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Incredible India Series

Taj Mahal, Agra, India - Forgotten Postcard

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Incredible India

Taj Mahal, Agra, India – Forgotten Postcard

I’ve been obsessed with India for as long as I can remember. Whenever I’m asked where I want to travel, my immediate response is always ‘everywhere.’ When pressed to choose my top destination however, India is always number one on my list. Two days ago, I found out my dream of visiting India will come true in March. I have never been more excited – or terrified.

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Fruit sellers and tourists on the beaches of Goa

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Incredible India

India was:

sitting in the back-seat of a taxi, watching mesmerized, as cars, auto-rickshaws, scooters, trucks, buses and pedestrians dodged from lane to lane without any concern of being hit. lounging on the floor mats of a beach café in Goa, listening to the waves and watching pasty white tourists bake in the sun, while Indians strolled the beach and took water taxis as transportation.

Fruit sellers and tourists on the beaches of Goa

witnessing the constant contrasts of excess and destitution co-existing
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Parliament Building in Bangalore

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Incredible India

Parliament Building in Bangalore and the city’s never ending construction work

It’s been over two weeks now, since we returned from India, and I’m still processing the experience. There are so many posts I want to write about our time there, but describing this amazing country in words seems an impossible task.

The country’s new tourism slogan is Incredible India. I’ve seen it in travel magazine ads and on TV for the past couple of years. It wasn’t until I visited that I truly got it.

These days we tend to define incredible as something we really like; That cake was incredible. But actually, I think India’s tourism slogan is closer to the original definition of incredible – so extraordinary as to seem impossible.

Because India does seem impossible; the contrasts are truly hard to believe.

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Sound OK Horn

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Incredible India

Sound OK Horn

“This guy could kill us, take all of our stuff, dump us and no one would ever find our bodies.” Even while saying this to Andrew, in the back of our cab, I was oddly zen about the whole situation.  Andrew merely nodded in agreement. He too was decidedly blasé about our impending doom.

We had arrived in Bangalore, in the wee hours of the morning. The flight from Brussels, via Frankfurt wasn’t bad. In fact, we both managed to get a bit of sleep. In retrospect the naps probably only added to our groggy states. However, it was our quest to find our friends’ house, on the other side of the sprawling city, which threw us for a loop.

Bangalore airport is modern and quite well organised. Although it was busy, we found our driver quite easily and loaded our bags into the trunk. We clambered into the back seats and attempted to fasten our seat-belts. There were none.

Welcome to India. Surrender to your fate.

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Purple Jacaranda trees in Cubbon Park

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Incredible India

Purple Jacaranda trees in Cubbon Park

Despite being India’s 3rd most populated city, Bangalore is not typically on the tourist trail. That doesn’t mean you should overlook it as a place to visit. Andrew and I were lucky to get a unique insight into this modern city, by spending a week living with our Indian friends. Having our very own local guides gave us an inside scoop on everything Bangalore has to offer.

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Candolim Beach, Goa, India

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Incredible India

Candolim Beach, Goa, India

For many, Goa, India still conjures up images of hippies, all-night raves, drugs and drunken debauchery. This side of Goa still exists, or so I’m told, but it’s certainly not the Goa we experienced. For us, Goa was a place of laid-back relaxation, fresh seafood and drinks on endless sandy beaches. In a word, Goa was restorative, but not without its own lessons on surrendering to India.

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Nirvana - The Taj Kumarakom

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Incredible India

Nirvana – The Taj Kumarakom

“What do you mean the train is 16 hours late?” I looked, in shock from my friend to Andrew.

“Well, it comes from Delhi so maybe this one just got cancelled,” she shrugged. “I’ll go call the travel agent.”

With only 48 hours left in India, Andrew and I were eager not to miss the Kerala portion of our travels. Our friends had managed to score us an incredible rate on what promised to be a beautiful resort. I was also very excited for our houseboat tour of the Kerala backwaters. But now I wondered if we’d get there at all.

“Ok, there are no direct flights between Goa and Kerala, but you can fly back to Bangalore with us and then back to Kerala from there,” said my friend, the miracle worker. “You’ll be there tonight instead of tomorrow, so you have an extra night at the hotel.”

From the relief on Andrew’s face, I knew he was happy with the plan. This time, we surrendered to India, and she bestowed a wonderful gift on us – an extra night at the Vivanta by Taj, Kumarakom.

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Intricate carvings in the Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Incredible India

Intricate carvings in the Veerabhadra temple, Lepakshi

One of the highlights of our recent travel to India, was visiting some of the spectacular Hindu temples.

While staying in Bangalore, I was invited to join a girls-only outing to Lepakshi, to visit the 16th century Veerabhadra temple.  Four of us hired a car and driver for the day and made the 120 km journey north of Bangalore. On our way back to the city, we also stopped at the Bhoganandishwara Temple in the Nandi Hills.

The Veerabhadra temple is famous for its intricate carvings and immaculately preserved paintings. The Bhoganandishwara Temple is lesser known but has beautiful carvings.  Rather than try to describe them in words, I’d like to share a photo essay of our day-trip to the temples of Lepakshi and Bhoganandishwara.

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A traditional Kerala Kettuvallam

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Incredible India

A traditional Kerala Kettuvallam

Although Andrew and I were disappointed to leave the Taj Kumarakom so soon, we were looking forward to our last day in Kerala. About a year ago, I read an article, in a travel magazine, about exploring the Kerala backwaters by houseboat and I was excited to spend our final day doing just that.

Nothing is ever quite as easy as it seems in India. Although our driver picked us up right on time that morning, we had quite a distance to travel to get to our boat. As time ticked by, it became apparent our driver didn’t know where he was going. I was getting worried. We only had four hours to enjoy our houseboat trip before we had to leave for our flight back to Bangalore.

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