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First Night - Oh What a shock! ;-)

Mumbai, India

So it all starts here!!!!! The flight to Mumbai was great, thanks to our lovely nurse friend Sarah who gave us some sleeping tablets we managed to grab about 5 hours so getting into Mumbai airport was great. We had no problems getting a pre-paid taxi to our hotel.....but the ride to the hotel was a bit of a shock, it's juct so busy with traffic and there appears to be no lanes- it seems to be 'who dares wins' pretty much! so lots of beeping horns & dodging in & out of traffic. It's just a bit of a cutlure shock, an obviously big contrasting city between the rich & the poor with a massive gap in the middle. The only way to describe it is like there's been a nuclear war, everything has been wiped out & people are starting their lives again. Except they're not. That's just how they live......wherever there's a space to squeeze, whether it's on the side of as road or down the side of a derelict building that's their home. Unfortunately we didn't have any charge on our camera hence only a few pics (which I'll upload soon) & when we got to our hotel , which was ok, clean & fine for 1 night, we didn't really want to spend the evening there. There was nothing really to do or see around it, so we headed in Mumbai. We saw the Gateway to India, had a wander around the Taj Mahal hotel which is spectacular, then the only place I remembered to go from when I visisted 10 yrs ago was Leopolds Bar! - which is an infamous Mumbai hangout.
So the first night that's pretty much all we did- and to being honest we're not sure how much more there is to see. So I don't think we'll be heading back. Sorry Mumbai, you're just a bit too crazy for us!

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 6, 2011 from Mumbai, India
from the travel blog: mich_and_dan_moors's Travel Blog
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Varkala, Kerala

Varkkallai, India

So next onto Varkala....a beautiful beach resort set in the cliffs. Our stay was at 'Shiva Garden' which for a budget of just 500 ruppees, around 7.50, it was actually prettty lovely. V. clean, everything we needed and it didn't freak out my lovely OCD hubby!! ;-) To be honest it was a bit of a easy settling in period.....we did naff all every day! Got up, ate amazing fruit salad, went for a bit of a stroll on the beach,tried to master marbles Solitaire (failed miserably) had a few beers , ate fresh fish, and then to bed. Every night! We met some really lovely people from the off....Ichbaal a guy from London, the crazy travelling Trish who gave us some great tips, Lauren, Margarita,and Matt & his wife Clare with son Oscar.

Our favourite haunt at lunch was Lakeside bar- we'd watch the fishermen come in every day on their 'boats' 3 Banana shaped pieces of wood tied together) & we even went out on the boat for a little trip with one of the fishermen which was amazing.

The people who ran Shiva were amazing & organised a trip to the 'Temple Festival' which I believe is how they celebrate the first & last crop harvests- the local guys will carry a massive Tower across the paddy fields which is then lifted onto the Elephant who parade them around the village.
The photies posted are of the festivities & the local people who were just so beautiful & welcoming.

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 7, 2011 from Varkkallai, India
from the travel blog: mich_and_dan_moors's Travel Blog
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The Backwaters of Alleppey

Alleppey, India

Next onto Allepey for just a few days which is the place to see the amazing 'Backwaters'. We took a train from Varkala and were joined by Trish & Lauren whom we'd met at Shiva garden.....crazy girl, both really fab company. And they really did appreciate having Dan around to carry & load/unload their bags onto the train ;-) The trip took about 2.5 hours, and weridly on the way we met an Indian couple who had friends from Stoke & lived in Bridlington! Such a small world.
We checked in for just 2 nights as there's not much to do or see other than the Backwaters, and to be honest we'd been spolit a bit by staying in the beachy resort of Varkala. Alleppey is a bit more city like, not a relaxing place so 2 nights was enough. The owners of the Homestay recommened a canoe/paddle trip on the Backwaters which was just 700 rupees which all 4 of us booked.

The next day Antony who would be our local guide for the day, picked up up at 8.15 and we proceeded to catch the Ferry. From the start the views were absolutley stunning. The pictures speak for themselves

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 15, 2011 from Alleppey, India
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Kummilly, Thekkadi

Thekkadi, India

(Sorry not had chance to upload photies- to follow)
Staying here was amazing!!! Our guesthouse was set in the forest/national game park so the views were fantastic, our room was so clean & spacious that we immediately booked a few extra nights to take advantage. The guys at Shiva Gardens had already recommended things for us to do so we booked on the spice & tea plantation tour as well as an elephant ride.
It was a really lovely walk into the town, and on the way there & back every day we saw families of monkeys & their babies so that was a treat in itself.
The next day we woke up, excited for our visit to see the Elephants!!! I was like a child, too excited but we were both a bit worried about it being too 'commercial' and just hoped the animals were going to be well looked after..........the fab news was they were. So much in fact we saw a pregnant elephant who had conceived within the reserve so that was lovely. The ride lasted for 30 mins and was great, a bit bumpy , but the enormity of these amazing creatures when you're riding on the back of them is pretty unbeliveable. The BEST part of the day was that we got to actually wash an elephant!!! - we both washed & scrubbed it, then sat behind it ears & gave them a good wash! We then took it in turn to climb on it's back where it proceeded to squirt a trunkfull of water over us. It was great! I could go on & on about it, a bit boring for you to read, but we both loved the experience.
Day 2- Tea Plantation & factory tour which was so interesting, lots of facts including they use the same type of tea leaf to produce 6 kinds of tea ( i always thought green tea came from another tea plant?) as well as they only export 20% of the tea they produce, the remaining being consumed in India.
Ou guide for the Spice Tour was pretty mad- an old Indian guy who kept on telling us how much he loved the UK & quoting Mr Bean episodes! WTF?!!!!! Again we learnt a lot about spices such as 'All Spice' is actually a plant- which we originally thought was a manufactured mix of several different spices. Monty Don had actually been to this very Spice plantation so it seems we were in good company ;-)
All in all, we loved Kumilly its a great place to chill out & soak it all up

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 17, 2011 from Thekkadi, India
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Trekking in Munnar

Munnar, India

After a 5 hour bus trip from Kumilly, we arrived at Munnar. The main reason for the stop over, as well as it kind of being on the way, was for us to do a bit of a trek. Which we did ..........all through the Tea Planatations starting at 6.30 am , breakfast on the Mountain at 2100ft, then back down. Piccies below

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 21, 2011 from Munnar, India
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Fort Cochin & the Chinese Fishing nets

Cochin, India

Cochin is most famous for the Chinese fishing nets....which are pretty much as they sound ;-) So we of course saw these, and the really cool thing is that you can see all the fresh fish catches of the day pick what you like & then get it cooked. Simples!
We also had a great Rickshaw driver who took us on a tour of the town which included an amazing Dutch Palace as well as where the locals were drying, sorting & packing ginger.

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 23, 2011 from Cochin, India
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The epic journey to Mysore......but it was worth it

Mysore, India

We left Fort Cochin at around 7pm, so 2 rickshaw trips later & a Ferry we finally ended up at the right train station (our lovely Rickshaw driver took us to the wrong one initially, just becuase it was closer. Don't you just love them!) This was our first overnight sleeper train.....neither of us were really looking forward to it. Me (Mrs Moors) even less so once I had boarded and found myself on the top bunk of a jam packed carriage shared by around 35 passengers. Just lovely!!! But to be fair, once I had gotten over the initial shock & tucked myself up in my sleeping bag it was ok & I managed to get a few hours kip. We got awoke to the cries of ' Tea! Chai! Chai! Tea' at about 7am, passed a few hours away chatting to a lovely Indian couple & watching the scenery and finally arrived in Bangalore station around 10am.
We were pretty lucky to find a train leaving at 10.30 to Mysore.........but little did we know that this would take us another 5hrs. Finally we arrived after travelling for about 17hrs in total and consuming just a few biscuits in all that time! The saving Grace was that the homestay we had booked was just so lovely & clean, very much like a B&B in the Lake District!, so we quicky got changed a went to the 'Park Lane Hotel'
Afer about 10 bottles of beer, some gorgeous curry & a few hours of watching the Cricket all was forgiven!

Later that evening we managed to drag our tired bones to see the maharaja's Palace. It was so worth it, it was lit up in all it's glory. Truly beautiful.

Day 2- we went on a rickshaw tour of the city which including Tipu Sultans Palace, the Mysore Prison, Chaimundi Hill, a temple of worship with Amazing views of the city & a v.large Black Bull!, plus all of the local sights such a a guy hand rolling cigarettes (he makes around 1500 a day & gets paid about 1.30GBP a day, 10 hrs a day, 7 days a week!) the local market & Insence stick making.

All in all, Mysore was fab. Well worth a visit and the trauma of getting there ;-)

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 26, 2011 from Mysore, India
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Bangalore - "Same, Same- but different"

Bangalore, India

Being a major city, Bangalore was very busy and very expensive compared to other places we'd visited so far. We checked into a hotel, as opposed to a homestay, which was probably the most plush place we'd stayed so far but we paid the price- about 4 times as much as we were used to. It even had a TV. Get us!!!
However this was the place where both Dan & I took it in turns to lose the plot...........the things that set us off were mainly the rickshaw drivers who ignored us when we asked to go somewhere but then insisted on taking us to where THEY wanted to, for whatever price that popped into their head. Or sometimes blatantly lying telling us 'oh no it's closed now, I'll take you xxxx that is open'. Oh and sometimes another guy would hop on just for the ride & try to take us where HE wanted to go, so he'd receive a commission. As they say in India "Same, Same. But different" ;-)
On the plus side (kind of), Bangalore was full of the things us tourists love.....Western shops. And plenty of them. Levis,M&S, Nike, Lacoste, as well as Hard Rock cafe, Pizza Hut, Nando's. Ashamedly we gorged ourselves on as much as we could (which actually gave us our first ever experience of 'Delhi Belly'), including shopping, and even went to watch a movie. We really just wanted to escape from the madness for a few days and kind of feel Normal.
We did see some of the sights too such as the Botanical Gardens and the Black Bull Temple, but I think we both came to realise that however much we love India the Cities are just not for us!

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on March 29, 2011 from Bangalore, India
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Hampi - Meet the Flinstones!!

Hampi, India

Hampi was amazing. From start to finish we absolutely loved it.
I think it was good karma straight away that as soon as we arrived we met a guy called Ray who recognised our Stoke accents and then proceeded to tell us that he once travelled with a guy from Stoke who I only went to High School with!! If ever the saying 'it's a small world' was more apt.

We met some more lovely people and pretty much spent the next few days on scooters with them exploring the incredible landscape. Everywhere our eyes could see there were huge sandstones boulders that were perfectly perched on top of each other, amongst rivers, Temples, mountains and lush green paddy fields. I know it sounds very cliched but it felt very magical........but it also looked just like the well crafted film set of a Flintstones movie!! We would not have been surprised to see Fred sliding down the back of a Dinsosaur or taking a shower under an Elephants trunk!

As a brucey bonus it was also Cricket World Cup Fever and India (as you know) were in the final against Sri Lanka so we got to watch the match with a the great group of friends we'd made, drinking 'Knockout' 8% Beer & eating Pizza. As my Dad would say 'What could be finer?!'

The photos I'll post probably wont do the place justice, but so far it's our most favourite place we have visited in India

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on April 1, 2011 from Hampi, India
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The infamous sleeper bus to Gokarna

Gokarn, India

We travelled to Gokarna on the sleeper bus with the lovely Zoe & Kate we met in Hampi. The plan, as we thought, was that the coach would take us direct into Gokarna. The bus driver however had other plans......so at about 1am in the morning we were kicked off the bus and transported to a 15 seater mini bus that then proceeded to drop us off at Om Beach at 3am. Apart for that being a bit of a shock to us all, the killer punch was that we had to make our way about 1mile down to the beach in pitch black to try & find a place to sleep.
Not Open!
There were about 8 of us all aimlessly wandering the beach amongst the stray dogs & Cows hoping to find a guesthouse open but they were all shut for the night. We managed to 'lose' the other 4 people (we were a bit worried that if we did manage to find somewhere open we'd have to have a bun fight for the beds!) and Zoe & I crawled through the opening of a place where we could see a few people sleeping . We managed to wake someone up & pretty much ask if there was any room at the Inn? He kindly let us sleep with them on the concrete floor/walls until the morning when the Manager would let us know if there were rooms free.
So who was it that said travelling was such careless fun?!!

Thankfully there were rooms for us all. And in a happen of coincidence, our rooms were next to our other friends we'd met - Charlotte & Acer, and Uri. So it was like a group Reunion!!

Other than chill on the beach & swim in the sea, Dan & I made our way to Murudeshwar on the bus. It took a few hours to get there but boy was it worth it!
Murudeshwar is basically just one HUGE Shiva monument, sitting on top of a massive hill next to a golden Temple. I'm sure the Indians can give it a much more holy explanation, but whatever the reasons for it, it was certainly very impressive

permalink written by  mich_and_dan_moors on April 4, 2011 from Gokarn, India
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