Updated: Oct 19, 2018
by Nina Sabin - Travel
Well, we finally made it to our next trip out of Saudi. It wasn’t that long after our repat (repatriation). It seemed like we were blessed to have the opportunity to travel every three months, but that depended on the Eid holidays, as every year they shifted about 10 days. As we mentioned in my previous blogs that we were able to explore 90 countries because of the all the two Eid holidays a year and our 30 day repat. Usually, we would have about nine days to travel during the Eid holidays. So each year we had about 48 days to travel and see the world. We love visiting the Asian countries. One reason is it is very reasonable to travel through the Asian countries. A dollar goes a long way. Another reason is it a convenient location to travel from Saudi Arabia. Thirdly, the Asian cultures are very friendly and appreciate tourists visiting.
India, though still an Asian country, is very different from the countries we visited on our Infamous Asian Tour. Physically, Indians are a darker color, different eye shape and tend to have a larger build than those from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, or Hong Kong. Also, the country seems to be a poorer population.
We decided to visit the Southern part of India instead of the more common tourist areas like Taj Mahal in Agra or the capital New Dehli. We chose this because we wanted to experience the ins and outs of India. We were able to see the uniqueness of the country, the different terrains, and nature of the land.
Often, expats tend to find other expats to travel with. This trip was our first trip to travel with friends we met in Saudi Arabia. Since there were seven of us traveling we arranged to have van with a driver. It always made the trip even more enjoyable for our daughters as they had another child to share in our adventures.
India is made up of 29 states. We visited three of the states: Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. In the three states we visited nine cities: Cochin, Mysore, Bandipur, Alapuzha, Periyar, Munnar, Mettupalayam, and Banglore. We had thirteen days for this vacation and we feel like we truly experienced the culture of India.
In Cochin, we saw watch a spectacular performance of Kathakali - famous dance form of Kerala. The costumes were exquisite, the makeup and masks were exclusive of the area, and the dance told a fascinating story. We also took an Alappuzha House Boat, Kettuvallom - Tradition of Kerala houseboats.These houseboats were built originally as cargo rice boats and restored by Kerala craftsmen. Thought little tight on space, a rice boat provides trappings of a hotel - one bedroom with two beds, attached toilets, a sun deck. We also had a netting around our bed to keep the mosquitoes out a night. We loved traveling along the water, the Kerala backwaters, which are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. We enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere on the water, had opportunities to fish, and even saw fireworks.
Our next place to explore in India was Periyar. It is a scenic route dotted with plantations of rubber, cardamom, cocoa, green pepper and areca nut, to the wildlife reserve at Periyar. We also went on a jungle excursion by boat. Saw lots of wildlife which was fascinating to us all. We loved seeing wild elephants, deer and wild birds. Unfortunately, at this location we didn’t get to see a tiger which most of those visiting these jungles hope to site.
Munnar was the next city to visit and it is known as the most enchanting tourist destinations in Kerala - "God's own Country." Majestic mountains, lush green plantations, breathtaking landscapes, sparkling streams, and exotic flora and fauna which made Munnar a truly special place. Everywhere you looked was inspiring.
After exploring such amazing views, plantations, and nature we took a rest and did some children activities in Mettupalayam. We spent a day at Asia’s number one water park called Black Thunder. It is a resort and water park. What a great way to have a family day of fun and excitement. We weren’t sure how a water park in India would fair. However, we were pleasantly surprised at the enjoyment and opportunities in the park.
Our next day was back into nature as we visited Bandipur National Park. Wild animals roamed the area at night. There was a sign on our cabin door saying please remain in the room after dark so as to not be eaten by the animals. When moving around the grounds of the hotel, we needed to be escorted and stay on the paths to each of the facilities. During the day, we took a safari ride. Since we were searching for wild animals, they had us ride in a caged jeep to avoid any attacks. We saw so many exotic animals, wild boars, rhinos, monkeys, and we were even blessed enough to see a tiger.
Our last location on our trip was Banglore. This was a larger city and the capital of the state Karnataka. We visited a children’s home that our Fellowship in Saudi sponsored. They were so welcoming and loved having visitors. They even put on a cultural performance on for us.
We couldn’t go to an Asian country without having a massage. However, Indian massages are very different than Thai and Swedish oil massages. They are called Ayurvedic massage. Basically, you were paper underwear, lay on a wooden table with lips and above you is a funnel with thick oil (to me it was like motor oil). As they massage you slip all over the place. Afterwards, you may then go in a steam box so the oil steams into your body. You finish with a shower, but getting the oil off is almost impossible. I would not have said that was my most relaxing massage. Needless to say we only had one massage in India.
Remember in my previous articles that I mentioned we love to experience the taste of the country? What is funny is we had the best steak ever It was so tender and moist. We ate at a local hotel. However, cows are free range throughout the country and in the North they are sacred. We saw cows just walking along the road. We couldn’t believe they were served as our meal. My mouth is watering now, just thinking about how amazing the steak tasted.
Our next trip was during a three day weekend. I forgot to mention, besides Eid holidays and repats, we also took advantage of traveling to another country during a three day weekend.