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How I Travelled India

13/05/2019

“How I travelled India” is not a blog post I ever really thought I’d write. I mean, ever since reading A village by the sea in Year 8 (so many years ago it actually makes me cry inside a little), I’d always told myself that I’d visit. But I guess it wasn’t too dissimilar to the modern day “oh we have to grab coffee soon” which let’s be honest, has minimal intent and never happens.

Anyway, in short, if you followed my instagram last November then you’ll know that I finally made it to India and Holy Shitballs, what an experience it was. India is huge – an obvious and slightly moronic statement, but true – so there are a lot of routes to choose from and a lot of different areas to see. So I thought I’d list the way that we travelled India, what I’d recommend, and what to expect. Basically this is going to be one big fat ramble with hopefully the odd tip and trick throughout.

I also just want to add that all images are iPhone/edited pictures and therefore much less “blog quality” pics. To be totally honest, with everything that we’d been told, I didn’t really feel comfortable taking my “big” snazzy camera so I didn’t take any “proper” pics and never vlogged the trip… and actually, I’m so glad I did it this way because for 3 weeks, I totally disconnected from the world and soaked up one of the most incredible and mind blowing and also a total whirlwind of an experience, ever.

So, we started in the north and arrived into Delhi which is still, without fail the most bizarre place I’ve ever visited. It’s chaotic, it’s dusty (everywhere feels dusty in India), it’s the busiest place I’ve ever been in my life, there are technically 3 lanes of traffic but realistically there’s actually 7 (and a few of those lanes are just for goats and cows and stray dogs) and to be honest, it’s actually quite terrifying at times. I probably felt the most unsafe in Delhi: myself, my blonde hair and my 6″4 bf with blonde hair and blue eyes gathered so much attention that for a short second I felt like Beyonce (with much less arse and way more uncoolness). We were grabbed, stared at, barged into, constantly begged for money, constantly on high alert for pickpockets. Personally the sheer amount of monkeys swinging from everything made me a nervous wreck – you think they’re cute, kids, but they’re actually a little bit scraggly and v aggressive – however, even with all that considered, I think Delhi is the place I’d want to go back to to see it all again. It’s all of the above things but it’s also the most full of life. So get a guide to take you around and take it all in.

Hotel:
LaLit New Delhi – The LaLit was absolutely stunning, pure luxury, spacious room and a good price (everything in India is reasonably priced)
Top picks:
Humayan’s Tomb – very interesting, good to walk around with an audio guide.
Red fort – an incredible place packed full of history and amazing architecture.
Qutub Minar – especially beautiful at sunset.
India Gate – we couldn’t actually get too near as the area was closed off but it’s an amazing structure and the road leading up to it is one of the cleanest/richest that I’d seen in delhi.
Old Town – The craziest, busiest part of delhi. Hire a rickshaw (a lot of tour guides will include a rickshaw in your package) and go through the markets.

In regards to North India, we decided to do the Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra, Jaipur – before heading down to Kerala. There are so many areas in Rajasthan to choose from and I’m not gonna lie, I let my bf research and pick Jaipur and I’m so glad we went. Agra is cute, but there really isn’t much there. I’d suggest going there to see the Taj Mahal and then getting out as soon as possible. Jaipur – otherwise known as the pink city, OH HI HUN I’M HOME – is a very cool place. Much quieter than Delhi and Agra with some really great food places and stunning sites. Here’s some notes on accommodation and top spots for Agra and Jaipur:

Agra –
Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott – Whilst Agra was my least favourite part of the Northern leg I absolutely adored this hotel. It was luxurious but comfortable, and the outside restaurant is absolutely stunning.
Top picks:
The Taj Mahal – I am very rarely blown away but my god the Taj Mahal is really is just incredible to look at. Breathtaking and beautiful with an amazing story. We went super early (pick up at 5:30am) and it was still pretty packed but so worth it. Shoutout to our amazing guide who cleared everyone out the way so we could get the perfect Taj shot. (I nearly proposed to him on the spot but managed to pull myself together).
The Marble and Rug factories – To be honest, your guide will probably take you to a marble/rug/gem factory to show you how they’re made but also to try and get you to buy things. Generally the salespeople are reasonably pushy at the end, which did put me off, however it was really fascinating seeing how the marble was made. The craftsmanship is breathtaking and actually really humbling.
Agra Fort – Once you’ve seen one fort, you will feel like you’ve seen them all but each has their own unique story so I think it’s worth a visit. Plus, there’s really not much to do in Agra – as said by the locals so please don’t shoot me down for being an ignorant tourist – so it’s worth visiting.

Jaipur –
Now, Jaipur was a very beautiful place to see. It’s called the Pink city and for good reason. Everywhere is a very instagrammable shade of terracotta pink and there’s lots of amazing places to visit. We went for Jaipur over some of the other popular places in Rajasthan (udaipur, jodhpur etc.) because we’d heard that it was quieter and more chilled and that was exactly what we needed at this point.

Hotel: Alsisar Haveli Heritage Hotel – a much more traditional/old school hotel but beautiful nonetheless. It really felt like a little private haven.
Top picks:
Patricka gate – Instagrammers, thank me later. It’s beautiful and makes for the perfect shot. Also just a cool area to explore.
Hawa mahal – another picture perfect place mostly visited for the snap.
Amber Fort/palace – by far the most impressive fort we visited in my opinion. Stunning architecture and a generally incredible historic landmark. The only downside was the elephants they have for elephant rides up to the fort which apparently live in a lovely little elephant village and are only allowed to make a certain amount of journeys a day but… when you paint an elephant with neon paint all over their face, I’m not sure that really counts as “ethical” huns.
City palace – I adored walking around City palace which was beautifully set up for the most vibrant and extravagant wedding I’ve ever seen.

As I’m writing this, I’m doing the typically scatty thing of consistently remembering lots of very vital info that I keep forgetting to mention. Lol. Classic Elle

So we actually hired a driver for both parts of our trip and I honestly don’t know how anyone would manage without one. Our drivers – India Driver tours for the north and Chalukya Tours for the south – would pick us up every morning and take us around all day until dinner, and then on to the next destination etc. and absolutely felt like the safest, best way to travel. You can get sleeper trains but you can also get murdered so take your pick.

Lol jk I’m sure you’ll be fine *insert awkward turtle here*, just make sure you have your wits about you if you get a train. At all times!

After a total whirlwind of a 8/9 days in the north, we headed down south to Kerala. Fun (it’s absolutely not fun so please don’t get your hopes up) fact – Kerala is one of the richest and best educated states in India. And to be honest, even just walking the streets, you can really tell. There was next to no young kids begging for money, minimal homeless people, the locals accomodation was so much nicer and basically everything just looks lusher and greener and, well wealthier.

We started our trip in Cochin subsequently visiting Munnar, Thekkady and Alleppey. Now, I have to say, whilst Kerala is absolutely stunning – think Bali vibes – I do feel like we could’ve done with a few less days there (we did 9) because it does get to a point where there’s only so many tea plantations and paddy fields that you can see. So we started in Cochin, explored their local markets – the southern driver company had provided an amazing guide for cochin – before embarking on an almost otherworldly tour of one the beautiful, relatively untouched and stunning, Kerala.

Now, I’m not going to break up each place in Kerala and go as in depth as I personally felt like a lot of what we saw was quite similar. So I’m going to mention the hotels – some of which were some of the best places I’ve ever stayed – and my favourite thing from each place. Edit: I’ve gone into just as much depth so prepare for an essay.

Cochin/Kochi –
Hotel: Crowne Plaza Kochi – one of the most incredible places I’ve ever stayed. We were so kindly upgraded to a junior suite and ran around like 3 year old kids on Haribos. Couldn’t recommend enough.
Top picks:
The fishing village/Chinese fishing nets – a vibrant and bustling area full of fisherman, erm… fishing? Arriving in Kochi after 9 days in Northern India was like coming up for a breath of fresh air. I felt chilled and relaxed and not hassled for the first time in what felt like forever.
Santa Cruz basilica – known as the glory and pride of Kochi, this is a beautiful, peaceful cathedral that is a lovely place to sit and people watch.
Paradesi Synagogue – Another stunningly decorated building and the oldest active synagogue in the commonwealth. Also, on the same street as the synagogue are lots of lovely shops and one of the best places to pick up any gifts for back home. We got some amazing incense sticks and perfume oils.


Munnar
Hotel: Blanket hotel and spa – my favourite hotel of the entire trip. Bang in the thick of the hills, you are so high up that at certain parts of the day you are parallel to the clouds. For me, nothing beat waking up to the sun rising over rolling green hills and mountains, the most stunning view.

Top picks:
Tea Museum – A word of warning, there are lots of tea museums in Kerala but I really liked the Munnar one. It is actually super interesting seeing how it’s made, meeting the people in the warehouses etc. and of course, tasting the tea!
Lakkam waterfalls – Stunning. Just stunning.
Jeep Tour – Apologies for being so incredibly vague but I can’t remember the full details of our jeep tour other than that we explored the hills of Munnar, seeing the most incredible waterfalls, lakes and just nature at it’s most beautiful.
Wild animals – not quite something you can book but we were so incredibly lucky to see wild elephants in Devikulum – a small town close to Munnar – it was one of my fave parts of the trip.

Thekkady
Hotel: The Elephant Court – If you can, attempt to get upgraded to the honeymoon suite (drop them an email and say it’s your honeymoon, is there anything they can do to make it special) … the bathroom is basically a jacuzzi and it was just bloody glorious. I loved this hotel and I think the staff were probably the friendliest and most helpful that we’d had.

Top picks:
Ayurvedic and Spice plantation – Now, I have to say, as much as this was interesting I mostly just found it 100% entertaining. Listening to the owners talk about how certain plants could cure migraines forever. As well as other plants being able to boost your sex life, help you gain abs, increase tinder dates personalities (I joke but seriously, there was an ailment for everything)… it was mostly just really funny to listen to. Obviously there are going to people that swear by certain plants and cures so if you have something in mind, it’s well worth a visit. But just bear in mind that they really do go in for the hard sale.
Suruli fallspeaceful and tranquil. The perfect place to go and reflect on life and all the terrible decisions you’ve made.
Go for a savage massage – Now, you’ll be able to get local massages in most villages in Kerala and you should get one. But I’m warning you now that there will not be an inch of you that isn’t 100% and mildly groped. It made for a great story and a very traumatised boyfriend.

Alleppey
Hote: Lake Palace Backwater resort – arriving at this property felt like coming home after winning the 6 billion quid lottery. Huge, stunning, surrounded by the backwaters, it was an incredible place to wander around and also an amazing place to eat.

The only thing we actually did in Alleppey was a 24hr houseboat and I think it was possibly my favourite part of the entire trip (I may have already said this 7 times in the post). We hired the boat from My houseboat and had our very own little team on board who cooked us lunch, dinner and breakfast the following morning. We read on the deck, went out on canoes in the backwater, fished (well, I watched the fishing), and had zero phone signal for over 24hrs and it was absolutely bliss. If you come to Kerala, please make this a part of your trip.

And I think lads, that brings me to the end of this extraordinarily long post. I wanted to make it as detailed as possible because I know booking a trip to somewhere so far from home when there is so much to do and see can be ridiculously daunting, so I hope this helped. I think mainly, even though there are some terrifying parts of India and a lot of devastating poverty, it really is the most mind blowing, culture shock of a place that I’ve visited and I honestly think it’s somewhere everyone should see at some point.

Be safe and be vigilant and if you’re a blonde girl, please do not go on your own, take a friend (preferably a 6″4 giant with reasonable muscles), or go in a group. I would avoid taking expensive cameras and wearing expensive jewellery. Clothing wise, cover your shoulders and legs as much as possible, more for your own comfort and not being stared at than for any other reason. Take shit loads of mosquito spray and have the BEST time ever. (Also stick to more western restaurants to avoid delhi belly and veggie options are always the safer option).

Right, now I’m off because my fingers ache and I never want to talk about india again (lol, jk). Feel free to ask any questions below as I always respond.

Thank you so much for reading!

xxx




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