We will update the rest of our India trip at a later date. We have now moved on to our Indochina trip . Hopefully we will have better internet connections.
Location: Chiang mai, Thailand
The overnight train was very comfortable and I slept surprisingly well. On arrival we checked into our hotel, then 5 of us set out for our cooking class. A visit to the market, then off to cook. During the class we made tom kha gai, pad thai, mussamun curry and sticky rice and mango. As we cooked we then ate each course.
That evening we went to the night market first for dinner then for a stroll around the market. David and I ended the evening listening to an average but enthusiastic band and drinking a Singha beer.
Next day a group of us went out to the elephant hospital. This is a private facility which cares for injured elephants, some of them with limbs blown off by land mines. There is also a reserve there where we went and fed the elephants and their babies.
That evening we walked to another night market for food. It was really crowded,so we didn't stay long.
We travelled the next day in 2 private buses to Chiang Rai then onto Chiang Khong. On the way we stopped at the White Temple. This is a totally over the top temple that Gaudi would be proud of. Inside the temple there is a mural depicting events of the world. The trade centre, and images of George Bush and Osama Bin Laden in the eyes of the devil. Very apt. The mural had amongst other things Superman, Jack Sparrow , Star Wars, Michael Jackson, Elvis, a minion, and The Matrix. From there it was a 2 hour drive to our hotel for the night where we filled out our paperwork for Laos.
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
We have just left Thailand and crossed into Laos.
Thailand has been a real experience. The food as not as different as we had anticipated. Most of what we tasted was much the same as we can get at home.
David and I had some extra days in Bangkok before or tour started. The first day we arrived in the morning form Delhi and spent the day dozing off then went in search of dinner. Our hotel was located not far from Khaosan Rd, which is the big tourist Street. This was not our favourite place but we had to go there once. On the second and third days we had booked an urban adventure. Part one, in the afternoon we caught a boat to the Chinese sector where we sampled different street food. The roti with condensed milk was different but amazing! The next morning we met with our tour leader, Ant, and set out for the day. The first stop was street food breakfast,chicken and crispy pork, noodles and rice! We then toured the fresh food market. I recognised most of the food. There were also lots of frogs and eels to buy and cook. After that we hopped in a taxi and went to the outskirts of Bangkok to a market farm. This is a project that has been developed on the site of an old fish farm . The idea is to show people food growing then to cook using all local ingredients. We had a go with the Hoe and the digger then helped with lunch. I have read never tasted morning glory before and it was delicious. The family were lovely and showed me how to make roses from pandanus leaves. Much laughter and a great experience.
Day 3 we took a trip to the floating markets. We had been there 10 years ago and it was still much the same. Major difference was that we were happy to try any of the street food this time!
That evening we met with the rest of our tour. There are 16 of us which we think is a bit big. There are 5 New Zealanders, (all one family), 3 Swiss, 4 Canadians,2 Americans and us.
Our final day in Bangkok, we took a ride on a longboat up the river and canals, then on to the reclining Buddha, then we went to the palace. This was very crowded and hot so we didn't stop long. From there back to the hotel, lunch and ready for the overnight train to Chiang mai.
Location: Kerala backwaters and kochi, India
Early next morning we set off by private bus to Kerala backwaters. The drive took a few hours with one stop at yet again another Catholic Church. It is surprising how many there are in southern India. All to do with the Portuguese. You can see shrines, statues and other such religious stuff in restaurants, shops, houses and even taxis and tuk Turks.
After the bus ride we then had a one hour trip in a boat to our home stay on the backwaters. The house was amazing and after lunch we went for a walk through part of the village then a pole boat ride. One of our fellow travellers,Colin, polled our boat, reliving his youth on the river at Cambridge. It was a really good attempt!
Dinner was again at the home stay followed by rum and Pepsi until it ran out!
After breakfast we then hopped back into the speed boat and went off to apperly.
There was a plan to get a house boat but not enough were interested so that couldn't happen.
Some of us then caught a public bus back to kochi. At one stop a number of students boarded the bus and talked to us for the rest of the trip. They were studying business and it at college, and had an early end to the day as their colleges were on strike. I couldn't find out why. They were the nicest young men and made the trip a real pleasure.
That night was our final dinner for the first part of the trip. We said a sad farewell to our tour leader Thilip, and 3 of our group Sam, Debbie and Janet.
Our start the next morning was at 3.30 am!
Southern India was amazing, definitely a place to come back to.
Location: Peryier, India
On Arrival at Peryier , before checking in to our hotel we visited a spice plantation. Lunch was provided even though by then it was 4pm! It included a vegetable dish that we had been shown how to cook in kochi, bread , and a chicken curry and a fish curry. All delicious ! Following lunch we walked around the spice plantation finding all sorts of different spices growing. I bought some to bring home. Some turmeric, green cardamom and the spice mix to make Marsala tea.
That nights dinner was at a local restaurant with some singing, drinking beer and lots of laughs
The next day we went on a trek trying yet again to see the elusive tiger. No luck though.
We saw a few birds, some monkeys, a squirrel and a bison, well I saw its bum. David said he saw the rest of it, though. At least we got in a decent walk going about 6km.
The afternoon was free so we went for a bit of shopping. I bought a top and a pair of pants and some of ear rings.
About 6 pm we went to a martial arts show. Five of the fittest young men showed us the traditional form of martial arts and although it was staged it was impressive. Following this was a cooking class, highly recommended in lonely planet. We learned to make about 4 new dishes including parotta which is the flakey round bread.it was surprisingly easy to make when shown how. The night ended with a very funny tuk tuk ride down the hill to our hotel.
Tomorrow we h ad to the Kerala backwaters.
Location: Delhi, India
Arrived in Delhi. Airport fine. Arranged a transfer to hotel. Fine. Lunch at hotel. After lunch David and I decided to go for a walk. We then started to discover some of the real Delhi. We were met by a tout within few metres of the hotel together with a tuk tuk driver. They were very insistent and intrusive, completely the opposite of the south. We weren't sure at all about Delhi. We finally found a market area, lost the tout etc and relaxed a bit.
That evening we met our new travelling companions. Can I say we miss you Sam and Debbie.
Next day we went by metro into old Delhi. Saw a temple and the highlight for me was the sycth temple. It was completely peaceful. They also feed 5000 people a day free of charge. Amazing!
Later in the day some of us went to the lotus temple which is a Baha'i temple. I think by now we have all religions covered
Tomorrow off to Agra for the Taj Mahal!
From Mamallapurum we travelled to Pondicherry. On the. Way we stopped at Aurovillewhich is a communal settlement. It is not a religion but it does have a temple, a bit of a contradiction. The temple looks like a giant gold golf ball. You couldn't go inside but it is supposed to be made of white marble and houses a very large crystal . Half of the population are foreign nationals. The whole project is dedicated to unity. It reminded me of my lost youth in the sixties.
From there we went to Pondicherry. Pondicherry was a French colony, so there are very French looking buildings and French bakeries. We had dinner in a French restaurant and I had a pepper steak. No wine though! We only had a few hours there . It was a shame we didn't have longer.
I am writing this on a train to Madurai where we expect to arrive at about 5pm.
Location: Mamallapurum, India
Yesterday we got off the overnight train then travelled for about 2 hours to Mamallapurum. This is not far from Chennai on the coast. It is famous for its rock carving so we visited 3 sites to see the most amazing carving. These we're carved from single rocks in about the 13th century and are huge. I am leaning quite a lot about Hinduism as most of the temples we have visited are or were originally Hindu temples. I will put up a couple of photos to give some idea.
D inner last night was at a seafood restaurant, and we splurged on a lobster and two enormous prawns not that much smaller. It was the most expensive meal so far but well worth it.
The food here has been wonderful. I have only had one non Indian meal since we arrived. Breakfast has been Marsala dosa (a pancake with potato inside) or idly ( these are steamed pancakey things that come with 3or 4 chutneys . The Marsala chai is great and fortunately you can still get coffee. We have not had any wine since we got off the plane in Delhi. Beer is the drink that is readily available. The ones we have tried so far are kingfisher and British empire. We preferred the kingfisher.
Location: Mysore, India
Kochi to Mysore.
We are currently in Mysore. Internet access has been difficult for the past few days so this will be a catchup.
On our last night in kochi we saw a live performance , Kerala traditional dance.
The makeup was put on on stage which was fascinating. There was then a demonstration by the actors which explained the various facial expressions and gestures. This was followed by a brief performance. Very clever but 1/2 hour was plenty. We had a great meal but it was a dry day in kochi so no beer!
The next day we caught a train for 4 hours followed by a private meeting bus finally arriving in Ooty. We had a really nice dinner then went to a bar. Beer and other drinks were more available than in kochi.
The weather in Ooty is very mild at this time of year. At night it was cold enough for a jacket. It was a pleasant change after the heat and humidity of Kochi.
The next day we visited a tea plantation. The picking was all done by women. Wages are not high but accomodation , health benefits are provided as part of the conditions, so it's not too bad, but still very hard work. I bought some ginger tea and some Marsala (spiced) tea. After that we caught the toy train which was the original train to the tea plantations. Dinner that night was at a big lodge, where for the first time you could order drinks with our meal.
After breakfast we headed off to our stay in the tiger reserve. This was a fabulous resort on the edge of the national park. It was not fenced off so after dark you had to get escorted to your room by a security guard. Infra red cameras showed that leopards and elephants roamed around the resort so the guard was a safety measure! Late in the afternoon we all piled in to jeeps for a safari to try to see a tiger. We saw deer, hares , a chameleon, a bear,peacocks, and some elephants. But no tiger!
This was one of the best days of the trip so far.
After breakfast we hopped in a bus and headed for Mysore. On the way we saw a number of elephants and got some great photos. The rest of the day we went to a Hindu temple and the palace which was spectacular.
Today we went to another temple followed by a bit of shopping. I bought a sari!
At present we are on a train headed to our next stop. It. Is an overnight train and we are in a carriage with 8 bunks!
Location: Kochi, India
Day 3 on our trip around the south of India and we have booked a boat trip down the Kerali backwaters, a type of canal system or delta. We were picked up from our hotel at 0800 hrs and after picking up a few more groups from various hotels set out for about a 1.5 hr drive by minibus. Arriving, the women were escorted to a toilet at somebody's house across the road and the men were told to use a tree. From reports back the tree was a better option. We then travelled by pole boat down the delta to a coconut fibre rope making industry and spent some time watching the women twisting the fibre into very strong rope. The men were nowhere to be seen. We then went around a spice plantation looking at cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and other spices. We then returned concentrating on the wildlife such as kingfishers, snakes and other bird and animal life. The group were able to transfer to a bigger boat and were poled across to an island for lunch - a tahli or tapas of vegetarian curries - beautiful. We spent the next 2.5 hrs poling around the backwaters watching the banks slide past before being bussed home.
Dinner that night was at a restaurant called Oceanus. The meal was a prawn marsala, coconut rice and a mushroom dish. Generally, the food was nice but because of the long lines waiting to get in we got a bit of a rushed experience which detracted somewhat from the meal.
Day 4 and after breakfast we packed our bags and moved hotel to the Intrepid - Kelaveeda Lodge. We met some of our travel companions for the next month and had coffee exchanging experiences of previous trips away. Claire and I then walked down to the riverfront were we found a nice restaurant to have lunch - chilly (sic) potatoes, fish fry and pineapple rice. Some lovely food. We then walked back to the hotel and organised ourselves for the official start of the trip orientation meeting and dinner.
We were able to meet all of our travel companions 6 Aussies, 4 Brits, an American and a colleen. Most have done some travelling before but all had interesting stories. We walked down for dinner, incidentally to the same place we had lunch, so we tried different food and enjoyed as much the second time around. We were able to have "special tea", beer from teapots as they did not have a licence to serve beer at the restaurant. We finished the night by finding a bar that served special tea and cocktails (they had a licence for the cocktails) before walking home around midnight.
Day 5 had a 0930 hrs start with a local guide and the oldest church in India followed by Chinese fishing nets and a walk through the fish market. After a particularly exhilarating tuk-tuk ride we also saw the Dutch Palace museum. This shows some of the history of Kochi particularly their later rulers under the British leading up to becoming a Republic. Lunch and now waiting to go to a cultural dance show followed by a late dinner.
Tomorrow we start early and travel to Ooty, the home of snooker. We are promised colder weather, - 2 C at night and maximums of 20 C before returning to 34/5 C and high humidity. Kochi has been wonderful.
Location: Kochi, India
We left Sydney at 10am on Monday flying to Bangkok as the first leg of what was to be a very long day or should I say days. The stopover time in Bangkok was 8 long hours. We then had a 5 hour flight to Delhi then another 3 hours to kochi. Altogether about 30 hours. On arrival at the airport we couldn't see our pick up as arranged. There were military everywhere together with bands and people making speeches. It was their Independence Day!
Eventually our pick up arrived and we were driven to fort kochi our home for the next few days. On the way our driver told us about the difficulty of finding places that sold alcohol and so stopped at a government run bottle shop. Stocked up with local beer we then proceeded to our hotel. A short walk and some lunch saw us back in the hotel for a nap.
Lunch and dinner were both vegetarian, very nice with the most amazing bread. On them way out one of the tuk tuk drivers tried to get us to take a tour with him. We said "tomorrow" so at 10 am today he was waiting on the footpath near our hotel.
After settling on the cost we then went off for about 3hours visiting the local laundry, a Hindu temple, a catholic basilica, and seeing life in the markets and backstreets. The driver was fantastic and very informative. There was no real pressure on us to buy anything even though we got taken to a couple of shops. When we finally got to where we finished we gave him a bit more than we had agreed....the equivalent of $10! Not bad.
Tonight we went to a cooking school where we made coconut rice,vegetable thruma, dhal fried, potato ulao, eggplant curry. It was held on a private house and full hands on. We cooked despite a power cut for about 15 minutes then we ate. Delicious. Tuk tuk ride back, leisurely kingfisher beer then back to hotel. Had a great day. Loving India!!!