Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Backpacking South India

Once I got to India, I made a plan to travel through Tamil Nadu and kerala. Travelling alone is always difficult but I am particularly proud about having been able to make it through India because I didn't speak any of the languages and bargaining became my sixth sense. Things to see in India are endless. I just had to pick a region and decide where I wanted to go. I must confess that I got tired of temple seeing and was disappointed that I didn't get to see the bridge that used to connect India to Sri Lanka in Rameswaram. I also lost my cell phone early on and got sick of taking busses by the time I got back to Mumbai. Anyway, I'm leaving you some photos of the trip through South India.

I landed in Chennai (Madras) from Mumbai and when I saw what a horrific city it was, I decided I needed to get out FAST! Apparently I hopped into a 'three wheeler'/auto/rickshaw a little too quickly and lost my cell phone. That was the scary part because I couldn't contact Mumbai immediately if anything happened. Anyway, I took two long bus rides to get to the Main Bus station and was on the next bus to Mahabalipuram. I saw the five rathas and the Shore temple while the guide explained that they are still rebuilding the town after the tsunami. Mahabalipuram is a fishing village with alot of scultures so its gorgeous to walk around and visit for just a day. But I wouldn't sleep there because the sleeping accomodations were very very sad..so I'm glad I left early. I was disappointed that I couldn't get to send an email to Mumbai when I got there because the internet was down in the entire village. But I just took a local bus and made my way to pondicherry.

Pondicherry is a relaxing place for a lot of people because they have a famous ashram where you can meditate and do yoga. Half of the town has a strong french influence so the architecture is very different from what I saw in other parts of South India. Apart from just spending the day resting and looking out at the beach, I didn't do much there which was nice because the crowded busses can take a lot out of a foreigner. I had to bargain HARD to get the autorickshaw driver to drop me to the bus station at 3am so I could leave for Trichy.

Trichy has sooo many temples and I felt like sites to see there were endless. On my way to Trichy, I became friends with a university student Abirami who became my guide in Trichy. She invited me to her house and arranged for me to visit all the temples. It was great to eat a home cooked meal and to make a friend. She really took care of me. I saw many temples and they explained the history of each one of them. I have a picture of my favourite temple.

I did a couple more temple stops and hopped on the next bus to Madurai. I stayed in a very nice hotel in Madurai which was a little more expensive but a lot more comfortable than the places I had crashed before. I decided to take a day trip to Rameswaram where a bridge was built by Rama connecting to Sri Lanka. Needless to say that I was disappointed when I got there because it was a 7 kilometer walk and I was definitely not up for it especially when I had no guide and needed to get back to my hotel in madurai which was four hours away. I spent the day in the fishing village looking at the beach and then heading back to my hotel in Madurai in the evening.

I decided to check out even more temples in Madurai which I actually found to be less impressive than the ones in Trichy. Madurai is a lot more touristy than Trichy because it is definitely a center for many tourists even though the tourist attraction there is far less impressive. When I entered the Temple in Madurai I was alarmed to find an elephant inside which was all part of the attraction and so I was sure to be a good tourist and to take my picture with the elephant. However, the elephant saliva or snot or whatever it was made it very difficult for me to smile.

After that I made my way to Kanyakumari. The ride to Kanyakumari was quite an eventful, bumpy bus ride that took place in the wee hours of the morning. Eventful because I was made to sit "shotgun" on a little ledge connected to the windscreen as the bus tossed and turned and almost toppled over at every corner since our driver was moving at the speed of lightening. Anyway, I made it and got to Kanyakumari at 4am and stayed at the dingiest place I had ever seen for 200 rupees. I avoided the cockroches in my room by sleeping with one eye open and hugging my backpack REAL tight. Anyway, I got on the first boat jetty and was excited at what I felt was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Kanyakumari is GORGEOUS! It is the southern most tip of India where the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Tibetian Ocean meet. Its wonderful and the colour of the water varies so the sea looks like a painting. I tried to watch the sunset but the monsoon season ensured that it was too cloudy... but I still thought that Sunset point was worth a visit.

I left Kanyakumari and entered Kerala. My first stop was Trivandrum and I found Kerala to be far more peaceful and no where near as hot as Tamil Nadu. Kerala just seemed less chaotic to me and so it was nice to be more relaxed. I spent a night of well-needed rest in Trivandrum before heading out to Fort Cochin to see the famous backwaters of Kerala. I liked it a lot but there was a Bengali family on the raft who insisted that the tour was way too boring and decided to cut the tour short and leave. I didn't mind because I was bored after the first hour but it was really quite a nice, peaceful ride. If you go to Kerala it is an absolute MUST-SEE! Its really peaceful. I also went to check out the Kathakhali dances, see some Chinese fishing and had an Ayurvedic massage which left my dreds incredibly oily. The oil from the massage was potent and when I entered my flight, the passenger beside me smiled and said: You just had an ayurvedic massage...and I nodded even though I was a bit embarrassed. Anyway, it was a nice ending to the trip and then I headed back to Mumbai. All in all, Southern India was a great trip.