user_mobilelogo
India south Kerala

TRAVELOGUE SOUTH INDIA

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

HYDERABAD

25.2. 2017, travel book part I.

 

Why to go to Hyderabad

First of all, I wanted a simple way to get to Hampi and Hyderabad seemed like a good starting point. If I haven't visited Goa beaches on my previous journey, I would definitely skip Hyderabad and travel to Hampi after few days spent on a Palolem beach instead, see more in article 'What would I change about my itinerary'.

Hyderabad, [population 7 million, capital city of Andhra Pradesh] used to be a powerful city of Muslim dynasties, known for its trade of pearls and diamonds, today also known as a center of IT technology. The city's best-known landmark is Charminar mosque - shaped like a gate, there are gorgeous tombs of Qutb Shani dynasty and former royal residence Golconda Fort is also worth a visit.

 

How to get to Hyderabad

It was quite a challenge to find flight tickets to Hyderabad as all the airline portals showed me a high price. I was saved in the end by kiwi.com which offered me a flight for half price. Even though it was tickets of airlines that don't usually cooperate with each other and there was a catch as I was supposed to reclaim my baggage while I changed planes in Dubai, it wasn't such a big deal as there is no need to have a visa to Dubai anymore and I didn't carry any baggage that needed to be reclaimed, which meant I could save some money and continue with planning my journey.

I travelled to Dubai with flight company which successfully sold more flight tickets than they had seats on the plane. So at first, I was asked to move to first class only to be contacted right away and asked if I can postpone my flight till afternoon. It is a good idea to arrive to the airport early, as I wouldn’t want to be in the skin of the person who had to take the later flight. I got to Dubai, where they sent me from Connection Transfer Desk to terminal 1 to get my boarding pass with India Air. I had to explain to local officers that there is indeed an international airport in Hyderabad and that the piece of paper I got really is an electronic visa. As I was supposed to get to Hyderabad at 5:30 of local time [around 1 o'clock in the morning], I wanted to catch some sleep on the plane so I wouldn't be too tired. Unfortunately, my wish didn’t come true. First of all, they had to serve us hot meal [who eats at 2 o'clock in the morning?] and then I was disturbed three times by a passenger sitting next to me, whose dinner obviously didn't agree with him.

I stumbled out of the arrival hall in Hyderabad in the morning, all baffled and tired and I had to agree to an unfavorable exchange rate in the exchange bureau and very expensive taxi offers. Even though I tried to negotiate, I didn't have any other option than to accept the offer and get a taxi to Charminar for 800 INR [30 min, 25 km].

 

Acommodation tip

I didn't plan to stay long in Hyderabad [as there was no reason for it] and I was going to continue to Hampi in the evening. Therefore, my next bed would be on a night train.

 

My experience in Hyderabad

At seven o'clock the very same morning I was standing in front of Charminar mosque, which was built in 1591 by the ruler of Qutb Shani dynasty. Surrounding streets full of shops, which are usually crowded with people, were completely empty. I sat down on the curb and observed cleaners trying to get the whole place free from mountains of rubbish.

India Hyderabad

Morning in Hyderabad, in front of Mecca Masjid

The mosque is not available for public, so I walked around Charminar few times and kept looking at its four minarets that are 56 meters high.

India Hyderabad Charminar

Charminar

When I was finished admiring the beauty of Muslim architecture, I went to have a look at neighboring mosques Mecca Masjid. It is one of the biggest mosques and can take up to ten thousand believers. As the tension between Muslims and Hindus escalated into a bomb attack in 2007, I was asked to hand in my backpack and my camera at the entrance. I was allowed to keep my phone, as the bomb was hidden in a camera during the attack.

India Hyderabad Mecca Masjid

Mecca Masjid

After that I had a plan to visit Chowmahalla Palace, but because it was Saturday, it wasn't open till ten o'clock. And as Muslims don't work on Saturdays, all the shops with pearls and diamonds in Laad bazaar were closed. I went into a small restaurant for breakfast and thought about what to do next.

I couldn't think of anything better than to take a tuk tuk ride [200 INR] to Golconda Fort [200 INR]. Golconda Fort used to be a sultan's residence but as there was not enough water around, the rulers decided to leave the fort in 1590 and built the city of Hyderabad. The inside of the fort is surrounded by battlements on a 120-meter hill. I was still full of energy so I decided to climb the hill and have a look at the ruins from above and at the city nearby.

India Hyderabad Golconda Fort

Golconda Fort

Near Golconda Fort are tombs of Qutb Shahi dynasty [100 INR]. I found my tuk tuk driver in front of Golconda and because he didn't find anything else to do, he gave me a ride to the tombs for 40 INR. The tombs hide 7 out of 9 rulers of the dynasty and I was more than grateful for the shade they provided – so much, that I fell asleep sitting down for an hour under one of them.

India Hyderabad Qutb Shani

Hrobky Qutb Shani

After that I took a tuk tuk ride [200 INR] towards Birla Mandir temple. I was just in time for a lunch break, so I walked down the hill on the main street and went to find lunch for myself. After meal I found my way back up the hill through a narrow street full of tiny shops and when I got there in the end, all tired and hot, they asked me to hand in not only my backpack and camera but also my shoes and phone. The phone part was too much for me, so I thanked them and went back down the hill. Great.

The sleep deficit was really catching up with me at this point, so I took yet another tuk tuk ride [60 INR] to park Lumbini [20 INR] which is right beside Hussain Sagar lake. Right here I decided to make my camp in the grass and fell asleep. I woke up in the evening and found out that the park got crowded while I was sleeping. It became the spot for local families and a great place for dates of the young ones. I could see a statue of Buddha in the middle of the lake on a tiny island, and I also spent some time just watching groups of young Inds who played games and talked.

At nine o'clock that evening I took a tuk tuk ride [90 INR] and got to Nampally station. I only met about five tourists during the day, and none on the station.

And right away on that first day I realized, that south of India is completely different than what I experienced years ago in the north.

 


 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

HAMPI

26.2. - 27.2. 2017, travel book part II.

 

Why to go to Hampi

Hampi, [state Karnataka] is a serene village located in a place of a former capital city of powerful Vijayanagar Empire. In its prime time it was a home to more than half a million people and it was the most powerful empire in India. Its downfall was caused by an invasion of Deccan sultanates [including the one from Hyderabad] in 1565. Travelers can expect serene holiday atmosphere, gorgeous temples and breathtaking nature. There are over 3 700 monuments in the surrounding area and Hampi itself is included in UNESCO heritage.

 

How to get to Hampi

I bought my train ticket AC2 for airconditioned coupe in advance online, with departure from Hyderabad's station Nampalla, which was supposed to arrive to Hospet junction, which is about 15 kilometers away from Hampi [how to get train ticket can be found in Tips before travel, 23:10 – 10:10, 1242 INR, 529 km]. I couldn't sleep on the train in the morning so I just watched the views from the window. We arrived to Hospet junction with only twenty-minute delay. I withdrew some fresh money from ATM and managed to miss my bus by seconds [it costs about 25 INR]. Next one was leaving from bus station which was unfortunately 3 kilometers away and I couldn't be bothered to go there, so I waved at a tuk tuk driver and let him take me to Hampi for 200 INR [15 km, 30 min]. While we were on our way, I passed my time by watching locals as they were washing laundry in the river and let it dry on the sun. We were passing herds of goats, women in their colorful saris and jars on top of their heads, palm trees were followed by fields of sugar cane and I was able to get a first peak of ruins and rocks. After half an hour, my driver stopped in front of Virupaksha temple, so right from the start I was completely amazed.

India Hampi Virupaksha temple

Virupaksha temple

 

Acommodation tip

I was staying in Manju Guest House homestay [750 INR, booking.com] right on Hampi Bazaar, near Virupaksha temple. Hampi Bazaar offers countless other choices for accommodation and others are located across the river near rice fields.

 

My experience in Hampi

Hampi really is a tiny village that is very close to Virupaksha temple. It is full of narrow streets without loud tuk tuks, small shops, local restaurants and guest houses. It is guarded from one side by river and surrounded by paddy fields, tall palm trees, granite rocks and ruins of smaller and bigger temples. The biggest advantage is that it can be all covered on a leisurely bike trip.

India Hampi

Around Hampi - view from bazaar

I got checked in and settled around half past eleven and went for lunch to Chillout Rest&Bar, where I observed a 50-meter-high gopuram of a temple from the second floor. After that I went for a walk around the bazaar, together with a herd of cows who were walking lazily around. I borrowed a bike [100 INR] and went to face yet another adventure.

I cycled to a hill above the village to Hemakuta temple, from where I had a great view of Virupaksha temple. I got unwanted attention there from a group of young boys who were trying really hard to show me everything around. They took me to Kadalakalu Ganesha but fortunately for me, they found a different object to torture in a form of an American girl. I could see she wasn't very happy about their companionship and tried to get rid of them. I had to laugh at that.

India Hampi Virupaksha temple

Virupaksha temple

I was walking through the ruins and on one spot I found a numerous family of monkeys. They occupied a good place in the shadow with a luxurious view of Hampi. The fact that it was their favorite spot could be proved by the smell.

India Hampi

Relax in Hampi

I cycled back to the village and continued along the river towards Vithala temple, which is the best-preserved sight in Hampi and possibly the most beautiful. I could see astonishing colorful scenery ahead of me, blue color of the river was blending into the greens of the grass and gold of the surrounding rocks. I wasn't able to cycle all the way to Vitthala temple due to the rocks, so I had to get off my bike, lock it up and continue walking. Slowly but steadily I walked to the temple in the evening but I left the tour itself for another day [ticket costs 500 INR, is valid for only one day and other sights in the area].

India Hampi

On the road from Virupaksha temple to Vitthala temple

In the evening I decided to go for Ayurveda massage with a really good masseuse who managed to complete my 1-hour massage in 40 minutes. After that I went back to Chillout, got comfortable on one of the mattresses that were lying around, got myself a beer and observed other customers. And because the bar didn't have a license, beer cost 250 rupees and it was covered in a paper bag. When they brought it to me, they didn't place it on the table but under it. It was a lively bar, there was music and I was once again hypnotized by the tall gopuram which was spot lit and shined in the dark.

In the night I was disturbed yet again by some crazy barking dog and I was wakened in the morning by starting engines of local bikes. I was awake before seven o'clock and ready to face the Virupaksha temple. It was built in 1422 and is the only temple that still does service.

I walked to the first courtyard and was surprised by an elephant. Not far from that was a group of monkeys that found someone's bag and had to quickly inspect what's in it. I walked through the chapel, observed praying Hinduists and enjoyed the atmosphere.

India Hampi Virupaksha temple

Virupaksha temple

After breakfast I went back for my bike [200 INR], but this time I had a 20-kilometer route planned. At first, I went to Krishna temple and after few kilometers turned left at Queen's bath and continued through Mahavanami Dibba to royal center. Over here is a beautiful Lotus Mahal and not far away is Zezana enclosure and Elephant stables – stables for eleven army elephants.

India Hampi Elephant stables

Elephant stables

When I was finished with sight-seeing, it crossed my mind to cycle to Vitthala temple on the dusty road ahead, however the locals convinced me that it's impossible to conquer this route on a bike. In the end I turned around and continued on my set journey back on the road. I checked maps.me just to be sure that I'm going the right way and after 7 kilometers I arrived at the temple.

India Hampi Vitthala temple

Vitthala temple

Vitthala temple [500 INR] is probably pictured on every photo from Hampi, especially its stone battle carriage.

When I had enough of the beauty of the temple, I continued towards the river where I waited for ferryman [20 INR] and from the other side of the river I headed back to Hampi. I cycled through Anegundi village, which was followed by beautiful countryside with rice fields and beige mountains.

After 20 kilometers I arrived back to Hampi and was trying to find a ferry, but couldn't find any. In the end I realized that there is no need for a ferry as the river was almost dried out. I took my bike, threw it over my shoulder and crossed the river on foot.

I arranged a tuk tuk ride for eight o'clock that evening [250 INR] to take me to Hospet station. Because I wanted to arrive to the train station relaxed, I prolonged my check out for half a day and went for last meal to my favorite Chillout restaurant.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

MYSORE

28.2. - 1.3. 2017, travel book part III.

 

Why to go to Mysore

Mysore, [Karnataka, population 0.8 mil] is a city of maharajas, silk, scented oils, illegal coffee shops and yoga. Its dominant is stunning Mysore Palace.

 

How to get to Mysore

I traveled to Mysore by train from Hampi [Hospet 21:30 – Mysore 09:45, 888 INR, 556 km] and this time in AC3, in other words in three bed coupes. I was forced to be an early bird as all the alarm clocks of my co-travelers started ringing at six o'clock in the morning. I wanted to use the chance to wash my face in a sink which was located in the hallway. However, it was already being used by Indian man who was brushing his teeth. Oh well, I'll wait...After five minutes I thought to myself that this man is really thorough but after ten minutes I was suspecting he is a bit of a lunatic. The foam from his toothpaste almost couldn't fit the sink at this point. Then I was amused by the conductor who didn't want to see my papers, but only asked if I'm Tomas. We arrived to Mysore exactly at 9:45 and I grabbed a tuk tuk in front of the station for 50 INR and let him take me to my accommodation.

 

Acommodation tip

I chose to stay in Mysore in The Mansion 1907 [booked via booking.com]. At first glance the building looked like an embassy from colonial times but it had completely different atmosphere inside. I quickly realized that it is more of a cheap long-term stay for yoga students. In the middle of the house was a spacious hall with tall pillars, which was used as a common room. There were matrasses and pillows lined along the walls. Most of the rooms had bunk beds and bathrooms and toilets were shared. So was the kitchen with fridge and dining room. It had an amazing atmosphere. I had the most expensive room on the roof with a terrace [1400 INR].

 

My experience in Mysore

Right after I checked in I asked in the kitchen for late breakfast [100 INR] and in the meantime found a great spot on one of the matrasses. I had breakfast together with sleepy English guys, who were just getting up. From a quick conversation I found out that they’re here for a month already without starting the month yoga course and without leaving Mysore city. They just said they're lazy. I wasn't surprised at all, with this great accommodation, amazing atmosphere, night stay for 15 USD and meals for 2 USD, I could stay here and be lazy as well, the only thing they had and I didn't, was time.

After breakfast I made myself comfortable on one of the matrasses again and observed my housemates. I was most captivated by an American girl who was all covered in tattoos, including her face and an Australian girl who kept walking around in something like a nightgown.

I decided to go to the city in the afternoon as I was enjoying lazing around in the Mansion so much. I walked to the Mysore Palace entrance but it was closed [it keeps happening to me]. I was stopped by a local man who wanted to chat. Usually if one of the locals is so friendly, there is something behind it...He told me he's on his way home and he can show me around a little bit. I knew that he's definitely not on his way home but I didn't mind as I have a lot of experience with these cheeky locals. Naturally we first went to yogi shop. I was interested in this metal pot filled with water, when the shopkeeper moved his finger on the edge of the pot, it made a strange sound that made the water crackle. Next stop was a manufacture with scented sticks and oils. Here I was intrigued by the shopkeeper himself as he was so stoned he couldn't keep his eyes properly opened. We said our goodbyes at a Muslim marketplace with a mosque and Christian church.

India Mysore Daravaja market

Daravaja market

As I was walking back through the streets with shops and markets, I could smell all the food, spices and scented sticks and I was stopped by another local near Daravaja market. He was really keen to show me his shop with silk and oils, but when we arrived there, his shop seemed more like a den for passionate users. It was even clearer to me when I saw all the messages on the walls from random 'happy people'. I was lectured right there that Mysore is one of the five Indian cities where soft drugs are tolerated. Later, when I was telling this story to the owner of the guest house in Kumily, who also worked with Police drug control, he was genuinely shocked. It wasn't legal after all...

India Mysore

Mysore

Before I got back to Mysore Palace, I almost stepped on a sleeping homeless person in a busy junction and not far from there I was nearly stepped on by a cow who was rushing towards a bin with loads of rubbish.

India Mysore palace

Mysore palace

On the way to Mansion I used a little map to find licensed shop with alcohol, bought two large Kingfisher beers for three hundred rupees and went back to the matrasses.

Next morning, I got up with only a towel around my waist and opened the doors from my room with the intention to go to the bathroom to wash myself. How shocked I was when I almost stepped on a head of a yogi who just lead a lesson for ten other people. I definitely didn't expect that. Everyone else seemed to be as shocked as I was, staring at my towel...

After breakfast I headed out towards Mysore Palace again [entrance without cameras 200 INR]. It took me about two hours to walk through it, and after that I hopped in a tuk tuk and let him take me to Chamundi hill on top of which lies Chamundesware temple. I wasn't impressed by the temple as it was too small, under reconstruction, unlikable monks were behung with heavy golden chains, the queue was endless and I stepped in a shit.

India Mysore temple

Mysore palace

It was right after noon and I still had quite a lot of time before my train was supposed to depart. When I noticed a sign 'Ayurveda massage', I knew straight away how to spend my time. But I couldn't imagine how interesting it's going to be. The masseuse was a young girl, who after a while started to offer very different alternative to this massage where for a little extra cash she'd be willing to do it 'complete'. I started to laugh rather awkwardly but she pressed on and told me it's completely normal, until we almost got into a fight. And how did it end? I have to admit that I was probably the only person in the world who had to pay her to NOT 'complete' the massage. What an experience...

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

MADURAI

2.3. - 3.3. 2017, travel book part IV.

 

Why to go to Madurai

Madurai, [Tamil Nadu, population 1 mil], is one of the oldest cities in India, and it is also one of the main places I wanted to visit. Its Meenakshi Amman Temple is as much of an architectural gem as Taj Mahal in Agra.

 

How to get to Madurai

I traveled to Madurai by train from Mysore [Mysore 18:00 – Madurai 07:20, 629 km]. It was my last night train and I was expecting the worst for the last. Maybe I brought it upon myself because I shared a coupe with someone who didn't just snore but nearly screamed from his sleep. He was the only person in the coupe who woke up fresh as a daisy in the morning. I barely slept for an hour and when I got out of the train on the platform I almost couldn't walk straight. I took a tuk tuk ride [50 INR] to my hotel, got breakfast and went for a nap. My carefully adjusted time shift was gone.

 

Acommodation tip

I stayed in BG Residency [1200 INR] on a main Netaji road which leads between the station and Meenakshi Temple. There was a restaurant on ground floor. I reserved it few days ahead via booking.com.

 

My experience in Madurai

After I slept through the worst, I went out on the streets. Not long after I set out, I was welcomed by one of fourteen magnificent gopuram temples. I haven't seen anything like it.

India Meenakshi Amman Temple Madurai

Streets around Meenakshi Amman Temple

Before going to the temple, I decided to roam the old streets for a while. I kept meeting cows on every step and at one point I got mixed in with a herd of sheep. I was watching local women as they were pumping water from huge tank into their jugs, butchers portioning meat and rikshaw drivers stepping in their pedals. I walked through a street where I saw live hens stuck in tiny cages. Right beside them was an ominous looking log. I could smell the fish market from far away, just like the slaughterhouse. In the smith shop I could see men sitting by a ditch, banging hammers on pots in a rhythm. I walked to river Vaigai, which was all dried out and full of cows feeding at the bottom.

India Madurai

Old Madurai streets

For lunch [150 INR], I got banana leaf instead of a plate, the waiters washed it and then gradually kept bringing rice, sauces and different sides from the pots. I asked for cutlery, but locals went ahead and ate with their hands as usual. I was always fascinated as they picked up rice with their hands, mixed it with the sauce and then transferred this mud like meals into their mouths.

I walked to Pudhu Mandapa bazaar, which neighbors with east gopuram of the Meenakshi temple. Stone pillar hall was full of stands, in one alley, men were working hard on their sewing machines.

India Madurai Pudha Mandapa bazaar

Pudha Mandapa bazaar

At first, I walked all around the Meenakshi temple, and then took few pictures of the whole area from a shop on second floor.

India Meenakshi Amman Temple 

Meenakshi temples

It is banned to bring a camera to Meenakshi temple, so I headed back to the hotel to drop it off. The temple was built in 1623 – 1655 and is made of 14 gopurams, few of which are as tall as 50 meters. They ask you to leave almost everything behind at the entrance, including shoes, phones are however allowed. The main entrance is located at the east gopuram and then continues through a hall with stone pillars towards the temple pond.

India Meenakshi Amman Temple

In Meenakshi temples

Next are temple halls and prayer rooms with ceiling paintings and sculptures of the gods. Some parts are unfortunately only for Hindus. The temple was full of etheric music and at one point I was passed by monks carrying some sort of ark on their shoulders. I sat on the floor, leaned against one of the pillars and enjoyed the atmosphere.

India Meenakshi Amman Temple Madurai

In Meenakshi temples

When I was walking back to the hotel in the evening, I stood in front of the west gopuram and took a picture. I inspired a lot of others to do the same and when I looked back they even formed a line...

it is me

Any selfie?

 


 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

MUNNAR

3.3. – 5.3. 2017, travel book part V.

 

Why to go to Munnar

Munnar, [state Kerala, population 40 thousand] is a small town in the mountains of West Ghats. On the surrounding hillsides spread fields of vast emerald tea plantations.

 

How to get to Munnar

I knew that there was a bus to Munnar from Madurai bus station at 5:55 in the morning [180 km, 120 INR, 5 hours]. However, I was so perplexed from the night before and my perception of time was so messed up that I just overslept. I woke up in a panic, packed in five minutes, shot out of the hotel and stopped the first tuk tuk driver I saw on the street [100 INR]. We got to the bus station at exactly 5:55 and I noticed at the cashier that one of the buses is just leaving into the darkness. I was tempted to run after it but then I figured that it would be a big coincidence that this bus, out of all the chaos around, that was typical for early mornings on bus station, was mine. Unfortunately, it was. And another one wasn't supposed to depart till two hours later...All sleepy, I forced myself to sprint and tried to catch up with it. In a moment where it almost seemed I could do it, the bus driver stepped on gas and was far away in seconds. But I didn't give up, stopped first tuk tuk driver I saw, didn't care that there was already someone in it and squeezed in. I quickly commanded to catch the bus and after five minutes we really did and with the help of the other passenger we waved the bus to stop. Hooray!

After an hour on the bus, I could see first peaks of the mountains which were hidden in clouds. A while later, we entered a curvy road uphill and I was watching steep hills and passed my time by checking the altimeter, which told me exactly how high up we are. At nine o'clock we arrived to the boarder of states Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the officer lifted up the bar and we had a first view of tea fields, which continued all the way to Munnar. We arrived to Munnar at 11 o'clock.

P.S. It might be more convenient to travel from Madurai to Kumily [buses run more often there than to Munnar], take a morning bus to Munnar, and then travel from Munnar to Allepey.

 

Acommodation tip

I stayed in Madathi Homestay [via booking.com, 1800 INR, including breakfast and dinner]. I have to admit that it wasn't a lucky choice, which only happens to me once or twice every ten years. I knew that Munnar isn't a very pretty town and I decided I'd rather stay near the town, at locals and in nature. Unfortunately, 'near' the town was actually 20 kilometers away and with speed of local buses it meant at least another 45 minutes ride. On top of that, none of the locals knew where the homestay is, as it wasn't in a village but somewhere beside a road halfway there. Which meant that even if you got there, there was nothing to do. Although I have to praise the family of the owner, all of them were unbelievably kind, they didn't charge for food and would bend over backwards to fulfil my wishes.

 

My experience in Munnar

When I arrived to Munnar, I walked for a bit, went for lunch [13 INR] and for a countless time took fresh money out of ATM. I went to local tourist information center to find out about my options. I was told, that I can't go for a tour of the tea plantations on my own, as all the fields are private, I would need an owner's permission and never mind the fact, that I wouldn't know where to go! Well...good old Ella in Sri Lanka, where anyone could walk wherever they wanted...I agreed to go for a day trip next day, with a guide for 1200 INR and went to search for a bus that'd take me to my homestay.

India Munnar

Munnar

Getting to the homestay was not an easy task. No one knew where it was and I thought I'm lost until I found a good soul who called the owner, and I hopped on a bus towards Adimali. While we were going downhill, there were less and less tea fields around and when we got there, they completely disappeared from sight. What on Earth am I going to do here? Even if I took a bus right back to Munnar, I couldn't walk to the fields, and to be honest I really didn't know which way to go. On top of that, it started to rain...great.

At four o'clock I started to get really bored, so I went to see the landlady and asked her what to do with the rest of my afternoon. She called her husband, we got in the car and together we headed towards nearby Kerala Farm, which was more or less touristic spot with tiny plantation with spices and big shop with random stuff. After that we went for a walk to a valley with hydropower plant and stopped in Christian ashram, which to me seemed more like a fun house full of plaster sculptures. No adrenalin in the afternoon then...but I learned how pepper is grown.

I hopped on a bus to Munnar next morning at seven o'clock and observed peaks of the mountains covered in white clouds. I met my tour guide in Munnar's touristic information center and at 8:55 we continued together by another bus to Top Station in 1950 meters above sea level [34 km, 75 min]. We climbed into the clouds and I felt like I was in Scotland.

India Munnar Top Station

Munnar - Top Station

Together, we set out downhill towards the tea valleys that were twisting in beautiful emerald waves. We were completely alone apart from few women, gathering tea leaves. They work from half five in the morning, pick 2 – 3 hundred kilos of tea leaves per day, which they carry in twenty kilo bags, and make around 300 rupees. They are off from Saturday afternoon till Monday morning, so they can do their shopping in Munnar. They live in living quarters on the mountains, which they rent from tea companies. I was surprised that they cut tea leaves with scissors as I've always seen tea leaves collected manually. I was told that they only pick tea leaves manually out of the season [January and February], otherwise they wouldn't be able to keep up.

India Munnar

In action

We walked past their living quarters and a while later we saw more women on their lunch break. Local men had little plastic barrels on their backs, full of spray against leaches and snakes, but pickers here are also afraid of elephants. I wasn't surprised, every other step we took, we found a large elephant excrement.

India Munnar

Lunch break

We had a little treat around noon, in a form of climbing the highest local mountain [2120 meters above sea level]. When we got there, we unpacked our lunch – samba sauce and rice – and without cutlery and barefoot, I tried to do my best to conquer it.

When we had enough of the great views into a dense fog, we continued downhill through tea plantations, till we got to agricultural village Yelapetti. My tour guide had relatives here, so I had the pleasure to visit one of their living quarters, which I saw from afar earlier. The family lived in a mini apartment with two rooms and really low ceiling. They had beds, furniture, tv, and sewing machine all cramped in their bedroom, with loads of family pictures on the walls and there was a little cooker and fridge in the kitchen. Toilet was outside the unit and they did their laundry outside on a big stone. While they were chatting, I was well behaved and just watched some Bollywood movie on tv. And because there were over 300 families in the living quarter, we visited few more relatives.

India Munnar tea plantations

Tea plantations in Munnaru

In the end we walked to a road to hitch a bus ride back to Munnar [19 km], but because it started to rain, we hopped on a passing jeep with roof made of fabric – people sitting on the edges probably had most fun with all the rain. I counted five people sitting on the front seat, but it was obvious that the driver doesn't mind, apparently, he was used to driving from outside of the car.

It didn’t stop raining when we arrived to Munnar, so I hopped on a bus heading somewhere in the direction of my homestay, but I noticed that the bus doesn't have glass windows but blinds instead. Well, that's great, I felt like I'm in a can on wheels without any chance to look outside, on top of that it started to get dark. I had no idea where I should get off and naturally, no one on the bus knew where Madathi homestay is. I was about three kilometers away. I didn't want to walk in the rain and dark, so I walked to a nearby shop and asked them to ring the owners of the homestay and tell them to pick me up.

On the last morning I said goodbye to my Indian family and got on a bus to Munnar at half past eight. Because I had a bit of time before my other bus to Kumily was supposed to depart, I agreed with the tuk tuk driver to show me around a bit [350 INR]. We got to View Point [20 km] and on our way back we stopped in Lockhart tea factory. It was more of a museum and it wasn't allowed to go to the factory part itself [it works the same way in every factory around Munnar].

India View point Munnar

View point Munnar

I was back in Munnar at 11 o'clock, so I wouldn't miss my bus to Kumily. Right before I went to a public toilet nearby. Just as I walked into this bleak damp tomb, there was an Indian man leaving and as he did, he filled a big ladle with water from a barrel and completely soaked his feet and sandals...No words...

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

KUMILY – THEKKADY – NP PERIYAR

5.3. - 7.3. 2017, travel book part VI.

 

Why to go to Kumily

Kumily is considered a gate into famous national park Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a home to wild buffalos, elephants and few tigers.

 

How to get to Kumily

I arrived to Kumily [state Kerala] on a bus from Munnar. It was supposed to depart at 11:30, however we didn’t get picked up till 12:20 [110 km, 4,5 hours, 95 INR]. This bus also didn't have glass windows, so I felt like I'm on a tour, I just had to be careful and try not to get hit by a branch from outside. It started to rain again in the afternoon and glassless windows were replaced by them metal blinds. I felt like I'm a canned fish. We arrived to Kumily at 16:50 with a loud screeching sound of one of the buses wheels.

 

Acommodation tip

I was staying in Periyar Inn [1500 INR, via booking.com] and it was the best accommodation I had on this journey.

 

My experience in Kumily

Right after I got off the bus I was spotted by local rep who started to shower me with questions. I snapped that I don't need his help, that all I need is to book a trip in Ecotourism Centre and that I can find that on my own. However, I couldn’t shake him off, so in the end he gave me a lift not only there but also to Santhigiri Ayurveda hospital, where I arranged an appointment for next day. He probably got something out of it from them, but I only paid what I officially should have.

In the evening I walked all around the town, went for dinner and returned back to the hotel.

Next day I was ready at half past nine at the entrance to the park [450 INR], waiting for a prearranged 'bamboo rafting' trip [1500 INR]. I expected it to be a bit old-school, but there was no other trip available that day. At first, they gave us a list of all the forbidden things and all the things that could get us to jail for at least three years and then we went to the forest. On our way, we met buffalos and huge squirrels that were hiding in the tops of trees. After two hours we got to a lake where we took out our plastic bags with lunch and started to eat samba sauce and rice with our hands.

India Kumily NP Periyar

Kumily NP Periyar

After lunch we got on rafts and guides were sailing with us through the dead trees that were sticking out of water. When we got off the rafts on the other side of river, we walked along the bank and enjoyed elephant footprints and their excrements. Even though there is supposed to be over two thousand elephants and almost forty tigers in the park, we didn't see any other live or dead animal on our way. Golden safari in Sri Lanka. I asked the tour guide who carried a big gun on his shoulder, if he's ever seen a tiger. He proudly answered yes – two times. After a minute he added that it was twice in ten years...

India NP Periyar

Bamboo rafting

After we finished rafting, the sky suddenly turned from blue to black, there was a flash of light, roar of thunder and it started to pour. It was so quick that I almost didn't have time to put my raincoat on. Even though, after two hours walking in the forest, we were all completely soaked, including me in my raincoat.

I had prearranged massage at half past three in Santhigiri Ayurveda. After two unfortunate massages earlier on my trip, I decided to try a proper renowned company. And it got interesting again. I was being massaged by an Indian man and I was lying on hospital bed that looked like it was taken from a dissecting room. There was oil dripping on my forehead, making me look like I had a third eye, there was a hot mallet involved and, in the end, I was closed in a wooden box full of herbal steam. Right, I'd just like to make a note that massages should be only performed by women.

In the evening, I had to take a picture of the main street in Kumily, because I've never seen such a quiet street in India ever before, complete silence. Unearthly silence was suddenly explained, as I learned that the whole town is on strike and everything is closed.

India Kumily

Exceptional view in India

The restaurant that I went to last night was also closed, which was a shame as I had the greatest panner masala there. I had to be grateful for a small family restaurant, which didn't even have menus. Landlady cooked a very simple meal for me for 80 rupees and I admit I had to go somewhere else after to fill my stomach. In the second restaurant I got so much food I couldn't even finish it. I saw the waiter take my unfinished food and pass it to another customer who sat in a dark corner. I was just hoping that I was the first one who got the plate...

 


 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

BACKWATERS ALLEPEY

7.3. - 9.3. 2017, travel book part VII.

 

Why to go to Alleppey

Allepey [also Alappuzha, population 175 thousand, state Kerala], is often called 'the Venice of the East'. It is a popular tourist destination of south India, because the whole area is interwoven with water canals, surrounded by palm trees, and is used for huge tourist houseboats or tiny local boats. It is also located by the sea, so it is possible to go swimming on the nearby beaches after a boat trip on the canals.

 

How to get to Alleppey

I was going to Allepey by morning bus from Kumily. Same as in Madurai, I let the bus at 5:50 leave right in front of my nose and just stood there on the station in awe, because I couldn’t understand how this could happen to me twice in a row. I asked the locals for a bit of help and headed to Allepey [165 km] on the next bus at 6:10 with a change in Changanassery [85 INR]. I got there at 9:45 and at 10 o'clock I continued on my journey [24 INR]. As we were on the road I shortened my time by watching a bunch of local men, who exchanged trousers for skirts. We arrived to Allepey at 11 o'clock and I took a tuk tuk ride [80 INR] to my accommodation.

 

Acommodation tip

I booked a room in Sea Breeze Beach Home Stay [via booking.com, 800 INR]. It's a small villa that is built in a narrow street just few meters from the beach, has a roof terrace and very friendly and polite owners.

 

My experience in Alleppey

When I checked in and hung all my wet clothes from last trip on the line, I went to explore local beaches. The city beach is 2 kilometers long and is connected to a 15-kilometer-long Marari beach. But I didn't come here for the beaches, I came here for water canals, so I postponed any swimming for later.

I got a young tuk tuk driver in front of the homestay and showed him an address of a local travel agency that organizes kayak trips on the water canals [I got it from Lonely Planet]. Unfortunately, he was stubborn and it was evident that he's got other business going on, so he passed the agency with a wave of his hand and said it's closed. He took me to one of many motor shikhars that were parked in the canal near main road. Oh well, typical, but I couldn't be bothered going back and losing precious time and money, as I wasn't one hundred percent sure that the agency would have any trips left that day. So I agreed on three hours of sailing in a small motor boat [1100 INR], made myself comfortable and headed out on the water.

India Alleppey

Houseboats in Alleppey

We were drifting on wide water canals, large lakes and at times on really narrow channels. We passed many large houseboats, there is over a thousand of them, floating in local waters. Some of them had their greatest days behind them and some of them were brand new and luxurious. Night in a houseboat like these costs around 7000 rupees and offers a great romantic trip at first sight. However, I would probably get bored very quickly. The other disadvantage is that these large houseboats can't really get into smaller green canals and can't observe the ordinary life of local villagers who live there.

India Houseboats in Alleppey

Houseboats in Alleppey

At five o'clock I was back on the beach and went for a swim. When I got out, I went to a nearby restaurant Katamaran, sat on a mattress on the terrace and watched yogis on the beach, who were exercising in the sunset. They were later joined by local men who formed little groups and played cards with a help of a flashlight. I was exploring the secrets of drink menu, listened to music and enjoyed the atmosphere, which was really incredible in Katamaran.

Next day I went for another trip around the water canals, this time on a smaller boat. I arranged this trip on a reception in Sea Breeze and at eight o'clock I got a lift from the owner to a meeting point with other travelers. We got on a normal passenger boat before nine and headed deep into the maze of water canals, with a help from older local tour guide. At first, he took us along rice fields to his house, where we got simple breakfast. When we finished eating, he split us in groups of four and we stepped into tiny boats.

Trips to backwaters in Alleppey

We were floating through the small water canals and observed locals, who were doing their laundry in the water, washed the dishes and some of them were washing their hair. We passed villagers who were patiently catching fish on their boats or were building new houses. When we got thirsty, we stopped and bought a coconut from a local man who cut the top off and handed it to us. After few hours of paddling, we went back to our guide's house for lunch. His wife gave us a banana leaf with rice and samba sauce and we began eating without cutlery and we washed it down with homemade alcohol from fermented coconut flowers.

India Alleppey

Canals in Alleppey

At five o'clock I was back in Sea Breeze, went for a swim and then I returned to the best mattress in Katamaran.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

VARKALA

9.3. - 12.3. 2017, travel book part VIII.

 

Why to go to Varkala

Varkala is one of the most beautiful beaches in the south. It is hidden under a massive cliff and is a true paradise for backpackers, who usually stay in cheap local hostels for months at a time.

 

How to get to Varkala

I got to Varkala from Allepey by morning train [6:25, 108 km, 303 INR], my landlord was so kind he gave me a lift to the station. Once again, I saw the Portuguese man and American girl that I've met the day before on a boat. When the train arrived, the man in front of me lost his sandal as he was getting on the steps. When he saw it was hopelessly stuck on track under the train, he just sighed, took the other one off and continued barefoot. During the ride I looked over at a sleeping Indian woman with a red dot on her forehead and realized how different this world is to mine. In a few days, I will be sitting in a car trying to find my way to work in stressful traffic. Oh well, I'm still here...I arrived to Varkala at 8:50 and let the tuk tuk driver take me to the beach [100 INR].

 

Acommodation tip

All the available accommodation is located on a cliff in tiny narrow streets apart from one – Varkala Marine Palace. And because I wanted to enjoy the end of my journey in a style of true holiday, I booked this resort right on the beach [3000 INR, via booking.com]. Apart from its convenient location, it also has an amazing restaurant.

 

My experience in Varkala

After I checked in I went for a walk along the beach and over to the cliff. The beach was half empty and the cliff was full of shops and restaurants.

India Varkala beach

Varkala beach

There are strong water currents in Varkala and when I went for a swim, I just let the water carry me from one side of the beach to the other. The beach is observed by life guards, who blow their whistles like referees.

India Varkala beach

Varkala beach

In the evening, the beach got crowded by exercising yogis and then fishermen who kept pulling their nets out of water. The fish were immediately sold to restaurants and I couldn't resist and ordered red snapper fish grilled in banana leaf for dinner. I was thinking about Philippines, where I used to eat this fish every other day.

After dinner I went to one of the bars on a cliff for couple of beers. When I was coming back later, I accidentally surprised our waiters, who were just preparing nets above the tables and were getting ready for bed.

In the morning at breakfast I observed local Indian women covered in their clothes, as they were carefully cleaning the whole beach. And not far from them was a Russian girl running around in a G-string.

The last day was a Saturday and all the locals had an afternoon off. The beaches were filled with locals coming here on a weekend trip, who all rushed in the water. Women were swimming in their clothes, but even so, the men were trying to sneak a peek or two. One Indian gentleman probably had too much to drink as he was celebrating his day off and was lying in a complete delirium on the beach like a dead whale. He didn't care as the waves washed over him. Just as I was passing him, he threw up in the water. I was really glad I was swimming on the other side.

India Varkala beach

Varkala beach

The last evening, I had my favorite chicken butter masala with butter naan for dinner [250 INR] and I headed towards bars on the cliff. I was going to spend my last night before flying in Trivandrum. But because I enjoyed the beach so much and because I got so relaxed and lazy, I changed my plans and decided to go to the airport straight from the beach by a taxi [1,5 hours, 50 km, 1600 INR]. Getting up in the middle of the night after an evening spent in bars was hard, but I managed. Now before I get home, just one more stop in Dubai...

 

 

...going north instead? Check out the article from my first journey in India.

 

... where to go next? Have a look at my itineraryphotos from my journey or a quick summary before you go to India. If you have any questions, leave a comment, I usually respond within one day.

 

 

 

Looking for flights? Try flight tickets Kiwi.com.

 

 

 

FOLLOW ME facebookinstagramyoutube

 

 

 

VISITED COUNTRIES

zeme 100

37

KM ON THE ROADS

km 100

48 560

DAYS ON THE ROADS

dny 100

397