these things happen, especially while backpacking in India.
But I will experience you one day, Holi.
While we were on a boat cruise in Udaipur, we met a nice Australian fellow who said that Pushkar (a town bordering the Thar Desert) would be a great place to celebrate Holi, an important Hindu festival that was coming up.
So we mapped out a trip, rented a Royal-Enfield motorcycle and rode 170 miles to Pushkar.
The experience of creating and running EditMate has given me a newfound appreciation for entrepreneurs. I never thought about the work that goes into a starting, maintaining and growing a business before but now I do.
Whether someone is a running a massive corporation, a local neighborhood business or selling bracelets on a beach… I notice them now in a way I didn’t before.
I think about what their day to day looks like, what got them to where they are now and take note of the little things they do for their business… like how they approach a sale or the way they set up their shop.
This was an especially fun exercise to do in Udaipur, where there are entrepreneurs around every corner who love to show off their products and tell you their history.
There are lots of stray dogs in India, which you’re obviously supposed to not touch or play with.
But I 100% ignored that rule and immediately took a liking to this little guy who often tanned outside the cafe I’d get coffee at in the mornings. The owner of the cafe bandaged his leg one day so he just kept coming back and stealing my heart.
When you’re high up looking over Udaipur, it feels tranquil and spacious… but when you’re down in the streets, you navigate narrow and curvy lanes, amid brightly colored, slightly old-world feeling buildings.
I liked peeking in all of the shops (they serve you free chai tea in order to get you to stick around longer) and eating street food while looking up at the assortment of windows that looked like they were constructed in completely different centuries. And the city was founded in 1559, so they probably were.
Friendly, neighborhood cows. Around sunset one night, the cows started walking through the streets together so we asked someone where they were going and they replied “Oh they go back home now. They’ll be back tomorrow”.
At the Mehndi, a friend of TJ’s spoke highly of a recent trip to Udaipur (a city in Rajasthan, north of Mumbai) so after the wedding ended, Scott and I booked a flight.
After being in buzzing, urban Mumbai, Udaipur felt like a resort village. The city surrounds 7 beautiful man-made lakes and is filled with forts and palaces you can climb to see sweeping views of the water and mountains in the distance.
We stayed at Nukkad Guest House, a colorful multi-level little palace for $6 a night each.
It was owned by a sweet family, headed up by a man named Raju who seemed to be very popular around Udaipur. Every time we mentioned where we were staying we would hear “Ah, yes Raju’s place! He is my friend. Very good man.”
Family photos decorated every level of guest house with 4 generations of Raju’s family running day to day operations. His son handled the check-in desk, his wife ran the roof top restaurant, his daughter taught yoga in the mornings while his daughter-in-law did laundry and the grandmother looked after the little baby.
Udaipur was the perfect place to re-charge after the wedding and gear up for the rest of our Indian adventure.
After the the last day of the wedding, a group of us powered through our hangovers and braved the heat to wander around Mumbai.
We ended the day drinking pitchers and recapping the week at Totos, a garage themed (and apparently iconic) bar in Bandra West.
TJ and Steve threw the most elaborate wedding I’ve ever attended. It spanned multiple days and required numerous outfit changes.
I didn’t take as many photos as I usually would have, given how epic and photogenic the entire experience was… but only because there was a slew of hired photographers documenting every event so I figured I’d stay out of the way of the real pros.
But here’s what I did take with a bit of info on each of the traditional Indian wedding events:
The ceremony where the bride and her female friends and family members get henna patterns drawn on their hands and feet.
This was held outside by a pool with a pink and yellow lounge setup with (real!) flowers covering every inch. There was professional dancers (as seen above hoisting Steve up), a custom bangle maker and the first of many delicious buffets.
The Sangeet happens after the Mendhi, the night before the wedding. It’s kind of like a talent show with very high production value where you get introduced to the bride and grooms family and friends via dance performances.
My group of friends and I actually did a choreographed dance which we practiced for many weeks, leading up to the big night. Unfortunately, I not have photographic evidence of this but just know that it looked exactly like this.
THE WEDDING DAY:
The procession where the groom arrives to the ceremony on a decorated white horse. He was flanked by all of us dancing to the beat of a dhol (a traditional drum). See a little video of it here.
The baraat led us to a massive room for the ceremony, with TJ and Steve and their families underneath the mandap (above) which is like the Indian version of a chuppah. I think I audibly gasped when entering the room and seeing this, it really was extraordinarily beautiful. And again, real flowers (!).
At night, there was a giant receiving line, more excellent buffets and a dance party with western pop songs infused with thumping Indian beats.
So many of the Indian guests were suspiciously stunning (there was one group of boys who I swear were like an Indian One Direction or something because they were way too cute to be students) and they also really knew how to party. They regularly broke out into choreographed dances, taught us their moves and outlasted everyone on the dance floor. It was a great night.
The Rao family was extremely generous to invite all of us and truly know how to throw a tremendous party.
I’m secretly hoping another friend will marry TJ’s sister so we can do it all again.