Friday, 26 August 2011

Varkala, Kovalam and the end of my Indian Journey...

How time passes you by unwillingly, this is possibly the quickest and also slowest past few weeks of my life, if that even makes sense. Let me explain...when you travel through India you are continually on the 'go' if you like, living out of your backpack, taking in everything; whether it be the smells of the spiced air, sounds of the crashing waves, smiles of the people who pass you by, it all overwhelms you and gives you a deepened experience. Therefore, I feel I have covered so much over these past few weeks, the endless people we have encountered, the cities, towns and villages which have been embarked upon and most of all, ate so much Indian food...that I will almost come to express my 'like' for it. So...having traveled further south, we arrived at Varkala not really sure what to expect. I was greeted with an amazing visual picture, a picture that you would frame and put on your bedroom wall. Varkala is set upon the cliff top and a small township almost of family run restaurants and accommodation, create the location of Varkala. The whole ambiance and atmosphere is euphoric, it's something I thrive upon, the free bohemian aura of it all. There is yoga everywhere and also the main hub for ayurvedic medicines and massages, thus, I allowed myself to enjoy the Varkala experience and joined in the bohemian lifestyle...well for the next 6days anyway. I spent my days overlooking the sea on the clifftops, walking to the secluded sanctuary of Black Beach and relaxed. Just before we left Varkala, I did what the burning question wanted me to and indulged in a massage from a professional place and my goddess for that beautiful hour was Ambily...who enabled me to truly relax and soothe my body of the acute niggles and aches.

We have almost become...beach bums, as traveled again south to Kovalam, another beach area, however, this doesn't have half the beauty of Varkala...however, it is nice to chill and relax for a couple more days, I think we deserve it. we venture over to Trivandrum for one final night down here, the flight is taken back to Bombay and then Asia awaits me. Reflecting is something I have always done in life, sometimes without necessarily even realising it, I did it even more so this past year, whether it be in studying, social or everyday decisions. I am the type of person who can be evidently indecisive, hard to believe but I even sweat over what chocolate bar to get in a sweet shop. Over the past few weeks, I have become more open, without trying to sound cliche or even more cheesy that I can be, I have learned so much from places, people and most of all myself. 

Even though I always drove the feminist independent branch, I feel so much more confident, empowered and most of decisive in myself as a person. This place has been special, truly enchanting in a means of understanding myself and also appreciating the things around me. This now makes me even more excited or what my journey ahead of me holds. All I know is that I am excited, enthusiastic and enlivened to the thoughts of what my Stray Asia experience will give, who knows, nobody knows, all I know is that I am in the now and happy and that is all that matters.                             

Enjoying the top of the lighthouse

Cooling off in the crashing waves

Enjoying my time at the beach

Varkala Views

My treat...mohito!

Under Baru's!

Building on the core and flexibility...

Picking up my morning fruit off Sabu (friendly fruit lady)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Kerala Sunshine...

So...having arrived at Cochin early in the morning, the decision was made to head to Fort Cochin, a place where a calmness roams the air and the pace of life wallows by pleasantly. The first day was spent observing the Chinese nets, having continual banter and chats to the local fishermen and discussing what was the juiciest catch of the day. After my slightly fatigued body had recharged, headed down to Alleppey to explore and encounter the wonderful waters of the enchanted 'Backwaters'.

The hustle and bustle and jubilant warmth greeted me, as well as the unusually now normal to me fragrance of spices and street cooking. I have enjoyed my share of street food over the past month, my favourite being....a green chilli covered in batter! I know, i know, does not sound the most tasteful mouth-watering cuisine choices but it is tasty in a Indian type of have the batter to calm the rush of heat from the chilli, however, there is a warmth that flushes through your mouth and makes it even more so tasty! Whilst being in the famous 'Backwaters' we opted to explore in style and by style, I mean a yacht! Well...not exactly a yacht, it was more the case of a wooden canoe consisting of two plastic chairs with the legs cut off and a paddle each, glorious. The day was surreal and calm and the backwaters quietness smothered the air and you could take time to enjoy the elements around you. I was able to reflect, think, observe and actually workout...rowing! My friends know more than anything that I am at my happiest when I am able to integrate some sort of fitness into my day. That evening, we joined to Spanish men staying at our hotel, Itor and Jon from Bilbao, they where primary school teachers and proved interesting company, as we spent the next 6hours chatting the evening away. Through the night, I then realised my worst nightmare....I had received over 75 mosquito bites on both my feet and legs. This pain was unbearably itchy and unpleasant on the skin, having cooled my legs and feet seven times in the shower, I resorted to sleeping with cream smothered over me and a long pair of socks. Perhaps....the mosquito's smelt the fillet steak aroma as I glided past them on my canoe that day...I don't blame them, I probably would have tucked into the feast too.

So...departing Alleppey, heading on a crazy bus journey to the uber chilled resort of Varkala. A question keeps flustering through my mind, such a different question to ponder upon....what day shall I have my massage?

Enjoying the 'crazy' bus journey

The beautiful backwaters

Shark...catch of the day!

Exploring in Fort Cochin

Tranquil life in the Alleppey Backwaters

Eating my lunch in Antony and Mary's home in Alleppey

Friday, 19 August 2011

Bangalore and Mysore...

Having arrived into Bangalore at 6am, feeling the crisp morning dew of the city that surrounded me, I felt slightly fatigue and tired, desperately wanting to sleep in sort sort of comfort. Therefore, we bartered well with a taxi man who drove us to a fancy-style hotel where the price would not budge from what the calm man said at reception. With being so tired and also not in the best of moods, due to my lack of sleep on the overnight train, I ruefully accepted and marched up to my contemporary clean room. After around 5hours of good sleep, to which I instantly floated to the land of dreams as my head hit the pillow, we now set about our journey of exploration of the 'Big Bangalore'. A lot of people greeted us and we stopped off at our favourite and ever so commercialised 'Coffee Cafe Day' for afternoon beverage and bite, then wandered through the streets...exploring. A sense of 'Western' hits me with Bangalore, it is the most developed place I have been in India, to which it is the I.T hub and many plaza's amaze you and welcome you in with the clean marble coating and wonderfully air conditioned space. We spent the evening watching a 4D cartoon in one of the plaza's, that was a fun experience and when emerging in the evening, the spectacular night lights of illuminated signs and shops arrayed the city. 

The next morning was quickly passing, as I packed the backpack up, adjusted myself to spend a day travelling then headed to the train station to venture over to Mysore. On the observation hit me and that is how the Indian culture litters so much. It sounds strange, as the Indian culture has so many positives, close bonding family relationships, pleasant attitudes to welcome every human, a natural feeling of shanti which does have a contagious effect but most of all, the simple gesture of a smile, as almost every person I have met or greeted have always done so with a wonderful smile. Flashing back to my initial thought...the one negative I would draw my focus to on the train, is how Indian people litter and it is just regarded as something normal. That is something, I feel is a little disheartened, as it not only spoils certain aesthetic beauties but also causes sanitation problems. When I spoke to a local Indian boy about this, he tried to explain that it is just part of their own culture and that's what everybody does and they all literally do, I have seen it! Anyways....upon my arrival to Mysore, I was greeted with the strongest of heat and humidity in the air, it grasped its warmth throughout my body and was persistent in making me feel it. When settled into a hotel, I departed onto the street of hustle and bustle and generally everyday life in Mysore. It welcomed me with open arms, the sound of locals laughing, children playing and the tul-tuk beeps that zoomed through the air. Having bartered a good 'Indian' price with a tuk-tuk, a curry for lunch then the afternoon was spent at the spice market and then visiting a local factory where incense sticks are made, it was truly fascinating. The next day, the palace was the objective to explore...taking in the grand vast beauty that is central to the city of Mysore. Touring through the palace provided me with great appreciation for grand styles and architecture through the years and more evidently the appreciation and value that the Indian culture has for the Gods and the part religion plays within society. 

As dusk approached, we made our way to the bus station and mentally and physically prepared for the 12hour bus journey to Cochin. I must admit, I tried not to think so much of the journey I am prone to travel-sickness, therefore, I prepared by bringing 4lemons to eat if I felt the slightest bit queasy...I just prayed that the journey would run as smoothly (well not exactly smooth on the roads) as could be. 

Enjoying a beverage in Bangalore

Working away in the factory

Exploring the grounds of Mysore Palace

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Hampi Experience

As I awaited my eager anticipation of what Hampi would be, I began the journey boarding the morning train, the loud sounds of Indian life greeted me, the smells of spices that flavoured the stall foods ignited my senses and the crisp morning Goan breeze waved me goodbye. We sat in our A/C seats and quickly became involved in conversation with an Indian family from Kerala. Sabath welcomed us with great conversation and plenty of stories and questions, this led to four hours worth of conversation, a shared breakfast, group pictures and an invite to go and stay with the family once we reach Kochi. We even spent one hour learning the local language of Malayalam...second most difficult language in the world! We eventually reached Hampi to be greeted with a warm dry air that shadowed the sunshine around the place, then taking a tuk-tuk into the bazaar we searched for affordable (budget of course!) accommodation. Thankfully...we arrived at Thalik Home Stay, an amazing place to stay whilst in Hampi. Kishor greeted us and pleasantly 'sold the room to us', after many techniques applied in the art of bartering we settled and headed to his friends restaurant across the track...the chillout awaited us! Here, we settled on the cushioned floor seats, ate well and soaked up the sunset in Hampi with chilled sounds glazing the air, lanterns soothing the ambiance, all to ensure that I literally feel asleep laying on the floor of the restaurant...amazing! The next day entailed a foot trail around the bizaar and Virupaksha temple, greeting the monkeys and taking in the sights. The following day was a more unconventional approach to seeing the ruins...on a pink bicycle, accustomed with its on basket and all. We rode around all the temples and ruins, taking in some exquisite sights and gaining so many memories, one of which was the experience in the afternoon. After visiting the Vittala Temple, I was greeted by three young Indian girls asking for a photograph with me. Now it is not that I am a 'celebrity' or so I can is quite a common occurrence, that many Indian people have asked for pictures with me, a 'White Western Woman'. We then engaged in conversation to which we learned this meeting at the temple was a family gathering and they insisted that we joined them for lunch. So...we spent the afternoon by the river having an picnic with a family of 40, enjoying the traditional Indian foods and eating correctly with bare right hand and bare feet on the floor...what an enchanting experience this was for me. Hampi was so enchanting in a spiritual sense, that the way of life almost calmed my inner self to reflect and appreciate and indulge within the beauty that is around me, whether that be in Central India or Liverpool...this is something that will stay with me forever.

Me and the local 'Magic Men'

Temple Monkey enjoying a snack
Exploring Hampi on a bicycle

Enjoying lunch with our Indian friends at Vittala Temple

Eating the 'traditional' Indian food

Thursday, 4 August 2011


So....after our lovely Pizza in Panjim with Leo and Lena, we became really good friends, so much so that we all decided to travel south together. Our journey started at 8am heading for train to get to Southern Goa...we decided that Palolem would be our next destination. We where all in search for relaxation and possibility of sun. Well....9 hours later, we arrived and the heaving rainfall welcomed us as usual! The place is a quaint town with an amazing beach, you look out into the crashing waves and feel a sense of quietness and solitude, it is a strange feeling. Over the next three evenings, we ate tea with our freinds and met another 2 Germans Simona and Bastian (from Munich) who joined our little group. One night, we ordered a feast of curry, shark, crab and chicken....along with a lovely homemade naan. I have spent the last couple of days, walking in the heavy rainfall along the beach and reading....reading so much that I complete a superb book in one day...the kite runner!! We have our trains booked to head over inland to Hampi in the morning so I shall awaken at 5am and start our journey. Looking forward to Hampi (the ancient ruins) and more so that it is a truly spritual place, so think I will find more deepened reflections exploring the ancient city. Also, praying that it is at least dry with a possibility of sunshine....or am I asking too much? In a way with the huge journey ahead, the rain isn't particularly bothering me...the full wrath of the monsoon is an experience which is positive...even if when I venture outside for one minute I look as though I have jumped into a pool fully clothed!! Argh...the smell of beginning to grow on me!

Palolem Beach

Waiting for my flight

Evening with Bharat & Suwati

  2 Germans + 2 English + 1 Tuk-Tuk

Wonderful Monsoon

Nice walk along the beach