A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

Bangalore - Last stop! + thanks to the equipment!

Bangalore We took the "superfast" train from Mysore to Bangalore, which was a comfortable two and a half journey. Getting from the train to our accommodation in Bangalore was a different story! It must have been 20 minutes to struggle our way with the masses just to get out of the large station and then there was the hassle of trying to get an auto rickshaw for a reasonable price. (They should use their meters by law but seem to systematically refuse to do so for tourists in Bangalore). Finally, we got one for half the original asking price, so took it. It took quite a long time because the station is quite a long way out from the centre, the traffic is horrendous and the driver no idea of the exact location we eere heading for. It was lovely to arrive at our "Heritage Hotel" to find it was an oasis of calm away from the madness of the city - a beautifully restored building which rambles round a small garden with a communal area used for breakfasts etc. They also kindly upgraded us to a lovely room with its own courtyard area with table and bench seats just for us. (As it turned out, we spent a lot of time there so were particularly grateful).

We had a lunch locally at a very nice vegetarian restaurant and the negotiated an auto rickshaw into the centre to have a look round the M G Road / Church Street area. Not very impressed - although Church Street having road works most of its length (in common with most of the rest of Bangalore it seems!) did not help. We did not even find anywhere we fancied eating so ended up back at the local vegetarian place where we had had lunch. (Konark on Residency Road - very good choice, quality and busy with locals).

We had planned to spend the remaining two days doing some sightseeing and picking up some last items, but had consecutive (not concurrent) doses of Bangalore Belly which pretty well put us out of action for the remaining two days! We did struggle in to the Commercial Street area on the first morning to look for some last souvenirs (not very successful!) and thongs/sandals from Bata (ridiculously cheap by European standards), but that was about it,

Thanks to the equipment! On the previous trips in 2008/9 when we had also done blogs we used Internet cafes to do the blogs. This time everywhere we stayed had wifi (of variable quality and accessibility) so we were able to use our own equipment all the time. We were very happy with the convenience and the quality of the equipment so have added a couple of photos of it in this final blog entry! The equipment used was : <ul><li>Lumix TMC-TZ35 (compact) camera </li><li>Samsung 8.5" Tablet</li><li>Camera disk to usb adaptor</li><li>Adaptors + cable (usb to mini usb) - for transferring photos from camera disk onto tablet</li><li>Usb stick (16GB)</li><li>Samsung smartphone (for occasional use) - not shown in pictures</li></ul>Photos were uploaded from the camera to the tablet each day for backup in case of loss/damage to camera and also for use to select and upload to the blog. As we had not added extra storage for the tablet before starting the trip we needed to buy a 16mb usb stick (7 euros) in India to backup the photos from the table as the storage was getting full - to liberate storage space.

We have used this series of Lumix cameras for many years now and they really do produce excellent results. The 20X zoom is particularly useful for wildlife shots. (It did a great job on the leopards in Yala!). Of course, an SLR camera is better to take photos with but, for travelling with a rucksack and a day pack each, using (sometimes packed) public transport makes carrying an SLR camera around as well difficult. The main difficulties with the compact camera are actually seeing what photo you are taking when in bright sunlight and trying to follow moving objects (such as birds in flight) to get a picture in zoom.

The tablet "Dolly" (named from the French medical 'tablet': Dolipran!) was a very convenient size for travelling and was used for practically all computer needs whilst away (access to Internet for information, bookings, news, checking bank, etc), emails and keeping backups of important documents and the photos of course).

As we did not bother with a local phone SIM card, we used the smartphone very little - just to check whether there were any important messages from home for us or to use when the other of us was using Dolly. It did come in very useful once though - in Madurai at the fabulous Meenakshi Amman Temple they forbid use of cameras - but are quite happy to charge a small fee to allow use of mobile phones to take photos. That's India!

End of trip So - that's it! Suberb trip with a great deal of variety. 11 weeks with at least one, often two and sometimes three curry (spicy) meals a day (apart from the last 2 days with Bangalore Belly), and no meat, pasta, pizzas or wine during the 11 weeks! We should be healthier and slimmer after all this ... and relaxed and ready for the next instalment of our retirement.

Paying the auto rickshaw man

Paying the auto rickshaw man


Electronic Equipment for trip

Electronic Equipment for trip


Electronic Equipment for trip

Electronic Equipment for trip


Downtown - Commercial Street area

Downtown - Commercial Street area


Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel

Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel


Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel - our room

Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel - our room


Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel - our room

Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel - our room


Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel - our room

Casa Piccola Cottage Heritage Hotel - our room


Downtown - Commercial Street area

Downtown - Commercial Street area


Downtown - Commercial Street area

Downtown - Commercial Street area


Not the only large road sign like this!

Not the only large road sign like this!

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mysore

Away for an early start from Kalpetta - the bus journey to Mysore takes over 4 hours - we were lucky that a bus to Bangalore (via Mysore) arrived just after we got dropped off at the bus stop. It looked quite an old bus but it turned out to be an unexpectedly comfortable ride. The bus was less than half full for most of the trip and we spent a good part of the journey travelling through the Wayanad and Bandipur Tiger Reserves - no tigers of course, but several sightings of groups of spotted deer along the way, attractive scenery and little traffic until we got closer to Mysore. We had arrived in Mysore and installed ourselves in our hotel by 1300.

Mysore was a pleasant city, with the principle attractions being the Mysore Palace and the Devajera market.

We had booked the Park Lane hotel, which seemed be a well known landmark amongst people from Mysore. It was very well located in the centre, we had a comfortable room and there was a pleasant restaurant/bar which is partially indoors, partially outdoors (where it was shaded by large trees). They even had musicians playing traditional music in the evenings. We tended to use it just for breakfast and a beer (later!). There seemed to be surprisingly few rooms occupied - very few tourists around at the moment - but their restaurant was very busy in the evenings with locals.

On our second day we visited the Palace which really is fantastic - both inside and out. A "must see". A previous palace was entirely destroyed by fire in 1897 and then completely rebuilt by a British architect (completed in 1912). There are extraordinarily colourful and beautiful Marriage, Public Durbar and Private Durbar halls where one can feast ones eyes on beautiful stained glass, bright coloured pillars, paintings, carved wooden doors and ceilings, mosaic marble floors ... ... Sadly, no photography is allowed inside the palace.

The large Devajera market is the other exciting place to wander around - all manner of vegetables and fruits for sale, beautiful flower stalls with flowers and petals for garlands, stalls for spices, bangles ... We had a couple of visits at different times of the day to take in the scene.

We decided we should visit the railway station to check out the trains to Bangalore (much faster and easier that the bus) and took the opportunity to visit the small railway museum behind the train station. There were a few steam engines and a maharaja's private railway carriage on show. Quite sweet really - and an opportunity to have a photo taken in the steam engine cab!!

We were lucky to be staying in Mysore over the weekend. On Sunday evenings, between 1900 and 1945, they light up the (approx) 100000 lights on the palace and entrance buildings to the palace complex. An absolutely extraordinary sight. Fairy tale!!

Mysore Palace - daytime

Mysore Palace - daytime


Mysore Palace: 1900-1945 on Sundays!

Mysore Palace: 1900-1945 on Sundays!


Our bus from Kalpetta to Mysore

Our bus from Kalpetta to Mysore


Park Lane Hotel

Park Lane Hotel


Park Lane Hotel - traditional musicians evenings

Park Lane Hotel - traditional musicians evenings


Room decorations!

Room decorations!


Kite from our room window

Kite from our room window


Excellent thali - Cafe Aramane

Excellent thali - Cafe Aramane


Around town

Around town


Around town - popular saree shop

Around town - popular saree shop


Typical Indian display models - seriously!!

Typical Indian display models - seriously!!


Around town - "New statue"

Around town - "New statue"


Around town - "New statue" (palace behind)

Around town - "New statue" (palace behind)


Mysore Palace - South entrance

Mysore Palace - South entrance


Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace


Mysore Palace - East entrance

Mysore Palace - East entrance


Mysore Palace building entrance - no photos inside

Mysore Palace building entrance - no photos inside


Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace


Mysore Palace - North entrance and gopuram

Mysore Palace - North entrance and gopuram


Mysore Railway Museum - Maharaja's carriage

Mysore Railway Museum - Maharaja's carriage


Mysore Railway Museum - Steam engine

Mysore Railway Museum - Steam engine


Railway Museum - Steam engine and enthusiast!

Railway Museum - Steam engine and enthusiast!


Devaraja Market - late afternoon

Devaraja Market - late afternoon


Devaraja Market - late afternoon

Devaraja Market - late afternoon


Devaraja Market - late afternoon

Devaraja Market - late afternoon


Devaraja Market - late afternoon

Devaraja Market - late afternoon


Devaraja Market - late afternoon - buying bananas

Devaraja Market - late afternoon - buying bananas


Puri stand

Puri stand


Puri Stand

Puri Stand


Puri stand - the cow is after mine!!

Puri stand - the cow is after mine!!


Colonial building - general hospital

Colonial building - general hospital


Colonial building - clocktower

Colonial building - clocktower


Colonial building - not sure which

Colonial building - not sure which


Colonial building - memorial hall

Colonial building - memorial hall


Monumentt/Clocktower near Devajera market

Monumentt/Clocktower near Devajera market


Buildings south of Devajera market

Buildings south of Devajera market


South of Devajera market

South of Devajera market


Devajera market - south entrance

Devajera market - south entrance


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Devajera market - morning

Devajera market - morning


Mysore Palace - 1845 (before lights switched on)

Mysore Palace - 1845 (before lights switched on)


Mysore Palace alight

Mysore Palace alight


Mysore Palace alight

Mysore Palace alight


Mysore Palace alight - East entrance

Mysore Palace alight - East entrance


Mysore Palace alight - North entrance and gopuram

Mysore Palace alight - North entrance and gopuram


Mysore Palace alight - North entrance

Mysore Palace alight - North entrance


Mysore Palace alight

Mysore Palace alight


Mysore Palace alight

Mysore Palace alight


Mysore Palace alight

Mysore Palace alight


Mysore Palace - lights out, time to go home

Mysore Palace - lights out, time to go home

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Kalpetta - Wayanad

Travelled in the comfort of a Volvo AirCon bus for the two and a half hour journey from Calicut to Kalpetta, including 9 spectacular hairpins in a row (for which they had thoughtfully put up signs 1/9, 2/9 ... ... !). It was quite a long bus and had to reverse several times when going round some of the corners to actually get round!

Had some trouble finding the homestay we had reserved (for once we had not noted the address - assuming the auto rickshaws drivers would know it). Got there eventually after telephoning the owner - bit of a shame we did not give up and find somewhere else - not the best rooms we have stayed in this trip! At least we can thank the owner for recommending a good place to eat (Hotel Pankaj) which not only had good food but also the cheapest beer in a bar/rest. we have had in India this time!

Kalpetta makes a good base from which to explore the surrounding countryside. It is a "one street" sort of a place which we looked round during the afternoon. We had discovered a guide who is very well recommended in TripAdvisor and had arranged with him to show us round the area the following day. It also involved hiring a vehicle and driver but the whole package was very reasonable.

Our guide, Sabu, arrived for a nine o'clock start the following day. Our first stop was Edakal caves. These have impressive cave drawings from 3000 years ago. It was an hour and a half round trip to walk/climb up to them (and I mean "UP to them") but it was certainly worth it for the drawings and for the view of the surrounding countryside. No idea how the Indian ladies in sarees made it (very tricky in parts for such clothing)! Other activities over a full day included visits to a couple of lakes (with walks) and checking out the bird life, a cooperative making products from bamboo, a waterfall, and generally driving round through lovely scenery, with a high percentage of the area given over to plantations (usually with surprisingly wide mixture of trees and crops). The area is particularly rich - swathes of bright green tea bushes, deep green leaved coffee trees, jackfruit trees, betel nut palms, cardamom bushes, nutmeg trees, pepper plants (creepers), chili bushes, tapioca plants, etc etc. Really lovely to look at and very interesting to learn about from Sabu (who was very good, knowledgeable and understandable).

We finished off the day pleased with the achievement of completing the climb, a lot more knowledgeable about what the original trees and plants that spices, coffee etc come from, having passed through lovely scenery and having seen plenty of bird life and the rear of a giant squirrel too!

Tea plantation-day trip with guide, car and driver

Tea plantation-day trip with guide, car and driver


Day trip - Lotus flowers on a lake we visited

Day trip - Lotus flowers on a lake we visited


Homestay - OK outside, not one of the best inside!

Homestay - OK outside, not one of the best inside!


Kalpetta town

Kalpetta town


Kalpetta town

Kalpetta town


Kalpetta town

Kalpetta town


Kalpetta town - Chembra peak behind

Kalpetta town - Chembra peak behind


Day trip - Elephant rock - on way to Edakal caves

Day trip - Elephant rock - on way to Edakal caves


Malabar Giant Squirrel - best view of it we got!!

Malabar Giant Squirrel - best view of it we got!!


Malabar Grey Hornbill

Malabar Grey Hornbill


Edakal Caves - nearly there

Edakal Caves - nearly there


Edakal Caves

Edakal Caves


Edakal Caves

Edakal Caves


Edakal Caves - drawings

Edakal Caves - drawings


Edakal Caves - rockface with drawings

Edakal Caves - rockface with drawings


Edakal Caves - drawings (&#62;3000 years old)

Edakal Caves - drawings (&#62;3000 years old)


Edakal Caves - drawings

Edakal Caves - drawings


Edakal Caves - view from entrance to caves 1

Edakal Caves - view from entrance to caves 1


Edakal Caves - view from entrance to caves 2

Edakal Caves - view from entrance to caves 2


Edakal Caves - start of the descent

Edakal Caves - start of the descent


Edakal Caves - descent - Macaque Monkeys

Edakal Caves - descent - Macaque Monkeys


Day trip - Coffee plantation

Day trip - Coffee plantation


Day trip - Coffee plantation

Day trip - Coffee plantation


Day trip - Coffee plantation

Day trip - Coffee plantation


Cardamom plant

Cardamom plant


Checking out a fresh peppercorn - with guide Sabu

Checking out a fresh peppercorn - with guide Sabu


Day trip - Lake

Day trip - Lake


Day trip - On a lake

Day trip - On a lake


Day trip - in a lake!

Day trip - in a lake!


Day trip - On a lake

Day trip - On a lake


Day trip - Walk around lake

Day trip - Walk around lake


Day trip - Birds on lake

Day trip - Birds on lake


Day trip - on a lake

Day trip - on a lake


Indian Swamp Hen

Indian Swamp Hen


Open Billed Stork

Open Billed Stork


Walk around lake - impressive flowers

Walk around lake - impressive flowers


Day trip - lake

Day trip - lake


Day trip - lake

Day trip - lake


Day trip - On a lake

Day trip - On a lake


Day trip - On a lake

Day trip - On a lake


Uravu - bamboo products cooperative

Uravu - bamboo products cooperative


Tea plantation

Tea plantation


Tea plantation

Tea plantation


Tea plantation

Tea plantation


Tea plantation

Tea plantation


Day trip - Waterfall

Day trip - Waterfall

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Calicut - Stopover

It was too far to get to the Wayanad area (our next place to visit) in one day so we decided to stop over in Calicut (Kozhikode). Ferry from Fort Cochin over to Ernakalem on the mainland, auto rickshaw to the station for the train to Calicut - for which we had seats reserved. David (the owner of the homestay in Cochin) had kindly offered to arrange get this for us through a travel agent he knows. We were very thankful because the train was extremely busy - our reserved carriage was full of people standing as well as sitting most of he way - 5 hours in a very hot, crammed carriage! Anyway, after departing 20 minutes late, we actually arrived 5 minutes early in Calicut!! We had booked a modern hotel in Calicut mainly used by persons on business. Comfortable, modern room. It turned out to be an unexpectedly pleasant stopover - auto rickshaw to beach, usual masses there late afternoon (impression they don't see many westerners as constantly stared at), visited Beach Hotel (sundowner beer in garden!) and finished off with excellent meal at Paragon Hotel restaurant (Kingfish "green mango" curry with a traditional Keralan mixed vegetable curry).

Meal seller on train "Biryani anyone?!

Meal seller on train "Biryani anyone?!


Meal seller on train "Biryani anyone?!

Meal seller on train "Biryani anyone?!


Cold drinks seller on train

Cold drinks seller on train


Time for writing up the blog text

Time for writing up the blog text


Hotel! - not pretty, but comfortable

Hotel! - not pretty, but comfortable


Calicut Beach at sunset

Calicut Beach at sunset


Calicut Beach at sunset

Calicut Beach at sunset


Beach Hotel - sundowner

Beach Hotel - sundowner

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Cochin

After our tranquil start to the day on the houseboat, we had a 'rude' change back to the usual rigours of travel in India with the (fortunately relatively brief) journey by buses to Cochin! It started off quietly enough with the bus we needed to catch being on its slow way out of the bus station (they often crawl out hoping to pick up more passengers) - so we got ourselves and rucksacks on the bus and arranged easily. However, the road was very busy and the bus driver particularly aggressive ... (After numerous buses in India we would expect to be used to their lunacy but ... NO!). But the real fun was to come when we needed to change buses at a place called Thoppumpaddy - to get on another bus for the final few kilometers to Cochin. We were told at the very last moment when we needed to get off (so we had a big rush to pick up the rucksacks and get off the bus). Then after braving crossing a road to where the bus we wanted would be going from ... it arrived there just as we did, full, but we got on - Lindsey having to to be helped by the conducter to avoid falling back out of the bus with the weight of her rucksack as the bus pulled off with her just on the bottom step . Anyway, someone took pity and offered her a seat, I found a spot to put two rucksacks and stood the rest of the way. Cochin was a very important centre for the spice industry and has been under the control of the Portuguese, Dutch and finally British at various times in its history. The Fort Cochin area in particular bears testament to these days, with numerous beautiful properties (often now hotels and homestays). An auto rickshaw took us the final leg from the bus stand to the Delight Homestay. And delightful it was! - spacious and comfortable room, balcony looking over a beautiful garden and over to playing fields (with the locals playing numerous games of cricket, football ...). Very friendly and helpful owner. His house was built in the Portuguese era and the room where breakfasts are served, and the enormous living room, have been beautifully furnished and maintained. Fort Cochin was an enjoyable place to spend a few days. There is an area with Chinese Nets and this area, together with adjacent "beach", were absolutely heaving with locals for the Sunday sunset. Our host recommended a couple of excellent places to eat, we found a reasonable bar for our sundowner and it was an easy, relaxing place for a wander (although the under-occupied shopkeepers and auto rickshaw drivers were a little bothersome!). Vypean island (5 minutes away by local ferry) was good for a short visit. It has a short unlittered(!) walkway behind Chinese nets, which was pleasant for a stroll and we also had quite a few sightings of dolphins off shore there. We also went along to nearby Matancherry and had a look at the Dutch museum and Jewish synagogue (the latter being definitely worth a visit). The area used to be full of spice warehouses but is now practically all given over to souvenir emporiums. Yes, we enjoyed our time very much in Cochin - but it is getting/has become too touristy.

Guest House

Guest House


Fort Cochin Chinese nets area

Fort Cochin Chinese nets area


Guest House

Guest House


Guest House

Guest House


Guest House -view from balcony

Guest House -view from balcony


Guest House -view from balcony

Guest House -view from balcony


Guest House - Breakfast room

Guest House - Breakfast room


Guest House - living room

Guest House - living room


Fort Cochin town

Fort Cochin town


Mattancherry

Mattancherry


Fort Cochin town

Fort Cochin town


Fort Cochin town

Fort Cochin town


Fort Cochin town

Fort Cochin town


Fort Cochin town

Fort Cochin town


Basilica Santa Cruz

Basilica Santa Cruz


Fort Cochin Chinese nets area

Fort Cochin Chinese nets area


Fort Cochin Chinese nets area

Fort Cochin Chinese nets area


Fort Cochin Chinese nets area

Fort Cochin Chinese nets area


Fort Cochin Chinese nets area

Fort Cochin Chinese nets area


Dal Roti restaurant - Thali

Dal Roti restaurant - Thali


Dal Roti restaurant

Dal Roti restaurant


Vypean ferry

Vypean ferry


Vypean - church

Vypean - church


Vypean - Chinese fishing nets

Vypean - Chinese fishing nets


Vypean - Chinese fishing nets

Vypean - Chinese fishing nets


Vypean - view towards Fort Cochin

Vypean - view towards Fort Cochin


Vypean - view towards Fort Cochin

Vypean - view towards Fort Cochin


Fort Cochin town

Fort Cochin town


Sunday at the playing fields

Sunday at the playing fields


Sunday at the playing fields

Sunday at the playing fields


Sunday at the playing fields

Sunday at the playing fields


Cochin - Sunday at sunset time!

Cochin - Sunday at sunset time!


Cochin - Sunday at sunset time!

Cochin - Sunday at sunset time!


Cochin - Sunday at sunset time

Cochin - Sunday at sunset time

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)