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A world away in 5 weeks - India to Sri Lanka and back

A world away in 5 weeks - India to Sri Lanka and back

Jul 9th, 2019, 09:52 AM
  #1  
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A world away in 5 weeks - India to Sri Lanka and back

Itís now several months since we returned from our 5-week trip to South India and Sri Lanka, and I thought I would finally (try!) do a brief report on the trip!

This was a post-retirement/30thwedding anniversary trip and we traveled to South India (Tamil Nadu & Kerala) for 16 nights, Sri Lanka for 15 nights, then returned to Mumbai for 3 nights and left late on the night of the 4thevening.

I worked with an agency in each country, which helped with the itinerary and provided drivers, and guides (in India). In India, I worked with Tim at Indian Panorama, and Chamila at Boutique Sri Lanka. Both were excellent and I will give the nod to Indian Panorama for its incredibly stellar staff and service. I canít praise them highly enough. Truly. Vijay, our driver in South India, looked after us like we were his family; and Sindhu, the office manager, made everything come together perfectly. We celebrated our 30thanniversary on this trip, and thanks to them, we had several wonderful celebrations.

A driver met us at each of the airports. And In India, a company agent also met us at the major cities and accompanied us to the hotels, helping smooth the arrival and checking in process. I canít tell you how helpful that is when youíre tired and somewhat befuddled upon arrival!

We flew British Airways (partly paid by points) from Newark to Chennai, with stopover in London. We arrived at 5:30 in the morning, so stayed briefly in a nice hotel just outside of the airport to nap and wash for a few hours.

The itinerary:
South India/Tamil Nadu
Jan 18 -Arrive Chennai, 5:30am, sleep in Trident Hotel for a few hours
Jan 18/19 Ė Pondicherry/Villa Shanti (2nights)
Jan 20/21 - Kumbakonam - Mantra Koodam (2 nights)
Jan 22/23 - Tanjore - Ideal River resort (2 nights)
Jan 24/25 - Chettinad - Saratha Villas (2 nights)
Jan 26/27 - Madurai - Marriott Madurai (2 nights)

South India/Kerala
Jan 28 - Kanjirapally - Kalaketty Estate (1 night)
Jan 29/30 - Alleppey - Emerald Isle (2 nights)
Jan 31/Feb 2 - Cochin - Old Harbour house (3 nights).

Sri Lanka
Feb 3 Ė Negombo/Villa Kupuru (1 night)
Feb 4/5 - Matale - Jimís Farm Villa (2 nights)
Feb 6/7/8 Habanara - Cinnamon Lodge (3 nights)
Feb 9/10 - Kandy - Theva residency (2 nights)
Feb 14/15/16 - Galle - Mango House (3 nights)
Feb 17 - Colombo - Taru Villas (1 night)

Mumbai
Feb 18/19/20 Ė Mumbai (3 nights)
Depart home Feb 22 @ 2:15am
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In retrospect, it was an amazing trip, although the trip began less than ideally, with M getting the flu a week before we were to leave. I had almost rescheduled our start date, but our doctor gave him meds and said that it would be safe for him to travel. I then caught a bad cold and was coughing mercilessly for days before leaving, although fortunately, I managed to contain it for the trip.

In truth, we were both very tired for much of the trip, and I didnít take notes for the entire time, a first for me, so this is all from memory Ė and looking at my many photos. Iíll post as many as possible Ė I think my photos can ďreportĒ this trip better than my words can right now.

We few British Airways, Premium Economy. Most of the flights were comfortable enough, and we managed to even take a nap at Heathrow airport. For those who donít know, transiting from Heathrow is a bit cumbersome because you have to go through security again and they are very strict about liquids! They provide 2 little plastic bags for all the liquids and anything that doesnít fit gets thrown away Ė that includes lots of things, including makeup (I donít use), toothpaste and other squeeze-type items. All electronic devices need to be pulled out and checked. If they have any concerns, youíll get pulled out of line and your baggage will be gone through carefully! They are serious!

We arrived at Chennai airport at 5:35am, and surprisingly, breezed through immigration. I had anticipated a long line Ė so it mayíve been our arrival at the early hour, but we had no problem whatsoever.

We were met by our Indian Panorama agent and driver, who immediately took charge and got us to our first hotel stop, The Trident Hotel, a short drive from the airport. We used it as a rest stop but didnít stay the night. It was great as a stopover, as it was a wonderful hotel, great staff, with a great buffet breakfast.

A word here about Indian Panorama Ė they were amazing. Coordination could not have been better and the transitions were flawless; we were met at all major stops by an agent who took over the checking in process as well as our 2 flights, first when we were going to Sri Lanka and again, when we left Mumbai. And of course, we had our wonderful driver, Vijay, accompanying us.

On the way to Pondicherry/Puducherry
We left the Trident Hotel, and our first stop was the fascinating Mahabalipuram, a group of rock cut temples from the 7th& 8thcenturies, overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Some have suggested that this site is not so worthwhile, as it is not in great shape, but we really enjoyed it. We were there on the weekend and it was filled with families, giving it a lot of life and energy. In contrast to the large temple complexes that we were to see later, this is much older and more rustic, and of course, not a living temple (or actively used for worship).

progol is online now  
Jul 9th, 2019, 09:58 AM
  #2  
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Last edited by progol; Jul 9th, 2019 at 10:00 AM.
progol is online now  
Jul 9th, 2019, 10:03 AM
  #3  
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progol is online now  
Jul 9th, 2019, 10:04 AM
  #4  
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Photos are not in any particular order but if you have questions, please ask!
progol is online now  
Jul 9th, 2019, 10:13 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2004
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A great start to your trip report and excellent photos. I am following along just in case I can fit in a trip to India sometime soon.
crellston is offline  
Jul 9th, 2019, 02:38 PM
  #6  
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Thanks, crellston! I’ll make every effort to continue this report. And sooner than later, too!
progol is online now  
Jul 9th, 2019, 03:53 PM
  #7  
 
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I'm enjoying your report and photos and will follow along on your trip.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 9th, 2019, 05:15 PM
  #8  
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Thanks, Kathie,
I’m glad you’re enjoying this. I will try to stay on top of posting!

Paule
progol is online now  
Jul 9th, 2019, 06:26 PM
  #9  
 
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A belated happy anniversary and happy retirement. Following along with interest as well. Having visited Sri Lanka but still skittish about India, Iím interested in your comparisons of the two.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jul 9th, 2019, 10:33 PM
  #10  
 
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Thank you Progol for posting this!!! I admire your energy!
Darn, I thought could skip India for a few years, but now seeing your photos, and mention of its wonderful people, makes me think I'll be back sooner rather than later.
Please keep the words, pictures and memories coming!!!
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Jul 10th, 2019, 02:21 AM
  #11  
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Thank you tripplanner and CaliNurse!

tp, if I were to return, it would be to India (though no plans at the moment), as generally, I find the people warmer and the places & culture (s) fascinating. Sri Lanka, though, has much in a small area, so in one trip, itís easier to get a wide variety of experiences.

CaliNurse, I hardly have the energy - but too much time on my hands! Itís either finally doing a trip report ó or plan yet more trips!
progol is online now  
Jul 10th, 2019, 09:04 AM
  #12  
 
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"It’s either finally doing a trip report — or plan yet more trips! “ Much as I love trip reports - plan the trips - always!
crellston is offline  
Jul 10th, 2019, 09:57 AM
  #13  
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crellston, I have several lifetimes of trips planned! No lack of trips in my dreams....it’s the actualizing of them all that may be a bit lacking!
progol is online now  
Jul 10th, 2019, 10:47 AM
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Pondicherry/Puducherry & Villa Shanti
We then drove to Pondicherry/Puducherry, commonly known as Pondy, and stayed in the very stylish Villa Shanti. Pondicherry was under French rule until 1954, and while it does have the colonial flavor in its architecture, I wouldn’t contrast it to Europe at all. It does have a fun vibe, with the occasional new age, not surprising because of its nearness to Auroville and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (didn’t visit).

I really liked the Villa Shanti. We stayed in one of the 2 suites, the Executive Suite, and it was amazing! My Manhattan apartment could’ve fit in it twice over! The service was excellent, breakfasts were really good – prepared to order, and good coffee, too! It’s got a good reputation for its restaurant, and we ate dinner there one night – we thought it good, but not great, and were a little disappointed as the shrimp were a bit mealy. But the frozen strawberry drink was fantastic!

The days are a bit of a blur as we were still dealing with jet lag and illness. We took it relatively easy those first few days, but were able to include a good amount of sightseeing.

Vijay took us to 2 very small temples a short drive from Pondy. The first, a very small temple, the Prithiyankara Devi Kali Temple, was one of the most remarkable temples I have ever seen. Imagine the most garishly-colored figures, that are bizarre and frightening in a comic-like style. There were no tourists so we were amazed by the experience. Of course, you’re not supposed to take photos inside, though Michael took a shot before he realized that. The second temple was somewhat larger, but not yet the large complexes that we are to see later in Tamil Nadu.

After the drive, Michael rested at the hotel while I went out for a while, and shopped a bit at Anokhi, one of the lovely shops known for its textiles. I got a lovely scarf that became my signature piece for the rest of the trip!

Michael and I also strolled the town, taking it fairly easy, enjoying the busy waterfront, and wandering past some of the colonial architecture. We had a really good meal at a busy local place – if I can figure out which one it is, I’ll note it here later.

Vijay also picked us up in the late afternoon and took us to the large food market.
progol is online now  
Jul 10th, 2019, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by progol View Post
Itís now several months since we returned from our 5-week trip to South India and Sri Lanka, and I thought I would finally (try!) do a brief report on the trip!

This was a post-retirement/30thwedding anniversary trip and we traveled to South India (Tamil Nadu & Kerala) for 16 nights, Sri Lanka for 15 nights, then returned to Mumbai for 3 nights and left late on the night of the 4thevening.

I worked with an agency in each country, which helped with the itinerary and provided drivers, and guides (in India). In India, I worked with Tim at Indian Panorama, and Chamila at Boutique Sri Lanka. Both were excellent and I will give the nod to Indian Panorama for its incredibly stellar staff and service. I canít praise them highly enough. Truly. Vijay, our driver in South India, looked after us like we were his family; and Sindhu, the office manager, made everything come together perfectly. We celebrated our 30thanniversary on this trip, and thanks to them, we had several wonderful celebrations.

A driver met us at each of the airports. And In India, a company agent also met us at the major cities and accompanied us to the hotels, helping smooth the arrival and checking in process. I canít tell you how helpful that is when youíre tired and somewhat befuddled upon arrival!

We flew British Airways (partly paid by points) from Newark to Chennai, with stopover in London. We arrived at 5:30 in the morning, so stayed briefly in a nice hotel just outside of the airport to nap and wash for a few hours.

The itinerary:
South India/Tamil Nadu
Jan 18 -Arrive Chennai, 5:30am, sleep in Trident Hotel for a few hours
Jan 18/19 Ė Pondicherry/Villa Shanti (2nights)
Jan 20/21 - Kumbakonam - Mantra Koodam (2 nights)
Jan 22/23 - Tanjore - Ideal River resort (2 nights)
Jan 24/25 - Chettinad - Saratha Villas (2 nights)
Jan 26/27 - Madurai - Marriott Madurai (2 nights)

South India/Kerala
Jan 28 - Kanjirapally - Kalaketty Estate (1 night)
Jan 29/30 - Alleppey - Emerald Isle (2 nights)
Jan 31/Feb 2 - Cochin - Old Harbour house (3 nights).

Sri Lanka
Feb 3 Ė Negombo/Villa Kupuru (1 night)
Feb 4/5 - Matale - Jimís Farm Villa (2 nights)
Feb 6/7/8 Habanara - Cinnamon Lodge (3 nights)
Feb 9/10 - Kandy - Theva residency (2 nights)
Feb 14/15/16 - Galle - Mango House (3 nights)
Feb 17 - Colombo - Taru Villas (1 night)

Mumbai
Feb 18/19/20 Ė Mumbai (3 nights)
Depart home Feb 22 @ 2:15am
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In retrospect, it was an amazing trip, although the trip began less than ideally, with M getting the flu a week before we were to leave. I had almost rescheduled our start date, but our doctor gave him meds and said that it would be safe for him to travel. I then caught a bad cold and was coughing mercilessly for days before leaving, although fortunately, I managed to contain it for the trip.

In truth, we were both very tired for much of the trip, and I didnít take notes for the entire time, a first for me, so this is all from memory Ė and looking at my many photos. Iíll post as many as possible Ė I think my photos can ďreportĒ this trip better than my words can right now.

We few British Airways, Premium Economy. Most of the flights were comfortable enough, and we managed to even take a nap at Heathrow airport. For those who donít know, transiting from Heathrow is a bit cumbersome because you have to go through security again and they are very strict about liquids! They provide 2 little plastic bags for all the liquids and anything that doesnít fit gets thrown away Ė that includes lots of things, including makeup (I donít use), toothpaste and other squeeze-type items. All electronic devices need to be pulled out and checked. If they have any concerns, youíll get pulled out of line and your baggage will be gone through carefully! They are serious!

We arrived at Chennai airport at 5:35am, and surprisingly, breezed through immigration. I had anticipated a long line Ė so it mayíve been our arrival at the early hour, but we had no problem whatsoever.

We were met by our Indian Panorama agent and driver, who immediately took charge and got us to our first hotel stop, The Trident Hotel, a short drive from the airport. We used it as a rest stop but didnít stay the night. It was great as a stopover, as it was a wonderful hotel, great staff, with a great buffet breakfast.

A word here about Indian Panorama Ė they were amazing. Coordination could not have been better and the transitions were flawless; we were met at all major stops by an agent who took over the checking in process as well as our 2 flights, first when we were going to Sri Lanka and again, when we left Mumbai. And of course, we had our wonderful driver, Vijay, accompanying us.

On the way to Pondicherry/Puducherry
We left the Trident Hotel, and our first stop was the fascinating Mahabalipuram, a group of rock cut temples from the 7th& 8thcenturies, overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Some have suggested that this site is not so worthwhile, as it is not in great shape, but we really enjoyed it. We were there on the weekend and it was filled with families, giving it a lot of life and energy. In contrast to the large temple complexes that we were to see later, this is much older and more rustic, and of course, not a living temple (or actively used for worship).
This is the best trip I've heard. I have always dreamed of visiting all countries of the world. But so far, I was able to visit only 7 countries and 15 cities. I think in the near future I will be able to go on such a great trip as you.
stonestephany is offline  
Jul 10th, 2019, 10:56 AM
  #16  
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Stephanie, it’s such a gift to be able to do this! I hope you get the chance — it’s certainly doable!
progol is online now  
Jul 10th, 2019, 11:02 AM
  #17  
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Villa Shanti - suite and the frozen strawberry drink. Delicious!

















progol is online now  
Jul 10th, 2019, 11:09 AM
  #18  
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2nd temple visited - not sure of the name








From the Road - a view of a Kali figure

Last edited by progol; Jul 10th, 2019 at 11:13 AM.
progol is online now  
Jul 10th, 2019, 12:19 PM
  #19  
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Pondy - around town and the waterfront














progol is online now  
Jul 10th, 2019, 12:22 PM
  #20  
Ian
 
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I'm following along as well, progol. I just started looking at India as a post retirement trip in 2020, so the timing of your report is perfect.

Ian
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