East Meets East: A Tale of Two Homelands – From the Colours of India to the Serenity of Kenya

A Cultural Odyssey. My narrative takes place in the vibrant fabric of two dissimilar yet compelling lands: Kenya, the cradle of mankind in East Africa, and India, an ancient civilisation brimming with cultural and historical treasures. Born and nurtured amid the lovely landscapes of Uasingishu, Kenya (though to be honest, I spent more time chasing […]
East meets East, from India to Kenya.

Apr 4, 2024

A Cultural Odyssey.

My narrative takes place in the vibrant fabric of two dissimilar yet compelling lands: Kenya, the cradle of mankind in East Africa, and India, an ancient civilisation brimming with cultural and historical treasures.

Born and nurtured amid the lovely landscapes of Uasingishu, Kenya (though to be honest, I spent more time chasing goats than staring at them), my childhood was a sunbaked haze of Kenyan wonderfulness.

Elementary school was a crash experience covering everything Kenyan, from the language to my classmates’ poor wardrobe choices.  I then journeyed westward, like a lost zebra, to high school before continuing my education at the coastal paradise of Kilifi.  Each stop along the route providing more Kenyan culture, much like heaping mangoes on your plate at a family feast.

Let’s just say that I am as Kenyan as a cup of strong chai.

After completing middle school, the attraction of further study beckoned.  The picturesque Kenyan coast served as my intellectual sanctuary during my bachelor’s. The sun-drenched beaches and tranquil embrace of the Indian Ocean served as a lovely background for my studies. However, a desire for adventure and knowledge of a different type began to blossom inside me.

This longing led to a critical decision: to pursue my ventures in the magical realm of India.

A Breathtaking Sunrise over the Mcleodganj Hills, India.

India, the home of spices, spirituality, and Bollywood, unfolded before me like a colourful kaleidoscope.

Punjab, the ancestral homeland of Sikhism, became my adoptive home during this transforming time.  The cultural and natural contrasts between Kenya and India were dramatic yet captivating.  Unlike Kenya’s pleasant environment, India offered an intriguing dance of extremes. The searing heat of Indian summer, followed by the drastic decrease in temperatures throughout winter, was an unforgettable experience.

Amritsar, the spiritual heart of Sikhism and the site of the awe-inspiring Golden Temple stole a piece of my heart. The city’s vibrant energy, historical significance, and spiritual aura left an indelible mark; but my explorations extended beyond the bustling cities.

The Golden Temple at Amritsar, India, pictured at night.

As I navigated the bustling streets of Amritsar, a city that instantly became one of my favourite destinations, I was struck by the vibrant colours, aromatic spices, and warm hospitality that permeated every corner.

A street view in Amritsar, India.

My inner explorer, fueled by a desperate need to escape another football defeat, led me to Sikkim.  This mountain paradise, nestled against China like a misplaced puzzle piece, boasts some of the friendliest folks I’ve met.

Turns out, Sikkimese people share my passion for the beautiful game, which resulted in some epic matches, full of enthusiasm, but hey, that’s what counts, right?

The Sikkhim Hills, India.

Speaking of indomitable spirits, these folks living on the edge of the Himalayas are about as tough as their scenery, and finally, witnessing the snow-capped peaks of Himachal Pradesh was a dream come true, though it did leave me wondering if I’d packed enough layers.

A beautiful panoramic view of the Himachal Hills, in northern India.

Now for the food.  Coming from a predominantly vegetarian background in most parts of India, Sikkim state has a carnivore’s delight!  Here, I indulged in some non-veg delights, experiencing a natural feeling of being back home in Kenya (well, almost!).

Punjab, beyond its cultural richness, boasts a treasure trove of tourist attractions.  From historical monuments to serene gardens, there’s something for everyone.  The people of Punjab, known for their hospitality and warmth, readily embraced me, making me feel right at home, but it was in the heart of Punjab that I truly felt at home.

The region’s rich heritage, manifested in its stunning architectural marvels and welcoming people, left a permanent mark on my soul.  The well-maintained roads make for scenic journeys, perfect for road trips, and exploration, and provided the perfect canvas for leisurely cruising, allowing me to soak in the sights and sounds that defined this captivating land.

Venturing Beyond the Usual Tourist Trail

While the aforementioned destinations offer a glimpse into the heart of India, there’s so much more to explore for the intrepid traveller.  Here are a few suggestions to consider when venturing beyond the usual tourist trail:

  1. The Northeast:  Move over, Himalayas!   The mesmerising beauty of the Northeast Indian states, with
    their lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls, and unique tribal cultures, is a sight to behold.  Explore
    Nagaland, home to the headhunting tribes (now a peaceful community) or Meghalaya, the wettest
    place on Earth, boasting breathtaking living root bridges.
  2. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands:  Paradise awaits on these unspoiled islands in the Bay of Bengal.  Imagine crystal-clear blue seas, gorgeous beaches, and brilliant coral reefs teaming with sea life.  A sanctuary for scuba divers and environment enthusiasts alike.
  3. The Thar Desert:  Rajasthan’s crown treasure will take your breath away.  Ride a camel over the dunes, camp beneath a starry sky, and succumb to the allure of desert life.
  4. Manali:  It is a magnet for international students and daring locals, especially as winter sets in across
    India.  Think breathtaking Himalayan scenery, adrenaline-pumping activities, and enough youthful
    energy to run a small power plant.  Just be prepared for Manali’s wild side, and we’re not talking
    about the nightlife.  The Jana Waterfall needs a walk-through of lush deodar and pine forests.  Imagine
    trekking through these gorgeous forests, only to stumble and fall face-first into a mound of, well,
    fertiliser.  Let’s just say that the fresh mountain air may not smell as “fresh” for a few seconds!

    The Manali Hills, India.

  5. Jammu and Kashmir:  In my grad school days in Amritsar, my buddies would regale me with tales of Kashmir, a place they described as so beautiful it caused arguments about who got the better reincarnation.  Let’s just say their glowing descriptions set the bar impossibly high.  Kashmir did live up to the hype, but not without a few laughs along the way.  Turns out “paradise on earth” comes with its share of quirks, like navigating the throngs of selfie-stick-wielding tourists or the persistent houseboat touts who seem to operate in Kashmir.

Kenya:  A Wildlife Paradise

While India enthralled me with its cultural tapestry, Kenya’s magic lies in its untamed wilderness and breathtaking wildlife encounters. Here are some off-the-beaten-path suggestions for the Kenya leg of your adventure:

  1. Lake Turkana:  Explore the jade-green waters of Lake Turkana, the largest permanent desert lake in the world.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 400 species calling it home.  Lake Turkana is a place of dramatic landscapes and fascinating wildlife.  You’ve got the vast lake itself, fringed by volcanic rock and teeming with millions of flamingos – a photographer’s dream!  But brace yourself, because alongside these graceful birds, there’s another resident that might challenge your olfactory senses: fermented fish.  Yup, a local delicacy enjoyed around the lake with a, shall we say, “unique” aroma.  Imagine the juxtaposition – snapping Insta-worthy pics of flamingos by day, then getting a whiff of this local speciality by night.  Just another unforgettable adventure on the shores of Lake Turkana!
  2. The Great Rift Valley:  “Home of Champions” as many call it.  Embark on a journey through the cradle of humanity, the Great Rift Valley.  Explore the breathtaking scenery, visit flamingo-filled lakes, especially around Kerio Valley, and Nakuru lakes, as well as the notable Lake Bogoria hot spring where you can boil eggs live in the lake.  There are also various snake parks and wild reserves where it’s possible to delve into the rich archaeological finds that paint a picture of our prehistoric past.

    Views over one of the pristine Lakes in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya.

  3. Kenya North Coast;  The Kenyan coast spans from the golden beaches and mangroves of Midas Creek in Kilifi to the vibrant tapestry of Watamu and Malindi.  Pristine beaches and azure oceans – it was postcard-perfect.  I imagined myself reclining in a comfortable lounge chair, drinking a delicious cocktail with a little umbrella, but forget about the five-star dream!  Beach dominance adopted a separate set of rules: “Beach Blanket Battleship,” similar to the Indian Goa aesthetic view.

So imagine this… arriving at an empty beach, only to see a strategically placed landscape of colorful beach blankets claiming great territory.  Finding a position required negotiating a sea of textiles, with the odd need to gently bargain with a blanket-wielding Kenyan family who appeared to have claimed the whole shoreline.  It was a humorous and perhaps perplexing cultural difference, but hey, it gave an element of excitement to getting that ideal slice of heaven.

“Old Ferry Bridge” at the entrance to Kilifi Town, Kenya.

Throughout my journey, I was continuously reminded of the stark contrasts and profound similarities that exist between my two homelands.

Kenya, with its serene landscapes and rich cultural tapestry, provided a grounding force, while India’s kaleidoscope of colours – especially during Holi and Diwali celebrations – along with it’s flavours, ignited a sense of wonder and appreciation for the diversity that exists within the East.

This cultural journey not only broadened my perspectives but also pointed out the essential reality that, despite our outward differences, we are all bound by a common humanity.  Indeed, I am grateful to observe the beauty and depth of these two extraordinary cultures, each of which has left an unforgettable stamp on my heart and soul.

The voyage from Kenya to India has been a colourful tapestry of cultural exchanges and environmental discoveries.  But hey, the human connections?  Top notch!  This whole adventure proves that variety truly is the spice of life.  It demonstrates the beauty of embracing the transforming effect of travel.

So, pack your bags, crank up your inner Indiana Jones, and get out there.  The world’s a wild place, and you might just make some seriously wonderful memories along the way.

(This article was written by Gliday Yuka Luvonga, a Guest Writer for The Africa Rally; to get in touch about joining our team of Guest Writers, or taking part in one of our events, please email the HQ Team on info@africarally.com)

(To find out more about Kenya or India, and the experiences which make it an amazing holiday destination, please go to Visit Kenya or Incredible India for more information.)

About the Author

Gliday isn't your typical Kenyan scientist. By day, he is a biotech researcher, unlocking the potential of science for agriculture, health, and sustainability. By night, he transforms into a captivating storyteller, crafting engaging narratives across genres. His work on Shamba AI empowers Kenyan farmers with AI tools to improve food production, but Gliday's talents extend beyond the lab. A gifted all round communicator, he can not only bridge the gap between science and society, but write to inspire when it comes to his own personal travel experiences.

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