Photographs and texts by Mehedi Hossain
When was the last time you travelled with your partner? No, I don’t mean on your honeymoon. Then again, travelling with your better half does turn into a honeymoon most of the time. I’m talking about a kind of travel where you enjoy the beauties of nature and have adventures that you would take part in if you were travelling with a bunch of friends.
Most of us realise that travelling can enhance our perspective of life. It is safe to say that it is a ticket to a better self. Now, if you are travelling with another person, odds are, you will develop together, making your bond stronger than ever before.
While some people will still choose to travel on their own because of its apparent advantages, being with someone you love has its perks too. You can split the travel expenses for starters! But jokes aside, there is no surer way to find out how well compatible you are with a person than to travel with them.
Between February to June in 2018, within a period of five months, my partner and I ended up travelling to three countries together: Nepal, India and Malaysia.
I’ve never met anyone who’s been to India and not been to Kolkata. I’m probably the only Bangladeshi in the world to have been to India three times and never seen Kolkata (I was there for transit once). When I told my partner this, she simply said, “let’s do this,” and so we went.
We were there for two days and didn’t really have a plan. I wanted to roam the roads of college streets and buy books, of which I have a wonderful collection at home. My partner’s plan was to taste the famous street foods of Kolkata (yes, we eat a lot) and the best food we had was at this place called Bhojohori Manna.
We went to see the amazing Howrah Bridge at night, which was a surreal experience. But I got the most amazing feeling from our visit to the Kali Mandir in Kalighat. I had only heard about it until now in Shirsendu and Sormoresh and Feldu, books of my childhood. As we approached the temple, we were given a plate made of wood with Prasad (offerings for the deity) and flowers, which we were instructed to buy and submit in front of Ma Kali. We said we were just tourists who had come to visit but they forced us into buying it. We could’ve just turned around and come back, but in a momentary lapse of judgment, we bought it and went inside. I won’t go into the exact details of what happened when we went inside but all I will say is that when we came out, we were Rs.10,000 short. We had to donate to a lot of causes to ensure that our planets remain intact.
This plan was born out of our boredom with a mundane life. The two of us were talking about how much we had got caught up in the daily grind and realised we needed a break. We packed our bags in that instant and flew to Nepal two days later. We went directly to Nagarkot that evening from the airport. It was around 8:30pm and people were eating dinner, while some were preparing for bed. Nagarkot is a village situated 2,000 metres above sea level, in a valley that gets so dark at night you start to imagine horror, movie-like scenes playing out in front of you. That night we decided to try local food for dinner, instead of eating the steak at the hotel. Our only hope was the torch from our phone to lead us the way.
We walked about half an hour down the hill and found a small shop open that served drinks. We asked if they had anything to eat and they handed us a local packet of instant noodles called Wai-wai. We informed them that we wouldn’t be able to cook it and they looked at us quite strangely for a while. But they ended up cooking it for us in their own kitchen, in their home right beside the shop. They used local ingredients, of which we hardly recognised except the water and noodles. Believe me, it was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had.
On our way back to the hotel, the obvious happened. We lost our way, taking wrong turns at a few intersections and eventually, completely forgetting the way back. We kept walking until we discovered that a fox was accompanying us from the top of the hill. This relaxed us rather than scared us because if a ghost were to appear, we would not be alone. Scenes from every scary movie we’d ever watch could have played out in front of our eyes but it wasn’t too bad because we had each other. Finally, after a lot of searching and aimless roaming, we found the hotel around midnight.
The next morning, we shared our adventure stories with the hotel manager who told us we had been lucky. He said that foxes usually move about in herds, and the one that was following us probably had its herd somewhere nearby, waiting to attack and eat us in a more isolated place. I felt like our phones had kept us alive! We were trying to convince each other during breakfast that we had fun the night before but we were both shaking, thinking of what could have happened. Upon returning to Kathmandu, the first thing I did was buy a power bank.
Kathmandu was a fun and happening city. The roads of Thamel, an area full of shops, restaurants and bars were a pleasure to explore. We tried all the various foods Nepal has to offer – the thali, momos, dumplings etc, which we fell in love with. The most interesting sight was the European hippies, roaming around in baggy pants and playing their musical instruments, inspiring us to leave the routine life and join them sometimes. But then again, living in one pair of pants for a year did not sound too appealing.
Out of these three places, I was most excited to go to Malaysia. Mostly because it was going to be my first time island hopping and staying at a hotel with a sea view. But more importantly, I wanted to re-live the places where Shahrukh Khan (yes, I am a huge SRK fan) filmed the movie Don on the sky bridge in Langkawi.
We went to Malaysia during Eid-ul-Fitr. They call it Hari Raya Aid-il-Fitri, which they celebrate in great style. Kuala Lumpur was decorated in a million colours, but we decided to head for the beach. I had heard a lot about the cable car in Langkawi too. We flew from KL to Langkawi and went straight to Sunway Lagoon, which has six theme parks in one location, and there we relived our childhood. I must’ve had multiple heart attacks that day but I was glad I had the courage to try all the scary rides.
Langkawi is a district of Malaysia comprised of about 99 islands. It is situated in the Andaman Sea and is a very lovely place to roam around without a care in the world. There are a few beaches in Langkawi, but the most happening one is Cenang (do go there in the afternoon). One day we were there till 2 AM and saw the fire dance, which was an awesome sight to behold.
Island hopping is something that every traveller wishes to do once in their life and it is really a great experience. We hopped between three islands, one where there was a forest and a beach and amazing natural views, another where we saw eagles and fed them and the last where we found a lake at the top of a mountain on the island. The travels between each of these islands were by a speed-boat and it was quite nerve-wrecking.
Lastly, when it came to riding the cable car, I was thinking of not looking down. But when I did, I felt like I would break into a million pieces if I fell. The entire journey was very shaky, but when we reached the bridge, it was a surreal experience. We could see all the islands we just visited, both the island we stayed on and apparently all 99 islands of Langkawi. I also found out where the climactic scene of Don was shot!
Last but not least, I would recommend everyone to try the roadside foods of Malaysia, especially the seafood. I got a foot massage as well, but I feel that Thailand is still the best place for massages. But that’s a different story to be told on a different day.
So yes, travel with your partner and enjoy many beautiful, scary, interesting moments together because you never know, Kal Ho Na Ho. Too filmy?
Photographs from Unsplash.com