Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The south of India - more like a tropical paradise, fewer Mughal forts

Kerala's slogan is "God's own country." It certainly felt like a tropical paradise to us!
Our first week in India was absolute craziness. Delhi had many great parts, but it is also an enormous, overflowing city with poverty and dirtiness like we had never experienced before. Our trip to the Taj Mahal was wonderful, and we really enjoyed seeing Jaipur, but it was a lot of time in traffic on crazy roads...still kind of tiring.

We were hoping that the south would be a change of pace, and fortunately it was. We had decided to visit the state of Kerala, because a number of our friends had recommended it, and our friend Jayson actually grew up there. We flew into a city called Kochi, and we could immediately tell things were different. The weather was 20 degrees warmer, there were palm trees everywhere, and for the first time since we arrived in India, we weren't besieged by touts.
Jayson's dad, at the business school where he happens to be dean
Our first stop was at the SCMS business school, because Jayson's dad is the dean there. It was fun to meet him, though he was very busy so we didn't get to talk long enough to make jokes about Jayson together :)

From there we went to our hostel in Kochi. Compared to our stays in Delhi, this place was such a welcome change. The guy running it was named Anoob, and he was so friendly and easy going, and he just liked to laugh all the time. It was a fun place. The old part of Kochi is a fairly small town, so we hit most of the recommended highlights in just a couple days.
We visited the oldest synagogue in India. No photos allowed inside, so you'll have to be satisfied with the gate

Inside a basilica

The chinese fishing nets are a famous landmark in Kerala. They were a gift from the chinese from hundreds of years ago, and they are still in operation today (thanks to hardworking tourists like us!).

We took a dip in the Indian ocean

We tried all sorts of interesting south Indian food. Turns out there is way more than just dosas and biryani.
After Kochi, we went to the town of Alleppey, where the famous activity is to ride on the backwaters in a houseboat. The backwaters are like a network of channels, partially freshwater, partially saltwater, slightly inland from the ocean. Our overnight cruise was beautiful, and it was a fun experience to be pampered a bit with a whole boat to ourselves and a dedicated onboard cook to make our meals!
The backwaters are very lush and green.

The boat was much bigger than we expected. Here we are on the upper deck.

More south Indian food. The soup is called sambar, and it is a very peppery vegetable soup (that you can even have for breakfast, I believe!)

You can get a sense of how relaxing the backwaters are, and you can also see what a houseboat looks like.
Our last stop in India was another town called Munnar, a few hours inland and up in the mountains. It is famous for its tea plantations - India is a huge producer of tea. This might not sound so exciting, but the mountains covered in tea are a sight unlike anything we'd ever seen before. We enjoyed a couple small hikes, and just took in the views.
Rows and rows of tea bushes. 

Near the bottom middle, you can see two women picking the tea. It kind of gives you a sense of scale, but then imagine entire mountains covered like this.

Here you can see how the fields span across entire mountains.

This is how I would look drinking clear tea from a clear glass.
We are so glad that we did the trip to India, but I think we are also glad that we did only 2 weeks for our first trip. The whole experience was definitely filled with new challenges, so I think we'll be much more prepared for the next time. We'd love to go back, since there are so many things to see in India and a 2 week trip is only enough for some highlights.

For those who have been to India, did you also find the first visit to be pretty tough? What food did you like the best? We had so many delicious things...


  1. those tee hills are amazing, I always wondered how they grew those golf tees that I so carelessly break when I play.

    Can't wait to see your view from Haifa apt.


  2. Hi Dad - I really loved that comment, because it made me realize that as much as my humor has started to resemble yours, I would never have come up with that joke. Phew! Pictures from Haifa coming soon.

  3. (as you know) I agree that the first India trip is super exhausting...I never *really* understood the concept of "culture shock" until visiting India. I was super ready to be home by the end.

    It gets a lot easier on future trips because you know what you're in for.