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Please critique my southern India itinerary

Please critique my southern India itinerary

Old Feb 21st, 2012, 12:00 PM
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p.s. The travel planner I use is Mrs. Faith Pandian at Indianpanorama.in

The company was "born" in South India, its HQ is still in Trichy, and Faith, a resdient, is very knowledgeable about the area.

At the very least, have a look at the company's site. All their itins are of course flexible, but the ones listed will give you ideas. Also check th esite's"newslettters" for ideas--I think a few specifically are about the South.
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 12:06 PM
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another question: are you leaving from BLR airport (i notice you end the itin with a trip to Bangalore) and are uyour flts already booked/set in stone ?

I woudl guess it's cumin you dpn't like.It has that sweaty-armpits aroma or is it the other way 'round?) The food in Kerala is often fish and coconut based and tastes quite different--lighter, IMHO--than in the North.
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 12:35 PM
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Hi Cali- Thanks for getting back to me.

Yes interesting architecture is my number one priority.

Second priority is good scenery, like the backwaters of Kerala, the hills of Munnar, ect. However, I do not think I want to do an overnight on a houseboat as I'd prefer to sleep in an air conditioned hotel room minus mosquitos at night.

I am not buying plane tickets until I plan my itinerary and figure out how many days i need to cover my itinerary. I'm guessing I will be flying into Chennai and out of Bangalore, or the reverse, because of the cities I want to cover.

I was going to ask Indian Panarama, as well as several other Indian TAs for a quote once I settle on an itinerary and hotels. Unfortunately, that seems like it won't be any time soon.

Planning is usually half the fun, but in the case of southern India, it is becoming a little frustrating. I wish i had a better handle on not only distances but also how long it takes to get from one place to another. I really do not want to spend most of the trip in a car.
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 12:57 PM
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Lonely Planet "South India" will have the bus times between most cities. You can figure it won't take longer by car and should be less. (Assuming your driver doesn't take the long way, make sure you're not paying by distance.)
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 01:30 PM
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note problems with kingfisher
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 02:42 PM
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Don't settle on an itinerrary YET...why not ASK the different travel agents of whom you enquire, for THEIR feedback.

If you wait and plan all the itin and hotels yourself, the work is done. A good TA can give advice.

Tell them how many days you have, a GENERAL idea of where you want to go, what you want to see, your desired AVERAGE budget limit on hotels or homestays some great ones might be less $ than you are expecting--some might be way morer--it'll all balance out)

That is what a good travel planner can do for you--and it is especially helpful for your first tim in an area (as it is for you in So India)
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 03:06 PM
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http://indianpanorama.in/222s_india_explorer.html

Have you seen this itin? it matches your # of days , your arrival and departure cities, and most of what you wanted to see. BUT note, that to see as much as you want in the time you have, you WILL be doing lots of one-nighters. i am not saying this is ideal--it is for someone who wants to see a lot with limited time.
it is JUST an idea.

Like you, I would skip the overnight houseboat ( agree with your reasons)--you can do several-hours long country boat rides in back waters and see lots more actually since the boats are narrower) and use the extra day DIVIDE the long trip from Cochin to Coonoor, perhaps with a stop at Palakkad (Palghat). Somewhere i read somethinh nice about Ambat Farmstay, There is another place NEAR Palakkad but quite a few miles off the route you'll be taking.

Or you could stop at Thrissur--which is where we broke up the trip--and stay at River Retreat hotel--not luxurious, but clean and sweet staff, a typical 3 star Indian heritage hotel , which feels a world away from Kochi. This is also a good place to stay if you are interested in the Keralan culture, as the Kathakali Dance training instituye is about 5 minutes from there and allows visits at certain times.

Notr too that this Indianpanorama itin gives you expected travel times, including "warnings" of the LONG trips.

I also recommend that whomever you use to book your trip, price or request an upgrade to an Innova for comfort o those long journeys, and that you are very clear you want a driver who speaks a decent amount of English (which you are more likely to get with an Innova driver).
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Old Feb 21st, 2012, 03:07 PM
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i meant the River Retreat HOTEL is clean and the STAFF are sweet
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Old Feb 22nd, 2012, 01:49 PM
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Cali-Thanks so much for your suggestions. I'll look into them and will probably be back for more advice. If you think of anything else that might be helpful, please let me know.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2012, 08:22 PM
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The beautiful place where we stayed near Coonoor is Kurumba Village. The web site pix dont do it justice. Rooms are as showm, but the beauty of the scenery in the valley location cannot be captured. If you go, ask for cottage next to the waterfall!

The place we stayed just outside Hassan is Hoysala Vilage. It was ok, basic, but with lovely gardens. This was more than 3 yrs ago. If the website is accurate, it looks as if room interiors have been updated although pix can be deceiving--esp'lly on hotel websites!!

I would not stay here again though, because there is nothing around the hotel. it's along a highway. The town of Hassan is pretty awful, or was then. THis place fortunately is out of town, but i would stay at a prettier countryside location next time , as mentioned above, somewhere near coffee country in Chikmagalur. (Belur, which you will want to see if in the ara, is about halfway between there and Hassan).

YOu are lucky Shelly, you have almost a year to dream and plan. Have fun with it!!
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 01:28 AM
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Heres a link for the roadmap and shortest route calculator for you know what kind of distances we are talking about.
http://www.travelindia-guide.com/rou...a_roadmap.html
Click in sequence your intended route.The 'shortest' route(as the crow flies) works out to around 1750km approx.We sure can't travel like the feathered kind.So in my approximation its around 2500km,starting in Chennai ending in Bangalore.Consider travel time.More than a third is mountainous region and close to three quarters is State roads(unpredictable/undesirable/unmotorable).In other words simply exhausting.All in 2 weeks.Phew.Give it a re-thought.
Use Chennai,Kochi & Bangalore as bases & fly in between.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 04:18 AM
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So glad to get your mileage calculation link. My DH is so releived that you and other Fodorites are forcing me to rethink this trip.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 05:52 AM
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Well, I told you that a week ago.

The roads in Tamil Nadu are actually fine. Once you hit the hills your time will slow dramatically. Work on 25 miles an hour and allow more time. Actually, using a mileage calculator is fairly useless on Indian roads - as is listening to anybody else's approximations. I've been on three hour drives that took <i>ten</i>.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 07:55 AM
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Have you ever been on a 10 hour drive that took three? Considering what I've read about some Indian drivers, it's conceivable.

Seriously though, any concrete suggestions on how to tackle this itinerary? If I want to do all that I mention in my 'dream itinerary", what's the minimum number of days I need to do it at a reasonable for India speed? And would you use the car to cover all of it, or fly to some of the places, as inquest suggests?

Planning my 3 week trip to Myanmar was a piece of cake compared to this.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 09:16 AM
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lol. Never.

Now, I can sense your frustration. The reason I'm not offering you the suggestions you want is that, frankly, it's a big job and I ain't your travel agent. He/she gets paid for it. Your dream itinerary is flawed and you seem kinda locked in on it - that's why you're having problems. It reads like you've read through a guide book and ticked off stuff that interests you, ignoring everything else. Of course, the stuff you've ignored is the good stuff.

Neither Tamil Nadu nor Kerala are particularly thrilling destinations unless you've never seen a palm tree, a beach or a hill. Thousands will, of course, disagree. The clue is in the culture.

Also, the food issue is just doing my head in. I'm not going to suggest an itinerary that has you munching granola bars and steamed vegetables for a month - which is about the minimum time you need. In one swoop you've wiped out every interesting [and cheaper] accomodation option.

You need to know that 90% of tourism in Kerala is Indian tourists. [That fact from the General Manager of the Zuri resort Kumarakom where I stayed two months ago - a swizz place with precisely four western dishes on a menu with two hundred different options.]

You have barely mentioned a single hotel other than Chennai. That planning is the wrong way round. Your trip will be made or spoilt by your choice of accomodation.

So why not approach it this way - go looking for hotels.
Here are sixty good options:
http://www.i-escape.com/india/boutique-hotels

link them together into an itinerary.

then look here:
http://mahindrahomestays.com/homestays/map
just to see what you're missing - the food issue wipes all of them out.

Learn about Google maps. For example: Type in Madurai. Click on 'get directions'. type in Cochin in the new box. Click. then add another destination. Type in Coonoor in the new box. Click.

You'll need to lie down about this point.

Stare at the map for a very long time. When you've finished sobbing think about this:

Lose Munnar.

Fly out of Madurai to Bangalore. Go to Mysore. Think very carefully about Hassan and Belur. The temples are wonderful. I've been to all of them. The time taken to get there and back may not be worth it.

Go back to Bangalore.

Look here:
http://www.jetairways.com/EN/IN/PopU...eMapFlash.aspx

Fly Bangalore to Kochi.

End your trip in Kochi.

You could, of course, just do this:
http://www.theluxurytrains.com/the-g...riot/index.php
followed by this;
http://www.theluxurytrains.com/splen...outh/index.php

Your dream plan ignores every practicality about distance, as people have been trying politely to tell you. It also ignores everything but the most obvious tourist sites. That's not where you'll find Tamil Nadu or Kerala.

Look here:
http://www.theblueyonder.com/rivernila.htm
or here:
http://www.theblueyonder.com/kerala/keralapackage.htm
and here:
http://www.theblueyonder.com/karnata...akapackage.htm

Of course, you'll be so busy traveling from place to place you won't even know what you're missing.

And that's all I'm going to offer.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 09:32 AM
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Thank you very much for your guidance. I truly appreciate your advice.

I might decide to do this trip in 2014 as it will probably take me that long to research it.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 09:58 AM
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As dogster points out, you have two huge problems, distance and food. You can tackle the first by taking longer, possibly by flying (although I'm a big proponent of on-the-ground travel), and adjusting the places you're going. Or maybe do either Tamil Nadu or Kerala/Karnataka on this trip.

For the food, I'd suggest some careful experimentation. It's almost criminal to go to India and subsist on granola bars and veggies. Your profile says you live in Boston. I don't know about Boston, but you're not far from New York, which has a reasonable number of Indian restaurants. Not necessarily very good ones, but no shortage. Visit some south (not north) Indian restaurants and try to work out some things you can eat. Maybe do some cooking yourself - there are loads of good Indian cookbooks - that will let you figure out which spices are causing the problem.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 10:56 AM
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Shelley, this thread has attracted so much great information. Coincidently, I have been browsing an India guidebook, looking at destinations in southern India but also getting sidetracked by other areas. I have had the same problem you have - the places I want to visit are often far apart and there isn't an easy way to get from one to another. I had finally concluded that I need to break this up into a series of trips, choosing just one area at a time to explore. For instance, I started reading about Orissia and found so much I wanted to do and see.

Anyway, I have to put down the India book and get to work on the logistics for this year's trip instead.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 11:21 AM
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Following up on thursday's second point.

Google 'Thali'. Go to Images.

How to eat spicy Indian food?
Learn about Raita.
http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cucumber_mint_raita/
Problem solved.
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Old Feb 24th, 2012, 11:30 AM
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Shelly or anyone else--dunno what your budget is, but the vast majority of the places on the i-escpe site are wayyy beyond my budget , except for the occasional splurge. (Also, nix Gramam Homestay, which they "recommend") I suspect it's another of these "objective" hotel recco sites that charge "recommended"places to appear in their "approved" places. Same with the homestays on teh Mahindra site. it's a start, but I'd read the visitors' feedback very carefully, and also tripadvisor reviews (esp'lly from folks who post more than one review).

I also don't think it necessary to stay in $200/night places, whether or not there are majority of Indian tourists, except as an occasional splurge. However, this does seem to be changing (i.e. prices ain't what they used to be--all over the world).

Just as Dog predicted many would disagree about his assessment of TN and Kerala. I do, based on my admittedly limited experience . I want to get to places like Madurai (where The Heritage is supposed to be fantastic, but in the upper end price range ) and the countryside and villages of TN. I aldo disagree with Dogster's recco stated elsewhere,to avoid Indian trains. You take at least Nilgiri Mt train as in your itin, and if brave (another smiley) one into a city RR station
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