Former Test cricketer Brett Lee – star of the film UnIndian – knows a thing or two about the country that’s embraced him. He shares his top five travel experiences in India.
Brett Lee and India didn’t exactly get off on the right foot. “The first time I went there in 1994,” he says, “I got a stomach bug, didn’t like bowling on the Indian pitches and I was terribly homesick.” But something about the country eventually struck a chord with him.
“I guess it’s India’s ‘unknown’ factor. You never know what might happen to you there – and I mean it in the best possible way. You may have a million things organised but all your plans can fall through and something more amazing may come your way – purely out of chance – and it ends up being a great experience.”
Lee is already a household name in the cricket-crazy nation, because of his sporting career and the 2006 single You’re the One For Me, which he recorded with music-industry icon Asha Bhosle. However, his celebrity is about to get a serious boost on the subcontinent, thanks to the new romantic comedy UnIndian.
Lee plays Will, an English teacher who struggles with the international language of love when he falls for Indian-born Meera and finds he has to win over her traditional family.
Ahead of the film’s October 15 Australian release, Lee shares five travel experiences that made him fall in love with India…
1. The Ganges
“If you can only do one travel-related activity in India, visit the Ganges. It’s the most sacred river in Hinduism and my most profound travel experience. The river runs for two-and-a-half-thousand kilometres so there are many places you can see it. But it’s at its most beautiful in Varanasi [above], surrounded by religious ceremonies and thousands of tea lights.”
“It’s by far my favourite city in India. There’s always something going on there, whether it’s a festival like Diwali or a sporting event such as the Indian Premier League. And I love the part of the city next to the Gateway of India – it’s full of grand old architecture.”
3. The Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Mumbai
“This is one of the country’s historic hotels. I like to spend most of my time by its pool with a beer. It’s never very busy here so it’s an excellent way to escape the crowds. I also love Wasabi on the hotel’s first floor – it’s without a doubt India’s best Japanese restaurant.”
4. Bukhara restaurant, New Delhi
“Part of New Delhi’s ITC Maurya hotel, this restaurant does the best butter chicken in the world – although they insist that their lamb dish is the stand-out. What I love most is their naan bread; it’s the size of a dining table – seriously! They place one, single, huge naan in the middle of all the diners and the idea is that everyone digs into the same bread.”
5. South City Mall, Kolkata
“A multistorey shopping mall located in the centre of Kolkata, it has everything from international designer labels to some great stores selling Indian goods. More than anything, I love the feeling of euphoria I get when I enter this place.”