A Travellerspoint blog

My India

that one, over-riding impression that will be forever etched in my memory

sunny 2 °C

India is an intensely personal journey. Everyone comes for their own reasons, and leaves with their own sense of what they saw and, more importantly, learned -- about India and themselves.

We are slightly more than half way into our trip and last night as I lay in bed I found myself reflecting on the kaleidoscope of images, sounds and smells we’ve experienced so far. And what I have discovered is that for me, to understand India you need look no further than into the eyes of the Indian people. There you will see all that this glorious country has to offer you.

P1010207.jpg
P1010295.jpg
P1010782.jpg
P1010922.jpg
0P1010947.jpg
P1020151.jpg
P1020244.jpg
P1020385.jpg
P1020471.jpg
P1020680.jpg
P1020739.jpg
P1020775.jpg
P1050406.jpg
P1050591.jpg

Here, if you're willing, you will learn about compassion ... patience ... generosity ... acceptance ... wisdom ... devotion ... faith ... kindness ... karma .. contentment ... honesty and humility.

P1030474.jpg
P1030533.jpg
P1030673.jpg
P1030694.jpg
P1030733.jpg
P1030735.jpg
P1030935.jpg
P1040395.jpg
P1040499.jpg
P1040812.jpg
P1040813.jpg
P1040831.jpg
P1040834.jpg
P1040951.jpg

Posted by a_broad 00:23 Archived in India Tagged postcards Comments (3)

homeward bound

about to board the plane for toronto

overcast 7 °C

We're in Brussels and about to start the very last leg of our journey. I have several more blog entries about India but I'll have to post them from home unfortunately -- not enough time to upload the photos.

Thanks for traveling with me -- stay tuned for the last few posts ...

Posted by a_broad 00:04 Archived in Belgium Tagged air_travel Comments (2)

Munnar ...

despite all the climbing it's still my cup of tea

sunny 22 °C

Munnar equals tea plantations. In fact, as we drove from Thekkady we knew we’d arrived in Munnar when the tea plantations started.

P1040875.jpg
P1050192.jpg
P1040735.jpg

Close to 7,000 feet above sea level, Munnar is a very lush, green, picturesque hill station that is totally unspoiled – home to tea, coffee and cardamom plantations.

P1040572.jpg
P1040669.jpg

The drive was long, but gorgeous and we stopped several times to take pictures – and to sample some water coconuts – they look nothing like the ‘hairy’ cocoa-coloured coconuts we’re used to at home. These are bigger, smooth, greenish and need to have their tops hacked off with a hatchet – easier said than done. Then you can drink the coconut water, which is delicious – and then you eat the jelly.

P1040362.jpg

It’s very good.

Our resort – Tall Trees – is up a very steep incline – and keeps inclining – even to get to the restaurant it’s all uphill. We each had our own two-story cottage, set amongst – you guessed it – tall trees.

P1050214.jpg
P1050226.jpg

The setting is gorgeous – very eco-friendly – full of colourful flowers and leaves and trees of every shape and description. And, it’s located on a 66-acre cardamom plantation. Just glorious – and certainly as opposite to the luxury we experienced in Rajasthan as can be.

This is nature at its best -- rustic … pure … simple. Waterfalls, lakes, streams and hills abound. It can also be quite cool, although we’re lucky. It’s sunny and lovely.

Last night Marney and Rashmi were afraid we’d be cold so they called and asked for some hot water bottles for all of us to keep in our beds (we got them in the desert and also at Spice Village). They were told this resort “doesn’t provide that service” … but lo and behold, just a few minutes went by and there was a knock at their door.

There stood a young hotel employee proudly carrying a tray upon which stood five, 500 ml plaster drinking water bottles which they’d made hot for us. Very sweet indeed – and very creative thinking too. That’s what they’re like here. They will do anything to make you feel welcome and cherished.

This morning after breakfast we visited a tea plantation and learned how tea is processed – you will be sorry to learn that the awful truth is that the dregs of the batch get shipped to North America. Then we went to a nursery where I went insane shooting pictures of flowers – and also saw members of a women’s club who were all dressed in turquoise saris – set amongst the flowers it was just a breathtaking sight.

More water coconuts on the side of the road, a nice lunch at a buffet restaurant near town, a walk through Munnar Village and back to the hotel for dinner (and hopefully to watch at least part of Obama’s inauguration – it will be the first time in a month I’ve watched TV. We’ve had TV everywhere we’ve been but I’ve not put it on once. After my third day in India I stopped reading newspapers too – even the local ones.

I have no idea what’s going on in the world and right now I don’t care. I guess I’ll find out soon enough, because tomorrow we go to Cochin – we’re there for one night – and then it’s back home.

This month has gone so quickly I can’t believe it’s virtually over. This has been the most marvelous experience. I’ll be back …

Posted by a_broad 03:25 Archived in India Tagged ecotourism Comments (5)

thekkady

a cool mountain town in the Cardamom Hills

sunny 21 °C

P1040416.jpg

More time to unwind in our lovely, tranquil resort (Spice Village) set 3,000 feet above sea level – each of us with our own, thatched-roof cottage.

As soon as we got settled in Marney and Cynthia went on a plantation tour. Haidee, Rashmi and I opted to go into town (a 2-minute walk) instead. Yes, we went shopping, but I feel compelled to mention that while I am doing a lot of shopping it is not costing a lot of money:

When you shop at the markets like we are you are spending anywhere from 150 to 350 rupees on pants, tops, scarves – which, loosely translated, comes to between $1 to $2.50 in U.S. dollars. In Samode (at the start of our trip) I got three silver bangles for $7, for example.

In cities like Mumbai you pay much more in the fancy shops where you’d swear you were on Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive – but that’s not where we’ve gone. This is much more fun, actually – and we’ve all become experts at haggling.

I will be having hernia surgery when I come home, though, because my bags are becoming heavier and heavier … and I’m needing more and more pieces of luggage.

P1040404.jpg

On this particular sojourn in the shops the three of us met Deepak – one of the most wonderful guys you’ll ever meet. His English was fantastic – which he credits the 18 years he spent with hippies in Goa for. He’s a philosopher, a charmer, a fabulous salesman, an entrepreneur (he’s got three stores in Thekkady), and an all around great guy. We even met his son and his wife – and soon we were all having masala tea – courtesy of his wife, who made it at home for us and brought it to the store.

We were there for a long time and we all walked out with bags and bags full – wonderful silk ‘laundry’ bags.

Back at the resort I tried to get on the internet – to no avail. I had a feeling it would be spotty in the South – and in fact, I never could use it in Thekkady. So instead we went to a cooking class – which was very interesting and delicious as well. Then we enjoyed some local entertainment and a wonderful dinner.

P1040409.jpg

Kerala is known for seafood so I’m in heaven.

You can’t keep your eyes open here past 10 pm. I think I read the same two lines of my book four times and just had to turn off the lights. As I fell asleep I was serenaded by crickets. That’s the last thing I remember.

Up bright and early the next day, I wandered around taking pictures of all the plants – you have no idea what grows here – cinnamon, teak, curry leaves, coffee, tea, ginger, pepper, and on and on the list goes.

Haidee and Marney went on a three-hour nature hike – Spice Village is right near the Lake Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. I opted not to because I didn’t feel like exposing myself to lots of mosquitos – especially as I didn’t think they’d see a lot of animals – which, in the end, they didn’t.

P1040475.jpg
P1040476.jpg

Instead I checked out the property, watched a man carve earrings and serving pieces from teak and coconut shells, relaxed and went back to town. I had thought I’d have an ayurvedic massage, but in the end I didn’t even want to do that.

After all the activity of recent weeks it was nice to just veg in the beautiful, calming, serene place. At the end of the day we went to a spice market and loaded up on ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla and cardamom and masala mix for tea and coffee and seasoning for every conceivable kind of curry – fish, chicken, vegetable, lamb – and we also got some oils – musk, eucalyptus, aloe vera, special massage oil for sore joints – our luggage will be very fragrant on the return trip home.

What gave us all a giggle was when three women (neighbours who were out shopping together) asked if they could take their pictures with us. For close to a month now we’ve been asking the locals if we can take their photos – this time the tables were turned – and we were the novelty.

You have know idea how excited and happy they were when we said “yes”. The whole village turned out for the event – you wouldn’t believe the size of the crowd that gathered. It was really sweet.

Dinner at a local restaurant (another feast – with main dishes costing in the range of 100 rupees – less than $2) and again, early to bed.

How I got everything I bought into my suitcase I will never know, but the Gods were smiling on me for sure …

Posted by a_broad 02:04 Archived in India Tagged ecotourism Comments (1)

a houseboat cruise of the backwaters

the perfect start to our week in Kerala

sunny 22 °C

Kerala is a very narrow state (only 350 miles) and it runs along the Western coast of India. It’s lush and very green and it’s where you find the plantations – rubber, tea, coffee, cashews, teak and spices – cardamom, pepper (black, white, red and green), cinnamon, tumeric, ginger – which makes the air so very fragrant. It’s also one of India’s most progressive states – they have over 90% literacy rate here.

This is where Ayurveda (a 4,000 year old holistic medical science) began. Doctors prescribe treatments based on your constitution and then special oils and herbal concoctions are poured or massaged over your body. I am hoping to have time to give it a try – they say it’s quite something.

When I was doing the research for my trip and I ‘discovered’ Kerala I couldn’t get over the colour – it’s so intense it looks over-saturated – like it’s been enhanced. But it’s not – that’s exactly what it’s like – and it just takes your breath away.

What also leaves you breathless is the extreme contrast between the hurly burly atmosphere of cities like Delhi and Jaipur and Mumbai and Varanasi and the calm and tranquility of the South. It’s also a fair bit warmer here – it is tropical, after all – and there is some humidity – not hard to take at all – but I don’t think I could handle it in the summer. My hair and skin, however, love it.

This area is also riddled with mosquitos – you MUST keep spraying and spraying and spraying yourself – especially at dusk. I am being very diligent – after my reaction to mosquito bites in Bequia last year I am completely paranoid about bites; and I can also live without malaria – which you can still get even if you take Malarone (anti malaria pills) – you’d just get a milder case. So you must pay attention. You’re advised to wear long pants and long sleeves, which I am doing. They’re in very lightweight fabrics, but this is not the place to wear shorts and sleeveless tops.

P1040020.jpg
P1040022.jpg

We’re beginning this last leg of our journey with a houseboat cruise of the backwaters. When you look at the boats it is hard to imagine where you’d sleep on them. But we had a four bedroom boat – each with its own bathroom … there was a lounge with a TV and satellite dish) … a kitchen … even a dining room table. Amazing.

P1030995.jpg
P1030988.jpg

And when you are on that boat, drifting along the river you are in another world. There is nothing you could ever do that would be more relaxing … or more peaceful and meditative.

P1040267.jpg
P1040186.jpg

A perfect time and place to reflect and find the answers that are, of course, within all of us – but are buried under the layers and layers of stress and pressure and duties and responsibilities and chores and activities and obligations of our daily lives. At home we’re focused on success – here they are focused on the true meaning of life – here success is not measured in material terms.

When I was in school I remember that one of my favourite books was Lost Horizon. Well I’ve got to tell you, if this isn’t Shangri-La then I don’t know what is. It is as close to paradise as I think you can get on earth!!

Our flight from Mumbai to Cochin left so early (about 7:40 am) that we ended up having most of the day to enjoy the houseboat (thankfully). Once we got settled in, we lounged around for a bit and then Rashmi and I went to lay down.

P1040290.jpg

The next thing I knew Haidee was waking me up to say that the guys (the boat comes with a crew of three) had asked if they wanted to go out exploring in a canoe.

P1040104.jpg

Something must have gotten lost in the translation though, because Haidee and Cynthia thought it was a fifteen minute trip and we’d be going to a village where we would be able to walk around.

P1040134.jpg

So you can imagine our surprise when our boatman handed us oars – and then when we found ourselves working up a sweat for the better part of an hour – especially when we had to navigate through the dense water hydrangeas – it was hard work let me tell you. But in the end despite the moaning and groaning we all agreed that it was fun and worth the effort.

We got back in time for tea and more napping – this time on huge mattresses and pillows on deck. I could have stayed there – in that very spot – for days and days.

P1040255.jpg

Dinner was dee-lic-ious!! Prawns (caught that morning) the size of lobsters (I kid you not) – simply grilled with garlic. Chicken, so tender it just melted in your mouth (virtually no chewing required). Pinepple curry made with coconut (indigenous to this area) … beet root … rice … roti … vegetables – and some good Indian beer to wash it all down.

P1040042.jpg
P1040098.jpg

And a sunset that is simply indescribable!!! The sky and the water literally turned scarlet!!

P1040170.jpg

By ten we were all fast asleep. Nature had acted like a tranquilizer – none of us could keep our eyes open.

I got up early enough to have a shower and enjoy the scenery before breakfast. By 9:30 we were on our way to our next stop – Thekkady (Periyar).

P1040185.jpg

It was difficult to leave …

Posted by a_broad 02:02 Archived in India Tagged boating Comments (2)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 45) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 »