For actor Shaalin, travelling and acting go hand in hand. Or to be more precise, one thing leads to the other. Let us go in her travel diaries.
I started acting since childhood and coincidentally my love for travelling started from there. Initially most journeys used to be part of an acting assignment. But now I have started travelling for myself and it has easily turned into a healthy addiction. In fact, most of what I earn go into planning these travels. Right now, I have so many on my bucket list. No, I don’t really wait for anyone to plan my travels and prefer solo journeys.
When in Kerala…
More than a tourist destination, sitting by the side of Bharathapuzha is soothing to the eye. I also love the earthy charm of Kuttipuram. Though I hail from Malappuram I am currently living in Ernakulam. When it comes to favourite tourist destinations, Varkala and Alappuzha top the list.
When in India
I loved Pushkar which is in Ajmer, Rajasthan. One of the most prominent spots of pilgrimage as well as the site of the world-famous Pushkar Fair, it is encased by numerous temples and ghats (bathing spots) and attracts thousands of devotees yearly. Surrounded by 52 bathing ghats and over 500 temples, it is regarded as a sacred lake. There are five sacred lakes in India which are collectively called Panch-Sarovar--- Mansarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, Pampa Sarovar and Pushkar Sarovar. Amongst these, Pushkar Sarovar or Lake is the most significant. They believe a dip in its holy waters will help them attain salvation. Each year the fair starts at Prabhodini Ekadashi and ends at Kartik Poornima. The Pushkar Fair showcases Rajasthan in all its colourful glory—their exotic hues, cuisine, dance, cattle fair, and other varieties of entertainment. You will find almost everything here from small souvenirs to amazing leather bags and boots, to unique silverware and silver jewellery, to colourful lampshades and clothes. You can also witness Asia’s largest Camel fair there. Look out for the Longest Moustache Competition, ride a camel, enjoy the delicious cuisine, watch folk performances, and much more. There is no end to the fun you can have during this five-day long event that is held every year in October-November and attracts travellers from around the world.
Exploring the world
I have been to the Gulf countries, London, Bali and Maldives. In fact, Bali and Maldives were always on my bucket list. The London trip was an eye-opener as it helped me clear many misconceptions about foreigners. I used to think every single person in Britain was rich but then saw how the poor and the rich coexisted so beautifully. Of course, the definition of poor is quite different there. I loved the people and their culture and how they “lived for the moment.” Another interesting fact about London is that some of their museums like the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern and quite a few others are free. You can spend an entire day wandering through the many historical artefacts and enjoy the rich heritage the city has to offer. Tipping is not as big a deal as it is in other countries but that does not mean it is not appreciated. Usually, a small 10-15 per cent tip is more than fine for a restaurant whilst there is no need to tip at any bar or for drinks. There is also no need to tip when hailing a cab.
If you are visiting London on a shoe-string budget, taking a red London bus will save you a lot of money. In fact, if you catch one from Marylebone Station and grab a seat upstairs you will be passing some of the popular spots like Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Downing Street, Houses Of Parliament, Big Ben and The London Eye. Another lovely thing about London is that it is a city that needs to be explored on a bike and anyone can hire one, all you need is a debit or credit card and a good sense of direction. You can grab one from one of the self-service cycle bays and head across the town. It is a great way to see the city and you will be saving lots of time and money too. And London is not just filled with shops and out-of-town-malls, look out for their incredible markets with fabulous treats. Not many people realise that you can tour Buckingham Palace in summer. All you need to do is purchase the tickets online before you travel.
I can never forget my bus ride to Ajmer where I met a family who was on their way to attend a family wedding. I am not sure how the conversation started as language was a huge barrier between us. But somehow, we understood and before I knew it, they invited me to their wedding. Since I was going to another destination, I declined the offer. After that two-hour journey, I was absolutely stunned when one of them slipped their rings adorned with gems and gifted to me. It’s still with me.
Coming back to Ajmer, visiting the Ajmer Dargah was a long-cherished dream. One of the most famous pilgrimage centres in the world, it was built in honour of Garib Nawaz, a Sufi Saint who worked for the poor. It was magical just to be there.
I also visited the local bazaars for their handicrafts, embroidered juttis, paintings, stone sculptures. Some of the best things to buy in Ajmer are Brassware items, Sohan halwa, and phad paintings. Some of the best historical places to visit in Ajmer are Taragarh Fort, Mayo College, Akbar Palace and Museum, Ana Sagar Lake, and Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra.
Did you know that Ajmer is surrounded by temples? And even if you are not religious you can visit them for their fabulous architecture. While Soniji Ki Nasiyan, also called Ajmer Jain Temple is all coated with gold and has impeccable carvings from the Jain Mythology, you will also be amazed to see the beautiful architecture of the Nareli Jain Temple. Ajmer Jain Temple, Nasiyan Digambar Temple, and Nareli Jain Temple are amongst the most famous temples in Ajmer.
Next on my list is Spain. And yes so many places in Europe. My bucket list seems to be never-ending.