A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15 - Udaipur

overcast 26 °C
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Heading up to the rooftop restaurant in Udaipur we get the days breathtaking view of the lake and lake palace hotel.

After a coffee filled breakfast, we go to take a closer look at the lake. The lake terrace we hit is pretty bustling and the streets are packed with artistry and clothes. The view from the bottom of the lake is more spectacular and we spend a while taking in the view of boats, women washing clothes by the waters edge, arts displays and of courses cows! We also saw the most gorgeous puppies - which I could have easily taken home.

We walk around the two lakes in Udaipur and get the lay of the land. The streets are so terraced that once on street level you cannot see a lot as you basically look staight up to the sky. The lake walk is around 6kms and we got caught by Meenu, who runs s cooking class and sells spices etc. she is great business women albeit a little forceful and pushy. We get out of booking the class and say we might pop in on one of our other days as we have decided to spend the additional day in Udaipur.

After a long walk we head back to the hotel to arrange clothes washing which is desperately needed at this point. To wash essentially 20 days worth of clothing between us costs $16AUD which we are very happy to pay.

Walking around the City we head to a spectacular temple which is carved out of a single piece of stone. Walking around is peaceful and you get a sense of silence away from the busy streets. After a while spent we head out back to the hotel after a lot of walking to rest and get ready for dinner.

The rooftop restaurant at our guest house menu looks incredible. The have an awesome tandoor and the selection of Indian food is huge. I usually don't like eating at the same restaurant twice but given the views and food selection (and cold beer) it seems like a good choice.

Tonight we have chicken tikka skewers, mushroom and paneer skewers and Parathas. The food cooked in the tandoor is amazing the taste you get is smokey and the meet cooked to perfection.

After a satisfying meal and a few beers we head for w good nights rest.

Posted by lee_1986 09:20 Archived in India Tagged beer india hotel indian udaipur rajistan Comments (0)

Day 14 - Cochin to Udaipur

all seasons in one day 28 °C
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Our fist and only internal flight of the trip today and taxi to the airport is booked room packed and now the lazy wait until midday to farewell And say hello to Udaipur.

We chill out in the hotel courtyard restaurant and our stay at the Rossitta Wood Castle has been pleasant. The only downer is the EFT machine is not working so have to give up the cash to pay for the room.

It's lucky we booked to taxi half an hour earlier than the hotel recommended as the estimated driving time of 45 minutes turned out to be an hour and a half. Upon arrival at the airport, hand luggage is immediately scanned upon entry to the airport - which seems pointless if you are not scanning actual large checked luggage - but let's just go with the flow as this is not the most annoying part of the trip.

Then prior to getting in tickets and checking in - you go to separate location to have you actual luggage scanned. Following that you walk back to the ticket counter having got a sticker in your bag to collect your passes, and, finally check in is done. We are told that our 35 minute connection (now to Mumbai) is actually a different plane and will have to be pretty quick on getting to the transfer. She recommends we let one of the flight attendants know and they will assist.

Another hand luggage scanning point - another? And body scan/pat down and we are in the waiting room. Here I buy some sparkling apple juice 500ml this is important later!

Considering the short flight time of 1 hour 45 minutes to Mumbai, they we still able to serve a plane full of meals and tea or coffee. The food is not bad for airplane food and consisted of veg or non veg options.

The plane departed a little late from Cochin but arrived 10 mins early in Mumbai. On the flight we mentioned to the attendant of our short transition as we had been told but the most we got was - hmmm you might make it!

After the plane lands, we have to get on a shuttle which take forever to leave as people dwardle around on the air strip and there goes the 10 mins we made in flight time. Mumbai airport has no directional signage... NONE! And we are told to go two different ways finally we reach were we are supposed to be and even though we have not left the airport at all - there is another hand luggage chef and body screening which is packed! Standing in line with 10 mins til our gate closes panic sets in about making the flight. The checkpoint is tedious and from what we can see mostly irrelevant as we have just got on a plane and have not left the secure area. My bag goes through with no problems even though liquid is limited to 100ml ... Except I have 400ml of pressurised apple juice inside! So not so secure. We run to our gate to find that our plane is delayed 15 mins (possibly to wait for passengers making the connection.

Another hour on the Tarmac and a short flight 1 hour, meal service, we are in Udaipur to start the Northern India journey of the trip and our half way point.

A quick taxi ride to the hotel and we end up on the roof top with an amazing view of the lake and lit up hotels, castle and buildings. Magnificent start and introduction to Udaipur - excited for what awaits tomorrow.

Posted by lee_1986 21:55 Archived in India Tagged hotel flight security kerala udaipur cochin rajistan Comments (0)

Day 13 - Cochin

sunny 34 °C

Late start today in lazy Fort Kochi and it is a lot quieter on the streets without the passengers from the QE2 on land as it departed last night. It's a walk to the Dutch and Jewish area which we avoided yesterday on the agenda.

Our walk today along to coast is pleasant and the sun is shining with perfect temperature and breeze from the ocean. We stop at two restaurants on the way and enquire about the availability of seafood. Upon being told that crabs are out of season we are told that lobster is available and so restaurant selection is completed for our last dinner in Fort Kochi.

The walk to the Jewish quarter takes around 1 hour and you can instantly tell there is a change in the architecture of this quarter and the Dutch area. Visiting the Dutch palace which could be restored a little better still gives an sense of grander and elegance we haven't seen in southern India to date. Whilst you cannot take photos there palace provides informative information regarding Dutch settlement in a kochi following vacation by the Portuguese. It also references the joint India/Dutch military forces and has amazing portraits of the palaces residence.

On our walk through here we are invited into a spice shop, where the owner explains all about where the spices are harvested in Kerala and let's us try ginger sweats, masala, lemon sugar, mango curry spice which were all suburb. We buy some ginger sweets and are back on the road. On our walk back we hit a traffic jam caused by a truck and bus trying to three point turn in the narrowest of streets. In fact all the streets here in a kochi are so narrow it is no wonder this is an everyday problem here. We stand and watch for 20 minutes while the bus manoeuvres its way around such a tight corner.

After the traffic subsides we start the walk back to the beach front. Stop in some stores and have a look around. Heading back to the hotel to freshen up before our seafood feast.

The walk to the restaurant named the Killians Boutique Hotel and Restaurant we conform at the entrance the availability of Lobster and are told its a go ahead. However on ordering our first beer - we are then told, NO LOBSTER! A little disappointed and still wanting a seafood feast we order:-
- 1 seafood sizzler platter : which once arrived had 7 tiger prawns, 8 regular prawns, a large handful of grilled squid, and a lovely grilled price of fish, chips and steamed vegetables;
- Grilled Scampi; which comes with 1 grilled scampi, grilled fish, chips and steamed vegetables all grilled to perfection and an amazing garlic butter.
- 2 parathas and 1 garlic naan.

After devouring what is likely to freshest seafood I have had and topping up on a few beers the bill comes to a mere $42AUD and has been our one extravagance on the trip to date.

With full stomached we roll ourselves back to the hotel for a good sleep.

Posted by lee_1986 21:23 Archived in India Tagged beaches beer beach india hotel fort indian kerala seafood cochin kochi cochi fort_kochi Comments (0)

Day 12 - Cochin

sunny 34 °C
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So first day in Cochin (Fort Kochi Area) and it's going to be quite a warm day today at 35 degrees not conducive for walking around to much but we are going to attempt to soldier on. Haven't had anywhere to wash clothes yet so running a little low on clothes and reluctant to get these too sweaty *sigh* but if we an hold out another couple of days we should be okay as Udaipur does washing and dry cleaning *relief*.

Anyway first port of call is the coast line - which is only a 500 metre walk from the hotel, which is in such a fantastic area for seeing the sites and access to shops and restaurants.

The beach looks a lot better that yesterday and we walk up and down the foot way for a few kilometres before we go to see some of the churches. The other thing on the agenda is to take advantage of all the amazingly fresh seafood and we are set to have a seafood feast on our last night in Kochi - so on the hunt for some lobster and crab.

Along the coast they have some intriguing sculptures and art installations (reminds me of sculptures by the sea). My favourite is a huge crab made out of Steele and Sheet Plastic which is also used to promote recycling and awareness. As it urges locals to place plastic bottles found on the beach inside the frame to fill it with beach plastic waste polluting the beach - it's a great idea and it really shows how much rubbish is left on the shoreline. However, there is still a much needed clean up as there is still a lot of debris lying around.

After a relaxing start to the day we are called to have a go at pulling the Chinese fishing nets out of the water. The guys working on the boat have some of the roughest hands I have ever seen - blistered, calluses, and peeling and one would rather we shake hands on his forearm - but not really bothered myself. Pulling the nets is damn hard work as it takes around 6 guys to pull the nets up. It's an amazing experience and are told that they pull the nets every 10 minutes for 18 hours a day and they average around 120 lifts a day. We get some amazing photos and video and is my favourite experience in India to date.

Following we head to the old Dutch cemetery which is unkempt and in ruins but really quite out of place - it's closed to public now but you can still peer through the iron gates and see the headstones and above ground caskets.

We visit an old Dutch church which was beautiful from the outside but no matched by the inside which was really basic and unfurnished. Following our short stop here the day takes a turn from structured to finding our way back. LOST! We walk around trying to get to Mantancherry which is supposed to be around 3kms walk to the Jewish quarter.

After waking around for 2 hours and around 8kms the only reprieve was that we wandered past one of the washing and ironing facilities which has 100 staff and is a manual laundromat. The first step of the process is staff stand in which looks like open shower blocks and water runs into a a basin and a slanted cement block which the clothes are scrubbed and bashed against to get the clean. Looks like such hard work - but being in the water might be nice on such a hot day. The drying fields spans which i estimate as more that an acre and is wall to wall clothes lines which is made of two twisted ropes which allows the clothes to be hung between the spirals without the use of pegs. The third process ironing looks the hardest. It's hot and to heat the irons - burning embers and coals from a forge are placed in the heavy cast iron irons. The irons are supposed to weigh 3.5 kilos and the lady using one is barely 5 feet tall and must weight around 40kgs and she is a pro. One, two, three passes of the iron and a bed sheet is completely pressed - incredible.

Walking around to find our way to the Jewish quarter we give up and a tuk tuk takes us the 3kms we missed it by to the Dutch Palace in Mantancherry. It's packed with at least twenty tour coaches at the entrance. Should have thought this through better but we were told yesterday that the cruise ship QE2 was arriving today and it would be packed with up to 3000 passengers disembarking on Kochi. Instead of waiting in the queue we decide to walk back to our beach area of Fort Kochi and check out the seafood for tomorrow. There is an amazing selection of everything you can imagine.

After a bit more wandering we head back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. We decide to go to this small beach side cafe - which is a few table and almost a canteen kitchen. We order a couple of curries and breads, and for the first time we order desert - a banana pancake and pistachio ice cream. The pistachio ice cream is the best I've ever tasted and with a full stomach we head back to the hotel for some sleep.

Posted by lee_1986 20:50 Archived in India Tagged beach cemetery indian lobster kerala seafood dutch cochin kochi fort_kochi Comments (0)

Day 11 - Alleppey to Kochi

sunny 32 °C
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Today we are on the move from Alleppey to Kochi and after a final walk around the canals, backwater and town we are off on the short drive to Kochi our last stop in Kerala.

The drive is fast and frantic with buses in the middle of the road, tuk tuk everywhere it's a wonder we got there alive.

Kochi is beautiful even on arrival you can tell its a tourist town. More restaurants, accommodation and shops than we have seen over the first 10 days and we have only been here half an hour. After checking into the hotel the Rositta Wood Castle which is a lovely restored historic building with a perfect courtyard.

We have some snacks at the hotel of vegetable and paneer pakora and some fresh lime water.

After a short rest we head straight to the beach with is only a 200metre walk from the hotel and we get a great view of the Chinese fishing nets which are bigger than I ever expected. The speed at which the fisherman pull up the nets with quick movements and in perfect unison.

The coastline is nice but still does not compare to Perth and you have a lovely view of an oil refinery in the distance. We sat at a juice hut on the water and ordered some amazing juice hut which contained no added water sugar or ice ( put needed ice as it was so hot). We go to order a mandarin juice but the owner quickly says it's orange (but were definitely mandarins) weird what passes for an orange in Kochi. Then we changed it up with a lovely pineapple juice and were on our way to walk back up the coast.

After a few hours at the waterfront it's time to find dinner. We have decided to eat late and seems most of the Europeans visiting have the same idea - when it's cooler to sit outside!

We find an amazing restaurant called the Orchid Restaurant the inside is like a green house decked out with amazing flowers and ferns but thankfully also covered with fans.

It's really busy and we offer to move for a table of 14 French tourist so they can have connecting tables and are just happy that we have already placed our order. The food looks incredible and we settle in eating Mixed seafood pakora with prawns, mussels, squid and fish, paneer pakora, chicken korma and mutton curry with a mix of parathas and Chipatis. I still haven't got used to eating curry with my hands but don't want to be the only one picking up a spoon and fork so I made do but its a messy afair.

After a satisfying dinner we head for a walk around the street and then back to the hotel for some rest before a big walking day of the sites.

Posted by lee_1986 21:20 Archived in India Tagged india fort kochi curry alleppey juice masala cochi pakora chicken65 Comments (0)

Day 10 - Allepey

sunny 34 °C

The last of our relaxation days today before some full on touring of the Kochi and the North coming up. A sleep in is much needed and an intended celebration with some cold beer is on the agenda tonight at the Harbour Restaurant on the beach.

After a late start at 10:30 and a sit around in the Homestay courtyard we head across the road for my first 'real' coffee at this run down cafe on the canal. Tits looks like nothing from the outside but they have an amazing Italian coffee machine and make such nice coffee - or maybe it's just been to long since I have had a nice coffee.

Second order of business after a nice wake up is locating an ATM. Unfortunately all five we tried wouldn't dispense cash or are out of order. So might have to wait for Kochi.

After a long walk though to back streets visiting local shops and seeing the residential quarter it's quite remarkable to see the locals enjoying food and children playing in the streets - most say they are heading to the beach for sunset and it seems everyone here is relaxed - reminds me of home.

The afternoon hits and we hire a small boat to take use down he backwaters of Kerala. There are some massive houseboats here with up to seven bedrooms aboard and they are impressive in stature. The backwaters are breathtaking - waterfront houses in amongst the huge chain resorts. Fisherman, on the shore with hand lines infront of Vodafone billboards and all a clash of two different worlds.

After a couple of hours cruising the canal. We head for the beach and getting some cold beer on a hot day. For dinner it's Chicken Manchurian and a Pea and Mushroom Masala with Chipatis and Poories. Don't forget the beers - the Kingfisher (best bear in India) is flowing tonight.

Posted by lee_1986 21:18 Archived in India Tagged india kerala backwater alleppey Comments (0)

Day 9 - Alleppey

sunny 35 °C

Our first day in Alleppy and the weather is nice and warm. On 'room-gate' still cannot find what the source of the smell is but the first suspect is the dripping tap in the bathroom. Dads room however does not have a working tap in the sink. So between our rooms I think we have one fully functional bathroom.

Although I am not one for beach holidays - the sun is out and that is were we are heading as our first stop.

The walk is a brisk 5km's and it breathtaking as the whole way to the ocean with the stunning canals connecting the Kerala Backwaters and the ocean - it very much is the Venice of India. On the way down to the beach there was a poor bat who had dared to hang from the electric wires and had fried and fused itself to the wire - was a sad sight to see, but reminds me to duck those low hanging power lines.

Some yelling over a loud speaker draws out attention and we stop to see an auction fear various good being held at a church. It's almost like bingo with hadd going up everywhere - don't know how to auctioneer keeps track.

With the heat and humidity on the rise it is nice to just relax by the ocean for an hour or two. The beach is nicer that Chennai but still does not compare to Perth beaches.

After a short rest we continue to walk up the beach through the crowds of people standing in the surf - no one is swimming except for a few English ladies who are baring a little too much in a culture that is relatively conservative.

For dinner we were going to go to the Harbour Restaurant which apparently is one of the only places you can get a nice cold beer - but when we arrive it is a 'dry day'. So we settle for a nice place overlooking to water. Entrees are vegetable mo mo's and fried spiced calamari and for main Vegetable Jaipuri and Fish Masala. The food is a bit more spicy that other dishes we have had but still delicious. To cap it off we get a lime and mint fizz - which are the most delicious drinks for a hot evening. From here we take a tuk tuk back to the home stay and get some rest.

Posted by lee_1986 21:15 Archived in India Tagged ocean india kerala backwater alleppey masala Comments (0)

Day 8 - Kodaikanal to Alleppey

all seasons in one day 24 °C

Today is an early start and the last of our long travel days (whoo hoo) with the 7 hour drive to Alleppey in Kerala.

Our driver, following pick up, takes us to the Kodaikanal Natural History Museum which is so small it's fits into one regular size hall. The operator is fun illy enough Sacred Heart College and the priest that teaches there curates the museum. I was a little suspicious to start with and then confirmed that this place is so weird and a bizarre mix of everything and anything. Taxidermy - birds, wild cats, and deer; skeletons of pigs, horses, and a tiger; jars with all kinds of preserved snakes and skins all seems pretty normal... Until... You get to the jar foetus sections, where they have goats, deer, pigs, and then human foetus at each month of the cycle, after confirmation they are real its a little too much and I quickly leave (so not my thing).

Following that we set out on the long drive to Alleppey. On entry to Kerala we are greeted by amazing plantations of coconut, coffee, corn, rice, and cotton. The best and most impressive are the tea plantations which are so intricately designed in maze like configurations to allow for easy picking sets a beautiful landscape. We are offered to go and see a spice plantation which we decline as we still have w long way to go - I'm glad as when we round the bend there is a huge snake (rat snake or cobra apparently) slithering across the road out of the plantation - now will have recurring snake reminders the rest of the trip and will be checking next hotel room - so paranoid.

Arriving in Alleppey it is instantly warmer. The home stay is simple but nice, even though I think the rooms smells musty I thought it might be because it's been shut up a while - but when signing the guest book they had guests the night before we got here. But it's comfortable and expected at the price we are paying.

Just also wanted to update a few thoughts in what I will call:-

5 things on my mind in a India! - Week 1

1. Footpaths - I miss them! Walking around takes so much longer and feels so much further when you have to watch where your plant every foot. Which I don't so have around 5 near falls daily. Also walking on India's roads are a constant hazard be it buses, cars or random cows that lick you.

2. Ankle sock tan lines - look just as bad as regular sock tan lines. Converting shoes for thongs immediately to rectify the problem.

3. Surprise Sunglasses Tan Lines - was doing a great job of preventing this so I thought... Until Kodaikanal! Firstly, it's was 14 degrees average. Secondly, had to wear sunglasses due to glare. Got sunglasses tan in 14 degree weather... Undead of am I right.

4. Vegetarian Cuisine - new appreciation for vegetarians! India is how you do it! Everything I have eaten hear is incredible. Perfect balance of spice, heat, taste, texture and smell. If vegetable taste this good who's needs meat. Plus have not spent more than $10AUD on food for two people per day and the portions are so big.

5. Currency - I have got the conversion down pat day one (if I don't say so myself). But the lack of small note availability is killing me. So for example in Kodaikanal we hit 6 differ to tourist spots and each one cost 15 rupees ($0.30AUD each). But no one I mean no one has change for 100 rupees... ever... so will be hanging on to small currency if I can ever find some.

Well after that filler for a drive day I am signing off.

Posted by lee_1986 11:28 Archived in India Tagged food india mountain tea snake kerala spice alleppey hill_station kodaikanal Comments (1)

Day 7 - Kodaikanal

overcast 13 °C
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A reasonable start time today at 9.00 and our driver has offered to drive us to a few of the more distant sites around Kodaikanal which is nice because the walk would have had some treacherous roads and hills with blind corners.

Our first stop of the day is a quaint church built by the French in the early 1900's. The pathway up the hill to he church has the stations of the cross - but I can't quite help but notice all the male figures are identical to Jesus which is a little confusing. Other than that there seems to be a malicious troop of monkeys that set up camp around the church - whilst people didn't seem to bother them there was a lot on infighting and a few brawls were had.

Next we head to the lake view point which looks down on Kodaikanal lake which we plan to walk around this evening. The view is spectacular with the mist slowly engulfing the lake area.

From the church we head to Silent Valley Viewpoint. The views do require a silence as it is so picturesque here. The mist crashes against the cliffs like waves breaking over the rocks it is truly an awe inspiring area (minus the Monkeys).

The one place I was looking forward to seeing was Pillar Rocks which stand 122metres high, formed by pressure and temperature and are supposed to be spectacular. When we arrive, the mist is so thick you can barley see 10 metres ahead and sadly there is no view of the rock formations.

Whilst a little disappointed we carry on to Coakers a Walk which is a nice trails against the edge of the mountain and has some great valley views. The walk is pleasant and takes us to our next stop the Solar Physical Observatory which is located at the highest point of Kodaikanal at 2343 metres. The observatory is nice and very basic - however the best bit was the old English style cottage which is converted into a museum.

We end our day of sights at the Kukkal Caves and Bryant Park. The caves which used to be open to the public but are no longer due to 23 school kids getting trapped inside for 3 days. It's now closed to the public which makes this a little disappointing but still worth the visit to see the tree roots formed around cave mouths and on the steep cliff surrounds.

Bryant Park is supposed to have the best display of roses in all of India - but not in flower at this time due to its being around 13 degrees. It's still nice to walk around and we have a little break and rest to just chill.

From here we are dropped to the lake and the driver leaves us to walk the lake which is around 5km in perimeter and services by a great footpath ( which I have sorely missed). The lake is cold and misty and we overshoot the first lap and commence a second before we circle back to the boat house. We get some nice snaps of the trees surrounding the lake which silhouette against the lake and mist.

We walk back to the hotel around 5 and break for a few hours before finding dinner. For dinner we find a nice Pure Veg Restaurant which we order Mushroom Manchurian gravey, Aloo Masala and some naan and parathas. The food is incredible and you can taste all the individual spices - still not used to eating with my hand though.

After a long day time to relax - still hard to find a beer ( so very glad a drank up in Madurai).

Posted by lee_1986 11:25 Archived in India Tagged india mountain lake green mist hill_station kodaikanal Comments (1)

Day 6 - Madurai to Kodaikanal

overcast 14 °C

After having a last look around Madurai early this morning we are going to make our accent of Kodaikanal which as around 4 hours away. Luckily we were able to get a drive through our hotel and he is probably the safest and most cautious driver we have had so far.

The drive up to the top of the hill stations is breathtaking with the mist forming against the steep cliffs. The journey is not without its scares as buses speed and swing around blind corners making our driver swerve and dodge close to the edge of the cliffs. On the way we stop at a few viewing platforms to take in the fresh air and spectacular views. I am starting to think this will be one of my favourite stops of the trip.

After arriving in the township, our driver has trouble finding our accommodation. After a few call and a lot of driving around we finally get there although the driver said when he spoke to our contact she said there was no booking but we arrive finally.

So here is the problem. The hotel's website says they are 2.5km's from the lake which is one of the main attractions in Kodaikanal and is right near the township. The accommodation is more like 6km's outside of the township. We decide to check out the room anyway and then find out that it is self contained, has no linen, no one on site aside from a security guard at the gate. Our driver has said its very far out of the centre and can show us some hotels closer to the main strip with restaurants and is close to the sights and we easily find alternate accommodation for much of the same price.

We head out to the hotel carpark to check out the 'best sunrise view in Kodaikanal' only to find that the valley is completely covered with mist and you cannot see 5 metres in front of you. We spend the rest of the afternoon walking around town, it's so hilly (should have expected as its a 'hill' station) and we grab some dinner and head in for a relatively early night.

Posted by lee_1986 11:23 Archived in India Tagged india mist madurai misty hill_station kodaikanal Comments (0)

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