We’ve seen two different sides of India this week.
The first was the conclusion of our Golden Triangle tour with more forts and palaces in Jaipur. Individually they’re very impressive, but it did feel a little similar to what we’d previously seen in Delhi and Agra. I must sound like a spoiled brat!
For the record, in Jaipur we visited the Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Jal Mahal (Lake Palace), City Palace, the Observatory and Jawahar Circle. And at last we persuaded our guide to take us to a proper local place to eat rather than a made for tourists restaurant.
We also had an evening at Choki Dhani, which was described as an ethnic resort. It supposedly showcases local traditions, but it’s a manufactured tourist attraction and, in my view, it’s not authentic and not worth visiting.
It would have been smart to fly from Jaipur to our next destination, but sometimes I’m not very clever. Instead we had an unnecessary five hour drive to the airport in Delhi to catch a flight. Hopefully I’ll learn for next time.
Landing in Kochi, in the southern state of Kerala, feels like arriving in a different country. The scenery, buildings, driving, climate and people all seemed different from the Delhi/Agra/Jaipur area that we’d come from.
We spent our first day exploring Kochi. There’s not heaps to see, but enough to entertain us for a day at the Folklore Museum, a church, Chinese fishing nets and the Dutch Palace, before wandering around the cafes and small shops in Jew Street.
The following day we headed to Munnar, known for it’s tea plantations. The town is at an altitude of 1,500 metres, so it's very different from the other places we’d seen in India. On the way to Munnar, we visited Hill Palace, which had been the official residence of the Maharaja of Kochi
We also stopped at a spice garden. For a small entry fee, the guided tour explains which plants are grown and what they’re used for. We saw turmeric, coriander, chilli, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg/mace, vanilla, eucalyptus, aloe, mint, cocoa, coffee, pineapple, betle nuts, basil and many more besides.
The next morning we jumped into a jeep to explore the Munnar countryside which was a fun way to see things. We drove through tea plantations on the way to scenic points such at Muttupatty Dam and lake, Top Station and Echo Point. We finished the day with a visit to Lockhart Tea factory to learn how the tea is harvested and processed. A busy day, so we deserved our end of day Ayuveda massage.
Another long drive on Sunday took us from the hills of Munnar to the backwaters of Alleppey where we’d booked an overnight stay on a houseboat. I thought we'd be among a number of passengers, but we actually had the boat all to ourselves.
The Kerala Backwaters are beautiful and I wish we could have stayed longer to enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Although the houseboats are for tourists, real life is happening all around you and it's fascinating to watch. Without doubt, this was my favourite thing in India.
Daily diary and costs
I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.
Week 16 - what we've done:
Monday – Car transfer from Ranthambore to Jaipur. Evening at Choki Dhani ethnic resort.
Tuesday – Jaipur, India. Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Jai Mahal (lake palace), City Palace, Observatory, Jawahar Circle.
Wednesday – Car transfer from Jaipur to Delhi (5 hours), then flight to Kochi.
Thursday – Kochi, India. Folklore museum, Vasco de Gama Church, Chinese fishing nets, Dutch Palace and Jewish Street.
Friday – Car transfer from Kochi to Munnar. Stopped off at Hill Palace, Chekkara Waterfall and Spice Garden.
Saturday – Munnar, India. Jeep tour through tea plantations, Muttupatty Dam and lake, Top Station and Echo Point. Tea factory visit. Ayuveda massage.
Sunday – Alleppey, India. Travelled from Munnar to Allepey for our houseboat stay.
Week 16 - we spent a total of £1,116 / $1,573 for 2 people on:
Accommodation £526 / $743
Meals/Coffee/Snacks £95 / $133
Transport £266 / $375 Car and driver for one week
Attractions/Fees £139 / $196 Jeep safari, entry to 7 attractions, plus tips to guide & driver
Massage £32 / $45
Laundry £22 / $31
Toiletries £32 / $45 Ayuveda products from the Spice Garden
Medical £4 / $5 Rabies injections after dog bite
We booked a package in India including the hotels, car and driver plus guides, so I've had to guestimate the split. What I do know for sure is that it's cost more than I thought! India hasn't been the low cost destination that I expected.