Saturday 4 July, 2020

Travel Tuesday: Ayanna Dixon connects to India

Designer and fashion illustrator Ayanna Dixon outside the Amber Fort. (Photos: Contributed)

Designer and fashion illustrator Ayanna Dixon outside the Amber Fort. (Photos: Contributed)

This Travel Tuesday fashion illustrator and designer of the byASD brand Ayanna Dixon takes Loop Lifestyle to the River Ganges in India, the ‘Taj’, and dancing in palaces.

For Dixon, travelling to India meant fulfilling a life-long dream. Though India oftentimes gets a rep, Dixon was not dismayed.

WATCH: Dixon dances in the Kingdom of Dreams.

 

Plus, touring India with a group of women from the Caribbean made her sojourn a lot more relaxing.  

The icing on the cake was the spiritual journey Dixon experienced that made the long overdue trip totally worthwhile. 

Below, Dixon lists her favourite things about India.

Swipe to see images from Dixon’s favourite spots

Travel Tuesday: Ayanna Dixon connects to India

I’ve heard that India is dirty and people are very poor there. When I first landed in Delhi, I definitely understood what people were talking about. But I love the culture, the people, and the history, so I did it anyway.

I’ve visited…Goa, Agra, Delhi, Rishikesh, and Jaipur

National Gandhi Museum

Our first stop was at the National Gandhi Museum (which also happens to be the former residence of the cultural icon).

There was a trail showing his footsteps leading up to the area where he was shot on the way to his evening prayers. Hearing the history of it was all very intriguing.

The highlight of my first day was being called up on stage to join dancers in a Bollywood performance at the Kingdom of Dreams theatre. It’s like a Broadway play with a restaurant and culinary/shopping experience after the show. It was exceptional.

The next thing I noticed about Delhi was… they have cows everywhere! Cows are literally everywhere… in the streets, on the sidewalks, in traffic, and even in the stores.

Because there are cows everywhere, there’s also cow poop everywhere. I loved the fact that cows are so sacred in India though; they just roam around freely and unbothered.

I was with a Caribbean crew, all West Indian women from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and I think two people from Guyana. We saw that snake dancing and made a mad dash for the tourbus.

India Gate

India Gate was beautiful. It’s one of the biggest landmarks in Delhi, tourists from all over were there, and even tourists from the other parts of India came to visit.

I loved seeing everyone in their beautiful saris and different outfits and busloads of people coming to take photos by the massive structure.

Jaipur

The second place we visited was Jaipur – which was by bus from Delhi.

Jaipur is known as the pink city. One of the things I loved was the architecture and the fact that all the buildings are pink.

From historical reference, the city was painted pink – as it denotes hospitality – by the command of Maharaja Ram Singh to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria, who were touring India at the time.

They have lots of palaces there, too, everything is just pink and beautiful in Jaipur.

The Palace of Mirrors in the Amber Fort stood out most of all the palaces we’d visited; it was truly breath-taking.

The Palace of Mirrors was the winter palace for the emperor at the time and it’s made of varying sizes and shapes of mirrors. In addition to reflecting light, mirrors reflect heat. So, every single wall, ceiling and crevice is covered with glass. The story goes, during the winter times, occupants would light candles, which would in turn reflect light and heat and warm the palace.

Elephants in Jaipur

I’ve loved elephants all my life, so my second stop in Jaipur helped me realise another lifelong dream.

We visited an elephant sanctuary. We had the chance to pet them, feed and bathe them.

This was literally the best day of my life, and having elephants spray us with water was definitely a highlight of my trip.

When we were heading up to the Amber Fort, it was super cool to see a snake charmer. At one point the cobra eased out of the basket and we all went scampering.

I was with a Caribbean crew, all West Indian women from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and I think two people from Guyana. We saw that snake dancing and made a mad dash for the tour bus.

'The Taj' Mahal

The next thing on my list was to see the Taj Mahal. I bought a new sari, got my henna done in the morning for my trip to the Taj Mahal.

It was one of the best moments of the trip. It is so majestic and much more breath-taking than in photos.

The whole structure is made of marble, the history of the structure and the craftsmanship that goes into the design of the Taj Mahal is insane.

Throughout our trip we tried carving marble; learned about several of India’s Persian connection through emperors and cultural lineage; stopped at a well in Chanbori, Rajasthan; and dined at an exquisite restaurant at the Taj.

Rishikesh

Then came Rishikesh, which is a holy city in the Himalayan foothills beside the River Ganges.

No meat or alcohol was allowed at this vegetarian enclave.

Aarti on the Ganges was such a phenomenal experience. I made offerings and washed my feet in the river. I really loved the charm of Rishikesh.

Goa

Then we flew southward to Goa. It reminded me a lot of Portland – very lush and green and edge-of-the-world tropical.

Goa more recently became a state of India and was basically a part of Portugal.

I learned that a lot of the architecture was made with traditional Portuguese design. The style of dress is not traditionally Indian and the residents are mostly Christian.

There are more churches, fewer temples, stores close so citizens can start a siesta.

What makes travel most exciting?

Being able to say I’ve accomplished a lifelong dream has been super-duper exciting for me… to see and to learn and to get the experience first-hand as opposed to reading about it in a book, or seeing it on TV, or on IG… being immersed in something new, exciting, and different is awesome.

Travel must-haves

1 Hand sanitiser

2 A reusable water bottle, which sidebar it’s important to know where the water you’re drinking comes from

3 Comfortable shoes (not sneakers) or sandals

4 I always like ChapStick!

5 A camera phone and a selfie stick or some kind of tripod

6 Take all the snacks you think you may need – I brought along Jamaican snacks. It’s also a good idea to bring something to leave behind, either through charity or to random people on the street.

Travel tip!

Doing the most research about the place you’re going to visit is the best bet. You want to know if it’s safe, what are the cultural norms, etc.

Don’t overlook the little things like drinking tap water versus purchasing bottled water, the weather, and the best seasons to travel.

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