Tag Archives: festival

Backpacking India: Holi in Varanasi

India - Holi in Varanasi
Holi is the Hindu colour festival and one of the biggest holidays in India. A month ago we decided we wanted to be in Varanasi for Holi and planned our trip around that date. I’m glad we did, because our experience was unforgettable.

India - Holi in Varanasi
The day before Holi we bought our supplies – cheap, white clothing, green and pink dye, and water guns. Our hotel was a strict no-Holi zone and the gates were barred as if a riot was going on outside. In fact you could hear screams echoing through the streets. The security guard was reluctant to let us out, but we were determined. Within seconds of leaving the hotel we were swarmed by a mob of kids with buckets of dyed water. They soaked us and ran off with our water guns. All we had left was a water bottle with some pink liquid in it. We were almost defenseless, but it didn’t matter. There was no fighting back against the water balloons and buckets of dye that rained down on us from the roofs of buildings as we made our way through the narrow alleyways of Varanasi.

India - Holi in Varanasi
After the mobs of kids, we encountered gangs of young men who took delight in smearing powered dye on our faces. It seemed that most Holi participants were kids who stayed close to home, young men who roamed the streets, and foreigners who were everyone’s favorite targets.

India - Holi in Varanasi
Within an hour of running around, we were thoroughly colored and had had enough of near gropings from the increasingly aggressive and intoxicated young men. We retreated to our hotel to take pictures of ourselves and shower as best we could.

India - Varanasi
The rest of our time in Varanasi was more subdued. The city is a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus and the ghats along the Ganges were used for bathing, washing clothes, and burning dead bodies. We walked along the riverbank and took a sunrise boat tour. We only saw one dead body floating down the river.

India - Varanasi
Every evening, there is a prayer ceremony at the main ghat with Ravi Shankar music, bells, Brahmins with torches, and large crowds. It was interesting to watch but the gathered crowd was in many ways more amusing. We had cows wander by and some people tried to shoo them away, some fed them popcorn, and some petted them. I never knew cows enjoyed having chins scratched.
India - Holi in Varanasi

Away from the river, the old city was a maze of twisting alleys that was nearly impossible to navigate. It reminded me of Venice. Maps were useless and GPS didn’t work. The only way to get around was to look for ads painted on walls pointing the direction of hotels and restaurants.

India - Varanasi
There are dozens of famous temples in Varanasi, but many don’t allow non-Hindus in. A lot of the temples near our hotel had long lines of people trying to get in and armed police officers keeping an eye on the crowds. The only one we visited was a Durga temple out of the old city, one of the more calm ones in the city.

India - Varanasi
I’m sure a lot of people visit Varansi and all they see is dead bodies, smoky air, poop covered streets, and aggressive salesmen (like the street-masseuse who ambushed me). We saw all that too, but were able to look beyond it to see the humanity and deep devotion of the pilgrims in one of the oldest cities in the world.

India - Holi in Varanasi

India - Varanasi

India - Varanasi

India - Varanasi

Backpacking India: Jodhpur

India - Jodhpur
Jodhpur went by in a blur. Maybe it was the opium and marijuana lassi I consumed.
India - Jodhpur
Jodhpur was a relaxing stop for us. When we arrived, Emily was running a fever, so we spent the day in the hotel. She slowly gained energy, but it was so hot during the day we never felt like doing anything too strenuous.

India - Jodhpur
The main attraction in Jodhpur is the massive Mehranghar Fort – the most impressive fort in Rajasthan. It towers over the city and the blue painted houses below. The inside wasn’t as interesting as the Amber Fort in Jaipur, but it did have an excellent audio guided tour.

India - Jodhpur
We also went on a car tour of the nearby Bishnoi villages. The Bishnoi are a local religious sect known for their fierce defence of plants and animals. They are real tree huggers and refuse to cut down trees. In 1730, a confrontation with the maharaja over tree cutting lead to 363 Bishnoi, led by the women, sacrificing themselves to protect the trees. As a result of their sacrifice, no tree cutting is allowed in the area to this day.

India - Jodhpur
The tour wasn’t great, but we visited a new Bishnoi temple under construction (the first new temple we’ve seen in India) and a memorial to the 363 Bishnoi who sacrificed their lives. We met a local family and shared some ceremonial opium – ingesting a piece too small to cause any high. We also had demonstrations from traditional potters and weavers, and then got ushered into their gift shops, of course. We bought a nice block printed table cloth.
India - Jodhpur

The neighborhood we stayed in was out of the tourist area and the local kids took delight in circling us whenever we walked by. They convinced me to join their pickup cricket game one afternoon. I enjoyed it, but I need more practice before any of the big kids invite me to play. We also got drawn into the big Shivaratri festival. When walking to dinner a group of young kids ran by and sprayed my face with a perfumed water. I thought they maced me at first, but it didn’t sting and they offered me nuts and dried fruit once the hazing was over. On the way back, a group of young men, partying at a temple with a rocking sound system, got a little too excited when we walked by. It was intimidating at first, but they really wanted to share their culture with us. They gave me a milky drink, that they assured me was just a regular lassi. I’m pretty sure it was a bhang lassi (made with marijuana), which is traditionally consumed during religious holidays. I didn’t consume enough to get a buzz, as I was more worried about the lactose. All the religious fervor is just a taste of what we can expect during Holi (the colour festival) in a few weeks.

India - Jodhpur

India - Jodhpur

Vegan Options at Vancouver’s Food Cart Festival

Market Bowl - JJ's Trucketeria Van-burger Veggie Burger - Kaboom Box
Vancouver has an awesome street food scene. I’m lucky to work downtown in its epicentre and often grab lunch from the nearby carts. I also live next door to the newly located Food Cart Festival, which will be held every Sunday during the summer between the Olympic Village and the Cambie Bridge.

I went today to check out their new location and the food. I’m happy to report that almost every truck had vegetarian options and five had vegan options. The carts will likely change on a weekly basis, but here were the vegan options today.

JJ's TrucketeriaJJ’s Trucketeria – Market Bowl. $5.00. Brown rice, loads of fresh, seasonal vegetables, and a spicy sauce.
The Kaboom Box IIThe Kaboom Box II – Van-Burger Veggie Burger. $8.00. Home-made soy-free veggie burger with mushrooms, oats, rice, and seeds. Ask for it without mayo.
Ze BiteZe Bite – Moroccan Curry. $9.00. Chickpeas, tomato, spices on couscous.
MoguMogu – Kabocha Korokke. $8.00. Japanese deep-fried squash burger with avocado.
The Juice TruckThe Juice Truck – Cold-Pressed Juices and Smoothies. $7.00-$10.00. Try the Spicy Apple with ginger and cayenne.

There’s still a few logistical problems they need to work out. I expected lineups for the food carts, not to get in. After the first 100 people trickled in, I think they figured out how to get people in a quicker. They also need a few bike racks. Their location is great for picking up seawall traffic, but half of that traffic is on wheels.
Food Cart Fest Lineup Lack of Bike Parking

Summer Live

Dancing to Spirit of the West
What an awesome festival. Kudos to the City of Vancouver for throwing such an amazing free party, and thanks to all the volunteers (especially the energetic folks at the bike valet) who made it happen. On Saturday night we saw the mayor, Gregor Robertson, helping out in the bike valet. Thanks Gregor, you rock!

Emily and I spent most of our weekend in Stanley Park, enjoying the perfect weather and listening to awesome local bands. Most we’ve seen before, but Dan Mangan, the New Pornographers, Mother Mother, and Spirit of the West always put on a good show. My musical discoveries of the weekend were the Belle Game (an up-and-coming young band who have some catchy tunes) and Barney Bentall (and old-timer who can still rock).

Fun coincidence: Winnipeg Folk Festival was also last weekend (and attracted over 60,000 attendees this year). It started in 1974 as a free festival to celebrate Winnipeg’s 100th birthday, but became an annual paid event because it was so popular. If I didn’t think it would destroy the Vancouver Folk Festival, I’d suggest Summer Live become a regular event too. Stanley Park was an amazing venue – the only downsides where the difficulty getting people in and out, and the bottleneck between the two stages.

I was a little peeved that we were almost trampled by douchebags chasing the giant light-up beachballs during Dan Mangan’s set last night, but otherwise had a great weekend.

Summer Live Main Stage Summer Live Crowd Main Stage Picnic

Celebrate Vancouver’s 125th Birthday with Awesome Local Bands

Vancouver is throwing a free Summer Live festival at Stanley Park on July 8, 9, and 10 to celebrate its 125th birthday. The city has invited the who’s who in the local music scene to perform. I can’t believe how awesome the bands performing are.

Check out this all-star lineup: Dan Mangan, the New Pornographers, Mother Mother, Said the Whale, Hannah Georgas, Neko Case, Kyprios, the Zolas, Hey Ocean, Aidan Knight, Veda Hille, Spirit of the West, We Are the City, and the Be Good Tanyas to name just a few of the bands I’m excited about.

There’s also dance performances, croquet, drum circles, giant jenga, canoe races, wheelchair rugby demonstrations, and loads of other random entertainment.

Check out the full schedule and map (PDF) here.

Bike valet parking is offered, plus a special shuttle from Waterfront station for transit users. Please don’t drive.
Yaletown Live Site

Car-Free Vancouver Day 2011

Free HugsParade of FoolsMarching to the Beat of His Own DrumMason Bee HousesCar-Free Commercial DrivePottery Time
Purple Thistle Free ZoneWonderland CroquetGreen Strip for Wonderland CroquetAlternative TransportationTall BikeBike Valet
Barbeque BikePet ChickenDosa ChefSpudded UmbrellaCar-Free Main Street

Car-Free Vancouver Day 2011, a set on Flickr.

I love street parties. We checked out the Car-Free festivities on Commercial Drive and Main Street this year. Main Street was definitely the more happening of the two.

There was great street food at both locations, but I was impressed by the pedal zoo on Commercial and the Village Vancouver, BLIM Market, and VegFest on Main Street.