A Travellerspoint blog

Taming the Tamil cities

overcast 25 °C

We brace ourselves for another long train journey (7 hours) knowing that this time we're entering Tamil Nadu which is meant to be a lot less westernised and we've heard less friendly too. Travelling as a couple certainly makes me feel safer. I'm generally left alone whilst they talk to Rob asking the usual where he's from and what he does for a living and then asking him to be a part of the countless selfies they take everyday. I am seen to be rather more of a second class citizen and as I'm not "available" they don't want to know which is fine by me most of the time.

Madurai

When we arrive in Madurai at 11:30pm the train station is insanely busy. There are sleeping bodies to wade through and intense stares - it already feels like a very different atmosphere. A helpful man, who has been talking avidly to Rob (telling him to just pop off the train during the stops to buy some food; I had visions of him standing on the platform in the middle of nowhere as I speed away on the train stuck with all the baggage - I expressly forbade him to go!) helped us find our hotel and we rather hungrily and tiredly went to bed.

The next morning we headed to breakfast and decided on a place teeming with locals. Normally the cheaper the food the tastier it is! Sorry Lonely Planet but you haven't helped us much except find the most expensive and rather poor food places to go in comparison. As it turns out the cashew dosa was the most delicious we've had but it was the first place we'd been where most people weren't happy to talk to us. In fact some people refused to sit next to us which was a shame.

Then we went on a search for the temple which was pretty easy considering all the touts. Before we knew it we were rushed up stairs in a tourist shop to be shown the view of Meenakshi temple which is a huge Hindu Temple and the main reason why people visit. The view is impressive and although I don't buy something there I do somehow, unconsciously so, get led into another shop where after much bartering end up with a much desired cashmere/silk scarf which is the most expensive thing I'll buy here but the momento I've wanted. Having lost my sandals and Rob having his stolen (don't ask) we finally get to buy some much needed but rather unintended matching sandals for our tired feet.

large_DSC02915.jpg
90_DSC02908.jpgDSC02913

DSC02913

In the afternoon we walk for miles through the streets watching all the local children who flock to Rob for "selfie selfie" and end up at the Gandhi Museum which provides a comprehensive and harrowing account of the struggle India had in gaining independence. It was an eye opening experience and provided us with a lot to reflect on.

large_DSC02932.jpg
IMG_20170126_133521.jpgIMG_20170126_132230.jpg

That evening, with many local people as it's Republic Day, we enter the temple. Its huge! 15 acres , 4500 pillars and 12 towers to be precise. The purpose of our visit is for the architectural splendour which is so different to the sacred reasons why the Hindus visit. We watch in awe as they express their devout loyalty to their faith shown by lying in front of different Gods to pray, paying the priests and sharing offerings. Its a hub of frenzied activity and quite a sight to behold. They're getting ready for the nightly procession where they carry the statue Shiva (husband) to Parvati (wife) for a night ceremony. This is meant to happen at 9:30pm but having experienced Indian timings of things before we know it may be a way off and decide to drag our weary bodies to bed.

Our experience of city life has been more positive and we leave the next day with a changed perspective of what city life has to offer.

Trichy.

Onto Trichy, a chaotic and authentic Tamil City where there isn't another tourist to be seen. We're so used to government buses now we navigate our way to the oldest temple in India which is pretty impressive considering how unhelpful the local people are being. In order to get to the centre you walk through pillar after pillar filled with market stalls as well as ATMs to pay for your goods which is a bizarre experience. The temple offers some beautiful stone carvings and a nice walk around and then we're off,back to work out the buses again.

90_DSC02938.jpg90_DSC02940.jpg90_DSC02939.jpg

The next day we get up early to walk up the Rock Fort Temple which is a 400 step climb to a place where you make offerings and get a good view of the city. I always like to look over the colourful skyline where people paint their houses in such fluorescent colours and hang their washing on their roofs. Its so different from a skyline you would see at home. This time it's me who's asked for the selfie and the children are huddled around forced by their parents to have the photo. It's an odd experience and one I'm not quite sure of the reason. Does it give them luck? Do they post it on FB and pretend to have new friends from abroad? Or do they simply laugh at how white we are in comparison? Who knows.

90_DSC02978.jpg90_DSC02953.jpg90_DSC02958.jpg
DSC02961.jpgDSC02969.jpg

Our last few days of city life has been more successful than the last but we are now looking forward to Pondicherry which is a French Colonial Town that is meant to be rather more Westernised than the other cities we've experienced. We're rather curried out now! But first the always eventful bus journey - wish us luck!

Susie and Rob xx

Posted by SusieRout 16:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Kerala

sunny 35 °C

22/01/2016

As we relax on the beach (we are really enjoying the amazing beaches here!) we think over the past 10 days of travelling. Our time in India seems to be running away with us and yet it feels like a long time ago since we left. Christmas seems a distant memory and our 'travelling lifestyle' has well and truly kicked in. Its a funny thing when you first begin a big trip with no real end in sight. We've passed that 'holiday hump' period, our clothes are getting a bit grubby, Rob's beard is out of control and our perception of a short bus ride is no less than 5 hours! Here's what we've been up to over a busy 10 days.

Kochin
We've escaped the grasp of the suffocating city and arrived at the coast where the pace of life slowed. We were instantly calmer and more relaxed although I did encounter my first quick bout of sickness which luckily had passed by the morning. Fort Cochin was certainly more touristy than Mysore with art galleries and fancy cafes around every corner. The Chinese fishing nets on the harbour side were particularly fascinating. They were based on a cantilever system using 10 or so heavy boulders to counter the weight of the structure and catch whilst 6 or so hard working men pulled on ropes to help get the cantilever moving until the boulders took over and finished the job. We expected to see a bounty of fish in the nets but to our surprise there was barely enough to feed a family of four on a Friday night! As we watched we saw in the harbour a groups of dolphins who by the looks if it were having a much more successful time than the fishermen continually encircling a school of fish and filling their bellies. We spent the rest of the day in and out of art galleries and headed off to Munnar the next day. In the evening we enjoyed the most incredible authentic kathakali dancing where an all male crew dress up in extravagant clothing and tell an ancient tradition through their expressions and dance - no talking allowed!

DSC02532.jpg DSC02509.jpg

Munnar
A definite highlight of our trip. The unrelenting heat does get to you after a while so it was a relief to climb the mountain and reach a cooler climate. The tea plantations are breathtakingly beautiful. The mountains always hold a special place in our hearts and as we rode around on a scooter into the national park away from the tourists we encountered a lot of native and real village life. The stares were pretty intense but the people were friendly and we had an incredible day.

DSC02584.jpgDSC02600.jpg

The next morning we got up at 4.30am for a 'sunrise trek'. To our surprise we were the only ones on the trek and had the mountain to ourselves. Our guide, Jobin, was an excellent host although his speed up the mountain was a jogging pace for the both of us! As we sat and drank our masala chai at the top of the mountain we felt the most satisfied we have been since we arrived in India. It has never failed to surprise us with how lush the greenery is and how diverse the landscape is - it is a truly beautiful country and the people are so vibrant and friendly, its difficult not to fall in love with it all (although at times love isn't quite the word we'd use).

DSC02630.jpgDSC02678.jpgDSC02614.jpgDSC02704.jpg
The hub of Munnar was hectic and overcrowded so we ended up eating in the same place every night to avoid it. We enjoyed cheap and authentic food (back to curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and when we ordered the waiters looked with dismay, shaking their heads and reordered what they thought would be the best option. The last time we were there the food simply arrived whilst we were looking at the menu. It was a funny experience and we wondered whether other tourists are treated to the waiters 'suggestion' as we were.

90_DSC02784.jpg

We left the cool of the mountains and into the mosquito ravaged location of Alleppey backwaters. A 'must see' according to Lonely Planet but it didn't really live up to expectation. It was a great place to meet other travellers and we ended up opting for day cruise in the backwaters as opposed to spending 10x price for an overnight stay. We we paired up with a lovely Austrian couple called Anatole and Verena and we exchanged numbers and hope to see them in New Zealand. Its so nice to hear other people's stories of their trip and get to know their adventures, picking up tips of what to do and learning about their lives. We've had the opportunity to talk to more strangers in the last three weeks here than we have in a year in England. The travelling lifestyle opens people up and they're willing to share. In the end a big group of us went out to dinner and it turned out our experience in Allepey was more fun due to the people we met rather than anything else.

large_DSC02820.jpg
DSC02807.jpg DSC02847.jpg

Varkala
We've decided to spend the last few days in Kerala at the beach. It isn't the nitty gritty "incredible india" but it is beautiful and relaxing, full of restaurants with the freshest fish and we have finally had a break from curry. The beach is at the bottom of a cliff and a ripcurl forms on the shore every time the waves lap the water. The sunsets are beautiful and now enjoyed with a beer in hand (after our two weeks of abstinence not out of choice) and we get to catch up on our reading and writing, enjoying a slower pace of life.
90_DSC02898.jpg90_DSC02882.jpg

DSC02887.jpg

Looking towards the next part of our trip.
Our last week will be spent in the chaos of Tamil Nadu cities. We're preparing ourselves for the certain craziness of it all and each city stop will be short and sweet, cramming in the sites and moving onto the next place. It will be interesting to see what we make of it all. For now we're going to soak up the rays and put back on the calories we've lost from the rest of the journey.

Love Susie and Rob x

DSC02851.jpg

Posted by SusieRout 23:58 Archived in India Comments (1)

City life...

sunny 33 °C
View Rob and Susie's Big Adventure on SusieRout's travel map.

12/01/2017

We arrive in Mysore at 9.15am surprisingly sprightly after our 12 hour train journey through the night. We met some lovely people in our carriage and shared our stories about India so far. One thing we love about travelling is the opportunity to meet new people who are so friend!y and willing to chat and you get to share a bit of the is crazy experience with them. For example, meeting Zoe and Ian resulted in finding somewhere for breakfast together and exchanging numbers and it turns out Zoes from New Zealand so we will have friends for when we arrive. I'm hoping we get to catch up then and continue our chat about our travels.

large_DSC02470.jpg
As far as the city goes we learnt pretty quickly that its not for us. It is clear that the city beats to a different drum and the laid back gentle lifestyle we have become accustomed to has been replaced by a hectic and unrelenting environment where you have to keep your wits about you at all times. Crossing a roundabout is a terrifying experience and our usual mode of transport has been replaced by taxis due to one hair raising journey when we crossed many a junction with no regard of traffic and no headlight to be seen.

DSC02467.jpgDSC02474.jpg

We have been able to go to some cool sights though such as the Royal palace, in which we befriended an Australian family and hopped on their tour for free, was well worth seeing. It lights up with a 1000 bulbs at night!! The 1000 step climb up Chamundi hill was a bit of type 2 fun. Whilst running away from monkeys (I didn't realise I was so scared of them) and sweating up the long pilgrim path we were rewarded by a beautiful view and some temples at the top plus a monolithic bull halfway up for good measure. We also checked out a bustling fruit and veg market which was certainly an overload on the senses.

DSC02489.jpg90_DSC02473.jpg

It seems however that there isn't much else to do here. The city is sprawled out and difficult to navigate but we have learnt lots in our time here about what we like/don't like and how to manage our trip better. We've learnt lots about ourselves too- how we react to an alien environment so different from our own.

Tonight we look forward to leaving the city and going to Kerala where we have heard about such amazing things. I'm sure we are going to feel much more at home there. First we have a 10 hour bus journey through the night to contend with -eek!

One things for certain - I'm very lucky to have such an amazing companion to share this experience with who is always there to keep me safe and keep me smiling all the way. Hats off to people who manage this on their own.

Onwards and upwards on the next part of our journey.

Love Susie and Rob x

DSC02463.jpg

Posted by SusieRout 08:50 Archived in India Comments (0)

Don't worry be Hampi!

sunny 32 °C

Having gorged ourselves on freshly caught seafood for the week (life's tough!) it was time to leave the beautiful beaches of Goa and head inland to Hampi. We had heard many a tale regarding dodgy train journeys and had fully expected to be sitting opposite a cow or next to a chicken; in actual fact our journey consisted of beautiful scenery, friendly locals and half decent train thali.

We arrived in Hospet and waved down the nearest rickshaw. On route to Hampi everything seemed to be going to plan until up in the distance a broken down rickshaw and unhappy driver appeared. Fear not though as stranded rickshaws don't stay stranded for long! We both looked at each other in sheer disbelief as our driver with one foot out the door started pushing the other rickshaw. Our driver briefly turned to us with a grin and said 'This is incredible India, where anything goes'! He continued to do this all the away along the dual carriageway until we arrived. From this moment on we knew our time in Hampi was going to be a roller coaster and it didn't disappoint.

90_DSC02297.jpg

The next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed we spent the day looking round a selection of the many awe inspiring temples Hampi has to offer. The majority of the temples are free to look round which surprised us as they were beautifully created and if found in the UK would be fenced in and the public wouldn't be able to get anywhere near them (think Stonehenge!). Thankfully India's cavalier attitude towards public access meant you could get up close and really see the intricate detail of every carving.

90_DSC02313.jpg90_DSC02355.jpgDSC02354.jpg

The following day we were a bit 'templed out' so decided to get up early and head over north of the river to the infinite boulder field and try our hand climbing the rocks. In the 80's Chris Sharma (world famous climber) visited the area and really put it on the map as a potential world famous climbing destination. Today there are multiple shops selling and hiring climbing gear and guesthouses set up for climbers. We headed out to the rocks and spent the day realising how unfit we are (we've been eating too much curry!) and how sharp the rock is! We had a great day though and met loads of nice people in the process.

DSC02434.jpg

One of the top 'things to do' in Hampi is watch the amazing sunset. As soon as it gets to 5pm many tourists take a rickshaw to 'sunset point' to settle themselves in and enjoy the sunset. We liked the look of one particular hill though just to the west of the main town which looked less touristy but still looked high enough to enjoy the sunset. 40mins later we were at the top and witnessed one of the most stunning sunsets we had ever seen. The landscape looked like a cross between tomb raider, raiders of the lost arc and what we imagine Mars to look like. The boulder fields just go on for ever and are intertwined with banana plantations, rice paddies and countless temples. The sunset was so good we decided on on our last day to walk up the hill again and take in the view one last time.

DSC02385.jpgDSC02392.jpg

We have had a great time in Hampi but its off on a 12 hour overnight train journey to the bustling city of Mysore next, so we will report back then.

Love Rob and Susie x

large_DSC02458.jpglarge_DSC02375.jpg

Posted by SusieRout 20:47 Archived in India Comments (5)

The adventure begins...

Palolem, Patnem and more.

sunny 35 °C
View Rob and Susie's Big Adventure on SusieRout's travel map.

Tuesday 2nd January 2017

As I sit eating my poached eggs on toast (that's right - its not just curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner) overlooking the unspoilt sea,I think over what the last few days have been like. Here's a summary of our trip so far.

The beaches are beautiful! They swirl along the coast in one long stretch of golden sand. This meant the fireworks on New Years Eve were spectacular. At midnight all the locals and tourists crowd the beach and let off fireworks all along the coast. Fire lanterns fly through the air while everyone dances and sings the night away.

During the day people leisurely make their way along the beach and we can choose from the busier Palolem or the quieter Patnem, the next beach over. The sea makes a beautiful ripcurl each time it laps the shore. This slow paced way of life is a perfect start to our trip after a busy Christmas period and the chaos that planning for a long trip creates.

This morning we bagged ourselves an early morning ride on a boat to see the dolphins. Our boat consisted of just us and two drivers. We watched a mother and her calf jump around a mere 10 feet from the boat. It was an incredible sight to see! We stopped off at Butterfly Beach where we had the beach to ourselves. Although it's high season here it's still quiet in comparison to usual beach holidays.

Another highlight was Rahul's Cookery Course where we were introduced to the fantastic Indian cuisine. It was great fun and the food was divine, creating chappati bread on an open flame was the highlight.

In such a short amount of time we've learnt lots about what to do and what not to do. The people here are so welcoming and friendly, happy to chat and pleased to invite you into their way of life.

Tomorrow we're planning a trip to Goas formal capital or 'old Goa' and the spice market. The day after we plan to haggle our way around Anjuna market (we've discovered we really enjoy haggling) and that will finish our time here.

Looking onwards, and having spoken to a local over breakfast, we have decided to change our trip. Next stop for us is Hampi (as per our route) followed by Mysuru. After that we've now gone off piste- Kerala is where we'll be, it sounds too good to miss.

First impressions are amazing and it still hasn't settled in. Expect a blog from Hampi. Happy New Year everyone!

Love Sus and Rob xxx

DSC02249.jpgDSC02159_1.jpgDSC02191.jpgDSC02199_1.jpgDSC02280.jpgDSC02226_1.jpgDSC02174_1.jpg

Posted by SusieRout 16:00 Archived in India Comments (1)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 10) « Page 1 [2]