My Trip to India
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I returned from India on January 12th at around Noon, and I’ve been recovering from a bout with food poisoning/jet lag ever since. I’m finally feeling much better now, however, and I’m ready to get back to work. I’m guessing it was the Gatorade + soup + crackers + constant sleep for 3 days straight that did the trick. Whatever it was, I’m just glad to have my health back.
Although my previous post was titled “On Vacation in India”, my trip turned out to be FAR from a vacation. The trip was extremely hectic, and we crammed a ton of different activities and events into a small time slot (yes, 18 days is a small time slot when you’re visiting India).
We kicked off the trip by flying into Mumbai to meet up with my grandmother (on my father’s side). We spent two severely jet lagged days with her, and then proceeded to make our way to Poona via a 3 hour car drive to attend my cousin’s wedding.
After arriving in Poona, we met up with my Mom’s side of the family. I didn’t know it at the time, but our arrival in Poona marked the beginning of the most hectic portion of our trip. There was a 3 day line-up of wedding events planned for the guests, and we were gonna attend every single one of them!
Wedding Day 1 – The Mehndi
This was definitely an event for the ladies, however, we men attended too (we were informed there was going to be some excellent food provided for lunch). During this event, the women had their hands painted with traditional Henna artwork in preparation for the wedding. If you click on the link above, you can see some pictures of this artwork.
Following a delicious lunch, we men parted ways with the ladies to start up a “manly” game of cricket. While I’d love to tell you a story about an intense cricket match that lasted 3 days before a winner was decided, the fact of the matter was that the majority of us had never even picked up a cricket bat in our lives.
What can I say? We Americans are an ignorant bunch.
What ensued was a hilarious display of “athleticism” that can’t be done justice through written words. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera on me at the time, so there aren’t any pictures either. Let’s just say we lost all of the balls we were using, and a small group of locals gathered in amazement to watch the rare spectacle that was taking place (and to make fun of us too, I assume).
After our play was cut short due to running out of balls to play with, we men returned to where the ladies were located. Soon after, my mother and I returned to the family friend’s house we were staying at to relax for the rest of the day.
Wedding Day 2 -The Sangeet
The next night, all of the friends and family gathered to celebrate the wedding of the couple at the “Sangeet“. This event was a ton of fun, and there was a line-up of dance performances by friends and family planned for the night, along with some great catered food, and a DJ spinning awesome music.
After all of the performances, everyone hit the dance floor to get their groove on, yours truly included. I will admit, I’m not too keen on dancing, but this day was an exception. I tore up the dance floor (at least I thought I did), and had a blast while doing so. It seemed like everyone else had a great time too, so I’d say the Sangeet was a success.
Wedding Day 3 – Wedding Ceremony and Reception
The big day finally arrives. The wedding was scheduled during the afternoon, and it was held at the gardens of a military base. I don’t know how they arranged this, but it was an incredible setup. I have to give my cousin props on the decorations and planning.
As usual, the wedding ceremony itself was quite boring. There was a pundit (priest) reciting the traditional wedding verses from a scripture in Hindi, and I could barely understand what he was saying. It wasn’t entirely boring, however, because I believe the pundit was slightly intoxicated during the proceedings. Either that, or he was extremely happy go lucky. He would randomly start laughing, and just seemed a little too goofy for a wedding ceremony. He cracked me up, that’s for sure.
After the wedding ceremony was over, the cousins, nieces, and nephews came together to plot how we were going to steal the groom’s shoes. I know it sounds crazy, but this is an old tradition in Hindu weddings. Once we managed to steal his shoes, he would have to pay us a significant sum of money to get them back. Easy money? Sign me up!
So, we stole the shoes as planned, and he was prepared. He pulled out a wad of cash, and asked us how much we wanted. We said $400, and he quickly dished out the money. We were surprised he was ready to give up so much money so fast. When we asked him why it was so easy for him to give the money away, he told us that he was willing to pay us $1000! He figured $400 was pocket change. Ouch.
The reception was a lot of fun, and the highlight was the amazing selection of food. There was Italian, Mediterranean, traditional Indian, and barbeque to choose from. I chowed down on everything I could get my hands on. After the main course, there was an exquisite dessert selection to choose from, and of course, I tried a bit of everything. Excellent food is definitely one of the finer things in life.
Here are some pictures from the reception:
On January 1st, we left Poona at 530am and made the 3 hour drive to Mumbai airport. We caught a flight to Trivandrum, and when we landed we met up with our driver who was going to be with us for the duration of our trip to Kerala.
Once our bags were finished being strapped to the top of our car, we left the airport and made our way towards Kovalam beach, which is where we would be staying our first 2 nights in Kerala. I didn’t know what to expect, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when we arrived at our hotel.
Kovalam is known for its incredible beaches, and our driver added to this little fact when he told us that the beaches in Kovalam are the best in all of India. Supposedly Goa is “trash” compared to Kovalam (using the words of our driver). I decided I was going to be judge of whether or not the beaches were incredible, and I must say I was not disappointed. The beaches lived up to their hype.
On the second day of our visit to Kovalam, my father had planned to make a 4 hour trip down to Kanyakumari. This city is located at the most southern tip of India, and it’s famous for being the meeting place of three different bodies of water (Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea).
When we arrived it was around 5:00pm, so the sun was starting to set. The sight was absolutely breathtaking. We hurried over to a famous temple located at the edge of the beach (the most southern tip of India), and proceeded to watch the sunset from there. I walked down a set of stairs at the temple, and the bottom-most step actually opened into the sea.
After the sun set, we left to head back to our hotel in Kovalam. The 4 hour drive back was terrible, and when we arrived at our hotel most of us were feeling sick and tired. We ate a quick dinner and then went to sleep, because the next morning we were leaving on another 4 hour journey to Kumarakom.
Kumarakom is a city best known for its backwaters, and the houseboat tours that go along with them.Â Once we finally arrived at the village, we parked at a dock where we would catch a boat that would take us to our hotel. We boarded the small boat, and took a 20 minute ride to the private island where our hotel, Coconut Lagoon, was located. If you’re interested, click on the link I’ve provided to see some of the pictures of the hotel. It was amazing!
Here’s a picture of the hotel lobby from our boat:
The hotel was laid out like a village, and it had the feel of being totally cut off from the rest of the world. There were two restaurants located on site, and the only way you could get off the island was by boat, obviously. As you can imagine, it was an extremely relaxing environment.Â Staying at the Coconut Lagoon was a super cool experience, and I highly recommend it if you’re ever visiting Kumarakom.
We relaxed at the hotel for the first day, and on the second day we planned to do a 5 hour houseboat trip on the backwaters. This was by far my favorite part of our trip to Kerala. The house boat arrived to pick us up from our hotel at 11am, and it was smooth sailing from there. There were couches on the front deck, a dining table, two bedrooms with two full bathrooms, and a magnificent kitchen with two experienced chefs ready to cook up whatever we desired for the duration of our ride.
Here’s a picture of our house boat:
Does it get any better than that?
Up until the houseboat ride, the trip was extremely hectic. I think my family will agree with me when I say the boat was a welcomed interruption in our busy trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride as we spent the entire 5 hours relaxing on the front deck while taking in the beautiful view of the Kerala backwaters.
Sadly, the 5 hours came to an end rather quickly, and we docked at around 4pm. We returned to our rooms to relax for a little while, and then made our way to the pool to relax some more. I laid out on one of the lawn chairs by the pool for a good two hours, contemplated my life, and watched the sun set. This marked the end of another wonderful day of our trip to Kerala.
Up next on our trip was the village of Thekkady. It’s a 4 hour drive from Kumarakom (MORE driving), and we left early in the morning so we would have ample time to see all of the village attractions, namely the spice and tea plantations.
Thekkady is famous for its spices, and there are tons of spice plantations and spice shops located around the village. Before checking in at our hotel, we stopped by one of these spice plantations for a tour. On the tour, our guide showed us a number of locally grown spices (black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, basil, menthol) and allowed us to taste quite a few of them. This was a great experience, and it was cool to try some of the world’s most popular spices directly at their source.
Following the spice plantation, we made our way to our hotel, which was appropriately called “Spice Village”. After checking in we made our way to our hotel rooms, and were startled by how massive the grounds were . There were endless pathways leading in all sorts of directions. Along these pathways there were all kinds of different spices lining the grounds, and each of them was informatively labeled for patrons unfamiliar with spices.
Our hotel was like its own spice plantation!
I thought this was exciting, and I decided to walk the entire grounds to look at all of the different spices they had planted. For example, right outside of our hut was an Egg Fruit tree. I wasn’t sure what this was, but it sounded and looked like pretty interesting.
We were only spending one day in Thekkady, so we had to make the most of it. After checking in to the hotel, we immediately headed out to the next attraction that the village is known for. Tea plantations.
My mom and dad love tea, so they were definitely excited about visiting the tea plantation. We arrived at around noon, which was right on time for a guided tour of a tea factory located on the grounds. Inside we saw the leaves drying, getting crushed, being filtered, and being processed. It was so cool to see the process in action, and I can finally say I know how tea is transformed from a leaf into its more familiar granulated form.
After leaving the tea plantation, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the day. That night we went to sleep early because we would once again be leaving early the next morning for our next destination.
When we woke up we left for the city of Kochi, the capital of Kerala. It was yet another 4 hour drive from Thekkady, and it was the final stop on our trip to Kerala. We were catching a flight from Kochi airport to Bangalore at 7pm. We arrived behind schedule, so we didn’t have much time to see anything in the city. We headed straight to the airport, and once we arrived we finally parted ways with our driver.
This marked the end of our trip to Kerala.
Wrapping the Trip Up
Upon arriving in Bangalore, we met up with my mom’s brother. My mom’s side of the family lives in Bangalore, and our time spent there was the only true vacation time we had on our trip to India. There were no plans, no destinations, and no more traveling to be done. We spent a lot of time with family, and lazed around all day. We did this for 3 days, and after that we headed back to Mumbai where we would see my Grandmother (on my dad’s side) for one more night. The next night we took off at midnight to head back to the states. 24 hours later I was back at home.
All in all I’d say it was an excellent trip to the motherland. Kerala was gorgeous, and this trip marked my first time touring south India. On my last trip to India, I toured north India, so this trip was a totally different experience. If you get a chance to check out south India, please do visit Kerala. I promise it will be worth your time.
Well, that pretty much does it. I left out quite a few details in an attempt to keep the post short. I know it’s still long, and if you made it this far, then you deserve to be congratulated. Congratulations!
I’m so glad to be home. I’ll now get back to writing meaningful personal development articles. Thanks for sticking around while I get back to the grind!