A Travellerspoint blog

India

auajo

come again

sunny 2 °C

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This photo really does sum up my experience in India. It exemplifies how deeply these people care about their country and the fact that you are visiting. "We tried our best to accommodate your requests and tried to make your stay pleasant; but if we missed out on anything unknowingly please forgive us and give us a chance to serve you again."

I loved every minute I was there; and I know I will visit India again ... and again ... and again. And hopefully you will all come with me -- again and again and again. Thanks for following along and for all your comments and emails. It was great to share my trip with you. Here's to the next one ...

Posted by a_broad 16:37 Archived in India Tagged luxury_travel Comments (2)

Cochin (Kochi) ...

one of the world's largest ports

sunny 27 °C

Throughout the second millennium this ancient city has exported spices and coffee all over the world. What it has gained in return is culture and religion from Europe, China and the Middle East.

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Our drive here was long, but informative. Our driver/guide stopped many times along the way to show us banana trees, coffee plants, cashew nut trees and even cardamom plants. We even saw how the more enterprising guys go door-to-door selling fish -- by bicycle! We buy these things every day in the grocery store but to see them in their natural habitat puts a whole new slant on things. I will 'eat' far more knowledgeably now.

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Another glorious sight was the mist rising over the mountains -- remember that we came from Munnar which is about 7,000 feet above sea level. The mist made it seem like we were either gazing at snow-covered alps in Switzerland or a Japanese painting. It was gorgeous!!

We arrived in Cochin in early afternoon which was lucky for us. It meant we had time to enjoy yet another lovely hotel -- which we did -- and also repacked for our journey home. I tried to blog with some success and finally abandoned it all so I could enjoy the scenery -- starting with the picturesque view from my hotel room.

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At around 5 we met for high tea -- the British influence remains -- and then we took a sunset cruise, which was beautiful. We drifted fairly slowly and saw the famous Chinese fishing nets from the water -- they look like huge hammocks spread out and it's hard to believe they're still in use today. We also enjoyed yet another magnificent sunset -- they are so incredible here. I have never seen a sky the colour it turns here -- pure scarlet!!

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Dinner at the hotel and early to bed -- we had a long day ahead -- sightseeing -- our flight back to Mumbai -- and then our flight home.

After a delicious breakfast we headed out for our sightseeing:

First stop -- St. Francis Church in Fort Cochin. This is the church where Vasco da Gama was once buried. A very simple structure, but so lovely. P1050465.jpg
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Then we went to see the Chinese Fishing Nets again from land -- and luckily we got to see them in action.

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They were first introduced by Chinese traders in the 14th century -- and it's amazing to see that they are still used today. So primitive -- but so simple -- and so effective.

Then we made our way to the synagogue -- it is the oldest 'functioning' synagogue in India -- and today the congregation is only 11 families. They can't even make a minion -- they invite tourists to come and join them on Friday evenings and Saturdays -- but they are determined.

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It is beautiful and what I found spectacular was the fact that the room is literally filled with chandeliers -- all different. The reason is that they are donated and everyone donates the chandelier of their choice. The floor is also marvelous -- 1,100 hand-painted, blue and white Chinese tiles -- again each one different -- a "gift" from a wealthy trader, Ezekiel Rahabi in the mid 18th century.

Unfortunately for security reasons we weren't allowed to take photos, so you'll have to take my word for it. This is a strictly orthodox synagogue and so the women (not tourists) are sent to sit upstairs behind a screened area.

But the real highlight of the day was meeting Sarah -- a 75-year old Jewish woman who was born in India.

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She has a small shop in Jewtown where she makes and sells kippas and challah bread covers.

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We loved our visit with her and we all bought some souvenirs from her shop. She looked exactly like all our grandmother's -- a typical Jewish bubbie -- all those many, many, many miles away.

Who would have thought?

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Then our guide took us to a local cafe for a wonderful lunch -- I had a dosa -- it's crisp, flat, pancake -- sort of like Crepe Bretogne -- filled with a potato and vegetable curry mixture. It's really good. Mine was the 'masala' version -- which is a spicy sauce -- tomato, vegetable.

And then, alas, back to the hotel to change into our traveling clothes, collect our luggage and head to the airport. I cannot believe the trip is over.

I've said it so many times you must be bored hearing it already, but India is an amazing, amazing country. I have another blog or two coming -- a few more things I want to share with you, so stay tuned.

See you soon ...

Posted by a_broad 16:04 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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.

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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