This was our first destination and i was happily Unveiling Glamor of Goa. Our resort had a comfortable one-bedroom apartment with a big swimming pool; the package also included breakfast.
Over time, we had realized that included breakfast deal was always handy as it not only saved time but gave a head start for the day.
How we spend Day 1
In Goa, there were plenty of scooters, bike or car rental facilities and we decided to hire a scooter for commuting in Goa. We could have opted for a car rental but the scooty option appeared enticing; it was not only 60 % cheaper but presented as more fun for us including kids (kids had never been on a scooter in Australia).
Soulful Day 2
On day 2, we travelled to Panjim and South Goa and visited famous churches.
Day 3 was for Goa beaches.
Beaches appeared to be the tourists’ favourite place. These were flocked by people and the atmosphere at Goa beaches by the dusk was like a night party.
I found water in Indian Ocean to be warm and pleasing (our experience in the Pacific Ocean in NZ and Australia had been different where the water around the year stayed too cold).
The shacks on the beach were something which I experienced for the first time with this being something beyond imagination on NZ and Australia beaches.
What are the Shacks ?
For people who do not know, shacks are the restaurants set in tents right on the beach. These shacks are decorated with ferry lights and loud music played in each of these shacks. This was a unique beach experience overall.
The other thing we could not ignore was hundreds of cashews shops around the Calangute area and all over Goa. The cashews were not cheap as such but were claimed to be of good quality.
The Koorg area apparently has the best climate to grow cashews. In terms of food, there was no dearth of restaurants in Goa however we found these restaurants comparatively expensive.
I migrated to Australia fifteen years ago in 2005 with my husband soon after our wedding. I soon developed a love for travel influenced by my husband who has keen interests in subjects like Geography, Culture, People, and Food and yes the mix of all types of travel.
My husband had been to South India multiple times for work purposes before we got married but never from a tourist perspective. On the other hand, I did not have any opportunity to visit South India with Mumbai being an exception where I studied for 3 ½ years.
In these fifteen years, we had expanded our family with two boys, who are now aged 10 and In November 2019, we were planning to go to India for our regular trip; this was when we thought we could also include a fun family trip to South India.
We decided this was a good opportunity not just for some family fun but also to introduce our children to the rich culture of India. We were so excited to visit places other than beaches this time.
If you wonder why we had seen millions of beautiful beaches in NZ and Australia in the last 15 years and were craving to visit a place which had a completely different landscape.
In preparation, we started to read extensively on places of interest about six months leading to travel.
Every weekend we would watch videos of these places, kids borrowed travel books from library whereas, I started to do a bit of research on weather, making a list of what to pack, friends I could meet and creating space on my phone to be able to take photos (would like to mention here I have an interest in photography).
I was tickled for the potential photo opportunities which would include not just beaches and beautiful scenery but temples, historical buildings, mountains and palaces.
Commercial tour package versus self-planned tour
We were suggested by friends to take a package tour to make it easier but we decided to plan it ourselves as we believed it would make the journey not only cheaper but provide flexibility which we needed with kids. Getting closer to the journey date we had done a lot of background research on each place, mode of travel and chalked out a rough itinerary.
Since the train journey in India demanded a well advance booking, we booked all long/overnight journeys 3 months in advance while keeping an eye for good flight deals.
We booked some of the flights, as well as good offers, came along. We also received some useful tips from friends who lived in these places or had travelled before.
The travel plan we chalked out was for a duration of three weeks (16 Dec 2019-11 Jan 2020).
We were to take a flight from Gorakhpur our hometown to Goa; spend 4 days in Goa, take an overnight train journey from Goa to Cochin, spend two days in Cochin to meet friends and;
if possible visit Fort Kochi and get the feel of the city, travel to Munnar (4-5 hours by bus) and spend 3 days in Munnar, travel to Alleppey ( 6-7 hours bus journey via Cochin),
2 days in Alleppey and then travel to Thiruvananthapuram (4 hours train journey),
1 day in Thiruvananthapuram and then travel to Kanyakumari ( 5 hours train journey),
1 day in Kanyakumari and then travel to Bangalore (overnight train journey)
spend 6 days in Bangalore which included Mysuru visit and a visit to Ananthpur district ( 3 hours road trip from Bangalore) of Andhra Pradesh for a family get together.
From Ananthpur we planned to return to Bangalore to catch a flight to Gorakhpur. We managed to stick to our original plan for most of the trip with a minor change at the Bangalore train station when we decided to visit Mysuru first.
We took a local train and arrived at Mysuru 3 hours later. As per the revised plan we were to spend 2 days in Mysuru and then return to Bangalore.
Spend 4 days in Bangalore which would include 2 days in Hindupur town- Ananthpur district. From Ananthpur, we were to return Bangalore to return to Gorakhpur.
Travel to south India has imprinted fondly in our memories forever. Most of our time was spent in Kerala with a touch of Tamilnadu ( Kanyakumari), Karnataka ( Bangalore, Mysuru) and Andhra Pradesh ( Hindupur).
The striking feature of Kerala was food. We loved variety of dosas, idlis, sambhar vada, chutneys and of course coffees and coconut water. The added value was that food was not only authentic but cheap.
Some of the restaurants also provided refilling with sambhar,chutneys, rice and papadams. The waiters in these restaurants fed its patrons with warmth and respect and we enjoyed hearty meals every day.
The coconut water vendors always left me in awe when they cut coconuts with precise speed and skills and even made spoons with the coconut shells to eat coconut tender flesh known as malai. The spices and banana chips were sold everywhere.
The cities and towns looked cleaner compared to North India and people came across as honest with friendly attitude.
There were also wooden craft shops in tourist places and we brought few pieces home.
Kerala also displayed a perfect mix of Hindu and Christian harmony with churches and temples standing side by side. The only downside of south India was hot and humid weather in the middle of winter however the 3 Cs (coffee, cane juice and coconut water) kept us going.