The following morning after a 5hr drive we are dropped off at Felix Homestay on Marai Beach and left alone. Felt great as we are used to being free backpackers – so having nothing much organised is rather nice! The beach is the cleanest we’ve seen in India, not very busy, not much rubbish, and our homestay is pretty much on the beach and spotlessly clean. Not bad for £17pn b&b. Not sure it could be beaten. Evening meal was an optional £1.50 each – and it was superb in a lovely ambient setting.
The beach was really nice, and though a bit busier on the Sunday, not very busy at all. Lots of sun, trees for shade, and shops for icy cold drinks and ice creams (oh – did I mention ice creams are about 35p?!)
With no idea how we were going to get from there to our next hotel in Kochi – we toyed with Uber (yes, Uber works in India), rickshaw, bus – but then heard there was a train station 3km away! So the easiest option was Rickshaw – train – rickshaw – and arrived a couple of hours later at our great hotel in Kochi for maybe £1.20 each. Pretty easy. Hotel for £22/n was fantastic – better than some ones in UK – and also allowed us a 5pm checkout.
Kochi has a few islands, so we took a ferry (6p) to Kochi fort island to explore, and whilst interesting and different didn’t overly stand out. Bit more tourist grief here, but no worse than tourist spots in Europe. We did manage to find a waterside bar for an icy cold beer, but disappointingly it didn’t quite hit the spot – so we look forward to returning to our local micro brewery pub on our return for some tasty IPAs! Ironically, considering why they were invented, no IPAs here… Our second day let us explore the rest of Kochi city – again nice and fun to explore, but not overly memorable.
Our next stop was MySore (MySuru) which is a 14hr overnight train ride away – which I thought was a little odd – but then checked the route of the train and was totally surprised how indirect it was! Again making our entire route across India look hugely inefficient – oops. Still, better than a 9hr bus ride!
As expected, the train was a little late, but really very little to complain about. We had middle bunks (from 3) and pretty much at 10pm everyone jumps in bed. It was comfortable and the trains are surprisingly smooth and quiet so we did actually get some sleep. We were in 3AC class which was fine, albeit a bit boring 🙂
Mysore is a cultural centre, and does have an amazing “wow” Palace that is certainly worth a visit – but really does show the difference between the elite and the people! There is also a better than expected zoo, and an aquarium – both were cheap as chips and certainly as good as most in Europe. The main town is worth exploring, fun market and normal shops, and we had a long chat with a local whose house steps we used as a seat having more icecream! Bizarrely lots of the wild cows living in the town were painted yellow with red horns… Weird.
Mysore definitely worth a visit – quite a mixture of sights in a small ish place.
Our penultimate destination was Bangalore, simply just for one day/night and to fly out from. Getting there was an easy train ride – I say easy – but as this was an unreserved train it was more like the chaos you see on TV compared to the ones we’d used already. The Indian trains are huge – 20+ carriages, so being at the right place is important and we fortunately found the correct end of the platform, and luckily one door was stuck open so we were able to jump onboard whilst the train was still moving (lol – when in Rome…) – meaning we got nice seats (1+1) – so when the rest of the crowds got on we were not adversely affected – but it was hugely chaotic with dozens per area, sitting in luggage racks etc etc. But it was cheap – 60p for a 4hr journey I think….
Bangalore didn’t overly excite us, rather “posh” in places and very western, and lacking the quirky normal India. But it sufficed for a night and allowed us to get a simple Uber to the airport which was on par with LHR T5 – fully automated and quick – and then a 2h flight to Mumbai….
We have transited Mumbai before enroute to Thailand and hated the airport, but this time it was fine and we were out in minutes. Ordered an Uber as we were leaving the terminal and got it within 60 seconds! Wow. A great way to get known prices and hassle free transport to your pre-set destination. Conveniently, you can also pay Uber in cash, so no debates with driver needed. So to our hotel that was perfectly placed, functional and clean, but not the best.
But we did make the most of Mumbai – explored all we could using local rickshaws and a bit of walking, taking in the monuments and sites – and it was really quite interesting and showing the difference between rich and poor quite obviously. Lots of cricket being played and lots of markets, and very little hassle indeed.
On our final day we had a 2am flight and could not have a late checkout. So we had to stay out most of the day which (sadly) caused Mel some issues being out all day – but we survived. Fortunately found a McDonalds for a toilet break which was spotless. Phew!!! Was a close call!! 🙂
And a final Uber to the airport – stupid price of £4 for a 1.5hr drive through the most stressful traffic possible…. Bargain, but really puts things into perspective.
Then Mumbai airport was OK but back to queueing – but we were fortunate to find a cozy sofa with power so we settled in for a couple of movies. Even better, our “cheapest possible seats” on the BA flight were upgraded by BA to Premium Economy – and to the front seats there in front of the door! So great seats, no kids, and plenty of room to sleep. Best flight we’ve ever had – which is good as it was 10hrs….
And then Heathrow. Argh. Had to wait 3hrs for a national express coach. Sadly that was late and turned up with the driver saying he needed a break and could not drive, so that meant we’d miss our connection! Their website said all was on time else we’d have been able to grab an earlier coach. We managed to blag another connection, and fortunately the next coach was also late….
Bit stressy but we made it back locally and missed the final bus connection by a matter of seconds meaning we had to wait at a bus stop for 30 mins without winter clothes 30’ colder than we were used to! Not nice. 7 hrs from landing at Heathrow to home, a trip of <2 hours! Argh! That’d be about £7-10 on Indian Uber!!! (UK Uber £150….).
Missing the heat and cheap transport already – but looking forward to some tasty decent beers….