A Travellerspoint blog

March 2009

Kandy (Sri Lanka)

sunny 32 °C
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We had a long and tiring journey here, but somehow we managed to survive! P1040494.jpg We left Chennai at 1am, arrived in Colombo at 2am, then got a taxi up north to Negombo, where we slept for about 6 hours. We checked out the next morning and got a bus back to Colombo, where we got another bus to Kandy, which took the rest of the day. We arrived in Kandy late at night and after finding the hotel, just passed out really! First impressions of Sri Lanka are that it is a lot cleaner than India, more polite and twice as expensive! We are both sightly cultured shocked as we were expecting a smaller version of India.

We spent the first day walking around Kandy, which is an old colonial town with a large man-made lake in the centre. Its a very pretty place, quite leafy and easy to walk around. P1040498.jpgP1040516.jpg We went to the famous temple by the side of the lake where Buddhas tooth is supposedly kept, and attracts a lot of pilgrims for obvious reasons. You dont actually get to see the tooth, only the closed box which it is stored in. However it is apparently paraded at prayer time, but tourists are not allowed in the temple whilst this happens...P1040499.jpgP1040502.jpg

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the lake and trying to avoid the touts who want to take you to another hotel, restaurant or give you a tour of the town. Rather annoying after a while I can tell you!

We got up early this morning so we could get a bus to the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, just west of Kandy. The bus station was so confusing (the buses just line the streets, and you have to find your bus!). We searched for ages in the boiling heat and finally found our bus, but discovered it was going to take over 2 hours to get there, far too long in the scheme of things. We got a rickshaw in the end, which took an hour! The orphanage was amazing, we got there in time to watch the little ones being fed milk by the bottle and then after that the whole herd of 60 is taking down to the river for a bath. P1040537.jpgP1040579.jpgP1040584.jpgP1040594.jpg We managed to get really good seats so we could watch them all coming into the river, it was amazing. I have never seen so many elephants in my life, it shut Chris up as well! After watching them for an hour or so they got rounded up to be taken back to their home, which was lucky as the heavens decided to open at that moment! The first time we have felt rain since leaving the UK! Even more luckily the guy who runs our hotel was showing someone else the elephant orphanage, so we managed to catch a lift back with him! P1040602.jpgP1040611.jpgP1040640.jpg

We leave Kandy tomorrow to go to Dambulla, which is just slightly north of Kandy. We shall write again soon, hope you are all well
Miss you lots,
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 04:38 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Kanyakumari, Madurai and Chennai

sunny 35 °C
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We left the lovely beachy land of Kovalam, and got a short train down the coast to the very most southern tip of India, Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin). P1040459.jpg There is little to do in this small town apart from boast about the fact that you have reached the most southern point of india! Our hotel was amazing, we got a southern facing room on the top floor, the views of endless sea were spectacular! P1040446.jpg We got a boat the following day out to a small island just off the shore, on which there is a shrine. This island is technically considered the most southern point of india, so a visit was necessary! We tip toed around the hot hot shrine, and then got a ferry to an adjacent rock on which stands a huge statue of a famous tamil poet (an indian attempt at the statue of liberty!). P1040479.jpgP1040466.jpgP1040474.jpgP1040475.jpgP1040478.jpg

We left kanyakumari the next day to go to Madurai, which also has only one attraction on the tourist menu. The famous multicoloured gateways (or Goporums), which are carved with many different Hindu deities and mark the entry points to the Sri Meenakshi Temple. P1040480.jpg You may have seen them on tv? Either way, this is pretty much all there is on offer so we went to visit at sunset, when the colours look the best! I thought they were amazing, very colourful and bright and a lot larger than I first imagined! They look quite out of juxtapose in the hustle and bustle of the Madurai streets, but overall I was impressed with them! P1040482.jpg

We left Madurai this morning to come here, Chennai, where we are only staying an afternoon and evening really as we are getting our flight to Sri Lanka at 1am, or something silly like that! We have changed a small bit of money in preparation for the rickshaw when we get there, our next entry will be from the lovely island of Sri Lanka!

Hope you are all well,

Lots of Love
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 03:46 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Cochin to Kovalam!

sunny 33 °C
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We left Cochin in the next morning yesterday to get a train to Alleppey, from where we got a boat through the back waters of Kerala to Kottayam! The boat was fantastic, most tourists take the really expensive rice boats (the famous ones you see on tv), but we got the local ferry for 15p each and it went twice as fast! I know its silly to say, but it looks just like it does on tv, after seeing it so many times it was great to finally witness them! P1040278.jpgP1040327.jpgP1040329.jpgP1040347.jpg Once we arrived in Kottayam, we had 5 hours before our train that evening, so we got a Rickshaw into town and sat and watched the world go by! Our train took us to Thiruvananthapuram (wow long place name...thanks chris!) where we arrived too late to get a bus, so we got another rickshaw to the local seaside town of Kovalam, which is where we are staying for the next 3 days!

Its really pretty here, there is nothing to do apart from sit on the beaches and watch the world go by! We spent most of this afternoon sitting on the beach, in a tiny piece of shade we managed to find, and tried to chill out a bit after a hectic week. P1040366.jpgP1040367.jpgP1040409.jpg Tomorrow we intend to do pretty much the same again, it's far to hot to do anything more strenuous anyway! We leave on Tuesday for Kanyakumari at the very bottom tip of india, then we will head back up to Chennai.

Hope everybody is well!
love Chris and Alex xx

Posted by chrisalex 07:37 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bangalore and Cochin!

sunny 36 °C
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We got an overnight train from Hampi last night and arrived in Bangalore at 6am this morning. We walked to the hotel had a shower and went to bed. After a few hours kip (you never really sleep well on trains), we set out to explore the delights of Bangalore. We got a rickshaw to the Government building, which is a large impressive building built in semi-colonial style. P1040250.jpg Across the road is the High Court and adjacent to that is the library, basically everything we need to set up shop properly. Bangalore is a very green city and as such has a large park in the centre, which is a great way to avoid the heat. Although its hot here, it was hotter in Hampi so we are appreciating the few degrees we have lost by travelling further south! We leave Bangalore early tomorrow morning to go to Cochin, so it really was a whistle stop tour of the city of boiled beans (literal translation apprently)....

We arrived fine in Cochin, its without a doubt the hottest place we have been to so far. Not only was it about 35 degrees but also the humidity was up around 60%, resulting in a very hot and sticky pair of travellers! We stayed across the water, so got a cheap ferry across to Fort Cochi for both the days (the more touristy area). We found the famous chinese fishing nets and sat and watched them being used for a while, whilst trying in vain to find some cool! P1040254.jpgP1040256.jpg We then had a walk around and found the oldest european church in India! P1040262.jpgP1040269.jpg Its a very pretty little church!We walked down the front and then got a rickshaw to Jew Town, to go and see the famous old synagogue, but we failed to realise it was friday afternoon, the sabbath, so it was closed unfortunatly! Nevertheless we had a plod around Jew Town (there are very few Jews left here now), before getting a Rickshaw back to Fort Cochi.

The first night in Cochin we nearly died of heat, we hardly slept! For the second night we had to succumb to the delights of air con (we have resisted so far, as the ceiling fans are quite effective), but i can safely say it was the best few quid we have spent so far!). The room was like a fridge by the morning!

Hope you are all well,
Lots of Love
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 04:43 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Mumbai and Hampi!!

sunny 35 °C
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Hello everyone!

Its been a while since we last wrote so i expect ill have a lot to say! The train to mumbai was fine, pretty uneventful as trains go and was completly on time. Varun however was not and managed to sleep in, he was supposed to pick us up at 8am, but when we called him he was still in bed! typical! Either way he manged to get there in the end and we went straight back to his so we could wash, as we were very greasy at that point!

Our week in Mumbai was ace, it was so good to see varun again and we find mumbai very relaxing, perhaps because Varun and his family make us feel so at home we never want to leave! Baby Ruhaan is so cute, we spent a lot of time playing with him, at nearly 3 months old hes getting quite big now! And scarily enough he is attempting to walk, it makes him quite when you prop him up, Ruhaan at maximum height! P1040042.jpgP1040047.jpgP1040050.jpg

We went to the cinema and shopping and tried out various restaurants in mumbai. Varun is very busy at work so some days he left us to our own devices, which was fine by us as we were really tired for the first few days ( a months travelling caught up on us). Then we had to spend one day trying to sort out hotels for the next leg of the journey, which we managed fine. So all in all it worked out quite well. We spent every evening with varun going to various night spots, mainly funky bars where we felt very out of place in our shorts and t shirts!

On Friday we took a day trip to Elephanta island, which is an island in just off the penisula of mumbai, and the number one tourist spot in mumbai. On the island is a series of caves, which were built around 1500 years ago, which contains images of hindu gods, its basically a temple carved into the rock. We left early with varun on the way to work and carried on going all the way into town, where we got a ferry, which took and hour, over to what we discovered to be the hottest island in the world. The plan was to try and avoid the heat, but by the time the we got there is was midday, aka temperature equals core of the earth. When we got there you get a tiny little train across a bridge to the bottom of the island. island.jpg This is where we didnt realise that the caves are located at the top of the hill, sigh! Lets just say by the time we got to the top not only were we out of breath, but we both looked like we had just had a shower (attractive!). I dont think we have ever been hotter than this day, the major problem with mumbai is the humidity, which was high on that day, as well as it being around 36 degrees! When it gets to this point, not even the shade is cold anymore! We plodded around the caves (after paying Rs250...indians pay Rs10), and i must say that the carvings were well worth the visit. There was one inparticular of the 3 headed Shiva (over 20ft high), which looked eearie in the dark but very impressive at the same time!cave1.jpgshiva1.jpg

After visiting the caves, we plodded back down to the boat, which we were glad of the breeze at this point! I dont think we have collectively sweated as much as we did on that day! When we docked in mumbai we went for a drink and did some shopping on colaba causeway, which is basically like a market where you can buy pretty much anything at rock bottom prices. When we got back to Varun's, i think I can safely say we had the best shower ever!

It was Varun's mum's birthday on the day that we left so we went for a large meal in one of the best hotels in Mumbai. They treat us very much like a part of the family, which is really nice of them. We had an ace lunch and then we had to get back in order to pack our bags (which we left until the last minute!). We literally shoved everything in our bags and sat on them in order to make them close! Our train left Mumbai on time at 8.30pm. We were very sad to leave mumbai, as it will be a long time until we see varun again. Varun being the true indian he is has invited us back and says we have to go back before we leave india! I fear cost and time may be too short in order to acheive this, although i would gladly go back!

Our train was fine, a long overnight one, and arrived on time in Hubli the next afternoon! We then got a 5 hour bus to Hospet, from where we had to get a rickshaw to Hampi. On the bus journey we got covered in pink paint, as they were still celebrating Holi. Unfortunately, the window was open and we were sitting next to it. And we were both wearing white. Ill leave you to fill in the gaps...

By the time we arrived in Hampi it was 8pm, which meant we had been travelling for around 25 hours since mumbai. Needless to say we showered, ate and fell asleep! Surrounding Hampi is an old ruined city, which is spread out all across the area. We hired another scooter yesterday, as there is no other way to see all of the major sites in a day! We christened the scooter Scampi (from Hampi....get it?....we need help...). P1040111.jpg Hampi is a strange place, there are really old rock formations surrounding the area, which makes the place look like a cross between Jurassic Park and the Flintstones. P1040095.jpg Seriously, some of the rocks are so big that you cant even imagine water being able to move them. They're really weird! We saw various temples and ruins along the way, including the Queen's baths and the elephant stables. P1040134.jpgP1040127.jpgP1040143.jpg

Unfortunatly our scooter died at around 4pm, so I sat on a wall with our broken scooter (a local indian informed me that the chain had snapped....great!) whilst Chris walked the short distance to town to get the guy. He rode back up on his bike to get me and the now dead Scampi. He wheeled it back down and swapped it for a white one, which we quickly christened Scampi 2 (it was late in the day, imagination running low...). We were quickly on our way again to go and see the most impressive and well preserved temple of them all, which did not disappoint! P1040156.jpg P1040162.jpgWe got to watch the sunset on the way back as well, and went to the top of a hill so we could look out over the valley, which is littered with strange rock formations! You would not believe the size of some of the rocks, literally as big as houses! P1040223.jpg

Today we checked out this morning and walked to the local temple, where there is an elephant! P1040087.jpg I got rather excited! Elephants are not out of the ordinary here, but i still cant believe it when i see one, chris is more grown up about the whole thing, but i seem to turn into a 6 year old kid - either in slient awe or just smiling like a goon at it! Poor elephant, must be fed up of people just starring at it all the time! Either way, people were feeding it bananas, which she accepted without question! She also blesses or kisses people (basically she whacks you on you head with the end of her trunk) for Rs1, which i was too excited not to do! I got even more excited when i saw the process! You give the coin to the elephant, she takes it with the end of her trunk and smells it, realising its money she gives it to her keeper, and then whacks you on the head with her trunk! We got so excited that we both did it! Poor thing, we wonder what they must have done to her to train her to do that?...Either way it was rather exciting! P1040245.jpgP1040246.jpg

We leave Hampi later on tonight to get an overnight train to Bangalore, translates as 'the city of boiled beans'! We leave at about 8pm from Hospet, and get to Bangalore at 6am, so another tiring day ahead! I shall write next when we are in Bangalore! Sorry for the length of this entry, i wasnt expecting it to be this long! Hope you are all well,
Lots of Love
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 23:17 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Khajuraho (Khuj-u-ra-ho)

The land of the Karma Sutra temples (parental advisory - explicit material!!)

sunny 35 °C
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From Delhi we got an early morning train to Jhansi, which took about 5 hours (that includes 40 mins of just waiting on the track for no reason - sigh). From Jhansi we managed to get a bus to Khajuraho, which took about 5 hours 30, and was not that enjoyable. Apart from being rather numbing on the old behind, it got so busy at points, people hanging from the bus and on the roof - a stereotypical indian bus i suppose! We got here late last night, and the room is really nice, complete with balcony!

From further exploration this morning we have discovered that Khajuraho is a small town and in all respects quite pleasant. We walked around all the temples today, which you may know as the Karma Sutra temples. They are very old and depict various scenes of a sexual nature, not fit for parental eyes! P1030996.jpgP1040001.jpg The greatest mystery with these temples is that they are built in the middle of nowhere (there is now a town, but when they were built they were in the middle of nowhere!). They were abandoned for nearly 300 years until a British man got lost (failing to ask for directions most likely) and stumbled upon the temples, the rest, as they say, is history. P1040007.jpgP1040008.jpgP1040009.jpgP1040015.jpgP1040021.jpg

After having a look round the main temples we hired bicycles and rode south of the town where there are more temples, but they are less impressive than the main ones. Indian bicycles are interesting, they have no gears, are very very high and possibly the most uncomfortable things ever! But at 15p an hour to rent, whose complaining? We rode out into the Indian countryside, where the stereotypical villages were and children ran alongside us and everything! The temples were indeed less impressive, but im glad we saw them nontheless. Its good to get off the beaten track every once in a while!

We are getting a taxi back to Jhansi tomorrow (as i dont think we can face another bus journey), where we get a 19 hour train to Mumbai, which is where we will be for the next week! Due to this we will probably not write the blog for a week, as we usually achieve very little in mumbai, and have done the touristy things anyway! Just letting you know thats all, dont worry!

We shall write in a week or so,
Hope you are all well,
Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 08:11 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Haridwar and Delhi!!

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Got short bus from Rishikesh to Haridwar and checked into nice hotel! The only thing really happening in Haridwar is the main source of the ganges, where at sunset pilgrims gather and push baskets (made out of banana leaves) full of flowers and a candle, down the ganges. Before we went to see this, we got one of the cable cars up the hillside. When I say cable car, it was more like a plastic lunchbox on wire, but an experience nevertheless! Upon the aforementioned hill sits a modern temple, where pilgrims visit before going down to the ganges to pray. P1030961.jpgP1030963.jpgP1030964.jpgP1030966.jpg After soaking up the views from up here, we heading back down for sunset and to watch the little ceremony by the river. There were so many people, and it was very colourful, everything India should be I suppose! We watched for some time as the baskets of flowers got demolished by the river before we plodding back home for the night!P1030969.jpgP1030971.jpgP1030972.jpg

We got the train early this morning (6am) to come back to Delhi, where we are only spending one night before we get another early train tomorrow to Jhansi, where we change to get the bus to Khajuraho, where the famous Kama Sutra temples are located! After that we go back up to Jhansi to get a very very long train back to Mumbai! And that will be the first month over!

Hope everyone is well, missing you all muchly

Chris and Alex xxx

Posted by chrisalex 05:31 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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