A Travellerspoint blog

Fort Cochin

Mr Abu, the owner of the Honolulu Homestay had said he could arrange tours of Fort Cochin and boat trips or whatever we wanted during our stay in Cochin. Fearing a hefty commission we opted to venture out on our own and wandered the streets of Fort Cochin. We meandered in and out of the tourist shops along Princess and burger street finding our way to the famous Chinese fishing nets that line the quayside.These huge, medieval looking cantilevered devises were very impressive and proved an interesting contrast against the naval container yard in the background. After another mouth watering Thali lunch we headed to the Dutch Palace in Mattencherry. This 16th Century building was actually built by the Portuguese and now houses some incredible murals of Hindu art. Keen to try another cooking class, we hunted down the sort after Maria's cooking school. We booked a class for the following day and sat and chatted (had a lecture about the power of the brain) with Maria's husband for what felt like an age! We finished off the day with a meal at the busiest local place we could find, taking a while to look over the extensive menu only to be told that only two items were available that night!

Day two saw us opt for another boat trip. This time it would be a whole day split into two parts. At 08:00 we were picked up by the minivan to join the other foreigners on what turned out to be quite a 'tour group' type day. The morning saw us once again on small canoes paddling along the smaller canals. It was, again, lovely and peaceful as we drifted along, watching the local women having a good natter whilst they repaired the banks of the canals. We were soon ushered off the boats and off through a spice farm to see a 75 year old lady deftly make coir rope out of coconut husk. It was a fascinating experience that we didn't even know was part of the trip! Lunch was another thali, this time served on a banana leaf and, seeing everyone else have one, we opted to share a beer. The afternoon saw use change to a larger and beautiful looking rice boat. It must have been the lunchtime beer as everyone seemed to fall asleep for the majority of the 3 hour trip. I think the only thing that kept us awake was the terrible music coming from the headphones of a German guy sitting next to Jane!

We spent the following morning lounging about until our lunchtime cooking class with Maria.We were joined by Annie from Canada and we chatted about our respective travels in between demonstrations by Maria of how to cook various south Indian curries. Whilst not as polished as the class we had in Pushkar it has certainly added a few more recipes to our collection. Having filled our bellies and grabbed our packs we set off to catch the (thankfully air con) bus to the Airport. Reluctantly we left India but couldn't wait to see what adventures we would find in Sri Lanka.

James.

Posted by gonetravelling 04:53 Archived in India Tagged fishing india fort houseboats backwaters chinese kerela nets cochin kochi Comments (0)

Alleppy

Considering all the other trains we had caught were delayed, I was very disappointed when the train to Alleppy pulled in perfectly on time... 05:30! We headed off in the dark with our tuk tuk driver assuring us he knew the guest house we were looking for. After asking four other locals we eventually found it. Seeing as it was only 06:30 and no one seamed to be awake we sank into some loungers and waited. We were both exhausted but the mozzies were overwhelming and we opted to have a little wonder to see if there were any alternatives. The only other place looked like party central so we went back and haggled a decent price for the room and compared mozzie bites!

Small tourist boats lined the main canal close to the hostel as we decided to take a stroll and orientate ourselves. With me in charge of the map and the humidity levels souring it wasn't long before we were both lost and sweating buckets. We found the closest place we could for lunch and tucked into one of the worst curries either of us have ever had. To cheer us up we headed to the tourist office to book a boat ride that Kerala is famous for. We chatted over the options and quickly agreed to head straight out on a three hour canoe ride, the famous houseboats being well beyond our budget. We were met by our boatman and off we paddled. He had a warm smile and infectious laugh and the only English he spoke was 'mango' which he duly pointed out to us whenever he saw one growing. We started out on the main canals that are rather wide and our gently paddle was often broken up from the wake of the much larger houseboats that motored past us. Our boatman, regrettably we never got his name took us past the the finishing point of the famous Nehru Trophy Boatrace (Snakeboat Race) of which he enthusiastically said he was a competitor. We leisurely continued our cruise with the canals getting smaller and smaller, waving at the locals fishing on the banks of the canals and trying to photograph the elusive kingfisher. It was wonderful to drift along past huge piles of shell fish with the sunlight occasionally breaking through the lush green vegetation that overhung the canals, with the only sounds coming from the fisherman chatting or the strange animal calls from the jungle. Unfortunately it had to end and we said a fond fair well to our boatman and hunted down some diner. Annapoorna's restaurant proved to be a great little find with great food and plenty of locals.

We returned to Annapoorna's early the next day for breakfast with the intention of catching the 09:30 ferry to Kottayam. We waited at the ferry port being entertained by a brilliant old man who hardly spoke a word of English but knew what ferry we needed, loved shaking our hands and oddly enough playing with Jane's hair! We got a little worried at 10:00 as there was no sign of our ferry. Finding out it had been canceled and the next one wasn't for two hours we trudged back over the bridge to Annapoorna's for some more tea. The 11:30 ferry, thankfully was on time and after another round of handshakes we set off along the canals again. Although lacking the charm of the canoe the ferry was a much nicer way to travel than bus or train. We docked it a small ferry port and then caught a combination of bus, tuk tuk, train, tuk tuk, another ferry, and tuk tuk to finally arrive at Honolulu Homestay in Fort Cochin about 10 hours after we left Alleppy. Unfortunately it was dark by the time we got into Fort Cochin so we were looking forward to what the mornings adventures would bring.

James.

Posted by gonetravelling 04:51 Archived in India Tagged india houseboat ghats backwaters alleppy Comments (0)

Mysore

sunny

On first arriving in Mysore I think we were both a little disappointed, probably exaggerated by our tiredness from the 16-hour train ride and the contrast from peaceful Hampi. Looking at the city speeding past us in the tuk tuk it was much larger than we were expecting and not as immediately captivating as some of the places we had visited so far. The tuk tuk dropped us off at Hotel Givardhan which was a good central base to explore the city from even if we weren't going to get much help from the offhand reception staff. Ushered into a little restaurant next to the hotel by grinning waiters we tucked into a Thali, served to each of us on the usual metal tray with small pots of different curries and chutneys with a mound of fluffy rice.

After lunch we photographed the only map we could find (pinned up behind a door) and made our way to the city palace, stopped by several locals on the way who insisted on telling us its history and opening times. The palace had been rebuilt in 1912 after a fire, and the Maharaja determined history wouldn't repeat itself was infatic that it should not be made from wood unless absolutely necessary. The resulting palace is striking and ostentatious without the usual refined elegance. Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside so the ornate archways that felt like you were stepping through an optical illusion, and the towering pillars of the wedding hall that reached towards the stained glass ceiling with murals around the walls and patterned floor tiles will be tucked away in our memories and will need to be googled to be seen!

Later in the afternoon we walked up to Devaraja Market, walking past animated sellers of everything from shoes and clothes to tupperware, plastic toys, key cutters - much like eBay rolled out on the pavements around us. We cut through an archway to the market itself, undercover in a narrow grid of streets we were greeted by a confident young boy wanting to show us how to make incense. Clutching our newly rolled incense stick we pushed our way through the colourful market of flowers, fruit, sugar, perfumes and spices, greeted by smiling sellers wanting to have their pictures taken

We fancied a change and so the next day headed to Mysore zoo with its extraordinary range of animals. It was amazing to see the tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, gorillas and elephants up close but they all seem so bored and listless, it did leave us looking forward to seeing them all in the wilds of Asia and Africa. The 3km walk around the zoo left us hungry for lunch and we went back to the little restaurant by the hotel for some more Thalis, this time served with desert of Puries.

We caught an air conditioned bus that we enjoyed for the 30 minutes to the sacred Chumundi Hill and at the top found that it was very much a Hindu pilgrimage site with three temples and a lot of shops selling random tourist tat. The main temple Sri Chamundesuari looked brand new, but we were reliably informed that it was at least 300 years old and simply painted each year. The same helpful paan-chewing man relayed the legend surrounding it, and we understood the hill was named to honor the goddess Parvati who had cut off the head of the demon Mahishasura to protect the area. Unfortunately we couldn't find anywhere with a good view of Mysore and where we were able to see glimpses of the town it was too hazy for photos.

The next day we checked out of the hotel with the grumpy staff and caught the 11am train to Bangalore, it was the first time we had been on a day train in South India and we no longer saw the continuous fields of rape seed of the north but instead paddy fields and palm trees and land being worked with hand plows pulled by yoked oxon. dominated the landscape.

We should have had a 5-hour stopover in Bangalore which looked interesting on the view from the train on the way in, lots of brightly coloured houses and washing lines against towering skyscrapers. Unfortunately the train was delayed by nearly two hours and it meant we weren't able to beat the Bangalore traffic to get into the city and back in time for our connecting train and so instead we had some lunch and waited patiently by the platform for our train to Alleppy.

Jane

Posted by gonetravelling 05:38 Archived in India Tagged india mysore Comments (0)

Hampi

sunny

The advantage of not carrying a guide book is that everything is a surprise, and Hampi was wonderfully different from our imaginings. It felt like we were stepping into a film set, the landscape seemed straight out of Planet of the Apes or something otherworldly. Giant boulders scattered across the river, palm trees dotted on the horizon with ancient Hindu temples as the backdrop.

Most of the stalls and guesthouses of Hampi bazaar have been relocated across the river by the government, an initiative that has been ongoing for many years to preserve the ancient site and make it more accessible for tourists. This has uprooted people from their homes and left a trail of rubble and deserted husks of buildings that we passed by as the tuk tuk driver sped us to the river bank where we found a queue of tired looking backpackers waiting for their turn to cross.

The other side of the river we walked past paddy fields fringed with palm trees and banks of boulders until we found Gopi's guesthouse. We negotiated a good price on a little bungalow with a swing at the front, then left our bags and then headed back over the river passing the Virupassa temple, the focal point of Hampi Bazaar to find a lunch of Dham Allo Kashmiri - potato stuffed with fruit, cottage cheese and nuts in a red gravy - delicious! Later we walked past remains and temples scattered around Hampi Bazaar, past slow moving cows and cupped hands pressing us for rupees, up the smooth stone slope of the hill, and onto a plateau overlooking the evocative landscape and small town to watch the sunset. Back at the river crossing we had missed the last boat for the day, instead we edged ourselves into a circular woven bamboo raft, tarred on the outside and watched, impressed as the boatman tried to prevent us spinning as he paddled.

After breakfast we set out to hire some scooters, although apparently there were only a few in Hampi and the last one had just been rented. We didn't feel brave enough for the motorbikes just yet and so for 50rps each we hired bicycles instead. Still cloudy enough to hide the full heat of the sun we started by pushing the bikes up the main hill by the bazaar, thankfully the only real hill we encountered. The 15th century temples and ruins are scattered across what must be a 5km distance and feel almost like someone has placed Pompeii or Herculaneum amongst the boulderous landscape.

The first temple we visited was filled calf-deep with water and we waded through the dank rooms of the ancient temple, the intricately carved columns reflecting in the dark water. We cycled past banana plantations towards the Royal Enclosure that contained the old elephant stable and small museum, then onto the Zanana Enclosure that houses the treasury, one of the beautiful buildings set in impeccable gardens but sadly covered in modern graffiti etched into the stonework. We discovered we were only a short distance from Karnataka which we knew was the closest town with an ATM and so cycled there for a Thali lunch and to get some cash out.

The ticket we had bought for the Zanna Enclosure also gained us entry to Vitthala Temple the other side of Hampi Bazaar and took us along the river past coconut sellers and Hindu offerings. Inside the enclosure an ancient carved stone carriage was the centerpiece. Later we returned our bikes and headed back to the guesthouse for a couple of beers, sat on floor mats looking out over the paddy fields accompanied by the sound of frogs filling the air.

Our last day we were up early to checkout and left our bags at the guesthouse to head back over the river to the Virupassa Temple in the center of Hampi, we paid the 2rps entry and found ourselves drawn to the elephant stables along the side of the courtyard where Laxmi the elephant was creating a crowd. The Hindu temple is impressive with colourful tiers of figures raised to the skies, surrounded by monkeys and tortured looking trees that seem to be a feature at most temples in India. Later that day as the heat was more manageable we followed the dusty lane past our guesthouse until we stumbled across a crumbling old aqueduct. We stopped at a sweet little restaurant with a good view and ordered a lassi and some pakoras before we collected our bags and crossed the river for the last time before catching the train.

Jane

Posted by gonetravelling 05:03 Archived in India Tagged india hampi Comments (0)

Goa


View Backpacking 2014 on gonetravelling's travel map.

We wrestled with the idea of Goa the whole time we were planning the trip. Neither of us like lying on a beach all day and our raving days are well and truly over. Still, we both felt we could do with another rest so after a little research we decided we would head to south Goa, hearing that it is more chilled than the north.

We both noticed the temperature increase along with the number of palm trees during the train ride from Mumbai. From Madgaon train station we grabbed the local bus to Agonda and were dropped off right next to the St Anne Church, a perfect example of the Portuguese style that Goa was famous for. We quickly located the place we had earmarked to stay and wandered through cute little beach huts to the beach front bar/restaurant. We settled on a basic hut about 50 meters from the shore and went to check out the beach. I can honestly say it is one of the most impressive beaches i have ever seen. A softly sweeping arc of sand with rocky outcrops at either end, palm trees galore and hardly a soul in site, apart from a sunbathing cow... Only in India! We spent the rest of the day chilling on the beach, investigating the local food joints and chatting to a German guy who has been coming to this beach since the 70's . After such a strenuous day we decided to eat at the beach bar whilst watching the sun set over the Arabian Sea, have a few beers and let the sound of crashing waves send us to sleep

Day two saw much of the same, although i had made my usual mistake of not putting on enough sun cream and was badly burnt from the day before so kept in the shade. The hours ticked by as we relaxed on the beach, reading, sleeping, and watching some guy do very odd yoga moves just in front of us. A stroll along the beach took us to a beautiful little inlet where we watched one local fishermen throwing his net out and chatted to another about a secret secluded beach and dolphin watching site he could take us to on his boat for silly money.

I think we were both surprised by how much we enjoyed Goa. Okay, so we didn't actually see that much of Goa but if i ever feel the need to kick back and switch off from the world I know where to go.

James

Posted by gonetravelling 20:34 Archived in India Tagged beaches churches goa Comments (0)

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