Ashish Nayyar is an actor, model and owner of three beach hut resorts in South Goa called Chattai. He was part of the four-member lead cast of Parvin Dabbas' movie 'Sahi Dande, Galat Bande'. He is a well-known face on television thanks to Zee TV's popular serial 'Tumhari Disha' which ran for almost three years. He has also acted in ad campaigns for companies like ICICI, Colgate, Cadbury's, ING Vysya, Maruti, Reliance, Hero Honda, Smith & Jones amongst others.
For Ashish, traveling revolves around food, meeting local characters and coming across any form of animal life! He takes off on short trips down unknown, often unmapped paths in the hope of bumping into a new experience and a great meal. Though Goa has become mostly 'work' than a holiday, Ashish still manages to escape with the locals in South Goa on a fishing trip or a foray into the jungle.
Which is the last holiday you took and what were the highlights of the trip?
Last year, immediately after an intense 1-month shoot for Galat Bande in Delhi, I took a quick detour to Ranthambore. Here, for the first time in my life, I got to actually touch a full-grown leopard! Incredible experience!
I was in Goa in November mixing business with the pleasure of fishing and having some mind-blowing Shark Ambotik - a thick red spicy curry laced with local Goan vinegar and chilies. We had a house-warming party in Colomb and the food was a complete Goan feast! Whole squid stuffed with shrimp, Sorpotel and sannas, Kingfish molee, roast pork, roast chicken, mutton Xacuti, Goan pulao...all served with some soulful Manddos (love songs) sung by our Goan friends.
When on vacation what do you like to do?
Chill for the first day and get a feel of the place. Then head out to discover lesser-known spots. Scout around for good eating joints - especially the ones that the locals go to. I usually like to hire a car or bike to go around so that I can go off the main road, down little paths that I call 'escapes' whenever I like.
What has been the most bizarre thing that you have eaten when experimenting with your food in a foreign location?
I was in London for a Zee TV show staying at the Hilton. Here, along with the breakfast buffet was a small bowl of something dark and mashed up. I was told that it was the famous Scottish 'Haggis'. Curious, I tried it and quite liked it till I was told that it was sheep's innards simmered in a casing of intestine!
Which destination for you has the highest repeat value?
Goa - purely because I need to go there several times a year on work - but I never get tired of getting that 'holiday' feeling each time the plane lands at Dabolim! It's a good place to shake off any kind of big city 'fatigue'.
Which place according to you is highly over rated?
Pattaya. I just cannot understand why so many people want to go there! I was bored in a day, surrounded by sleaze and the 'soi' (street) food was pathetic. I'd rather head in the opposite direction and go to Koh Samet which is a little piece of paradise!
How do you plan your holiday?
I literally get up in the morning and decide to take off somewhere! As long as you have good company, even a short day trip can turn into a refreshing break. The only time we 'plan' our holiday in advance is our annual year-end trip when the whole family and several of our friends have to co-ordinate dates.
Most embarrassing travel moment
I had to carry some beans on a flight as part of my hand baggage. They were unshelled and hadn't been refrigerated the previous night and had started stinking by the time I boarded the flight. Everybody was looking around wondering where this horrible smell was coming from. I felt like some trainee Doctor carrying faeces samples interstate! I was so embarrassed that I put the bag in an overhead locker far away from my seat and waited till everybody has disembarked before I took it down!
While on vacation what is most important to you?
The food comes first, followed by any kind of new discovery. It could be doing something new, or meeting somebody or learning about the local flora and fauna.
Doing this with either family or friends makes it all the more special.
Which place do you recommend for a weekend getaway in India?
If you're in Delhi, head to Rishikesh for some river rafting. Around Mumbai you can escape to Alibag, Uran, Manori, Lonavala and of course, Goa.
How do you think the travel scene has changed in India in recent times?
Thanks to all the travel and food channels on TV, people are willing to be more adventurous and try out a new destination. They're not just travelling outside the country but getting to know India better, especially different kinds of Indian food. Indians just love eating - so where there is good food, we are bound to go there to check it out! People are also far more 'mobile' in the sense that there are more airlines and more car-owners now who are dying to do some spontaneous traveling.
Which are the five places that are there in your 'must visit' list?
The five places on my must-visit 'wish list' are: Okavango Delta in South Africa and as many game parks there that I can cover. Sicily in Italy - for the food and the passion. Norway to do some whale watching. Bandavgardh, Kaziranga and the Sundarbans for a feast of tiger spotting. The Amazon forest - to feel amazed again and again.
What are the things that really put you off when holidaying?
I seriously get depressed and irritable when I'm served bad food. It totally ruins my holiday mood.
Any tips on how a young couple can make a vacation truly memorable?
First go to a place that both like! Split the travel 'responsibilities' so that there are no clashes. Try out something new each day. Then, enjoy every moment that you spend there getting to know each other better - because these moments will stay with you for a lifetime.
A monument that you have seen and which has stayed most vividly in your memory?
The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Though it's made up of a whole lot of metal, it somehow adds to the romance of the city! Or maybe I'm just an 'aashiq'!