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Mass(age) Tourism: Ayurvedic therapy for anxiety in India

Top of the list of the things that I wanted to do on my trip to Goa was to immerse myself in the traditions of ayurvedic therapy during a lazy week on Palolem Beach.

I went online to find a practitioner, and as soon as I saw ‘psychosomatic massage’ I knew that I had to go outside my comfort zone and give this authentically Indian experience a try.

Ayurveda is a system of medicine that originated in the Indian subcontinent, often referred to as the ‘science of life,’ based on its translation from Sanskrit of Ayu (life) and Veda (science or knowledge). This method is over 3000 years old and it focuses on full-body healing.

Pain before pleasure

I booked my massage with a man named Ranjeet, who was described as a healer on TripAdvisor by the many travellers who swore by his methods. I was fascinated by the techniques he must use – especially as one woman said that the ‘relief was worthy of the pain’. How painful was this therapy going to be?

As a highly anxious person, I’m always looking for ways to unwind and reduce the intrusive thoughts in my mind, so I was prepared to experience a little pain…

Always check the reviews

For safety reasons, it’s important to always check the reviews before you book a massage as sexual assault does happen in rogue clinics in Goa. As I was a solo woman traveller I wanted to keep myself quite literally, in safe hands!

A small dark room

I had a degree of trepidation as I approached the hut, the place I was going to get my mind, body and spirit back in balance. I entered the small dark room, containing only a chair and hard bed not knowing what to expect. However, Ranjeet completely put me at ease – very important when you’re a woman in a room alone! He had a great sense of humour and I quickly realised mid-treatment that you have to have that to be an Ayurvedic therapist.

I do consider myself a ‘massage tourist’ as I’ve tried therapies all over the world – from Balinese massage to cupping therapy so I love to contrast different styles. Psychosomatic massage is certainly different to anything I’ve tried before – a few elements were similar to getting a seeing hands massage in Nepal – but it’s a whole different genre.

For a start, it was very long – 90 minutes and he asks you about what you want to get out of it, with the aim to release the tense emotions (blockages) that have built up in your body. It’s important not to eat for a couple of hours beforehand, as if you have, and they work on your stomach then your breakfast may make a reappearance.

‘Emotional Blockages’

A part of the job as an Ayurvedic healer is to analyse the tension that they feel in your body. He told me that the left side of the neck represents pain caused by a woman and the right is for men. The female pain was older than 10 years and the masculine tension was very fresh and much more pronounced.

I hadn’t had an argument with a female friend since my early twenties but my partner had inadvertently caused me grief on the trip. He’d been very ill during and after we trekked to Everest Base Camp and then again in India where he had his bag stolen. So yes, his theory was right but it could be a lucky guess, based on my age and sexuality.

Another diagnosis was that my lymphatic drainage system wasn’t working as I didn’t drink enough water. Apparently, dehydration makes skin more sensitive so that was something that I didn’t know.

‘Healing’ hands

Once the treatment began, it was incredibly vigorous as it’s a deliberate attempt to create heat from friction to make your muscles more malleable. The peak of the pain came when he stuck his finger under my armpit which was like nothing I’d ever experienced before or since. Although if I’d experienced childbirth, I probably wouldn’t be saying that! Helpfully, Ranjeet warns you when pain is imminent.

He surmised that I’d suffered from depression in the past and he identified the pressure points for stress, anxiety and anger, which he then pressed – hard. It took me through the gamut of negative emotions and then back to relief when he stopped let go after what felt like an incredible length of time.

Ranjeet refers to the agony of the massage as ‘sweet pain’ and encourages you to laugh and cry to let go of your feelings. As a deeply repressed British person who is wound pretty tight, I could do neither of those things! It took all of my willpower not to walk out the door.

The Aftermath

You do need a few sessions to work out the various knots and embrace the intensity of the treatment. Apparently, it hurts less a second time, and I would love to try it again to see if I could learn to accept the pain and release it more successfully! That evening I felt slightly weepy and light-headed but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

He told me that I would be in pain the next day and I certainly was – I also had small circular bruise marks on my skin due to the amount of pressure on my blood vessels. The bruises were a sign that he’d really worked hard on my ‘blockages’, so I wore them as a badge of honour.

Treat Yourself

Even though I felt like I was a long way from absorbing the spirituality that pervades everyday life in India, embracing Ayurvedic medicine felt like a big step toward it. I’d only been in India for two months at this point, so I was just an infant traveller in this mammoth country.

Anyone that backpacks around India deserves a massage – journeys are long and sometimes uncomfortable, at times you have very little personal space and sometimes figuring everything out can be stressful at times.

It’s a wonderful reward after long days that it takes to absorb the overwhelming and intriguing sights of India. You might even inadvertently heal something along the way. Ayurvedic massage is a uniquely painful bodily experience that your mind and muscles will never forget

Asia Insider Tips Travel Planning

The Top 5 Places to Visit in Kolkata, India

If you’re planning a trip to India, make sure to schedule at least two days for a visit to Kolkata. It is one of the absolute best destinations for 2020, especially for the female traveler. This city is ancient and stocked with heritage values and world famous sights, festivals and foods — including the city’s Durga puja celebration and delicious ‘Rasgulla’. 

1. Victoria Memorial

Everybody knows where Taj Mahal is, but do you know where the same replica belongs? Victoria memorial has the same architectural design as Taj Mahal.

The Victoria Memorial was built between 1906 to 1921. It is a museum and holds some of Kolkata’s oldest photos. Inside the museum, you will see artillery that once belong to the British period. Outside the memorial, be sure to take a “Tanga” (horse cart) ride to get a full experience.

2. Howrah Bridge

The landmark of Kolkata joins Kolkata city and Howrah, and dates all the way back to British imperialism period. The world’s busiest cantilever bridge is Howrah bridge, and it stands without nut and bolts. Pretty impressive.

3. Marble Palace

The Kolkata Marble Palace was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick with a heavy influence by Greek architecture. It is now a wonderful museum. If you want to see antique relics in bulk, then you have to visit this palace!

4. Jorasanko Thakur Bari

The famous poet/novelist Rabindranath Tagore’s house is just beside the Marble Palace. It’s a 5 minute walking distance between the two, making it a breeze to add to your itinerary. The house is a museum now and the Rabindra Bharati Museum is situated on one side of the building. 

5. St Paul’s Cathedral

Lastly, St Paul’s Cathedral welcomes you. It was built in 1839 with Gothic architecture and is the first Episcopal Church in East Asia.


There are many more places in beautiful Kolkata, India that you’re sure to discover! Happy exploring this hidden gem of a city.

Food Middle East

5 Best Chai Cafes In New Delhi, India

India is known for its diversity, food, and love for chai! Until a few years ago, the tea aka chai was more of a homemade cuisine or a refresher for office breaks from the nearby local stalls. But with the café culture rising in New Delhi, so is the admiration for tea cafes. A number of tea based cafes have risen and gained massive popularity at the same time. The Indian chai can be best tried on the roadside stalls, that’s surely my favorite. Though I’ll not recommend that to anyone not from India as the water used is mostly not treated. That said, I hereby present my favorite cafes where to relish different styles of tea or the routine Indian chai!

 

Chaayos

The most famous tea cafe in Delhi is indeed Chaayos serving the freshly made chai. Their signature Desi Chai is the routined home-made tea prepared fresh for every order and a must-try. If you’ve been wondering what is the fuss about the Indian chai, try their Desi Chai. The tea is served with numerous variants & a number of top-ups like cardamom & ginger are also available. Chaayos offer mouth-watering snacks to go with chai. Palak patta crispies, matar kulcha, and black chana chaat are some of the scrumptious ones. The eccentric yellow decor and the humble staff makes Chaayos a perfect pit stop during your Delhi tour. Also, their cycle based theme with wheels all around undeniably stands out. As we Indians love our tea in glasses, Chaayos incorporated the same through multi-coloured glasses as a part of their ambience.

Where? M-Block in Connaught Place.

Chai Point

Chai Point puts forward the tea cafe culture for the corporates. The Cafe with a theme of freshly brewed chai with natural flavours made their way in the market from Bangalore. Serving chai in various sizes including a cutting chai (half cup tea), Chai Point is easily spotted around a corporate hub. Indian chai is often enjoyed best with a snack and Chai Point offers India’s favourite Maggi along with other options. They offer sandwiches, vegetarian patties and Mumbai’s speciality vada pao. Chai point expanded their menu to beat the Indian summers & launched iced tea variants like – lemon, ginger lemon, cranberry and peach tea. The best part is that they’re also the biggest retailer of tea which means they deliver tea in the heat retaining flasks in under 20 minutes.

Where? N-Block in Connaught Place and Gurgaon Cyber City.

Tpot Cafe

As locals in India love the roadside tea stalls, Tpot Cafe encompasses the concept and combines it with a cafe to bring out the best of both. Unfortunately, the cafe is often overshadowed by the counterparts including Chaayos & Chai point. Similar to Chaayos, Tpot serves freshly prepared tea with unique Indian breakfast including a masala parantha. With over 30 locations in Delhi NCR, they’re gaining a grip in the city. The cafe is easily found on metro stations, in posh neighbourhoods and around office complexes. The snacks range of Tpot ranges mainly from Delhi & Mumbai including a pao bhaji. I would recommend their fresh bread omelette and or Anda Bun (Egg Bun) for breakfast. Although they specialise in tea, they also serve delicious coffee & shakes.

Where? C-Block Malviya Nagar.

Cha Bar

Cha is locally used to say chai in Punjabi, a regional language from Punjab in India. When I say Cha Bar, it easily translates to a tea cafe in Delhi. A cafe popular with the book nerds in the town because of its location inside the Oxford Book Store in Connaught Place. The white-washed café and varieties of tea from every corner of India is what makes Cha Bar exceptional. The menu of Cha Bar not only has regular Indian tea, but organic, decafs, diet teas, chinese, herbal, and premium rainbow teas. The menu of Cha Bar surely seems never-ending and overwhelming at first with the choices they provide, and we can’t blame them for it. Take some time to study their menu and choose your pick, it’s difficult to go wrong with Cha Bar. The whitewashed decor & the company of other book lovers make it a perfect place to sip & read alongside. I’d recommend trying out passionfruit iced tea.

Where? N-Block, Connaught Place.

Cafe Lota

Luring the locals with cuisines from all parts of the country, Cafe Lota is perfect for trying out unique tea(s). Apart from the unique regional Indian delicacies, the cafe serves Ambaadi tea originating from Maharashtra. The iced tea is prepared from hibiscus aka ambaadi, an edible plant. The refreshing tea is served fresh with mint and lemon to beat the Delhi’s unbearable heat. The cafe is situated in the premises of the National Crafts Museum, with Indian crafts decor and no air-conditioning, but an old-fashioned cooler. The Cafe Lota is a must-visit when travelling to Delhi.

Where? National Crafts Museum, Pragati Maidan.

Advice Asia Insider Tips Journal

Pink Stones at The Taj Mahal

I went to India with zero expectations. Some of you more experienced travelers are probably looking at this post wide-eyed wondering how I managed to not know India is one of the greatest travel destinations out there. I know about the Taj Mahal but not much more. I fully admit to being a fool. Try not to judge me too hard.

Of course, so many travelers will tell you that India is so much more than the Taj Mahal. And it is! Lodhi Garden in New Delhi. The Red Fort in Jaipur. Dinner in real palaces. There were so many times in India that I had a “pinch me I can’t believe this is real” moment. But the Taj Mahal was the crown jewel of my visit.

We arrived in Agra around noon and met up with our Taj Mahal guide at the steps of the East Gate. The huge complex was packed. So many people everywhere. I have seen my fair share of tourist destinations but this one was the most crowded I had ever been to. By far.

Our guide walked us around the complex, telling us fascinating stories about the construction of the Taj. He explained why it is a symbol of love and gave us fun facts like the 53 water fountains symbolize the year it was completed, 1653. He helped us understand the optical trick the builders used, as you move closer to the gate, the Taj Mahal keeps getting smaller. And of course, he took many pictures of us around the amazing complex.

Instead of watching the sunset in the complex (along with a million other tourists) our guide took us to the moon garden, which is directly behind the Taj across the river. We watched the sun go down while standing on the foundation of the mythical black Taj Mahal that was never built. That in itself was magical and would have been worth the trip to Agra.

standing behind the Taj Mahal in the moon garden. The best place to watch the sunset in peace away from the crowds. http://travelwheretonext.com

But we had one more goal for the Taj Mahal. I had read online that in the morning the sun rises and turns the stones of the Taj Mahal pink. I had to see it for myself.

We woke up at 5 am the next morning and I dressed in a saree I had bought earlier in the trip. We headed to the East Gate and joined the small line that had already formed before the first rays of sunlight had even made an appearance over the horizon. The line was tiny, especially compared to the massive crowds the day before, but still bigger than I had assumed. Everyone in line chatted sleepily to their neighbors. You could immediately tell how excited we all were for this experience.

All of us bonded quickly over waking up so early. I met a group of 50-something Australians who had just spent 10 days hiking a remote mountain in India. I met an American who had been traveling for 5 months social media free. We all met a cow. He joined the line for a good 5 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed us all scratching his ears and back.

Finally right before sunrise started the doors opened and we all quietly filed inside. We collectively gasped as we rounded the corner. The Taj was awe-inspiring. The light was still low but you could see the tiles turning slightly pink as the sun finally showed its beautiful face.

The mood in the air was so serene. There is something surreal about immediately bonding with so many different travelers. We all came from around the world with one common goal: See the Taj at Sunrise. After we all took turns happily taking pictures of one another in the empty garden the small group that woke up ungodly early dispersed among the huge complex. A sad strange feeling settled in my stomach knowing I would probably never see those strangers again.

Sunrise at the Taj Mahal is an amazing experience. Do not miss waking up early to see the Taj as the sun turns the stones pink. http://travelwheretonext.com

Matt and I found a bench and watched the sun rise slowly over the Taj. I don’t know if it was my imagination or if time was just being kind but it was the longest sunrise I have ever witnessed. We mostly sat in silence both completely lost in thought, both of us not truly believing the perfect travel experience we were witnessing.

Our silence was broken when a group of 5 or so Indian women with literally 20 small children approached me to ask for a picture. I happily smiled for a photo with them and they asked me in thick accents where I was from and complimented me on my saree. One of the women, the oldest in the group, explained to me the joy she feels when she sees foreigners traveling and embracing her culture to the fullest. She told me she hoped I wore the saree once I returned home. I promised her I would.

Head here to read more about my tips for planning a trip to India.

Asia Giving Back Journal Photography

A Day In The Life of a Cotton Worker in India

Hi Dame Travelers! I’m Jaz, founder of blog The World Wide Tribe and I’ve been in India for a couple of months to consider people and the planet in everything we do.

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The local ladies had to help me get dressed every morning as putting on a 9 metre long sari is not so easy by yourself! The village ladies tie theirs in special way so they can also use it as a pouch to store the cotton as they pick.

Picking cotton was hot, hard, but therapeutic and satisfying work and we were rewarded with an amazing lunch of rice, dahl (lentil curry) and chapattis (bread) eaten with our hands in the field.

It was impossible to keep up with the villagers as they pick cotton at a ridiculous speed but I gave it a good go (although the villagers laughed at my measly pile at the end of the day!)

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After it is picked, the cotton is transported on a huge truck to the cotton gin where it is cleaned of all impurities (things like coloured threads from sari’s and bits of leaf and seed.)

I had a lot of fun here jumping into giant piles of cotton from the top of a fork lift truck! I’ve never seen so much cotton!

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After being cleaned, the cotton is taken to the factory where it is spun into yarn then woven or knitted into fabric, and finally stitched into garments!

Whilst here I was lucky enough to stay in the labour house alongside the 350 girls who work in the factory. I had a great time here eating, sleeping and dancing with the girls! They henna’ed my hands, plaited my hair and taught me amazing hindi dance routines! They even squeezed together in their beds or joined their friends sleeping on the floor to make sure I slept well (until the alarm went of at 5am! I felt very looked after!

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Be conscious about where you buy your clothes as you can be a part of the change. Lets move away from sweatshops, pesticides and child labour and look to a more ethical future together!

Lots of love, Jaz

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