South India in 24-days

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
Many hotels throughout South India

Flag of India  , Tamil Nadu,
Monday, November 22, 2010


Our Tour Director, Ssrida, gave us brief descriptions of all the cities we visited during our 22-days in South India.   They pretty much cover what we have seen and taken pictures of, but more importantly, provides some information about these destinations that is otherwise absent from my travelogue.

Until then, vanakkam (means greetings in Tamil).





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The organization of this travelogue will be in chronological order, because that will make it easier to keep track of this journey with so much detail and information.   Our group of eleven arrived late in the evening on November 23, and did not arrive at our hotel until after midnight on the 24th.   I finally got to bed at about 2:30AM.

A brief on India:
It's the second largest populated country in the world with 1.3 billion people.  Life expectancy is around 64 years.  Major religions are Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, and other 1.9%.  Literacy rate is male 70.2% and female 48.3% (2003 estimate).  The government type is a federal republic, capital is New Delhi, there are 28 states and 7 union territories.  India won its independence from the UK on August 15, 1947.  On the economy:
GDP per capita is $3,300, growth rate is 6.2%, 25% live below poverty line, inflation is 4.2%, unemployment is 9.2%.  

History:

The earliest civilians that settled India were the people of the Indus valley.  Nordic nomads with their use of horses and iron wandered into India for its warmer climate, and they brought with them a religion that they developed in India.  The invasion by Aryans (or nobles) overtook the civilization that already existed brought with them an Indo-European language of Sanskrit.  What resulted was this religion called Hinduism which became the major influence in India.


Some practical information before the travelogue:  The climate in South India in November-December  is hot with high humidity, and even special wash and wear clothes do not dry quickly.   Clothes left out in the open will feel damp, so it's a good idea to keep them in plastic bags.    Bring t-shirts and polo shirts over short sleeve sports shirts.    You can have laundry done in Madurai at very good prices, so you won't have to pack so many fresh clothes for the 21 days of this journey.   If you need to recharge batteries or your camera frequently, you need the special  triangular 3 round plug with one larger (top one) than the other two.  You will have access to 110/220 outlets at the Dream Hotel in Cochin.   Be prepared to eat spiced food
with curry/cumin flavors often.   Even when you request food be prepared without any spice, they cook with spices.   Some in our group loved it, while some of us tired of it in the first few days in India.    Many restaurants prepare decent Chinese food as a good alternative.   Fish and chips in India is nothing like what we find in the US or England, and  they often serve french fries cold.  


Alcoholic drinks can be very expensive - especially in hotels, but most places serve beer for a small bottle at $2.20 (100 rupees)  or $3.30 for a large bottle (150 rupees).   Kingfisher beer is popular here.   In a bar in GOA, I paid about $.88c for a small bottle of Kingfisher beer. You can purchase liquor by the bottle in Pondicherry in the French Quarter, but you cannot pack it in your carryon luggage.   I bought a bottle of whiskey (Indian and Scotch blend) for about $5.00 that was pretty decent.

India is a Hindu country, and besides all the famous gods, there are many minor gods and demi gods.   Rather than naming all the gods, here's a short-list:
Bhagwan - Eeshwar  -  Paramatma: Hindus believe in the oneness of god.  Brahma: god of
creation.  The two major gods are Vishnu: god who protects the good people, and  Shiva: god who destroys the evil.  Ganesh: god of goodluck.  Rama: one of the reincarnation of Vishnu.   All the religions in India believe in karma.


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Nov 24: CHENNAI is the capital city of Tamil Nadu, the fourth largest in India.  Their population of six million people is an expanding city that grows every year.  It is also the "gateway to the south," and many tours start here. 

Today was the city tour of Chennai, founded by the British East India Company in 1639.  Chennai was chosen for its location because of its access to the Pacific Ocean.   Our tour by coach included Georgetown (the oldest shopping market), a short visit to Marina Beach, past Fort St George (the oldest bastion of British power), St Thomas Basilica (St Thomas is supposedly interred here), Mahatma Gandhi's statue, then our drive towards Pondicherry (also
known as Puducherry and the Frenh Riviera of the east). 


The climate here is hot with high humidity, so everything feels damp – even hotel towels.     I usually pack too much clothes, but for this trip, I made the wrong decision to over-pack,
because I didn't know about the reasonable cost of laundry service.   Most shirts can't be worn more than once, and even people who have fast drying clothes said their clothes do not dry after an overnight.  Another problem with the high humidity is that most of us suffered from congestion, and coughed almost every day. It helps to bring Tylonol cold capsules to help reduce the congestion and headache.

On our way to Pondicherry, we stopped at Dakshima Chitra, a South India crafts center, for lunch.  They have a bazaar in the back where they sell handmade crafts from several districts in South India.

We arrived in Pondicherry at 5PM. 

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