Living abroad or spending longer time far away from the home-comfort-zone can do some good to your personality. After I had spent eight weeks in India I returned home as a different person and it really is a challenge now to be normal part of the Western society again. Probably I don’t even want to be part of the classic Western consumer society anymore. I might risk to be excluded, how knows. For now let me share the most important things I learned in the ‘School of India’:
And after a 2-hour train delay before the sun could come up we went off the Indian map to find ourselves in Karwar. It looked like I was the only non-Indian which gave me even more intense stares than I ever experienced before.
Kovalam, Kerala, India
I’ve always dreamed of an undiscovered beach. Ok, I would have agreed with a lonely seashore even if it had been discovered by someone else before me. They say if you dream of something long enough and hard enough, one day you will get it. So I just did that until a remote coastline revealed out of nowhere.
If you thought there is nothing beyond the sandy shores in Goa then think again. Whitewashed churches, narrow streets, traditional and new-wave restaurants, hidden bars and old-school shops are scattered over the small area.
Sunday market – Karwar, India
Goa is the laziest place on the globe I’ve ever been. Absolutely. The whole state has an extremely laid-back vibe that you tend to forget everything about your life before Goa.
Probably it’s the sunny days and chilled nights, the energising yoga sessions on the beach, the freedom seeker cosmopolitan crowd on the roads with their rented bikes or the cheap alcohol. Whatever. There is certainly something in the air that makes the place utterly different from other coastal areas I had been earlier.
I arrived to North Goa just a week before the ‘harvest’ season Goan businesses so much look forward to year after year. It was 18th December and tourists had already started to flock to hippie’s paradise on Earth.
Peak-season travel is not my philosophy. So the idea of riding to Goa just a week before Christmas sounded irrational and incompatible with my journey.
By looking at nomad farmers along rice fields in the morning sun the world of materialism falls thousand miles away. After a chilling walk in the neighborhood all you need is a hearty breakfast and a friendly talk to kick-off with the day around a town called champion. Hop on your vehicle and let your driver take you to wonderland.
Rickshaw driver’s portrait and soul – Hampi, India
South India’s – what South India’s, the world’s – awe, a place that speaks hundreds years, where columns are musical and carvings are ‘God-made’. Hampi should be cheek by jowl with the Taj Mahal on any traveler’s list to India.
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple – Hampi, India
Beautiful Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, love and fortune.
Half man, half lion, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
We are traveling from A to B to C to D and then back to A again. In our hectic schedule though we want no rush sometimes. Even if we were traveling across half the globe to see it all, THE destination has to offer. So there are these let’s call lazier days but we don’t want to laze around too much. Time is ticking, tick-tock. Quite fast. So why not carve out a day when we can deepen in our thoughts while we somehow deepen in the culture surrounding us? Exactly a day like this called my slow(er) paced itinerary forward in Bangalore, but on a second thought a similar agenda can be implemented in nearly all big cities in the world. Let’s just get into it right away in a bit more detail.
To be honest, Bangalore is a destination for high stake businesses or simply a point of transfer on most travelers’ list. The city however is not at all short of fascinating sights and bright cultural life. Whether you are there for business or just on a short stopover try to squeeze a day in your schedule, book a driver and explore the less traveled parts of this seemingly crazy place.
South India’s business hub, a once upon a time green and chilled hill station has become pure synonym for tech hub in the past few years. But only a few know, that the city of Bangalore has much more on offer than shared service centers and fearlessly slaloming rickshaw drivers. Traveling around four South Indian states Bangalore was my base, the one and only place to kick-start my journeys from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu to Kerala to Goa. My initial web search and first blink on the place did not buzz me up much but when I dug a bit deeper walking its streets (or rather trying to walk the streets without falling into a suddenly arising deep hole) I found quite a bunch of things it was eventually worth to be crammed in extreme traffic jams day after day for.
Quilon, Kerala, India
A place that not too many heard about. A crescent-shaped seaside that is often overlooked by winter beachgoers. A little oasis where tourism forms a perfect blend with age-old traditions. An exotic escape alive and laid back at the same time. Somewhere by the Arabian sea, towards the Southern tip of India, Kerala’s little beach town is something called love at first sight I guess.
Yoga – Goa
We want to carry joy, health, love, energy – and fill in the blank – into the new year and try to avoid bringing sorrow, sickness, hate and negativity through from the past year. We are pushing and pulling and taking and dropping at a mental level and hoping it won’t have a physical effect on us. Because we don’t like to physically carry things.
But it’s way not the case when you come across some of the master transporters in India. They are literally doing all kinds of circus when it comes to moving something (or someone) from A to B. Let’s kick-off the year with a short recap on how things are carried through at this part of the world where seemingly everything is possible.
“But how are we going to carry this home? Don’t worry dude, I already have an idea!”
Tiny monkey learning the rules of nature
With nature’s scenic backdrop this natural phenomenon is worthy of its nickname. 70 km from Cochin, Athirapally has two remarkable waterfalls, the lush green Vazhachal forest and the wildlife infused Vachumaram lake on offer.
Passing by steep valleys, robust waterfalls, colorful roadside shacks and the greenest tea plantations the drive from Thekkady to Munnar is mind-blowing. In Munnar everything is pretty much about tea, the city itself is not so impressive but the surrounding area is something you don’t come across with everywhere.
Do not miss the junction – tea estate junction sign, Munnar
Touristic and off-the-beaten-track at the same time, Thekkady is a green delight you wouldn’t want to skip if you are down in the southwestern county of India. From wildlife to lush green vegetation from spices and herbs to Ayurvedic treatments there is simply an abundant list of activities you can immerse yourself in during your stay out there.
From crowded Trivandrum we headed onto quiet Varkala in the evening. The peak season hasn’t come in yet, so there was enough and more personal space to finally experience some serenity far away from mad drivers and the freaking toots and honks.
After the off-beaten trip in Quilon it was time to venture into Kerala’s polluted capital, Trivandrum. The city itself did not look like any attention puller and I would have easily skipped it if I didn’t have an appointment in Kottakkal Ayurveda hospital. It was a morning session. The hospital itself is not the typical 3 to 5 star Ayurveda resort but more like a modest looking facility. Very simple building with no fountains, no incense sticks, no rose petals, no music and shoes to be strictly removed before crossing the threshold.
Hand beading business – Bangalore, India
Visited by far less crowd, untouristy Quilon (or Kollam) is an authentic experience if you are craving for the real taste of the local lifestyle. During my Kerala visit I guess one of the most relaxing days of my entire stay goes for this old coastal place. If you already have some time scheduled in trendy Varkala at a 35 km distance just pop over to Kollam for a quiet day. Sure you won’t leave disappointed. Here’s how you can make the most out of your journey:
God’s own country taught me some lessons from the moment I landed on its territories. The lush green scenery, endless coconut palms, quiet backwaters and seemingly laid-back life made me believe I am only here to unwind and relax so I would have never thought I will be experiencing the unexpected.
Being in India after a few days made me come up with different new survival routines. I’m staying in a residential area in Bangalore to get a glimpse into the locals’ everydays. One thing is sure. Life is not at all easy out here. What we take for granted in our western comfort society is not always unequivocal this part of the world, to say the least. Being a temporary visitor I’m facing issues from a different angle, which might be pity problems in the eyes of the locals but coming from the ‘everything is a click away’ side of the world some things for me are quite challenging to cope with.
Bangalore street life
Can you prepare for India? Can you train your mind in advance? Do you think reading through all those books and articles, browsing Pinterest images day and night will show you the real thing?
Less than 2 weeks to go to touch ground in the vibrant tech-city of Bangalore and spend the rest of this year in the land of colors and religions and languages and crowd and… let’s just say diversity. For two months I will be wandering around the incredible cities and states of India and as the date is getting closer the itinerary pretty much seems as diverse as the country itself.
Endurance meets courage – Cochin, Kerala, India
Henna artist – Bangalore, India
So many things can be considered as art. Just pop into a contemporary gallery in New York, London or Milan and you will be jaw-droppingly wondering how on earth the artist visualized that piece of art standing in front of you made out of toilet rolls. I could do that! – you think and wanna shout it out loud. Yeah, sure but you did not… The most unsettling exhibitions I’ve seen so far were in some of the contemporary galleries of Nürnberg where I came across all kinds of components used from a girl’s hair to tampons and to a bulimia Barbie doll boxed in along with a plastic toilet. Well, they created something original for sure.
Traveling without your camera is traveling without shoes. You are physically able to do it but you constantly feel something is missing.
Luckily even in my early years of traveling I thought the same and even though the photos are a far cry from being professional they are good enough to recall the moments of my wanderings in this astonishing South Indian state.
Fishermen at work – Chinese fishing nets in Cochin
The streets of India are always alive…
Feel like jetting off to a place to leave the rat race behind for a while and just find your little escape in nature? Have you dreamed about being offline for more than 24 hours and enjoy the pure serenity of flora and fauna? Three hidden accommodations built right in the heart of nature await those with adventurous soul.
Rainforest bathroom – Elephant Hills, Thailand
The best way to start immersing in a country’s culture and heritage is to get a taste of their cuisine. Skipping the luring restaurants on busy shopping streets targeting masses of tourists, the real secrets of a country’s gastronomy are waiting to be discovered away from the city’s buzz. The following restaurants are offering unforgettable journeys around (the world) to the traditional gastronomic delights of 3 countries.
Can’t get more local than this – Seagull restaurant, Kerala