A Travellerspoint blog

Varkala

semi-overcast 33 °C

Fortunately Varkala is a great place to convalesce because Lach’s seafood gamble didn’t pay off…perhaps he will finally start listening to me now (although I doubt it!). Day 1 here was pretty much spent relaxing while Lach slept off his Delhi belly…it is not a bad place to relax though, a beachside resort perched on a clifftop.

We have spent the rest of the time just enjoying the sunshine (it is SO hot), the sand, the sea, the sunsets and the many cafes that line the clifftop.

Yesterday we decided to indulge in some ayurverdic massages (a specialty of Kerala)…unfortunately they didn’t turn out to be as relaxing as we had hoped! Firstly I was asked to strip completely naked in front of the masseuse while she tied a piece of material through my legs (not pleasant). I then lay on a leather bed…hmm, very hygienic. The massage then began and I was literally bathed in oil, oil which smelt suspiciously like vegetable oil…yuk! All in all, not an experience I would like to repeat. Lach would like to describe his massage experience as well (he appears to be quite traumatised)...

"Upon sight of the buff young man the nerves immediately sprang to life. I’m not sure if it was the gorilla size hands or the black vinyl apron he was wearing that worried me most, is this massage or surgery? Regardless, entering the room with hesitation, I was asked (as expected) to undress. Oh, you want me to take it all off? While you stand behind me? How strange (feeling a little vulnerable).

Expecting a towel, (and seeing what I wanted to see) I soon I discovered the pair of arms reaching around me from behind were in fact tying what can only be described as a tribal loin cloth.
The surgeon leaves the room…why? I’m already naked! Returning with the chair from reception he requests me to sit. WTF, compliance is now the only way forward. Sitting there, wondering how many others have sat, cheeks bared on the reception chair, I can’t help but also wonder how many others have used the tribal cloth (its like a G-string, minus the G… just a string).

The massage begins, ok, just relax. A light addition of oil, yes, normal, oh, hang on, the entire dish is now being poured on my head, followed by furious, skull numbing rubbing. My hands are gripped tight, I’m tense, finally the reception chair is returned to its rightful place, reception.

The sanctuary of the massage table beckons. Oh, you are removing all the towels, WHY? Only to reveal yet more vinyl, now in mattress form. Sorry, you want me to lie face up? In my cloth? Half hanging out?

The application of yet more oil precedes more furious rubbing. I am stiff as a board, could this get any more unpleasant? Apparently it can. The oil slowly becomes a lake, answering my earlier query regarding towels, though I have forgotten about this due to having my legs pressed against my chest, revealing things no one needs to see. I wonder how Kaz is doing, try not to focus on being here, find the happy place.

Another half hour passes and it’s finally over. I leave feeling more stressed than when I entered and perhaps a little psychologically wounded, time will tell."

As you can probably tell Lach found the experience even worse than me!

Today has been a bit cloudy so we have just spent the time catching up on some travel planning and learning some more Spanish in between the power cuts. The power cuts are so frequent here, I would say we only have electricity for about half of the day – Lach has even been able to use his head torch again!

We head to Mumbai tomorrow…apparently it is all about the night scene so we plan to try out a few of the bars!

Adios for now!

large_Sunset_2.jpg

large_Varkala_Beach.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 07:16 Archived in India Comments (5)

Alleppey and the Backwaters

sunny 32 °C

“I’ve always thought they were mean but Australians aren’t so unfriendly, I’ve been watching Australian masterchef, they are so lovely to each other, but the cricketers are very mean to Sachin”. The train pulls into Alleppey station and we say farewell to the sweet Tamil Nadu girl who has spent the last hour telling us about her country. Indian’s are passionate about their home, just let them show you.

Arriving by rickshaw at Venice Castle brings new meaning to the phrase ‘a man’s home is his castle’… for this is no castle, but it would prove to be much more. The welcome we received from Eldhose was like coming home from weeks away. We sat on the balcony, drank tea and absorbed our new surrounds with Eldhose. Truly a homestay.

Eldhose suggested trying Marari beach… a little known place not mentioned by the Lonely Planet (LP). We are a still a little attached to the LP but Marari proved to be a haven. White sands stretching beyond sight, yet not a person to be seen.

large_3Kaz_at_Marari.jpg

Drinking beer from a mug (the service of choice for unlicensed drinking holes) later that evening watching the sun set over Alleppey beach was the perfect way to reflect on just how different things are in the south of India.

large_Lach_with_beer_mug.jpg

From a sunset beer to a sunrise goodbye, time to get on the houseboat and leave Eldhose and his warmth behind. We are meandering through the backwaters of Kerala as I type, it's after sun down, the stars are out and we have a beer to share.

The waters are full of life from another time. Small boats fishing, villagers snaking along the banks, rice paddies either side and washing being beaten on stone.

Boat_scene.jpgBoat_Scene3.jpgBoat_Scene4.jpgLach_on_boat.jpg

Earlier today we experienced a waterside market at its best… or should I say waterside shack. Karen has offered stern warnings against but I’ve purchased two crabs and a freshwater crustacean… lets hope I can dance with the devil and win.

Crustaceans.jpgLach_with_feast.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 02:02 Archived in India Comments (0)

Fort Cochin

sunny 32 °C

“If you listen closely, you can hear the collective sigh breathed by travellers upon setting foot in laid-back Fort Cochin”… Lonely Planet’s opening line for Cochin and how true it is. The pace of life is so laid-back and relaxed, exactly what we needed after the intensity of the last 8 days.

Fort Cochin is a small historical seaside village, very easy to walk around and the best bit is that there is only a handful of cars, tuk tuks and goats to share the road with.

We have spent the last two days just wandering the town, stopping by to watch the chinese fishing nets at work (I am not sure they catch many fish anymore but they are a great tourist attraction!) and popping into a café or two. We have managed to fit in our first two Spanish lessons and I even did my first workout today…it was Lach’s fourth of the trip!

large_Chinese_Fishing_Nets.jpg

Very excitingly we met a crazy Scotsman from Glasgow, he appears to have turned up in India, lost his clothes (he was wearing a wraparound skirt…yes, that is all he was wearing), forgotten how to phone the UK and decided that his oldest, dearest friend is Gordon Brown!

Great while it lasted, but time for us to get the train to Alleppey and seek out a houseboat!

large_Lach_with_goat.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 07:51 Archived in India Comments (4)

Agra

sunny 31 °C

Today we saw the Taj Mahal at sunrise…wow! It really is more stunning than any of the photos show it to be. The sheer size of it is breathtaking and it certainly beats any other sight I have seen in my life.

It truly is a beautiful building. It took 20,000 people over 22 years to build. All the intricate carving was done by hand and it is made entirely of white marble and semi-precious stones which have been set into the marble, again all done by hand.

large_Taj_Mahal1.jpg

large_Taj_Mahal_and_us.jpg

Yesterday evening we watched the sunset from across the river at the back of the Taj Mahal. As we were watching the sun set on what, arguably, has to be the most indulgent building in the world three small children, no more than 5years old, walked in front of us carrying bundles of wood on their heads…child labour at it’s worst. India is most certainly a country of great contrasts.

Lach gave up on the vegetarian diet last night in desperate need of some chicken. He regretted it at about 2am…the dreaded Delhi belly had set in! This continued for a few hours but he seems to have made a full recovery now… fortunately it was just a gentle warning. He will be returning to his veggie diet for the rest of the trip!

We are off to Kerala tomorrow so it was our last day with Vinod today. While having a driver has no doubt sheltered us from some of India’s challenges (train travel for example) we will not be sad to see an end to some of the other challenges it brings with it. The multiple ‘company guides’ that appear from nowhere to show us various monuments, the numerous ‘factory’ visits (we have now learnt these are just very pushy shops) and of course the hectic schedule.

Thanks to all our avid readers that have commented…Sara, Jamie, Ban and Suzi..it’s great to know people are reading!

large_Taj_Mahal___us_2.jpg

large_Taj_Mahal4.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 08:11 Archived in India Comments (1)

Jaipur to Agra Drive

sunny 30 °C

I’ve tried hard to avoid littering the blog with sightseeing lists, today, however, we saw something entirely unexpected and captivating. Chand Baori. A step well. 11,000 years old, 20m deep and 3000 steps in perfect symmetry.

large_Stepwell1.jpg

large_Stepwell2.jpg

It hides away in a small village well away from the ‘trail’, accessible only by car or 3 separate linking modes of transport. Tourists are sparse here and the quite calm of the village is a world away from where we have been. Karen again acquired a crowd of adoring schoolgirls… and a group of men watching her intently as we drank chai from small clay cups, absorbing the village serenity.

large_Us_with_chai.jpg

large_Kaz_with_schoolgirls.jpg

We arrived in Agra requiring some tyre maintenance. The roadside tyre mechanic (if that’s what you can call a man who only changes tyres) did the whole job manually, from removing the tyre, to finding the hole, patching the tube. At the same time, his tiny son, not more than 4 years old, was helping the whole time, from collecting tools to assisting with leveraging off the tyre. So small the tools were almost bigger than him. He had clearly been doing this all day, filthy from dirt, oil and general filth of the street. He just looked at us watching and smiled, never putting a hand out for money… heartbreaking, moving Karen to tears.

Posted by karenandlach 07:59 Archived in India Comments (1)

Jaipur

sunny 30 °C

Setting off for Jaipur, the sightseeing schedule is becoming relentless. Vinod’s insatiable appetite for our cultural education is pushing the limits of energy and mind. Religious enlightenment seems of particular importance, with temple visits now peaking at up to 3 per day.

large_Amber_Fort.jpg

The amazing is mixed with simply odd. From a temple nestled into the towering hills to one with an entire gold city in miniature on display followed by a tree with what was supposed to be male and female ‘bits’ to which we should pray.

Karen and I have been discussing tactics to temper Vinod’s enthusiasm for all things cultural, though so far he is proving immovable on things such as dining at the local roadside truck stop. Our trip to the local gem shop was particularly predictable. Everything in India is complimentary… except the tip is mandatory.

large_Lach_Dancer.jpg

Our move into the vegetarian world is proving to be a culinary delight as well as western stomach sensitive.

Today we had our first family photo! While leaving a lake garden the thrust of babies, dash of fathers and shyness of mothers was a burst of excitement most unexpected. I wonder if we will feature on a wall somewhere in the family home.

large_Karen_Amber_Fort.jpg

large_Lach_with_scarf.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 07:58 Archived in India Comments (0)

Pushkar

sunny 28 °C

The gentle introduction to India is over…for the first few days we had no idea why everyone always said that India was such hard work. We are now beginning to realise. The constant pressure for money is tiring, the poverty is heartbreaking and the dirt, pollution and awful stench on every corner starts to get to you (well me at least!). Having said all that India really is an enchanting place, the people are so friendly and the sights are so diverse – from peaceful mountain and lake views dotted with magical palaces to streets lined with food waste, rubble and cow pat!

large_Pushkar_Street.jpg

We arrived in Pushkar after a 6-hour drive with Vinod (including a stop at yet another temple and a beautiful park). The centre of Pushkar is closed to cars so we were left to set off with our backpacks (unfortunately Lach wasn’t playing porter today) to find our hotel…after a 40 minute walk dodging numerous cows, cow pats and motorbikes we finally find it. It definitely wasn’t worth the walk – the most basic of our rooms so far!

large_Kaz_with_backpacks.jpg

We didn’t much like Pushkar, I am not sure if it was just because we were tired and had a bad start but it seemed more run down than Delhi and Udaipur. Also, it is alcohol free and we were both in need of a cold beer by this point!

The following morning we were getting ready to leave when suddenly our room was filled with darkness. A power cut (Pushkar only gets a few hours of electricity per day) in our windowless room….pitch black. It was definitely time to leave Pushkar.

large_Lach_with_headlamp.jpg

large_Random_Lake.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 05:24 Archived in India Comments (1)

Udaipur

sunny 31 °C

We didn’t miss check in…Lach was just trying to make the blog more dramatic for our dedicated readers (hi mum!). We very nearly missed it but the supervisor was very kind and let us on the closed flight (much better service than Easyjet!).

We arrived in Udaipur and quickly ventured into the centre to see some of the sights. Udaipur is a beautiful city, it is set on a stunning lake and you really feel as if you could be anywhere in the world….until you walk one street back from the lake that is!

Sunset_Point.jpg

We have so far seen multiple dogs, cows, goats, monkeys, chickens, donkeys, two elephants, four camels and one tiger roaming the streets of Udaipur…ok, the tiger was in the zoo but the rest of them literally share the streets with the many rickshaws, motorbikes and cars! The roaming animals can be slightly scary at times, especially for me although even Lach got a bit of a fright when one of the cows swung his head (or tried to gore him in his words!).

Lach_Cow.jpg

The rest of the time in Udaipur has been very relaxing with sunsets, boat rides and dinner and drinks on the lake. Thanks to Vinod our driver we are starting to feel very cultured, he seems very dedicated to pushing every temple, tomb, palace and museum (as you can see from the photo below some of these are merely building sites!) upon us, culminating in this evenings trip to see the traditional Indian music and dancing. We decided to leave when the man wailing incoherent noises at us became too much!

We leave Udaipur for Pushkar tomorrow…more temples await us there!

Lach_at_museum.jpg

Monsoon_Palace.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 19:26 Archived in India Comments (1)

Delhi

sunny 29 °C

Having arrived in Delhi our driver Vinod aka Vicki welcomes us. Very friendly, much like all the people we’ve met so far.

Delhi… dirty, dusty and crowded yet welcoming and vibrant. Walking together we immediately notice the intrigue on many faces. No more so than when one brave girl breaks ranks from the uniform line of schoolgirls visiting the same sight to say hello and shake Karen’s hand. What followed was quite stunning… a swathe of 50+ wee girls surround Karen all wanting to shake her hand and say hello… she’s very beautiful. The shock on Karen’s face before realizing it was just innocent excitement was a photo missed.

The requests for photos at sight after sight all became quite amusing… white people are not very common here.

First curry, all clear. Our dining neighbour provided some useful eating tips, particularly when consuming the mouth cleansing menthol bird seed.

Delhi, 4am. Heading for a 5.30am flight to Udaipur… stuck in Karol Bagh with every street blocked. VK advises this is necessary to stop the Mafia from stealing so many cars. We miss check in.

p.s. we have just realised we are missing a camera cable so photos will be a bit limited for the first few blogs.

Himuyan_Tomb.jpg

India_Gate.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 19:20 Archived in India Comments (0)

Departure

overcast 13 °C

We are ready to go - we have finally got our backpacks packed and have now checked in...we even got upgraded to premium economy...a great start to the trip!! :-)

As you can see from the photo below I am starting as we mean to go on...I have my porter well trained!

Lach_with_packs.jpg

Posted by karenandlach 05:44 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

(Entries 41 - 50 of 50) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5]