Over Christmas in 2015 I visited my mom’s side of the family in Secunderabad (Telagana, India). I hadn’t been since I was 12 years old so was quite overdue for a visit! We went up to Agra and saw the Taj Mahal and explored a little bit of Delhi, which was actually the first time in my seven visits that we’ve ever gone sightseeing outside of Secunderabad/Hyderabad. Seeing these fantastic places was wonderful and a dream come true but the best part of the trip was experiencing my other-side-of-the-world home town as an adult.
When I was kid, all I wanted to do was go home and not leave the house because we’d always be stared and gawked at with our pale skin. This time seemed to be totally different; I felt like I was hardly even noticed at times by others – the main difference now being that everyone had their face in their cell phones. It was so nice to go out in the auto rickshaws and not feel like I had to hide.
With the little time I actually had for vacation I saw quite a bit here and there of Secunderabad. I missed out on seeing Hyderabad, but that just means I’ll have to go back soon! My aunt, whose house we stayed in, has a great friend in a certain auto rickshaw driver and calls him specifically when she needs to go anywhere, so we used Anjanelo’s driving services almost every day. He’s a sweet man who was happy to be our personal driver anywhere we went. He would even wait specifically for us and turn down other potential clients. We made sure to bring him a little doggie bag after we’d go out for lunch and paid him well each day.
Anjanelo taking us out on the town!
Because of Anjanelo’s kindness we had a lot of fun visiting Secunderabad’s streets, markets, shops, and restaurants. One of my favorite spots, and the only place I’ve ever seen tourists in Secunderabad (!!!), was James Street with its stalls of shops for all needs, from kitchen necessities to beautiful sarees and fabric. I’m not much of a shopper anymore so I just picked up a few bangles for friends back home and a kurti for myself, but that was about it. My sister went all out, though!
Entering the crowds of James Street!
Pick out any bindis you like!
Aside from all the amazing food my aunts spoiled me with (crab curry omgoodness!) I enjoyed many authentic south Indian dishes around Secunderabad. We went for thali, which is like a sampling of several small plates/curries that you eat with naan bread or rice and also tasted chaat from a famous street chaat vendor, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever had. Hard to describe, but it’s kind of a sweeter chickpea stew with hard small pooris inside… I guess you’ll just have to try it sometime!
We also tried paan, which is a sweet rose/coconut dessert wrapped in a leaf. They made it touristy for us in that they covered it in Nutella and sprinkles, which makes anything sound great, but I have to admit it was one of the worst flavors I have EVER had. It was almost like a fermented rose flavor that I couldn’t get out of my mouth for days! I took one bite and had to pretend that it wasn’t horrible so I wouldn’t offend the shop owner. I discretely tucked it in a napkin and threw it out. So all paan tasters beware! Haha 🙂
Paan… looks innocent but never again!
By far my most memorable food was from Blue Sea Cafe, which serves the best tea I’ve ever had in my life. It was the perfect light brown, sweetened with glorious condensed milk, and served to us in espresso cups directly in the car by one of the shop boys. I mean, he really brought it right to the car! This is pretty normal as the shop is so crowded, plus being tourists we didn’t want to try to squeeze our way in there. It was fabulous and a must for anyone visiting Secunderabad.
I wish I had much more time in Secunderabad, but like I said, I have to go back soon. I’m probably going to be getting my OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card within the next few years so I’ll be able to come and go as I please. It’ll be great not having to worry about a visa and I’ll feel much closer to India and my heritage.
I highly recommend a day in Secunderabad if you have plans to put Hyderabad on your Indian itinerary. With fantastic food and fun shops it’s a small slice of authentic India heaven.