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Traveling South India Sept-Nov 11

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this is a copy of the lonely planet thorn tree forum thread here
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2110147
 
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We started in Mumbai, stayed in Anjali Inn. It's a bit out of town but Raj is
very nice and takes care. A great place to stay and a good base to discover
Mumbai.
 
We traveled via Tourist Quota on an overnight train to Solapur afterwards. The
temple there is nice but the city is disgusting and not worth visiting. We
were getting out asap again. We went to Hyderabad by train buying a second
class ticket and upgrading to AC Three in the train by talking to the Train
Conductor. Make sure he calculates from the book and gives you a proper
receipt.
 
In Hyderabad we stayed at the Youth Hostel near the sailing club on the
north/east side of the lake next to the tank bund road. Phone is 040 2754 0763
and a non a/c room was 200 Rs. It's a great place to stay, nice location, only
Indians there and a very friendly staff. We can recommend it for Hyderabad. A
Rikshaw through Hyderabad town is about 60 Rs.
 
Next we went to Srisailam with AP tourism APTDC. Trip was 1000 per person. Non
A/C bus and an accomodation in the pilgrim town. Good value. Temple was okay.
 
Next we took a train to Visakhapatnam booked via http://www.cleartrip.com
which is a good site. They use verified by visa, so make sure you have that
set up for your credit card. We traveled sleeper class which works fine, it is
well secure and the wind cools enough (at least in september). Most fun is
leaning out the doors and seeing the landscape. Also we met a lot of very
friendly Indians. Recommended.
 
In Vizak we stayed at the Heritage Hotel in the Railway Station for 450 Rs Non
A/C double room after a nightmare in the Sai Priya Beach Resort (don't stay
there!) . Next day we took the Araku Valley trail. The Borra Caves are the
most amazing thing we saw so far.
 
Next we plan to go to Mahabalipuram / Mamalapuram and then Pondicherry and
more south/east. If you have advice for these directions or questions for the
places we visited so far, post away. We will keep this thread updated.
 
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We made it to Mamallapuram / Mahabalipuram. It's a nice village on the sea but
way more touristic than everything we've seen before. The food (in the
touristic part) is not really indian but when you go into the indian part of
town it gets better (and way cheaper). We stayed in Lakshmi Cottage (400 Rs
Non/ac room) which was okay but today we switch to a sea side view room at
Good Luck for same price. It is very notable that it is down season at the
moment, restaurants and hotels are empty or closed.
 
Good breakfast was at Good Luck roof terrace and we had good dinner with the
catch of the day at Seagull restaurant on top of Tina's Blue View Hotel (or
something like that).
 
We rented a Honda Hero for a day which was 600 Rs plus 700 Rs gas. Didn't use
the gas and in the end felt a bit overpriced. But was very nice to drive
around with a bike.
 
The stone carved temples are amazing here and climbing through the rocks was
definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far.
 
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The hotel with sea view we stayed at in Mamallapuram is Sri Harul Guest House,
directly on the beach, with the Good Luck restaurant on top. Mobile 0091
9384620173. Ask for a room on ground level and sea view. We paid 400 for Non
A/C. Clean rooms with towel and nice chairs on the balcony. Best room we had
in India so far.
 
They also organized a trip with the fishermen for us. 1 1/2 hours out fishing.
Was great. Cost us 500 Rs but we did not bargain ...
 
We went to Pondicherry afterwards. Stayed at Villa Labourdonnais, which is
very nice. Drinks at L E-Space on the same Rue Abourdonnais. Dinner at Le Cafe
on the Beach Promenade. Ask for the Buffet, which is on the top, costs 100 Rs
only for All you can eat and has a great view.
 
Next we go to Kodaikanal and the Kerala backwaters. Anyone here who wants to
share a trekking guide or a house boat? Drop us a message!
 
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We went via a bus booked with Redbus.in from Pondicherry to Kodaikanal. We
stayed at the Greenlands Youth Hostel, which got some nasty reviews online but
we found it to be okay and the staff friendly. The view is just utterly
stunning, 2000 meters down into a huge plain. At night the lights flicker in
the valley. It's enchanting and well worth the inconvenience of ice-cold water
in a bucket for shower and a lot of blankets for sleeping in an unheated room.
We paid 500 Rs per night for a double room.
 
In Kodaikanal Royal Tibetian restaurant is good food, Potluck has nice hot
chocolate and the Pastry Corner has good muffins. Also, it is cold. 10 Degrees
at night is common in September.
 
From Kodaikanal we will take bus to Kanyakumari to the south tip of the indian
continent ...
 
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The local bus from Kodaikanal to Kanyakumari was 225 Rs per person. It was
suppose to leave at 9:00 but already departed at 8:30, we were lucky to be on
it. It arrived at 18:30. We stayed for 300 Rs non/ac double room at Hotel
Narmadha phone 04652 246365. It next to the Tri view sea hotel on the bus
stand road parallel to beach road. It has an annoying techno-magic show in the
first flow, but that ends at 9. The sunrise in Kanyakumari was okay, but not
mind blowing.
 
We went by train to Verkala afterwards. Takes 3 1/2 hours, our train left at
Kanyakumari at 10:30.
 
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From the Verkala train station we walked to Verkala Beach. A rikshaw there was
70 Rs. Tourist Verkala is basically a huge cliff with one path in the front
and loads of restaurants and rooms along it. We asked around a bit and
eventually got a sea view room for 250 Rs. Then we spent several days swimming
in the sea (strong currents), watching the beautiful sunset from the cliff and
eating out. Best food was Cafe Del Mar, also most expensive there. In the
night the travelers meet at Rock'n'Roll cafe. Walking north is a nice some
hours trip. Bring a torch if the night might catch you. If you walk south you
get to the "indian beach" since lots of people drive there by car/motocycle to
go swimming. If you follow that road there inland you come to the big road. On
the corner is an okay indian meal place which has a nice backyard with view
over the temple lake.
 
From Verkala we took a train to Allepey. Second Class for 70 Rs each. In
Allepey we stayed at Daffodils Home Stay. Call the owner Nithin 09847223717,
he'll probably pick you up from the train/bus. We spent 200 Rs on a very good
double room. In Allepey we took a house boat. We found a nice swedish couple
to share a 2 bedroom boat with. In the morning, we went to the house boat
jetty at 8:30 and started checking out all the boats, talking the people and
getting quotes. All boats leave at 11:00 and return at 9:00 next day. They
seem to have the same food on board and take the same routes, so your decision
should depend on the actual boat (always have a look before you pay) and how
much you like the crew.
 
In the end we settled for a boat for 5000 Rs Non A/C 2 Bedrooms. It is called
Lilly Darling, has an office at the jetty road. Manager is called Siby, reach
him at 09447250521 and ask him to sea the boat. The boat has a great top floor
with a balcony, which was amazing when cruising around. Food was very good and
the captain and cook where nice people. Tell them what you want to sea and
they'll take you on a nice route. Also swimming in the back waters is a great
idea.
 
After the backwaters we tried to rent a motorcycle in Allepey but failed. They
just dont have rentals there really. So we took a local bus to
Kochin-Ernakulum (every 20 min), walked to the Ferry Jetty (2.50 per person)
and went to Fort Cochi. There we stayed at a place in Peter Celli Street /
lower Princess Street for 300 Rs. Next day we rented bikes (one bike 75 Rs per
day) at a street rental in Quitro Street. Bikes were shit but fun. Crossing
over to the north islands is not really worth it, but Mattancherry is charming
and the area around the synagogue is great. lots of trading and antique shops.
 
From Ernakulum we took a train to Coimbatore, where we took a Rikshaw to the
Gandhipuram Bus stand. From there a local bus took us to Mettupalaiyam, where
we are now staying at Bharath Bharan next to the railway station for 150 Rs
double room. This town is not worth going to, but just a stopover. We hope to
get on the Toy Train to Ooty tomorrow, but the waiting list is long ...
 
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This is how we got on the Ooty Steam Toy Train (or also called Nilgiri
Mountain Railway): The tickets are normal train tickets. You can book them in
advance just as you book a train. They have the same waiting list concept. We
didn't know this and were only able to book heavily waitlisted tickets with
now chance to be confirmed. The next morning we've been at the station at 5:30
to get in line for the Waitlist Queue (sign for metal rails on platform) with
our waitlisted ticket. I think around 6:00 one of the wagons was filled with
waitlisted ticket holders only. Some foreign tourists didn't made it into that
wagon but kept on bugging the train conductors. In the end all foreign
tourists got on, but many domestic tourists had to stay outside.
 
The ride with the toy train is awesome. Old technology at work. In our wagon
(directly behind the steam locomotive) we got a head full of steam in each
tunnel. Very uncomfortable. Also the wagon was overcrowded a lot. For the way
up, sitting on the left gives you scenic views into the valley, sitting on the
right has waterfalls. You will see coffee and tee plantages, jungle, monkeys.
Between Mettupalayam and Conoor the steam train rolls. That is the spectacular
bit. Between Conoor and Ooty a normal diesel locomotive is used, this bit is
boring.
 
In Ooty we stayed at a hostel next to the Ooty lake. We did a day walk to the
Dotta Betta peak. On the way we visited the Tea museum. Both very recommended.
You can get a bearable hiking map of Ooty in the tourist information. And the
just ask people for the way. This led us down some interesting paths. From the
peak we took a bus down. Ooty
 
Next day we took the early 6:50 bus from Ooty to Masinagudy, where we switched
to the bus to the reception of the Mudumalai Wildlife Resort. The bus ride was
scenic down a steep curvy road with hairpin bends. When we arrived in the
reception no one was there to provide meaningful help. Apparently the only
real way to visit the resort is via the bus trip which goes at 7 am and 4 pm.
Both times are only really feasible if you have own transport or stay in the
resort. Instead we took a private jeep for 90 minutes / 600 Rs but it turned
out that it was only going on normal public roads. We didn't see animals apart
from some deer. Big disappointment.
 
We continued via public bus to Mysore, where we stayed in a lodge near Mahatma
Ghandi Square for 350 Rs. There is several around that area. The markets in
Mysore are very well worth a visit. Also be aware of people trying to show you
innocent and perfume factories. You will see how they make stuff but try to
sell it to you for 10 times the price you'd pay on the market. Visiting the
palace in Mysore is a great tour. 200 Rs per head but you get a very good
audio guide for it.
 
The next day we continued with a KSRTC bus to Goa, which started in Mysore at
16:00 and dropped us at Palolem Beach at 7:00. It was 407 Rs only but a hell
of a ride. Normal public bus seats, bad suspension, cold, hardly possible to
sleep. We arrived with bruises in legs, arms and face.
 
We only stayed in Palolem for some hours. Trying to find a nice accommodation
prove impossible, since everything appeared of bad quality and too high price
to us. We decided to continue to travel and took a bus to Ankola, from which
we continued to Gokarna. We walked to Ohm Beach (40 minutes from bus station
via Kuddle beach, ask people for the way) and got a room with shared
facilities for 200 Rs at Moksha Cafe. It felt a bit like camping, but was
perfectly fine. Ohm beach was by far the most amazing beach on this travel.
Great sand, manageable waves and currents, great cliffs around and wonderful
sunsets. Walking to half moon and paradise beach is rewarding, but you can't
stay there. Maybe if you bring your own tent. Don't go to Ohm beach if you are
looking for nightlife, nothing happens in the night. The only alcohol
available is beer and wine, so no party and no drunks. We stayed for a week
and enjoyed the laid-backness a lot.
 
Via the nice Dolphin travels at Ohm beach we booked a bus from Paulo Travels
from Ankola to Hampi for 600 Rs Seat/ 700 Rs sleeper. The bus was leaving at a
hotel outside of Ankola in the night, it is best to arrange a cab in the night
from Gokarna to the departure destination.
 
In Hampi we walked 5 minutes from the bus stand into town where a lot of
hostels are around. We got a room for 300 Rs at Herman's. Then we rented bikes
for 30 Rs. A bike or scooter is the best way to experience Hampi. Took us the
whole day, including taking the ferry on the collapsed bridge east of Hampi.
On the other side you should visit the Hanuman monkey temple. It's a lot of
steps up but the view is amazing. Same with the temple on a hill next to Hampi
town.
 
The next day we walked around more in Hampi and on the great riverside, in the
afternoon took a local bus to Hospet (30 min) and went to the local market
there. Then we took the overnight bus back with Paulo Travels to Goa/Panjim.
 
Panjim is a nice town with a portuguese touch worth being explored. Great
houses. We continued the with a city shuttle (pre-paid at bus stand, non-stop)
to Mapusa/Mapsa. From there we changed to a bus to Arambol. From Arambol it's
a half-hour walk to Arambol beach. Walk down the beach to the north and on the
cliff path the get cheaper rooms. Also when you walk around the cliff and
follow the path left of the salt-water lake you end up at the cool holy Banjan
tree in the jungle.
 
From Arambol we left to Mapsa where an overnight bus took us to Mumbai. We
excited the Bus in Bandra and made our way to the ocean. There is not much
happening in Bandra, but it is an okay stopover to the airport and not as busy
as the rest of Mumbai. In the afternoon we took a cab for 300 Rs to Mumbai
airport. We had to wait some hours for our flight. You can only enter the
airport's departure zone if your flight departs in less then 3 hours. To enter
the waiting room costs 60 Rs per person and it is rubbish. Better walk down a
shady corridor to the arrival area and hang out there. It's free and has some
okay shops to buy food from.

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