Culture Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Culture

The Tea Shop In Bundi, India That Changed Chai

A few have good business ideas, less follow through on them, but when someone does be guaranteed people will try to rip it off. Starting in 1999, that’s exactly what happened in Bundi, India; a sleepy northwestern town that doesn’t see many, if any, tourists throughout the year. Mainly a day trip for visitors with a bit of time moving to Jaipur or Udaipur, the single road leading through the town’s heart has a handful of shops that must work hard to entice the occasional tourist.

Krishna’s Chai Shop found a way to be the must-visit experience in Bundi, with help from a few creative visitors and it’s now an idea many are trying to replicate. You can watch the entire story in the video above or read on.

One Man Operation

Krishna is middle-aged, thin, and speaks little English but his smile can be universally understood. His cheerful demeanor is amplified by the bright yellow walls of Krishna’s Chai Shop. Until 1999 Krishna’s was merely a stall serving chai, the common spiced tea enjoyed all over India. Chai is hardly unique although Krishna’s smile caught the attention of travelers getting off the beaten path in Bundi.

krishna chai bundi india

Some helped him paint the small shop and others later used the vibrant walls as canvas to share messages from around the world.

The Right Spice

Aside from chai, Krishna serves a blend of various teas including honey lemon ginger and other special blends for a variety of tastes. He’s an artisan, crafting each cup with ingredients ground by stone at his feet. Sitting for hours a day cross-legged Krishna’s smile never waivers for his customers. Over the years, visitors have helped Krishna craft a Facebook page plus added him on Tripadvisor, with a banner above the shop to advertise.

Getting Noticed

Especially in a town as small as Bundi, this relative popularity has gotten local attention – both for tea drinkers and opportunistic tea shops. Across Krishna’s now you’ll find a handful of chai shops with brightly painted walls, banners advertising social media accounts, and a small kettle outside with tea.

krishnas chai shop

Those shops will often try to get you to leave or avoid Krishna’s altogether, often bad mouthing him in the process. It works on a lot of visitors who don’t know any better but Krishna’s is still most popular with Bundi locals as well as anybody who’s been already.

What the other shops can’t replicate is Krishna’s smile, joy of working his craft, and his honesty. (Prices are the same for locals as for tourists but I’ll add, tipping is appreciated.) The tea and Krishna’s unique stock of spice blends helps but Krishan’s Chai Shop is infused with his personality.

These days Krishna’s bright yellow walls might catch the attention of a visiting passerby but the experience will have you coming back during your visit in Bundi. Don’t be fooled by the bland copy-paste competition all around, Krishna’s is the best place for chai in Bundi.

A Look Inside Lahore’s Weekly Opium-Fueled Sufi Festival

Every Thursday night in the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, heavily intoxicated Sufi followers take part in festival of music, dancing, and chanting. Beginning around 9pm the deep bass of beats from a long, double-sided drum can be heard from the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine – a thump thump thump fueling vigorous coordinated movements.

You can see this weekly Sufi festival which I attended, in the video above. It’s one of those times where showing you makes much more sense than attempting to describe the unison spinning, headbanging, and guttural chants. A gathering which takes places within a cloud of opium and hashish, dispersing light from small fires lit all around; adding a mystical quality to what you’re seeing. (With a possible contact high included.)

Until the morning the dancers go, spinning and shaking their heads vigorously causing their long black hair to fly in the air. Children play around the shrine, families sit at the steps, while closer to the music groups of men sit around campfires drinking teas and taking heavy hits from joints loaded with opium and weed. You can hear more about my experience right after it happened in this episode of the foXnoMad Podcast.

As an observer (filming with conspicuous camera and microphone) hardly anyone paid attention to me. Despite the energy, crowds, and semblance of chaos, the atmosphere was relaxed – likely in part due to the actual local atmosphere.

The Sufi festival at the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine is yet another example of what it’s like to travel in Pakistan. An unexpected experience in a country that has more contradictions than it might seem from the outside.

What Is It Like Traveling In Pakistan?

The first thing you think of when it comes to Pakistan probably isn’t tourism but recently developments have tripled visitors since 2018. It’s not now and won’t be mainstream any time soon which makes it a very interesting place to visit for a certain type of traveler.

Tourism Infrastructure

Pakistan has a fairly developed tourism infrastructure. It’s easy and inexpensive to fly within the country and the buses are the most luxurious I’ve come across anywhere. There’s a solid middle-tier of hotels, Uber (and local Careem) ride sharing, plus a variety of food from street vendors to hipster burger joints.

karachi burns road

Like a lot of the country, there’s a broad blend across the tourism infrastructure. It’s not so developed that anyone can just pop in and hop a bus from Islamabad to Lahore. For travelers with a bit of experience who don’t mind a few rough edges in their journeys it will only add to the charm.

What Would You See? Do?

As the 33rd largest country in the world, the long shape of Pakistan makes it home to a variety of geographical zones. The second highest mountain, K2, can be found in the Karakoram mountain range in the north. Geographical diversity often means cultural diversity, with Tajikistan, China, and Afghanistan’s influences in the mountains, Punjab on the eastern border, with Karachi’s hot blend of spice and sea.

pakistan curries

In addition to the natural wonders, there are historical sites like Lahore Fort built half a millennia ago. And across all of it, there are hardly any tourists visiting. For adventurous travelers, that’s a plus; less experienced tourists might find that off-putting. It’s really the story of visiting Pakistan right now.

Safety Elephant In The Room

We know the reason few people are visiting – concerns about safety. In 2014, a terrorist attack on a military school prompted the government (with mass public support) to begin a campaign against terrorism. The following two years resulted in the deaths of 4,000 terrorists and since then, terrorism-related deaths have decreased dramatically.

karachi pakistan

“From 12,000 deaths in 2009 (32 per day), the number declined by 87 percent by 2017 and continues to do so. In 2019, fewer than 300 people were killed in terrorist attacks nationwide.” – Vice

Where that leaves Pakistan today is on the cusp. Having eliminated, so far, one of the primary deterrents for people to consider Pakistan a tourist destination, the first wave of travel first adopters is arriving. Backpackers, adventurers, and us blogger types are enjoying Pakistan on the cusp.

Pakistan’s reputation hasn’t recovered nor the infrastructure developed enough to attract casual visitors. On the flip side, it’s got more than enough in place to make it a unique, inexpensive, and relatively easy place to visit for someone with travel experience and inclination.

It’s too soon to tell if Pakistan will continue to improve the areas important for tourism – security, infrastructure, reputation. At this moment however if what you’ve read so far has you very curious, Pakistan might be a good candidate for your next destination.

5 Things Tourists Do To Offend Locals And How To Avoid Them

kathmandu monkey temple

Travelers don’t usually want to offend the people living in the places they’re visiting but despite your best intentions it’s possible to piss off the locals without meaning to. As travelers, it’s often the things you don’t do that can get you into trouble and make you feel more like an invader than a tourist.

You don’t want to leave your new favorite city or country feeling guilty about being an unintentional jerk. Fortunately these mistakes made by travelers novice and experienced alike are easy to avoid if you keep a few things in mind.

1. Neglecting to Learn the Local Customs

beirut lebanon

Most seasoned travelers figure they’ll just pick up the culture through observation as they go along. While you don’t need to take an anthropology course before venturing to a new place, brush up on the local faux pas. Know the basics like not putting your feet up in front of others in some places, the difference between “peace” and this, or throwing the OK sign in Brazil for example.

2. Criticizing Home

sydney australia

Going to other countries and saying how much you hate where you came from without a good word to say is a quick way to get under some peoples’ skin. Some travelers think they’ll endear themselves to the locals, especially if they’re not as well off as you, but that can make you sound demeaning, spoiled, or blind to the realities around you. If you don’t appreciate where you are from it’s hard to appreciate where you’re going.

3. Bringing Up Sensitive History

wagah border ceremony

Learning more about a nation’s history is a good way to learn about a culture before you encounter it yet doesn’t mean locals interpret events as you’ve read them. It’s best to listen to the locals talk about war, politics, and national figures as they bring it up rather than dictate. Use your best judgement when asked your opinions but be mindful of local sensitivities and remember expressing some views (for locals and foreigners alike) may even be dangerous depending where you’re traveling.

4. Not Going Along With It

scottish highlands

One of the best ways to adapt to a culture is to immerse yourself in it and go with the flow. Don’t resist bargaining, thinking it’s only done when someone is trying to rip you off, or get upset by varying personal space around the world. Being invited to someone’s home for a meal is a gesture of respect anywhere in the world, be sure to take a bite of all the food. Going along with the flow begins with what I mentioned in above: knowing what the customs are to go with the flow to.

5. Assuming It’s All The Same

red rock canyon

A surefire way to piss off a local is to say that their (country, culture, people, etc.) are “basically the same” as somewhere else. The more you travel the more you realize how similar we all are – still the Norwegians aren’t just Swedes living in a different country. Customs also differ regardless of physical distances; don’t assume a nearby town is as liberal as the beach resort you are staying at so dress and act appropriately.

Other Potential Offenders

  • Not knowing any of the local language – This varies but a traveler should always learn these 6 basic words: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes, no. Here’s one of the fastest ways to catch up on the local tongue.
  • Treating locals like 2nd class citizens of their own country – Don’t talk down to anyone or be the all-knowing traveler.
  • Not trying some of the local cuisineYuck, gah, gross, and reactions like these at first sight or smell limit your experience as a traveler as well as offend. Give it a try, you might like it.

Don’t Get Offended Yourself

In every new place you visit there will be customs you are unaccustomed to, individuals who give the locals a bad name, and travelers who’ve made these mistakes above potentially giving you a bad name! If you’ve done your basic research and committed yourself to immersing just a bit while respecting the locals, you won’t be likely to offend anyone. Some rules that apply globally: be kind, thoughtful, and open-minded.

Best of all you’ll end up being a good ambassador for other travelers but your fellow compatriots back home as well.

This is an updated version of a post I originally shared for a now-defunct travel blog in 2009.

The Oldest Cathedral In Scotland Says A Lot About Glasgow

glasgow cathedral

The Glasgow Cathedral, completed by 1136, is a prideful building that’s seen two religions, survived the Reformation, and where classes of the University of Glasgow began. You don’t normally associate the word tough with a cathedral but in Glasgow, Scotland, it couldn’t be more appropriate.

In 1502 the Cathedral was the place where King James IV signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with England. Somewhat ironically, the Glasgow Cathedral was then used to house artillery during the Battle of Glasgow in 1544, somehow surviving artillery fire itself.

Roughly 20 years and two Scottish kings later, the originally Catholic Glasgow Cathedral ensured its survival to this day through a bit more serendipity. James VI traced the ownership of several lands to Archbishop Gavin Dunbar, who had left an £800 legacy for the cathedral’s upkeep. James VI gifted this money for the repair of the Glasgow Cathedral ensuring its existence 500 years later for tourists to visit free of charge.

How To Spend 72 Hours In Berlin: Quick Guide To Food, Booze, And Art

berlin street food

There’s a lot to do and see in Berlin, Germany but even better more to eat and drink. You can take in Berlin through many senses so here’s how to touch upon each one if you’ve only got a short time in Germany’s capital city.

Start Early Checkpoint Charlie

Before you immediately click away (I see you Berliner) – a lot of people want to see Checkpoint Charlie. Walking around this area is hard to avoid so it can be done anytime yet if you want to enter the decent museum, arrive before they open. Crowds are terrible, lines worse, plus you don’t have much time to get to everything else.

brandenburg gate

While you’re nearby Checkpoint Charlie both the Brandenburg Gate (ready for your Instagram selfies) and Holocaust Museum (read if you’re considering) are roughly a 20 minute walk away.

Getting Around In Berlin

If an hour of walking sounds nice, it’s about the time you’ll need to get most anywhere from the center of town. Otherwise you’ve got bike rentals everywhere, Uber’s JUMP bikes with a small electric engine, plus scooter options as well. Travelers who prefer getting around by car, it’s best to hail a cab from the road (or use MyTaxi app versus Uber) since it’s less expensive and cabbies are fairly honest in Berlin.

berlin art

Back To Lunch

At this point, you’re probably getting hungry. From the Brandenburg Gate, you can focus on the north part of the city. Oslo Cafe has good coffee roughly 30 minutes walking distance with some bakery snacks. On Sundays, add the Arkonaplatz Market to your list, there’s plenty of shopping and street food to choose from. Any other day of the week, arrive on an empty stomach to Holy Everest one of the best restaurants in Berlin.

holy everest berlin

As the day draws to a close you might be wondering where to grab a drink before dinner. Hop a cab to either Bateau Ivre for a louder environment whereas Cafe Luzia is a bit more relaxed – both are moderately priced; located in Kreuzberg.

Late Morning Food To Art

Ideally, you’re doing this plan on a Thursday. Around noon, you can enjoy lunch at Kopps, one of the best vegan restaurants anywhere most people will enjoy. Right next to it is Koppenplatz, a small park often with live music during the warm-ish months. Once refueled, it’s a 45 minute walk to East Side Gallery, the largest open-air gallery in the world. East Side Gallery features murals along stretches of the Berlin Wall; excellent for photographs or a nice stroll to digest lunch.

berlin sunset

Try to time it so you get to Oberbaumbrucke Bridge 45 minutes before sunset, these are some of the best shots of the Berlin skyline during “golden hour.”

To celebrate the great sunset photo, cheers over a fancy cocktail at Apotheken. Belly warm, walk over to Markthalle Neun for Thursday night’s street food festival. Martkhalle Neun also has other food events during the weekends which vary as well.

Just A Taste

There’s plenty more to eat across Berlin, options for vegans or carnivores, not to mention Christmas markets and summer festivals. For meals across the day this video will give you breakfast, lunch, or dinner and if you would like any other recommendations, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

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