Ahmedabad, a city with no tourists

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As we had gotten a bit tired of long train rides, and hot and humid nights, we decided to fly for the first time since we got to India. The flight was scheduled for 11.20 from Kochi to Ahmedabad, but did not leave the ground before nearly an hour later. With a brief stop in Mumbai, the plane reached Ahmedabad in the evening, so we were struck by the northern cold night temperature as we left the plane.

As adventurous as we were, we had not booked a hotel in advance, something we highly came to regret. Because of the annual “international” kite festival, most of the hotels were fully booked, and we had to go for a hotel recommended by the rickshaw driver (which is not very smart, as the drivers usually get an allowance added to your hotel bill). It was one of the most expensive hotels we had stayed at, and certainly one of the worst, but we were too tired to keep looking and settled for what we were offered. Since several posters and books had boosted about the “huge” kite festival that was happening right by our hotel, we decided to dress up in traditional Indian outfits, and check it out. 

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A soon as we left the doors, people gave us fascinated looks, and soon as many as thirty people were accompanying us to get pictures and autographs. When we and our tail of locals reached the festival area, we were surrounded by people took pictures and wanted to shake our hands. It became clear to us that foreigners in Indian clothes was a big fascination to the locals, but for us it became too much. Just minutes of being at the festival area, we had to retreat to our hotel, desperately trying to force our way through the gathering crowd. It might sound very extreme, but this was the reality in Ahmedabad. Even though the kite festival is recommended by Lonely Planet, it did not seem to great to us the short time we spent there.

 

Ahmedabad is probably not among our favorite cities in India, but it had been cultural experience that will be hard to forget.  The same evening, we jumped on the next night train heading north to Udaipur, which was a whole other experience. 
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Mountaintrip to Munnar

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130 Kilometers East of Kochi, you can find the mountain city of Munnar. As a part of a package deal, we went for a two day trip together with two Danish and and Australian. On the way, we got to see some elephants taking their morning bath and lots of monkeys and tea plantations. Even though it was very cold at an altitude of nearly 1800 meters, the climate was very comfortable with clean air and cold nights, which we had been yearning after ever since we got to India.

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The high speed and the many curves gave us quite a sick stomach and enough near death experiences for a day, but as soon as we got to the hill top station, it was all forgotten because of the sight that met us. With the spectacular view there were bright green tea plants as far as the eye could see. We also got to stop to see how the tea was harvested and produced, and to get a taste of a freshly made cup of chai (the most popular tea in India).

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After the long trip we arrived at the guest house where we were supposed to spend the night. The host stood ready and welcomed us one by one, before she served us a local speciality that was prepared for dinner. We found the dish very delicious, until a comment from Elise ruined our appetite: ”you know that it is chicken intestines we are eating, right?”. The dish was then neatly seta side, and we were showed to our room for the night.
The next morning we got up early to take a ride on the nearby elephants, before we headed back to Kochi. 
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Kochi – The island between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters

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Kochi is Keralas prime tourist destination, and is a quiet island hidden away and protected from the noisy, commercialized  mainland. When we first arrived at the island, a smiling rickshaw driver came up to us and offered us a three hour long sightseeing tour around the island, and wanted only 100 rupees (10 NOK).  Such an offer seemed too good to be true, but the driver kept his word and guided us through the assortment of architectural styles worth seeing on the island. He also showed us the spice markets and explained how the Chinese fishing nets worked, and told us which fishermen to talk to in order to get the most fresh fish available.

 

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The best part about Kochi was that the fresh fish could just be brought to one of the many fish restaurants along the harbor where they gladly prepared the fish that was brought. While sitting and eating the fish, we could enjoy the view of the Chinese fishing nets and the beach in the sunset. 
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Mainland of Kochi

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After a eight hour train ride south from Mangalore, we arrived in Kerala. Our goal was to reach the island Kochi, but we ended up staying a few days on the busy mainland called Ernakulam first. This part of the city was much more commercialized with busy and crowded streets. It was a fun place to do some window-shopping, but we were far more interested in spending some relaxing time at the island of Kochi, just a 2 rupee(0,20NOK) boat ride away. Even though it was just fifteen minutes away, we were told that the locals had a much more laid back attitude, and the atmosphere was more quiet and peaceful.
 From Ernakulam we were also offered to join a 7 hour trip to the famous Keralan backwaters, which we gladly paid 400 rupees (40NOK) for. Included in the price was breakfast and guiding on a traditional Indian houseboat, and a personal canoe sightseeing trip through the narrow, almost jungle like backwaters. Our guide also let us step out of the boat to climb coconut trees, taste fresh oysters, watch toddy tappers (people who collect coconut flower liquor) and see a small village known for their rope making.
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Malaria in Mangalore?

Even after a whole week of being sick, we had not gotten in much better shapes, but we still had to take the train south to Mangalore to follow our time schedule. The six hour train ride was not something we had looked forward to, as we only managed to get tickets to 3rd class, but considering the small amount that we paid (500 Rupees each/50 NOK), the train was surprisingly good.

Since malaria had been the main topic for discussion on the train, the first thing we did when we got to Mangalore was to take a blood test, to find out if this had been the reason for us feeling so unwell the last days. As non-indians, we got to go before the nearly twenty people waiting in line, and went straight to take a blood sample, which turned out negative (cost 110 Rupees/10 NOK), and since this was not the reason, the doctor explained that it might be lack of salt and water which has caused the symptoms we had experienced. The last two weeks had been spent suntanning on the beach, where we had not been drinking much, so the doctor explained that it could easily be solved by having a bag of chips and some cola every day. It was a cure we will gladly try out!

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