- Thursday 22 November 2012
I travelled to India for the second time in October where I experienced the North and South of India, it was the most amazing holiday I have travelled on! On my first visit I went to Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and I was amazed at how much the country had changed in this time. All the airports that we walked into were brand new, clean, western toilets, you can see that money has been invested into the cities making it an up and coming country to visit! There are various myths in regards to India and travelling there, however I hope that this will give you a different view!
Food & Drink: A wide selection of food both continental and local delicacies, if you don't like spicy food they will make it milder. In Kerala fish is a speciality, caught locally and it is divine! Cows aren't sacred in Kerala so you can eat beef there but not in the north. I know that many people assume that they will get sick with the food, however when I have travelled along with my companions I haven't got sick, though you do need to be careful what you eat and drink. We avoided salad, fruit, ice and remained 'Delhi Belly' free and if we thought water had been opened then we didn't drink it and just requested another bottle. All the hotels give a complimentary bottle of water in the rooms. Imported drinks are more expensive, with local wine being good value though it is sweet, so I recommend buying a glass first! Local branded shorts are good value and if you're looking for the cheapest option its Kingfisher beer, for 650 ml is it approx â‚¬2!Cocktails are available though ask for no ice! Bars in the hotels normally close at 11pm, with no option of room service for alcohol, the hotels do have mini bars and the prices are similar to the bar prices. In total I spent â‚¬415 on all my food and drink. We ate in all the hotels as it was very reasonable and we knew the standard would be good.
Tipping: Tipping in the south and the north does vary. In the south there are tip boxes located in reception and in the restaurants and they request that you don't tip individuals, you put them into the box and they distribute them evenly. In the North you tip as you go. The hotel staff are so attentive, friendly and genuine, it really makes the holiday. Tipping is down to your discretion, average is $2 for luggage attendants, 10% for meals, cleaning staff we tipped if we were staying there for 2 nights or more about $7, drivers and guides anything from $10 - $20, again depends on how long we had them for.
Staff: Our guides, drivers and representatives were excellent. The cars are fully air conditioned, they always had a bottle of water for each person, lots of luggage room, extremely knowledgeable drivers and long journeys are very comfortable. Upon arrival at the airport we were approached by our guides, luggage was taken to the car, doors opened for us, travelling how it should be! It was like being a VIP!
Poverty: Due to so much money being put into the country there is more work for locals. As a result, the cities are cleaner and there wasn't as many beggars as there was 4 years ago. In my whole trip I was approached by 3 people begging. When I went into a shop they were attentive but not forceful to buy something. If I said 'no' then that was accepted. Shanty towns were visible every now and again though they didn't draw your attention, its something that would be expected, in Kerala 90% of people own land!
Kerala My first stop was Kerala in the south of India where I visited Kovalam, Alleppey and Cochin. I found them to be great value for money, very relaxing an ideal holiday destination! There is a definite Portuguese influence to be seen, with both Hindu and Catholic churches. All cultures and nationalities are welcome and you can really see the influences throughout the area. The roads were bumpy as it was just after the monsoon season however they were already working on re-laying the roads so be advised that this can occur in September/October. The temperatures ranged from 32c upto 40c and humidity between 70%-100%. Thankfully all the hotels are air conditioned and there is a nice breeze from the sea.
Kovalam: I was lucky enough to arrive at 5am, just in time for the spectacular sun rise! During my time in Kovalam, I stayed in the 4* Travencore heritage which is set on 15 acres of gardens and palm trees overlooking the beach. After our journey it was ideal to walk into our room, sit on our balcony and gaze out at the beach! Kerala is known for the long stretches of beach, with all the hotels being situated overlooking the beach though not on the beach. For example, in our hotel, you had to get a lift down and cross a small road (only local scooters go along there, no cars) onto the beach. Don't be put off by this, we were so relaxed that we were lucky if we moved past the swimming pool! The pool was a good size, close to the restaurant and bar. Both the Taj Kovalam and the Leela Palace offer golf buggies to the beach, I wouldnt see this as a bad point as the views from being up high were stunning you can see everywhere! The only hotel that is on the beach is the 4* Udai Samudra. This is a amazing hotel and perfect for younger couples, families or singles.
Alleppey: After a few days of relaxing we boarded the House boat in Alleppey for some more relaxing! This is offered as a day option or overnight. The boats are spacious, private and stable with your own staff ( normally a ratio of 3 staff to 2 passengers ). Food is a high standard set menu and plenty of it to enjoy! We cruised along the quiet backwaters, which was a once in a lifetime experience. All the cruise you can see people going about their daily life, against a backdrop of rice fields and colourful houses. A fantasticly tranquil setting! If you are doing the houseboat just for an afternoon you would dock at one of the various backwater hotels for your overnight stay. I stayed at the 4* Backwater Ripples. A nice hotel though I arrived late in the day so didnt unfortunately get to use the facilities!
Cochin: This is the main city in Kerala with plenty of shops to stroll around. While in Cochin, we went on a half day city tour whoch was the perfect way to find out about the history of the city.
Slightly cooler with temperatures from 28c to 34c no humidity.
Udaipur aka paradise! Definitely one of my favourite cities in India. I stayed in the 4* Fatehgarh, only 2 years old and made from remains of other buildings. The hotel looks down on the city and the lake with the mountains as a breathtaking backdrop. Due to the position of the hotel it is slightly cooler than being in the city so in the evening I would recommend a light cardigan. Udaipur is lovely to walk around. I strolled through the markets where local delights are being sold along with fresh fruit and vegetables and the odd cow! This is where I did my shopping as there were a lot of shops on the way up to the Palace ( incidently, a great place to buy your souvenirs! ). I stayed 2 nights here and I would have stayed longer. I highly recommend this hotel and I would urge anyone looking to travel to add this into their itinerary.
Delhi I stayed here for a total of 2 nights however this was only a stopover before I moved on to discover more of what India has to offer. Delhi is up and coming, since the arrival of the CWG and also the Grand Prix. A lot of money has been spent on this area and once all the hotels and shopping centres on the airport road are completed it will be a great shopping city! Delhi traffic is very busy so a short distance may take longer than expected!
Agra My second trip to one of the Seven Wonders Of The World, the Taj Mahal. I dont think I will tire of seeing it! There is a visitors centre where you will check in and be driven to the nearest point, then a short walk into the amazing wonder! Although the Taj Mahal is busy, you don't feel rushed, there are plenty of places to sit and all boasting a view and time to relax. Sunset and sunrise tours are also a great way to see The Taj Mahal. Agra is known for its marble and gold, so shopping here can be extremely interesting :)
Ranthambore I went in search of a tiger in Ranthambore, unfortunately I didnt get to see one! There are about 40 tigers within the park along with deer, birds, monkeys, crocodiles, sloth bears and some breathtaking scenery! There is an option of a shared canter which takes about 25 people or a Jeep which takes 6 people. The drivers go at various different speeds and routes. The drive can be very bumpy and hair raising but it was definiely a great experience that I would recommend to anyone.
Varanasi Wow what an experience! This is a very cultured, religious area, where you will find you need to be more open to the experiences in order to appreciate the city. Varanasi is famous for the River Ganges. We got to experience an evening tour on the Ganges. This was both amazing experience were we got to hear all the history and religion that Varanasi is steeped in, along with watching the cremation ceremony. This was an extremely moving experience which tugged at the heart strings as we got to see people going through their grief, watching them do their personal ritual to their loved one, then going onto see them celebrate the lives, where seven priests perform the ritual and thousands of people gather to watch it. There was a great buzz to the city and I really enjoyed being amongst the people. I would advise that you keep valuables to a minimum here because its busy in the streets. In the morning you can get an early morning boat ride where you can watch the sun rise which is a great photo opportunity. The streets are a lot quieter compared to the previous night so its nice to experience the two sides of the city.
When I was on the flight home I didn't want to leave, I didn't feel that 12 days was enough! I really encourage people to visit this amazing, colourful, cultured country and to visit with an open mind and the experience will leave you wanting more! To speak to Lisa and get information on Holidays to India call us on 0818 333 331