The Turkish wedding fiasco


The timer on my phone rings. That is the one hour mark I had set. I stand and stare at the narrow  mirror in my hotel room. I am pretty satisfied with what I see. I look pretty decent for someone who has never draped a saree by herself. Not that anyone in Turkey will mind how I have draped my saree.

In 10 minutes a cab arrives at the hotel to take me to the wedding venue. Oh, did I mention I am in Izmir, Turkey for my friend Gonca’s wedding?

I met Gonca when I was doing my M.S at Georgia Tech. She lived on the same floor, down the hall. We had common classes, hung out a bit and became friends.  In 2013 January she and Solen made a trip to India for my wedding and last month it was my turn to reciprocate the gesture.

Gonca had sent me detailed google map directions  for my trip – directions from the airport shuttle to my hotel, directions from my hotel to the shuttle, directions to the wedding venue, directions to the closest landmark near the venue. She was detailed that way and I had done my part and taken a printout of each one of them.

Earlier in the day I  handed over the directions to the venue to the receptionist at my hotel who after an animated discussion with the bell boy said I needn’t worry about a thing. He said by 6 pm he would have a cab take me to the venue.True to his word he was.

The venue turns out to be beautiful. It is a stadium which I assume is used for functions now and then and it is by the seafront  and has a lovely view of the city on the other side.  There are caterers dressed in all black with crisp white aprons scurrying around. Funny! I see only the caterers, no guests. Gonca had mentioned that there were rooms at the venue for the guests to freshen up. Just when it dawns on me that I may have landed up at the wrong venue the cabbie revs his engine and zooms away.

I am not too worried at this point. So I walk up to a bunch of young guys  standing around a large white and pink floral arrangement at the entrance and ask them if this is the  wedding of Gonca karakus and Solen Soya? I am not prepared for what happens next!

They don’t speak English. They seem amused at my Saree. My queries are returned by really cute smile ( not really helpful at this time) and an occasional ‘yes’. Unfortunately the printouts with the venue details and directions are with the cab guy. So I try a different tactic.

“I am Lisa, from India. Go to Nikar ( at this time I show them my wedding ring) of Gonca Karakus”.

This seems positive, one of the guys seem to understand my predicament.

” Ohhhh :, he says, yes fully understanding my plight , ” BOLLYWOOD!”.

I spend 20 minutes with them until I am rescued by their supervisor who understands English.

He explains to me that I am at the wrong venue ( you don’t say!) this is not a wedding function but a felicitation ceremony of sorts but not to worry the wedding is just down the road.

He is sweet enough to walk me to the wedding.  I have to say this just bolsters my argument as to why Turkey is my favorite country in the whole world.

The wedding is a short walk away. He leaves me at the entrance to the venue. I know this must be a wedding venue.  The women are dressed in gorgeous gowns and the men look dapper in their suits. I feel relieved. I am ushered in by a lady in a black suit and a name tag. The venue is a old house facing the sea with a lawn area at the centre of which is a decorated wedding pavilion.  I notice people looking at me. Initially I had contemplated on not  draping a saree but had eventually thought it would be adventurous.

It was a pleasant evening and gentle breeze was blowing from the Agean Sea. Only when the waiter came around with short eats did I realise how hungry I was. Half way through my tart the music starts  and the bride and groom walks  in. What a beautiful couple and they look so happy . The only problem is that they are not Gonca and Solen. I am at the wrong venue again!

The looks I got may not really be for the exotic way I am dressed. I am a wedding crasher!  I bolt out of there without second thoughts. Of all the crazy things I have done (and there is a long list ) this one takes the cake.

I am standing by the road wondering if I should go back to the  hotel and start from there again when a cab drives up. On second thoughts I decide to go wedding hunting. I get into the cab and explain to the driver in a state of panic

“Nikar( the Turkish word for Wedding), then next nikar till Karakus nikar”.

The nice cab driver takes me to the next wedding venue which has a sign outside welcoming the guests. It is not Gonca’s wedding. So he takes me to the next wedding. I see someone who look like Gonca’s mom. I have never met her but only seen her pictures on facebook. This time I make sure I take a good look at the bride and groom to ensure that I am not crashing another wedding.

After a hour or so of crashing and hunting for the Karakus wedding I arrive in time to partake in the celebration while Gonca and Solen say ‘I do’ to each other.

An unexpected Jaipur


In this information age, it is slightly more difficult for travelers to be surprised given the amount of research that one does in acquiring that cheap ticket, that cheap hotel and the most optimized route for travel. But I am  rather proud to say that Jaipur surprised us! Yes we did our fair share of research before we left on our trip.

Jaipur was established by Maharaja Sawai  Jai Singh II around 1772 . It the first planned city in India. The locals  are always quick to point out that there is no curved or winding road in all of Jaipur. A trek up to the Nahargarh fort will prove them right. From the vantage point of the fort there is a 180 degree view of the city of Jaipur. The nine blocks architect-ed  by the King lies with straight tree lined roads through them.

Our trip to Jaipur was not one of our usual weekend jaunts. We were representing the modern Thrifty Drifter concept conceived by the Ginger chain of hotels. Ginger hotels conducted a competition asking for stories that demonstrated ‘thrifty travels’. I submitted ab article on my travel to the Sunderbans. When I got the intimation from Ginger hotels I was overjoyed. Having never been to Jaipur and was super excited. Moreover the Ginger Hotels allocated us a budget for our trip and we had to show case how Thrifty travelers would use the constrained budget.We were also given a share of fun tasks to complete while on our three days trip. In hindsight it was these tasks that made Jaipur unexpected for us. Read on for an explanation! Also you can check out the details of the ThriftyDrifter contest at ginger hotels.

Task #1 : Learn 5 slang words from locals

I am an ardent believer of the fact that people and the land go hand in hand. It is impossible to explore a place without knowing about it’s people. To complete this task we had to stop and speak to the different people. Almost all the locals we interacted with were only too happy to help. Some of them were camera shy but that did not stop them from teaching us a thing or to.

Task #2: Pictures of people, things and building in pink

This was far too easy ( most of them anyway!) especially since we were in the pink city! At every turn there was pink building or a lady in pink. We hit a wall when we realized that the museums did not allow photographs. How on earth were we to find a ancient artifact in pink outside of the museums? And along came Jantar Mantar to the rescue. The sun dials here have triangular walls made of the pink stone characteristic to Jaipur and that’s not it. They have been keeping time almost accurately for over a hundred years.

Task #3: A picture with Tikam Chand’s 150 year camera

This has got to be the most memorable part of our trip. Had it not been for the challenges we would have walked past the black box of a camera without a second look.

Tikam Chand’s grand father was the court photographer of the royals. When all royal titles were abolished his grandfather was given the camera to carry on his profession outside of the royal courts. His son’s took up the profession after him as did his grandsons. In the time of DSLRs and unlimited memory cards, a Polaroid picture developed within ten minutes using all natural materials has got to be best souvenir ever!

Lastly I have to mention our stay at Ginger hotel, Jaipur. It was comforting to come back to our tidy and well designed room after a day of gallivanting. Being centrally located we were not too far from anywhere. The staff were very helpful and gave us a tip or two on what to see, where to shop and where to eat!  The hotel has used  prints of Rajasthani traditional attire and scenes very tastefully to decorate the hall ways and the rooms. We were every happy with our stay and will definitely drop by again!

To know more about my visit to Jaipur follow- or @stayatginger.

[ This trip was sponsored by Ginger Hotels .]