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> Southern India Starter Kit, Everything you want to know about Southern India
sharon1306
post Jun 16 2007, 06:26 AM
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sorcerer.png Sharon Dias says:

Just want to quickly introduce myself to the forum… I live in Goa, India and I would be happy to answer any questions with regards to travel in India, especially the southern region. Please let me know if I can be of any help smile.gif

Below are some tips for a first time traveler to India:

I’m going to try to keep it as brief as I can, but let me start by saying India is a difficult country to travel in, more so if you are coming to visit for the first time. No matter how much you prepare, India is an assault on the senses. The sights, smells and sounds are overwhelming. Having said that, I am also fairly certain this will be one of your most memorable trips, one that will stay with you always. I guess tips, as such, would vary depending to the region, because India is extremely diverse in many ways. It is a country that has so many different kinds of people, religions, languages, cultures and even landscapes. But generally. I guess I would say:

1.Come with an open mind. You will find dirt, filth and probably more poverty than you’re used to. You have to deal with that and not let it get to you. The touts are sometimes aggressive and so are the beggars. It is best to ignore them. Lots of traffic, lots of people, lots of noise. But that is also what makes India fascinating. It will take you a few days before you learn to cope. In one day your experiences can range from extremely frustrating to extremely magical…

2.The benefits of travel in India definitely outweigh the negatives. You will find India chaotic at the surface, but it really is organized chaos and it takes a while to get used to it. Getting the simplest things done might take more time and effort than you’re used to, but it’s definitely worth it in the end. Be careful about what you eat or drink. Drink only bottled water, eat hot foods, avoid ice, desserts and salads and wash your hands. Its good to carry a hand sanitizer for when you don't have access to soap and water, insect repellent, water purification tablets and toilet paper.

3.Just go with the flow. There’s a lot of craziness around but that’s what makes the country special. Make an effort to strike up conversations with people. Most people are very friendly and open and will be willing to help you in any way they can.

4.Be respectful of the culture and customs. Lots of religions are practiced in the country so some areas might be more sensitive than others. Take lots of pictures… It hard to take a bad picture in India, with all the faces, colours, scenes.

5.Don’t think about it, just go. India is a very culturally rich country, which engages you with its fascinating art, history and the sheer numbers of everything. There aren’t any ‘dangers’ as such you should be aware of, just petty annoyances.

This is one trip you will find hard to put behind you, because when you experience India, it seeps into your pores and it’s very difficult to just forget about it once you get back home. India is a challenging country to travel in, and you will be taxed mentally and probably physically, but it will also be one of your more memorable trips, if nothing more…

Sharon
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whereshegoes
post Jun 22 2007, 08:43 PM
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Great to meet you Sharon! Thank you for volunteering to help us out with this very special country. I have heard so many things about travelling India. One thing that seems very common is that it is very difficult. It is one place that I haven't been to yet and to be honest, I am a little nervous. I do however see it in my cards so I figured I should get some advice.

My new passion is yoga and I know that India is a great place to practice. Can you tell me anything about yoga or meditation retreats?

Thanks in advance!


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sharon1306
post Jun 23 2007, 07:12 AM
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I can understand why you would feel a little nervous about planning a trip here, but if you do decide to come, I guarantee you an unforgettable experience…

What kind of yoga do you practice? And what part of India would you like to travel to? There are yoga/meditation centers that offer retreats all over the country. Or you could plan a trip with yoga and meditation as the central theme. There are so many possibilities.

There’s an organization called Ambika Yoga Kutir, which has about 45 centres all over India and they give yoga/meditation instruction free for women. If spa’s are more your style, then perhaps you could consider the Ananda Spa, situated in the Himalayas. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this place but haven’t been there myself. It overlooks the holy Hindu town of Rishikesh as well as the river Ganga.

If you could give me more information about the type of retreat you're interested in, the length of time you plan on spending and the area where you're most interested in, it would be very helpful.
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whereshegoes
post Jun 26 2007, 12:08 AM
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Hi Sharon

THank you so much for the quick response. I am really impressed with the amount of options I seem to have. To be honest, I haven't really decided exactly what kind of experience I am after. Perhaps a little bit of everything. I would like to try the basic yoga retreat and then maybe at the end of the trip try some thing a little more spalike. The Ananda sounds amazing!

I would like something that is all inclusive as in food, accomodations ect is all included.

Now why is it free for women?

Look forward to hearing from you again smile.gif Thanks!


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wakingdream
post Jul 1 2007, 08:21 AM
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QUOTE
Hmmm.... That's a bit outrageous, don't you think?


Whoa. It better be a damn good spa! tongue.gif
I checked out the site. It does look really nice but I wouldn't classify it under 'affordable' that's for sure. The great thing about India is that there's a wealth of choices in every budget. It just requires some research.


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sharon1306
post Jul 2 2007, 06:15 AM
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Hi Carmella,

Sorry for the delay in response, I was out of town… Anyways, yes, there are an amazing amount of options out there. Considering you haven’t been to India before, I would suggest sticking to a more-or-less typical north Indian itinerary including Delhi, Agra, cities in Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur) and maybe Varanasi for the Ganges. Also, if you’re interested in wildlife you might want to add Ranthambore for the tigers. That would be a great introduction to India with the forts, palaces, the Taj Mahal and of course the holy river Ganga. Let me see if I can gather information on yoga retreats in these areas. It would be interesting if you could intersperse some yoga activities with seeing the sights. Towards the end of the stay, you might want to retreat to the hill stations in Himachal Pradesh.

Yes, the Ananda is a high-end property and the prices are really out there, but its one those totally inclusive spas. There are all kinds of properties, catering to various budgets, so it really depends on what you’re looking for. There are a lot of traditional ayurvedic health resorts that incorporate a lot of yoga techniques, which you might consider looking into.

Finally, I’m not quite sure why it’s free for women, but from I understand, the knowledge of yoga is supposed to be passed on free of charge, or something like that. Of course, now it’s definitely commercialized especially in the West, but there are places here that give free lessons. I joined a free class a few years ago but didn’t last very long… It was at 5am every morning, and waking up that early just killed me…

Sharon
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sharon1306
post Jul 2 2007, 06:18 AM
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QUOTE(pstocktonsmith @ Jun 30 2007, 02:53 PM) *

Hello Sharon
I came across this forum quite by chance, and briefly as artist as well as a traveller I'm thinking about southern India in Feb next year and wondered if you had any suggestions for an itinerary/route etc. I found your writing very informative. Hope to hear from you.
Peter




QUOTE(sharon1306 @ Jun 16 2007, 06:26 AM) *








Hi Peter,

Welcome to the forum! Feb is a great time to visit India. Have you been to India before? What are your interests like and how many days do you plan on traveling? Southern India is great for a very laid-back, tropical, beach-filled trip. You could start your trip in Bombay, great place to shop, and then head south to Goa (for the beaches and a bit of the Portuguese culture, paddy fields, coconut palm groves) or maybe Cochin in Kerala. Kerala has a lot to offer. Wildlife sanctuaries, the lazy backwaters, tea plantations, etc. You could travel to Kumarakom, Thekaddy, Aleppey, Varkala, Trichur etc down to Kanyakumari (the southernmost tip of India).

If you got more time to spend in the South, you could visit some of the cities in the state of Tamil Nadu famous for some amazing temples in places like Madurai, Tanjore, Trichy, etc and perhaps end your trip in Chennai (Madras) on the east coast. There are so many options out there to give you a good feel for the colours, culture and variety of India.

Sharon
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sharon1306
post Jul 2 2007, 06:20 AM
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QUOTE(wakingdream @ Jul 1 2007, 08:21 AM) *

QUOTE
Hmmm.... That's a bit outrageous, don't you think?


Whoa. It better be a damn good spa! tongue.gif



It is:)

Sharon
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whereshegoes
post Jul 2 2007, 07:36 AM
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Hi Sharon

Thankyou! You know, just talking to someone from there makes it a whole lot less...intimidating.

I am pretty sure I need an authentic experience. I am doing yoga here and it is, as you say, quite Westernized. At least, I think. I guess I have no real way of knowing unless I come there and find out. smile.gif Thank you for your help!


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sharon1306
post Jul 6 2007, 01:57 AM
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Hi Peter,

Do you mean Marrakesh in Morocco? Sounds like a great place…


If you have a month, you can explore southern india at your own pace. Buy a couple of guidebooks (or get some from the library) and see which places appeal to you. Traveling solo is not a problem, as long as you follow general precautions like you would in any country. I prefer to book accomodation in advance instead of just winging it. Especially for Bombay, where the hotel rates are very high and it is difficult to find a place within your budget at the last moment. Goa during peak season is also always booked. If you have a firm itinerary in mind, it makes sense to arrange your accomodation before you leave.

About travel within the country, again it depends on your routes. For certain areas I suggest flying. Eg. Mumbai – Goa. There are tons of budget flights available on this route which wouldn’t cost much more than a train ticket (which is a 12 hour journey). Southern India is very well connected by train. You can read more about train travel in India here: http://www.seat61.com/India.htm Certain inaccessible areas you might want to explore, you could hire a car and driver (comparatably cheap in India).
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sharon1306
post Jul 6 2007, 06:37 AM
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QUOTE(whereshegoes @ Jul 2 2007, 07:36 AM) *

Hi Sharon

Thankyou! You know, just talking to someone from there makes it a whole lot less...intimidating.

I am pretty sure I need an authentic experience. I am doing yoga here and it is, as you say, quite Westernized. At least, I think. I guess I have no real way of knowing unless I come there and find out. smile.gif Thank you for your help!



Hi Carmella,

You are welcome anytime. What kind of yoga do you practice? If you're looking for something totally inclusive with accomodation and meals, you could take a look at this holistic spa called Soukya, located just outside of Bangalore city.

Sharon
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sharon1306
post Jul 13 2007, 01:49 AM
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Hi Peter,

No need to apologise. Venice is lovely, I'm sure you've been having a wonderful time...

There are tons of airlines operating different routes. The best are Kingfisher and Jet Airways, then the so-called budget airlines like Spicejet (I personally like this one), Indigo, Deccan etc with Indian (airlines) at the bottom... They are very easy to book once you're here, or if you have your itinerary in place, you could look into booking them online before you arrive. You generally get better rates if you book in advance as opposed to the very last minute.

Glad you liked the Sorcerer's Apprentice. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard about it. Sounds like a great read.

Take care and let me know if I can be of any help with regards to your travel planning.

Sharon
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whereshegoes
post Jul 13 2007, 05:50 AM
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Hi Sharon,

At the moment I am practicing Bikram (hot) yoga. Its become a bit of a fad it seems but it really works for me. I am glad to have been lured in by this extreme form of yoga because it has taught me alot about myself. I have bypassed yoga for years because it didn't seem to be challenging enough. But whoa, now I understand.

So as for a trip there, I think I will be looking for something more spiritual as I have the physical stuff under control. For the most part.

Do you do yoga?


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sharon1306
post Jul 18 2007, 08:01 AM
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QUOTE(whereshegoes @ Jul 13 2007, 05:50 AM) *

Hi Sharon,

At the moment I am practicing Bikram (hot) yoga. Its become a bit of a fad it seems but it really works for me. I am glad to have been lured in by this extreme form of yoga because it has taught me alot about myself. I have bypassed yoga for years because it didn't seem to be challenging enough. But whoa, now I understand.

So as for a trip there, I think I will be looking for something more spiritual as I have the physical stuff under control. For the most part.

Do you do yoga?



Hi Carmella,

Glad Bikram yoga’s working for you. It definitely is more challenging than it looks…

Yes, I do yoga (Hatha, not hot…) Its too hot most of the time here for any ‘hot’ yoga:)

Sharon
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sharon1306
post Jul 18 2007, 08:02 AM
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QUOTE(pstocktonsmith @ Jul 17 2007, 11:39 AM) *

Thanks for all the advice Sharon, I'll get in touch when the plan starts to take shape.
I have a website with my work on it, if you're interested.

www.stockton-smith.co.uk

Thanks
Peter



Hi Peter,

You’re welcome anytime. I took a look at your website. I now have a better understanding of the kind of work you do. Very interesting.

Sharon
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fourloves
post Sep 14 2007, 08:08 PM
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Hi Sharon,

Looks like you're the proud helper of a hot topic here - the south Indian destination. If you would, I would like to pose a few more questions...

I am coming to Goa after the monsoon season this year (late Octoberish), to take up learning the tabla and to try my voice at some hindi. I already have an instuctor in mind, and will be learning with him in Canacona.

Where would you recommend I look for apartments/accomodation for 2-4 months, or do you think it is a better option to simply stay in a hostel? Do you find learning the language difficult, and what is the best method of learning for yourself? (Instructed or self-taught?)

Lastly, why do you live in Goa, what keeps you there, and what are your loves/hates about the area?

Thanks for all your help!

Cheers,
MacK


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"When love beckons to you, follow him, though his ways are hard and steep" - Gibran
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sharon1306
post Sep 19 2007, 07:49 AM
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Hi Mack,

Just saw your post:) Been recovering from the flu... Late October is an excellent time to be in Goa. If you already have an instructor who is based in Canacona, I'm assuming you would want to base yourself there as well? Canacona is in South Goa, close to the famous Palolem Beach (most recent claim to fame is that one of the Bourne movies was partially shot there). If you're looking for long term accomodations in that area, I would suggest looking for guest-houses.

About learning hindi... well, it depends on how good you are with languages... If you have a good instructor, I suppose it would be easier to learn the basics rather than trying to learn it yourself. Just curious, why learn Hindi in Goa?

The reason I live in Goa is very simple really. I love living here. I love the peace and quiet, the proximity to the beach, the people. Goa was a Portuguese colony for over 450 years, and you can feel that influence the minute you cross the borders into the state. Its very laid-back. I'm sure you'll have a great time.

Sharon
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lauraexplorer
post Oct 4 2007, 04:11 AM
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QUOTE(whereshegoes @ Jun 22 2007, 08:43 PM) *

I have heard so many things about travelling India. One thing that seems very common is that it is very difficult. It is one place that I haven't been to yet and to be honest, I am a little nervous. I do however see it in my cards so I figured I should get some advice.


I didn't want to pick just this quote out, but many people say that India is 'difficult' or an attack on senses. I don't understand?!?! maybe I'm just really adaptable but I didn't go to tourist complexes or hotels, I stayed with the locals being only 17years old I thought it was amazing.

I went to Bangalore, Mysore and other more remote villages which I am appaled to say I can't remember their names!

It is an amazing experience, just don't stay in a tourist complex, you need to see the REAL India. However, if your senses are rather delicate then I guess you may have too!!!


Any information needed on my visit to India then look at my blog!
Laura
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lighthouse
post Oct 13 2007, 07:26 PM
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hyper.gif Greetings Sharon:
I've been ask to come to Rajahmundry India to share my testimony & speak.
I've never been there. I know nothing. Can you help me out? Thanks
GOD-BLESS
Ray
This is the day that the LORD hath made!

rberto@comcast.net
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roseyben
post Oct 13 2007, 09:38 PM
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QUOTE(lauraexplorer @ Oct 4 2007, 04:11 AM) *

QUOTE(whereshegoes @ Jun 22 2007, 08:43 PM) *

I have heard so many things about travelling India. One thing that seems very common is that it is very difficult. It is one place that I haven't been to yet and to be honest, I am a little nervous. I do however see it in my cards so I figured I should get some advice.


I didn't want to pick just this quote out, but many people say that India is 'difficult' or an attack on senses. I don't understand?!?! maybe I'm just really adaptable but I didn't go to tourist complexes or hotels, I stayed with the locals being only 17years old I thought it was amazing.



India is a place you will either love or hate; there is no in between! I loved it and plan to go back one day!!

I studied Indian Politics in my final year at uni which is when I vowed that one day I would check it out. I was so fascinated with the pictures and stories my tutor told me about after he spent a year on sabbatical out there and I just knew it would be just as amazing for me. My partner knew nothing about India and was awestruck for the first few days but once he got used to the craziness he loved it too.

The thing with India is you have to take it for what it is and it can be any number of things, from a progressive 21 century country to a backward third world country which is still struggling on many levels and can be hard to appreciate at times. We are so used to living extravagant lives even though you may not be rich you take for granted the TV in the living room, your washing machine, fridge freezer and designer trainers/clothes. You will still have lived a far more comfortable life than around 95% of those living in India and if you are anything like me this will make you appreciate your life more. If it doesn’t you don’t deserve the opportunity to travel across such an amazing diverse place.

The challenge is character building and i would recommend anyone to give it a go. If you have travel Thailand, Cambodia etc and loved it then India must surely be your next stop. I have so many stories to tell, most noteably being the bus journey from hell - on the worst journey forum - a long with a million other happy memories.

So where do you start?
I would honestly start with some research so you don’t get the shock of your life when you arrive. I would love to be able to suggest a good guide book but alas I can’t. We bought the Lonely Planet and the most frequent thing it was used for was toilet paper. Believe me when I say that after just reading the first few pages you will be half scared to death at the thought of being in India; it seriously is not for the faint hearted acording to them. The hotels, B&Bs and guest houses which are recommended in The Lonely Planet will have probably doubled in price by the time you arrive as they live of the reputation. So we often went to ones close to them. Though it does recommend some great off the beaten track places which made our adventures truly amazing. Once you are in India you will meet other travelers who will recommend places to go. There are 3 levels of price in India; local price, Asian price and tourist price. Please don't think i am being racist. You will get ripped off in some places there is no doubt its up to you to barter to the death especially with rickshaw drivers!!

Plan a basic route. Seriously no matter how long you decide you want to spend in India you need to have some idea as to which parts you wanna see, a rough idea of how long you are gonna stay in one place and what there is to do there. You will find that you love some places more than others and that’s the beauty of having a basic route; you can then decide to spend a few more days in the places that you like and quickly escape the ones you don’t like. Booking buses and trains can be a nightmare in some places so you always need to think ahead.

The obvious place to start is of course Delhi simply because every airline flys in and out. I would recommend you start in Delhi because if you can’t hack the pace of life and sights in Delhi then you will not hack the rest of India. And when I say sights I’m not just talking about the lush temples which were once owned by rich Rajah’s and the many historic tourist attractions. I’m talking about the dirty sweet smelling streets full of rubbish, with big black rats running around, which have urinals just there on the corner with no privacy, the man you walk past stood whistling while he is taking a leek against a tree. The disfigured creatures that walk the streets expecting you to hand over your rupees with out battering an eye lid. The kids that play bare foot in the streets dressed in rags playing in front of their tent shaped tarpaulin houses. Its heart rendering at times and depressing too and the only thing you will do if you give your rupees is feed a culture that needs to be starved. I cried many times especially in Mysore i think maybe by then it had all kinda got to me. Its is hard to say no to the lady sat on the side of a road with a baby in her arms begging me to 'take child to England to give a good life' or the man with no arms sat cross legged hoping I will pop some notes in his shirt pocket. Or the man that sends his young boy to follow us the full length of the street begging all the way for 'just a few rupees so i don't get beat.'

You will feel every emotion possible and nothing will prepare you. Just remeber to keep your whits about you as you would in any country, if you don't feel safe move on. There is good and bad where ever you travel. Take the good with you and leave the bad behind.

So if i haven't put you off (hey i'm just being honest) go travel, enjoy and savour every memory. There are 30 entries on our blog - roseyben - and an ode to India about our time there. Hampi (over night bus ride from Goa) is the place to be make sure you have time to go especailly for the colour festival.

If any one is deciding to travel the triangle - Delhi, Jaipour, Agra, etc i can give you the email address for the driver we used to see if you can book him as we still keep in touch. We had a blast, paid a fair price and even saw the tiger in Ranthambore which is a rare site when you realise how many people visit.

Stay safe & Happy travels x x x

Rosey & Ben
www.travelpod.com/members/roseyben


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Roseyben xxx
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