A weekend trip from Kolkata to Sundarbans to see the Royal Bengal Tiger is perhaps just what you need to relax after a hectic week at work. I will tell you today of my trip to this fantastic place that is in the Bay of Bengal separating India from Bangladesh. A friend and I went to the Sundarbans to enjoy the landscapes and to see if we can win the lottery by seeing a tiger on the way.

I'm not going to say it's like going to Loch Ness and seeing Nessie but it is also true that you know it in advance and the expectation is low. Do not be fooled. There are better places to see the Bengal Tiger. The tiger is a bit like sharks in diving centers. There is always a picture well placed but it may have been 15 years since somebody has seen one.

The tiger in the Sunderbans is a little bit the same. There is indeed the largest concentration of tiger in the world, however, what is not said is that the area where the Tigers are in large numbers is prohibited to the public.

Sundarbans images wallpaper Royal Bengal Tiger

Day 1

What a nightmare to spend a night on a train! At dawn, the parade of people continues who get down, the coolie that begins to pick up luggage, and vendors shouting through the corridors. And there are still about 4 hours to get to Calcutta! I try to spend my time reading, an activity that has become an authentic escape valve.

After finally arriving in Calcutta, the driver surprises me by waiting for me. He recognizes me at once because I am the only pale face on the train. The traffic in Calcutta is horrible for a change. Luckily I'm not going to visit anything. I just cross the city to go to the Sundarbans National Park, in the Ganges delta.

Still, I have two long hours of car to get to the pier where I will board the boat that will take me to the interior of the Tiger Reserve. During this time the landscape changes from gray to green. At least in the last sections, there are fruit trees, cane plantations, rice, and palm trees on the sides of the road.

I arrive just in time to embark on a motorboat with capacity for few passengers, without cabins, but with a cover with tables and benches. They welcome me with a refreshing natural juice served inside a green coconut. During the trip through the mangroves, we get closer to another boat like mine that travels in the opposite direction.

The official guide of the ship leaves its former clients and comes to welcome me. He does not stop talking about himself and shows me pictures of tigers taken by himself. Let's see if I'm lucky, although, by the look of the photos, the Bengal Tigers must have disappeared some time ago. The cruise lasts about two hours, and the temperature is pleasant, although the sky is very overcast.

Upon arriving at the lodge, they receive me ready for lunch, which I enjoy after leaving my luggage in a nice bungalow. After lunch, I have an excursion scheduled upstream, to a wildlife observation tower. It is a very slow trip, in which I have time to take a nap. It seems to me that I will see little here, because everything is salt marshes, and the safaris are made from the boat. The only thing I see are fiddler crabs when we land to see the tower and several species of birds.

I return to the camp to give me a well-deserved shower after the night on the train, but as expected, there is no hot water. After dinner and a good beer, I go to sleep, exhausted. Tomorrow there are more safaris.

Sundarbans images wallpaper Royal Bengal Tiger

Day 2

Shortly before the alarm goes off, a knock at the door wakes me up and startles me. The breakfast has been served on the terrace of the bungalow. I'm going to spend a few hours hunting for Bengal tigers, among the marshes. After a short while of sailing, I was served another breakfast on board. At least I have seen a pretty decent sunrise.

I see almost nothing of fauna, but only birds and some tiger marks in the mud of the borders. We stretch the neck by all the corners that we find. We go up, down, jump, and there was no luck. There was no nearby bush that did not wag to see if I found it in front and the only thing I got was to take a branch in my face. Yes, we saw crocodiles and other reptiles, macaques, all kinds of birds and chitals and speckled deer among others.

It is also raining. At mid-morning, we stop and go ashore, to another of the multiple observation towers of the reserve. In it I only see a bright green snake coiled on the roof of the cabin at the entrance and from a distance a deer and a giant lizard. I want to make a special emphasis on birds since there were species as the Kramer parrot, the plover, the snipe, the crow, and the bastard sandpiper.

Around the camp, I go to the dining room, which today is full of people. After lunch, I go for a walk to the nearest town, less than a couple of kilometers away, to see a local market. I see that they use solar energy to get electricity since apart from the generators, there is no way to get it since the power line does not reach here. I see some men harvest the honey.

I return happily to the camp because at least I have been able to walk a stretch, after so much surfing. In the evening I have tea and cookies, in the dark and sheltered by bonfires. They offer a representation of local dances and songs in the center of the camp.

I continue without hot water in the room. So I go out and ask for hot water heated at the reception so I can take a shower after all the day in the rain. When the time comes to go to dinner, I see a lot of variety on the menu. In the end, the hunger takes over me and I have fried rice and chili chicken.

A Weekend Trip from Kolkata to Sundarbans

Day 3

At dawn, I was woken up by the roosters that run through the camp, and when I open the door I find a cup of tea and cookies for breakfast. I still do not have hot water and the last shower here will be again with cold water. Today is a splendid day. I say goodbye to the staff of the place and embark on the last cruise, which will take me back to the boarding point.

During the voyage, I do not see tigers, but I do see traces that leave the water and go into the trees. The guide tells me that, contrary to what I believed, Tigers not only like water but can swim great distances! Halfway through, shortly after 10, they bring me what is supposed to be lunch.

When I docked at the jetty, a driver different from that of the other day awaits me. The road makes it impossible to concentrate on anything on the road. Time passes and I get nervous because I have to take a flight to Assam, a state far away from tourist routes, but in the end, we follow the route.

I arrive at the airport on time. I pass security controls, and I enjoy another free show. The queues are terrible, and the boarding doors change constantly. Mine changed more than 4 times in an hour. In the end, an elderly man with a turban loses his nerves and refuses to change the door again.

He engages in a heated discussion with the ground crew, who starts shouting even more than the passenger, becoming a cockfight, much to everyone's surprise. I'm afraid they came to blows, although I could not see it because I had to embark on my flight, what a pity, once it's punctual!

The flight from Kolkata to Guwahati is short. I pick up luggage and ask for a taxi and after showing him the address of the hotel, which obviously was unknown, we started the route. The driver has to ask his radio station for directions, and after a while, he arrives in a neighborhood. I arrive when the sun can no longer be seen, and I quickly get into the reception to check in and go to the room to shower before dinner. After the shower, I went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner.

A Weekend Trip from Kolkata to Sundarbans

Last winter I left Kolkata with the Baul who first invited me to his small house in a village between Kolkata and Shantiniketan. But first of all, I chose this destination because I remembered an exhibition of photos, with comments and music, on the Bauls. I wanted to meet these mystical nomads, living their spirituality through music.

Being a musician myself, professionally and at heart, I was attracted by these singers who compared themselves to foraging bees. Indeed, they go from village to village to sing their songs in exchange for rice. They collect their pollen while transmitting the seeds of life from one place to another.

Of course, modernism has caught up with them, but this out-of-caste community, open to all religions, has kept the essence of what seems to me the Baul spirit, which is this fervor of life, made of crazy wisdom, freedom, loudly proclaiming their doubts and praises, their joys and their sufferings. And it appeared to me that it is more in their passionate music than in their lives that this Baul spirit is still alive.

They are now sedentary, married with children, and sing their mystical poems in exchange for alms in the countryside of Bengal. But they are still really vibrant, whether on the street, a train, at a rich Indian wedding or on a large stage. Seen by Indians as tramps, artists or spiritual masters, they are actually very proud, and at the same time very simple.

The baul is very sensitive because he sees clearly that the world is changing. He says that there are now more and more fake Bauls, playing in style because music has become a business. This village represents for him the authenticity. Over the past few days he has taught me things about philosophy, principles, musical and spiritual demands.

In this village, he made me go around his friends to drink chai and eat. We went to the Jaydev Kenduli village in Bolpur for the Baul Mela. There are hundreds of thousands of people, in a noisy fair atmosphere (and smells, but that's practically everywhere). There is music everywhere ! That's what surprised me the most. Indian music is subtle, and their way of mixing really is not at all! The music never stopped.

I bought a dottara, a kind of banjo baul. It is truly a great experience to play with these musicians who put their guts and soul into their songs whose lyrics vibrate with a philosophical and spiritual poetry. And their rhythms have a fabulous groove! They were very receptive to my singing. They all want, musicians and audiences, to come back next year.

We listened to music, and had a good time late into the night. Just before leaving I was shown a traditional instrument, the dudunga, that has a rope like the ektara Bauls. I tried it then bought. And I did not see the time pass. It was really magical. We have accompanied the Baul songs.

It's really the music of the heart and guts and I find myself really well inside, with something familiar to me. I integrated well with the music and they enjoyed it. The simplicity and depth of sharing really touched me. And it's quite late that I fell asleep, really happy. Tomorrow I will visit Tarapith to the temple of Maa Tara.

baul images

I was invited by my friend to a Bengali wedding in Kolkata. I spent a week with her friends looking for a sari and other accessories like bracelets, earrings, necklace, and bag. It all has to match the color of the sari that in the end, I chose. Choosing the sari was not an easy task. There helped me her friends and still, we spent an entire afternoon in Burrabazar. We looked for the perfect sari that was good, nice and at a reasonable price.

In the end, I chose one red Banarasi saree with brown and gold border and another one with a pink and purple border. The truth is that we were a bit messy and we were looking for the bag until the afternoon before the wedding.

The wedding was in Howrah, and it was the first time that I was going to cross the river. We found a bus next to our house that took us to Howrah Railway Station after half an hour. We had the problem later. We did not know Howrah and we did not know where the marriage hall that the family had rented for the wedding was.

We call the family, ask the people and the taxi drivers. It was a complete chaos. Every time we called the family they gave us a different address as a reference, and we did not understand any of the names, in any way. Further, with the noise of the station behind, there was no way to hear anything.

In the end, my friend called me and gave me the instructions, and there we took another bus to the marriage hall. Here weddings are usually held in halls, not entirely hotels, but buildings prepared to accommodate many people and with food to feed them. This was an ordinary room but decorated with lots of lights and flowers. When we arrived it was already 5:30, but no one had arrived yet. There were only some members of the bride's family, and nothing more.

Bengali Marriage wedding images wallpaper

My friend was getting ready in a room where women did not stop coming and going. She had to change to put on the sari. One of her friends and perhaps her aunt helped her with the sari. She looked very beautiful, and seeing how she put on those 5 meters of cloth around the body is an ordeal. After three or four unsuccessful attempts, in the end, she managed to dress it more or less appropriately. Even so, throughout the night she had to fix some parts because it got misaligned.

At about 6 o'clock more people began to arrive, especially photographers. There were about four or five who did not stop taking pictures of the bride and relatives. I do not know how many photos we got with my friend, but every time they called us twice. It was first with the friend, and then with her other friends, and then with the father and the aunt. They left us blind with so much flash.

Then the groom and his family finally arrived, and in half an hour the wedding rituals began. The groom looked very serious as the wedding rituals like Mala Badal, Subho Drishti and Sindur Daan began.

But we were late and we had to leave before everything was completed. We had at least three-quarters of an hour to travel to the Guest House, although it depends on traffic. And the ceremony lasts for hours and hours. So after dinner, we said goodbye to the bride and we left.

After 3 hours of travel by taxi, we arrive in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya and the self-proclaimed rock capital of India. Bara Bazaar welcomes in the entanglement of its steep streets Iewduh, the oldest market of Meghalaya. The Police Bazaar, right in the center, is also a huge open-air market. The entire space is occupied by sellers, buyers and onlookers.

The smells of freshly slaughtered chickens mingle with those of the fruits that have been damaged, along with paranthas and omelettes. As soon as we set foot in Shillong, it was impossible to ignore that we are in Khasi land as most restaurant signs indicate the presence of Khasi dishes on the menu. I do not promise to taste all the local specialties, like the Jadoh, rice cooked in pig blood!

All this rubs with the sellers of baubles and the Siat Khnam betting shops, a popular and very lucrative local sport in which men shoot at a target and spectators must bet on last two digits of the total who fiercely defend their pre-square. It is already dark and we quickly choose a hotel.

The arrival at Shillong was a shock. I imagined a nice little village and found myself in a real city teeming with activity, traffic, noise and life. The saris are also rarer, often replaced by dresses, skirts or a checkered fabric shorter than a sari, knotted differently. Shillong is a wonderful city, but is very, very cold here! This is a kind of mantra that feels a bit everywhere here in the North East, but the city is actually much less beautiful than what is described.

Day 2

Are we in Scotland? On this morning of Sunday, Easter bells ring throughout the city. The city where we were on Easter day is none other than Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. From the balcony, we can see many steeples among the roofs of houses and buildings. In the streets, families walk out of the churches.

After a good breakfast in a downtown restaurant, we take a taxi to tour the city and visit interesting sites. I head to the Shillong Cathedral and could see that the mass was held both in English and Khasi. I especially liked the young and carefree atmosphere, very different from the typical Indian cities.

There is still a museum to visit, the Don Bosco museum. It highlights the tribes of the northeast and is the largest museum of this type in this part of Asia. We visit the extraordinary bara bazaar market interlacing with lanes which each has its specialty like fruits, vegetables, tobacco, iron, fish, meat, textile, bamboo and sugar.

We spend a few hours at the Lady Hydari Park Zoo and the Wards Lake. At the artificial Ward Lake and its park tourists spend crazy afternoons on pedal boats. We then go to the botanical garden. We visit the Shillong Peak that offers a panoramic view of the city followed by the Elephant Falls, which was unfortunately partly closed to the public. So we could see only one waterfall.

We also attend the Nongkrem Dance festival, the annual big festival where the Khasis thank nature for the harvest, with many songs and dances, as well as sacrifices of roosters and goats. The unmarried girls wear magnificent silk garments for these dances. As the driver offered us a competitive rate and he was friendly, we leave with him immediately to Cherrapunjee.

We get on the car and cross many villages with small houses, and everywhere there are churches, cemeteries. The landscape is grandiose. We get out of the car once arrived on a kind of high plateau. This plateau which rises around 1300 m above sea level is crisscrossed with huge canyons and superb views on the road. I stopped to have a tea in his dhaba, rereading for the twelfth time the 15 lines of my guide devoted to this part of Meghalaya.

Tall yellow and green grass beaten by the winds extend to get lost in the mist. A tall menhir stands up to the sky, surrounded by what looks like dolmens. It is rather cool and we dress more warmly before entering the sacred forest. Between the trees, the carpet of orange and red brown leaves is dotted with megalithic alignments.

A few hours later, we walk in the middle of a pine forest. It's hot, as the sun is shining, and we hear the locusts. The smell of pine is intoxicating! Our beautiful trail narrows and descends abruptly into a gorge where a river flows whose blue water is almost turquoise. Arriving in Sohra, we are greeted by several signs whose message is almost always the same: Welcome to Cherrapunjee, the rainiest place on earth followed by a list of figures that are in fact the recorded rainfall levels these last years.

The Lodge is located in Lower Cherra back from what looks like a small suburb and not far from the first Church in the State. Our cottage in Cherrapunji is watered by torrential water located. At night, a storm breaks out. It rains heavily, as thunder roars and lightning lights illuminate the sky almost without respite.

Shillong wallpapers images

Day 2

In the early morning it rains, and is cold and wet. The pre-monsoon fog was particularly dense on the morning, giving Sohra a ghost-town feel. We light a fire in the fireplace of our house made of stone and wood. In the fields that emerge from the mist we can see sheep and cows grazing. The rain and the fog do not stop almost from the day. Are we back in Scotland?

Yet, at about twenty kilometers, where the altitude is lower, we are immersed in the rainforest. The ambient smell evokes good memories. The path made of cement steps descends into the depths of the forest winding in the middle of huge trees. The trunks are twisted with lianas.

Among the wide variety of flowers, there are hibiscus and orchids. Butterflies of all colors are flying around us. They are the size of small birds! The concert of insects is such that it is not surprising to find specimens of size or unusual color in our eyes. We hear a lot of birds too, and parakeets fly away as we pass.

We finally arrive in the small village of Riwai, astonishingly clean for India. It's amazing, as nothing hangs, and everything is clean! After a few minutes and a few rupees spent we arrive at our goal, the living root bridge, explanation. This extremely rainy region has a tree species that we know well, the ficus elastica, or as it is called rather, rubber.

It produces aerial roots, and the inhabitants of the region have the habit of directing these roots and making them cross the rivers to replant them on the other side. By repeating the operation I do not know how many times and thanks to the rapid growth of these roots, the inhabitants braided real bridges alive over the rivers, some even two floors!

The bridges are super strong. We unfortunately had the time to see one. The others are relatively difficult to access, but this one was already very impressive. In the same village the inhabitants have created a system of bamboo bridges that climb to the top of the trees, on the canopy to see the plains of Bangladesh that extend a few kilometers further.

I went exploring the area, starting with the Nohkalikai Waterfalls. From the market of Sohra to the falls, I crossed for 5 kilometers, very green and hilly landscapes. I see the few solitary wooden houses, churches, a cemetery and the culmination of this solitary walk, is a breathtaking spectacle. The Nohkalikai Falls, the fourth highest in the world, were worth every missed opportunity in the past. The panorama did the rest. The high cliffs seem to emerge from the forests to advance then leave room for the floodplains of Bangladesh. The mist had disappeared like magic, and I found it beautiful.

We then head to the Maswmai caves. After entering through a first room high enough and wide, the passage quickly becomes more difficult and sometimes almost perilous. After several passages in very narrow casings, we find ourselves drenched and we start thinking that there may be no way out. Finally, with its 250 meters long and sometimes up to 15 meters high, crossing the cave is really impressive!

On the return we stop at the cleanest village in India in Mawlynnong, which is indeed dazzlingly clean after what we were able to see! We also see the stone in balance! It's time for us to go to the hotel.

One of the great pleasures of traveling to Italy is to enjoy traditional Italian cuisine, true. What is known outside is just one - or many versions of a small part of a cuisine that is very varied and different from region to region. Because in Italy everything is not pizza and spaghetti for children. Northern Italy is the coldest region of the country, so their meals typical are the most compelling. Less olive oil, tomato and dry pasta. People prefer soups, and boiled meat cooked in wine and butter. These are the regions with most foreign influences from French, German, Austrian, Hungarian or Slav, depending on the area.

Some of the best known Italian food ingredients are here. Two of the most famous pasta sauces are from here. It is the bolognese - alla bolognese ragù - Emilia - Romagna and pesto from Liguria. The fresh egg pasta is more typical of northern Italy. The tagliatelle and lasagna originate in Emilia Romagna. And there are many types of stuffed pasta, from agnolotti Piedmont to anolini of Parma, in Emilia Romagna, through the tortelli pumpkin Mantua in Lombardy.

Okay, it looks like the pasta is Chinese, but that is another issue that is better not to get into in Italy, in particular in Naples, whose cuisine is probably the most international of Italy. In southern Italy, the islands of Sicilia and Sardinia have their own culinary identity. Pizza, spaghetti, macaroni, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil...sea and sun. These are the ingredients that have made known the Italian cuisine worldwide.

The tomatoes of many kinds, including the famous pomodori di San Marzano, elongated and used for pasta- sauces are great protagonists of the cuisine of southern Italy.

Pasta Salad Recipe images

Pasta alla Norma is pasta with tomatoes, fried eggplant, ricotta salata and basil sheet. Parmigiana, my favorite dish is a dish made with fried baked eggplant, tomato, mozzarella, basil and Parmesan. It is not known for sure if it is of Sicilian or Neapolitan origin.

Malloreddus is a type of semolina pasta that is usually eaten with ragout and salsicce, or with tomato sauce, Italian sausage, onion, grated Sardinian pecorino cheese and saffron. The culurgiones are stuffed semolina pasta, usually with ricotta and mint or potato, fresh cheese and mint, are usually eaten with tomato sauce and grated pecorino cheese.

The orecchiette are fresh pasta made with semolina and egg. They look like a small ears, hence its name (in Italian orecchiette means "little ears" ). One of the most common sauces with accompanying tomato is the horsemeat.

Pasta alla checca is usually "short" pasta (penne, maccheroni, fusilli, farfalle) with cheese mozzarella (usually of buffalo), sheep cheese called Roman Caciotta, fresh tomatoes (often cherry's) and fresh basil.

Pasta e fagioli or pasta and fasoi in Veneto is a bowl of spoon based pasta, beans and usually bacon, which is very common throughout Italy. It was born as a dish of the poor in ancient Rome, where it was prepared with a paste called sagne, like short noodles, and then captured up to Cicerone, although the origin of the pulp appears subsequently. One of the regions where the tradition is more is precisely the Veneto. The ingredients, including the variety of pasta, vary from one area to another. If you have not ever tried the combination it may sound like weird, but is exquisite.
From Osaka it is very easy to go to Kyoto. It is practically a trip by subway, by the frequency of transport and by the speed. Once in the Kyoto station we took the JR Nara, which, in just over 15 minutes, leaves us in Uji, a nice town, very close to Kyoto. It normally does not find a place in a visit to the old capital that already overflows with places to see.

But if there is time left or, as in our case, we have already had the chance to enjoy the numerous and essential wonders that Kyoto offers us, it is well worth approaching Uji. The town is famous for three reasons. They are the Temple of Byodo-in, which is the image that appears on the 10-yen coins.

Then there is green tea, which is grown throughout the area and is considered the best in all of Japan. Finally, Uji is the place where the Genji Monogatari, one of the oldest novels in the world is set. Once we arrived in Uji and after leaving the station, we did not drive along the main road towards the river.

As we approach, we can see the impressive Uji Bridge, one of the three oldest bridges in Japan, built in 646 and now rebuilt with cement and covered with wood. The Uji bridge has been the scene of numerous battles, some of which are narrated in the Heike Monogatari.

As a curiosity, in the First Battle of Uji (1180) that started the Genpei wars, Minamoto no Yorimasa, who led the forces of Prince Mochihito was wounded by an arrow. To avoid being captured he killed himself which is considered the first seppuku in the history of Japan. The bridge over the Uji-gawa river also played an essential role in the course of the Second Battle of Uji.

On the right we find the statue in honor of Murasaki Shikibu, author of Genji Monogatari, considered the masterpiece of Japanese dynastic literature. It is the first novel in the world in the modern sense. It is paradoxical that in a society like the Japanese, where women have such a defined role, always in the shadow and subject to man, was a courtesan of the tenth century who wrote the first novel of Japanese literature.

To the right of the statue of Murasaki Shikibu we find a large stone Tori that starts a pedestrian street that ends up in the Byodo-in Temple, the other great attraction of Uji. But before arriving, we enjoyed the walk, surrounded by shops dedicated almost exclusively to the green tea of ​​Uji.

Among them is Tsuen, the oldest store in Japan which is more than 800 years old and remained always in the hands of the same family. In the shops we find tea in many forms and uses, from the kit-kat of green tea, to sweets. As we will later check, the restaurants also offer the specialties of the area conveniently seasoned with tea.

But that will be the time to eat. Previously we have to visit the Byodo-in. As soon as we arrive, we are surprised by the extreme beauty of the gardens surrounding the temple facilities. The temple belongs to the branch of Pure Land Buddhism that is a branch of Buddhism that emphasizes its belief in Boddhisatvas.

They are enlightened beings of infinite compassion, charged with saving the souls of the samsara, the world of suffering. One of the most famous Boddhisatvas is Amida is believed that at the time of death will be responsible to lead souls to Sukhavati or Western Paradise, a Buddhist Eden of eternal beatitude.

Its main building, the Phoenix Pavilion is located in the center of a beautiful lake and flanked by two Phoenix Birds on the roof. It is the construction that appears in the 10-yen coins. We are very lucky. In addition to having a beautiful and sunny day, there are not many people who have come to Byodo-in today so we can enjoy the visit quietly.

The temple, including the Pavilion of the Phoenix, the images and treasures of the museum, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1994. After the visit, we eat at one of the restaurants near the temple. There we find that the imagination of the inhabitants of Uji to marry green tea with any dish, strange as it may seem, really has no limits. We enjoyed a good meal and some gigantic Kakigoris of green tea, of course and we started back to Osaka.

When arriving at the station of Osaka, the sky seems to untie on our heads. A torrential storm is abated on the city. We took refuge in the hotel and decided to close the bags to check them on the way to Tokyo.

Tomorrow we will go to Hiroshima-Miyajima and from there we will start the route through the Japanese Alps. These are some days when we will move a lot and we do not feel like carrying our suitcases. It is much more practical to carry small backpacks with the essentials. With the help of the hotel staff and for a small fee, we check our bags, knowing that they will wait for us in our room when, a few days later, we appear through Tokyo.

It is very convenient to do the paperwork at the hotel and not go to any agency. We leave the bags at the hotel reception and the staff will be careful to send them. At night, the storm stopped. We said goodbye to Osaka, giving an account of excellent takoyakis, a specialty in which the entire Kansai region has recognized fame.

iced Green Tea Recipe images

This is the chronicle of the family trip we made to Kyoto in Japan. There are many things that make a trip to Japan attractive to children. Japanese love children and are very kind to them especially if they are foreigners and they give them gifts spontaneously or they ask to take pictures with children or even with the whole family.

Japan is the origin of Nintendo, Pokemon, Sega, Momotaro, Doraemon, Inazuma Eleven and many other childrens universes. Everywhere there are souvenir shops and thematic entertainment centers of these worlds, so many that you have to choose the route with care if you want to advance at a certain pace. The ninja world is very attractive for children.

In many of the places to visit you can imagine the secret passages and the fights that happened there. Costumes and accessories are sold to disguise as ninja in tourist shops.

After getting up early at 11 we were at the airport. We passed security check and took advantage to change some money. With the usual delay of 15 minutes we take off towards Osaka. The flight lasted 14 hours and became eternal. We landed at Kansai airport at 8:20 am the next day.

After passing the customs without queues, like everything in Japan and following clear indications in the airport lobby we found the stations of the two Kansai train lines to Nankai and JR. Directly opposite was the JR ticket office. We have first contact with Japanese friendliness and efficiency.

There are 4 customer service stations, without queues and in less than 10 minutes an extremely friendly employee activated the JR Passes and booked us a ticket on the next train to Kyoto that left in 15 minutes. With the passes activated we crossed the lobby to the JR station. And once inside and after a little initial bewilderment with the signals, we went down to the platform towards Osaka and got on the train in the reserved area.

It had 3 coaches for travelers without reservation and it was half empty so booking does not seem necessary. In just over an hour we arrived at Kyoto Station after passing through Osaka. The Kyoto station is huge and like all of Japan very intricate and labyrinthine but finding the exit was simple. Following the hordes of travelers, we tried to go through the lathes putting the reservation ticket but he did not leave us.

The lobby of the station is a marvel of architecture. Once we were outside we had two options to get to the hotel: bus or taxi. We already knew that the bus in Kyoto is complicated and so we took our first Japanese taxi. Our driver is super friendly, but has no idea of ​​English. We show him the name of the hotel in Japanese.

In 15 minutes we arrived at the hotel, which was about 2 km from the station. We pass through the typical traffic jam that allowed us to see the local fauna and the shops of Kawaramachi Avenue. Once at the hotel our worst suspicions were confirmed. In Japan one cannot occupy the room until 3 o'clock in the afternoon and it was 12 o'clock.

We had written to the hotel asking to be able to check-in earlier and they replied that they would do their best. They kept the luggage and sent us to do sightseeing. The hotel was at the Sanjo Dori at the junction with the Kawaramachi. In other words, the same center in Kyoto. We continuation of the Sanjo to the west is a covered pedestrian and commercial street called Cupola Sanjo.

We went there starting to hallucinate with those we saw with grocery stores with rare things. Employees shout at the door of their establishment with a strange look. We turn left on another commercial street-gallery called Teramachi. Among the shops there were many small altars and temples, even with their own cemetery in contrast to the commercial activity of the area.

We went into one of them, a little Shintoist named Nishiki Tenmangu. There we spend half an hour seeing everything from the fountain at the entrance to the statues of animals. A little further on we reached the Nishiki Market which was our goal. It is not a market to use but rather a long pedestrian street of just 3 meters wide with food stalls (fruit, fish, pickles, sweets) and some restaurants.

They love pickles and there are all kinds except olives and pickles that are the ones we know. It also draws attention to the different types of fish they have. They sell fish just 1 centimeter in length. They eat live eels and all kinds of seafood, many unknown to me. There are also stores of seaweed, rice of all kinds and vegetables. They sell a kind of brown paste that we cannot find out if it was veg or non-veg.

Finally, we were also captivated by the fruit and vegetables all of excellent quality, placed as for a contest. It has individual wrapping (piece by piece) and with prices according to this delicacy. At the end of the market we decided to eat and we sat at the door of a small restaurant. They had a menu in English, so we asked for some ramen and we let the time pass while we watched the local fauna that in turn did not take our eyes off.

Right in front of the restaurant there was a cashier so we decided to try to get money but he did not accept our visa card, as we had already read. We returned to the hotel at 3, checked in, took possession of the room and took a nap. We got up somewhat more rested and we launched ourselves back into the street.

First I take out money in the Kawaramachi. Then we went to the east by the Sanjo and 100 meters away we crossed with a small stream parallel to the Kamo river that runs along Kiyamachi street full of restaurants. Between this street and the river is the famous Pontocho alley marked by dozens of small restaurants on both sides.

Many of those on the east side also have a terrace on the Kamo River. Most are expensive. Of course, being the most touristy street in Kyoto, almost none has a menu in English and some even so discreet that they seemed closed. But it was not dinner time so we went down to the Shijo Dori. There we passed an advertisement for a beauty salon that offered the promise of a kawaii look for its clients.

The term applies in general to pets, drawings, dresses, toys, babies, who evokes innocence and causes tenderness and is a ubiquitous trend throughout Japan. However, in recent years, kawaii has gone from being just an adjective to defining an eminently feminine culture that consists of adopting an appearance and following a fashion whose objective is to simulate childishness and candor.

The kawaii look consists of enlarging the eyes using bright shadows and false eyelashes, little makeup, pink lipsticks, pigtails and bows in the hair, brightly colored children's clothing with many accessories and if possible accompanied by stuffed animals or pets.

We crossed the bridge to get to Gion, the old neighborhood of Kyoto. We go up Shijo Street, which has arcades on each side decorated with red lanterns for the Gion festival that takes place in July. We passed the Minamiza theater and arrived at the Maruyama park.

When we arrived, it was already dusk. We go through an ornamental wooden door painted in red. Inside the park was the Yasaka Shrine, a beautiful Shinto temple that when we arrived was closed and empty. Also called the Gion Temple, it has more than 14 centuries of antiquity. In the center of the enclosure there is a temple adorned with hundreds of white lanterns donated by local merchants.

Around the honden and other auxiliary buildings are devised. In this temple is celebrated in July the Gion Matsuri or Gion Festival, one of the most famous in Japan. We walked around the park and went up to the Chion-in temple, but it was closed and it was already dark, so we retraced our steps to Shijo street.

In the middle of the street, another of the most touristy arteries in the city goes south: Hanami-Koji Street. All the buildings on the street are of perfectly preserved two-storey wood and serve to give you an idea of ​​what classic Kyoto was like. Now most are restaurants and teahouses, where geishas entertain their clients. All are very discreet and quite expensive.

In the middle street is the Gion corner, a theater where twice a day there is a traditional show of geishas demonstrating their singing and dancing skills. When we were leaving we even saw a geisha go out through a side door looking to get home as soon as possible.

As it was late we returned to the Shijo Dori and now we go north until we come across another small stream that runs along the side of Shirakawa Street. This is the third zone of restaurants in downtown Kyoto, all discreet, with class and also high prices. However, the night walk along the street with cherry trees, dropping their branches towards the stream is very pleasant.

We went through a konbini and I can not resist a photo from the magazine stand. At this point the tiredness overcame us so we had a quick dinner and went back to the hotel to sleep.

family travel images wallpaper

Day 2

After a good night's sleep as a result of jet lag we went down to breakfast. In addition to a Western breakfast, the hotel offered typical Japanese breakfast dishes consisting of white rice, miso soup, cold grilled fish and pickles. There are small plates and bowls with chopsticks, of course. I tried. It was good (almost everything).

We were amazed to see how the Japanese gave an account of breakfast and demonstrated their mastery with chopsticks. We realized that slurping in food is not frowned upon, but quite the opposite. From then on my family decided to show good manners and sipped all the soups we could during the trip, raising the admiration of the Japanese.

Our first stop was Nijo Castle. We went up to the Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae subway stop and on the way we saw the town hall of the city, totally forgettable. After the odyssey to get the tickets, we rode on the subway. Each stop is numbered and the posters are in Japanese and English. After a short trip of 2 stations (which served to check that the Japanese fall asleep with amazing ease and in any position also in the subway), we went down at the Nijojo-mae stop.

Just opposite the castle wall and a few meters, the entrance. The castle has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. It was built in the 17th century to serve as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period and completed by his grandson 23 years later. These shoguns are buried in Nikko in some fantastic mausoleums that we visited at the end of the trip.

From 1867 it served briefly as an imperial palace and was later donated to the city. The castle is surrounded by an outer wall with a moat, and has two other inner walls: the outer one called Ninomaru and the inner one called Honmaru. The impressive Chinese style Karamon gate gives entrance to the Ninomaru but was under restoration and covered by an awning.

The main building is the Ninomaru Palace, which served as residence for the shogun on his visits to Kyoto. It is a complex of buildings with rooms with tatami floors, painted panels on the walls and coffered ceilings, connected by corridors. The whole complex has wooden floors called the nightingale (a floor that emits a faint crunch when walking on it whose function was to reveal possible enemies).

It is a fun area for children. The tour goes through public audience rooms and ends in the most private rooms of the shogun. Outside the Palace is the Ninomaru Garden, a traditional Japanese garden with a pond, ornamental rocks and domesticated pines.

The Honmaru, surrounded by wall and moat, had a castle of 5 floors that was destroyed in a fire in the s. XVIII. In its place an imperial residence of another palace is transferred that today is called the Honmaru Palace and that is not visited. Around the palace there are also Japanese-style gardens and you can climb the wall to have an overview of the site.

At the exit there is a bar where you can recover your strength and several souvenir shops. In this bar we were assaulted by a group of shy Japanese schoolboys who had the task of getting some foreigner to write something in English in their notebooks. As we accessed the first, in the end we had to write something in everyone's notebook and escape from there took a long time.

Then we went back to take the metro to the Imadegawa stop to visit the Kyoto Gyoen National Park where the imperial palace is located. To visit the palace we had booked online a guided tour in English. As we arrived in time we took a walk through the park which is quite bland, with wide avenues of gravel in the sun, meadows and wooded areas and some administrative buildings.

The palace occupies a rectangle in the center of the park framed by a small wall with several ornamental doors. In front there is another imperial enclosure, Sento Palace, destined to shelter the foreign leaders visiting in Japan and not visitable. In the enclosure there are two small temples but altogether the park is absolutely dispensable.

At 1 o'clock we entered through the Seisho-mon gate and started the guided tour a group of about 80 foreign tourists. The visit, which lasts an hour, is a bit disappointing probably because the concept of the Japanese imperial palace has nothing to do with the western one.

The palace is a series of modest wooden buildings that are only visited from the outside. On the way (marked with red arrows on the map) you can see some room with painted panels and reproductions of period furniture. The throne room can also be seen from far away. On the way there are ornamental gardens, areas of a ball game, warehouses and auxiliary pavilions.

Historically it is an important place but from a tourist point of view, the Nijo-jo castle is more attractive. Really the visit did not seem so interesting, it made us lose a lot of time and it delayed us all day. If you have time, it is worth it but if you are fair, it can be ignored.

Next we went down to Imadegawa street and took bus to the Ginkakuji-michi stop. From the stop to the temple there are more than 20 minutes walking. The first part of the route borders a canal where we stopped at a bench to eat some chicken kushiage and an okonomiyaki. For dessert we have some dorayakis (homage to Doraemon) that we had bought at a street stall. The street begins to ascend and is filled with souvenirs stores.

We arrived at the Ginkaku-ji temple which is a world heritage site. At the entrance we bought a stamp notebook that we released with the hand painted seal of the temple. The visit is a circular tour of the temple grounds. The ginkakuji was a recreational village built by a shogun in 1482 converted to his death in a Zen Buddhist temple.

The 3 buildings are articulated around a small lake scattered in a beautiful Japanese garden. No one's inside is visited. There is also a neat Zen garden with a curious conical structure called moon platform. During the tour we climb the mountainside and have an overview of the temple and then descend through a moss garden to finish in the silver pavilion, a harmonious two-story building represented in millions of photographs.

It's called a silver pavilion but there's no silver anywhere. I guess it must be in contrast to Kinkaku-ji (which is covered in gold leaf). The visit takes easily one hour. It is really an idyllic landscape and it is worthwhile although I expected something much more monumental. Lowering the slope of the stores again and finally turning left you enter the path of philosophy or the philosopher.

It is a path of about 2 km long that runs parallel to a channel bordered by hundreds of cherry trees. The road ends next to the Nanzen-ji. It is named after the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro who was said to meditate on this path daily on his way to Kyoto University. Along the path there are restaurants and craft shops.

The walk is idyllic and relaxing and at the time we did it, practically at dusk, with the shops closing and the light of the sunset, I think it was even more so. I imagine that in spring with the cherry tree blossomed, it will be spectacular. But it is still a path along the edge of a canal, do not expect big things, go.

Along the way there are indications to approach to see small temples and altars like Miroku-in, Honen-in, Anraku-ji, Reigan-ji, Otoyo-jinja, Koun-ji, Nyakuoji-Jinja, Eikan-do, Nanzen- ji. At that time they were all closed so we did not try to get close. We saw the indication for the Honen-in but according to the map had to walk almost 1 km.

We passed the Otoyo-jinja, a temple dedicated to rats and Kumano Nyakuoji Jinja. From the road we could see some temples and cemeteries towards Kyoto, further away (we believe they were the Shinnyo-do and the Kurodani). At the end of the road there was a playground where parents rested watching the Japanese jog.

By the way, the Japanese run very weird. More than running, as they walk quickly without raising their feet and always with the feeling that they are going to fall every moment. Continuing south, we passed the closed precinct of the Eikan-do (nothing was seen) and arrived at the Nanzen-ji. It is a large Zen Buddhist complex with centuries of history and multiple reconstructions.

Like everything in Japan, the combination of combustible wooden buildings and earthquakes does not favor architectural preservation. The first thing that stands out is the entrance door Sanmon that is enormous. We can go up but it was already closed. From the door there is an avenue to the honden that we could not visit either. However, even the view from the distance was spectacular.

Around the temple there were multiple buildings and the remains of a brick aqueduct through which the canal of philosophy passed. Next to this temple there are other two more with their lands fenced in, forming an eminently ecclesiastical area without dwellings or shops. I suppose that with the open temples it would have something of life but at sunset it was absolutely depopulated. The late visit of the Imperial Palace had ruined our day.

In theory, there was a bus stop in front of Nanzenji but we could not find it. So we walked to the Keage metro stop (a 20 minute taxi ride through bland streets, if we knew we would have taken a taxi) and went down to the hotel. On Shijo Street we were caught in the window of a 3-story sushi restaurant. We asked a couple of Americans who left the site!

So we entered. We had a plate of kushiage (skewers of fish, meat and veggies) and a spectacular sushi platter that fixed us a little the day. Finally we took a short walk through the streets of Sanjo and Kawaramachi to see the nightlife and then return to bed.



Meghalaya is one of the smallest states of India but it is perhaps the most famous and frequented by Indian tourists among the seven sisters states of North East India. Thanks to the violent monsoon raging in the summer months in this area, Meghalaya has earned the nickname of abode of the clouds.

At certain times of the year, it rains a lot and people do not see the sun for weeks. In particular, the area of Sohra or Cherrapunji is known and famous for being the rainiest and humid place in the world. In a year, there are about 26,000 mm of rain and more than 9,000 in a single month.

Here at 1500 meters above sea level in the misty mountains, a stone's throw from Bangladesh, when you say Khasi tribe, it means a number of clans or extended families who have a family history of 2000 years dating back to the iawbei tynrai, the first Mother. The Khasi mythology is fascinating because it describes a people who landed from the sky on the summit of the Holy Mountain, where a group has recently discovered axes, bowls, iron and traces of settlements dating back perhaps to the twelfth century BC.

The Khasis may have come from Tibet through Burma. Their languages belong in any case to the Tibeto-Burmese group. They speak the Mon-Khmer. In a certain locality, the dignity of a high priest is occupied by a woman, and the woman who succeeds her is chosen from among her relatives. The way to choose the first name of the children is one of the most curious Khasi customs. A man recites a list of names and at the same time pours a glass of alcohol. The name that coincides with the last drop will be that of the child.

The central importance of the mother among the Khasi is also visible in religious conceptions. In the Khasi religious system, all divinities associated with family and social well-being are invariably feminine, such as Ka Blei Synchar, the supreme goddess, Ka Sngi Sun, the reigning goddess, Blei Rymma, the Mother Earth, Ka Thlang, the goddess of the harvest, Ka Taro, the goddess of wealth, Ka Blei Iew, the goddess of the market, Ka Blei Mynso, the goddess of accidents, Lukhimai, Ka Blei Iing, the protective guardian of the hearth.

The divinities of the waters are female, and the deities of the hills are male. Male deities are protectors and not producers of wealth. They are associated with the administration and protection of the territory, such as U Lei Muluk, the god of the State, U Basa Shnong, the village deity, U Lei Shillong, the god of capital Shillong, U Blei Lyngdoh, the God of the sacred groves.

The Khasi or Khassia call themselves Hynniewtrep or Seven Clans, which includes the Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi and War. Clans and states all trace their origin through ancestral women of 7 women and 7 families (Ki Hynniew Trep) born of humanity. The importance of the ancestor woman in the Khasi-Jaintia rituals is also remarkable. In the Pomblang, libations are offered first to the Lei Long Syiem, the mother of the clan leader (Syiem). The priestess of this ritual is the sister of the chief. The libations are then dedicated to the sisters of the chief.

The Khasi population includes a number of matrilineal clans whose members consider themselves as descendants of a common female ancestor (khur). The members of a Khur have the same burial in which the bones of all the dead are buried. The most important lineage unit is the iing. This one has a vertical continuity without the extension on the plane of the collaterals. The establishment of a new house by a Khasi woman with her husband implies the constitution of a new iing, separated from her native iing not only on the residential level but also on the sociological level.

For here still persists one of the 30 matrilineal systems of the world, though not matriarchal. The matrilineal organization does not mean that women make all the decisions. Among the Khasi as in the Minangkabau, the maternal uncle plays a preponderant role in the family. He is the chief of the clan, the one to be consulted before marriage, for example. A man who marries continues to have to give priority to his sisters and nieces, rather than to his wife and children.

But when a man gets married, he must go and live in his wife's family, where the youngest is always the heir and the guardian of the lineage and property. The youngest daughter of the family inherits the largest share of the clan's assets. She is considered the guardian of family values and will have to look after her elderly parents. This was a system similar to that of some African tribes where paternity was uncertain and the mother's last name was a guarantee of belonging.

Khasi women are very active and often earn a significant share of household income. Many Khasi shops are run by women. Yet, many factors push Khasi society to abandon its traditional organization. In some cases, the cohesion of the clan is called into question by the fact that members leave the village to settle in the city. As they moved away from their village, they also moved away from the authority of the maternal uncle. The father then takes on a more important role within the family.

For now, the matrilineal structure resists because it is interwoven with folklore, rituals, and worship, such as clan meetings in the sacred forest in homes where their ancestors lived and where shamans are transformed, in their hallucinations, into five finger tigers, or predict the future, singing songs and healing mantra from all evil.

Meghalaya is very tribal and traditional, and the Khasi culture is definitely one of the most interesting, fascinating and mysterious in India. In this state, on the contrary, women are the stronger sex and men are discriminated against, which is absurd in a deeply male-dominated society like India. These women are strong, determined and resolute and if a father dares to give his surname to the child, he may be expelled from the tribe. Their faces clearly express their privileged status, even if the facial features are very delicate.

They always sulk with bright red lips, but it is not because of bad temper or because they use too much of lipstick. It is because they continually chew the tamul, a paan with betel nut. Almost everyone wears the traditional dress, which is nothing but a checkered tablecloth knotted on the shoulder. Like other ethnic groups that I met on this trip in this remote area of India, Khasis also come from South East Asia, but probably not from China but from the Mon State in Burma.

Before reaching Shillong I decided to stay a couple of days at Jowai, the capital of Jaintia Hills and an important center of the Jaintia Khasi culture. In the Jaintia Hills, the Khasis are from Khmer in Cambodia, who emigrated here in a very remote epoch. The hills are beautiful, everything is very green, and intriguing culture. The market is very traditional and interesting, although I've had better during this trip.

It's almost exclusively run by women. Men drink a lot, and often in the evening, there is a line in the few liquor stores downtown. I visit Nartiang, the ancient capital known for a monoliths forest and for a temple dedicated to Goddess Durga, famous for the human sacrifice that continued until recently. Menhirs are the phallus, and the dolmens are the uterus. The horizontal stones are the Ancestor Mothers, and the vertical the other members of the clan. Megaliths are a cult of ancestors.

We often find megaliths in Khasi groups, with both erected stones and tables. The best known and most impressive of these is Nartiang. These prehistoric sites are used by the local populations as places of gathering for the markets of the countryside, the stones then serving as seats. These giant tombs, circles of erected stones, and tables of stone for sacrifices cover the whole of India. People always gather there to celebrate the summer and winter solstices.

The bloodthirsty Khasi still erected them, at the time, during secondary funerals and is like another Stonehenge, particularly picturesque by its entourage of rare banyans and orchids that strongly recall these sets of mysterious and solitary monuments of unknown origin, for so long a riddle and delight of Antiquaries, which are visible here and there in all regions of Europe and Of West Asia. It is probable that the stones, if compared to the Stonehenge of the Nilgiris, were erected by a people who honored their dead as the Khasis do, and that the similarities of customs on this point indicate some connection between the Khasi, the Ho Singhbhum and more generally the Munda race of the province of Chota Nagpur.

We go to Mawphlang. In short, the main asset of this village is its sacred forest which is supposed to be the best preserved of the country. In this forest, the villagers are not allowed to cut wood, make fire or kill animals. On the other hand, they can drink the water and eat the fruit on condition that they are exclusively reserved for personal consumption and not for sale. The forest is quite interesting with plenty of orchids.

There are many monoliths resembling a Celtic menhir field. In the Khasi culture, the important people are buried under monoliths. There are also some to make sacrifices. The emblem of the Khasis is the cock. So it is the animal they sacrifice the most. In short, it is a little Celtic scenery.

Again, I'm lucky because the next day starts a traditional Khasi dance festival. It is a festival that takes place once a year. In a circle, dozens of girls in yellow tunic and crown decorated with flowers, begin a slow procession. Together, they advance in small steps as the flames undulate on the surface of a sun. At the periphery, men, with turbans and necklaces, twirl like satellites.

In the western part of the state, I decided to take the opportunity to discover another tribe of the Northeast of India, the Garo tribe. While the Khasi belong to the Khmer family, the Garo are of Tibeto-Burman stock. They live in the southwestern hills of Meghalaya, a 5-hour drive from Guwahati. Some of them continue to practice traditional tribal religion. This was the case in the village I visited, that of Sadolpara.

I was impressed by the length of the houses made of wood and plaited bamboo. They are built around a central fireplace and decorated with fingerprints made of rice powder. Feathers often adorn the main entrance, while deer trophies are hung in the sort of veranda which occupies the rear of the house.

I was very well received by the inhabitants, who made me drink rice beer and even invited me to lunch. The meal consisted of rice, pumpkin puree and a cup of honey coming directly from the forest, all washed with rice beer. The statues erected in memory of the dead are furnished with everything that the man could need in the afterlife with packets of biscuits, rice, a gourd of rice beer and betel.

I was also shown a sort of "Y" of wood places in the middle of the village, which serves as a log to decapitate the cows at religious festivals, and the building in which justice is rendered. As with the Santals of West Bengal, the customary justice of the village seems to prevail over any other form of law.

The Garo practice what the Indians call Jhum cultivation, the slash and burn cultivation. They clear a hill, set it on fire, then cultivate cotton, squash and various other vegetables, peppers, and ginger. When the plot can no longer be cultivated, they still manage to grow cashew nuts. Huts are set up in the middle of the plantations and allow residents to spend the night there during periods of high activity.

In this state, it is quite normal to see strange and original things. Here people love lotteries but have invented a very strange custom linked to a kind of archery. A group of men in a semicircle flings arrows on a bundle of straw that eventually are counted. There are a lot of people betting, even with very exaggerated figures.

Very strange are also the Khasi monoliths, which are scattered everywhere and were used for various purposes such as tombs, dwellings of the spirits or simply to indicate important places. Some were probably used for human sacrifice.

The settlers of the East India Company nicknamed it the Scotland of the East, but it would be more accurate, Wales of India because in 1840, Welsh Calvinistic, Thomas Jones, brought here the alphabet, the saw, building techniques and the first transcript of an oral culture linked to shamanism and magic through the healers mantra. It is no coincidence that the national anthem of the Khasi is the same melody as that of Wales, but with words in the native language.


Meghalaya Itinerary

Day 01: Guwahati - Jowai

After breakfast and a six-hour drive, the windy hills lead to the Jowai region. Jowai is the capital of the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, populated by the Jaintia tribes. The Khasis living in Jaintia hills are now known as Jaintias. The Jaintias are famous for their art and culture. On the way, we see the Umiam Lake.

Day 02: Jowai

We visit Jowai and the surroundings. We visit the Thadlaskein Lake, Syntu Ksiar (Golden Flower), Nartiang, famous for Stone Monoliths. We visit a Jaintia village and its people.

Day 03: Jowai - Shillong

After breakfast, we drive to Shillong, the Scotland of the East. After arrival and check-in at the hotel, in the afternoon we visit Shillong. We visit the Wards Lake, Bishop and Bidon falls and also visit the park of Archery, which is a relaxing and unique place.

Day 04: Shillong - Mawlynnong - Shillong

After breakfast, we drive to Mawlynnong (85 km/3 hours), one of the cleanest villages in Asia. We trek to the living root bridge to the point where we could see Bangladesh. We visit the village to learn about the tribal culture of the Khasis. Overnight we get back to Shillong.

Day 05: Shillong - Cherrapunjee - Shillong

Early morning we drive to Cherrapunjee (54 kms/2 hours), world renowned for being the wettest place on earth! Oranges and honey here are very famous and from here is also a good place to admire the plains of Bangladesh. We visit the Nohsngithiang Falls (Mawsmai falls), Nohkalikai Falls, the fourth highest in the world, the caves of Mawsmai, the Ramakrishna Mission etc. While coming back, we stop at the Shillong Peak (1965 m) which offers a breathtaking panorama of the city and the Elephant Falls. Finally, we get back to Shillong.

Day 06: Shillong - Kaziranga

After breakfast, (295 kms/7 hours) we depart for the Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site and famous for its one horned rhino.

It is a new morning. The first thing we do, is breakfast to get strength, to face this new adventure. We take suitcases and check out. As we finished, a guy from the agency was waiting for us to accompany us to the train station. Due to the cancellation of the flight, we will move to Khajuraho by train and car.

We set course for the Benares train station. In the city, there are two train stations. One is Vanarasi Junction in the heart of the city, which in this case will be ours and Mughal Sarai Junction about 15 km east of the city. Ours is quite large and is located about four kilometers from the ghats of the old city, between the neighborhoods of Cantonment, Jaitpura and Lahurabir.

Once we arrived and entered with every step we take, it overwhelms me. First we have to go pulling the bags, climbing a network of stairs to be able to pass to our platform. Underneath we see an endless number of the oldest trains that we can imagine. I saw those trains came full of people, completely crowded, standing as they could, with small windows, and three horizontal bars.

At that moment, I see that a train stops on one of the platforms. Suddenly, a tide of people rushes uncontrollably and without order to the door still open. My face suddenly blanched completely. Thousands of thoughts crossed my mind of how I was going to deal with this situation. But luckily the guide reassured me at once.

It is fascinating to see the wonderful color that my eyes saw, the women each more beautiful and elegant. On the other hand the men, wear their best clothes, that look new and bright shoes, all of them very neat. Although due to the crowd and the tremendous heat the smell was quite strong, I can not stop taking pictures.

It's almost 10:15 in the morning and our train is here. The guide accompanies us to our seats. The guide tells us that the journey takes about 6 hours. We have to be vigilant when we get to the Satna stop to get off. There will be another guide, who will wait for us to take us to Khajuraho by car.

In each seat they leave a blanket, a sheet, and a small pillow. There is air conditioning and a small fan in the middle of the two bunk beds. We put the two large suitcases under the bed. The train starts its way. We decided to see the photos of the camera and begin to erase those that are not worth.

The hours begin to pass, the families that are at our side, begin to remove from a bag a variety of all kinds of foods and thermos with fresh drinks. That's when we realized the big mistake. No one told us that on the train, there is nowhere to buy anything to drink or eat.

In some of the stations where it stopped, there were some guys who carried behind their backs, in a kind of huge net baskets, a variety of bags of chips and cookies. The problem is that it is for a very short time and we are afraid that we do not have time to go back up. Suddenly, at one of the stops, a boy climbed up with a big basket. At that moment the eyes jump with joy, as we could buy some food.

Until that moment, our supplies were two bottles of water and a kind of candy, which I had bought at the airport in Nepal. We bought small packs of various chips and a packet of cookies. It served to make the trip more enjoyable and kill the bug a bit. After 6 hours of walking, the ticket checker comes to tell us that we are arriving at Satna.

We prepare our bags and once it stop we get off the train. The station was completely full of people everywhere. This one is much dirtier than Benares. Here there are also cows wandering. Immediately we saw our guide who was already waiting for us. He tells us to leave the station. We got out of the station and as we left the chaos is overwhelming. We see our van, load all our things and we set course for Khajuraho.

Once the car is in motion we ask our guide the possibility of stopping to buy something to drink and eat because we have 3 hours to get to our destination. Then he tells us that there is no problem. We're going to make a stop at a restaurant so we can eat. It is a restaurant, at the foot of the road, which also has a hotel. We ordered a sandwich.

Again we set course for our next destination. We are separated by only 110 km, but the road if we can call it that, is quite bad. There are many sections of earth with stones, large holes. The animals in the middle of the road mean that the speed cannot be very high. Even so, I have to admit that I loved the trip. From the front of the van the views are incredible, as we see India in all its purest state.

We cross small towns where we see, the real life of these people. We see children in the schoolyard doing gymnastics, women in the markets doing their shopping. There are merchants with their stalls, appliance businesses, clothing stores with all their samples in sight. The colors invade us completely.

The sun begins to fall, dyeing everything in a golden color. The houses we see are quite simple, small and even look old. Even so, in many of them, large antennas emerge, something that also draws my attention enormously. The guide explains that they are people who are well-off financially.

The route turns out to be the most varied. Besides going through different towns, we went through a natural park that really looks very good. Some animals come to the road to greet us. We see some monkeys, some peacocks and even got to see a deer. As we are passing through an area of ​​the park, the van stops, as before us passes a small tornado to which the whirlpool is perfectly visible.

The sun keeps accompanying us at all times and I cannot stop taking pictures. It has me completely hypnotized. The driver realizes that with such a bump it is quite complicated to take pictures. To my surprise he stops the car and looks at me as if telling me to take more photos. I take a couple of photos and continue on our way. It's already night, when suddenly we pass by the Khajuraho airport and yes, it is completely closed.

We finally reach our destination, when our guide offers us the possibility of going to get a Ayurvedic massage. So before going to the hotel we stopped at a massage center. They explain to us the different types of massages that there are and we opted for the one hour of full body.

The first thing they give us before we start is a kind of wide strip with two thin strips to tie. I cannot avoid that I have a fit of laughter, as it is tiny. They begin the massage for the head including the hair, throwing oil, flowers and plants. They continue on the face and then the whole body and use different oils and spices.

They all smell amazingly good. There comes a time, I have to confess that I fall asleep. After 1 hour, the guy tells me that it is over and with gestures he invites me to follow him so I can take a shower and remove all the remains of oil and others. Once finished and already dry and dressed they even offer a hair dryer.

We go to our hotel. The hotel is not very big, but it has all the services, including outdoor swimming pool. It is nice and cozy. The room is super spacious with a huge bed, a small sofa with a small table and the bathroom with a great shower. We leave things and go to dinner at the restaurant. It is already very late but they still prepare us dinner.

We ordered rice and butter chicken. In the dining room, we meet with a small group of very nice and smiling men. It's time to go to bed and rest. Tomorrow we'll have one of the most complete days.

Khajuraho wallpaper travel

Day 2

As always we wake up extremely early. The first thing we do is have breakfast to gather strength to enjoy this new day that awaits us and that will be quite varied. Once our guide finish breakfast he already awaits us at the reception. We head for the erotic temples that are about 10 minutes by car from the hotel. As always we do not have to worry about buying tickets that are included in the price of the circuit.

We enter and what amazes us most is how well preserved they are. They have been declared a World Heritage Site since 1986. The builders were the rulers of the Chandela dynasty. They have great influence of Tantrism, a doctrine in which the erotic becomes a philosophical theme whose goal is the sublimation of sexual relations or Maithuna.

The women are seen as the reincarnation of divine energy or Shatkti. It is also possible that the sculptures have influence of the Kamasutra, the famous treatise on erotic art written by Vatsyayana in the times of the Gupta dynasty. At first there were a total of 80 temples but now 22 remain well preserved. They were forgotten by the vegetation until in 1838 the British discovered them again.

The materials used for its construction are from the Panna area and are blocks of granite and arsenic stone. They are built on platforms, which due to their width, give the feeling of being a terrace that facilitated the rituals of prayer that the faithful should do before entering them. The towers, are Sikhara type, with cone-shaped termination, with a stone structure called Amalaka. In each one there are small, highly ornamented floors.

In the ornamentation there are images of animals, daily life including those of the court, images of gods. There are images of flowers and geometric shapes and couples in love position. The temples are divided into two groups is east and west group. The first ones we are going to visit are those on the west side.

The ground is closed and there are many trees and a lawn of a green color that illuminates everything. There is an absolute silence. It gives us a feeling of peace and absolute harmony that only the infinite number of birds that meet there with their harmonic songs break. So we approach the first temple, and a wonderful surprise awaits us.

In a temple that is outside the enclosure, but that can be seen from within, a group of three women goes down the stairs. They have their heads covered with a handkerchief. On one of their arms they carry small plastic baskets of cheerful colors, in which they carry containers with water.

In the other hand they carry a kind of earthenware vessel with which they drop threads of water in their path. The guide explains that they are doing a prayer and offering ritual. I love seeing them. I cannot stop photographing them. They smile at me as if giving me their consent, I thank them. Once they finish we continue with the visit.

The first is the Lakshmana Temple. It is believed that it was built by King Lakshavarman who reigned between 925 and 950, making it one of the oldest temples. Built on a platform three meters wide, the temple is accessed by a finely decorated staircase. There are also some small temples in each corner of the platform. The sculptures on the exterior walls depict scenes of daily life, warriors and erotic scenes. It is dedicated to the Vishnu.

The next one is the Varaha Temple. It is located opposite the Lakshmana and is small in size. It contains a statue of the Varaha, incarnation of Vishnu in the form of a boar. The image of the boar as soon as we see it gives us the feeling that it is made of bronze or metal but it is actually made of stone. It is completely carved, with nothing less than 672 images of gods and at its base has a snake under it.

The following is the Matangesvara Temple dedicated to the god Shiva. At present it is still a place of worship. It is located on a quite high platform which is accessed by a very decorated staircase. We continue with the Vishvanatha Temple. It was built by King Dhangadeva who reigned between 950 and 1002. Its ceilings are richly decorated with floral designs.

The interior rooms contain some of the best preserved sculptures in the entire complex. We marvel at each temple we see. The amount of details in the images are incredible, their clothes with their folds, the facial features and the body especially of women. Originally the temple had an emerald linga. It is also worthy to admire the elephant and the lion that line the stairs of rise

We continue with the Nandi Temple that share platform with the Vishvanatha. Its roof is pyramidal. Inside there is a statue of Nandi, the bull that serves as saddle for the god Shiva. Next with the Kandariya Mahadev Temple. It is the most spectacular of all the temples of Khayurajo besides being the largest. It is also dedicated to Shiva and was built on a platform 3 meters high.

Built in the middle of the 11th century, its tower measures 30 meters. Its decoration consists of 872 different statues. It draws a lot of attention to its tower with a height of 31 meters on which 84 replicas are smaller. On the platform there is a large sculpture of Ganesha without a head with a rat between his legs.

There are many figures of animals, gods, images of battles, but the most abundant are erotic. We must untangle the complexity of their positions, as our guide says is almost impossible. We continue with the Devi Jagadambi Temple. It is smaller and dedicated to Kali, its decoration contains sculptures of women performing daily actions. This is dedicated to Parvati. In it are the figures that are better carved.

Finally we go to Chitragupta Temple. Inside there is a statue of Surya, the sun god, riding in his car pulled by seven horses. The complex they are in is really wonderful. There are some squirrels and lots of birds. I am lucky to be able to photograph some. For the time of the year in which we are, we are the only tourists to be able to enjoy the place without crowds or queues.

An important fact when we visit the temples, is that throughout the site one cannot smoke and to enter each of them we will have to do barefoot. We leave to be able to visit the temples of the east group. For this we got on the van. The distance is not much but the heat is already starting to tighten. This group is of Jain temples.

Our guide explains to us the philosophy. There are two groups, one in which they wear white tunic and are called Sostengra and the other are nudists and receives the name of Divangra. They do not have gods but a kind of prophets that are called Yinas.

We begin with the Parshvanatha Temple, which contains very few sculptures of lovers and many of women playing various musical instruments or performing actions such as makeup or bathing. It also has a sculpture of the Shiva and Parvati. It is dedicated to the remaining 23 prophets. Here there are not so many erotic images.

The images that stand out most are the woman who pampers a child, those of Vishnu and Laksmi and the woman who writes a letter. We continue through the Adinath Temple that only has one tower and it is small. This is dedicated to a single prophet who gives his name. Again we can enjoy this time in total exclusivity. But I have to confess that we like more those of the other group.

We go to the hotel to pick up our luggage when we take the opportunity to have a refreshing snack. We go back to the van to set course for our Orchha visit.

London is a city with lots of charm and people from all over the world! In my last trip to London in addition to travel, I could enjoy almost surreal experiences, perhaps the unexpected. Continuing with the series of chocolate and trips, I present stores in every way. When I spoke of unexpected, it is that really I could not imagine that there is a mega-complex dedicated to the M&M's. If you visit London, sure you should go through the M&M's World. It's a super tourist site, as there are always people and is almost a must when traveling to this city.

I have been to London several times, and all I've been through this store. Now you will see why.

Where is the M&M's World in London?

There are several M & M's World stores in the world, I've been in New York and this one, London. The London store is in Leicester Square, next to Chinatown. If you go by subway, the stop is Leicester Square, which is next door. You can also walk from Trafalgar Square, for example, if you are a tourist.

The store hours are amazing. From Monday to Saturday it is open from 10 to 12 pm, and Sunday from 12 to 6 pm. In that area, there are many restaurants and pubs that attract tourists. They have it all worked out.

What can you buy in M&M's World?

Of everything. That is, are 4 floors, did you think that would only sell M & M's, based filthy rich can sell a thousand more things to gullible tourists? Of course not.

The M & M's are on the ground floor, which is also the case for pay. In the other three plants, we find merchandising of all kinds, of course, related to the M&M's.

Some of the things you can find are clothing for men, women or children, M&M's dispensers, Keychains, magnets, wallets, cushions, cups and other packages of M&M's.

Let's talk about M&M's itself

I recently had to go to London for work, and I went with several kilos of chocolate, including 420gr Crispy M&M's that cost me only £ 8.36. I know, it is very expensive for a bag of chocolate, but it was not my fault. If anyone finds them online for less than 70 €, please tell me.

And the announcement there at the entrance of the store is a statement of intent: 4 floors of fun (and chocolate).

From here begins the journey to the geek world. Shelves of all kinds of objects related to this product. Nor in my collection of drawing pencils do I have a color palette that is so complete. Yes, it is made with cocoa.

And here I find a sample of "curiosities" of all kinds scattered among many shelves. Looking in every corner or shelf, I started taking pictures. And it is that even the Beatles have their tribute at this store.

In a laboratory, there was a person who pretended to blend colors. In the shop, there are also products for collectors. In some cases, an expensive fad is the figurines of 1000 pounds.

I hope at least you have found this article interesting. If you go to London and pass over Leicester Square it is a curious place to visit.

I can say it was a gastronomic break because half the time I spent on M&M store and eating fish and chips in Candem! But it was worth it and a nice addition.

M&M's World in London

New York-based M&M store - a delight

Where can you see more candies that melt in your mouth and not in your hand? The swilling New York, the city that never sleeps, a temple of modernity and modernism that always surprises visitors. Museums, skyscrapers and shops like the one I present below make this city a place where it will be impossible not to enjoy. In fact, few places can beat it in culinary terms. And that sweet tooth they mouthwatering in the M&M store, a huge center for many will become the paradise of chocolate.

Although there are all kinds substitutes for many chocolate candy star it is the M&M. Can you imagine seeing a multi-story store your biggest gastronomic whim? Well, this is what happens to anyone who does not conceive of life without chocolate and more specifically, without M&M. And nothing more enter the store what is discovered is neither more nor less than a small world where this delicacy is the protagonist.

Located between the streets 47 and 48 of Times Square, the M&M store can be distinguished from a distance by the lights of their windows, colors that already announce what we find inside. In addition, an M&M Giant advertising panel mode invites you to enter a small tidbit personified with eyes that hint that what we find inside is really amazing.

And so it is. Like a big mall were, store M & M has three floors that are connected by escalators. No, I do not think that all plants are full of large suppliers of M & M, which as you can see in the picture also occurs. The traditional candy will accompany a large number of variants of different colors and flavors, with nuts and tastes obviously cannot find in a candy store common.

In addition, as happens in these cases, there are all kinds of merchandising on M&M. You will hesitate on what object or clothing to buy from t-shirts, shoes to everything, absolutely everything at M&M's. In addition, if you are already a fan of this candy, you can take a picture with an M&M, no doubt a photo frame of your trip. Finally, and as a curiosity, there is a machine that, after being second in front of it, scans your body to tell you what kind of M&M you are. Impressive, no?
Do you want to travel to an exotic destination? The trip to Marrakesh is full of unique experiences, culture, new tastes, and completely different smells. Here you will find monkeys and snake charmers to typical and endless rows of orange juice stalls. All these ingredients are key to turning this city of Morocco into one of the favorite destinations for travelers who want to visit unusual destinations.

Marrakesh at the foot of the Atlas, speaks for itself, as its name in the original Berber means "Land of God". Are you ready to fall surrendered to the charms of Marrakesh?



1. Mingling with people in Jamaa el Fna

This public square in the Medina (old city) is the heart of the city and it develops its trader's activity, street performers, street vendors and all in an environment surrounded by cafes, restaurants and the sound of flutes charmers snakes.

The Jamaa el Fna Square has so much life that was declared Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. After admiring her from the heights, you have to enter the square and be enchanted by the flutists with snakes dance to their tune, aguadores desert with its colorful costumes, musicians, henna tattoo artists and carts selling orange juice.

2. Discover infinite shades of blue and green in the Garden Majorelle

In 1919 the French painter Jacques Majorelle began creating this botanical garden with cacti, yuccas, jasmines and workshop house that is now world famous for its distinctive blue color. In the 80s Yves Saint-Laurent doubled the number of plant species in this garden. Undoubtedly, one of the things to see in Marrakesh.

3. Try new flavors

If you are looking for the most authentic flavors of Marrakesh, gives a tour of the food stalls in the Djemaa el Fna square. One of the traditional dishes is roast lamb head, do you dare to try it?

4. Staying in a Riad

A trip to Marrakesh will never be complete without a stay in a riad, a typical Moroccan house with a garden inside. In Marrakesh there are about 800 accommodations like this, you just have to pick the one you like!

5. Contemplating the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque

The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakesh and its minaret, almost 70m high, is one of the most representative images of the city.

6. Learning to dribble in zocos

You may not have the ability to bargain, but to buy in the souks of Marrakesh will have to put all your wits (and patience) to get the best price for handicrafts lamps, handbags, and jewelry. It is a tip to haggle, and be firm when you say "no".

7. Test Tajin

One of the most famous dishes of Moroccan cuisine around the world is the tagine. This cone-shaped container allows food to cook steamed and retain all its aromas and flavors. You need to try one of the delicious juices of Marrakesh!

8. Imagining the past luxurious El Badi Palace

This palace was built in 1578 and was known at that time as being the architectural wonder of the Muslim world. It was not at least in the decoration of the 360 rooms of this fortress precious materials like gold and onyx were used. Today only an esplanade with walls and orange gardens.

9. Cool off with an orange juice

In Marrakesh, you will taste one of the best orange juice, with permission of the Valencians, of course! In Yamma El Fna Square you will find many places in which order a refreshing freshly squeezed juice for only four dirhams (35 cents).

10. Enjoy the peace of the Menara Gardens

If you are looking for some quiet time away from the bustle of the city, your site is in the Menara Gardens. This space was centuries ago only reserved for sultans, is now open to anyone who wants to admire him.

11. Saadí Dynasty Tombs

For its beautiful decoration, the Saadian tombs are other things to see in Marrakesh. This place, with the remains of 60 members of the Saadi Dynasty was discovered in 1917 and was restored by the Fine Arts Service.

12. At any time of the day, drink tea

Undoubtedly, the mint tea is the most popular drink in Marrakesh, and do not have to wait for dessert to take it! You can take a delicious tea with or without sugar, with or without pasta when you please.

13. Learn something new at the Museum of Marrakesh

A complete journey must include at least one visit to a museum. In Marrakesh, located in the Mnebbi palace, the nineteenth century, you will find a beautiful collection of Moroccan modern art.

If you suddenly feel the need to live all these things in person, hit the button and book your flights to Marrakesh.

Kerala is not for nothing known as God's own country, which has also discovered the tourism industry and with the slogan competes vigorously. Whether for a one day trip in Kerala or more there are a variety of tourist places that offers wonderful landscapes. The Kerala backwaters are an absolute highlight of every round trip through south India.


Day 1 - Arrival

We took the plane from New Delhi to get to Kerala. The plane takes off on time. Although the plane is half empty and I am comfortably stretched I do not close my eyes. On the flight, we were seated next to another couple. They were here on their honeymoon and after touring Rajasthan with an organized group, they now go for absolute relaxation in Kovalam, in an Ayurvedic resort a few steps from the sea.

The flight went very quickly, thanks to the wonderful conversation. With them, we shared our experiences, our impressions of the places we visited and the people we had met. Finally, they gave us some news that we were afraid of receiving. Just in these days on Kerala, a small monsoon is falling out of season.

From the window of the plane we see that the ground is wet, so it must not have rained long. We go down and the humidity, despite being 23, is really oppressive, as we had never heard in recent weeks. We requested the taxi service from the hotel and a guy was waiting for us outside the small Trivandrum airport. It's evening. Surely we have not even touched a main street of the capital, but we have not seen almost anyone on the street.

In the North, we have always met people on the street at any time and it is strange now to see the deserted streets and the dark houses. We immediately noticed that the asphalt here is in excellent condition and that the edges of the roads are definitely cleaner than anywhere in the North, where the only area that can be called clean is the Thar desert.

Coming down from the car we already hear the sound of the sea in torment, with a wonderful sound. Our room in the resort in Puthenthope is really very spacious and there is an outdoor area with deck chairs that seems to be right on the beach. But it's so dark that we cannot see more than a few inches of the patio. We decide to take a shower, which unfortunately proves to be freezing. We go immediately to sleep because we cannot wait to discover the view from our room. After turning off the light, a strong wind begins to blow and rain comes.

Day 2 - Trivandrum

At five o'clock we get up for breakfast and fortunately, on the table, there is some delicious fresh fruit and a freshly squeezed pineapple juice. We taste a local dessert, Kozhukkatta, wrapped in a leaf. It is made with steamed rice, coconut and cane sugar inside. It is very sweet but very good. I take the camera and walk barefoot in the stretch of palm forest that leads to the beach.

There are some fishermen right in front of us. I watch them from afar, they greet me. I move and they continue to untangle the net. Now it's sunny, it's very hot and a light breeze blows on the beach. The sand is fine, golden and inhabited by many small crabs that escape below the surface, as soon as I try to get closer. Finally, I put my feet in the sea, in the ocean. The water is hot too, but the sea is too rough to go for a swim.

The beach is wide and deserted, except for boats and fishermen. I keep walking for a while. Then I come back under the palm trees to protect myself from the scorching rays of the sun. I spent the day in total relaxation under the coconut trees, watching the slow flow of life of the fishermen on the beach.

We were not the only ones to follow carefully the meticulous work of the fishermen! Among the small animals in the sand, those in the sky and the boats there is always something to be observed on this beach, which even though it seems deserted is never really.

From the resort, we take a tuk-tuk which takes about half an hour to reach the city center (on the return it is necessary to negotiate a lot on the price). During the trip we had confirmation of the impression received the first evening. The roads are much cleaner and the traffic can be tackled even by ordinary mortals (even if you rent a scooter or a motorcycle).

The people are welcoming and almost all greet us with a smile. In the city, of course, the traffic situation becomes much more intense, but at least it seems that the rules of the road are mostly followed and there are no animals to complicate it all. We continue on Mahatma Gandhi Road to reach the Kerala tourism office, which is located in front of the entrance to the Trivandrum Zoo.

It did not take long to find it and for the first time, we managed to end up in the government tourist office and not in some self-styled tourist agency. Here the official filled us with brochures, maps, and information. He also went out on the street to stop a tuk-tuk that would take us to the train station (where we had to book tickets for the next day) asking him to do it at the right price!

Incredible India, finally we felt really welcome and serene! Arriving at the station we line up. After several minutes, dripping with sweat, jostling, we managed to ask for our ticket and the girl at the counter, abruptly, tells us that we cannot book. I try to ask if there is an office for reservations and the girl treats me worse than before saying to go away.

Definitely unmotivated we decide to resume another tuk-tuk to return to the zoo, hoping to find some shade in the trees. Shortly after the departure, I ask the driver if he knows an agency to book train tickets, and he tells us that it is not possible to book in the agency, but he has a friend at the station who can help us. He calls him and lets us know that the 6 o'clock train still has seats available, but in the lower class, the one without air conditioning.

We decide to go back and make the tickets with this friend of the driver. We arrive at the parking lot and the driver's friend hands us the paper to fill in with all the personal and travel data. Then he takes the money and after a while returns with the tickets. The whole thing lasted at least half an hour during while we were getting boiled under the sun. But he came back after a few minutes to announce that now even those tickets were not available.

We returned to travel to the zoo and at the end of the race, the driver asked us for a tip for the ticket service. Despite the humidity we found the strength to visit the Trivandrum Zoo. The entry price per person is only 10 Rupees and we have to pay a fee of 25 rupees for each camera.

Here we saw the beautiful Lion-tailed Macaque, many birds, a rhino, hippos and finally the tiger, but of course, I forgot to photograph it! All the animals seem well kept, but at the end of the visit, we were definitely dehydrated! Returning to the resort was an epic. The tuk-tuk driver did not even know where the resort area was. It took almost an hour to get back, but at least we took a trip around Trivandrum.

After arriving back we take our backpacks and moved towards Varkala. At our already booked resort, we go into our room and headed straight for dinner. In addition, we wanted to drink a cold beer, which proves quite cumbersome. Two hours later we left the restaurant satisfied and looked forward to the night in Varkala.

Day 3 - Thekkady

The next morning after breakfast we set off again. Our next destination was the Periyar National Park which was 200 km and 6 hours drive away. During the trip, we stopped at a bamboo grove where we could observe Hanuman langurs and passed paddy fields, forests, lakes and met cows and macaques on the road. We take accommodation in Thekkady at the resort which is really fantastic.

We were able to freshen up and went straight to a spice plantation. Here we were shown the many spices of the country like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and much more. Then we could ride for an hour on an elephant. The ride went through the spice plantation and through a wall area. In the hotel, we had a huge room with a great roof terrace. We have a shower, and dinner with the spicy noodles with vegetables! And then go to bed, as the visits begin tomorrow.

Day 4 - Periyar National Park

We start climbing towards the mountains. We begin to glimpse plantations of coffee and then tea, forests, and monkeys. We had booked a jeep safari, jungle walk, and a boat tour. Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed with this day tour. After we got up at five, we drove for a long time only on the road to have at least one or two other jeeps in the reserve. Of course, the animals prefer to stay somewhere where it is quiet.

After breakfast we went to the jungle walk. That was more to our liking, as we moved slowly and quietly through the forest in a smaller group. The walk leads us along the elephant paths, which were surprisingly narrow, devoured and above all steep. Alone we have nothing but a few butterflies and lizards. We hiked for 2 hours through the nearby jungle where there is still a small occurrence of tigers, but you have to be very lucky to find it.

Unfortunately, we were not lucky, but we still got the proof that the tigers still exist. We found a footprint of a tiger, which I thought was really cool. Otherwise, we encountered some sambar deer. We make the excursion on Periyar lake seeing elephants, bison, deer, antelopes, and in short, different animals.

We spent the rest of the day in town and bought some souvenirs. In the evening we looked at something, which sounded a bit strange at first. From the roof of our hotel, we see a huge procession of bats. And indeed, the sun was almost gone when the first came. And there were more and more. It was very impressive how the bats flew over us in their somewhat lanky style.

We looked forward to the night, for which we wanted to do a patrol from 10 to 1 o'clock. And that was really worth it. We had two guides with us. In addition to the beautiful starry sky, we see the Sambar (usually the eyes), a giant porcupine, a mongoose, a civet cat and finally a super sweet owl, who looked at us with her big eyes, and probably wanted to know who bothered her in her night's sleep.

Kerala wallpapers images travel tourism

Day 5 - Alleppey Backwaters

Around six we take an elephant ride! We got up half an hour before the others and went to the reserve and they loaded us on these mastodons! I enjoyed myself even if in narrow paths. After a 4 hour drive, we reach Alappuzha or Alleppey, the main gateway to the famous backwaters. At the bus stop, we are approached by innumerable houseboat landlords and are very glad to have already booked one.

Since we are to check in at noon on our houseboat, we still have time to explore Alappuzha. Our driver brings us to the lighthouse, which was built in 1862 and is considered the main attraction of the place. We take off our shoes and climb up the steep stairs. From the top, there is a wide view of the sea with the ruined pier and lush vegetation, from which stands out here and there a church tower, a minaret or an antenna.

On the way to the boat, we stop at a shop. We see how the delicious Kerala banana chips are made. They are seasoned with spices. These are also a kind of sweet jelly fruits. After tasting we buy 2 large bags and then go to the meeting point for the houseboat.

We are already expected and immediately we board a small boat that brings us to the houseboat. We are surprised when we refer to "our" kettuvallam (typical boat of the place). It is huge, 2 storey high and has a viewing deck in the upper area with comfortable sun loungers in the front area. All around are upholstered benches. In the lower area is a large dining table and also upholstered benches on the sides.

The crew consists of the captain and cook. The cook shows us our bedroom with bathroom. The bathroom has a bathtub and running hot water. The bedroom has air conditioning, which is only turned on when the ship anchors. Then there is electricity from the shore. I like the kitchen. It is sparkling and tidy and the young cook is about to prepare the lunch.

However, my favorite spot is the sundeck. We also see many other houseboats. Occasionally raindrops fall and the light airstream is very pleasant in the oppressive sultriness. A few hours on the water vehicle and we seem to be in a land of slow-flowing time. Every now and then, the brightly colored facade of a residential building or shop in the green thicket flashes on the shore.

At a leisurely speed, our houseboat chugs along the channels of the backwaters. We lie on soft mats enjoying the scenery of glistening water, rolling palm trees and little houses on the shore. We are supplied on board with typical dishes of Kerala. In a small shop by the canal, we buy big prawns and mango juice for dinner and our cook even gets bottles of beer for us!

We have lunch on board with food cooked by sailors (rice with dal, potato curry, zucchini, and carrots). For lunch we anchor briefly, then it goes on leisurely. We pass rice fields with big bird swarms. Just before dusk, we anchor at an anchorage where we will spend the night with a few other houseboats. We get into a conversation with the neighbors. We use the last daylight to go ashore and stretch our legs.

People live and work on the narrow causeway between rice fields and the canal. Small shops and an Ayurveda massage center are waiting for customers. After experiencing a spectacular sunset on the backwaters there is dinner on our houseboat. Delicious curry with rice and papadam and a cold beer are already waiting for us. The chef is really good.

Without the sun, it quickly gets dark around us and the atmosphere is different again than during the day. The crickets chirp. Here and there a fish jumps out of the water and otherwise it is very quiet. We talk a bit more with the neighbors before going to sleep. At night, the motor boats are not allowed to drive. So our boat is quiet on the shore and nothing disturbs the idyll.

Day 6 - Alappuzha

At sunrise, everybody gets awake at the same time. It is raining and we are happy to have a roof over our heads. The breakfast is like the other meals lovingly prepared and very sumptuous. We pack our things and then we leave already and go towards Alappuzha. The driver is already waiting for us at the dock and we go towards the hotel. We have a great time to do some sightseeing on the way.

We visit the Thiruvilakku Kshethram temple. Then the Kidangamparambu Sree Bhuvaneswari Temple and the Holy Family Church. We arrive at our hotel in Alleppey. It is very spartan, but we do not need more than a bed, a fan, and a bath. At the hotel, they welcome us with delicious mango juice. Finally, we can relax a bit, because the marches we had done in recent days in the heat had tired us a lot.

It is really fantastic even if the humidity of the place is scary. We are on the 35 degrees of very wet heat that makes us sweat profusely. We strolled towards the harbor promenade and got to see our first Bollywood film shoot. There was a lot going on, loud music, and a beautiful actress, and a lot of dancing. For lunch, we were served on a banana leaf. After lunch, I gnawed at the bark of a cinnamon tree, clove, cardamom and tasted the fresh pepper.

Before dinner, we attend typical dances and then we go to bed, permanently shredded by the heat. A small gecko gives us company in the bathroom.

Day 7 - Kumarakom

We see a fantastic sunrise, amidst fog and tall palm trees. At 8 o'clock, after breakfast, (it's the first morning that we do not get up at 6) we take the boat that brings us back to Alleppey pier. We reached the others and left for Kumarakom where we arrive after going through tea and coffee plantations, and visiting a Catholic church.

Before arriving at Kumarakom I have a very spicy masala chai that was really good. At Kumarakom, we stay at the hotel. It is very nice and very clean, where we eat very well. It's a hotel on the lake and in the afternoon we start navigating in the waters of the lake itself. I also drive the boat. The scenery is really enchanting even if the humidity is just as remarkable.

It is all full of wild hyacinths that bloom in a thousand blue flowers. Herons stalk through the water in the shallow shore regions, always in search of crabs and shells. From time to time, a kingfisher flies past with metallic blue shiny plumage and suddenly jump out of the water. There are a few ibis and egrets and a swarm of bees (which suddenly appeared above us).

We have abandoned the temples and now we begin to see the inland waters, the backwaters, which are channels where life takes place daily on the water.

Kerala wallpapers images travel tourism

Day 8 - Kochi

The minibus takes us to Kochi, a city on the Arabian sea. We reached Kochi after about two hours by bus. We arrive in Cochin around noon and our driver is on hand to take us to Fort Kochi. We immediately notice how green everything is here. We drive past Cochin and catch a glimpse of the skyline in the distance. It is a beautiful and very clean city.

We drive from the Bolgatty island with a ferry directly to Fort Kochi. After checking in at the hotel, we do not waste any time and after a quick refreshment and snack, explore Fort Kochi. We visit the Jew Town, the synagogue, and the St. Francis church where the remains of Vasco de Gama were kept. We stroll through the old Jewish quarter where there are many nice little shops.

Almost all salespeople talk to us and try to get us into their store. They are very polite and leave us alone if we go further. Later, on the way to the hook in Andhakaranazhi, we see Chinese fishing nets that we find far more attractive. We visit the Mattancherry Palace, a Dutch museum that shows the art as well as some portraits, stories, and relics of the kings of Cochin. Unfortunately, it is not air-conditioned, so we break off at some point completely sweaty.

Around 18 we go to attend the sacred kathakali at the dance theater that uses the art of mudra (the composition of expressions made with hands). The show is fascinating for lights, colors, and sounds but it takes a little longer. Positive characters have the face painted green, while the negative ones are painted black.

Back at the hotel we first drink a beer on the terrace overlooking the harbor entrance. After a lengthy internet search, we ended up booking a homestay at Munnar for the next day that offered a really interesting package. The package included a taxi transfer from Cochin to Munnar but we choose the bus. The place is not as cheap as the one here, but the description of the host family was inviting.

Later, at dinner in our hotel restaurant, we enjoy a colorful sunset overlooking the incoming and outgoing ships and fishing boats. The dinner at the hotel is good and then we sleep early at 9.30 because the alarm is at 3 am! Munnar is our next stop.

Day 9 - Cochin - Munnar

The taxi came to pick us up at four o'clock. At the last second, we reached the bus station in Ernakulam (the modern part of Cochin). In the pouring rain, we drove high into the mountains and the journey to reach Munnar became more and more tortuous as we climbed. On this road, we see some spectacular villas. During the trip, we also met a colorful religious procession with strange mythological characters.

From the beginning, we understood that the manager is a very precise and professional person. An SMS text arrived asking us if we thought about having dinner at the homestay or not. I loved his way of working right away. There are different waterfalls in the area and we have seen one, the Attukad Waterfalls, just as we arrived in Munnar.

When we arrived it was already dark. They gave us the time to settle down in the cozy room and then they served us dinner on the terrace. The view was not that great. After dinner, the manager brought us a map to show us what were the points of greatest interest and to help us plan the following day. We could visit the Eravikulam National Park.

We had booked a trekking tour for the next morning at 5 o'clock on the mountains and in the tea plantations. It includes watching the sunrise from high on the mountain. We immediately started to get to know each other by telling each other's experiences of travel and in less than no time, it was already time to go to sleep.

Day 10 - Munnar

Punctually at 5 o'clock the next morning, we waited with another couple for the arrival of our guide, who was already there at 5:45 o'clock at the agreed meeting place. His late arrival saved us the passage to the mountain and a considerable part of the first ascent. The morning of our tour began with the spectacular view of trees full of huge beehives.

It is very common to see them so impressive and it is an opportunity for some local sellers to position themselves at the base of these trees in order to sell their honey. The first place we have stopped is the Mattupetty Dam. With calm, we then moved to go to the Echo Point. As soon as we arrived, the large number of stalls suggested that it is difficult to find the uncrowded place.

Every ten seconds a tourist screams something and another echoes it. Is the most popular gag, observable dozens of times in a few minutes. The line to try to test their ability to produce the echo is long, but it is fun to watch others. After the performance one is awarded the title of success or sad loser that is covered with laughter and teasing.

Instead, we decided to try coconut water. The gentleman did not have a reassuring expression and seeing him handle a machete did not improve the situation! The coconut we tasted, or rather the coconut water, had no particular flavor, just a slight sweetish aftertaste.

After the sunrise, we went along the ridge from peak to peak. Every now and then we were interrupted by small breaks to search the legs for leeches. There was plenty of that up there. Back in Munnar we looked for another room with a wonderful view over the valley and settled there before we made our way back to the coast. We got back in the car and on our way we saw another part of the lake, plantations, a greenhouse garden open to the public.

Then we passed also near the valleys where the local farmers grow vegetables. From above the geometric vision is really colorful. Within a few meters, the landscape has completely changed! From sunny and lit it has become hazy and gloomy. The change was almost sudden and we asked to stop and fully enjoy this magical show. Standing in the clouds, with the geometry of the plantations that surrounded us was a fantastic feeling.

Of course, without the fog, it gains the landscape in the distance, but so it was a really fascinating way to see these hills. We also spotted a cow between a cloud and another and we also met a little horse that was eating some grass on the side of the road. Starting again the driver had warned us that almost certainly there would be fog at the Top Station, but we decided to try the same.

The so-called "Top Station" is the highest point (1700 meters above sea level) of the Munnar-Kodaikanal road. From here we can enjoy a breathtaking view of the neighboring state, Tamil Nadu. In addition, this region is home to the Neelakurinji, a plant that blooms only every twelve years, coloring the hills with blue. The cars stop a certain point. We have gladly done this little route, despite the fog.

The descent even if it can sometimes be dangerous is certainly not tiring. But to make it even more exhilarating were a group of boys who stopped halfway to take a little breath, singing and dancing! We set off again and it did not take long to reach the observation point, obviously at that moment completely immersed in the fog.

We waited several minutes in the hope that the sky would open, but there was no way to see over a few dozen meters. The return, uphill, was really challenging. Personally I thought several times to abandon myself on the edge of the path, but slowly, stop after stop, I made it to reach the entrance again.

Going down we stopped at the second lake, the Kundala Dam. The particularity of the woods surrounding the lakes and other regions of the area is given by the presence of very tall and slender paper trees. The last stop of the day was the tea museum designed by Tata. At the end of the tour a glass of chai is offered that we did not like very much. But we were really satisfied by the demonstration of the process of processing the leaves.

We left the museum and it was already past closing time and we headed back to the homestay. For dinner we had a great meal in the company of the few boys and a couple. We spent the time after dinner with an exchange of opinions. We had the opportunity to taste some very good local fruits like chikoo, which we could not have discovered without their help.

Day 11 - Calicut

We leave Munnar after breakfast and reached Calicut around 19:00 clock. From there the journey to the resort at Wayanad took another 3 hours. Despite our very late arrival, we were greeted well in the resort and even prepared a dinner for us. After the meal we were taken to our very special accommodation. We were supposed to stay in a tree house built 20m in a treetop.

From the front desk it was another 10 minutes drive in a jeep to the tree house. After arriving at the tree house that stood at the foot of the tree, a small cage with a pulley pull us up. The tree house was huge and equipped with a large bed, a bathroom with shower and toilet and a telephone. Since it was already dark and after the long journey we fell asleep quickly.

Day 12 - Wayanad

The next day we hiked through the mountains of Wayanad where the resort is located. The landscape is really beautiful and varied. We passed tea plantations, dense rainforest, crossed small rivers and removed leeches from our legs. So the exhausting day before was forgotten very quickly. Back at the resort, we were able to see how beautiful it is.

Every time we wanted to leave the tree house we had to call the front desk and the staff hurried over to pull us down. Through the terrain flows a river over which an adventurous suspension bridge was stretched. The dining room has been integrated into the landscape in classic Indian style. It is an oasis of peace in the middle of the rainforest. The delicious dinner was served by a campfire. It was a perfect end to the holiday.

Day 13 - Back Home

I slept very well till the alarm rings. We get up and had the shower. Then we have breakfast at 3.30 and at 4 go up on the bus that will take us to the airport where we arrive at almost 8.