So, you just had a baby, are pretty exhausted and definitely don’t want to get on a plane? And yet, you miss getting that buzz you get from experiencing other cultures? Do not despair, because there are great ways to experience other cultures even without going on a plane. Last weekend our three and a half month old, my partner and I went to the Boishakhi Mela in Weavers Field, Tower Hamlets in London.
Picture a Park full of Bangladeshi Families, most of them dressed up beautifully in traditional clothes especially for the occasion with fantastic jewellery and sometimes even flowers in their hair. It felt like being in Bangladesh – even though the park was packed, I can count on two hands the amount of English families I have seen that day.
It was a great opportunity not only to immerse myself into the culture visually but also food wise and taste asian food beyond the usual byriani and chicken tikka masala. Special street food stalls served gorgeous delicacies such as pav bhaji, a type of spiced vegetable mash which is so delicious that my mouth is watering as I write this.
On the stage, a BBC Asian Network DJ presented acts from traditional music to asian hip hop and the crowd went wild. Amongst the countless market stalls the crowd had one clear favourite: the discount sari stalls. Between the explosion of colour and hundreds of Asian ladies as determined as your average Brit on a boxing day sale, the hustle and bustle definitely reminded me of my travels in Nepal and India.
Just sitting in the shade and observing the crowd, you notice many little details, for example the street food stall called Dehli (from India) did not get many visitors, but the one called Dhaka had a long queue. Either the Banglashi stall had a reputation for being exceptionally good, or we just saw world politics play out in Weavers Field.
Top tips for making the most of visiting a Mela with baby: as I plan to go to similar events in the future, I might get some baby ear protection so I can get closer to the music action. In this Mela, there was enough space to spread out so next time I might take a picnic blanket.
Cost: often free, just take some money for food!
Top tips for finding places to visit the world in London:
- If you are interested in South Asia, google ‘Mela’ London – you are very likely to find Asian celebrations in parks for example the Mela in Wembley Park on 3rd September
- Take a trip up to Stamford Hill and experience the amazing outfit of the Hassidic Jewish men- I have only driven through the area once but was so impressed with all the men walking around in beautiful cloaks and hats that I definitely want to visit again – do let me know if you want to join.
- Search online for ‘[country of your choice] and ‘festival’ or ‘independence day’ – for example the Nigerian Independence day is coming up in October and the Philippine Festival is happening now
- Visit the Brick Lane Mosque or Jamme Masjid. An amazing building and when I visited people were incredibly welcoming and happily just gave me a guided tour for free because they want to show that Islam is a welcoming religion.
I’d love to hear about other places to visit in London to immerse myself in other cultures – please do share any ideas in the comment section!