Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Incredibly India - Crust on a train

We have been in India about a month now and due to the craziness that is Indian Railways we have only taken short train journeys, the longest being 5 hours. This is really surprising as we expected to be zipping around India on the sleeper trains every few days. Instead we have almost re-enacted the movie Planes, Trains & Auto mobiles but not by choice that's for sure.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Incredibly India - Varkala Part 2

We stayed in Varkala for 12 nights, there hasn't been a post for a while because we weren't up to much special, just lazing on the beach by day and drinking Kingfisher and eating curry at night.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Incredibly India - Varkala

We selected Varkala as it is a coastal town & we have longed for a perfect beach from the beginning. Which is kind of strange as Cat doesn't like sand. She is forever quoting an Arctic Monkeys lyric "My name isn't Rio & I don't care for sand". The beach is almost perfect. The sea & sand is clean the sun is hot. There are few tourists here as the season has not quite started yet. The only things missing are sun beds & umbrellas. The black part of the sand on the Varkala Beach contains Thorium-oxide which is a radioactive substance. I am waiting for an extra limb to grow. Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea. Scores of restaurants & shops line the promenade above the beach. The only thing that out number the shops & restaurants are the hawks & eagles which sore above all day. India is the place to be for bird lovers.

Incredibly india - Munnar to Varkala.

The Journey out of Munnar was rough! The bus was beyond full & scathingly hot. The five & half hours did not fly by. We arrived back in Kochi where we were due to depart for Varkala in 4 hours. We decided to seek out some bars. Cat was not allowed in the first bar we found. "No women allowed" What?? Anyway, we found three more each one was better than the last. The train was comfortable thankfully. We enjoyed tea & all of the trains other delicacy's which included banana fritters. Catherine's first & probably last banana fritter. Arrived in Varkala & caught a rickshaw ride to the hotel. The driver starts with the usual "have you made a booking? I know another hotel much better". Very common trick here. As always we say we have booked & insist on being taken to the requested destination. The driver can not find the hotel, so we give him the phone number that we received on the booking confirmation email. He calls it & after some discussion we are told that the hotel is closed & fully booked & we should go to another hotel. Closed & fully booked?? I then spoke to the hotel & asked them to confirm my booking details to ensure I wasn't becoming another victim to the aforementioned scam. The man on the phone confirmed all the correct details & we then reluctantly agree to be dropped off at the new hotel. It was a nice looking hotel for sure. We later learnt that it costs more than double the one we had booked (and of course that was covered by our hotel). Picked up at 10am the following morning by a very apologetic hotel guy. Taken to our hotel. Which we both preferred instantly. WIFI in the room being the obvious advantage. The room is costing £1.54 pppn. How stupidly cheap is that!? I don't think we will ever leave.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Incredibly India - Munnar. Tea & Home Made Wine

We left Kochi & caught the six hour bus to Munnar which cost 86p each. I still can't believe how cheap things are here. Munnar is a hill station situated on a range of mountains called the Western Ghats. There are more than 50 tea estates in and around Munnar. It is one of the biggest centres of tea trade in India. Until 1790, Munnar and the surrounding area were forests. Now the whole area is covered by the miles and miles of lush tea gardens. The bus journey was a long one but once we started to get close to Munnar the scenery was unbelievable. Seriously! Unbelievable! Mountains and waterfalls everywhere! We climbed higher and higher & then we drove through the clouds. It may have been fog. I temporarily broke my phone due to the amount of use it was receiving taking photos. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Incredibly india - Alleppey

Alleppey AKA "Venice of the East". The Backwaters of Aleppey are the most popular tourist attraction in Kerala. We had planned on taking a motorised luxury houseboat cruise in these backwaters & staying in the boat overnight. The pollution caused by these boats is a real problem here & that had put us off some. It would also cost about £80 a night. In the end we decided on taking a day trip from Kochi. Alleppey is only about an hour and a half away. The trip would last eight hours, ride two different types of boat, both man powered with lunch for £8.50 each.

In the morning we took a ride on a country boat. It was a traditional open canoe like boat which had bamboo seats and an over head bamboo canopy for shade. It was very comfortable. The boat was propelled similar to a gondola so pollution was not an issue. 

We shared the boat with two funny guys from Brighton, Cough lady and some French tourists. Cough Lady became very annoying very quickly. The boat floated on very gentle. One of the Brighton guys fell asleep.

We were taken to see 2 industries on the water. Both were very rural & almost interesting. 

Making rope from coconut husks. Catherine told a very bad joke about this trip being money for old rope. 

Clam shells before they are processed. They are used in everything from construction to medicine.

For lunch we moored up at an island & were fed some excellent local foods. The mango relish was hot as hell & the coconut & cauliflower thing was ace! This was our first experience of eating from a banana leaf & we loved it in spite of Cough Lady.

After lunch we chose to take a ride on a smaller boat around some very tight canals, at first the decision was made simply to get away from Cough Lady but we were glad we did as we saw a turtle, snake & lots of kingfishers. We saw this really cool dragonfly. Cat is waiting for her wildlife photography award.

This tree was covered in some form of insect lava, at first we thought it was covered in a spiders web.

I think we made the right decision to take the day trip over the overnight stay. It was much cheaper & we still got to enjoy the scenic & relaxing backwaters.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Incredibly India - Kochi

We were both a little relieved & happy to abandon the hassle of the North for the Beautiful South. Some interesting facts we read the day before we flew - The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India (93.91%) Kerala has the highest life expectancy in India (74 years) and the highest sex ratio (as defined by number of women per 1000 men: 1,083 women per 1000 men) among all Indian states. Kerala has the lowest homicide rate among Indian states, for 2011 it was 1.1 per 100,000. A survey in 2005 ranked it as the least corrupt state in the country. So lots of women, not much murder or corruption sounds like my sort of place :) 

Incredibly India - Back to Delhi

After Bharatpur we headed back to Delhi. Where we would then fly into Kerala. Finding the hotel was incredibly difficult. Hardest days travel & hotel find yet. Train delayed 1 hour. Previously blogged about fish bowl experiences. This one was very uncomfortable. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Incredibly India - Bharatpur - Birds & Beer

We first learnt about Bharatpur while waiting in the Indian embassy in Istanbul, it was mentioned in an Incredible India brochure. What spiked our interest was the mention of Asia's biggest bird sanctuary - Keoladeo National Park. We've both developed an interest for birds over the last year so we thought it would be good to see the birds there, a bit more exotic than our usual haunt of Leeds Liverpool canal.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Incredibly India - Agra

I visited India when I was about 12 & I learned about the Taj Mahal and it has been my dream ever since to see it. I can't believe it has taken me so long to be honest. We had planned a few trips to India including Agra but they never worked out so as soon as we decided to go travelling Agra was number 1 on my list.

Incredibly India - Do what you want not what you should.

After the hustle & bustle of Delhi the idea of travelling around Rajasthan was less than appealing. Especially after the difficulties we experienced while simply trying to obtain train tickets. Everything in India is so convoluted & due to the humongous population extremely difficult to do simple things. Like booking train tickets for example. The trains are so popular the government designate a proportion to foreign tourists. They quickly sell out. 

Left Over Foreign Coins

Some people donate them to charity some people shockingly thrown them away. 

Incredibly India - Delhi

The first things you notice when you land in Delhi is the heat & noise followed by the vibrant colours that coat everything & everyone. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Month 3 in Review

Namaste! Greetings from Agra, India. Yesterday we celebrated our 3 month anniversary of travelling so here's a re-cap of weeks 9 through 12