At this point, Boy and I had been in India for roughly three weeks. I really was enjoying the experience of travelling through India, but was also beginning to tire of the constant crush of people. Luckily, we were heading down south!
We awoke at 7:00am when our overnight bus from Mumbai pulled over, not into a depot, but to the side of the road. We had arrived in Anjuna, northern Goa. We hopped off the bus and rather than being greeted by the usual onslaught of tuk-tuks and rickshaws, there were six taxis waiting. The taxi ride from the bus to the hostel was entirely unexpected; no traffic, palm trees lining the road, greenery everywhere I looked. We were dropped off at our hostel and, on our host's recommendation, hired a scooter. Anjuna was very quiet so a scooter was the only way to properly explore the beautiful surroundings.
We stayed in Goa for four nights. During this time, we had one dedicated day-trip, and this was to Chapora Fort. The Fort is located at Bardez, which was roughly a half-hour drive from the hostel. The Fort is built on the coastal cliffs, at the mouth of the Chapora River. It provides a stunning panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. This is popular tourist spot, so Boy and I featured in a few more "selfies" while we were here.
The rest of our time in Anjuna was spent tiki-touring around the township because our interest wasn't visiting more tourist spots, it was enjoying the natural environment and the freedom of having our own transport again. Our time in Anjuna felt like a holiday, rather than a backpacking trip. Because I was so chilled out, I (quite stupidly) forgot to take any photos while we were there...sorry! You're just going to have to take my word that Anjuna is a beautiful place.
After Goa, we hopped on a train (gasp!) to take us further south, to Fort Kochi, Kerala. The train left Goa at 11:00pm that evening, and arrived at 5:00pm the next day. We had 'Sleeper Class' tickets which provide a bunk in a cabin of six beds. Side note: another question I'm often asked is "what are the toilets like on Indian trains?" The truth is I can't tell you because I never used one - not even during the 18 hour trip from Goa to Kerala. Toilets on Indian trains are holes over the tracks, and I decided not to use one. From what I've heard, they aren't particularly pleasant...
As I was saying, we arrived at Fort Kochi station at 5:00pm, and caught a tuk-tuk to our hostel. Fort Kochi was more walkable than Anjuna, so we decided against hiring a scooter. We were told by our hostel host that while we were in a Kerala, a "must-do" is a tour of the Backwaters, so we booked ourselves on for the next day. This was an all-day trip on a roofed longboat propelled by a man at the front with a long stick - kind of like a gondola but the driver is at the front of the boat, rather than the back. The photo at the top of this post is one of the small villages within the backwaters. Interestingly, the canals are the "roads" and boats are the main method of transport to get from place to place. The tour of the Backwaters took most of the day, and it was, by far, one of my favourite things we did in India. It was such a wonderful way to spend a day: we stopped at two villages to learn about local industry, had a traditional fish thali for lunch (which was the best thali I had during my entire time in Nepal and India) and enjoyed cruising through the calm, tropical canals. If you ever go to Kerala, make sure you go on a Backwaters tour.
The next day, we went on a tuk-tuk tour of Fort Kochi. We paid a driver ₹500 and he took us to the local tourist spots. We went to the museum, various temples, and - get this - the local Jewish synagogue. Fort Kochi has a small population of - if I recall correctly - 12 Paradesi Jews. The Paradesi Synagogue is located in Jew Town but, unfortunately, the synagogue was closed so we weren't able to have a look inside which was such a shame. We also went to the local spice trade market where I stocked up on chai tea and dried fruit. After our four nights in Kerala, we decided the next stop would be Bengaluru, and hopped on an overnight bus to take us there.
Goa and Kerala were unlike any other part of India we had seen thus far. It was quiet, peaceful, green, and coastal. It felt like a world within India where you could truly relax and enjoying your surroundings at your own pace. I wholeheartedly enjoyed our time in the south, and would recommend that if you go to India, you include Goa and Kerala on your list.
This post marks roughly one month of our time in India, and a third of the trip in total. For variety, my next post is going to be checking in; where we have been since moving to London, some of my personal travel tips that made life easier while we were travelling, some examples that made life more difficult, and some of my recommendations if you're considering moving to London!
Bye for now,