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Planning for India - comments please

Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 01:34 PM
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Planning for India - comments please

I've finally come up with a first pass for the Indian section of my RTW - can't believe it took so long. (Note to guidebook editors - it would have been much easier if you divided India by geographic region instead of states.) I spent ten weeks in India back in 2001 (see http://wilhelmswords.com/asia2001/index.html ), mostly in the north, plus north Goa, Mysore, Kochi and the backwaters, and Chennai. This time I'm concentrating on the south, and only repeating Mysore (which I feel I shortchanged last time).

Same background info as for the other legs: I'm early 60s, solo female. I'm not really into big cities, neon, nightlife or shopping - although I love markets. I also love mountains, waterfalls and rocky coastline, and I'm interested in architecture, religion and especially food. I prefer crafts - glass, textiles, ceramics, jewelry - to fine arts. I travel more on the budget end, although for India I'd be interested in the occasional splurge hotel, if anyone has recommendations (splurge for me, that is - 7,000 INR tops).

Mon Nov 22 - arrive from Nepal, bus to Gokharna, train to Lucknow (2 nights)
Wed Nov 24 - fly to Hyderabad (via Delhi on Indigo) (3n)
Sat Nov 27 - car and driver via Bidar to Bijapur (2n)
Mon Nov 29 - drive via Badami to Hospet (3n) - end car and driver

Thu Dec 2 - train to Madgaon, bus to Palolem (2n)
Sat Dec 4 - car and driver to visit Chandor area, train to Mangalore (1n)
Sun Dec 5 - train to Kannur (3n), arrange to see Theyyam
Wed Dec 8 - bus or car to Coorg (3n)

Sat Dec 11 - bus or car to Mysore (4n), possibly via Tibetan village, spend last night in hotel in Brindavan Gardens
Wed Dec 15 - bus to Ooty/Coonoor (4n) - need advice on which one to pick, and whether 2 or 3 full days
*Sun Dec 19 - bus or train to Coimbatore, night train to Varkala (2n)
*Wed Dec 22 - bus to Kanyakumari (1n)

*Thu Dec 23 - train - either Kanyakumari to Madurai (arrive 21:50) overnight in Madurai or Trivandrum to Kodai Road (arrive 23:44) and pre-arrange transport from Kodai Road station to Kodaikanal (there's a bus from Kanyakumari but it's 10 hours...)
Fri Dec 24 - bus or car to Kodaikanal if not already there (4n)
Tue Dec 28 - bus to Madurai (2n)
Thu Dec 30 - bus or train to Trichy (3n) - visit Thanjavur from Trichy

Sun Jan 2 - bus or car to Chettinad region (2n)
Tue Jan 4 - bus or car to Puducherry aka Pondi (4n)
Sat Jan 8 - car to Chennai via Dakshina Chitra and Kanchipuram
Sun Jan 9 - fly to Colombo

*I'm reluctant to skip Kanyakumari when I'm relatively close, but I could take these four days and add one each to Hospet, Lucknow or Hyderabad (not both, because the Hospet-Madgaon train doesn't run every day), Mangalore and Madurai. Or I could drop a day from Ooty/Coonoor to add an extra night in Varkala or Trivandrum.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 02:35 PM
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January is a good time to visit Chennai and the area around, as the winter cultural festival wlll be in full swing, with assorted performances in Chennai and Mamallapuram.

If you are going to Varkala specifically for the beach, it might be disappointing if yo've already been to Goa. Due to time/route constraints, we deliberately skipped that area as a destinatin, having heard from many that the beaches are not of a particular beauty compared toothers i'v been fortunate enought to see (Hawaii /Caribbean) .

Sorry for the disorganized rambling--memories of India made me do it!!

The Taj at Lucknow might be a good place for your "splurge) (LOL re your definition of a splurge--me too!!) because it is lower priced than many other Taj hotels. Friend lives ijn Lucknow and says Taj there is lovely. However, ...a more interesting place she mentioned in Lucknow, is a converted fort which a young couple has been working on as a labor of love. If interested, let me know, and I'll get the name.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 02:47 PM
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CaliNurse - yes, I was going to Varkala for the beach - I'm not much of a beach person, but I read that Varkala has a cliff, which would be a plus.

I'd certainly be interested in the labor of love in Lucknow! And the Taj, amazingly for a hotel with 110 rooms, says it has no availability for my dates. I wonder if there's something special going on in Lucknow then....
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 02:48 PM
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That is wierd, the reply all about Coonor and Ooty was totally cut off!
Ooty vs Coonoor!--Coonor !!!! Lovely misty hills near the tea plantation just outside of town center, Nilgiri hill views, little English cottages, etc. I think two full days is sufficient.

To get to Coimbatore--consider the marvelous "Toy train" from Coonoor! We took it only on the Coonoor to Ooty segment, and it was wonderful. Recommend sitting in first class (which is much more basic than it sounds) as you will be right behind the driver--so you will see both ahead (at the approaching tunnels) and to the side. Lovely views, great fun , pssing local villages where people walk along the track and wave or stare (-; Driver pointed out upcoming tunnels and interesting sites to us. a MUCH better than the Himalayan Queen toy train, which we took from Shimla in June.

Part of the Nilgiri train track was out of commission following sevefd rains of Winter 2009, but i think it's all repaired now--can check Indiamike for info, or let me know and i will ask Faith Pandian, the lady from Trichy who helped plan the trip and seems to know everything about the south!

Byelukuppe--Tibetan village. Temple there is beautiful, you walk though the monastery/school to get to it, but since you will have just come from Nepal with its Tibetan Buddhist influence, I dont think it is worth an out=of-the-way trip for you.

There are two places nr Kannur, right on the beach, that are supposed to be lovely. One is a small hotel/homestay; one is a large house owned and run by a fascinating lady who wrote back with great humor and info to all my enquiries (had to cancel that trip...but it's on "the list." If interested, i will send her name to you.

Have fun planning. Ooo, i am envious!!!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 02:51 PM
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If you go to Lucknow, visit Bara Imambara. It's a building that was built just to give work to the poor so they could earn money about 200 or so years ago. Find a guide who speaks English and they will take you upstairs into the labyrinth. It's a serious series of hallways and you have to insist the guide not be out of your sight.

Also built was an underground tunnel between Lucknow and Agra so the royal family could escape if needed. Supposedly that tunnel was ordered destroyed by the British. You might spend one to two hours there, but it's cool to see and doesn't involve much for stairs unless you go up a flight to the labyrinth.

Lucknow has a lot of Moghul history and architecture because it was ruled by the moslems during the pre-British era.

I will second the vote that the Taj Hotel in Lucknow is very nice and elegant.

There is an airport in Lucknow (Amausi) if you need to fly in or out.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 02:55 PM
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That is weird - thanks for resurrecting it. Did you see my short piece on Lucknow posted at the same time?

The "toy train" is one reason I'm going to Ooty/Coonoor - although coming from Mysore I'll actually arrive by bus instead. I still have good memories of the toy train to Darjeeling.

Costa Malabar was the place I was looking at in Kannur, but other suggestions welcome. As would be recommendations for a car and driver in the south - although I might just arrange those when I get there.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 02:58 PM
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Jaya - I checked the Taj to see what their rates were, and was told "no availability" for my dates. Any idea whether there might be a festival or convention in Lucknow at the end of November?
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 03:06 PM
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Hi again Thursday. Yes, our messages crossed in the mail.

The name of the restored place to stay in Lucknow is Fort Rampura.

Jaya ,thanks for info on Lucknow. My friend/coworker who grew up there says it'sa fascinating city that is filled with great things to see...(but having lived there , she still has yet to see them all--isnt it always that way!-- and what she of course says is the BEST food in India.

The lady nr Kannur is named Hyacinth--great fun, and very interesting! She started her homestay business about two yrs ago. Her place is Ezhara Homestay. Again, this is word of muth, but i have heard that the beaches in that area are lovelier, and far less crowded and commercialized , thant the ones farther south such as Varkala. That may not be the case much longer!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 03:08 PM
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the other place nr kannur is Kannur Beach House , but personally, I'd chose Ezhara instead--jsut based on Hyacinth's great communicatin!!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 04:25 PM
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CaliNurse - is this the place you were suggesting for Lucknow? http://www.fortrampura.com/index.html Because if so, it looks gorgeous, but Google maps says its 300 kms from Lucknow, and I want to be in town - especially as my train won't get in until early evening.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 05:07 PM
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300 km!! Oh dear, she said it was near Lucknow!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2010, 05:32 PM
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Once the cooler months come, travel really picks up in India and reservations are increasingly difficult.

There are no major holidays in late November.

Just as an aside, Lucknow is the capitol of Uttar Pradesh so you will see more government buildings and police in certain areas.

If you do make it to Lucknow, one of the handicrafts famous from there is call "chikan work" (pronounce just like "chicken"). It's a type of embroidery work. You will recognize it from Indian clothing sold here in the US, BUT... in Lucknow you will find a much finer and more detailed quality of it than you will on the run of the mill imported cotton clothing. You'll find the cheap stuff too, ask for the better quality work. If they don't have it, move on to another shop. It's not only for clothing. You can pick up a beautifully embroidered bed cover, table cloth, etc if you don't want it on clothing.

Even if you cannot stay at the Taj, they have a restaurant that is open to the public. When I was there last we stopped in for the lunch buffet.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 12:59 AM
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Your plan looks perfect.I've stay at resort called Chera Rocks(2yrs ago),between Kannur & Thelessery.Lovely bunglow 'bang' on the beach.Very secluded.Good fresh seafood.Calm waters.The owner is an ex-bank official,a very decent man & his son run the place.They pick you up from town.Its tough to locate this place otherwise.Take a look at this link:
http://www.cherarocks.com/
Bus from Kannur to Madikere(Coorg)would be a little tedious.You could consider a day or two in Waynad,Close to Kannur on the way to Coorg.Ther area has lots to offer including wildlife santuary(Matunga & Nagarhole).There are some wonderful resorts.All would depend how much time you have.Just a few suggestions
There was a shorter road from Kannur to Virajpet(South Coorg)then to Madikere(I guess thats where you headed??),was closed down for repairs.Not sure if its open now.Car would be a better option.A hilly terrain,busing would be long & tiresome.
Could give you more specific leads(places to stay & things to do)in that area.I've done it pretty extensivly.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 04:55 AM
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Thursday - Having never been to India and only in the initial planning stage myself, I can't contribute, but I love hearing that there are other Fodorites that stay at budget hotels. Looking at the lovely premier hotels that many here stay at is scary when I look at prices of $300-600 per night!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 06:08 AM
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thursdaysd: Your experience with having Tajs booked was similar to mine. No matter what time I entered (I was just checking prices), all dates were booked. I suspect that a lot of travel agencies reserve whole blocks of rooms. We finally stayed in two modestly priced Taj hotels, one in Agra, and one in Khajurahao.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 07:00 AM
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inquest - I think I'm going to skip the far south, which will give me four days to play with, so I could indeed do Waynad (Wyanad?) on the way to Coorg. And I was thinking I would probably need a car for that stretch. Suggestions welcome.

dgunbug - I mostly paid under 1,000 INR back in 2001, although some places were very basic. This time I'm aiming a little further up-market and am seeing quite a few good-looking places in the 2,000-3,000, and certainly 3,000-4,000 range - so well under $100. Except so far in Lucknow!

indianapearl - I think the Taj in Lucknow is out of my price range in any case. Checking kayak and asiarooms shows a lot of other places booked too. Since Lucknow is partly a buffer in case there's a strike in Nepal, I don't want a prepaid place, but I'm wondering how dangerous it would be to show up without a reservation. I think there may be a collection of cheapies around the station...
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 10:52 PM
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True,heading south is one long haul,though Varkala & Kanyakumari are great places.Instead Wayanad would be a good stopover.Some very good resorts around Kalpetta for which I'll dig out leads.There is Edakkal Caves where prehistoric pictoral wall inscriptions.There is a tribal village close by too.This is one good resort:http:
//www.vythiriresort.com/
http://www.wayanadresorts.com/-Bule ginger Eco resort.
http://www.orchidresorts.com/index.html- Orchid Resort

Ooty is not as good as it use to be.A pretty dirty town,filled with tourists.Coonoor is a better bet.From Coimbator,Kodaikanal is about 180km.A very scenic drive,highly recommended.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 11:12 PM
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BTW,Thursdaysd,pardon me if I'm being inquisitive.Whay Palolem?Though a nice cove & a lovely beach,there are hoards of young Isreali revellers very gregarious & loud.Since no permanent structures allowed on the beach & the surrounds,there are thatched accomodation,which is very,very basic.Where are you staying there?
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Old Aug 24th, 2010, 04:45 AM
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inquest - well, the reports on Goa seem to be that Palolem is still quieter than a lot of places. I'll be there at the begining of December, so I'm hoping the scene won't have really gotten started...

If I could be sure of the trains connecting I'd go to Gokarna instead, although that's likely to be even more basic, lol! This place doesn't look too uncomfortable: http://www.villageguesthousegoa.com/

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to find somewhere not too basic and not too pricey for Lucknow... Looks like it may be http://www.hotelmohan.com/ although the photos aren't too encouraging.
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Old Aug 24th, 2010, 04:50 AM
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inquest - that Ginger resort looks absolutely gorgeous - but well above my splurge limit, unfortunately. Vythiri would be possible, and in comparison Orchid is positively affordable, lol!
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