Hyderabad, India

Yesterday I caught a rickshaw out to the tombs of the seven Qutub Shahi rulers. The Qutub Shahi dynasty lasted over 150 years from 1518 to 1687 and it was during this period that the city of Hyderabad was founded by the 5th ruler, Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah.

A rather gloomy day, I was reminded of that fact that it’s still monsoon season in this region as it began to rain torrentially shortly after my arrival. A warm, almost comforting storm that served as an excellent soothing agent for the headache I’d earned from a night of drinking at one of the bars in nearby Hitech city.

A man rests in the entrance to one of the Qutub Shahi Tombs
Archways line the exterior of the Qutub Shahi tombs Domes of the Qutub Shahi tombs drenched in rain, serving as a reminder that it is still monsoon season in Hyderabad
Microscopic frogs litter the walkways of the Qutub Shahi gardens The beautiful albeit ill-maintained interior of one of the Qutub Shahi tombs
The largest of the Qutub Shahi tombs Tank Bund, a statue of Bhudda erected in 1992 in the Hussain Sagar lake


Hyderabad, India

I could feel my blood pressure rising as the plane touched down in Hyderabad. With the exception of a small group of Malaysian students, I was the only individual on the plane that didn’t appear to be a local and I could feel the eyes on me before we’d even disembarked. The question on their minds, I suspect, was the same one I was starting to wonder myself: What was I doing here?

I visited India once when I was a teenager and it was a terrifying experience. I had no preconceived notion of what poverty meant, nor any tolerance for the apparent disorder of Indian cities. I really struggled to adjust and one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to come back here was to undo that terror. To understand it.

As I step out into the arrival hall, I am greeted by the huge grin of a man named Sidhu, a friend of a friend back home who has been tasked with showing me around. He speaks little english and my Telugu is non-existent. Despite this we manage a dialogue helped in part by sign language. We drive back to the house and he explains that in the morning he’ll take me to see Charminar & Golconda Fort. I nod, wearily, and retire for the evening.

Venturing out the next morning, I was hit with the odd celebrity that seems to accompany being a westerner in an Indian neighbourhood. People everywhere are staring at you. I walk down the street and it feels as if every eye in a 50-metre radius is on me. We sit down for breakfast and it’s eyes eyes eyes. I eat my food, eyes eyes eyes. At first oppressive, I begin to normalise the experience and enjoy the incredible food on offer.

Later, Sidhu drives me across town on his motorbike and it’s mayhem. A total circus where the star act is a symphony of horns and aggressive braking. I can’t help but laugh as we dart between cars, up onto the sidewalk and around cattle. It’s absurd and yet somehow the system works. Unlike back home, you expect to be cut-off here, to have someone turn right into your path and so on. Most incredibly, there was no road rage to be seen and the people tend to accept that if you can manoeuvre to cut them off then fair enough. There might be something to be learned here for drivers in the west.

An impressive structure, the fort was completed in the 1500s and pre-dates the city of Hyderabad. The king and his 300 wives lived there in absolute luxury, afforded to them by the castles considerable mod-cons (running water, heating and so on). Many of the halls had roofs specially constructed so that they would project the sounds beneath them to watchtowers further up the castle. This ingenious system allowed the king and his guards to listen in and spy on their subjects, as well as raise alarm of an attack quickly.

View from the top of Charminar
Golconda fort with the city of Hyderabad in the background
Charminar, meaning literally the 'Four Minarets' is one of the founding structures of Hyderabad A couple enjoy the view from atop Golconda fort


Kuala lumpur, Malaysia

On the way through to India, I stopped off in Kuala lumpur for a day: a chaotic city filled with people that are incredibly warm & welcoming. The air was thick with the smell of clove cigarrettes and the heat bordered on unbearable as I explored it’s curious mix of modernity & antiquity. The city is littered with many beautiful, new skyscrapers which loom over the fractal back alleys and open-air meat markets of Chow Kit and the like.

I was glad to have made the effort to check it out but after hiking around the city in an almost perpetual state of sweat all day I felt immense pity for the poor souls seated next to me on the flight to Hyderabad.

Some ruins found in the city centre benath the KL Tower Seeking refuge from the heat near Merdeka square
The KL Tower stands tall over the city A crowded store somewhere in the city centre
Street art found outside a bar in the Bukit Bintang district


Auckland, New Zealand

“Are you excited?” is a question I’ve been asked frequently in the month leading up to my departure. Invariably I have struggled to answer it. The truth is that I’m not excited, I’m absolutely terrified. Jumping headfirst into a culture I know nothing about scares the shit out of me.

Accompanying the anxiety is sadness. Mourning the loss of a life that I’ve led happily in Auckland. My decision to leave has not been one based on unhappiness and this makes it very hard to pull up the roots and say goodbye, especially to the kids of my friends. The next time I see them they’ll be twice the size.

Dismantling each piece of the puzzle here has produced an ongoing procession of losses. Resignation from a job that I have loved dearly, giving notice of my departure to flatmates I have come to consider great friends, selling the motorcycle I learned to ride on and waving farewell to the wonderful collection of humans in my life. Each and every step is accompanied by a small package of pain, which I have been unable to justify with any certainty of what’s to come.

Despite the trepidation, I am looking forward to the journey, and there is some solace in remembering that if this move were comfortable then I couldn’t hope to grow as much from it. I moved to Auckland 5 years ago and have come to call it home. A home I hope to return to later in life. Until then I will miss it dearly.

Looking out over the Waitakere ranges from above Piano gully in Awhitu

Looking out over the Waitakere ranges from above Piano gully in Awhitu


Papamoa, New Zealand
Dawn along the coast of Papamoa, looking towards Mount Maunganui

Dawn along the coast of Papamoa, looking towards Mount Maunganui