India

INDIA Nightlife Guide: Top 7 Party Cities

by Drew on June 8, 2015 22 comments

**Have you read my Ultimate Travel Guide to India yet? It has been viewed over 10K times! It has all my best resources, tips and advice for travel in India.** 

When most people think about India, they most definitely don’t think about a crazy nightlife scene.

The only exception may be in the hippie city of Goa — which is renowned for it’s psychedelic trance parties — but even still, India widely unheard of in the world of partygoers.

I certainly had no idea what to expect from India’s nightlife scene prior to my 7-week backpacking trip around the subcontinent. And holy shit, did I have one hell of a fun time!

I started my Indian adventure in Goa (in the South) and worked my way up to Amritsar (in the North).  I covered over 4,000 kilometers by train (side note: avoid taking buses… I got in a severe bus crash).

In total, I visited over a dozen cities in India and I partied in the majority of them. In fact, I made it a point to hit up all the cities with the best nightlife, so in a way, my trip was kind of like a “Party Tour of India.”

Here is a map of the journey I took in India:

What is the India nightlife scene really like? 

In recent years, India has become increasingly popular for it’s bars, night clubs and music festivals.  Whether your idea of partying is relaxing on a rooftop while sipping a local beer, or raging all night long at a night club, or dancing to EDM at a music festival — I can promise you that India has something special to offer you.  The diversity and liveliness of the big cities are reflected in its epic nightlife scene.  And it’s awesome!

Speaking of EDM (Electronic Dance Music), the scene is hitting India by force.  Being an EDM listener and raver myself, this was especially awesome for me to experience.  I never expected that I’d be dancing to EDM in India, and moreover, I never thought Indian people would follow all my favorite DJs!

Despite most of the general population staying away from alcohol and late night hangouts, there is still a party happening at night — regardless of which city you happen to be in.  I guess it makes logical sense, when you have a country of 1.25 billion people, there is bound to be a decent percentage of partiers.  I noticed the younger generation having a more liberal attitude to having fun.

With the exception of Goa, parties around India generally start early and finish no later than 1:30AM.  In some Southern cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, the doors shut even earlier at 11 or 11:30.  I know, I know — if you’re like me, then this is disappointing because you like to party all night long.  But you can get your fix of that in Goa at the beach parties 😉

In some cities, like Mumbai and Delhi, there are specific venues for after parties which go until 3-4AM.  But you must make local friends who can show you where to go because I don’t know the exact spots.

It’s also important to know that different states in India have different laws, curfews and legal drinking ages. For example, in Delhi, the drinking age is technically 25 (although it’s not strictly enforced), but in Goa, it’s 18.   Almost all other states in India is 21, but once again, it’s not strictly enforced because venues will just want your business.  I was only asked to show my ID in luxurious night clubs in Mumbai.

Also, if you happen to be in India in the beginning of March, then you MUST participate in the annual Holi Festival!  During Holi, or the Festival of Colors, everyone in the country splashes each other with neon bright pain colors.  Literally, people chase each other in the streets, fields, temples and buildings, armed with packets of dry powdered paint and covering random people from head to toe in neon colors.  It happens all over the country.

It’s crazy because many people are high from drinking Bhang (yes, many people get high in India), and it’s such a fun experience!

Here is a photo of me at Holi in 2015, getting smacked in the face by paint from a random dude:

What kind of party venues can you find in India?

In any big city, you will find a wide variety of pubs, bars and night clubs.

The venues are divided into cheap dive places which consist of mostly men, and then you have the luxury, swanky places for the people with bills to spend. The latter venues are typically found in 5-star international hotels and sometimes shopping malls in Mumbai. Clubbing in these posh nightclubs feels more like clubbing in Europe or Vegas, with very expensive cover charges (up to $70 per couple) and expensive drinks ($10 per beer).

Alright so now that you have a basic understand of what to expect from the nightlife scene in India, I will now present you with the Top 7 party cities in India!  Each city will have a brief explanation, and they are in order with #1 being the best.

**All of the advice that you are receiving has come from my own personal experiences, unless otherwise stated 🙂 **

Top 7 Party Cities in India

1. Goa

There is no question that Goa is the #1 party spot in India. And not only in India, but I would rank Goa in the Top 5 around the world.

I began my Indian trip with 7 days in Goa.  By the end of those 7 days, I could hardly think straight because I had so much damn fun!

The city has a long history of partying – dating back to the 1960s – when dozens of hippies settled there and started partying on the beach.  The scene has only gotten bigger since then, and even 50 years later, Goa is still the best place to party in India.

Goa is synonymous with beach parties, and it has developed the reputation for the craziest outdoor psychedelic trance parties in the world. The scene is authentic and underground. If you like trance music, then go to Goa and you’ll love it.  The best beach parties are on Anjuna beach 🙂

Here is a photo of me at one of the trance parties in Goa:

Aside from the beach trance parties, there is a fun clubbing scene in Goa that is filled with swanky lounges, trendy nightclubs, fun bars and lots of dancing. There are also a number of pubs and live entertainment venues.

The best party about partying in Goa is that nothing closes until the sun rises.  You won’t find this anywhere else in India.

2. Mumbai (Bombay)

After I partied my heart out in Goa, I immediately headed to Mumbai to do the same thing.    The scene here is quite different than Goa, but I had the time of my life!  I am assuming that most of you reading this post will prefer the nightlife in Mumbai over Goa.

Partying in Mumbai is similar to any big international city like Seoul, Berlin or L.A. It is India’s designated city for glamour, Bollywood stars and luxurious parties. Pretty much exactly the opposite of carefree hippie parties in Goa.

The atmosphere in Bombay is lively and exotic. The night clubs are insane and crowded, and the bars/lounges are trendy and fun. Most night clubs play EDM hits with live DJs who are recruiter from all over the world. The crowd is diverse, with a healthy mix of international partygoers as well as local Indian people. The best nightlife areas are in Colaba and the Lowel Parel in South Mumbai.

Here is a photo inside a night club called Royalty in Mumbai:

If clubbing isn’t your thing, then don’t worry because there are many places to get cheap beers (Bandra, Colaba) with a more pub-friendly vibe.

3. Delhi

As a city with 25 million people and the capital of India, Delhi’s nightlife can not be missed during your trip.

The scene is a nice mix of young locals and tourists. It’s not so luxurious or expensive like Mumbai, and not so hippie like Goa, but it offers a nice mix of everything.  I really enjoyed partying in Delhi.

Most of the happening nightlife takes place in discos, pubs, night clubs and super-sized restaurants. There is an area in the center of the city called Connaught Place (or C.P.), which reminded me of NYC, and you can find lots of fun bars and clubs around there. I spent most of my nights in C.P. and had a great time!

4. Bangalore

Known as the “Silicon Valley of India,” Bangalore is the technological hub of India with lots of youngsters who come alive after the sun goes down.

Bangalore is also considered as the “pub capital of India,” due to the beer loving culture and happening nightlife.   All the geeky tech guys have the mentality of “work hard, play hard,” so it can get pretty rowdy and crazy!

Most of the night clubs are located inside big hotels (like Mumbai), but the majority of nightlife consists of pubs and lounges. There is an area called M.G. Road which has some 50 pubs – a great place to start pub hopping around.

5. Jaipur

The capital city of Rajasthan, also known as the Pink City, will not disappoint! Most people only come here to visit the famous landmarks and don’t think to party.  But think again!

I spent a great 4 days partying in Jaipur with some new friends that I met from Argentina and Portugal.   In addition to the bars and clubs, there are midnight markets which add to the lively atmosphere in the night time.

The scene in Jaipur is a bit more hippie than the others on this list, due to the fact that the Rajasthan State is the “Hippie State” of India.  You will find a nice variety of pubs, clubs and smiling faces from all corners of the globe in Jaipur.

6. Pune

Pune is like a mini-Mumbai, because it is located just 100 kilometers away.  It’s much smaller than Mumbai, and it’s filled with many universities which means a younger and happening nightlife scene.

The natives of Pune are energetic and thrill seeking. It’s city where you can grab cheap beers, get drunk, and dance the night away.  Don’t stress about any dress codes or spending too much money in Pune.

You’ll find everything from big EDM clubs to live music concerts to pubs and discos.  I recommend going here to party before your trip to Mumbai — beacuse you may have just as much fun!

7. Chennai

Last but not least is the Southern Indian city of Chennai! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to visit Chennai, but a lot of my friends did, and gave me the same advice as I’m telling you right now.

Chennai is recognized as a metropolitan city known for it’s good people and rich culture. The city is jumping on the ‘trend bandwagon’ and becoming a popular destination for music lovers.

In other words, the nightlife scene in Channai is rapidly growing, so don’t miss out if you’re passing by South India!

So there you have it, the 7 best party cities in India. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any more advice or need help planning your trip! HAVE FUN 🙂

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DrewINDIA Nightlife Guide: Top 7 Party Cities

7 Lessons I Learned from 7 Weeks in India

by Drew on June 5, 2015 18 comments

*Have you read my Ultimate Travel Guide to India? That article has all my best travel advice for India, and it has been viewed over 8,000 times!*

When I decided to backpack India for 2 months after I finished teaching English in Korea, I had no idea that it would be the most life-changing trip that I’ve taken thus far. 

And after getting in a fatal bus crash half-way through my trip and nearly booking a flight home, I decided to tuff it out and continue my journey.

My adventure across India was so eye-opening that I now have a whole new appreciation for the world. It was such a trip of highs and lows, that it’s honestly hard to express my feelings into words.  But I’ll give it my best shot.

I had originally planned to travel around India with my best friend, but that didn’t work out.  So I decided to go alone.  And looking back, I’m very glad that I did.

Up until that point before my trip, I had never traveled alone longer than 3 days (in Tokyo). But with 52 countries and 150+ cities under my belt, I was prepared for the test. Bring it on, India!

As it turned out, no trip has had a bigger influence on the way that I see the world.  India is a country that you will experience with all of your senses.  It’s a country of ups and downs, where you are forced into situations that bring out your true colors.  Not only did I gain new perspectives on life, but I valued the fact of fully immersed myself in Indian culture, and by doing that, I met some incredible locals that have turned into my best friends.

I never knew solo travel would be this awesome.

I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  It felt like a reincarnation of my soul.  A rebirth of somekind.  If I was having fun in a city, then I stayed longer. If I wasn’t feeling it, then I went to a new place.  I didn’t have to listen to anyone else’s opinions. I learned quickly that this is the best way to travel.

I didn’t plan anything before my trip to India.  Seriously, I didn’t book any hotels or transportation in advance.  That was the whole point.  I wanted to be as flexible as possible- with just me and my 8 kilogram backpack — anxious and ready to explore the land of 1.25 billion people.

So now, I present you with the 7 Biggest Lessons that I learned from 7 Weeks in India.  They are a mixture of life lessons and lessons about Indian culture in general.

If you have any questions about travel in India, then don’t hesitate to email me!

1. Indian people are Good Salesman

Don’t underestimate them.

Indians are some of the best salesman that I’ve ever seen – way better than any other Asian country that I saw.  They will try to snag you for every last Rupee in your pocket, and they are really convincing because most of them speak damn good English.  Try to bargain as much as you can.

2. Indian Food is Delicious, but be carfeul…

I loved all of the curry dishes, mango lassi drinks and chapati.   It’s all cheap and delicious.

But be cautious, because travelers are extremely vulnerable to getting food poisoning.  I got it three times when I was in India, and let me tell you that it was NOT fun at all.   I have never been so sick from food in my life.

A few tips that I can give you are:
– Only drink bottles water
– Don’t eat any meat (it’s very easy to go vegetarian in India)
– Stay away from street food
– Only eat fruit that you can peel

If you do these, then you will minimize the risk of getting sick 🙂

3. Have Patience

I am a very impatient person. I’ve always been this way.

But now I am changed after backpacking around India.  You have to understand that nothing runs on time.  Trains were always late.   People never met me on time.  I was lied to countless times.  It’s just how it goes in India.

4. It Only Takes a Smile

In the cities, most people speak English (or enough English to communicate).  But not when you get in the countryside and inside the villages.

In the villages, virtually nobody will speak or understand English.  But guess what? I was able to connect with them in a beautiful way with just a simple smile.  I smiled at people, and they smiled back.

You don’t realize how rewarding this feels until you are in the situation for yourself.

5. Educated Indians are DAMN Smart 

I met several highly educated Indian people around my age.  People who studied abroad in the USA or somewhere else, and they really know what they are talking about.  They have really high IQs and business minds.  Honestly, they can run circles around most of my friends who went to Universities in the USA.

Also, India has the highest percentage of engineers and scientists in the world.  Go to any college campus inside the engineering building and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s just crazy.

6. Bombay is the Most Hectic City in the World

I spent 11 days in Mumbai during my trip.  I fell in love with the city, but it was the craziest and businest city that I’ve ever seen. There isn’t a close second.

There is a huge contrast of rich a poor. 60% of the 21 million residents of Mumbai live in the slums.  On the flip side, there are 28 billionaires that live there.  The traffic is MADNESS, where people never stop honking their horns.  The smells on the streets are intense.

If you want to read more, I wrote an entire blog post about this called, “25 Reasons Why Mumbai is the Most Hectic City in the World.”

7. Haggle for Everything

This is one thing that I learned quickly.. bargaining is a MUST in India! Like I mentioned before, Indian are very tricky salesman and they are convincing, so you should always bargain down the price for everything.

I bargained for hotel rooms, haircuts, souvenirs and museum tickets.   Pretty much everything except for food is fair game to bargain.

Thanks for reading my post, and let me know if you are planning a trip to India so I can give you some advice! 

Namaste 😀

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Drew7 Lessons I Learned from 7 Weeks in India

Mumbai (Bombay) Nightlife Guide

by Drew on May 24, 2015 35 comments

In this post, I will start off by telling you general information about the nightlife scene in Mumbai, and then give you my recommendations of the most happening night clubs and venues around the city.   If you want some general travel advice about India, then please see my Ultimate Travel Guide to India 🙂

Mumbai’s nightlife is very underrated.

I spent 10 days in the city during my 2 month backpacking trip around India, and I had the time of my life!

Mumbai Friends

Before I went to Mumbai, I partied my heart out in Goa (hippie central and the birth place of psychedelic techno raves) and I thought that my extent of partying in India was over. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Indian people are a lively bunch who know very well how to have fun. I didn’t quite realize this until I stepped foot on the land and experienced it for myself.

Mumbai (Bombay) is a massive city with about 21 million people. Whenever you have that many people in a city, there is bound to be a large amount of partygoers looking to go crazy and dance the night away. But with so much chaos and confusion in the city, you can and will get very lost if you don’t know the right areas to party.  That’s why I wrote this post for all of you 🙂

The majority of Bombay’s best nightlife is centered around the areas of Colaba and the Lower Parel in South Bombay. 

Here is more information about Mumbai’s best nightlife areas:

Colaba – Colaba is probably the most happening place in Bombay to party– and it’s also the most touristy. It’s a nice area to hang out in the evening, get some delicious food and start pregaming with local booze. The Causeway (AKA the main street) is filled with cafes, bars, and expensive places with quality food and beer.

Colaba is a more laid back environment, without any big nightclubs (clubs are in the Lower Parel). Come to Colaba to hang out before the night gets crazy.

Lower Parel – This is the center place for nightclubs in Bombay. It’s located in South Central Bombay, about a 20 minute taxi-ride north of Colaba. The lower Parel is full of swanky lounges, and the best EDM night clubs in the city. The lively scene attracts a younger crowd of classy partiers who are looking to dance and mingle all night long. All of Bombay’s best DJs will play events at the various clubs around this area. You can also find good food around here as well- but it’s pricey.

Bandra – Bandra is a suburb of Bombay in the West with a variety of affordable bars and restaurants.   It’s located on the sea with a long coastline and beautiful views. Bandra is the center place for Bollywood stars to live – on Bandstand Promenade, Carter Road and in the Pali Hills. This cosmopolitan and happening district of Mumbai has excellent eats, cheap booze, plenty of lounges and laid-back people. Head over to Bandra to watch the sunset and grab a meal and some cheap beers when the night is young.

Andheri – Andheri is the largest suburb of Mumbai with 1.5 million people. It’s a bit far north in the city, but it’s a nice area to explore away from the bustling center of South Bombay. Scattered around Andheri are some fun pubs and nightclubs. This area has more of a local feel and you won’t see many foreigners around (just the way I like it).

Next, here are some more general things to expect from the nightlife scene in Mumbai:

EDM is everywhere

The EDM scene is rapidly growing in India, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because EDM is Taking Over the World. Within the last few years, several new music festivals have hit the scene here, making India an upcoming destination for partygoers and ravers around the world. Therefore, almost all of the clubs and bars around Bombay will have a DJ playing some kind of EDM which ranges from psychadelic trance to mainstream house to deep house music.

The guys outnumber the girls

It is quite noticeable that the men outnumber the women- not just inside the clubs, but also out on the streets as well. For various reasons (which I’m not going to discuss in this blog post), the men outnumber the women all over India.   It’s just the reality.

When I was partying in the night clubs in Bombay, I couldn’t help but notice the disproportional ratio of guys to girls. Essentially, what I’m saying is – the crowd was dominated by men.

When I went to the popular club called Blue Frog, I believe that I saw five guys for every one girl. I almost felt bad for the females inside the club because the Indian men were pretty creepy and aggressive. So, if you are girl and want to go out in Mumbai, then I suggest going out with a group of friends so you have some protection.

Doors shut around 1:30AM

This is the only upsetting part about Bombay’s nightlife.

Apparently a few years back, the bars and clubs used to stay open until 3-4AM. But now for whatever reason, the laws have become more strict and all doors shut at 1:30AM. Sometimes, you can find an after-parties, or some clubs that pay off the police to go until 3-4, but you will have to ask around to find out. I don’t know the specific venue names.

Dress Nicely

If you want to go to a club, then you must wear pants and close-toed shoes. Guys can wear a button down or a V-neck, and girls wear a dress (or whatever nice things that girls wear…)

However if you are a foreigner, with white skin, then the club bouncers will probably be more lenient on your dress code because they will want you inside their venue.   I’m telling you this from experience, because I got into a few places wearing shorts. That being said, I still recommend dressing nicely.

Because after all, dressing sexy is part of the fun when you are going out in a new city, right? 😉

Prices & Cover charges vary

Almost all clubs will charge a small fee to enter (depending on the event). If you are seeing a big DJ, then expect to pay $15-25 USD at the door, but in most cases, the cover charge will be less than $10USD at nightclubs. Most bars don’t have cover charges.

Drink prices depend on the venue, but they are generally reasonable. If you ask any local, then they will tell you the drinks are very expensive in Bombay (as compared to Indian prices), but if you’re comparing the prices in Mumbai vs. any other big party city around the world, then they are incredibly cheap.   Drinks in Mumbai are much cheaper than in Seoul, Vegas, Bangkok, and Bali.

Try to go places with girls

This one obviously applies to men.

If you walk into a club with a girl (or several girls), then the bouncers will probably charge you less to get in. And if the club is at capacity and they are denying entry for people, then you will likely be let in if you have ladies with you.   It’s just how it goes.

Alright, so now that you know a little more about what to expect of the nightlife scene in Bombay, next I will lay out my favorite night clubs and venues around the city.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about partying in Bombay, and have a great time!

Disclaimer: These reviews are a mixture from my own personal experiences, and advice that my local friends gave me for each club.

Best Clubs in Mumbai:

#1. Blue Frog

Blue Frog is the #1 night club in Bombay and THE place to see live music.

I had an incredible time when I was at Blue Frog, seeing one of my favorite psychedelic trance DJs (Ajja) and dancing my butt off with my new Indian friends.  This was my best night-out experience in India.

But the music at Blue Frog isn’t always EDM or Psychedelic trance. In fact, it usually isn’t.  The venue hosts live events 6 nights a week, with everything from Reggae/Ska bands to Acoustic rock to EDM. Check their events calendar to see what live performances are happening when you visit.

The club is massive, with hundreds of tables surrounded a perfect-sized dance floor.  The light shows are dazzling, and the sound system is the best that I heard in India.  Partying inside of Blue Frog almost felt like I was partying in Ibiza, but surrounded by Indian people!

If you only have one night to party in Mumbai, then you’d better do it at Blue Frog 😉

Here is a Snapchat that I took inside the club (Follow me @drewbinsky) 

#2. Royalty

Just like the name suggests, Club Royalty is unbelievable.  Just look at the photo!

Located in Bandra West – the suburb where all the Bollywood stars hang out – Royalty has quickly become the talk of the town with its massive parties and insanely fun nights.

There is one main room where all of the mainstream EDM music is played, and then there is a second ‘Red Room’ which is trippy and has a more underground music scene.  The crowd is really fun to party with and it’s easy to meet people.

Overall, Club Royalty has unparalleled energy levels and the attractive ambiance inside will make you never want to leave. And if you want my advice, then order a long island at the bar… You won’t be disappointed!

#3. Trilogy

Club Trilogy feels like something out of the future.   It’s one of the most luxurious clubs in the city.

I must say to not come to this club if you are on a budget, because it’s pretty damn expensive.  But that being said, it has the potential to be one of the best nights of your life.

Club Trilogy stands out for it’s crazy techno lights and multi-level dance floors that fill up quickly.  The DJ usually plays deep house and a mix of EDM. The crowd is sexy, well dressed, and the club is known to host many celebrities.

Sometimes on Friday and Saturday, Club Trilogy is open late hours until 3AM!  Check it out if you want to party all night long.

The following are more of the best clubs in Mumbai: 

#4. Alibi 

Popularized by its annual “Glitz Glamour New Years Party,” Club Alibi is a guaranteed fun and exciting night.

Alibi isn’t the biggest club in Mumbai, but on any give night, the club usually fills up to capacity as the night progresses.  The drink are cheap, the ambiance is nice, and the dance floor will keep you staying all night long.

The club is known to host the best DJs in town, so you can be sure to hear some top-notch EDM hits.  If you have a bit more money to spend, then I recommend splurging on a table beacyse you will get extra space that you can’t find elsewhere in the club.  The light shows are great with a display screen playing the music videos of the songs in the middle.

The one drawback for me is the crowd, which is a bit older (25-35 years old).  But nonetheless, it’s a blast!

The following are a few other clubs that are worth checking out in Mumbai:

Tryst – Located in the Lower Parel, Tryst has been a party hotspot for several years.  The crowd is much younger – like mostly teenagers – and the lively atmosphere is contagious.  The music is mainstream EDM, the light show will blow your mind and there is a lot of room to dance.   It’s very Vegas-like.

Li bai – Located on top of the Palladium hotel, this is a swanky club/lounge overlooking the city through big windows.  People dress to impress and the menu isn’t cheap.. But you are guaranteed to have a night to remember.

If clubbing isn’t your thing, then don’t worry!  Here are my 3 favorite alternative places to go out around town:

Bonabo – I went here twice when I was in Mumbai, and I had an absolute blast! Located in Bandra West, Bonabo is a chilled-out rooftop bar that has picnic-table seating and a delicious menu.  It starts getting crowded around 10-11 with mostly young adults in their mid-twenties.   There is another room with a dance floor and a DJ playing some excellent dance music. I love the vibes here!

Café Zoe – This restaurant/bar is in the Lower Parel – the same area as all the big night clubs.  It is a popular hotspot with great food, drinks and a fun European-style atmosphere.  There is usually live music with real instruments and performers (not EDM).  I would recommend going here for dinner and a few drinks, and then walking to a nearby club! My friends and I did that and had a great time.   Oh – and don’t miss out on their yummy Sangria.

Aer Lounge – Located in Worli, Aer Lounge is the best outdoor rooftop lounge in Mumbai.  It offers one of the best views of the city and the sea!  Go here for some superb cocktails (not cheap), and chill electronic music.   It’s a must-visit if you like roof top dinners and amazing views!

I hope you take advantage of these amazing venues, and have a wonderful time partying in Mumbai!  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions 🙂

N.A.M.A.S.T.E.

Photo Credit:

Blue Frog – Blue Frog FB Page
Trilogy – Trilogy.in
Royalty – Club Royalty FB Page
Alibi – venues.meraevents.com

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DrewMumbai (Bombay) Nightlife Guide

Smoking Hash & Weed in India – It’s Common!

by Drew on May 16, 2015 426 comments

**Please don’t ask me where to get hash or weed in India, because I have no idea.  This blog post is just about my experiences as I was backpacking around India in 2015.”

I was shocked to see how many people love to get high in India!

I saw both locals and travelers smoking hash and marijuana pretty much everywhere that I went in the county during my 7 week backpacking trip. I originally thought that all of the drugs would be in India’s party capital of Goa, but I was proven wrong!

—> Book Your Hotels in India on Agoda.com — it has the cheapest rates!

A little research taught me that smoking hash (called charas) in India has been enjoyed by Indians for centuries.  It has been used bound by faith, and it has helped many people attain happiness.

So, it’s not like there is some sort of revolution happening in India.  But learning about it may just open your eyes to the “real India,” because nobody talks about this kind of stuff behind the scenes.

I think that getting high in India is becoming more and more popular with time, especially as the open-minded, liberal views of the younger generation is rapidly spreading around the world.

One of the reasons that I suspect people frequently getting high in India is because drinking booze isn’t common. It’s hard to find a beer unless you’re at a bar/club. Perhaps, this is due to their culture, religion, or personal preference (or a combination of the three).

But that’s doesn’t mean that Indians don’t know how to party! The night life that I experienced around India was very fun- especially in the big cities like Mumbai, Goa and Delhi.  However, most bars/clubs shut their doors around 1AM (with the exception of Goa)….

So how else to people in India enjoy themselves when the bars close early?

Yep, you guessed it. They get high.

Nearly everywhere I went around India, I smelled weed or hash: on trains, in streets, parks, guesthouse lobbies, etc.   THC was in the air, and it’s very affordable to purchase and enjoy.

The most common way to smoke weed/hash amongst Indians is by a chillum. A chillum is a straight pipe with an end-to-end channel, which was originally invented in India by Hindu monks in the 18th Century. Many shops around the cities sell chillums for a very cheap price ($1-3 USD).  The way to smoke it is by cupping your hands and puffing like you see in the photo below (Image by “Ashish” on Flickr)

 

The following are the 3 most common substances that people getting high off in India. I did indulge in a bit myself.

Hash – Hash is the most common way that people get high in India. The word for hash in Hindi is called charas, and almost everyone refers to it as this name. Most of the hash is grown in the Himalaya mountain ranges in Northern India, and then transported around the country.

In fact, some of the best hash in the world comes from Malana, Himachal Pradesh in the Indian Himalayas. I bet you never knew that!

Weed – In India, weed is grown everywhere, because India is the perfect tropical climate to grow it. I was surprised to see so much weed being grown openly that most of it isn’t even maintained. Seriously!

It’s common for marijuana fields to be growing out freely in the wild – as opposed to the rest of the world where weed is usually grown in specific regions provided by the government.

I first noticed the wild marijuana plants growing in fields when I was sitting next to a hippie in the back of a rickshaw. He pointed them out to me and said that anyone can just go and grab some from the plants. The marijuana fields went on forever – there must have been hundreds of thousands of plants! I also noticed freely growing cannabis plants in the countryside when I was on the train. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Even when I went to the Wagah border of India and Pakistan, there were thousands of marijuana plants growing in the fields. Growing in the middle of heavily armed S.W.A.T. teams and government officials. I walked up and picked a perfect leaf and it was ironic and surreal to be doing this in the middle of a highly enforced war zone.

If you want to buy any weed, then it’s dirt cheap.  Like $5 for a big bag that will take you weeks to finish. But you can’t guarantee that the quality will be good, that’s why I recommend Hash.

BHANGAhhh, save the best for last!

Bhang is very unique to the Indian subcontinent and it has been consumed for centuries.

Basically, bhang is a preparation from the leaves and flower buds of cannabis plants, and consumed as a beverage around India. The effect is similar to eating an edible cookie or brownie that is cooked with THC- a body high that lasts for up to 6 hours.

During the crazy annual festival called Holi, thousands if not millions of people drink Bhang and spash each other in neon paint. It’s so much fun!

Moreover, in some states of India, the government allows the legal action of Bhang shops! Of course, there are also many restaurants that serve bhang under the table, but you have to ask. It is usually called “special lassi.” (Lassi is a popular yogurt based drink in India).

When I was in a city called Jaisalmer in the Rajasthan state, I went to a famous bhang shop and enjoyed a mango lassi with bhang for just $2. This bhang shop was also made famous by Anthony Bourdain, who tried it on his famous TV show “No Reservations.”

Oh yeah, and the bhang was delicious and has me feeling gooood for hours:

So what do you say? Are you getting excited for your upcoming Indian trip? Enjoy!

Book your Stay in India on Agoda.com for the best rates 🙂

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DrewSmoking Hash & Weed in India – It’s Common!

INDIA: Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights

by Drew on May 4, 2015 24 comments

I just finished my crazy 2 Month Backpacking Trip Around India.  And ohhhh boy, crazy it was!

In total, I went to 15 cities and 8 states, starting from the South (Goa) up to the North (Amritsar).  I took 15 train rides and 7 buses over a distance of 4,000+ kilometers.   It was a wild journey, to say the least.

Here is a map of my entire trip:

India is a country of ups and downs. As they say, if you can travel solo in India, then you can travel anywhere in the world.

To be completely honest, there isn’t much you can do to prepare yourself for traveling India. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. One day, I can’t stop smiling. And the next day, I hate it and I want to go home. But it’s all part of the experience, and that’s what makes India so unique!

Overall, I highly recommend anyone to travel in India because it will be incredibly life changing, regardless if you like it or hate it.   This trip was by far the most eye-opening trip that I’ve taken in my life. I now see the world with a much different perspective.

In this post, I will lay out my top 10 best and worst experiences in India, in no specific order.

Please comment below with your questions and enjoy!

Top 10 Best Experiences

1) Admiring the Taj Mahal – As the frontrunner of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World,’ the Taj Mahal lives up to every part of its high expectation. This iconic landmark, located in Agra, took over 22,000 men to build over a period of 20 years in the 17th century. I went to the Taj twice in one day, for sunrise and sunset, and I still can’t believe how incredibly perfect this building is. The symmetry is flawless, down to every little millimeter. Even the shadows from the sunlight were exactly perfect on every angle. Just amazing.

2) Attending the Ceremony the Border of Pakistan – The ‘Wagah Border’ in Punjab, between Pakistan and India, has been holding a daily peace ceremony for decades. I attended one of the ceremonies, and I witnessed Indians gathering on one side of a fence and Pakistanis on the other side. Each country took turns doing patriotic things with the crowd cheering, and then generals from each country start taunting each other with aggressive walking and fist clenching. Finally, the two sides met in the middle and raised both flags together. It was s really cool experience!

3) Going Bungee Jumping – In Rishikesh, I went bungee jumping for the 3rd time in my life! This jump was from 83 meters (275 feet) and it was set in the foothills of the Himalayas over a beautiful river. I did it with my new friends with Portugal and Argentina and it was such a thrill!

4) Seeing the Golden Temple – Located in the city of Amritsar, this temple is made of pure gold and it’s one of the most impressive temples in India. It is the central religious place for members of the Sikh religion. The temple is free to enter, stays open 24/7, serves free food to over 100,000 people daily, and offers free rooms to sleep in overnight. How amazing is that?

5) Exploring the Hampi Temples – Hampi is a historic city in the Southern state of Karnataka. I spent 4 days there roaming around and being dazzled by the 900-year-old temples that scatter the city. My Israeli friends and I rented motorbikes to explore around, and we saw some nice rice fields and prehistoric rock formations that seriously felt like dinosaurs were romping around the land. Hampi was the most peaceful place that I went to in India, and it’ll stay with me forever.

6) Enjoying the Jodhpur Fort & Gypsy Festival – Jodhpur, in the Rajasthan state, has one of them most impressive forts in the world. It was build some 500 years ago to protect the kingdom from their neighbors. Today, the fort remains in perfect condition and you are allowed to tour inside of it. When I was in Jodhpur, there happened to be the annual Gypsy festival that was held inside the main gate of the fort. There were 50+ musicians from all over the world playing Spanish guitar, bongo drums, and violins. I met some Indian guys and we all went together and it was great!

7) Partying on the beach in Goa – I started my India trip on a 7-week party binge in Goa, and had the time of my life. I met so many new friends, specifically guys from the UK and India, and they took me out to the best psychedelic trance beach raves all night long. The hippie scene in Goa is like none other in the world, and I am definitely going to make a return to Goa in the near future.

I also had a bizarre experience at Holi Festival in Goa – AKA the festival of Love & Colors!

8) Going on a Camel Safari in the Desert – In a city called Jaisalmer in the desert state of Rajasthan, I went on an overnight camel safari. Basically, for 2 days, we rode camels for miles and miles out into the desert and into the sand dunes out near the Pakistan border. We slept overnight on blankets and our tour guide cooked us meals using local ingredients and tree branches to make a fireplace. The midnight stars were the best I’d ever seen, and it was an experience that I’ll never forget.

9) Touring Dharavi – the Biggest Slum in Asia – In Bombay, about 60% or 13 million people live in the slums. But none is as big as Dharavi, the same slum that was made famous from the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire.” I took a 3 hour guided walking tour of Dharavi and it was the most eye-opening experience out of all my travels. More than 1 million people live within 2 square kilometers, and there is an average of 1 toilet per 1,450 people. But despite the crowded living conditions, the slum is actually a billion dollar industry that produces everything from leather, plastic, pottery, clothing, and aluminum. I was most impressed by how organized the slum was.

I made a short GoPro video with untouched footage, and you can view it below:

10) Acting in a Bollywood Film – Bollywood is India’s film industry that is much larger than Hollywood. When I was in Mumbai, I was recruited on the street to be an extra in an upcoming movie. I agreed, and the next day I spent 12 hours on set which was set inside of a 5 star hotel nightclub, and I was told to drink beer and watch sexy Indian models pole dance. Not a bad way to spend my day, and I even made 500 rupees!

Do you want to know how to be an extra in a Bollywood film? Check out my blog post! 

Top 10 Worst Experiences

1) Being in a Deadly Bus Crash – I took an overnight bus from Udaipur to Jodhpur in the Rajasthan state. About 1 hour into the ride, in the middle of nowhere, the bus driver slammed on the breaks and turned the wheel and the bus flipped over on it’s side off the freeway. There was about 5 seconds that I thought I was dead. I was completely covered in tiny pieces of glass and dirt, and everyone was screaming and panicking in Hindi. I was the only foreigner on the bus besides a Korean couple, who spoke minimal English.

I managed to escape with only a few pieces of glass and blood in my foot, but others were severely injured and some were stuck trapped under the bus. From the words of others, they told me that those people had died. It was devastating. After this incident, I boycotted buses and only took daytime trains. If you go to India, I highly advise you NOT to take any buses, because crashes are common.

If you want to read the whole story, then check out this detailed post about the devastating bus incident.

2) Getting Food Poisoning in Goa – On just my 3rd day in India, I was out to dinner with my friend Rachel from Hippie in Heels, and she took me out to her favorite local Goan restaurant. I got some chicken curry that tasted pretty good… But unfortunately, I spent all night throwing up and having bad diarrhea. I was so sick that I slept on the bathroom floor, naked, because I couldn’t move.

I learned my lesson and I decided to go vegetarian after this for the rest of my trip, and I never got sick this bad again. I’d recommend you NOT to eat meat in India, because many times it is unsanitary.

3) Haggling with Indians – This isn’t a specific incidence, but rather something that occurred everyday and I got sick of it. Indian people are very talkative and manipulative, and they are excellent salesmen. I felt exhausted to constantly haggle with them for every purchase. From my experience, most Indian people aren’t there to be your friend (although it may seem like it), but rather, to get every last Rupee out of your wallet. I felt like a walking ATM machine to these people (tuk tuk drivers, street food vendors, markets, etc).

4) Suffocating on Overcrowded Trains – Some trains in India are unbearably crowded, especially the cheaper ones. A few times when I was booking tickets, the first and second class seats were sold out, so I had to take the cheapest seat on the train.   It was so packed that I was smushed between 10 bodies at once and I could hardly breathe. That wasn’t fun.

5) Sweating in Taxis with No A/C – Unless you call for an Uber cab, then your taxi won’t have air conditioning. It can be miserable in the 45+ degree heat (115 Fahrenheit). I remember in Bombay being in a traffic jam in the middle of a hot day and I almost started panicking.

6) Getting Scammed by Tuk Tuk Drivers – Tuk Tuk (or Rickshaw) is the most popular form of a taxi in India, and the drivers love to rip off foreigners.  My advice to you is to never, and I mean NEVER, agree to the first price that they tell you. Many times they will ask for double or even triple the actual price.   I recommend asking your hotel or a local Indian person how much it should cost to get from A to B, and they negotiate the tuk tuk driver down to that price.

Also, make sure that you always carry exact change (small bills) otherwise if you pay with big bills, they will lie and say that they don’t have change… just so they can to keep the extra money. Just be careful.

7) Stepping on Cow Shit – Did you know that there are more than 600 million cows in India? To put that in better perspective, there are 2 Indian cows for every 1 American person in the world!

In Hinduism, cows are considered holy and scared, so people are refrained from killing them. No matter where you go in India, cows are to be seen everywhere. In the streets, in alleys, in parks, in fields, etc. Watch out for their shit all over the ground..

8) Witnessing a Little Boy get Run Over by a Motorbike – This was horrible.   When I was in Hampi, I was riding my motorbike through a tiny village. Right in from of my face, I saw a little boy running around naked and get smacked by a motorbike driving in reverse. The boy hit the street hard and was severely injured. Someone came to pick him up and took him away. But who knew where his parents were. I am sure he survived, but it was haunting to see this happen.

9) Getting Delhi Belly in Delhi – My version 2 of getting sick happened in Delhi. I got the every-so-predictable “Delhi Belly.” I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but I had diaharrea for about 3 days nonstop. At least there was no throwing up this time!

10) Getting Anxiety from all the Attention – To conclude my “least favorite experiences in India,” I began to develop some anxiety from all of the attention that I was getting. I no other country did I receive half as much attention than I got in India. Beggars would grab my leg on the street, people would ask to take a photo with me, people would invite me over to their hose for dinner, etc, etc, etc. It was nonstop, every time I left my hotel. I got sick of it after a while.

India is a crazy place. After reading this, can you now see why I have a love/hate relationship with the country? Can you see why I had so many ups and downs?

If you have any questions about travel in India, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to help you!

Namaste!

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DrewINDIA: Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights

How I Got in a Bollywood Movie, and How You Can Do it Too!

by Drew on April 29, 2015 22 comments

When I was in Mumbai (Bombay), I spent an entire day acting on set in an upcoming Bollywood film. It was an incredible experience and I even got paid for my work at the end! In this post, I am going to tell you about my experience and also how YOU can be in a Bollywood film when in Mumbai.

Bollywood in Mumbai is the same as Hollywood in Los Angeles. Both cities are the center point for these massive movie producing industries.

You may be surprised to hear that Bollywood is actually the biggest film industry in the world- far bigger than Hollywood.  The industry produces over 1,000 movies per year, which is more than double the rate of Hollywood.

Here are some more quick facts about Bollywood, which will put things more into perspective.

– The name Bollywood comes from Bombay (the former name of Mumbai) and Hollywood put together
– The first film was released in 1899, making it older than Hollywood by 11 years
– Bollywood films are mostly musicals, with singing and dancing
– This multi-billion dollar industry is now the largest film industry in the world, over taking Hollywood in the 1970s
– Hindi cinema flourished between 1940-1960, and it’s referred to as the Golden Age of Indian cinema
– Bollywood produces over 1,000 feature films every year
– Over 14 million Indians go to Cinema everyday
– Many films run over 3 hours in length, and have several breaks in between
– Indian films are screened in over 90 countries

While you’re in Mumbai, you can take an organized guided tour of Bollywood if you want, but that is expensive (over $100USD).  I’ve also heard that the tour is boring and there isn’t much to see.

The real fun is getting behind the scenes and acting on set in a film!

I was very interested in the Bollywood industry before coming to Mumbai, and it was even one of my goals to take part in a film if I had the opportunity. So, when I was randomly approached to be in a movie, I was delighted! However, I had no idea what to expect, because they didn’t tell us any information about the film or the scene that we’d be helping on.

Here was my experience:

At 8am on a Wednesday morning in March, I went to the meeting point and met up with a group of about 10 people.  We hopped on a bus that took us to the outskirts of the city. Most of the folks were Europeans and there were 2 Canadians. I was the only American (as usual). We drove about 1.5 hours north and finally arrived at a CRAZY nice 5 star resort up on the hills overlooking the city. This hotel (which was more like a palace) looked straight out of the Renaissance era with the amazing realistic paintings on the wall and ancient Europeans architecture.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.

After waiting around for a few hours, still without a clue of what we were doing, we were asked to gather in the main hall and start the scene. I saw huge cameras, lights, props, and a crew of more than 50 people setting everything up for the shoot. They told us that the scene takes place inside a night club, and we were supposed to be acting as if we were in attendance and enjoying the night. It was actually more of a strip club that a nightclub, because there were sexy Indian models and other paid dancers dressed in exotic Indian colors and pole dancing to club music. Not bad for a day’s work, eh?

We were told to sit at tables surrounding the stage and pretend to be drinking beer and watching the girls dance.   It was easy, and entertaining to watch these beautiful women act sexy on stage.   Every girl had her boobs popping out, a tight skirt on, and as dancing amidst smoke machines and fire blasting on stage. Their dance moves were erotic and sexy.

Oh, and I also got to throw fake bills at them on stage!

The set went on for 15 hours. Yes I repeat, FIFTEEN HOURS. We arrived at 9 am and left at 12 pm. Thankfully, they fed us breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the food was sub-par Indian food. The day was very long and exhausting, and it required a LOT of patience. For every scene, they took 5-10 shoots, and after dozens and dozens of times, it got to be very boring.

But hey! This was all part of the experience right?!

So, how can YOU be in a Bollywood film when you visit Mumbai?

The answer is to look for recruiters.

Around the most touristy areas in the city, there are scouts that go around asking people (usually white people) if they want to be extras in Bollywood movies. The reason they look for white people is because many of the scenes are set take place in New York, Paris, London or some other western cities, but still filmed in Mumbai.   It may feel sketchy if you are approached by a person to be in a film, but it’s likely going to be legit. Unfortunately, there is no set schedule that these scouts are on, and it’s mostly luck-of-the-draw if you get approached.

But to increase your chances, here are the best places to visit where the Bollywood recruiters hang out in Mumbai:

– Gateway of India
– The Causeway Street in Colaba
– Salvation Army Red Shield Hotel
– Leopold’s Cafe
– Marine Drive
– Bandra

If you hang around the areas for long enough, you are bound to find someone who will bring you on board! The Gateway of India is the best place to be seen, because it a huge open area and it’s also the #1 touristy attraction in the city.

How to Prepare Yourself on set:

1. Bring snacks
2. Bring a change of clothes
3. Stay occupied: bring music and/or a book
4. Have patience

It’s going to feel like the scene is going on forever. And you are going to get sick of doing so many retakes. But remind yourself that it will eventually be over, so just have patience
Don’t ask questions like, “When will we be done?” because they will just say soon soon but they are lying.

Best of luck to you, and please let me know if you have any more questions! Or if you’ve already been in a Bollywood film, please comment below and share your experiences!

Namaste 🙂

Side Note: The name of the film that I was in is called Savatri Dawarri, and the main actresses were Niharica raizada (Indian) and Lucy pinder (British).

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DrewHow I Got in a Bollywood Movie, and How You Can Do it Too!

INDIA: The Ultimate Travel Guide

by Drew on April 29, 2015 105 comments

I spent 2 months backpacking around India solo in early 2015.  I covered over 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) and visited over 13 cities. I wrote this post as a general travel guide to anyone who aspires to visit India. My goal in this post is to educate you a bit about the country, tell you what to expect from Indian culture and provide recommendations for food, nightlife, attractions, etc – all based off my own experiences.  Please note that I will be 100% honest with you in this post, so take everything as you wish. 

If you have any questions or need help planning your trip, then please comment below or email me here!

And also, please see my other blog posts about India:
– 7 Lessons I Learned from 7 Weeks in India
– Top 7 Party Cities in India
– Smoking Hash & Weed in India.. It’s Common!
– Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights in India
– An Insane Experience at Holi Festival
– What it was like to Survive a Huge Bus Crash
– How I got in a Bollywood Movie, and how you can too! 

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General Thoughts & Reactions

As they say, “If you can travel in India, then you can travel anywhere.” That statement is nothing but the truth.

The subcontinent of India is unlike any place I’ve ever been. I spent 2 months backpacking from the South (Goa) to the North (Punjab) and it was the most eye-opening and life-changing trip I’ve ever been on.  In total, I visited 13 cities, 8 states and I covered a distance of more than 4,000 kilometers by means of 7 trains and 8 bus rides.

Here is a map of the journey that I took:

Traveling India is like a roller coaster of emotions of both ups and downs. It’s a giant mix of good and bad, happy and evil. It’s both challenging and inspiring. And everything is thrown at you in the face at the same time.

Because of this, I began to develop a love/hate relationship with India. One moment, I loved it, and the next, I hated it.  At times I felt enlightened and inspired, and other times were filled with anxiety and exhaustion.

Because of my love/hate relationship with India, half of this post is going to sound positive and the other half will sound negative.  But it’s all honesty coming from my heart.

–> Here are my Top 10 Best and Worst Highlights from traveling around the subcontinent.

I do realize that India has received a bad reputation in recent years from tourists who have visited and had bad things happen to them. Especially, from the American point of view – India is seen as a very dangerous place to visit.

But I would like to say upfront to not make any judgments of the country until you visit for yourself and see life unfold with your own eyes. The same goes with any country, not just India.

You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to India as a “subcontinent” as opposed to a country. Here’s why:

Firstly, there are 1.26 billion people. That is the same as 1,260 MILLION people, living in a country that is 1/3 the size of the USA.  Think about that for a long second.

Or put in other words, there are more people living in India than ALL of Europe, The USA, Canada, Australia and Mexico COMBINED.

Here is how small India is compared to the USA:

India has 29 states, each with their own traditions and diverse histories. The constitution of India recognizes 18 official languages, but there are actually more than 1,600 local dialects. In fact, the language barrier in India has become a huge issue amongst Indians themselves, because there is no uniform language (or national language) that everyone in the country can speak. Even though the most common language is Hindi, it’s more used in Northern India vs. Southern India.

Luckily, English is widespread all over the country (because India was a British colony for hundreds of years until 1947), so you don’t need to worry about a language barrier. Almost everyone at least can hold a basic conversation in English. And for the educated Indians, English is virtually their mother tongue because all of their schooling is in English. Even for large amount of Indians who speak several languages, English is usually their second most fluent.

Therefore, it’s common for two random Indians to communicate in English when meeting for the first time, especially if it’s a Northern India and a Southern Indian.

Another reason for why India is more like a “subcontinent” is the geography of the land.

The landscape of India drastically changes everywhere you go. The north is home to the largest and highest mountain range in the world- the Himalayas. The south is tropical and very hot. And in the middle, you have plains, fields, valleys, beaches and everything in between.

The land of India, in my opinion, is just as diverse as America.

There’s not much you can do to prepare yourself for what you are about to experience in India, so just have the mentality to ‘go with the flow.’  Prepare all of your senses and expect the unexpected.

Alright let’s dive into some facts:

Quick Facts

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– Population: 1.26 billion people
– Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
– Language: There isn’t a “National Language,” but Hindi and English are most common
– The name “India” is derived from the River Indus– the valleys which were the home of the early settlers.
– Civilization in India began over 4,500 years ago
– Chess was invented in India, as was Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus
– India is the largest democracy in the world, the 7th largest country and one of the most ancient civilizations
– India is the world’s largest English speaking country
– Indian Railways is the largest employer in the world
– 4 religions were born in India: Hindiusm, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. These 4 religions are followed by 25% of the world’s population.
– Islam makes up 15% of the Indian population, which makes it the second largest Muslim country in the world (behind Indonesia).
– There are 300,000 active mosques in India.
– Yoga originated in India some 5,000 years ago
– India has the largest number of vegetarians in the world (30-40% of the population)
– India has the 2nd largest pool of scientists and engineers in the world
– India has the most post offices in the world
– Varanasi was called the “Ancient City” when Lord Buddha visited in 500 B.C., and it’s the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world today.
– Martial arts was created in India

The Culture

For me, the most amazing part about traveling India was being 100% immersed in the culture – more so than any other country that I have visited.

Maybe it’s because there are so many people in India that it’s impossible to go anywhere without being surrounded by Indians – even in the most touristy areas.

Here is a photo of me learning how to play cricket with these amazing kids in Jaipur.

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My eyes were wide open everywhere I went and my jaw was on the ground. My brain was trying to process everything that I was seeing.  Everything was shockingly new.

The easiest way to explain Indian culture is in these 2 words: Anything goes.

It’s almost as if there are no laws…  People just do what they want and nobody says anything.  For example, I witnessed kids under 10 years old openly smoking cigarettes with their friends. I saw several adults taking a shower naked under a faucet in a public train station. I saw entire families of 5 fitting onto one motorbike on the freeway. Anyone is free to do whatever he/she wishes – at least it seemed that way to me.

And driving/crossing the street is a nightmare…

The streets are filled with crazy, impatient drivers and it’s an absolute disaster to cross the road. This is where my anxiety levels were out the roof.

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Most streets don’t have lanes, and they are filled with all types of vehicles ranging from rickshaws, trucks, buses, taxis, bicycles, and motorbikes, mixed together with pedestrians and beggars.  Rush hour seems to be every minute that the sun is shining, and it’s is unbearable in big cities.  Cars literally never stop honking. They honk for no reason.

Crossing the street in India is like playing the final level of Frogger. You either make it across, or die trying.

Poverty is everywhere.

Over 40% of the entire population lives on less than $1USD per day. With this much poverty directly translates to beggars on the streets. You can’t avoid them because they are everywhere.  Poor people will even grab you as they beg for money.  You must get used to this.

The streets are very dirty. In some places, human feces are seen in alleys and in rivers (mostly in the slums). The smells of trash and urine are volatile.  The living conditions for many are unsanitary, and much of the water is contaminated (drink only bottled water!) In the summer months, the heat and humidity is unbearable and A/C isn’t common in taxis or hotel rooms (unless you pay extra for it).

Stray dogs, cats and cows almost outnumber the people on the streets.  In fact, cows are considered holy in India (so nobody kills them) and there are over 600 million cows wandering the land. That is one cow for every 2 people in India, or more surprisingly, 2 Indian cows for every 1 American person. Wow.

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Another thing to note about Indian culture is corruption. It is seen everywhere. The black market in India is the biggest that I’ve seen around the world.  If you have money, then you can get away with almost anything.

Moreover, if the police stop you for any reason, you can literally bribe them by paying them off. It happened to me when I got stopped on a motorbike and asked for my registration papers. When I didn’t have them, the officer threatened to take away my bike, but I just put 200 Rupees ($3USD) in his hand and I got away with it. Easy as that.

But despite all of this chaos mentioned above, everything in India works. Somehow, life just flows naturally.

It took me some time to realize this, but Indian culture is actually very peaceful. People generally respect one another. I guess with 1.25 billion people, there is no choice but to respect one another, or else there would be some sort of all-out war.

When it comes to entertainment, India only speaks two languages: Bollywood and Cricket.

Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world. It’s much bigger and older than Hollywood. When I was in Mumbai, I acted as an extra in a Bollywood film and it was awesome! Check out my Bollywood experience here, and how you can do it too.

Here is photo of me acting on set of a Bollywood film.

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Cricket, on the other hand, is watched and played everywhere in India. And I mean everywhere! I’ve never seen a sport more popular in any other country than cricket is in India.  In any given park, open area or even alley ways, expect to see a bunch of kids playing cricket together.

It’s charming and it made me happy to see so many kids involved and having fun together.

The People

The majority of Indian people that I met are friendly. They are good people and they mean well. I met some really cool locals that showed me around their city, and many of them have already turned into my lifelong friends.

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Indian fashion and style is unique and I loved it. Women dress beautifully in colors and men typically wear button downs and jeans.  Many people, both men and women, wear a bindi, or a red dot, on their forehead in between their eyebrows.  It has religious purpose and symbolizes many things such as energy, strength, concentration and love.

But aside from the select group of awesome Indian people that I met, most random Indians that I came across on the streets are very nosey and they were all up in my business.

Now, keep in mind that this is coming from my perspective – a white American kid with red hair.  I know that I stood out like a sore thumb more than anyone else, so perhaps I received the maximum amount of attention possible.  But, if you also have white skin, or other features that stand out, then you will attract a LOT of attention.

Seriously, I thought that I drew a lot of attention in Korea, or in Cambodia, but that was nothing compared to India. I had never drawn more attention in my life.

So, prepare yourself to get an overwhelming amount of attention everywhere you go.

What do I mean by “attention?”

People will stop you on the street and try to talk to you, touch you, or ask to take a photo with you. I lost count of how many random people I took a photo with upon their request. People would actually pull my arm to get my attention when I walked past them. I was invited to people’s houses for dinner on several occasions. I was offered homes to sleep in. In the cities, people followed me while tying to sell me hash and weed by whispering in my ear. One time, I was texting on a bench in an empty park and some guy came and sat right next to me, put his head over my shoulder and watched my every move.

The attention that I got was very much in-your-face and it took me a while to get used to it. I learned to walk fast with my head down, put on my sunglasses and ignore all of them. All the attention that I was getting gave me some extra anxiety when I was out in public.

Alright, I’m sure you get the point about the attention…

The next thing that I’m going to tell you is perhaps the biggest piece of advice in this entire blog post:

HAGGLE FOR EVERYTHING!

Haggle = Negotiate & Bargain for a cheaper price. Do it with every purchase.

The biggest realization that I had about Indian people is how smart and manipulative they are. I was honestly shocked. They are also REALLY GOOD salesmen. When it comes to selling, Indian people can run circles around Chinese People, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and all other Asian countries that I’ve been to. I think this is because the Indian people were some of the first traders and merchants in the world, so it has been in their blood for centuries.

Even though travel in India is very cheap (it’s one of the cheapest countries I’ve been to), that still doesn’t mean that you should get ripped off!

Street merchants and tuk tuk drivers will try to trick you for every last rupee in your wallet. I am telling you, very importantly, to negotiate for everything including your hotel rooms, rickshaw rides and souvenirs. I even bargained my haircuts for a cheaper price.  You can even negotiate the police if they ask you for money for something. It’s normal.

Also, beware that you will be blatantly lied to by Indians so they can get your money. They will tell you false things just so they can convince you to buy something. Be careful and don’t believe everything that you hear. Sometimes, it’s hard not to believe people because they are so convincing and they sell you in such a friendly way. Consider yourself warned.

I was also surprised to see how everyone gets along with each other, despite the streets being overpopulated. In fact, India is widely considered the most peaceful country in the world. All throughout history, India has NEVER invaded another country. For having 1.25 billion people, everyone has immense respect for one another, and I was impressed.

Can you imagine if 1.2 billion Americans people living in one country? Or 1.2 billion French people? I think that they would all rip each other’s heads off!

Aside from Indian people, the travelers and backpackers that I met around India were pretty cool.  Most of them were hippies and an overwhelming amount of them were European – French, German, Dutch, British or Israeli or Russian. Everyone was very laid back, friendly, and are traveling India to temporarily (or permanently) escape the reality of life.

I didn’t really meet any Americans, which isn’t surprising because Americans don’t travel often when compared to many other countries.

Oh, and everyone in India gets high.  You can find weed and hash everywhere, and it’s very cheap.

The Food

Indian food is sooooooo yummy!

Despite getting food poisoning on the 3rd day (it happens to almost everyone), I began to fall in love with the unlimited curry dishes, mouthwatering spices, fresh cooked chapati and hot Indian chai.

Indian cuisine offers a wide variety of spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits.  Food dishes and styles change as you move around India, as each region is heavily influenced by religion and cultural preferences.  In other words, what you will find in the South is almost completely different than in the North.

But there is one thing that’s found everywhere, and that is curry!

I thought that I’d get sick of eating curry for 8 weeks in India. I was proven wrong. There are SO many different varieties, flavors, spices and tastes that you will never get sick of it.

I will highly advise you to go vegetarian when you are traveling India. Trust me. It’s for your health and for your protection against food poisoning.

Due to the frequent power outages, the meat is often expired and just bad quality. I got horrible food poisoning from eating chicken curry. The chicken was not fresh, and I was on my hand and knees throwing up all night on my bathroom floor.   Don’t let this happen to you.

Also, it’s very hard to find beef in India because they worship cows and seafood isn’t common unless you’re on the coast. I know going veggie will be hard for many of you, just like I was for me because I am a meat lover.   But you just have to do it.  I had been eating meat 2-3 times a day while living in Korea prior to my India trip.

But in fact, India has the largest number of vegetarians in the world (around 30-40%), due to religious reasons or personal choices or both. Not surprisingly, India is the largest vegetarian-friendly country in the world, and you will find a veggie menu in every restaurant around the country.

My favorite Indian dishes were:

Cheese Masala Dosa – a crunchy fermented crepe made from rice batter and filled with cheese and spices and dipping sauces.  The best South Indian dish!

Aloo Gobi – Potatoes and cauliflower mixed with Indian spices

Pav Bhaji – Spicy red mixed vegetables with butter, cheese, dry fruits and served with warm garlic bread.

Palak Paneer – Spinach mixed with cottage cheese

Vada – A South Indian snack made of  flour batter fried into a doughnut shape.

Garlic Chapati – Indian hot flat bread

Lassi – a popular yogurt-based drink, that comes flavored with fruits like mango or banana

Masala Chai – a sweet flavored tea made from black tea and spices and herbs.  It’s always served boiling hot.

The Nightlife

When most people think about India, they certainly don’t think about a crazy nightlife scene. The only exception may be in the hippie city of Goa, but even still, India widely unheard of in the world of partygoers.

I definitely had no idea of India’s nightlife prior to my trip, but OMG did I have a fun time!

During my trip, I made it a point to hit up all the cities with the best nightlife, so in a way, my trip was kind of like a “Party Tour of India.”

The 2 best Indian cities to party in are Goa and Mumbai.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in other big cities.

In recent years, India has become popular for it’s bars, night clubs and music festivals. So whether your idea of partying is relaxing on a rooftop while sipping beer, or raging all night long at a night club, or dancing to EDM at a music festival, India has something special to offer all of you party animals.

Speaking of EDM, the scene is rapidly hitting India. I am an EDM fanatic and raver, so for me, this was amazing. I never knew that I could dance to EDM in India, and moreover, I never expected Indian people to follow all my favorite DJs!

Despite most of the general population staying away from alcohol and late night hangouts, there is still a party happening no matter which city you are in.  I noticed that the younger generation is more liberal with an attitude to have some fun.

The most common local beer is Kingfisher. It’s really cheap (less than $1 USD per bottle) and it’s not bad!

Different states in India have different laws, curfews and legal drinking ages. For example, in Delhi, the drinking age is technically 25 (although not strictly enforced), but in Goa, it’s 18.   Most other states in India is 21, but once again, places will just want your business, so they usually won’t ask for your ID (unless you’re in a swanky night club).  Unfortunately, most parties finish at 1:30 with the exception of Goa where parties on the beach go all night long.

I wrote a post about theTop 7 Party Cities in India, so check that out to read more about each hotspot!

Planning Your Trip

The best way to travel India is to have no plan whatsoever.

Just have a general idea of where you want to start and finish, and then go wherever the wind takes you.  This is what I did, as well as most travelers that I met.  It’s the best way to travel India.

However, this requires you to have some time to move around freely. So, I recommend traveling in India for at least 1 month.  This way, you won’t feel rushed and if you really like a place, then you can stay longer (and vice versa).

The next question is deciding whether to travel the North or the South.   They are much different, almost like different countries.  The North is generally more touristy, because there is more to offer.  But the South is more tropical and has the best beaches and some of the biggest cities.

If you like beaches, then you should visit Kerala in the South.  If you like hiking, then go up north near the Himalayas in Kashmir or Hamachal Pradesh.  If you want to taste the best Indian food, then visit Punjab.

But the best overall state to visit, in my opinion, is Rajasthan.  It is India’s largest state located in the North Western part of the country. It has a very rich history, diverse culture, and many historic landmarks to visit.  You can also visit the Thar Desert (India’s largest desert) and go on an overnight camel safari like I did!

Check out this epic selfie that I took on my camel.

But if you only have a few days to travel India, then I recommend doing the “Golden Triangle.” That is Delhi -> Agra -> Jaipur.

You will get a taste of India’s biggest and craziest city (Delhi), then see the Taj Mahal in Agra, and finally get to experience the capital city of Rajasthan in Jaipur.  You can do this Golden Triangle in a week or less if you rush it, and it’s very common among travelers.

Resources

Here are some other helpful blogs about travel in India! 

Hippie in Heels – Rachel is living in Goa and blogs about Indian life and gives awesome tips for girl travel in India.  One of my favorite travel blogs!

Breathe The Dream Go – Mariellen is a veteran when it comes to travel in India, and her blog was one of the first that I’d ever read.  Her travel advice around India is not to be missed!

Travel Tips

– Go to India during the peak season from October – February… March-July is the HOT season, and July – September is monsoon season.  If you travel during the hot or monsoon seasons, then you trip may be miserable.

– Go Vegetarian to protect your stomach and health

– Don’t come to India if you plan on getting any work done (I’m talking to you bloggers and digital nomads). The wifi in most places is horribly slow, and there are frequent long-lasting power outages that happen everyday.  Don’t get frustrated if it takes 45 minutes to send one email.

– Frequent power outages occur mostly in the countryside areas and they can last up to 12 hours a day. Sometimes, I was in the middle of taking a shower and everything went pitch black. Or I was eating at a restaurant and the lights went out, so they lit a candle on my table so I could see.

– Watch out for Cow shit everywhere on the streets

– Only drink Bottled Water

– Bring Napkins and toilet paper with you everywhere (bathroom don’t have it)

– DON’T TAKE BUSES!  Only take trains, and preferably in daylight. I got in a deadly bus crash and I almost died.  Just avoid them, period.

– Learn the basic words of “Please, Thank You, Yes, No, etc”

– Bring copies of your passport/visa/passport pics.  Many hotels and travel tours will ask for them.

Lastly, I will leave you with these final words:

The truth is, India is going to be exactly what you make of it.  It’s not a country to see, but rather it’s a place to experience with all your senses.  Whether you like it or hate it, it’s a different experience for everyone, and I can guarantee that it will be life changing. You won’t ever forget it.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my post about India!  Please comment below with your thoughts and questions 🙂

Stay updated on my travels & follow me on Snapchat (@drewbinsky)! 

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DrewINDIA: The Ultimate Travel Guide

25 Reasons Why Mumbai is the Most Hectic City in the World

by Drew on April 18, 2015 1 comment

I spent 11 entire days in Mumbai during my 2 month backpacking trip around India.  I was a bizarre experience, unlike any other that I’ve had in the world.

I loved it as much as I hated it.

Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is the biggest and most diverse city in India.  As a person who enjoys the chaos of big cities, I had always dreamed about going to Mumbai and I was thrilled to finally spend time exploring around.

From my first few hours in the city, I already was amazed by the randomness and turmoil seen everywhere.  Almost every passing person seemed to come from a different background and was speaking a different language with their friends.  It was cool.

Mumbai is overwhelmingly busy at ALL times, and it took me some time to get used to the fast-paced lifestyle. Heavy amounts of poverty is seen on every corner, with 60% of the entire city’s population living in the slums. But on the flip side, there are 28 billionaires living in the city.  Sounds confusing, right?

It still boggles my mind. Even a month after I left the city, I still can’t wrap my head around what I saw.  I was mesmerized by every aspect of life in Bombay.  This place is, without question, the craziest city that I’ve seen in all my travels.

Now, I will present you with 25 reasons why I think Bombay is the most hectic city in the world.  After the 25 reaons, I will give you a more detailed explanation of what I experienced in the city.

1. The population is 21 million, making it the 3rd most populous city in the world (behind Tokyo and Delhi).

2. The biggest slum in Asia (Dharavi) is located here and is home to over 1 million people

3. The smells are volatile and sometimes unbearable

4. The local trains carry 7+ million passengers per day, which equals more passengers per kilometer than any railway on earth

5. In the slums- which accompany 60% of the population or 13 million people – the average wage is $1-3USD per day

6. The traffic is ranked the #1 worst in the world (cite)


7. The streets are constantly filled up with a mix of taxis, cars, bicycles, tuk tuks, trucks, pedestrians, cows, goats, dogs, and children.  Driving laws aren’t really enforced.

8. Vehicles literally never stop honking their horns! I once counted 175 horns in one minute during rush hour traffic.

9. There is no underground public transportation, which makes the streets feel MUCH more crowded when comparing to other big cities with underground metros (Delhi, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, etc)

10. The city gets VERY hot from March-June (up to 46 degrees Celsius or 115 Fahrenheit).  And combined with the humidity and pollution, it can feel much hotter.  (Even most taxis don’t have A/C).

11. In the wealthy areas of Malabar Hill, Marine Drive and Bandra, the real estate is amongst the most expensive in the world.

12. An average of 10 people die every day during the commute on trains (by falling outside, being trampled on, or crossing the train tacks).

13. Traffic is so bad that walking is often times faster than driving

14. Bollywood – the biggest film industry in the world- is located in Mumbai.

15. The underground economy is massive, and accounts for an estimated 50-75% of the entire GDP. (cite)

16. You can bribe the police for almost anything if they stop you, and you will likely be let off (it happened to me)

17. Couples aren’t allowed to kiss in public, or they will be fined

18. The ethnic division is 67% Hindu, 19% Muslim, 5% Buddhist, 4% Christian and the last 5% is mostly Jains, Parsis, Sikhs and Jews.

19. It’s likely for a foreigner to get sick/food poisoning from drinking the water or the bacteria in the food (known as Delhi Belly).  It happened to me twice, and I currently have Delhi belly as I’m writing this in Delhi…

20. The consumption of beef is banned in the city of Mumbai and the entire state of Maharastra. I went to McDonald’s and ordered a McVeggie burger because that was the only burger available.


21. Antilla, the 27 floored single home in Mumbai owned by Mukesh Ambani, is the second most expensive home in the world.

22. There are 53 Shopping Malls throughout the city- the most in India

23. Ganesh Chathurti is an annual 10 day Hindu festival where several million people gather in the streets at the same time

24. The gap between the rich & poor is huge, and it’s common to see slums directly next to multi-million dollar homes and hotels.

25. Despite this hectic atmosphere, life just works in Mumbai and the people never seem to be phased by anything.

The best way to explain walking around the streets of Mumbai, is that everything was thrown at me in the face at the same time.  Both good and bad, right and wrong, rich and poor.

Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, there is always something happening to catch your attention. Whether it be a little boy pulling your leg for money, or a women transporting 30 kilos of bananas on the top of her head, or a giant cow roaming aimlessly in the middle of the street.  It’s impossible not to notice happening on the streets around you.

Speaking of streets, they are so crammed with people and honking vehicles that it gave me a headache after a while.   People dodgning cars while wheeling a big stack of vegetables in massive bullock wagons through heavy traffic, or carrying 40 pounds of stuff on their heads.  Motorbikes squeezing just centimeters apart from cars.  My anxiety levels were higher than they had ever been when I was in a taxi or trying to cross the street in Bombay.

Diseased and homeless beggars are on every corner and in front of doorways, tapping you on the shoulder or pulling your leg asking for money. Money, money, money. Money is everything in Bombay. It is the center for black market trading – which seemed to be the largest economy in the city. You can get literally anything you want, or bribe someone for something, if you have the money to pay for it.  Bribing is commonly seen everywhere, even with policemen. If you are stopped by a cop, then you can pay him off for just about any crime that you committed and get let off. I couldn’t believe how corrupt the city was.  I had never seen anything like it before in my life.

But in all honesty, I really do love Mumbai.   And I’ve began to love it more and more since I left the city.

I know that much of this post sounded negative, but I don’t want you to think badly about Mumbai. I just tried to be as honest with you as possible from what I experienced.  Mumbai is very eye opening and I think it’s necessary to witness how 21 million human beings live their daily lives.

And of course, it is possible to find peaceful spots around the city, just like you see here on Marine Drive for sunset.


During my time spent in Bombay, I did made some life-long Indian friends who showed me around and took me out to clubs (the nightlife is really fun in Mumbai). They gave me a great local perspective of the city and I felt like I was a local.

I wrote this post to share with you my immediate reactions, and explain how eye-opening this city was to me.  Keep in mind that Bombay was just the 2nd city that I visited in India, and this post was derived from my first impression of the city.   I was still getting used to Indian culture in general at the time.

Despite life being hectic and fast-paced, there is still a lovely charm in the city that is convincing me to go back again.

Have you ever been to Bombay? What was your first impression?

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Drew25 Reasons Why Mumbai is the Most Hectic City in the World