Our overnight bus ride to Munnar in our final Indian state Kerala took a lovely 13 hours. Leaving from the safety of our hotel in Bangalore, we were shovelled into a rickshaw, who was very angry and ripped us off, dropped us at the bus depot and we said our angry goodbyes back to him! Eventually after waiting for our bus in a place that made me feel vulnerable and really hating Indian cities our bus arrived – the newborn kitten with a rope around its neck tied to a drain pipe did not help! 😦
We took a Royal Travels AC bus – from the one experience they are a good company; you either book a double or single pod hidden by a privacy curtain, with a clean bed, pillow and blanket and a shelf for your bag. Tom and I each had our own bed and eventually dropped off to sleep, although it feels you’re on a rollercoaster the whole way!
I awoke to being chucked around as we turned extreme corners realising we were on the edge of the mountain overlooking the forests and tea plantations. A beautiful site with the sunrise but absolutely terrifying considering we were a huge double-decker bus on a single road.
We stayed 10km outside the grotty town of Munnar, in Gokulam Homestay that was very basic but cheap and just what we needed. However the host did not provide any breakfast so we had to hunt around for places to eat which was tricky considering how sparse the mountains were.
Munnar and its surroundings really only need a couple of days to explore. We spent one relaxing and checking out the area close to where we were. And the other with a rickshaw driver who took us to the best spots; including a spice tour, Echo Point, Tea Museum and even the next state Tamil Nadu. If you’re hungry ask your driver to drop you somewhere to eat. Our driver took us to a local restaurant in the town where we ate a speciality of 10 different curries served on a banana leaf. Delicious and one of the best places we have eaten at. You could tell the locals respected us for trying all the food and eating with your hands!
Back to the beach
Our next mode of Indian transport was tested out to take us down South of Kerala to the backwaters of Alleppey. Two Indian state buses and six hours later we had gone from the cool breeze of the mountains to the highest humidity and sweatiness I’ve ever experienced, and this is their winter!
Alleppey was one town we had been really looking forward to…oh and what a disappointment it was! Anyone planning to stay in the town or near the beach avoid. The beach is undergoing construction, although it has a nice sandy beach front behind is destroyed by the building of a huge bridge that runs all the way along. The supposed high rated restaurants and cafes were derelict and falling apart. The town itself is okay, grotty but good fruit and veg markets. Luckily we struck a great hostel, Artpackers.life, close to amenities and serving a free breakfast of omelette, toast, fruit and coffee. Our room was clean and we were saved by the cool air con. We decided to cook for the three nights we stayed to get some goodness back in our system we felt we were lacking.
A highlight of Alleppey is of course the famous backwaters where tourists flock to be ripped off by the overpriced houseboats that take you on an overnight trip through the rivers. However what many tourists don’t realise is due to the size of the boats they can only ride through the main waterways, meaning you never see the little back water alleys where you watch the daily lives of locals and see the beautiful rainforests and rice paddy fields.
A recommendation which we took was the DTPC tourist run motorboat, costing Rs 400 per hour. We paid for two hours and got the whole boat to ourselves. Obviously if you get a group of you together it can make it a very cheap day out. But we felt a couple of hours was enough to see highlights of the backwater. To be honest I don’t understand how it is rated second on top things to do in India by Lonely Planet.