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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Chennai to Goa

INDIA | Tuesday, 6 November 2007 | Views [18814] | Comments [7]

Sat 20th Oct - off to Chennai (originally known as Madras) for a tour run by Intrepid travels that winds its way around the southern part of India, ending up in Goa. Fancied being in a small group for a bit, so looking forward to it.

Flying Jet Airways flight 9W 481 departing from chhatrapait shivaji airport at 11:05. Now, thbis seems like a lot of detail, but, there are two airports with the same name in Mumbai. One serving international flights and the other domestic flights, and they are a significant distance apart. Guess what....went to the wrong airport. Cost me 310 ruppees and then had to get another taxi to the right one for 250 rupees in a bit of a hurry! Good job I left early enough. Got to check-in after the inevitable baggage screening which you do at the entrance to the airport here, at 5minutes to expected check-in time so did really well considering the cock-up in airports.

The flight itself was excellent. Jet Airways are superb. A really nice indian lunch and attractive staff to keep you interested when you run out of stuff to read. Booked a taxi to the hotel I had reserved last night on the internet through hostel world. Chennai is different than Mumbai but is still chaotic by our standards. The main thing here is the extremely high presence of tuk-tuks. These are 3 wheel buggies that hum along like a bumble bee with their black and yellow colours. Thousands of them swarming around the city is an amazing sight. Steered with handle bars like a scooter but with a hand brake. So a combination of lawnmower meets milk float looking like a wasp!

Now...I wish that the next bit had gone better. The Raj residency hotel was...how can I say this....crap! I know I was only to pay 600 ruppes a night (8 quid) but the toilet had no water and no flush and the shower leaked permanently and the windows had no locks and and and. The next room toilet didn't work and had padlocks on the door and and. The thrisd room was a disgrace so I threw a wobbler and headed across the road to the hotel I had tried to get into on the net but were fully booked. Luckily they had a room free due to a cancellation, so it grabbed it for 1200 rupees. Checked out of the Raj and had an argument with the manager about his disgusting standards and got some, but not all of my money back. The cheek of it!

Bumped into a fellow traveller in reception and decided to go walkabout together. It's fun to just stand on a road and watch the world go by. I've got into visiting railway stations and watching the indian people rushing about the place. The Egmore station is fascinating like all others. India is a country that you MUST watch, breath and absorb, to fully appreciate it. You do not go by what is on the surface as you will just see noise, dirt and chaos. This would be sadly mistaken, as their way of life is completely different from the western way of life so has to be veiwed completely differently. Hiring a car in these cities is totally mad for a westerner. They don't have any rules other than don't hit anyone, honk your horn incessantly and pedal to the metal all the time. Also, don't worry about looking for road names to navigate by as there aren't any...well not many. So, like a pigeon, you navigate by some inherent sense of direction.

I make it a haibit to question what I don't understand these days. This means stopping at shops and questioning what stuff is and what you do with it. Great fun. Got a tuk-tuk to the beach. That in itself is an experience I can tell you. Can't stop laughing at the near misses that nobody bats an eyelid about here.

Didn't tell you this but today is the festival day of 'Pooja' so cars and shope are adorned with garlands and banana plant stalks, plus other forms of decoration. A great time to be in Chennai.

Being Pooja, the beach was crowded with thousands of indian people having a great time and loads of stalls selling food, trinkets and fair type of games. We were the only two westerners on the beach which made it even more interesting. I have never been on a beach in my life with so many bodies to the square inch as there were here. Incredible! Sensory overload! Got some cane juice to keep the energy going. For those with cast iron stomachs and a deathwish, there are many deep fried and not so deep fried foods on offer. They should just label the stalls dysentry alley and get the shits here for 5 rupees! Guaranteed to see you shed weight faster than weightwatchers!

Everyone you talk to is incredibly friendly...superb people and so welcoming. Love it.

Tuk-tuk back to the hotel for a change of clothes as a bit sticky after a long day in the sauna. Another tuk-tuk to a really special restaurant across town called 'Kabul'. Superb autbentic food as recommended by our tuk-tuk driver. Turned out to be an excellent treat and for 5 quid had a brilliant selection inc drinks. Return tuk-tuk went through a really poor area of town. Now, Chennai has about 8 million people, 3 million of which live on the streets or in shacks. These areas have to be seen to be believed and especially at night. Many sit cross-legged in amongst the dirt with a little fire going and whole families that look like they haven't seen water since birth. Disfigured and dismembered bodies crawling along the ground begging. It is an emotional sight that cannot be put into words...believe me. No photographs...just take it in and feel it! I will remember this for the rest of my life, and I am sure I haven't seen the worst yet. Africa was bad in places, but this is much much worse!

Back at the hotel and needed a drink so we went off to the 70mm bar down the road to join the locals watching India playing Australia in the Twenty20 cricket series. Once again, the only two westerners amongst a building full of locals. A brilliant time had by all and got talking to some locals so had a great time. Went off for another walk to see the streetlife after dark. Many small snack stands selling various herb flavoured rice balls and dips and a hindu priest blessing them with incense as part of the pooja ritual. Too much to take in so reaching sensory overload today. So, back to the hotel bar and chatted to a scottish couple also on the tour I join tomorrow. Knackered so off to bed after watching some bollywood. 40 channels of it on TV so not much other choice! Good job I find it fascinating and hypnotic.

The day didn't end too well as I had some personal news by text that will have a long lasting effect on me. Don't want to go into details but, if i'm not myself for a while, it's because there is a reason and it will take time to get over it. One day it might become clear, but not yet.

Sun 21st Oct - Pre-occupied start to the day and not hungry as didn't sleep too good last night. Had arranged to go to MGR 'Tollywood' film studios today. This is like Bollywood on a smaller scale. Today was filming day in a number of studios. Monday to friday is when they do the more epic filming and weekends the smaller stuff. The odd thing is that we were able to walk around the studios without hardly anyone challenging us. The only one that did was a security guard more interested in talking about cricket and where we came from. First studio was being set up for something later in the day. As usual with everything here, the studio was being blessed by a priest who had set up a shrine in the corner just to get himself ready. Next studio along and we hit on a cracker. Filming was under way for an episode of a youth music competition. Got talking to one of the performers and his father who ended up giving me his contact details for future reference (not sure for what yet?). Also met the host of the show, a very smartly dressed guy who was definitely in control . Was able to stay behind the cameras for a while and watch whilst they filmed the first half of the show and chat to some of the contestants. Some good playing and singing from the girls. They were told what song to sing and then given the intro and off they went. The style of music is a westernised version of what they call 'Karnatak', which used djembes, dolas, sitar and keyboards. Very typicial indian rhythms so a great priviledge to have been allowed in to watch. Were allowed to take photos so that was good of them. Next studio along and struck gold. A recording of a video for who I can only imagine to be a well known indian performer. She was a stunner and so too were the other dancers in the routine. Many re-takes to get the scenes right so hung around for a while. Not allowed to take photos in here for copyright reasons. Had to leave earlier than wished as have a meeting to go to for the tour I am joining, so tuk-tuk back to hotel. The driver as usual wanted to take us to some shops and ended up having to be really blunt with him. I told him to leave us in the tuk-tuk whilst he went shopping if he was so keen as there was no way I was going in. He agreed eventually, but only under duress.

Pre-departure meeting went ok. This is to be an Intrepid adventures trip. They categorise the types of trip and this one is a 'Basix' type, which means that it is all public transport, so able to get to experience the indian bus and rail networks plus other options thrown in along the way.

Nice group of 12 people from around the world.

After the meeting we went for lunch together. Had a mixed thali with some interesting things to try. Some sightseeing after lunch. Went to see the 'Ice hotel' opposite the Marina beach (which by the way faces the bay of bengal and is the 2nd longest beach in the world!), as this is where in the days of the East India Company, they used to deliver masses of ice by ship to the mainland and store it. Nowadays it is a museum/shrine to one of indias popular shwamis, with basically hundreds of pictures of him in different poses and situations. Good job it only cost 2 rupees to get in!

Next the 'San Thome Basilica cathedral'. Built in the 16th century, rebuilt in 1893 and in full flow with the evening pooja celebrations. An indian choir singing was a treat. In an adjacent confessional building a strange figure of father christmas in a glass case. Now why would Santa Claus be in a confessional? His cheeks were a bit rosy, so who knows what he's been upto!

Final stop was the 'Kapaleeshwarar temple. This is one of the many ornate style of temples dedicated to Shiva and in the Dravidian style. Non hindus aren't allowed in the inner sanctum which is a major shame, as it looked stunning from the door. What we could see though was incredible. The flambouyancy of the architecture is amazing. Had a guide take us around who anointed us with firstly a white paste on our forehead, that turned out to be blessed cow dung! And secondly, a red paste that was turmeric. Traditional indian music being played whilst people went about their rituals, so a very special experience.

Off for a group meal at a restaurant where they don't use plates or cutlery. Your food is eaten off banana leaves and everything is eaten with your fingers. A nice chicken biryani and sauce plus onion raita, pooris and lime juice. Really nice stuff. Panna leaves again as a digestive after the meal. In this case they use Betel leaves with betel nuts and fruit & spices rolled up. Freshens your breath and tastes nice. Crazy tuk-tuk ride back to hotel. Within seconds he nearly wrote off a cyclist. As usual nobody bats an eyelid. No rules here as i've said before.

Mon 22nd Oct - Up early as have to meet at 7:30 to catch a public bus to Mamallapuram, a journey of a bout 60km. Staying at the Mamalla Bhavan hotel. The bus journey was the usual chaos getting out of Chennai with the monday morning traffic. Getting on the bus is easy enough as with this one you don't have to pre-book. Just get  on and pay the collector. It doesn't take long before the bus is that crowded, people are crammed in everywhere and having to climb over our backpacks to get to seats. About 3 hours on the bus altogether.  After getting out of the buzz of chennai, the road improved, the traffic calmed down and the scenery improved as we neared the coast and the first sight of colourful trees. Chennai is almost devoid of colourful vegetation. Mamallapurum bus terminus was a mud patch in the centre of town. Fortunately, the hotel was just across the road. Very rustic is mamalla bhavan! Off out for a quick reccy as we decided to hire bikes later. The town is a fishing port that has been active from as earlt as 5th century. The rulers of the day created temples and sculptures from the granite hills as early as 630AD. Went into a couple of sculptors as this area is famed for its stone. Some of the pieces had taken a year to carve. Awesome stuff. As india is big on its hindu mythological characters, you see lots of sculptures of khali, the many armed figure, ganesh the elephant headed god, the monkey god and other such creatures. They have some serious stuff going on with their beliefs. Too much loopy-juice and a far fetched imagination I think. But at least it is a colourful and interesting belief system. An hour on the internet for 15rupees and the fastest connection i've had In a while! Shattered already due to getting up early and the bus ride takes its toll so had a kip for half an hour before going for the bike ride. As if by magic, the rains started just as we were about to leave the hotel. The bikes were no-gear sit up and beg type. The terrain is flat so easy enough. Not purturbed by this we decided to go ahead with it. It chucked it down, almost non-stop for the next 3 hours. Some interesting monuments around the town. The first stop is called 'Khali's butter ball'. It is a massive stone that is precariously balanced on a slope on a very small point. It will topple one day without a doubt. The same site has some superb carvings such as the Arjuna's penance sculpture which is 27m long. The highlights though are the Shore temple, built in the 7th cent and the Five Rathas, which are stone elephant chariots, all carved from local granite. Soaking wet by the end of the sightseeing as the rain got heavier and heavier as we went along. Worth it though as it's all part of being in india.

Out for a nice meal at a fish restaurant later. In for a penny as they say! Let's see how my system gets on with that! Nice food actually and hopefully no adverse reactions, buts will see tomorrow I guess?

Tue 23rd Oct - up early to catch a train to Modurai. It's a fair way the train station at Chengalpattu, so on a bus first for about an hour. Due to catch the Guruvayua express, train number 6127 departing at 08:40, carriage S1 seat 35. Indian trains are an experience. This one should take about 6 to 7 hours to reach Modurai. Open carriages mixed in with the locals and travelling economy, so natural aircon I.e. No windows. No restaurant car but there are guys regularly coming through the cars with trays of urns of chai or coffee and indian snacks.

Plenty of time for reflection on trains, so a bit pre-occupied by recent events. The news I got recently was that my ex has got engaged. The thought that my children may have a step-father has hit me harder than expected. I hadn't really thought about it too much before, but now that it has got to this stage, it has upset me greatly. They are MY children and what right does anyone else have to be their father. My fault I know for creating this situation but sometimes you don't see every angle of a situation until you are in the middle of it. I love all three of my children beyond words. The problem now, is a psychological one as I cannot see myself becoming second place to a sted dad. There are few people around me who can understand how I feel, let alone help. So I am on my own in this crazy country with what seems too much to come to terms with. The past 5 months has been an emotional roller-coaster ride in coming to terms with not only my stupidity in screwing up my marriage but also the subsequent relationship mess and the effect on those around me and now this. I hope time will help to sort it out? It is too late to go back to the UK as there is nothing to rescue now, so the future will have to be about starting all over again. Not a clue what that might entail, and I am sure I will spend much time thinking about it. One thing is certain, I love my children greatly...if you're out there....never forget that -  from your dad's heart!...

A long journey, not due in until about 5:30pm. Played cards and scategories which helped pass the time. As it's monsoon season, it was raining heavily and had to shut the windows to keep out the rain. That made the carriage steam up and dark as the lights didn't work. Along the way plenty of vendors offering spiced chai (tea) which is pre-milked and tasty, or coffee plus many types of deep-fried snacks including dhosai and various types of donuts. Hardly a healthy option in sight. Apples was the nearest. Lunch option was veg, egg or chicken biryani for 23 rupees. I opted for the veg as didn't fancy risking the chicken. A bit dry as they don't have any sauce with it, and almost no veg so basically rice with a bit of spice and onion. Had to flick a cockroach off the seat next to me whilst I was eating. Didn't see where it came from so that made me nervous. As it was dark and steamy, could even have eaten one without knowing! After lunch played charades which was good fun, mainly watching the puzzled expressions on the faces of the indian passengers.

A Hari Krishna group set up next to us and entertained for the rest of the trip. You k.now the sort....either orange or white robes and shaven heads with a small ponytail from the crown of their head. A guy playing the dokal drum and others playing cymbals and everyone else joining in with the words. This was a surreal experience...steamed up windows on a train flying through india, in the dark, a hari krishna band playing and the whole carriage clapping and singing along...one of the rare treats of travel! one of those images I will remember forever.

When it got near to Modurai the Krishnas handed out a curry meal to us as a gift from 'Lord Krishna'. Nice of them to feed us too.

Auto rickshaw to 'the pearls' hotel and the heavens opened again. Had to buy an umbrella as it looks set for the next week as the locals are celebrating the arrival of the monsoon. Later off out for a really nice indian meal. Had a local style called Chettinad, which is fairly spicy and tasty as well as a fruit and veg curry. Every meal has been an experience so far, as indian food is different than the anglisized equivalent back in th UK. Even the breads are different. Aloo bodorat was nice. Like a cauliflower potato cake. Managed to get a salsa dance in later as one of the girls on the trip dances. First time in ages. I miss my regular dancing.

Wed 24th Oct - Free day to explore the town until tonight when we catch an overnight sleeper train to Varkala. India is an incredible country for its colourful history and theological/mythological  beliefs. Apparently, Modurai got its name from drops of nector falling from the locks of lord Shiva's hair, or something like that. The area grows india's best Jasmine flowers. The main attraction here is the 'Meenakshi Sundareswar' temple, which attracts  thousands of pilgrims every day. This was built in the 13th century but further improved by the Nayaks 400yrs later and is an awesome example of  Dravidian architecture. The temple is the most ornate I have seen to date and consists of 12 incredibly ornate sculptured towers, the 1000 pillared Mandapam hall (which actually only has 985 pillars), and the Golden Lotus tank (aka the Potramaraikulam). At 9pm every night there is a procession of 'putting the gods to bed'. The whole place is stunning and crowded with worshippers. There were also many weddings taking place - very ornate affairs. Bare legs or shorts are not allowed nor footware (as normal in hindu culture), so shoes have to come off and on with the Dhoti, which is a wraparound cloth tied at the waist. The central lotus tank is beautiful and there were also kingfishers flying around. A riot of colour with the brightly coloured indian clothing. The water is classed as sacred so hindus come to cleanse themselves here.

The inner sanctum is off limits to non-hindus unfortunately.

Treated myself to a haircut and shave for 40 rupees total (25Rs for the haircut). I asked for a No.2 trim and he didn't have one so it's gone really short at No.1 so should keep me going for a while. Another great indian dinner in the evening at a rooftop restaurant that gave nice views over the town. Off to the railway station at 10:30pm to catch the 11:15 train to Varkala (train 727 carriage S2 seat 45). This was a second class non aircon economy. Actually departed at 11:45. Within 5mins of getting on the train a rat ran past our seat! Good job I'm on a midle sleeper of 3 tiers! On this type of train the centre sleeper is the backrest for the lower seat and it hinges up for sleeping. Fans going all night along with some hefty snoring from one of the locals but managed to catch enough sleep.

Thu 25th Oct - the coffee vendors board the train at the early morning stops but not ready yet as a while to go. The carriage emptied out alot when we got to Trivandrum central so improved space. On arrival at Varkala station got into taxi to 'Dreams hotel'. A bit rustic but ok. Short walk to the sea front, which is set up high above the beach on red cliffs. Despite being in the very south of the country, the area surprisingly has a high presence of Tibetan arts & crafts as well as restaurants. Its main existence is as a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of the chaotic cities. The area is famous for its Ayurvedic massages, so there are a large number of  resorts specialising in massages of both ayurvedic and other styles including Reiki. Had a ful Ayurvedic massage in the afternoon that costs 750 rupees on averqge for 1 1/2 hrs. Smothered in hot oils and massaged all over, it is a therapeutic way to spend the time. At the end of it I was that oily, I skidded across the floor when I got off the table!

The seafront is chockablok with cafes and restaurants of every description so time to sit and watch the sunset over a beer...now totally relaxed...heavenly!

Tonight is full moon and a couple of places have full moon parties, so out for a meal of fish curry in a gorgeous coconut sauce with coconut rice, then off to the 'rock'n'roll' bar for the full moon party. A bit dead as out of season but still got up for a boogie with the locals. Moved on to another place where the pace moved up a notch and danced to some Bangra music amongst other stuff. Met a wonderful girl from Canada who is resident here. Great night and burnt off loads of energy.

Fri 26th Oct - Off for an elephant ride this morning. Had ridden on an elephant in africa so was interesting to make the comparison. The indian elephant has smaller ears than the african and in the case of the one I rode, skin mottled with pink patches. No saddle, just a blanket so quite a hard ride. An enjoyable way to spend the morning in amongst the rich forests of Kerala.

The rest of the day spent in the company of the lady I met last night enjoying a semi-normal day.

Sat 27th Oct - off to the train station to catch the connection to Alleppey. As this is less than a 3hr journey, no pre-booking is required. On the 6346 leaving at 11:15 which actually left half an hour later. Trains are so cheap here. This one cost 70 rupees for almost 3 hours! On arrival got a tuk-tuk to the jetty. It was like being at brands hatch as the driver was in a race. The funny thing was that there were red flags at regular intervals along the road. Not sure what they were there for but it was appropriate. Considering the peace and quiet of where I had just been, it was to the madness of honking horns and lunatic traffic for a short while.

The plan for th next day was to stay with a keralan family at their home so had to catch a ferry through what is known as the 'Backwaters' of Kerala. This area is stunning and an absolute must for anyone coming to south India. The backwaters are famous for their 'houseboats', converted from old rice barges and cocooned in a wicker type shell on top that houses the accommodation. It is a very unique environment. As the monsoons are nearing the end, the water level is very high, and the backwaters are below sea level, so the whole area is flooded. The paddy fields are so far under water to be unusable, and big pumping sheds are operating contonuously. So much to see on the hour or so journey. Temples and churches of various descriptions. The mud-digger people, who sift through the silt to reclaim mud to sell onto people for building. Kingfishers can often be spotted along the banks. They have the beautiful white backed kingfisher here too.

Our stay was to be with Thomas & Lali and their family, a really relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Straight into their enormous kitchen for a typical keralan lunch of fat rice, dahl, beef and vegetable curries and popadums followed by coconut milk desert and masala tea.

Off for a walk after lunch to explore the area, guided by Thomas. The coconut palms here are used to produce a local brew called 'Toddy' and they have people called 'toddy tappers' who collect it. Basically, they 'tap' into the sap that would otherwise go into producing the fruit and collect it into earthenware pots which are wedged in the crown of the palm. The resulting liquid when left for a day has an alcohol level of around 4%. If left for slightly longer goes upto maybe 8%. The tappers rent the tree from the farmer who owns the land it stands on and pay a flat fee plus a fee per pot collected.

Another type of palm is very thin and straight and produces 'Betel nuts'. These can be used in a number of ways, one of which can be mixed with other stuff to produce a kind of drug. It is becoming a social problem here! Saw many water snakes wondering past. Not poisonous fortunately. The water pumping station was amusing as I thing it would have broken every european safety rule - but that is the nature of these places...make it work and done worry about the technicalities. As we walked, it was asy to se the problems they have with water hyacinth here. It has become a weed that is choking their waterways and the high waters is just exacerbating the situation. Not sure what the solution is but if they don't sort it they have major problems ahead.

Into canoes after a while as it was getting dark and was entertained by Thomas and his crew to some traditional songs. An awesome experience. Stopped off at the local 'pub' for a glass or two of toddy. Well actually, a really dingy brick hut. The instruction before drinking it is...don't smell it, just drink it! To be honest, it stink of sweaty feet and tastes revolting but you cannot refuse your host, so have to grin and bear it. More singing in the canoes after the pub and I sang a tune too in return. The setting, cruising along the canals in the dark with only oil lamps for light was yet another incredible memory to add to the growing collection. Supper on return to the house was unusual...spiced masala potato and chapati. Today has been a real highlight of the trip and would love to come back here some day to spend longer.

Sun 28th Oct - The skies opened this morning in typical monsoon fashion with no sign of a let up for a while. Back on the ferry for the hour return journey, as moving on the Cochin (aka Kochi) and need to get to the bus station early. A couple of hours or so through fairly normal villages for these parts and arrived at Ernakulam bus station, which is the indian name for the northern part of Cochin. Stayed at 'Biju's' tourist hotel which is really convenient for the ferry terminal. Ernakulam/Cochin consists of 7 islands with ferries between them. The  main sights of interest have to be accessed by a short ferry ride which I will do tomoro.

Lunch at Tadka's retaurant where I had my second curry meal of the day (my system's going to be a mess soon), then off to the local cinema to see a bollywood movie called Dab We Met....Typical boy meets girl story about a company director who's business is going down the pan, so he walks out of a business meeting having received some bad news and wonders off in a daze. Ends up on a train... At the same time a beauty is having problems with her soon to be husband and heads off into the hills to escape...they happen to sit by each other on the train and the story then develops. In typical bollywood style they break into song occasionally, accompanied by loads of flambouyant dancing and music. The scenery they travel through caused me to re-think part of my travels in India it was so spectacular! I am now definitely doing Shimla and the toy train to get there plus Darjeeling. Anyway..

The story ends happily ever after with a superb finale of superb dance and music that raised the temperature a bit! The great thing about going to the cinema here is the audience participation as everyone cheers and joins in. Geeta, the leading lady definitely had a fan club in the cinema (me included!). The film lasted 3 hours for 40 rupees (50p). The atmosphere was a buzzin'. They trailered the forthcoming 'Om-Shanti Om' movie  being released around 9th november, so going to make sure I catch that somewhere. The other thing to note is that the film isn't subtitled so couldn't understand a word of it other than the occasional english words they throw in. Doesn't matter though as the storyline is easy enough to work out. No adverts which is good and they stop for an interval half way through.

Off to another highlight of the day at the 'Kathakali' dance theatre. Kathakali is a traditional form of dance from over 400yrs ago. It is performed only by men and is silent, relying on expressionism to get the story across. The faces are painted in really oustanding ways, with three dimensions added with paper shapes added around the neck. Flambouyant clothing completes the look. The stories go back to various influences from khali, vishnu, siva etc. As this is very unique theatre it starts with watching them apply their make-up and the history is narrated by the company director as they do it. To top off a great day It didn't stop there, as then went to a superb indian restaurant at the Grand hotel. Surprisingly not expensive for a posh hotel at just over 3 quid for some excellent local keralan nosh. But everywhere in india is cheap to eat apart from Mumbai.

Mon 29th Oct - heaved it down again last night. This isn't normal for this time of year but is being put down to the effects of global warming. Headed for the ferry jetty, which luckily was a few minutes from the hotel. 3 rupees for the crossing to Fort Kochi, which is about a 20min crossing through the Vembanad lake. Whilst it is easy to navigate this part of the land on foot, the weather was horrible and decided to hire a tuk-tuk to get around. First stop was the chinese fishing nets. These are unique in their style and are like cantilever pole structures with the nets on the end. They have been in use along the Malabar coast since around 1350AD. For a small fee, I got to go aboard one of them and operate it with the owner. No catch today though! Apparently, the volume of catch has dropped dramatically over the last few years so will have a direct effect on the livelihood of these guys. Good job they have us travellers to rip off!

Next the 'Shree Cochin Swetamber Murtipujak Jain temple'. Shown around by Manilal Poladia, the Pujan & preist. Built in 1904, it is of modern design. 'Jainism' believes in equality and does not recognise caste, creed and 'untouchability'. Their belief is that 'the measure of a man is not his high or low birth, but his acquisition of good and noble virtues'. Their chanting mantra style is supposed to develop within them the three qualities of 'Ahisma - non violence', 'Tapa - Penence' and 'Sayyam - Self-control'. There are many other aspects to the religion and it is popular throughout india, so Jain temples are widespread.

Stopped at a great café for brunch and met up with some other travellers from Isreal and Portugal. Might even meet up again later in the world for some joint travel.

Next the spice bazaar and and an overdose for the senses with fresh spices of every description. The same site has a ginger bazaar and a shop selling teas and pickles. Treated to free samples of spiced teas as well as some of their homemade sweets. Scrummy.

Final stop, the Mattancherry palace, built by the portugese in the keralan style, it was repaired by the dutch who renamed it the 'Dutch palace'. Not as grand as the name suggests but housed some extremely old paintings. One thing I noticed was on a board displaying all of the maharajas of the Cochin area from the 16th century until the last of them in 1964. Upto 1503 there was 'unni rama koil I' followed by 'unni rama koil II' and then every combination of rama, varma, karma and kerala you can think of, ending with the 42nd maharaja 'Rama Varma'. Obviously they couldn't handle it if your name didn't rhyme!

The heavens opened again, but this time in real monsoon fashion. So heavy that the visibility was down to a few feet. So bad that decided to head back to the mainland. The ferry terminal was flooded and there was a possibility of the ferry not running...but, not purturbed by such minor weather conditions, the ferry arrived covered in tarpaulins to keep out the rain. To be honest, whilst it isn't great weather, it is another experience to chalk up and adds to the fun of travel in a foreign land. Got back to the hotel to learn that 8 of the group had become ill. Two so badly that they were going to have to stay in Kochi for a couple of days to recover. I'm ok, so wondering if it is on its way through, or I have been lucky enough to escape so far?

Off to Mysore next, so have to catch an overnight sleeper train to Bangalore aboard train 6525, a journey of around 13 hours, to be followed by a bus journey of 3 hours. The train was much the same as the previous sleeper with AC class. The train slows down during the night so ride comfort is good. Got an upper sleeper in 3 tier this time so really comfortable. Sat opposite a retired indian army officer who was good to talk to.

Didn't tell you.....a real highlight of my day.....got a great e-mail from my baby, Amy (eldest daughter). Love her to bits and proud of her.....if you're out there...big hug and kiss.

Tue 30th Oct - Got into Bangalore (its name was derived from 'village of beans') at 7:30am and stopped for breakfast at the indian equivalent of McDonalds next to the station, with monkeys running along the platform scavenging for food. A rat the size of a cat ran through the café followed by a cockroach across the table. Came up with the idea that, if there was a traditional british pub here, it would have to be called 'The rat and cockroach'!

Fortunately, it's only a short walk to the KSTDC bus station and the bus was leaving just as we arrived, so straight on with no time to hang around. 75 rupees for the 3 1/2 hour (139km) journey to Mysore. So. Not even a pound. Bangalore city is much like many others in being chaotic, swamped with tuk-tuks, alive with the permanent sound of honking horns from everything that moves. Surprised to see along mysore road the presence of shanty villages. As Bangalore is perceived to be the IT centre of the western world, the appearance of the city wouldn't reflect that status. I can imagine some major european company's call centre actually being a shed with Gupta on the end of a phone sat squat-legged on a dusty floor in his hut, wobbling his head as they permanently do, every time he told you that their computers are down right now, so can you call back later, but I will log your fault!

Saw a billboard advertising cheap local calls for 10 paise per minute. At 80 rupees to the pound and 100 paise to the rupee...that's dirt cheap!

Bangalore is now the capital of the Karnataka state, replacing Mysore. It has many traditions, festivals and foods that differ from neighbouring states. One of the main attractions of Mysore is the huge maharaja's palace. Built in 1912 by a british architect, it is still the residence of the present maharaja. The best time to come here is Divali when the palace is illuminated in fairytale style every night during the 10 day festival. Upto then it is illuminated on sundays. Unfortunately, will miss both. Went into the palace later in the day and the arcitcture is awesome. Typical opulent style as befitting a maharaja. Golden and red domed roof in indo-saracen style. Surrounding temples in hindu style. No photography allowed....unless that is, you pay 1000 rupees! I had an argument with them about that, as I refused to give them my camera at the entrance. Accused them of ripping off the tourists and selling pictures in the shop knowing they had barred cameras. They know what they're doing of course, so just smile at you. That is like a red rag to a bull as they say.

As with any place in europe, you pay an entrance fee only to find there are other areas inside where you have to pay another fee to get in. So didn't...ha!

The ground are nicely lawned with colourful borders and pleasant to meander around. At a european stately home you may get someone offering donkey rides, here its elephant rides and camels.

Next stop was the devaraja fruit,veg & flower  market. Also has incense and as Dewali is at the weekend, masses of people making garlands. The experience is incredible as your senses are attacked from every angle with flowers & incense. It is also a photographers dream. They pile up the kum-kum powder into big cone shaped mounds like a rainbow. Stunning colours. The sight of a massive area of flowers being turned into fancy garlands is wonderful.

Mysore is one of the better cities i've been in here so far. Not to over the top, and a mix of cultures and rustic styles to keep it interesting. Like other cities though, they are fond of their horns and drive like madmen. I was disappointed that I hadn't seen a single donkey today. They don't use these really useful animals...shame...just wanted a photograph of a mysore ass! Gettit?

Wed 31st Oct - off to Chamundi hill (3489ft). One the eight most sacred temples in India. Picked up a tuk-tuk from in front of the palace and haggled the price down as usual. The hill is a 13km ride away and a very steep climb when you get there. Now, a tuk-tuk has a 2-stroke engine more suited to powering a lawnmower. Ours died a few times on its way up. But then again there was five of us in it. We ended up pushing it a couple of times and had to let it cool down. Could have walked faster!

At the top is the Sri Chamundesvari temple and also a massive carved wooden carriage with tall structure on top carrying masses of coloured flags. As usual, mobbed by touts trying to pressure sell. I must admit that it is starting to get very annoying. It gets to the stage when you cannot move or turn on the spot without touts encroaching on your space. On many occasions I have tried to pleasantly get rid of these eople but you end up having to be quite rude to them sometimes, something I do not like as we are embassadors of our country and do not want to give the wrong impression. The problem is that they are embassadors of their country too and, if only they realised how much effect they had. Also, you get stitched up/ripped off at every opportunity. This is mainly evident in for example getting a tuk-tuk. They may start off at 400 rupees, when the actual price should be 40! But initially of course, you don't know that, so it takes time to build up a knowledge of what to expect.

Went to the temple and was handed a garland, a small sachet of red vermillion and a siva statue. I asked what the cost was, to be told it was a gift from the gods to be given as a donation.... remember this! Shown in and guided through the process...sprinkle the vermillion on a brass figure by the entrance and then break up the garland and scatter it on top..annointed on the forehead with some of the vermillion...keep the statue. Then walk into the shrine to see the alter and siva. Absolutely beautiful adorned with colourful garlands and lit with candles....Really stunning. Annointed on the forehead by a priest on the way out with turmeric/saffron powder - wanted 100 ruppes for that...nope. Then approached by the first guy who then wanted 500 rupees for the statue and his guidance...nope. This is what I mean...having a great time enjoying a philanthropic moment to then find that you have a stand-up argument with them about being ripped off. India.... Please stop doing this as everyone hates it and many run for the countryside or even out of the country to escape it!

Took the 1000 steps down from the top as needed the exercise. Part way down is an enormous statue of Nandi, Siva's bull.

In the afternoon, head out of Mysore by minibus back to Bangalore to catch the overnight train to Hampi. Bangalore is a noisy busy city. The traffic congestion is terrible. It reminded me of a couple of  articles I read in The Hindu newspaper recently. One was about the Head of Police who had been complaining about the dangerous public buses run by BTC. Ironic cos he was killed by one recently when he was crossing the road. Another story about the monkeys that roam the roads. They appear everywhere and are stealing food and causing general mayhem. Train 6592 Hubl express doesn't leave until 10:30pm and due to arrive at about 10:30am. Waiting on the platform for our train was madness. The train before it was crowded and there were crowds running along the platform to get on it. One woman lost her footing but wouldn't let go and got dragged along the platform by the train. She almost got dragged under the train as there are large gaps between the train and the platform. People ran to help so she had a lucky escape.

Halloween back in the UK tonight. Not celebrated here of course.

Thu 1st Nov - Arrived at Hospet railway station which is the gateway to Hampi earlier than expected. It's about a half hour or so rickshaw ride to Hampi. Arrival is on the northern side of the river and we are staying on the southern side at the Shanti lodge. To get across the river you go to the Hampi ghats (steps leading down to the river), to catch a boat. It's only a few hundred yards. The main treat was an elephant being washed in the river, and women doing their washing plus local indian folk going about their washing rituals. The scenery around here can only be described as stunning. I have seen nothing like it on my travels so far. Hampi is a gem and could definitely spend longer.

Hampi, is in the north of the Karnataca region, and is a world heritage town on the banks of the Tungabhadra river. In its heyday it must have been incredible. Unfortunately, its ruler Rama Raya was defeated in 1565 by the Mughals (sounds like an excerpt from Harry Potter). Many ruins from the 14th century exist.

The Shanti lodge is a really chilled place with each hut having its own hammock, and chance to meet other travellers to compare notes. Out for a quick walk to ckeck out the village. Amongst others, talked to an old lady by a lovely thatched hut who made cakes to order. Said it only took an hour from order, so not sure what the cake would be like in that short time.

Hired bikes after lunch to go sightseeing. First stop was Hamakut hill.  A steep climb up a few hundred steps with loads of monkeys around, waiting to grab the odd banana if thrown their way. An awesome view of the area from the top, so well worth the climb. So many temples in this area that we went past a couple on route before aiming for the main temple of the area at Vittala. To get there from where we were meant crossing the river. We stopped at a bridge which had not been completed, but locals had taken advantage and set up a crossing service using large 'coracle' type round boats. It was amusing to see them ferrying across three motorbikes and 14 passengers in a single one of these about 3metres across. It looks impossible but that doesn't deter them, so off we went to have a go. Mixed in with some local and our bikes and water seadily leaking into the boat. We made it to the other side before it sank. The guy just bailed out the water and loaded up more passengers to go back across. Great fun!

Back on the bikes and a bit soggy but soon dry off in the heat as it's near 30 degrees. Problem is you get soaking wet again with the sweat as it's hard work in this terrain on bikes. The vittala temple covers a massive area and needs more time than we've got today so will return today. You pay a 250 rupee fee that covers all of the temples in the area but only lasts 1 day, so no point in doing it at the end of the day as it has to start in the morning. Back to Shanti via the main centre here called the 'Hampi Bazaar'. They were setting up for the forthcoming festival 3rd to 5th november, so lots of activity setting up stages. The main temple at the end is a typical ornately sculptured hindu style. Something for tomoro I guess.

Back at the Shanthi lodge and its time to chill after dinner. Plenty of other travellers to talk to and managed to find a guitar to play, so entertained the locals for a bit. Joined by a few guys from Israel and one had his guitar with him so that made for a nice finish to the evening. Music is always a great way to bring people together. I only wish I had brought my guitar with me as I miss playing regularly. Admittedly, it is another piece of luggage to cart around, but the benefits outway the hassles. Might consider buying one on my travels.

Fri 2nd Nov - A nice casual day over at the Hampi bazaars. This is the main street of old Hampi and the road/mud track is flanked old buildings now used in a variety of ways by the locals. Its a shame to see ancient monuments used as washing lines and rubbish dumps, but this is India, and to be honest, I wish it had more pride than it appears to have. This isn't just my opinion as everyone in the group has said the same. Lots of activity going on as they are preparing for the festival. Apparently, they are expecting some important dignitary tommorow, so police are everywhere is vast numbers. Must have been a couple of hundred of them in cramped wagons peering out of tiny holes in the mesh and being slowly baked alive in he scorching heat.

At the head of the bazaars is a really nice temple of typical hindu design. The elephant we saw yesterday was inside being used for tourist photos...poor thing. If temples are your thing then you can't go wrong with Hampi as a base as the area is home to some great examples covering an area of about 26 square kilometeres.

Lunch at the popular 'Mango tree' restaurant on the river bank, which is a must hangout for travellers. Sited under an enormous mango tree and accessed along a path flanked by banana trees. A nice mixed thali washed down with lassi and sit on the swing overlooking the river and let time go by, contemplating life! And boy have I got a lot to contemplate!

Sat 3rd Nov - off to Goa today and unfortunately, the train is supposed to leave at 6:30am and the boat doesn't start til 6am, so had to hire jeeps to get us to the train station at Hospet. Meant leaving at 5am and taking the backroads. The positive side was getting to see the area waking up. The negative side was that we heard on the way there that the train had been delayed. Oh damn, could have had a lie in after all. Anyway, the train we are taking 2847 to Vasco da Gama is known for being late, but you can never assume that of course. Waiting for trains is no fun as many of the stations smell terribly. Human waste (you know what I mean), is dumped straight out of the train toilets onto the track and there is also a constant smell of urine on the platforms and even in the side rooms. Nothing they can do about it until they change the design of the trains and that will not happen for a long long time.

The journey to Goa passes through some stunning scenery, going through Londa junction and past the 'Duhdsagar falls', which at 603m are India's 2nd highest. Although at their best during the monsoon season, they were still an awesome sight. The route also goes through many tunnels hewn out of the rocks, so quite a journey that does add to the enjoyment of train travel in India. The downside is that it has been in the 30's today, and 9 hrs in a sauna isn't much fun.got to Vasco da Gama station and hit peak time traffic getting north to Calangute via Panaji (aka Panjim), the capital of Goa. Back to the noise and honking of horns and mad driving. Seems to be an affliction affecting all of India.

Calangute is a bit too touristy for my liking, but at least it has a nice beach and loads of restaurants and shops for those needing to be freed of their cash. As we are nearing the end of this whistle stop tour of southern India, time for a group meal on the beach and a nice atmosphere. Tried some of the local drink 'Fenny', which can be bought as either coconut flavoured paint stripper or cashew nut flavoured paint stripper. Both are disgusting but worth trying once!

Sun 4th Nov - Headed off into Velha Goa (aka old Goa). This is a must for any visit to this area and shows more than anywhere else, the portuguese influence in the historic buildings. Getting to the old town was cheap at 10 Rs to Panaji (aka Panjim) then 7Rs to the old town. I hate using taxis now as they are a total rip-off. This journey would have been 350Rs minimum by taxi!  It also brings home the extortionate cost of public transport back in the UK.

First stop was the 16th century 'Bom Jesus basilica'.

St Francis Xavier's body (patron saint of Goa) is displayed in a silver casket with glass panels in the side. It is renowned throughout the roman catholic world for its importance, and so it should as it is an excellent tribute to him. He was given the job of spreading christianity amongst the portuguese colonies in the east. The backdrop to the alter is also an intricate wall of sculpture in gold. The building also houses a fascinating art gallery with some ingenious paintings that had a Salvador Dali quality about them. I am not very knowledgeable on artists but just appreciate when something is different and imaginitive. Shame there was no photography allowed.

Next the 'Sé de Santa Catarina Cathedral', which is the largest church in old Goa. The tower houses the 'Golden bell' which isn't golden at all, but called it because of its rich sound. The convent & church of Francis of Assisi has yet nore stunning gilded and carved woodwork. The reredos behind the alter is superb and the floor is made of carved gravestones!

The skies opened up as I have got used to when i'm not prepared for it so had to leg it for the nearest cover, which happened to be the 'Cajetan' church, which was modelled off St Peters in Rome. Lucky move as the alter in this place was awesome. Most folk know that I am an atheist. That does not stop me enjoying the incredible architecture that you find in religious places. The world is a better place for it as it has created some masterpieces of artwork and sculpture. The alter backdrop was another incredible sight.

The final group dinner tonight at a great place called the 'Indian Spice Kitchen'. Afterwards we gathered to split a bottle of whisky between the lads as we had all got on really great. I will miss them as they have been a real pleasure to spend time with and hope to see them again in the future.

Made a decision today to go ahead with changing my travel plan, so will leave Goa and head north to Shimla on the Himalayan border. Tommorrow's objective has been set to sort it all out.

Mon 5th Nov - Remember me saying recently that I had been to see the bollywood movie 'Dab We Met' and liked the are in the north that much I wanted to go there. Well...I was going to be in Goa for at least a week and then work my way to Delhi for a tour I booked a long time ago. I checked the weather for the far north and it starts to get very cold from december onwards, so decided to change my plan and go up there now whilst the temperature is bearable. Also, as the friend who was going to join me had to cancel, it freed me up to re-hash my plan. So off to the travel agent to work sort it out.

Yipee...managed to get a flight out of Goa for tomorrow to Delhi on Jet lite airways for £61 followed by an overnight sleeper mail train to Kalka and then hopefully the 'Toy train' on to Shimla. More of this later.... Left the travel agent to get on with the bookings whilst I shot next door to get on the internet and booked my digs in Shimla then back to pick up my tickets. All sorted in about 1 hour! This will give me about 8 days to kill in that area which should be fantastic.

Having had a successful morning, headed down to Bogmalo beach south of Dabolim airport to spend the night at the 'Raj resorts by the sea'. Actually 1km from the sea so they are stretching the 'by the sea bit'! 2 buses and a tuk-tuk to get there but am getting into the swing of public transport in India and find it extremely easy to use. The only problem is it being like a sweat box when it's mid 30's outside.

The beach at Bogmalo is nice and quiet, unlike the over busy northern beaches. It was pleasant to stroll along and paddle in the warm water in peace.  Talked to a group of indian kids who bombarded me as they do with the name of every footballer in England and asked if they were my friends. I think they have a distorted image of the size of the UK!

Across the road from the lodge I'm at is the 'Naval Aircraft museum'. Unfortunately, it's closed today as it's monday. They must be checking the craft out as there was a non-stop chorus of aircraft engines being fired up and put through their paces. Might see if I can get in there tomoro morning.

Tue 6th Nov - couldn't get into the interesting bit of the naval base as restricted, so had to make do with the museum bit instead. A fair collection of old craft from the war years, mainly british engineered and built but to be honest, fairly poor examples compared to others I have seen elsewhere. The museum building has a submarine door for an entrance, which is appropriate. Rooms displaying various makes of torpedoes and funny dummies wearing naval uniforms. Looked like a bad carry on movie! The whole vist was barely 30 minues....it was that exciting! Good job it was only 20 rupees to get in.

Vivek, the hotel owner dropped me off at the airport so that was nice of him.  Spent last night chatting to over a beer as he's  travelled a vast amount over the years.

This is where it all went ape!!

Due to take Jet Lite flight S2 118 to Delhi leaving at 15:15, which would give me loads of time at Delhi to make my train connection. Jet Lite airways was Sahara airways by the way. Dabolim airport in Goa is small but totally disorganised today. A fair proportion of flights were delayed. My flight was delayed til 18:45. My train is due to leave at 22:00 so cutting it fine with a 3 1/2 hr delay. Anyhow...the flight itself went through one of the most dynamic thunderstorms I have ever seen. The skies where stunning shades of orange, gold and red in the distance to the west as the sun was setting, with fork lightening to the north. Awesome!

Hold onto your seats folks as the pace speeds up....The flight landed at 8:40pm...legged it to the pre-paid taxi desk to get my ticket whilst waiting for the baggage conveyor to kick into action. Got the ticket and ran to the conveyor just as it started...my pack second one off...grabbed it and ran for the taxis and shot past everyone else In the queue. It was like a movie scene.....grabbed a taxi and shouted at the driver ...'get me to old delhi railway station as fast as you can....floor it!' the poor guy looked shocked!  Anyway...he went like a bat out of hell....nose glued to the windscreen...me plastered against the backseat of the taxi ocassionally covering my eyes as the near misses were getting more frequent. This was like an extreme sport adrenalin rush! Got to old Delhi and ground to a halt. This place is dire at night...bicycle rickshaws coming from every direction, inter-mingled with green&cream auto rickshaws and the occasional cow and human lemmings. Didn't put my driver off as he shot up onto the pavement...hand firmly on the horn and headlights on full....bodies jumping out of the way. This was getting to be great fun....remember... train due to leave at 10pm and it's now 10:15pm. Sweat starting to build up now as it's still 26 degrees and the adrenalin in full flow. Got to the station at 10:36 with no obvious way of knowing whether my train had already gone or which platform it would have been on. Ran past the security guys and just said no time to stop sorry! Saw an old army officer looking guy and asked if he knew where I would find the 2311 Howrah-Kalka train...platform 16....yippee.....up the stairs running with my backpack flapping....the train was still there! Took 2 minutes to find my carriage and 1 minute after I climbed in, it pulled out of the station. I was stunned and slightly out of breath....some intresting points come out of this fast paced story.....1 - thank god the indian train network is continually late, 2 - I must be growing golden balls as my luck is improving, 3 - excitement like this is what makes travelling interesting. On the plane I had formed a contingency plan had I missed the train, and would have shot off to the bus terminus not far from here and jumped on the next interstate bus to wherever I could find that was interesting. Got the taxi driver to wait a short while to see if I re-appeared, so had it all planned out. Either way it would be an adventure!

Tags: Sightseeing

 

Comments

1

Interesting article. Glad to see that you seem to be taking everything in a positive spirit. Just one clarification - Pooja is a generic name for festival rituals, it's not the name of a festival. So you will have Dussehra Pooja (most likely what you saw), Diwali Pooja, etc.

  Sanjay Oct 23, 2007 5:49 PM

2

Hey dude , it was nice to read ur blog. I was there few months back and really enjoyed my stay. I was mostly in New Delhi, the capital city of India, it's rich and had lots to see and do. Made a few local friends too, they introduced me to this site www.ixigo.com, it helped me find some cheap air fares to travel around the country. It indeed was a memorable holiday!

  Jack Oct 25, 2007 8:39 PM

3

Hi Jeff. I will be off to Goa in a few days and was searching the web for blogs on Goa when I stumbled upon yours.

I just read you journal entry and you seem to have had an excellent trip so far. I must say, In the 21 years of my life in India (South India at that), I haven't been to some of the places you've visited in a week!

The Pooja that you saw, was 'Aayudha Pooja'

On the eighth day of the 'Dusherra Festival', Aayudha Pooja is celebrated. Aayudha means weapons. Everybody brings out their implements and ritually give respect to the tools by which they make their living. Farmers place ploughshares and sickles : soldiers used to shine their swords and decorate them ( now they they polish their guns and rifles) : students bring their textbooks, accountants their pens and erasers while blacksmiths polish their hammers. Bus drivers gaily decorate their vehicles with green branches and orange flowers. A plate with a bit of burning camphor is lit and waved in the air. Everyone pays their respects to the tools they use to earn their daily bread. (A sort of prehistoric labor day or May day)

  Sangita Oct 30, 2007 6:00 PM

4

Remember can make three type of turn Tuk-Tuk's turn left,turn right & turn over. Hve fun

Peter

  peter carpenter Nov 2, 2007 3:52 AM

5

That was a very beautiful blog written about india, chennai is where I live, the details given are amazing, keep up the good work, like to meet you in chennai next time you are here, you have been to some of the most visited places in India, where most of us Indians would like to visit atleast once.

  santosh May 24, 2008 10:17 PM

6

Hello Jeff, I enjoyed reading ur adventures in India. I will be going to Chennai, Goa and Mumbai this November. Is the weather ok during this month? Can't wait to visit the colors of India. Anything else about India u can write?

  Nor Mar 28, 2010 9:59 PM

7

Hello Nor. The trip you read about was along time ago now, but I am planning to return soon I hope, but this time with my wife after we get married soon. As for the weather, India is reasonable most of the year. The problem is that it is such vast country that it does change as you move around it. There will be upto date info on its climate on many websites on the net.

What I will say is that I found it invaluable to have an account on the IRTC system so that I could book my own train travel, without relying on an agent for it. Agents are useful but take a cut of course. The Tatkal system and foreigner quota system is worth reading about as it helps when booking trains at short notice. The main thing about India is that it is a 'frame of mind'....Not the cleanest or tidiest of countries, and chaotic in most places....but it is well worth it and full of experiences that live with you for the rest of your life that you will re-count to others many times.

Enjoy it all
Jeff

  jeff bradshaw Mar 29, 2010 12:53 PM

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