India, Uncategorized

Exploring the South of India

India was a wonderful surprise! Nicole and I spent ten days exploring the south of India, where our time was filled with beaches, curries and cocktails.  We were consistently greeted by friendly people and delicious food.

Mumbai

Our first stop in India was Mumbai. After 16 hours of travelling and very little sleep we finally made it to India. After sorting out our next flight (which had been cancelled… TWICE), we made our way to our hostel. Mumbai is the second largest city in India with a population of 12.4 million people. It is also the wealthiest city in India.

Exploring the city using rickshaws was fun and cheap. You could even order them on Uber (which helped with language issue when giving directions).

We had just over 24 hours to explore Mumbai. Considering we had had very little sleep I was impressed with how much we were able to see. Our first stop was the Gateway of India. This is a large arch monument that was built in the early 20th century to welcome King-Emperor George V and Queen-Empress Mary in 1911. Our Uber dropped us outside a craft brewery and we took this as a sign that our first Indian beer was in order. After tasting some of the local craft beers and a delicious Indian dish called Chicken 65 (spicy chicken with peanuts) we made our way to the Gateway of India. This was a beautiful monument. I couldn’t believe the size! After taking some pictures and having numerous selfie requests from locals we made our way to our next stop, Marine Drive. On the walk we passed by a local market selling clothing and fresh fruit. We decided it was too hot  to keep walking and got a rickshaw for the last 2 km. Marine Drive was beautiful. Essentially, this 3.6 km stretch of road, is a huge promenade where we saw people playing cricket, enjoying the ocean view and hiding under any tree in sight to avoid the heat. We found a lovely bar in the Intercontinental hotel that had AC. This was a game changer! We enjoyed a local Indian larger, Kingfisher, before we braved the heat again and finished walking the promenade until we reached Girgaon Chowpatty beach. We spent sometime looking at the food stalls on the beach and admiring the ocean. We decided to head back to the Intercontinental hotel as they had an amazing rooftop bar, called The Dome, where we could watch the sunset. The sunset was absolutely beautiful! We weren’t the only ones enjoying it- as we looked down below the promenade was now jam packed with people sitting on the promenade and enjoying the sunset.

There were so many people at the Gateway to India! But it only added to the experience.
Looking back from the Gateway to India onto the harbor.
The colourful streets of Mumbai.
Marine Drive showing off the skyline of Mumbai.
People enjoying the warm water at Girgaon Chowpatty beach.
The view from the top of The Dome.
We were so lucky with our first sunset in India.
After the sunset we moved locations to the Asilo. This is the highest rooftop bar in Mumbai and is situated on the 40th floor of the St Regis Hotel. The views from this bar were incredible. We enjoyed putting the city into context as we could see the areas we had visited and the buildings we had passed by. This was great way to end our first day in India.
The view from from the top of the Asilo.

We had a slow start the next morning as we were recovering from our lack of sleep from our flights. We decided to head to Juhu beach to explore a different area of Mumbai. We enjoyed some coffee with mini pancakes for breakfast and then decided to take a walk on the beach. This beach was beautiful. White sand with palm trees and little to no rubbish. It was filled with people swimming and playing cricket. When the heat got to us we found a great place to try some tandoori chicken and batti murgh tikka chicken before making our way to the airport.

Goa

Goa is an Indian city that lies on the southwest of the country. The warm Arabian sea makes up the coast of this beautiful city. Goa has become a top tourist spot for both local and international travelers due to its beautiful beaches, warm water, biodiversity and nightlife. After a stressful security check in Mumbai, we boarded our plane and two hours later we landed in Goa. As we met our driver, Denzel, outside the airport. We were able to catch the last of a beautiful sunset. It took us 2h30 to reach our accommodation, Royal Agonda, due to insane Monday night traffic. We were greeted by our host, Asim, and shown to our wooden cabin- which was on the beach sand and we could hear the waves. We went to the on site restaurant and ordered a butter chicken curry, a lentil dhal fry and a garlic naan. Wow! The butter chicken was unlike anything I had ever tried before! It was perfectly tender and flavourful. The dhal fry was spicy and had a thinner consistency. After dinner we had a couple of beers with Asim which was great as we were able to learn a lot about India from him. This was really interesting.

The entrance to Royal Agonda.
Butter chicken with garlic naan.
Our two favourite beers in India. Bira is a Goan IPA which was unfortunately ONLY sold in Goa. Kingfisher premium was our go to beer as we could find it everywhere. It was a light styled larger.

The next morning we had a slow start. We woke up and had a lovely breakfast at our accommodation before we went for our first swim. Our accommodation was right on the beach and we could see palm trees stretching the entire length of the beach. We spent the entire day hopping from bar to bar drinking either Kingfisher beers, mojitos or pina coladas. We also did some clothes shopping and ended the day with a massage. We went back to our on site restaurant, for a late afternoon snack, to try the chicken vindaloo. This is supposedly the hottest style of curry in Goa. It WAS spicy but still edible and packed with flavour. We then decided to go and get dinner at one of the beach front restaurants, Dunhill. We decided to try the paneer tikka masala and hariyali tikka with garlic olive naan. The food was delicious and was the perfect way to end the day.

Royal Agonda was an amazing welcome to Goa. We couldn’t have asked for a better accommodation.
Restaurants lining Agonda Beach.
Enjoying our cocktails.
The road behind the beach was filled with massage parlors and tourist shops.
A different kind of sunset.

We woke up the next morning and met Asim at to go to Cola beach (supposedly the most ‘instagramable’ beach in India) in order to visit Samyama (a new yoga retreat of sorts that his friend would be opening next season). We went in a different rickshaw to Asim and his wife. Our driver dropped us at the top of the beach and told us the yoga retreat was at the end of the beach. After about 40 minutes of walking in 37 °C heat we still couldn’t find Samyama. Luckily Asim had come to rescue us. Even though we were dying in the heat the walk was beautiful and the beach was unlike anything I had seen before. The sand was white, the water was inviting and there were palm trees everywhere. We made our way back to the start of the beach (the walk was only meant to take us 2 minutes). We walked past the most beautiful lagoon that had aqua blue and green water. Absolutely breathtaking. We met Dr Kavya and her husband and they explained to us what they wanted to do with their retreat. Even though we didn’t get to do yoga, we did get to to sample delicious date balls. We all enjoyed a beer together talking about the differences between India and South Africa. When everyone had left and it was just me and Nicole we went and swam in the lagoon to cool off. This was honestly just one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The colours were remarkable and the photos just didn’t do this piece of heaven justice. We caught a rickshaw back to Royal Agonda where we picked up our bags and were transported to our next destination in Goa, Palolem.

Getting lost on Cola beach wasn’t all bad when we had views like this.
I loved how there were just palm trees everywhere.
Trying to find our way to Samyama.
The lagoon at Cola beach.
With views like this how can you not love India?

We checked into our accommodation, Oxygen Palolem Resort, as quickly as we could in order to go and cool down with a swim. The beach was only 100 m from our room! We went for a quick walk to find Nicole a place to do yoga the next morning and then to Sunset bar. This bar was on the far right hand side of the beach and had an epic view of the sun setting over the ocean. We enjoyed the sunset with some pina coladas and mojitos. We made our way back to the middle of the beach and found a gem of a restaurant with a happy hour special and hubbly. After some drinks we made our way to Fernandes restaurant where we shared a butter chicken and a garlic naan.

Finding drinks with the best sunset view.
Only love for Goa.
A beautiful gradient sun.

We woke up early the next morning. Nicole went to yoga and I walked the beach taking photos of the beautiful scenery and local fishermen. We met up for breakfast at our accommodation and then hit the beach. We decided to walk all the way to the left of the beach and then slowly make our way back to the right as the day went on. This was a perfect beach day with a slight breeze to help keep us cool. As it got dark we made our way back to the happy hour and hubbly place where we ended our night. India is currently building its way up to elections in May. The government has enforced a rule (that has been applied country wide) that alcohol has to stopped being served by 22h00 every night as to try and make the elections as fair as possible. Apparently in the past, political parties would buy up all the alcohol in rural areas and then bribe people to vote for them by giving them alcohol.

Making our way through the palm trees to the beach.
The seafood served at the restaurants was apparently always caught the same day.
The fishing boats were everywhere on the right hand side of the beach.
Filled with restaurants and lounge chairs making Palolem a dream destination.
The end of the left hand side of the beach.
Can you ask for a more beautiful beach?
Seeing cows on the beach was not an unusual sight.
The beach was filled with people trying to sell you things which could be a bit frustrating at times. But this lady was so kind and gentle that we wanted to support her.
Enjoying a tequila sunrise as the sun went down.

We met Denzel the next morning and made our way to Sahakari spice farm. This was approximately an hour drive from Palolem. When we arrived we were given flower necklaces and some ginger tea. We were then taken around the farm and shown the different spices and fruit that they grow. Some of which included vanilla, chilies, cinnamon, coffee, cardamom, cloves, turmeric, curry leaves, bananas, pepper and five spice. After we had finished the tour we were given a buffet lunch. This included a vegetarian curry, chicken curry, sweet rice desert and poppadoms. This was the first time that we had poppadoms in India. We arrived back in Palolem and went to change so that we could go cool down with a swim. After our swim we enjoyed a cocktail or two and grabbed some chicken 65 for dinner before we made our way to the airport.

It was interesting to see that all the different spice trees and bushes grew so happily together. They weren’t separated and put in different sections.
It was nice to see that it wasn’t only foreigners that visited Sahakari.
It was surprising to see India grew its own coffee as the coffee we drank wasn’t the best.
There were also some beautiful flowers growing in between all the spices.
This was a beautiful farm to visit.

Kerala

Kerala is the southwestern province on the tip of India. It is a popular tourist destination due to it being home to the backwaters of Alleppy, tea fields in Munnar and numerous national parks. Our flight from Goa to Kochi was at midnight. We were able to check into our airport accommodation at just before 02h00 and fell asleep quickly. The next morning we woke up and caught a taxi from Kochi to Alleppey. This was supposed to take us 1hr30 but due to road works and Easter weekend we only reached Alleppey after 2hr30. When we arrived we were greeted by Soma Houseboat staff. We boarded our boat and were amazed at how spacious our room and communal area was. There was only one other passenger on board with us. We spent most of the afternoon on the upper deck relaxing and watching the views from the boat. We could spot kingfishers flying from boat to boat. When we docked at night a storm rolled in with thunder and lightning. This was beautiful to watch. We arrived back at the docks after breakfast the next morning. This was a very relaxing experience. It was interesting to see how local people lived on the backwaters. The scenery was beautiful.

We were given coconuts as we boarded the houseboat.
The scenery on the backwaters was beautiful.
We made ourselves comfortable in order to make the most of the view.
She still pours like a Korean.
Our dock for the night.
Watching the storm roll in.

We made our way to a restaurant called Kream Korner to make use of their Wi-Fi as we needed to book accommodation for that night. We were able to find somewhere to stay quite quickly (Warmth Lake Haven) and made our way there to drop off our luggage. We then caught a rickshaw to Marari beach. When we arrived a lot of the small restaurants were closed due to it being Easter. There also wasn’t much happening on the beach. We stumbled upon Marari Beach Resort where we were able to enjoy a Kingfisher beer and swim in the resorts pool.

Making the most of our last day in Kerala at Marari Beach Resort.
The sunset from Warmth Lake Haven was unbelievable.

We left Alleppy early so that we could make the most of our last day in India in Kochi. We checked into our homestay, Sea Hut Homestay. We made our way to Fort Kochi. This area of Kochi is made up of waterways where people make their money from fishing and selling seafood. We started to explore Fort Kochi by looking at spice, tea and jewelry shops. I was finally able to try a samosa while walking around! Nicole and I had been quite hesitant to try the street food in India as almost everyone we had encountered had suffered from “Delhi belly” (the tourists name for getting sick from Indian food). We stopped along the harbour for lunch. We ended our afternoon by going to look at the Chinese fishing nets. This fishing nets are fixed to the land and a mechanical device operates the 20 m net. These nets were introduced to Kochi in the 14th century when the Chinese explorers made their was to India. We went and found and amazing hubbly at a place called Sheesha. We spent the early evening playing games and smoking hubbly while we waited for dinner. Our last Indian meal was one of our bests. We went to a restaurant called Rasoi. We ordered butter chicken curry, chicken briyani, masala poppadoms and garlic naan bread.

Exploring the spice market in Kochi.
The beautiful colours of Kochi.
The Chinese fishing nets were very picturesque.
Our last meal in India. What a send off!

India was full of surprises for me. I never new the south was filled with such picturesque beaches and home to some of the most delicious cocktails. The people we met in India were friendly and helpful. The food was delicious and the scenery was beautiful. What more could you want from a country?

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