In Part I, Haziq Rashid shared the reason why he started The Project Nomad. This week, he talks about an encounter with a spunky transgender, his harrowing near-death experience, and gives us four tips for travelling to India.
Click here if you missed Part I:
Part II: Out of the Cocoon
What's one exciting encounter you had on your travels?
So Nasrul (Nas) and I were on a very long train ride - around 72 hours I think - and it was insane. It was the kind of train where passengers were ‘moshing’ (pushing and shoving) into the train. You see all types of people there. We saw this transgender singing ‘Kuch Kuch Hotai Hai’ and I just happened to look in her direction. She saw me looking at her and tried to take money off me! I was so scared so I just looked at Nas, but Nas just looked away and pretended not to know me [smiles and shakes head]. Yeah...it was crazy. We didn’t even have proper food throughout the train ride. We just ate food that people wrapped in newspapers and threw on the train – you know the kind of food that you’re not supposed to eat? Yeah, we bought that kind of food to survive for those few days.
The most interesting story from your journey?
It was probably when I was trekking through the Himalayas alone, at 4,500m high. I only had a guidebook and a compass with no GPS for 9 days. It was my first time in the mountains, so yeah, that was really reckless of me. I was inspired by ‘Into the Wild’, so I thought you know, ‘I’m just going to do this’. Halfway through I got lost and had to cross a river. The river was really huge, probably about 80m wide? And the current was so strong! So when I was trying to cross, the rubble beneath me moved, I slipped and got washed away in the currents. In that moment - ok, I know this sounds corny - memories of me from when I was young kept running through my head. I saw images of my mom, dad and the rest of my family. I guess when you’re really close to death, these are the thoughts that go through your mind. After a while in the water I thought, “wait…why am I still not dead yet?” [chuckles sheepishly]. Turns out, my bag got stuck in the rocks on the other side of the river, so I managed to pull myself out. Yeah, that was crazy!
Four suggestions you would give to fellow travellers going to India?
- Switch off your mobile phones
To really enjoy the beauty of India and fully immerse yourself in its culture, try to disconnect yourself from the digital world and go through a digital ‘detox’.
- Find a balance
Try to feel the right amount of paranoia for your safety while still mingling with the locals. Don’t always follow guidebooks; sometimes going off track by seeing what the locals recommend will take you on the craziest adventures you could ever imagine.
- Try street food
Don’t go to restaurants all the time. Train up your tummy so you can enjoy street food, which is honestly the cheapest and best kind of food in India.
- Never bring all your money with you
Keep different amounts of cash in different places.
Any parting words?
When I was there, one of the locals was laughing about how he handled his daily life and aptly joked:
No woman, no cry. No chapatti, no chai. No mushroom, no fly. No ganja, I die!