India

Coimbatore - Ooty - Cochin - Goa - World Map

The Gateway to India and the Taj Hotel - Mumbai

We arrived in Mumbai on the 7th September 2005. Daddy has some friends in Mumbai so we stayed a few days and saw some of the sights. Mumbai is a huge city and pretty dirty. There are lots of poor people that live on the pavements. Some parts are nice and while we were staying in Mumbai there was a special festival in honour of the deity Ganesh. This went on for several days with thousands of local people carrying statues through the streets during the evenings. They would end up taking the statues into the sea late at night. This was quite dangerous because the sea was often rough.

 

This is Juhu beach where much of the celebration took place. It is an old hippie haunt but unfortunately nowadays it is covered in rubbish so you can't swim in the sea. We had a nice meal with daddy's friends at a very posh Marriott hotel here.

Ganesh is the Hindu elephant-headed god, Ganesha (or Ganesh) is known (by various names in different parts of India and on different occasions) as the Remover of Obstacles, the god of domestic harmony and of success. He is the most beloved and revered of all the Hindu gods, and is always invoked first in any Hindu ceremony or festival. He is the son of Parvati (the wife of Shiva, the Destroyer, the most powerful of the Hindu trinity of principal gods). There are many stories about how Ganesha got his elephant head, and about his exploits and antics. He was created as an ordinary boy, but was decapitated in battle. Shiva's emissaries were sent into the forest and told to get the head of the first animal they found and to fit that head onto the boy's neck. They found a little elephant, and it worked!

On the 13th September 2005 we flew south to Coimbatore in the state of Tamil Nadu. The weather was much cooler here and a welcome relief from Mumbai. We planned to make our base in Coimbatore while we travelled further into the Nilgiri Hills and visit Ooty (Ootacamund). We wanted to arrange train tickets to Mettupalayam and then take the narrow gauge railway for the 5 hour journey into the hills and up to Ooty.

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Coimbatore is a nice quiet place and we enjoyed our few days here. We left most of our baggage in the hotel while we went to Ooty for a couple of days. We toured the town although there was not a great deal to see but I did find a nice outfit to wear when we went to the Residency Hotel for dinner.

Organising rail tickets is never a simple task in India. One has to queue to get a form to complete to make a reservation. You have to know the name of the train you want to catch and all the other details like departure time etc. This is entered on to the form and handed to another counter, after yet another queue, for payment and the tickets. In many places there are separate men and woman’s queues however this was not so in Coimbatore.

Anyway, after enquiring about the train details we were told that we did not have to prepare a form and could buy a ticket directly so it was off to the ticket queue on the floor below. After some time we reached the counter and as we wanted to go the following day, we were told that we would have to complete the reservation form after all. So after all this we decided that we would try and find a travel agent and let them do the leg work. Unfortunately there was no train from Coimbatore to Mettupalayam on the day we wanted so we decided to take a taxi instead...

View during the drive to Ooty

Tea plantations on the way to Ooty

Lots of people wanted to take a photo with me

One of these monkeys stole my crisps out of our car

Udagamandalam, formerly known as Ootacamund (or Ooty), lies among woodland, and tea and coffee plantations in the picturesque Nilgiri Hills and has a distinguished history, claiming to be the “Queen of the Hill Stations”. It was founded by British colonialists attempting to escape the heat of the Indian summers and soon became a popular British summer retreat and a favoured resort of the Indian maharajas. The area is the homeland of the Todas and there are numerous local shrines. Udagamandalam is the seat of an important public (independent) boys' school. Other features include the artificial Ooty Lake, the Botanical Garden, Charing Cross and its statue of Queen Victoria in the town centre, and the local colonial homes and Indian palaces.

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Boating on Ooty lake

The botanical garden in Ooty

We returned to Coimbatore on the 18th September 2006. The next day we organised our bus tickets to Cochin in Kerela. The journey was expected to take around 4 hours. The bus went a bit later than planned and it was almost midnight when we left so we managed to get some sleep on the way. We arrived in Cochin at 04:30 in the morning and were very sleepy. The hotel that daddy had booked was all closed up for the night so we had to knock hard to wake the doorman up. We moved in to our room and went back to sleep. 

On the morning of the 21st September 2006 we headed off to the ferry jetty to catch a boat across to Fort Cochin. We took a tuk-tuk to the jetty and bought our tickets at Rs 2.5 (about 4 pence) for a 20 min journey. We met a  French guy named Jocelyn in the queue and decided to join him for the day. He was also on a world tour and had just arrived from Chennai. We took the ferry across to Fort Cochin which is the oldest part of Cochin city. Originally taken by the Portuguese, then Dutch and then British. Vasco de Gamma was buried here for the first eleven years following his death then his body was moved to Lisbon.

When we arrived we took a walk to see the Chinese style fishing nets that have apparently been here for 800 years. We helped pull up a net to see what the catch was - which wasn't very much. The small fishing boats that came in later had had a lot more luck and we helped sort through their catch.

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The net in the water

Mummy, me and Jocelyn helping to pull

There were a group of three puppies that I made friends with. One of them would eat the raw fish skins and another the insides. They all liked to drink orange Miranda. We returned to the Chinese fishing nets on several occasions and the puppies were always there waiting for me to play with them.

One day we took a tuk tuk to see some of the old buildings on the island. I even got to drive.....

In the evening mum watched a Katha Kali show which is the traditional dance for Kerela and is more a mime accompanied by drums and percussion instruments. This show was designed for tourists and just a small example (over 2 hours) of the whole thing, which can take a minimum of 10 hours. I stayed with my puppy friends by the beach and watched the fishermen put the boats away for the night.

On the 24th September we arranged a trip to the backwaters. It was an 08:30 start and we jumped into our drivers Ambassador car ready to head off but found that we only crossed the road to the Yuvarani Residency to collect a couple more people booked on the same trip. The two accompanying us turned out to be a couple of young Irish girls, Katrina and Nicola, who had been in India for about 6 weeks already. They had spent 4 weeks volunteering at an orphanage run by some Catholic nuns somewhere in the north of India. It was also Katrina’s 25th birthday today.

Off we went for a drive of about 30 Klm – to where I have no idea – and arrived at our boat in the backwaters.

We were lucky that it was the local polling day and we ended up with just the 5 of us on board. We set off and putted along in the peace and quiet of the river and lake. We saw some men collecting sand from the water bed and also stopped off to see some local flora and fauna. I found some pet rabbits

Next was a short drive in the car to a spot to take a smaller boat through the narrow waterways. This was a really nice trip with kingfishers flying all around, and surprisingly, lots of ducks which I guess are kept for eggs and eating. It was a lovely shady, quiet trip and included one of the boatmen climbing a coconut tree to fetch us some coconuts to drink and eat from. We also stopped off at a place where women made rope from coconut husk.

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Off to Goa on the 26th September and a flight this time. Dad had arranged for us to stay at the Cidade de Goa which is a hotel that mummy and daddy stayed at years ago in 1993. We arrive and check in and find that we are pretty much the only people staying in the hotel. The charter flights with the package tours don't start until mid October because of the monsoon. We are lucky because the weather was hot with just the occasional downpour.

We stayed at the Cidade for four days before moving on to the Painha Hotel just along the road. Here I met the owners children so had three friends to play with. Daddy hired a motorbike so we were able to travel all over Goa. Mummy sat at the back and I sat in front of my dad and helped drive. It was quite difficult at night because there were no street lamps and cows and pigs would lay in the road to sleep. We had to be really careful.

On the 3rd October we took a trip to Old Goa. This is the original Portuguese capital although all that really remains are a few old churches and a museum or two. We had our driver ‘Peter’ take us around and we did it quickly. Surprisingly, the churches and cathedrals were very interesting and the huge structures awesome.

This is the Basilica of Bom Jesus and was built around 1600.

We decided to move hotel so Peter took us along to the northern beaches of Goa. We visited Fort Aguada, Candolim, Calangute, Baga and Anjuna. We checked out several hotels at varying rates and states of repair. The whole area is preparing for mid October when the charter flights start coming in and the season begins. We decided on a hotel called the Casablanca Resort in Candolim which had a nice pool and again, was practically empty. We moved here on the 5th October.

The hotel is adjacent to the beach so we spend quite a bit of time wandering through the surf and building sand castles. There are lots of 'beach dogs' that just seem to live along the beach eating fish scraps. There is a tanker that has run aground and has been stuck here for about three years. It is great because at times we seem to be the only people for miles.

The local fishermen lay their long net each day in a semicircle by boat. They then come ashore and heave it in from both ends. It takes a few hours and there is not much of a catch. The local children come and steal what small fish they can and I help collect the fish for the men.

There is a German traveller called Uli who is also staying in the hotel and we get on well with him. There are so many spare sun beds we don't have to worry about putting towels out in the middle of the night..!!! In the evenings we go to a local bar and I play on a Carrom board with the local guys. Sometimes it rains and we get soaked. There are a few regulars who visit the bar which is called Ruffles and is owned by an English couple.

We are close to the end of our time in India so make the most of the deserted beach. We go out on the motorbike in the day in between swims in the pool. We stay in Goa until the 12th October when we return to Mumbai before leaving for Bangkok on the 14th October 2005.

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