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Water Collection in Jaipur, India

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

India, unfortunately, has a bad reputation with the quality of its water supply. While this may be true when you compare it with Singapore (the country with the highest standard in the world, outperforming even the World Health Organization’s recommendation), it is not ‘that’ bad as you imagine it to be—in Jaipur, at least.

Rajasthan, with Jaipur as its capital, is located along the fringes of the Thar (Great Indian) Desert. With this challenging environment, generations after generations had to innovate methods to successfully collect, store, and distribute water all throughout the state. People had to consider methods that will keep up not only with the vulnerable geography but also with the increasing population. In Jaipur alone, population density is at 6,300/sq. km, the 10th in India.

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A rainwater collection tank at a haveli-turned-guesthouse where I’m staying now.

Walking along bazaars in Jaipur, it is not uncommon to see rainwater collection tanks secured on top of havelis and rental buildings. This centuries-old tank system is just one of the many indigenous water collection methods being employed in the city. Other methods include putting up of artificial lakes, baories (step-wells), kunds (stepped ponds), reservoirs, and wells. Most of these were constructed at the time of Jai Singh II, founder of Jaipur and the city’s master planner.

These indigenous facilities are continuously preserved and renovated, still enjoyed by Jaipur’s citizens even after almost three centuries since they were built. Badi Chaupar and Choti Chaupar, 19th-century public squares, still provide water to the public up until today. The only difference is that from an open reservoir, supply from these fountains is now delivered in pipes. It is not difficult to miss these fountains as you will often see people gather around the pipes bringing bottles and buckets.

Water storage was once a mark of social status, with those from princely and noble families having their own water collection system in their homes. Water distribution was also controlled by these affluent families. Palaces (which are now converted into hotels or museums) and havelis still have these storage systems in place and are still being used.

Today, thanks to everyone’s effort to preserve and improve on centuries-old water collection, storage, and distribution systems, the public now has free access to clean water all around Jaipur. The concept of ‘clean’ is always relative, but so far, I had no problems with bathing and washing with tap water, and enjoying my coffee and tea with boiled tap water.

  • Why you should not be so trusting of tap water here just yet: If you’re not used to drinking from the tap, it is best to stick to bottled water even for brushing your teeth. You don’t want to ruin your trip for trying out something ‘local.’ Before this trip, I exposed myself to drinking a fair bit from different taps and eating street food in the Philippines to get that ‘more resilient stomach’ for digestive issues that may arise. So far, the trick works.
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤

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Havelis in Jaipur, India

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

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Havelis: a constant sight in Jaipur

An interesting constant feature in bazaars around Jaipur, India, is the haveli.

Havelis of Jaipur refer to “medieval north Indian mansions belonging to nobles” (UNESCO, 2011) that feature square or rectangular-shaped courtyard houses. These structures are hard to miss for they form the very fabric of bazaar life in Jaipur.

Without the unique typology of havelis consisting of bungalows, stepped terraces, multiple courtyards, well-defined chowkri (sector), and intricate window panes, Jaipur’s noble past can be easily overridden by urbanization. Putting historical socio-economic issues aside, on architectural and cultural preservation points of view, we can give Rajasthan’s* Tourism and Urban Development Ministry due credit for all the preservation work being done.

Many havelis are passed down through generations and to sell these heirlooms are considered unthinkable. Today, many havelis are transformed into commercial rental spaces, restaurants, and guesthouses. Usually, the first floor is for rentals; and the subsequent floors serve as a guesthouse which is also managed by the haveli-owning family. The owning family lives in the haveli, as well.

It is best to think of a haveli structure as divided into two: the single-family cluster (1) and the servant cluster (2). Between these two clusters lies a thin zenana wing, a waiting area reserved for the house’s attending ladies (today, these cluster differentiations are redefined as you will read below). A family’s status is determined by the number of clusters in their haveli: more clusters mean a higher status.

  • Why it’s a good choice to stay in a haveli:  R and I are grateful for the opportunity to live in a haveli all throughout our stay here in Jaipur. Living in one is like stepping back in time with marble floorings, pillars, carvings, antique implements, and paintings found even in the tiniest of rooms.

A haveli guesthouse is run much like how it was in Jaipur’s noble past, with the owning family in its own cluster, the guests in another, and the attending men and women in another. These days, thankfully, things have changed: the clustering now only refers to sleeping arrangements, and it is not uncommon to see the owning family, guests, and attendants sharing a meal and working together.

Staying in a haveli is one of the rare opportunities to live in a breathing museum. It is okay to get too comfortable, too!

  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤

*Rajasthan refers to the northern state of India.

Source: Jain, S. (2011). Walking into the Microcosm of Jaipur. UNESCO New Delhi.

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Market of Senlis in Senlis, France (Marché de Senlis)

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

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The Senlis street market within the medieval walls

Name of market: Marché de Senlis/ Market of Senlis

Address: Downtown of Senlis, L’Oise, Hauts-de-France, France.

Operating days and times: Tuesday and Friday, 8:00 AM – 12 NN

How to get there: via train from Paris Gare du Nord or Paris Gare de Lyon. The trip takes around 1.5 hours. If via car from Paris Gare du Nord, it takes around 45 minutes.

Website: www.en.senlis-tourisme.fr

Fast Facts:

  • Senlis is a medieval town built in the 12th century and stands as a testament to changes in the socio-economic and political climate of France. It is said that nothing much has changed since it was left in ruins right after the end of the French Revolution in 1799.
  • Aside from the local street market, other town attractions include the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Senlis castle, and the now-abandoned (thankfully) Roman ampitheatre which staged gladiator fights.

Visitor Tips: 

  • Arrive early especially if you’re looking to shop for fresh produce and homemade cooked foods. They sell out pretty fast.
  • It can help if you know how to speak a bit of French. Since this is a local market with trades dominated by the older generation, many stall owners will appreciate it if you at least know how to ask for prices and to count in French.
  • Why you should consider visiting: want to step back in time?
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤

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Market Find: Barbecue Skewers

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

Largely a meat-loving society, it is common for Filipinos to have meat viands and snacks paired up with steamed rice and sawsawan (dips).

Visitors to the Philippines may find it surprising to see barbecue skewers being sold in markets both in large and small markets. The fare is sold so casually that even kids are asked to fan out the skewers as they are being roasted with locally sourced charcoal and a makeshift rack.

At around PHP 10 (0.2 USD) per stick, it is not bad when you’re craving for a rich protein fix. As for health concerns, I think this issue has more to do with how soon and how much you want to adapt. We all can’t go on eating off a pack, don’t we?

Why I love it: although not a big pork and beef fan, I love the way Filipinos marinate these skewers which side more as a sweet fare. These are very filling and can be eaten on the go on its own or, as I prefer, as a main meal with rice.

Barbecue skewers at PHP 10 per stick!

As with any cultural element in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

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Market Find: Churros

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

A main fare in Spain and in its former and current colonies, churros, also called tejeringos, calientes, calentitos de rueda, or calentitos de papas, have gained worldwide popularity thanks to their addicting texture and taste.

It is not uncommon to see churros in markets in Spain, Latin America, and in the Philippines. However, remember that churros have been indigenized depending on where they’re made. For example, in the Philippines, churros have inspired the creation of deep fried “donat” (a borrowing from the term “doughnut”).

Try churros plain, with dulce de leche, chocolate, or cinnamon as popularized by Disney Theme Parks.

Why I love it: I love how churros are so crispy on the outside yet with bursts of flavors inside. I also like how they’re so versatile that you can pair them up with almost anything. Churros are one of those guilty pleasures that you want to enjoy once in a while.

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Churros with dulce de leche filling (Seville, Spain).

As with any cultural element in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

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Market Find: Ar-arosep/ Seaweed/ Sea Grape/ Green Caviar

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

The Philippines has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and its marine life is no exception.

One interesting find in Philippine markets in the Ilocos region is “Ar-arosep,” a local term for seaweed, sea grape, and green caviar.

Only seasonally available in high-end restaurants overseas, the Philippines is lucky yet again to be gifted with Ar-arosep that is best known to treat thyroid disorders. That is an advice taken from local elders who have precious wisdom passed down from generations.

Water pollution is the major threat to the increasing fall of Ar-arosep.

If you pass by Ilokano markets, be sure to look for this navy green, bush-like presence. It’s best enjoyed fresh with sliced Ilokano tomatoes (tiny but very sweet).

Why I love it: ar-arosep represents one of the few unspoilt beauties still available in the Philippines. It serves as a reminder that in the midst of commercial fishing and industrialization, there lies survivors that find their way into local markets.

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Ar-arosep: one of the many overlooked Philippine market finds

As with any cultural element in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

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Nagwon/Nakwon Music Arcade in Seoul, South Korea (낙원 악기상가)

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

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The Nagwon Music Arcade. Since all signs are written in Korean, look for the Standard Chartered Bank across the subway. The arcade starts on the second floor of this building.

Name of market: Nagwon/Nakwon Music Arcade (낙원 악기상가)

Address: 110-707 428, Samil-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Operating times: Monday – Saturday (closed on Sundays), 9 AM – 8 PM

How to get there: via subway, Jongno-3-ga Station (Line 1, 3, 5, Exit 5, to your right). It starts on the second floor of Standard Chartered Bank.

Fast Facts:

  • This is the ultimate go-to for music enthusiasts in South Korea. The arcade has everything: from Spanish guitars, baby pianos, to pink guitars customizable with your own name.
  • As the arcade is mostly catered for Koreans, the signages are written in Korean as well. Just ask around where “Nagwon Music Arcade” is and locals will be more than helpful to assist you. Tip: It’s on the second floor of “Standard Chartered Bank” just across Exit 5 of Jongno 3 (sam)-ga station.
  • Shop owners here know their stuff well as they are serious musicians themselves. You will be safe from vague selling points typical with general music stores.

Visitor Tips:

  • It would be useful to learn basic Hangeul (Korean script) and Korean when visiting this market because almost all signs are written in Hangeul. You can check out Talk to Me in Korean, hands down the best resource for Korean language learning!
  • South Korea now has an information hotline for tourists, operating 24/7. You can call the office at 1330 (when calling within Korea), or +82 1330 (when calling from outside Korea). Four languages are currently supported: English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
  • Why I’m going back: One, it’s South Korea (R and I’s favorite country aside from the Philippines). Two, it’s refreshing to find locals so passionate about music that selling is sort of beside the point. Three, the arcade is just a stone’s throw away from Jongo 3’s food street which is a destination in itself.
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤