A Passage To India
Trip Start Jun 13, 2011
57Trip End Jun 12, 2012
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Where I stayed
We managed to find some really cheap flights from Nepal, which was fantastic as it probably saved us about a week of intensive travelling, meaning we could arrive nice and refreshed. The only downside was that there was nothing direct to the south, so we ended up having to spend a night in Delhi in-between, but that was obviously a breeze compared with the alternative overland option. We flew with Jet airways to Delhi for the bargain price of £25 each all in, and decided to stay close to the airport as we needed to be up at 4am the next morning to catch our onward connection. We had a nightmare trying to get an airport hotel booked - any of the ones that sounded decent were exorbitantly priced, and everything else sounded absolutely terrible; it was one of those times that trip advisor can be a blessing and a curse, and you end up going round in circles - every time you think you might have found something alright it turns out that there been an issue with (in no particular order!); blood covered bed sheets/rats/peeping Tom staff/sewage spilling out over the bathroom/getting attacked from the manager/overcharging scams/bedbugs/food poisoning…….I could go on but you get the idea. We ended up biting the bullet and going for the one closest to our budget with the least bad reviews, and I have to say we were nothing but impressed with the Eurostar International(1430R) - helpful staff, literally 10 mins from the airport (taxi 200R), and immaculately clean - thinking back to some of the things that were said about it in the reviews I really don’t know what planet some people are on - either that or we’re just very easily pleased
We were also delighted with our flights with Indigo (Delhi-Trivandrum £50) - the low cost airlines in the UK could definitely learn a thing or ten from them, probably the cleanest, comfiest plane we’ve been on, great staff (with really stylish uniforms - I want one!), loads of reasonably priced snacks and great service from start to finish (plus I’d stocked up on Valium in Nepal, so was nice and relaxed!). And just to top it off, we were met at the airport by the lovely Prijprij and his gleaming white Ambassador Classic to take us directly to our guesthouse - we could have saved a couple of pounds (but added on a few hours) by taking the taxi/train/taxi option, but after 2 days travel and 3 flights we decided just to take the easy option - which I’m so glad we did as we were sitting on our porch eating a delicious Keralan thali by 12.30pm!
I really don’t think we could have picked a better place to kick-off our India trip than Varkala - we fell in love with it straight away. The setting is amazing - a gorgeous beach surrounded by a stunning cliffs (which meant there was a lovely breeze all day), it was a nice size, with loads of fantastic places to eat and drink and a very chilled out vibe. Obviously it’s a bit touristy - but in a good way, and a nice easy start for us
Seeing as we were nearing the final stages of our trip, we’d decided that we really wanted to concentrate on having a bit of a feel good kick during our time in India - a bit of a mind/body/soul kinda thing. And again, Varkala was a great place to get that off to a flying start - yoga, meditation and ayurveda is offered everywhere. Barry booked me into the place next to our hotel for a wonderful ayurvedic massage as soon as we arrived, sweetheart that he is - although I did return the favour the following day with a Lou-special deep tissue, which I finished off with my newly learned reiki skills (which resulted in us both conking out afterwards!). We also found probably the best yoga teacher I’ve ever had, Sunil Kumar, who does classes every day at 8.30am and 5pm at the Hill Palace Beach Resort (250R for one and a half hours)
But in-between fitting in all our holistic therapies, meditation and exercise, we also managed to fit in some relaxing time down at the beach and sample some of the fabulous restaurants (got to keep our strength up!). Café Kerala was a great place just 2 minutes from where we were staying, which served up consistently tasty food at good prices (although the prices everywhere are such good value) - their tandoori dishes and Israeli platter were delicious, plus they had HP Brown Sauce on the tables - always a bonus, heathens that we are! Barry was delighted to be able to get a proper bacon roll at Coffee Temple, the Italian food at Café Italia was surprisingly authentic, the Juice Shack served up some super smoothies and shakes, and the food at Sea Queen was yummy and the cocktails mega cheap - plus that’s where we met Vicky and Locky over a game of cards! We ended up out with them the following night till 3am in the Rock and Roll bar - got to balance out all that healthy living
However, the best meal we had was at Gypsy Kings on our final night, which we only ended up having because the cooking class that we had booked ended up getting cancelled due to the chef ending up in hospital - these things can’t be helped! But it was the funniest thing - we were having a wander after we’d been turned away from our class, trying to decide what to do - we were starving as we’d saved our appetites for the class - when we heard someone call our names - we looked up and it turned out that it was Tom and Annemarie, sitting at the table right next to Vicky and Locky - we couldn’t have planned that if we’d tried! So we promptly joined them for a few cold kingfishers and absolutely divine Keralan cuisine!
We weren’t quite as fresh as we’d planned to be for setting off the following morning, but we’d had such a lovely time we felt great anyway! We were headed up the coast towards Alleppey, the centre of the Keralan backwaters, and although you can get the train straight there in around 2 hours we decided to take the much slower but much more scenic route - it’s not as if we were in a rush to get there! So we jumped on our first Indian train to Kollam (30min, 37R), where we caught the tourist ferry (300R)
Our guesthouse, the Cherukara Nest, was literally 2 minutes from the boat jetty, and a superbly maintained heritage home - it felt like we were stepping back in time. Our room was huge and great value at 750R inc. breakfast, the outside areas (especially the huge shaded day beds) were lovely for hanging out in, and the staff were so friendly and laid back. Alleppey itself is nothing much to shout about, but I think we’d been a bit spoiled with Varkala! We walked around for about an hour on our first evening trying to find somewhere to eat, and had nearly given up (crisps for dinner?!) when we stumbled across Green’s Restaurant. It looked a little on the shabby side, but the food was outstanding and really inexpensive!
The next day was Sunday, and for once it actually felt like one. We had a nice lazy breakfast (it was nice not having to get up and out and find somewhere to eat), then took a wander into town to pick up a few supplies. We didn’t manage to get half of what we were looking for, partly because there wasn’t much available, but also most things were closed as there’s a large Christian population, which we weren’t expecting. But we did manage to get our mobile phone sorted and eat some ice-creams, although the hotel manager kindly went and got us some mozzie spray - we couldn’t find any anywhere! We spent the afternoon hanging out in the garden, which was lovely but Barry’s teeth were really bothering him, which was a shame. So it was quite a subdued evening - we even took the very lazy option of phoning a take-away for dinner - thank you Kreme Corner!
The lovely guy at Cherukara had noticed that Barry was in a lot of pain with his tooth, so although we’d planned to look into sorting it the following day, he actually woke us up first thing and sent us off in a tuktuk to an appointment he’d made with his dentist - how lovely is that!? But the bad news was that it turned out that lightening does strike twice- he needed root canal surgery!! The big problem this time was that we weren’t planning any longer stays for a while, and when we were it wasn’t in places where that kind of treatment would be available…..so we had a few things to think over
But that certainly didn’t spoil the enjoyment of our boat trip that day. We were expecting some wee wooden thing, but our driver came and took us to our own private palace on the water. It certainly wasn’t as lovely as the houseboats you see everywhere (one day!), but for 1,000R we got to enjoy the most amazing scenery from the comfort of our luxurious day beds, getting right into the smaller canals and huge lakes, stopping off for some delicious Keralan coffee along the way.
We enjoyed a final meal at Greens that evening, and while we weren’t entirely sure where we’d be heading off to the next morning, we knew that in just over one week we’d fallen head over heals in love with Kerala.