Welcome to another wonderful edition of Real Travel, last time Paul from Roar Photography took us across to sunny Greece for a family holiday and I have to say it did make me wish for a few days abroad, just relaxing in the sunshine. Today Rahul from F5 Photography takes us all the way to India to experience some of the amazing sights and sounds this fantastic country has to offer.
India – Mumbai, Palitana and Kerala
I have been travelling to India for a number of years, and even celebrated my first birthday in Mumbai. I didn’t always love India the way I do now. When I was younger, our family holidays didn’t involve Mickey Mouse or roller coasters, but a huge sensory overload of family, food, temples, and more temples!
Fast forward to today, and every time I step out of Mumbai airport, I feel like I’m home. Oh, and the sensory overload – can’t have enough! If you’ve never been to India before or experienced overstimulation on a holiday, then just imagine cows, stray dogs, people bustling, rickshaws, constant honking, religiously loud Bollywood music, the smell of exhaust fumes, incense, masala spices, street food, cow dung….you get the picture. Of course not all of India is like this, and you get a deeper and a more tranquil serenity of the real India as soon as you step out of the main cities.
After landing in Mumbai and relaxing at my uncle’s house for a few hours, we travelled on an overnight train to Ahmedabad and then by mini-van to Palitana, which is the holiest place for Jains. Palitana is actually the town at the bottom of Shatrunjay Hill, and it’s at the top where around 3000 Jain temples lay. The following day, just before sunrise, we began our climb to the top. A 6km uphill journey spanning over 5000 steps, it took about 2 hours to climb. Half way up the hill, we witnessed a gorgeous sunrise, just like the dawn of a new spiritual day. We finally got to the top, and visited the main temple in Hathi Pol and a few others nearby. You can spend hours visiting all the temples and admiring their intricately beautiful architecture. Words just can’t describe the experience.
The following day we travelled back to Mumbai and then onto Kerala. Kerala is a completely different experience from Mumbai and Gujarat. Travel brochures call it ‘God’s own country’ and you can easily see why! Our first stop was a hill station called Munnar, which rests in the hill 1600m above sea level. It’s a picturesque area with tea plantations, winding lanes, small quaint villages and the air scented with the aroma of all the local spices grown here. We also visited Mattupetty, which is known for a masonry dam and a beautiful lake, along with a Tea Museum, which describes the history of Munnar’s tea plantations.
Alleppey is where we spent one night cruising the Keralan backwaters on a traditional thatched houseboat. This is one of the main tourist attractions of Kerala where you get to spend the day relaxing on the boat, gently cruising through the backwaters taking in all the beautiful scenery. We also had an amazing chef on our boat who used local produce of fresh crabs and giant king prawns to work his magic. It was an amazing experience and very relaxing. If you ever visit Kerala, I highly recommend this experience.
Our last stop in this beautiful Indian state was Kovalum. It’s a beautiful beach town on Kerala’s coastline where we stayed for 2 days. Our time here was mostly spent on the beach, winding down our Indian experience and soaking in the last few days of the Keralan sun.
We spent a few more days in Mumbai before heading back home. Mumbai is an amazing city once you get used to the hustle and bustle. The best way to experience it is by foot or rickshaw. Wandering around Mumbai, you can soak in all the sights, smells, sounds and come across all the street food vendors, chai wallah’s (tea sellers), the slums, tourist touts, snake charmers, priests, and so much more. It definitely is a sensory overload, but one that will change your vision of what India is forever.
All Photography from RAHUL KHONA at F5 Photography