Saturday, November 21, 2009

Past travels - India

Sunday, May 25, 2008






Here's more and bigger sized pictures FROM Kanykumari :)

The Children

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Greetings from India :) Namaskar!
Decided to start a travel blog and testify about the wonders of God that I can testify through my travelling. This is narrated from my own experience.

India duration : 28Apr - 18Jul
Back-packing 28Apr-9May ; Internship in Mumbai 9May-18Jul

(South India) Chennai-Pondi-Trichy-Combiatore-Kany-Trivandrum(Kovalaam)
(Kerela)Kottayam (Kumarakom)-Munnar-Cochin
Hyderabad -Mumbai

Day 1: 28 April 2008 Monday - Chennai
At 9pm, I boarded the plane with my traveling mate Sharon , all geared for our India journey together. We sat Jetstar because of its offer ticket that cost us only around $180.Reached the Chennai at 10.45pm. Its not a one hour flight though. Its because the time difference between India and Singapore is 2.5 hours. When landed, I gave a call to my wonderful couch sufer host yummy who helped us tell the taxi the exact direction to her house. We arrived there in 15 minutes time- Couchsurfing rawks manz - More importantly, you get to widen your social circle and have bonded friendships.

Day 2: 29 April 2008 Tuesday - Chennai -> Pondicherry
The summer has arrived and Chennai was stuffy plus hot. Our breakfast given by our host was an introduction to local food. We had some wheat flour gluey thing that was mixed with Indian spices, tomatoes and their 'gee' ( which I had is really bad for health because it cannot be digested-not too sure about it). You then ate it with some preservatives that they have in the flavours of whatever fruit that is in season. For summer its tomatoes or mangoes. Then we ended it off with a pisca sweet. India's sweets are really sweet.Imagine 10 times sugar in Ice-cream ( haha at least thats what it felt to me. But they love it.I did too.But a little at a time... )

For Chennai, being a city, it has many temples and touristy place to offer but it was just not my cup of tea. So we went to landmark to check out the so call cheap books and got our travel guidebooks. We then ventured around abit , trying to merge in with the population who were buzzing around in the CDB Area. Then we came home for lunch with yummy and her family.Once again, we had local food and ate with our hands. Wonderful! Pictures coming up for this

Then in the afternoon we left for pondicherry in a local state bus that took around 3.5 hours. It was an amazing ride. But do grab tight to anything and your suitcases(pls travel light because there's no space) as the bumpy ride might result in your things being flung out. But the scenary in the state buses are fantastic. I love it and I feel its the best way to explore a state in full.

Reaching Pondicherry it was late evening. Booked ourselves in at a budget lodge that is labelled under the "ashram" lodges after lots of calls because april-Jul being the travelling period for the children of the whole of India. INR 170

Next, we rushed to the shopping bazzars at JNK Street (everything is within walking distance for pondi so its wonderful.) and ate some local street food and sharon drank a shot of coffee that she said was the best ever in her life. I am not surprise. South India is famous for their coffees.

Tried walking back to our place with our given map but was lost then asked around and they brought us to another ashram guesthouse.( There are 3ahsram guesthouses, usually booked up very fast because of its cost and convenience)in some dark alley and the old lady that volunteered to bring us there but after that asked us for money. I acted dumb about it and walked off. And thankfully, when we asked some guy on a motorbike he helped us with the directions and we chased after his bike as he drove ahead and guided us back to our lodge. Really thank God for it because it was already close to midnight and in South India, you dont see girls/ladies on the streets after 8pm -most shops close at 9.30pm anyway.

At night It was so hot and stuffy in the room.I woke up at 2am, stood at the balcony looking at the moon, reflecting on life as the slight breeze blew. ( Be prepared: In India, there's no chairs to sit down other than in the drink/food shops. So if you mind sitting on their dirty floors for a rest, please bring a mat )

ps: My friend and I decided to travel individually so this begins my backpacking journey ALONE as a lady/girl in a foreign land.

Day 3: 30 April 2008 Wednesday - Trichy -> Combiatore
Wanted to travel to Madurai but everything was fully booked. So I had to take a state bus to Trichy instead. Didnt feel like staying in Trichy and the state buses for madurai was in the morning and a man approached me for a 'luxury' coach to Combiatore so I went with him immediately. My first time in an overnight bus in India. Hearing of the number of accidents that happened in the past for the night buses, I was praying throughout the whole journey especially when you see how the drivers cut one another on lanes and how they suddenly swerve back to their path when they see another vehicle approaching them from the opposite side. You just have to salute them for their driving skills. ( Directors should employ them for the action-packed movies! )

When I reach Combiatore at 11pm or so, most of the lodges were already fully booked. By the time I got my lodging in some dark alley, it was close to midnight. ( Being a fully budget trip, dark alleys lodges were my choice as it was cheaper. It consist of a 'dirty' bed with the toilet beside you- fortunately my toilets didnt stink that badly.)INR RS: 200

Day 4: 1 May 2008 Thursday - Combiatore -> Kanykumari
Caught the first bus 5.30am to Metty to get the toy train tickets to OOty. But guess what, because of the Holiday season reason again! There are no tickets till late june. So I had to sit a bus back to Combiatore. And now with my huge heavy backpack, I booked the earliest bus to Kanykumari which was scheduled for 7pm. I had 11 hours to spare. My back ached from the carrying to and fro but there was no place to rest other than the restaurants. So I went around the city , browsing the book shops where fiction books 2nd hand sold for only RS 40. Grabbed 2 books which added on to the weight of my bag. Then went to the supermarket to grab some snacks for my long bus ride ( because our skin color, its very obvious you are not from here and weird stares will accompany you where ever you are and being a girl, it didnt feel safe to step out of the bus). Having 7 hours more to spare.

I chanced upon a church which had a children summer bible sudy class programme held. I joined them for half a day before goinG to the bus station to wait for my bus which arrived 1 hr late. It was an amazing experience - singing along with the children, looking at them learn about the word of God and the teachers educating them in special ways ( boys were taught to sew by following the shape of the cross on a piece of paper.)

To note: Most people dont know English and different conductors will tell you different things - eg where to wait, the exact berth , the timing that the bus is coming, the bus number or letter. Just pray hard that God will guide someone to you and just trust its the right bus.

Day 5: 2 May 2008 Friday- KanyKumari

I reached Kany at 6am in the morning. The dawn that greeted you was just amazing. And as soon as I got down the bus, I was guided by a local guide to my accomodation ( which I believed he got commission for) but the place was nice. Its called " Safan Lodge" - at the middle of a hill with its serenity. INR 200

In the midst of this wonder, you just dont want to take time to rest. I changed and immediately went to the sealine which was breath-taking. Imagine wind-howling at your ears and the waves crashing with the big sea beckoning you, it was as if you have entered into a world of fantasy. Just amazing.

Next, I walked on and decided to be a little touristy and go to the wax museum.INR 50
It was a short tour that consist of India ministers,movie stars and some other international celebs eg jacky chan which took around 20 minutes. Then I walked back to my area which was 5 min away from the city centre. Filled with tourists as the iconic somewhat tower was there. I bought a packet of masala popcorn and their local mango peppered with chilli powder, sat down and admired the culture, the wind, the people and the sunset- loved it.

Kany is a place to be revisted. NO REGRETS.

ps: Oh yeah. there will be villages/slums at the side. Bring along lots of pen. A pen to them means much more than sweets and all.

Day 6: 3 May 2008 Saturday Kanykumari-> Kovalaam-> Trivandrum-> Kottayam

Wanted to stay in Kany for a few more days but decided to follow closely to what I have planned. So I took the earliest bus to Kovalaam fr their famous ayuredic massage. I woke up late but by God's grace, while rushing to catch the bus ( you have to walk around 30 min to the main bus centre), the bus suddenly appeared in front of me after 10 min of walking and the driver stopped and ask me whether I was going there. How amazing right. It reminded me of how indeed God works in ways we cannot see.

Went to Kovalaam beach for the massage ( by an old woman) which cost me INR 550 and when I gave her a tip of 10INR ( haha. because usually those who ask me for tip ask for 10 so I assumed 10 was sufficient) she stared at me. But well, the massage was so not worth my money. ( After that, I asked my local couch surfer and he said that the main thing good for ayuredic massages was the head massage- and they didnt intro me that.........

Took a bus from Kovalaam to Thiruranathapuram( more commonly known as Trivandrum) the main city bus station to catch a bus to Kottayam. Reached Kottayam in the evening. Most lodges were either too dodgy or was too expensive. Some of it were inside restaurants. Really weird and sticky from all the cooking. By chance, walked into a dark alley and all the way to the end, there was a sign popping out that said " Salim's lodge". It was a very tight, squeezy and dark alley without lights but my gut sense just gave me comfort so I stayed there. It was once again a room with a fan and a toilet just beside me. The toilet here was relatively clean though. From the past few lodges I stayed, this was considered the best ( other than that of Kanykumari). INR 250

It was here that I found my favourite restaurant. Yummy food. You will spot it when you walk along the road. It has a bakery as well. Yummy special tomato masala dosai. Went there for lunch again the next day. And its cheap. One full meal with Tea and soup cost only INR 33 and its delicious.

Day 7: 4 May 2008 Sunday- Kottayam -> Kumarakom -> Idulli
In the morning, I caught the first bus at 6.30am to Kumarakom. Well-known for its backwaters that I heard was amazing. No one was there when I got there at 7am. Saw a security guard and asked him to help me get an english speaking boatman. He did and I negotiated for a 6 hours boat ride for INR 500. Though I know as a tourist I was charged more, this experience was definately worth more than this.

Because I was there in the morning, the silence in the air and the awakening of the village was magical. I got reminded of the entry paragraph in my secondary school literature textbook "Sing to the Dawn." The sunlight breaks across the semi-dark sky and lit up the whole village. It felt like an untouched sanctuary.

My guide then begin his seemingly-lyrical story-telling.
-The water level at this place never rises. It stays the same even in the monsoon season because the 'extra' water goes out into the sea. And it is good to go after the monsoon season because it washes away all the polluted water to the sea.
-In the December season, the birds from Siberia will make kumarakom their nest for around one month. I heard the birds are beautiful.

I left for Idulli at at 2pm. Reached Idulli at night around 7pm. A government authorised guide helped me find a house to home stay in at a cost of INR 250. It was a bungalow called "Victoria's home" where the owner rented out the centre portion of his house. His parents stayed on the 3rd floor while he and his family stayed on the 1st floor. All meals were provided. And the house was 5 min walk from the main bus station. Amazing hosts.Later found out they were Christians and that the owner was a pastor. The owner's father then shared with me about some christian principles.

Did some shopping at night too. Do buy their banana chips ( though it tastes like chips) Its so fresh and delicious and let me warn you , its very VERY addictive. But nice! Especially when it is still piping hot from the oven.

Day 8: 5 May 2008 Sunday- Idulli -> Thekkady
Next morning, introduced my the hosts was the boat ride that many guidebks have touted as the highlight of Thekkady. The boat will bring you around a very big beautiful lake with the forests all around you and you are suppose to spot the animals in this natural habitat. It is a 1hr boat ride.

The entrance for tourists was INR 300 while that of the locals were INR 15 then you had to queue for tickets. The schedule of the boat rides were 9.30am, 11.30am and 1.30pm. When I got there at around 8.45am, it was already very crowded. The queues were so long and after queuing for around an hr , the tickets ran out - I was the 3rd person then. Had to wait for 2 hrs for the next scheduled tickets then. Standing was tiring, as usual there was no place to sit other than the floor. Luckily, there was order in the queuing , where guys stood one side and girls stood one side, and there was not much pushing so it was good. The tickets for the top cost INR 100 while the bottom cost INR 50. To be frank, the bottom one was enough.

My boat saw elephants, bixon and a deer. Most people on the boat was in awe. I preferred the view though. The wind and the greenery and the mountains/hills afar just made everything so picturesque.

After that, I decide to make my way to Munnar after much consideration the night before. Some locals have told me its just a tea leave plantation and that there is not much to do there and hence not worth it. I am so glad I disregarded their comments and made my way to Munnar. A splendid place. Reached Munnar at around 10pm. Thankfully my hosts from Kottayam has called its friend lodge and do a booking for me. A very nice owner and place called " Greenview holiday Inn" INR 400-800. Heard its the cheapest around. Recommended place to stay at Munnar. Have to call to book maybe 3 days in advance I think.

ps: if you are sitting a bus to Munnar, please sit the earlier bus. When it gets really dark and cold in Munnar because its up on a hill/mountain and its round and round and round and because the roads are very narrow, your bus might have to reverse to let the other bus move ( imagine doing this on a hill with no barriers on the side) , my heart was in my mouth all the time. A very exciting experience though.

So if u think you can take the scare , take the night bus. I would because the sight at night is spectacular. With only the hotels around being lighted and the rest darkness, the bouts of lights here and there , the tea leaves smell at night blowing in your face ,the strong cold wind gushing ( it was around 10-15 degrees) and its you and the mountains and only a few others, its like planet watching. Wonddderrfull.

Day 9: 6 May 2008 Monday- Idulli (Thekkady)-> Munnar
Arranged for a tour around Munnar. Munnar is a hill and so its quite inaccessible.I wouldnt mind trekking around though if I had more time and more company. But you have to eventually get the auto to bring you to the top and the small stores along the way to drink the strawberry juice, eat the jam , eat the fresh veggies, get some cute stuff and take pictures in nice areas. I have a person to recommend so if any of you is going there, I will pass you his number. He takes wonderful pictures and is willing to go anywhere extra you want without charge. He is also a christian.

From Munnar, I decided to take the noon bus to Cochin because I had found the cost in Munnar to be a little expensive ( this was my regret though, Munnar is a truly amazing place to stay for at least 2 days ).

Day 10&11&12 : 6-8 May 2008 Tuesday ,Wednesday, Thursday - Munnar-> Cochin
Contacted my couch surfer host who volunteered to pick me up. So nice right! Then I was caught in a political rally which trapped my bus for around 3 hours. Imagine being stuck in the middle of road with throngs of people and drummers with india colors cap, flags ,shirts etc. It was a sight. But my nice host waited for me and picked me up. Thank you Giju!

Realised that the couch surfer' parents and brother are campus crusaders' worker.
Can you see how God has guided me from one place to another. Even till this day, I am so touched by everything that God has done for me , in all aspects of my life. Every step of my life. Then I attended their cell group which reminded me of His commandments and our responsibility as a child of God. And I bought alot of Christian books there because it is really cheap! Thank you Giju for the Christian CD gift as well.

At Cochin, the next morning Giju brought me around on his scooter. Had so much fun visiting the places and those unknown fantastic places - lonely planets didnt mention. The fishing nets, the jewish path/corner that has an amazing art gallery, the resturants in a bungalow , the beach paths ... The company is important for Cochin though and I am grateful for Giju and his parents for making it so wonderful and so learning.

the final morning, the family brought me to a wedding which was another experience to be thankful about. Then I left for hyderabad.

Day 12&13 : 8-9 May 2008 Cochin -> Hyderabad
Reached Hyderabad at around 7pm. My couch sufer couldnt host me and my friends couldnt host me so I was stranded with no place to stay. Wanted to find a cheap lodge like I always do but Warning! do your research and booking beforehand. The cheapest hotel that you can go to without booking is INR 2400. So I slept in the airport.

But indeed Hyderabad as mentioned in guidebooks never sleeps. Throughout this 24 hour stay at the airport, so many people came to pick up their relatives and some people had around 2am flights so they had to wait at the airport - it was a bustling whole night.

ps: The airport to the main cities take around 2 hours. there are shuttle buses at 3 locations specified in some pamplet they will give you. You have to pay INR 95. It is the cheapest way to the airport. The auto costs INR 200 Min so if your plane is at weird hours better go earlier especially with the traffic there)Oh and at night, the frequency of the buses becomes 1 hour so , better to go there earlier. There are cafes there you can drink coffee, a 24 hour mini mart and a nice book store.

The next morning, I took the earliest bus out to the main city, Secundrabad.Did an hr of walking around under the REALLY hot weather trying to find internet cafes. Realised all shops only opened at 10am and time check it was now 7.30am. Oh no. So I went to some breakfast hotel restaurant bought a masala dosai which tasted weird. It was then 8.30. So I walked abit more decided to sit on the dusty steps and rest for 1.5 hours. Finally used the internet which surprisingly only cost 15 INR/hr.

Decided to be a little touristy. Went to Golcondo Fort - which is a stone place which is worth the money for the locals but not tourist. The locals pay 10 INR and the tourist pay 300INR. This excludes the auto fee there which is quite a distance away and crazy with the traffic. But its one of the nicer touristy place I went to.

Next the Laad Bazaar - went there a little too early so not many stalls were open. Lots of clothing shops, bangle shops and decor stuff. On fridays, because 80% of the town is muslim, they go for prayers so Laad Bazaar is packed with them when they come out at around 4pm. The lime juice there is nice though. And the buildings all around that area is very nice.

Because it was too hot to bear, ( I might be able to fry an egg if I left it in the sun for 1 hr) , I took the bus and seek refuge in the air-condition terminal of the hyderabad airport , the newest and indeed its nice.

Day 13 : 9 May 2008 Hyderabad -> Mumbai

The wonderful thing about Kerela is the way they proclaim the name of Jesus. It is on their buses,autos,stores (everywhere) " His mercy endures forever", ,"Jesus lives" , " Grace of God", "Jesus is Lord" etc
In addition, there are crosses all over the country reminding me of his all mighty presence. I love Kerela.

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