Enchanting India

Margaret Kelly 11 February 2010
My love affair with Asia continues. Destination -India!

I visited the state of Goa which still holds true to its chilled-out hippy past, the state of Kerala -a spiritual Mecca and the hectic city of Mumbai, the home of Bollywood.

Goa is a beach lovers’ paradise. We spent our time in Ashwem, Baga, Anjuna and Palomen. Each beach has its own personality. Ashwem is visually stunning, very quite & relaxing. Baga beach has a buzzing night life full of bars & clubs. I loved Anjuna beach, laid back with a distinctly hippy vibe. There was also the most amazing night market every week, a bargain hunters’ dream, with music and food stalls to make a night of it. We rented bikes to explore the surrounding areas and would highly recommend it. We went further south to Palomen beach; this coconut fringed bay reminded me of Thailand. The restaurants along the beach front had fabulous seafood. We booked a boat trip from Palomen beach and we were delighted to see dolphins and majestic sea eagles up close.

An overnight 14 hour train journey took us from Goa to the southern state of Kerala. We arrived in Allepey, home to the backwaters, with 1 night in Allepey and then went aboard our own private house boat to travel through the backwaters. We had our own local chef on board who cooked typical Keralan cuisine. This was a truly unique experience. The serene waterways are fringed with palm groves and paddy fields and offer a striking spectacle of the local rustic way of life. The spectacular sunsets, slow pace and luxury of the house boats would make it a perfect honeymoon trip.

Next stop was to the cliff top beach resort of Varkala, home to yoga and meditation, Ayruvedic. A little something for the mind, body and soul! Trying some of the Ayruvedic treatments is a must. Fabulous arrays of spices are sold at stalls along the cliff top and we decided to book a cookery course to discover how to use of them.

Onto bustling city of Mumbai, when we arrived to a hotel in Cabola area after an interesting taxi journey through the city we were ready to explore. We made our way to the famous Café Leopold’s for dinner and then to the Cabola night market for some shopping. Next day we went to India Gate and took a ferry through Mumbai’s busy harbor to Elephanta Island. Elephanta Island is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Described as “City of Caves” the island has a temple carved into the bare rock.

Our last adventure was a slum tour which I was nervous about but also very much looking forward to it. We booked with a company called ‘Reality Tours’ which I cannot recommend highly enough. Reality Tours are supported by the slum residents as they put the money back into the community by providing literacy classes and computer classes to adults and children. We felt safe and welcome at all times on the tour. The tour of “Dharavi” was a real eye-opener. Talk about blowing away preconceptions, Dharavi is a hive of small scale industries with annual turnover of US $665 million. We saw recycling, making clay pots, a bakery, a soap factory, clothing manufacturing and leather tanning. We also visited the residential areas where we saw how peopled really lived.

The people in India are quite simply the friendliest I have ever met. It is a matter of national pride to them to make you feel welcome. Their open smiles and distinctive ‘head waggle’ draw you in from the first encounter. There is so much more to see and do in India and will definitely will be back to encounter Northern India with Kazakhstan, Taj Mahal & a safari.

India, truly inspiring!