After three glorious weeks in the US we were packing our bags again to start the S.E. Asia portion of our trip. Our time in SF, while short (and wet) was glorious. We can’t say thank you enough to all our friends who made time in their schedules to see us! Especially to some of our best friends, The Hanlons, for opening up their home to us for not one, not two, but five nights! Thats a lot of sleepovers 😃 We had the best time. We love you!
I know many people have a fear of visiting India, and honestly I don't blame them. It has such a heavy reputation. The food and the pollution. The crowds and the crime. The heat and the distance. But why not challenge yourself? Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Experience new cultures and flavors. Open not just your mind but your heart to the wonders of travel. And experience India. Whether you are traveling on $10 a day or $1000 (omg I can't even imagine), you will be forever changed after visiting this beautiful place. You will leave with a new appreciation of so many things, both big and small. Find yourself. Give yourself this gift. Embrace it. You'll hate it some days, but you will leave with more love than you knew was possible. I know it's hard to grasp the true meaning of all of this through a couple overly descriptive sentences but after spending two months here, I fully understand the quote, "there are two types of travelers, those that have been to India and those who haven't."
Having a bright, new outlook on our remaining time in India, Brian and I were eager to see what North Goa had to offer. We knew South Goa was more our scene as it's known to be quieter and more secluded compared to North Goa (32 going on 65 anyone?), which is infamous for its party scene, specifically beach trance parties. Unlike South Goa and more specifically Agonda Beach, we couldn’t find anything close to our beloved beach huts and ended up staying at a guest house a little less than 2km (a twenty minute walk) from the water.
Agonda beach was exactly what we needed after six weeks of traveling through India. We started out booking four nights at The Secret Garden Coco Huts and ended up extending it to eight nights. We didn't want to leave! Well...until I did. But I'm skipping ahead again.
Ah Alleppey. The “Venice of the East.” The magical land of lush green rice paddy fields, an intricate labyrinth of canals, an endless forest of slender swaying palm trees, and serene lagoons floating between magical landscapes…oh and also the place where Brian and I had an EPIC fight - more on that later (and most likely for the rest of Brian’s life as I still haven’t forgotten this, and I’m updating this post on Jan. 2, 2018. Happy New Year you guys!!).
Munnar was our first introduction to the state of Kerela, a lush tropical paradise, which despite the relentless heat, stole our hearts. While Brian was on his private ATM retreat in Madurai, he decided that Munnar was definitely worth our time, and he couldn’t have been more right. It was beautiful.
Turns out, Madurai is just a giant, dirty city. Except it is home to the Meenakshi Amman Temple drawing locals and tourists to stop over while visiting Southern India. A religious center of the Tamil Nadu area, it was given the name Athens of the East,and while I've never been to Greece, I want to say people describe it in a similar way: dirty. The Meenakshi Amman Temple, however, was gorgeous and definitely worth staying in Tamil Nadu's third largest city.
We arrived and were instantly transported to an old french colonial town. Everything from the architecture to the street names were french! Puducherry (or Pondicherry as we have been saying), which was under French rule until 1954, has been called the Indian Cote d'Azur. Even present day, It has kept a tight grip on its french influence which can be seen through the architecture but also it can be heard around town with the locals practicing their french at various cafes. Oh and if you've ever seen the movie, Life of Pi, the opening scenes were set here! It was a slice of heaven we were both eagerly awaiting (still suffering from that forty hour train ride). But of course even the French Riveria of India had something else in store for us...
We ended up sharing our cabin with a wonderful older Indian couple. They spoke as much English as we did Hindi, (so a lot of hello and namastes really) so the only conversation that took place was the exchanging of foods and by exchanging of foods I mean I would offer them some chips and snacks and they would shove homemade digestive goo balls directly into my mouth. I’m not joking. It was like eating pure ginger, turmeric, and lemon with the texture of granular Play-Doh, not delicious and impossible to eat. Supposedly it was good for digestion, but I spent the rest of the evening hoping the opposite didn't occur.
I did a lot of research on Varanasi. Some people love it, most people hate it! Similar to Agra, the suggestion is to see it and leave. "Do not let it be the first city you visit in India, or you’ll never return!" If you took all the overwhelming elements of India and bundled them into a tiny city situated on the holiest, and also one of the most polluted waters in the world, you would have Varanasi.