Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekend Shenanigans: Palaces & Hipster Hangouts

Finally a free weekend in India! On my fifth trip to the country I committed to exploring Delhi beyond the tourist spots and getting OUT of the city for at least one full day. Friday night I caught up with my friend Aneesha and her colleague Surabi and ventured into Hauz Khas, the artsy, hipster, designer district in South Delhi. Aneesha suggested Tibetan food which I must say I knew little about, in my head I thought that I would clearly need to eat again as I pictured some highly evolved monk's diet arriving to the table. Boy was I wrong!!! Yeti had an endless menu, a dope bar, and some weird hiking gone wrong movie playing on the flat screens. Beyond the last detail the food was phenomenal. There are tons of after-dinner haunts in India's version of SoHo, we opted for Amour a rooftop patio lounge with great drinks and desserts. After indulging on a chocolate lava cake and a bailey's martini I thought "If this is Delhi Belly I'll have it every time!" After drinks the girls were a bit worn out, but jetlag on my side. We'd found a poster for a reggae/dubstep night in nearby Sajat market and I headed there. Zook, the nightclub was dope it definitely is for the non-mainstream crowd introducing me to "reggae rajahs" and Indian men with Jamaican accents. DJ's came in from the UK and France and there's a wall of hip-hop/alternative megastars that greets you at the door. I ended up staying until the place closed with a newly acquired friend from Cameroon by way of Germany (more on this in another post, wink wink).

Saturday began with "Zangoora" a mixed, medium musical showing at "Kingdom of Dreams", India's version of Broadway. It was sensory overload in every good sense of the phrase. The dances and music, especially the Punjabi inspired rhythms were phenomenal. Beyond that there was an interesting amount of mixed theatre and film being used, paired with the fact that all the songs were lip-synced (with fervor though!) it amounted to an entertaining if not weird experience at some points:) That evening we ventured out to Agni, the nightclub/restaurant at The Park New Delhi Boutique Hotel. This is where Delhi's hip fashionistas come to play. The DJ's plays a mix of hip hop, pop, electronic, and Indian tunes - I would put these dudes on tour any day. The Park also has a poolside bar called "Aqua" where you can do hookah and have cocktails as well. Aneesha and I outdid ourselves quickly befriending a group of Punjabi fellas, a hot British guy, and the DJ's too. If you're ever in Delhi on a Saturday night - get here! Be mindful, the party doesn't really get started until about 11:30PM and they can be a little picky at the door so have some rupees ready.
Opening Scene @ Zangoora

Leaving the club at 5:30AM you wouldn't have known that we were departing at 6 for Jaipur. But alas, I committed to getting out of the city so we quickly showered and hopped in our taxi for the day. A driver and car cost about 4,000 rupees (less than 100 bucks!) and gets you a decent, comfortable sedan and efficient service (w/ a few prods now and then). We headed out closer to 7am and reached Jaipur at about 11.Our first stop was the Amber Fort where we were greeted by some amazingly ornate elephants. Apparently there is an elephant "lodge" of sorts near the fort where the cities elephants are kept, we arrived at the beginning of their workday.

The driver insisted that we ride the elephant to the top of the fort, however elephants move just about as fast as a giant snail and at 102 degrees, my friend and I quickly opted out. We drove around the back of the palace and were amazed by even the scenery itself. Jaipur, also known as the "pink city", is surrounded by an amazing landscape of mountains, lakes, and beautiful earth tones. The state of Rajasthan translates to place of the kings and is dotted with the palaces and forts of India's pre-colonial empires.

Aneesha and I at the entrance to Amber Fort
The fort was AMAZING! I found myself daydreaming about life in a palace filled with jeweled inset walls, beautiful arches, and 3 public "entertainment" spaces. Here are some of my fave photos from the fort.

One could easily spend a full day exploring the nooks and crannies of the fort but with long work days ahead of us, Aneesha and I headed into "downtown" Jaipur to visit vegetarian/vegan hangout "LMB". A moonlighting "meatatarian" I was skeptical at first. A shopkeeper at the fort insisted we eat at the onsite restaurant for "1600 rupees" only (cue WTF face) but I went with Aneesha's advice and was not dissapointed. The place has a really chill vibe, there's a formal sit down restaurant side where we ate and a sweets and snacks shop that has an eggless bakery. Rajasthani cuisine is flavor-packed, cooked with all sorts of oils and gravies, these are not salad veggies. We went for the kidney beans, rice, mushrooms, peas, and gravy along with some mint naan. I think I just got hungry thinking about this. The service was excellent, they even accommodated my random craving for Atlanta style sweet tea!
Bellies full, we explored the surrounding market and I purchased more bangles than I care to admit here! We even caught a glimpse of the Hawa Mahal "Palace of the Breezes" where the special design allows wind to move through in specific patterns.

I've got a few more days left here until I takeoff for London. Happy Monday Good People!!!

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