I left off last in Mumbai where we had the $200 stolen from us, we got over it though. After our short stint in Mumbai, We took our first domestic flight in India to Goa. We spend 6 days in Goa jumping from central Goa to the north, then finishing in the south. The first area we stayed at was Candolim… it was a good start; we were steps from the beach and rented a moped for a few days to explore more of the coast. After we got tired of Candolim we went north to Ashvem beach which was a lot more laid back. There was amazing food all over the place but the highlight was eating Greek food overlooking the sunset. The south was filled with only Russians and was pretty expensive so we opted to drive out to a spice plantation and take a tour. I learned so much on the tour that I had no idea about… like bamboo, it is the tallest grass; the cinnamon tree was cool and rubber tree too. We enjoyed Goa but it was too much for us at times. On the last day we had to kill a few hours till our night bus so we went to a movie, the good dinosaur was the only movie playing in the early afternoon so we didn’t have much choice. It was nice to go to a theater and enjoy a ‘western’ treat. You could order food directly to your seat which I thought was cool; they also had a ten minute intermission to go to the restroom and get more food which is smart. The Indian commercials before the movie were definitely the highlight. There is one about respecting your parents that I found hilarious but can’t seem to find it anywhere.
The night bus to Hampi was pretty good, couldn’t really get much sleep because of the winding roads and 8 hours is a long time to get tossed back and forth. We heard good things about Hampi so we planned to stay 6 days. Hampi is the first true honey hole of India, it’s cheap, a little undiscovered and small enough to walk around in an hour or two. The one thing that they should invest in is a bridge because taking a boat over a river that I could basically step over is annoying and since it only goes when it’s full you could spend a long time waiting to cross. There are so many ruins around Hampi that 6 days was a perfect amount of time to explore everything. The first two days we spend on the north side of the river. It was away from town and was a lot more chill then the south. We took our rented bike to the bottom of this monkey temple; we bought bananas at the bottom and hoped the monkeys wouldn’t attack us once we climbed the 1000 steps to the top. It was a tough climb but worth it. The view was amazing too.
We switched over to the south side of the river for the next 3 nights; here it was all about the ruins and the temples. We decided to see the ruins by foot because we were told that was the best way to see it. It was a full 8 hours of walking in the hot sun but we got to see some pretty amazing things.
I hope Hampi never gets too commercialized and I hope it stays as untouched as possible. It is a beautiful place with so much history and the fact that many backpackers have chosen this place as a relaxing break from the Indian hustle and bustle makes it that much better. I could’ve stayed more than 6 days here but we got to keep moving.
We took a night train to Bangalore and have enjoyed our two nights here. It’s another big city so we weren’t expecting much; we spent our time shopping and exploring the city center. Bangalore is one of the worst places I’ve ever seen for traffic. Our hotel was west of the city center by 7 km and no matter what time of the day it was that 7 km would take 1 hour. We took Uber almost everywhere we went and never paid more than 150 rupees ($3 CAD) for any journey (even if it took over an hour)
On our last night we went to a place called food street where vendors cook amazing street food and toss dough in the air like they’re making pizzas, Sara and I ordered a spring roll dish and it was by far the spiciest thing we’ve had since we got here. It was still really good but too spicy for me. The following morning we got street food for breakfast, I ordered a Masala dosa and Sara got rice bath?
In all the breakfast cost 55 rupees ($1.15CAD) and for me it was the best breakfast I’ve had so far.
Our next stop was Mysore, just a short 2.5 hour train ride. I got a good feeling from Mysore when we arrived; I think it was mostly from our hostel though. We stayed at the Zostel which was a beautiful mansion with everything we needed. Mysore is one of India’s places to learn/do yoga so we needed to give it a try… we’ve never tried it before. We went with an Ashtanga class and it kicked the shit out of both Sara and I. I was dripping sweat by the end of it and all I can remember from the class was ‘ommmsss’ from our yoga guru guy and him telling me to ‘BREATHE!’ every 30 seconds. The class was an hour and a half and was well worth it. I was sore for days after and sweat out any toxins I put in my body since leaving Canada. We have been looking to try it again but only now (a week later) have we felt our bodies are ready for another session. And maybe we can try a different style of yoga… is there one where we stay in child’s pose for an hour and a half??
We spent also spent Christmas in Mysore and with one of the best markets we’ve seen since coming to India, it wasn’t hard finding gifts for each other. Sara and I did a little gift exchange on Christmas night and enjoyed a few rum and cokes. The next day we thought we’d try out the Mysore zoo, it’s advertised as Asia’s biggest zoo so I was excited to see it. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t even good. The only good part about it was the price… 60 rupees ($1.25CAD) to get in, then again maybe that was a bad thing because since it was so cheap there were soooo many people there! I’m no zoo designer but they designed that zoo wrong. They designed it so there is only one way to walk it, so you and 10000 other people are walking together down this winding path. Say you want to check out the reptiles first… NOPE! You can’t because they are at the very end so you have to walk through the whole zoo to get to them! So everyone does the zoo in the same order and it causes people jams and sad zoo dates. Also it was funny to see the Indians taking pictures of the zoo monkeys because you literally can see them roaming the streets right outside the zoo not in cages!
The next stop for us was the state of Kerala ‘God’s own country’ more specifically, Calicut. We used Calicut as a city to break up our travel days so we only spend a night there. Let’s talk about how we got to Calicut from Mysore. There are no trains from Mysore to Calicut or Kochi (both of the places we wanted to go) so I decided we were going to travels like the locals do. The cheapest option was a government bus, $4 dollars to go 200 km. We were told it would take around 4 hours; well it took closer to 8. We pre bought our ticket so that we had reserved seats. We started the journey with a half full bus and by the end of it the bus was about 2 buses full in one. Oh and did I mention no A/C either. So it’s basically a city bus with 80 people on it in standstill traffic in the middle of the day… Yeah not so fun.
After our night in sticky night in Calicut (it got sooo humid again) we took a A/C passenger train down to Kochi (4 hours) which was a breeze compared to what we just went through with the bus. We stayed near Fort Kochi which is the touristy area of town, Lots of fish markets, restaurants and shops. We read that you could buy the fisherman’s catch and get a restaurant to cook it for you for a small fee. We thought we should try this out so we ended up buying a kilo of prawns and getting the guys to fry up our prawns in garlic and lemon ginger. We told them we wanted them all cleaned up i.e. no heads or creepy legs but that must have got lost in translation because when they brought them to us they were pretty much the same as how we bought them except cooked…. we sent them back and got them cleaned up and they ended up being great… but that night I got pretty sick, not sure what it was from but it was the first time getting sick on the trip. Sara took care of me for the 2 days that I didn’t feel good and eventually the random pills that she picked up from the pharmacy kicked in and I was healed just in time for new years!
We took the train an hour south to Alleppey and hopped on a houseboat to ring in the New Year. The company picked us up from our guesthouse and took us to the boat launch where there were literally hundreds of boats. New Year’s is the busiest time for the houseboats and it seemed like everyone had the same idea as us. Alleppey is blessed with a maze of backwaters to float down and on New Year’s they were packed with boats! I would probably say there were a couple thousand of these boats floating that day, ranging from budget one bedroom houseboats to full on luxury six bedroom mansions! It was great to relax and enjoy the backwaters and great food. All the houseboats get parked at night and then the music starts to kick in to high gear. Everyone was having their own mini parties, it was great! Sara and I drank, ate, sang and danced 2015 away. All in all Alleppey itself is shitty but the backwaters are amazing and I had such a good time on our houseboat, even if it did cost an arm and a leg for the busiest night of the year.
We took a three hour bus down to Varkala, a laid back beach town on a cliff. Filled with Europeans and Russians it’s a hot spot for those needing some sun over the Christmas holidays. The beach was busy and also all the restaurants. Our favourite place to go eat and hang out was a nice little cafe called coffee temple. It was an English run cafe that knew how to please the tourist by offering safe food, ice, water and a great view of the ocean. In the three days we spent in Varkala It was full always. Our days in this lazy beach town were exactly that, lazy, we went to the beach everyday to read and play Sudoku. This morning we went for another yoga session, this time we tried Hatha. Some movements were the same as in Ashtanga but Hatha was more focused on the breathing, we started the session with a few breathing exercises. One exercise was to aggressively breathe out of your nose and only focus on forcefully breathing out, the breathing in will come naturally. The instructor was really good at it and was doing huge noisy breathing, I thought at first the whole session was going to be just breathing… but unfortunately it got a lot more difficult, on the plus side I am getting better at my handstands!
Now we sit in our hotel in Trivandrum, tomorrow we catch a train to Madurai where we hop on a spice jet and travel to Sri Lanka!!! I was thinking to myself the other day about my previous travels and it occurred to me that I have never spent more than a month in any given country. So India has been the longest I’ve stayed in one country (a month and a half). I’m really excited for Sri Lanka; we plan on it being a chill 16 days.
The next update will be from Sri Lanks!