whoops... its been a long time!
03.04.2009 - 18.05.2009 40 °C
Whoops...its been such a long time since I updated my travel blog in which tim I have moved accross 4 states in India been to Malaysia main land and Borneo and now I am in Thailand! so I have quite a bit to update! I did spend 2 hours in Cochin updating my blog one day only to press save and send and loose everything...:-(
Anyway I left off in Mumbai and was so happy to be heading down to the beaches at Goa that not even the fact that I had paid for a sleeper bed on a night bus only to be told when the bus came that the sleeper bus had been cancelled and my 13 hour trip was going to be on an upright chair could get me down!
Goa was amazing, I didn't expect to like it so much as I thought it would be touristy and I have not been a big beach lover in the past but I loved every second of it and so far it has been the only place I truly felt sad to leave behind. I started off at a beach in the north called Mandrem, I lucked out with a beach hut tucked in between a winding river on one side and the beach on the other. It was part of a yoga and health retreat and included in the price was as much fruit museli and curd as I could eat in the morning and salad rice and vegetable curry in the evening. The beach was lovely a massive expanse of sand with hardly anyone on it and the sea was warm and clean to swim in. There is a famous market in a beach town called Anjuna so I moved there next and stayed with a family who had a dorm room attached to their house. Anjuna was a bit of a party town so I met lots of people and went to some clubs and bars in the evenings which were great as women all got in free and drank for free all night!
After spending a week or so on the beaches I craved a bit of town life so spent a couple of days in Panaji the capital of Goa, it was a small town with a latin quarter where I stayed and it was great to be there for Easter as it had a strong Christian community so there were lots of festivities and I managed to find a small chocolate egg to celebrate aswell.
After Panaji I headed to what I can definately describe as one of my favourite place that I have visited so far on my trip...Palolem beach! It is right in the south of Goa but it had everything I could have wanted...a cheap beach hut that walked onto a resturaunt/bar that sold the best salads with the nicest staff...that walked straight onto the beach lined with fishing boats ....that walked straight into the Arabian sea...lush! I spent about a week not really moving from those four places apart from to go partying in the evening. In Goa they have a noise restriction after 10.00pm so they invented silent discos to allow people to party until the early hours of the morning. It is the funniest thing to watch a party of people all listening to the DJ through headphones dancing and singing along to silence! I met some great people in Palolem too which made my whole experince a million times better. One night we decided to take a fishing boat out to catch some fish to cook and eat on the beach for our dinner.....3 hours and a whole bag of bait later 7 of us came back with absolutely nothing which was definately to do with our fishing skills as a 7 year old boy in a boat nearby caught about 5 fish in the same amount of time and everytime I pulled my line out of the water my bait had been eaten!
I was very sad to leave Palolem but wanted to moved down to the south of India so I took a train with two guys I met on Palolem and we spent a few days in Gokarna. Gokarna is a small village that many Hindu's make pilgrimages to. The streets around the temples are lined with broken pieces of concrete and rubble that they walk over with bare feet in order to reach the place to pray. Gokarna also has two beaches which can only be reached by walking down some rubbly cliff paths. We stayed on a beach called Kudle along with only 24 other people some days you could walk out onto the beach a be the only person on it. I did have a couple of bad insect experiences in Gokarna despite having a beach hut with concrete walls. On night one there were two massive cockroaches in my room and during the night although I thought I was safe undr my mosi net one of them crawled over my neck and I woke up with it running round my bed. On night two there was only one cockroach and one massive spider.....needless to say I spent most of my nights awake there and then just slept on the beach in the day.
Hampi was next on the list, a place where almost all travellers in India seem to end up due to its 7 km radius of ancient ruins and temples. We spent a day on a rickshaw with our driver and guide Viru and he took us to ruin after ruin from sunrise to sunset, it was a knackering day but I saw some amazing sights and took loads of pics. I had a really lovely auyervedic face and neck massage in Hampi aswell to treat myself, the lady was so nice that she invited me back the next day to have masala dosa's with her and her family. We spent our last day in Hampi in a small hut in a resort called Shanti which you had to cross the river in a boat to get too. It had a small hammock swing outside the hut overlooking fields, the river and some grazing watr buffulos.
We reached Hampi on a night sleeper bus and after that experience I vowed only to use trains as sleepers again....it was crazy...I had a sleeper right at the vry back of the bus on the bottom, the driver obvious didn't think that slowing down for speed bumps was something that he had to abide by so about every 15 minutes we zoomed oveer them and got thrown in the air and back down again...one guy chipped his tooth and we all had bruises and bumps for a good few days afterwards.
So we took the sleeper train to Mysore which is famous for its city palace, lively market and incense! Whilst I was in India the elections were happening and each state and town was taking it in turns to vote, when the elections were in town all places selling alcohol closed and this was the case in Mysore when we were there....we went everywhere in search of a Kingfisher but had to settle for masala chai and coffees instead!
Mysore was incredibly hot and I decided that rather than heading straight for Kerala I would spend some time at a hill station called Ooty in the Tamil Nadu mountains. I did a trek there in the mountains to see all the tea plantations and a tribal village and for the first time in ages I slept under 3 blankets and was still a bit chilly!
My last stop was Kerala and I got a bus to Cochin where I stayed for 5 nights, Cochin is a lovely quiet town that is famous for its fishing, you can buy your fresh fish from the port and then take it to a local resturant where they will cook it up for you. Whilst I was here I also went to a Kathikali dance performance where performance artists put on a show using mime and dance and singing, the performance was really good but not as good as the hour preparation which led up to it where they all put on there makeup and held pujas round the stage to bless the performance...it was longer than the performance itself! Kerala is famous for its backwaters and I decided to hire a paddle boat instead of a big houseboat for my tour round the backwaters. It was so lovely, it meant that I got really close to the village life on the banks of the river and the guy whose boat it was took me to a local resturant to have breakfast along the way and let me paddle home. This earnt me loads of respect with the locals especially when we rescued a fresh coconut that had fallen in the river and handed it to a family to eat for their tea. The little town of Allepey is where I stayed for my backwater trip with a local family who lived on the beach. It was the only place that I ever felt unsafe staying in India apart from my very first night in Dehli and that was because the beach was so deserted that when they all went to bed and I was in my little hut there was no one else about for miles.
I had now spent a good four months travelling in India and Nepal and towards the end I was starting to feel a bit down...I didn't really meet anyone to travel with after leaving Mysore and was feeling a bit lonely and a bit sick of always being stared at every where I went, and a little bit like everything was the same and I wasn't seeing anything new. On the day I left to go to the Amritapuri ashram there was a strike in Kerala and I couldn;t get a boat like I had planned, the bus decided to stop half way and throw everyone off then I had to get on another bus that had a million people pushing and shoving my big rucksack and getting cross with me, and then when I reached the destination no one seemed to know how to get to the ashram. I hadn;t had anything to eat or drink all day and I ended up finding one shop that was open buying a warm bottle of water and a pack of chocolate biscuits and sitting crying on a closed shop front whislt eating my way through the whole pack! Thinking back I would have loked very funny but I didn't appreciate the local rickshaw drivers stopping and laughing at me nor the local shop keepers. Anyway this was my lowest point and after finishing the biscuits and getting a chocolate boost and managed to make the rest of my journey on a rickshaw straight to the ashram.
The ashram was a real experience and one which i am still mulling over. The Amritapuri ashram is that of Amma a famous India guru who blesses people by hugging them. The day that I arrived was Amma last day in the ashram giving her darshan blessings and there were thousands of people Indians and westerners all milling round the ashram queuing for a darshan, and meditating. I queued until 7.30pm and finally received my hug from Amma. It was lovely just what I had needed after a horrible day and left me feeling trance like for hours afterwards. Although I have never been a particularly spiritual person this experience definately made me feel differently afterwards and I truly believe that she gave off a special energy. I stayed at the ashram for 4 days, part of your stay there which includes three meals a day and accomodation for 2 pounds is that you have to do some selfless sevrice round the ashram every day. On my first couple of days I washed dishes and my last day I cut up vegetables...strangely after not having washed any dishes for 4 months I quite enjoyed it!
After leaving the ashram and making my way back up to Mumbai I felt a renewed sense of calm and inspiration for my travelling and I was excited to see people back in Mumbai and also to be moving on to a new country and new sights.
My last few days in Mumbai were so much fun expecially thanks to Chris and Theresa and the guys from the Mumbai Nomura office. I got to stay in luxury, have my first hot shower in ages, watch TV, chill by a swimming pool, have unlimited air conditioning, and go for drinks and dinner with great company.
So I have now left India and still have to update on the amazing time I had in Kuala Lumpur and Borneo both of which I LOVED!!!!
My thoughts and summary on India, it is definately a country of contradictions and my thoughts are contradictory aswell, some days and places I loved and could have spent forever there some days and places I hated more than anywhere else I have ever been. There are so many people in India and they are either incredibly generous and kind hearted, most of my train journeys the people who I shared a cabin with where great friends for the entire journey sharing their food and talking all the way. The families who I met out at the beaches and the various sights who just took me under their wing when I was by myself and showed me all the local sights and sounds and wouldn't let me pay a penny. But then there are the people who take advantage that you are western or you are a women travelling alone, they constantly stare or make rude comments or want to take advantage of you by making up stories to get money or extravagantly overcharging. The sights in India are the same in the same; you have incredibly views and scenary miles and miles of palm trees and sea and waters or colourful temples and people and festivals and then you have places that are really dirty and water that you can't swim in because it is toxic and polluted and rubbish that is everywhere because people don't know what else to do with it but to throw it out onto the street. The one thing that is great throughout all of India is the food and drinks, I am having cravings for masala chai tea and dosa's and thali lunches and chutneys soooooooo good! A curry in England is never going to be the same! I have learnt so much about India and the Indian culture on my trip and it is completely fascinating I will definately be coming back to India!