Location: Mamallapuram, India
Arriving in Chennai I aimed straight for a place called Mamallapuram, located just 2 hours away and having good beaches, food and stuff to do. I arrived and was very pleased. I took a stroll around the beautiful stone carving cut straight out of mountains. The following day after a delightful supper of fresh prawns I started my day with a massage. I had a quick look about the stone carved temples which were pretty amazing. These included apparantly the most accurate carving of an elephant in India - it was very life like. It also had a scene carved into a cliffside which was pretty special.
Location: Madurai, India
After finally dragging myself away from Varkala I decided to start a mammoth migration to Nepal stopping at a few places on the way. My first stop was Madurai famous for the Sri Meenakshi temple complex - which is truly awesome. I didn't arrive till midnight on the first day having spent a day of torture listening to something along the lines of annoying Bollywood Classics 10000000. So finding a very cheap cell I awaited the coming of morning for some serious sightseeing. When I woke I booked another night bus to Chennai [anyone would think I was a masochist] I then went for a strole to the temple and had a look around. The temple has five or six towers surrounding a giant stone wall, all painted in beautiful colours and carved exquisitely. There was a hall with one thousand pillars which was pretty immense. After this I went to a couple of minor sights which were a let down. I also purchased a couple of souvenirs. All in all a pretty busy day. I entered the bus to Chennai with much foreboding - I was correct in my assumption it would not be a pleasant journey. The bus conductor a typical Indian bureaucrat refused to keep my luggage at the front of the bus so I had it to keep me company in the footwell, long legs and a huge bag don't fit, I found little solace in some or other contorted position.
Location: Varkala - Kerela, India
I headed to a beautiful beach for some relaxation. The hotels were all spread along an amazing clifftop made of red sandstone. Here I got good coffee, tried yoga [which was also very relaxing], read Jack Kerouac's On the Road. I think that with the mention of pizza and a football game on TV that it is clear this was a happy place.
I finally made it out onto the backwaters, but not after eating the worst meal of my life at the hotel [sweet and sour chicken, where the chef perhaps unsure of what sour was added as much pepper as possible, then perchance deciding that it was too "sour" added a vast quantity of sugar]. Anyhow the backwaters were beautiful totally tropical and lush. The cruise down took 8 hours just to come careering back on a bus. The following day I rented a rowing boat with a driver, after only a few minutes I was paddling too [not what I'd had in mind]. We had a closer look at some smaller stretches. Pretty boring apart from the backwaters so I resolved to leave. They have these amazing house boats you can stay on but lacking funds I
Location: Allepey, India
Having met little success and high costs in Kochin I headed to Allepey the home to Kerela's backwaters. An immense stretch of saltwater rivers and creeks. I had a bit of gip in my stomach so spent the next couple of days in or around a toilet or searching for samosas.
Location: Kochin, India
I made it to Kerela in one piece and quickly made it over to the touristy bit called Fort Kochin. The other bit Ernakulam had a festival with 190 elephants on - I was too tired to notice, night buses! Fort Kochin was nice but really expensive! I spent the afternoon sightseeing, I visited a Dutch palace with amazing frescoes. I also took a look at the Chinese fishing nets which are pretty interesting - fresh fish was being cooked everywhere. I took a look at the most uninspiring looking palace - only to discover the most amazing frescoes of the Ramayana. In the evening after a long knap I headed down the a traditional Kathakali performance. This is a type of Kerelan theatre where a story is told through music and dance, with a complimentary sign language. Sounds bizarre right: this was the most boring two hours I can remember. It was just terrible - oh the boredom!!!! I returned home having some how managed to hold out till the end and slept.
Location: Mysore/ open road, India
Having resolved to leave Mysore I made rapid plans to get to Kerela. I found a travel agent who sold me a ticket for a night bus to Kochin the main entry point to Kerela. I specified that it shouldn't be at the back. After a day in a wildlife park with a guy called Lars I met at the bus station [random], including an excellent trip on some peddlows, I ended up back at the travel agents at nine. He gave me a ticket and got someone to walk me to the state bus stand. I'd paid for someone to take a five minute walk, great. No suprises I was at the back of the bus - this was to be my worst night-bus journey yet! Never before had I been so happy to see the light of day!
Location: Mysore, India
Mysore is only 3 hours from Bangalore so I headed down here on my way South. There is quite a lot to do here! There is a palace, a zoo, a hill. Having lazed around all day on my first day the 17th I decided to do them all in one day - it was pretty tough. The palace was pretty amazing and a quick tour sufficed. The zoo was also very good, I learned how large tigers are and also saw some other cool animals. By early afternoon I was finished so I headed up to the hill, I got a bus up which made me realise how high it was. I walked back down it was 1000 steps down with a 5m high cow statue [Nandi] in the middle. After this I thought it was a 2km walk back to the city - it was actually 12km. So late evening I returned, having been too stubborn to catch a bus. I resolved to leave Mysore ASAP!
Location: Bangalore, India
Bangalore was supposed to be the most developed city in the south of India - with talk of the IT boom and the thought of the west in my mind - I started my tour of the city. I'll stop right here it's an absolute dump, one street out of hundreds is even half way decent. Absolutely no hope of finding anything modern. It has hundreds of dodgy book vendors this is its only saving grace. I decided to leave pronto!
I finally decided to leave Hampi, I booked myseflf onto the first night bus I could. I then made a rapid round-up of the tourist attractions by climning a hill to see a monkey temple and visited a lake. It happened to be a festival day in the centre of Hampi, so with my bags in tow I quickly headed to Hospet from where my bus left. On the bus I met Sittar a friendly guy, who told me all about spirituality very loudly - i fained interest, so well in fact that he came to see me off beforemy bus left. I was in Hospet for too long, there is nothing there - i drank juice, chai and wondered aimlessly. I met a social worker who I spoke to for ages, he was a nice guy so I gave him my e-mail to send some info. I got on the bus at 10pm it left at 11:30, it was monumentally uncomfatable - if my previous night bus journeys had been bad this was something else. I was on the very back row and the seat didn't recline, I not only couldn't sleep but was very cold and was flung a metre in the air by each rut and bump. I met two Glaswegian guys in front of me with reclinging seats - who most annoyingly could sleep.
Location: Hampi, India
I awoke early to move camp accross the river to where there were rumours of beer. Hampi was a beautiful and unbelievable place, the whole region is strewn with house sized boulders and there are bits of temple and whole temples everywhere, all covered in stone carving and sculpture. The other side of the river was serviced by a single boat, with a 50km trip to get to the other side by road. The boat ran till 6:30pm each evening after this you were on your own. No suprises the following day I was to be stranded, someone kindly offered to show me a spot where I could wade accross for a hefty fee, funnily I kindly declined and found a cheap room for the night. When I finally got back accross the river I discovered that films were played everynight - awesome, I saw Road Trip which was a kindly reminder of days back home. In the following days I also watched England get hammered in the one dayer, i just happened to be watching it with a few Ozzi blokes. I saw almost all of the temples, which involved crossing mountains and cycling for miles.
Location: Hampi, India
Finally getting fed up of Goa, and with the happy memory of the Man U vs. Villa FA Cup match in my mind I embarked on a mammoth 13 hour bus journey to Hampi. It was suprisingly quite a nice day, watching the world go by from the bus window, with a crazy, drunk indian who spoke no english for company. My ipod and book were also rather handy, I was reading Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor which I highly recommend. I arrived at Hampi at about 10:30 pm, quickly met some Israeli girls to chat to and by the time I went to bed I was more than a bit tired.
Location: Goa [Calangute], India
On my final stop of my Goa tour I decided to head for package holiday central. It was very busy and packed with middle aged English people. It had its advantages, first there were loads of bars, second they played football matches on TV. On my first night I asked about for the prime venue, Mambos Bar, which had a cover charge of 800 Rs [10 pounds]. Not wanting to spend this type of money I arrived at 7:30pm where I got in for free. I stayed drinking small digusting beers for several hours before people arrived, but 10 pounds extra in my pocket put a spring in my step and beer in my belly. The night turned out well, though for some reason my pool wasn't so good.
Location: Goa [Arambol], India
After fully recovering and working on my tan I decided to head to a more secluded spot Arambol a traveller haunt. It proved terribly boring so I launched a sightseeing mission on the 5th to Old Goa the deserted old Portugeuse capital, which has loads of churches in a very small space - it was an exhausting expedition, but the churches were quite nice.
Location: Goa [Vagator], India
New Years Eve did not dissapoint. I started in Nine Bar which was packed with tourists, I moved on just after midnight. I was with a bunch of English and Australian people, after about an hour blasting around in a taxi deciding where to go. Half of us ended up at this massive rave at a place called The Hill Top, it was huge and came with a compliment of cheap booze stands, glow paint and stick sellers, and chai shops - not to mention the omlette makers. One of the Ozzi guys Mike bought everything in sight, before long he was wearing two hats, was covered in glow paint [as were all of us], and carried more glow sticks than seemed possible - no suprises he was about as drunk as a person can be. I returned to my room sometime the next day, where I slept for most of the next day.
Location: Goa [Vagator], India
Palolem, though extremely beautiful didn't have enough party to keep me more than a day to recharge my batteries. I moved on to Vagator supposedly the centre of the Goan party scene. I spent the day on the beach and at some point in the afternoon I noticed that somewhere on the clifftop unbelievably loud trance music was being pumped out. This I later discovered was from Nine Bar, an amazing outdoor club, which was cheap - I entertained myself for the evening, warming up for New Years.
Location: Jaipur and Goa [Palolem], India
I found myself at a station at about 6am, I wondered where it was and whether I would get to Jaipur in time for my flight. I was just about to start dozing again when a man walked past, I asked where we were..."Jaipur". I dived from the train with moments to spare - in very un-indian style the train had made up time. There were several happy hours at Jaipur airport before my lunch time flight. I arrived in Goa, it was 3pm and hot, very hot. I managed to get to Palolem the most beautiful beach I have ever seen before dark and I celebrated with a beautiful, cheap, cold beer! I stayed in a beach hut which was very basic, but gave the right kind of atmosphere. I went for a swim, this place was good!
Location: Jodphur, India
I visited the fort - Mehrangarh. It was a real British style tourist attraction, with audio tour and museum. It kept me entertained for hours. The views out onto the city were breath taking and also very blue. I wasted away the rest of the day drinking chai and juice in anticipation of catching my 10 pm train to Jaipur to fly out to Goa. The connection time was five hours which by Inidan standards is cutting it fine. When the train finally showed up two and a half hours late I realised why! I couldn't find my carriage and after pissing about on the platform for an eternity I depserately jumped into any old carriage - it smelt like piss and was packed. I jumped out, ran, fell over, ran some more, got into a clean carriage, realised I'd lost my shoes more running. I was then informed by people who spoke no English I was in thewrong carriage - they didn't seem to understand the train was now moving and I may be in it as I feared missing the train. After two hours sitting on the floor I found my sleeper carriage, where I couldn't sleep as it was too cold. First sleeper journey not a success.
Location: Jodphur, India
In a last ditch attempt to see the cool bits of Rajasthan I headed to Jodphur - location of an enormous impenetrable looking fort on a high ridge and a city painted in indigo blue. My only remaining connection with Christmas was Charle's Dicken's The Cricket on the Hearth which wasn't very christmassy at all, and I was rather pleased to finish on the bus. The bus journey on a local bus, packed to the rafters, luckily I had a seat. I didn't have enough leg room and my arse was sore after camels. An old guy borrowed my photography book and absolutley loved the photos [especially one of camels]. I arrived just before dark and quickly found somewhere cheap to stay!
Location: Jaisalmer, India
Christmas in the desert was really nice, we took a miniature Christmas tree. There was also an abundance of smokes and beers which went down rather well. The camel guy also started playing the strangest instrument I have ever seen like a little metal stick he bites between his teeth. Camels are not the most comforatable ride in the world and my anoos is not feeling great! I also had the worst curry ever when I got back to Jaisalmer - it was, I kid you not just, lime pickle and chicken, it was supposed to be a Dhansak. I had a pretty good pancake to wash it down though. I was shattered so had an early night! Oh yeh I spoke to the parents which was also very nice!
Location: Jaisalmer, India
I am embarking on a camel safari through the Great Tarr desert, it is for three days two nights so I will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning in the desert which is approaching the anti-christmas. It is also riduclously cheap costing 4 pounds a day with food and everything.
Location: Jaisalmer, India
Oh my God my first experience of a night bus was absolute carnage. It is hard to express the pain and suffering I felt. I was cold, I was worried about the integrity of my ring piece, I didn't have enough leg room and some shady little Indian guy was sitting in the aisle, i thought he might rob me if i slept too long. When I arrived in Jaisalmer I was suprised by how awesome the fort was. It is perhaps the best thing I have yet seen in India, a giant and vast sandstone fort on a hill it has ornate towers and crenelations and is packed with similarly beautiful buildings. There are also tons of sweet shops which I frequented throughout the day. We got rooms in an amazingly cheap guest house, but in return we have been hounded about camel safaris to an almost comical level.
Location: Pushkar, India
Having Spent only a day in Jaipur, we decided to move on to Pushkar. Pushkar's only attraction is a lake, it is a very nice lake though and in said lake Gandhi's ashes were spread. It is a mosy holy place like many of my chosen destinations so far. In this case it seemed to be a giant tourist shop. It was pretty nice and some of the restaurants were good with nice views. To be honest my only activity was walking round the lake where i saw some cool birds and watching the sun set, we also tried to go to a Gudwara but it had just closed. I also found a bookshop which Howard Marx had visited [a polariod proved it]. We booked tickets for the next evening to Jaisalmer which left at 10pm. I also bought flights to Goa for New Years - which was a bit of an extravagance really.
Location: Jaipur, India
The bus journey from Delhi to Jaipur was a joke! The clowns on the bus kept trying to charge us for having our luggage in the boot - I nearly lost my composure very badly. The bus then drove round the corner where we had to get out get onto an even shitter bus, where we waited for about an hour and a half. Jaipur was basically just a big city, the famous pink city was also kind of orange which was a bit of a dissapointmenmt. We then went to the cinema to watch Dhoom:2 a truly awesome bollywood film!
Location: Delhi, India
Left Rishikesh with the beer people I met the other day. Went back to Delhi which was better than last time! Bought some cheap and poorly constructed traveller garb. Planning to go to Jaipur tomorrow!
Location: Rishikesh, India
Went rafting on the Ganges today! It was really good and only cost 8 quid there was amazing scenery, the water was pretty cold though. There were five of us Sam, Irena [a Bulgarian woman on a detour from a South Korean studies condference, amazingly she doesn't seem to like South Korea or Koreans], Sebastian [a German guy], and Catherine [19 year old Gap year girl who wants to join the army and does yoga]. A good day!
Location: Rishikesh, India
I met a group of solo travellers travelling together Ryan [Canadian], Oren [Israeli], Bex [Essex girl, actually 28 yr old teacher], and Helen [also from Essex], and Raffael [Swiss] cool bunch, they went on a quest for booze which resulted in BEER! Quite a commodity in the North of India as no-one drinks. I nearly got pissed!