Sonntag, 29. Juli 2012

The beaches of Kerala and Goa: Varkala

As previously promised, I will be posting a series about the beaches of Kerala and Goa.
I already posted a picture taken from the North Cliff of Varkala, located in the state of Kerala, in my last post but I thought I'd give you some more eye candy since this really is a beautiful strip of sand.


As always...
How can you reach it? The train station of Varkala, has several connections to other South Indian cities like Kochi, Trivandrum or Kollam. I recommend you to take a rickshaw to get from the train station to the cliff, because it is quiet a distance. (around 30 to 40 minutes to the North Cliff, South Cliff is a bit less, also depending on your walking pace). Ask the driver to bring you to the heli pad, then when facing the sea go right for the North Cliff and left for the South Cliff.

What makes it special?
One word: The atmosphere! It is a touristy place, indeed, but there of course is a reason for it. The Cliffs are just plain beautiful, and the atmosphere is very laid-back and relaxed. Varkala attracts a lot of "hippies" who just want to chill all day long, read a book and lie in their hammock.


The downside? Where there is light, there must be shadow... Especially during Monsoon Season, when you can't always go into the sea because the current is so strong, threre is not a lot to do in this small town. Of course Yoga and Arjurvedic Treatments are offered around every courner, but in my opinion they were nothing to write home about. Maybe it was just bad luck though...

Where to stay? There are all categories of places to stay, just walk around a bit and have a look about some different options. I'm sure everybody will find something suitable for his/her wallet and desired comfort. Oh and by the way, there are also some nice restaurants located on the cliff, the picture below was taken during dinner as well.


My recommendation:
I'd say Varkala is definetly a MUST! I have not seen equally picturesque scenery very often. Stay 2-3 days, relax (maybe from an exhausting train journey) and enjoy the incredible beauty of nature. If you get bored easily, there are things you can do like taking a walk to Varkala town, maybe for lunch or dinner since food is a lot cheaper and more authentic in the town.
Don't expect a lot of nightlife going on in low season, since restaurants are selling alcohol without licences and the only two bars close early.

Freitag, 27. Juli 2012

Varkala - Kerala - India


Thought I'd give you a quick sneak peek about an upcomming post next week, which will be about the beaches of South India. The picture above is taken from the North Cliff of Varkala, a small laid-back town in the state of Kerala, India. It was taken very early in the morning, around 6 or 7am, which is the reason why it is so foggy. I will provide you with some more information about Varkala and some other beach towns in the states of Kerala and Goa around the beginning of next week, so stay tuned!

What about you? Do you like vacationing on the beach, or do you prefere to spend your vacation somewhere else? Are there any particular topics you want me to write about? Let me know in the comments below.

Samstag, 21. Juli 2012

Sarah Macdonald: Holy Cow - An Indian Adventure

I read this book while travelling trough India last year. There are very few books I'm really impressed with and this book is not one of those. This said at the beginning...
You might wonder: Why are you writing about it then?


What I like about it:
I apreciate that this book presents the main religions that are prominent in India and gives a small insight to them. There are far more religions in India than Hinduism and Islam. Religions one might even have never heared about.

What I don't really like :
I don't really like the language used because it is written in very simple, colloquial English. I often prefere books written in a very beautiful, carefully selected language. But this is just me... The book reflects the experience of the author and is a little bit judgemental at times. (but hey, opions are always subjective)

I took this picture from amazon, click on the link to get to their website. 

Mittwoch, 11. Juli 2012

The Wishlist

So, I thought I'd share with you places and/or countries I am dying to visit.
The first entry of this kind is about San Andrés/ Colombia. Since I have not visited this place yet, I do not have any own pictures that  could share with you.

Why do I want to go there? I think the video says it all, really. I expect breathtaking beauty of nature paired with the laid-back atmosphere of the Carribean. Let's hope I won't be disappointed once I get there! I found some more nice pictures online, but if you type in "San Andrés" in Google's search engine, there are thousands of pictures like those. (also on pinterest, I checked already)

Where is this small paradise located?
Although it belongs to Colombia, it is located 220km from the coast of Nicaragua.
It consists of 2 groups of islands and 8  outlaying banks and reefs.

How can it be reached?
Well, I have never been there, but I guess it can be reached via boat or plane. Although I much prefere going by plane since I find taking boats extremly boring and tiring.

How about you? Would this be a destination you might consider as well? Let me know in the comment section below!

Note:I  did not take any of the pictures in this entry myself since I have not been to San Andrés/Providencia yet! If you are the owner of one of the featured pictures, let me know and I will remove it or add the source.

Montag, 9. Juli 2012

Similan Islands - Thailand


I've been to Southern Thailand 4 times and seriously: This is the most beautiful place I've seen of all the beautiful places in Thailand. It is a group of 9 islands in the Phan Nga Province which were made a National Park in 1982. (Similan means 9)
Because the islands are made into a National Park, and are mainly visitable during the time of November until May (because of the strong monsun) the flora and fauna in this area is preserved like next to nowhere else.
(okok, there are some places similar to this - for example the islands of San Blas/ Panama, but that's another story)

How to reach it? You can reach it via speedboat from Kao Lack (around 70mins) or from Phuket.

What to do? Enjoying the beauty of nature, snorkeling and scuba diving, taking a swin in the pristine water and relaxing at the white beaches.

My recommendation: Stay one or two nights at one of the islands to enjoy the beauty without the relatively large amount of other tourists there. A lot of tourists are just doing day trips.

This place seriously is a small paradise. I don't think there is a lot more to say...


Sonntag, 1. Juli 2012

The Ashram Experience

Last year, during my trip trough India, I visited the Ashram of Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as Amma (which means Mother). She is one of the few female Gurus, and one of the most popular and well-known ones, even outside India.

Ashram: An Ashram is a spiritual hermitage. In the Indian languages it is usually a religious place, often for meditation.

Guru: The spiritual leader of an Ashram, in the case of the Amritapuri Ashram it is Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma).

Bhajans: Religious songs that will be chanted at special times, usually during sunset. All people staying in the Ashram are asked to participate.

Darshan: Darshan is Sanskrit and means "sight" or "vision of the divine". This means the direct contact with a Guru and can also refer to a blessing. In the case of Amma, the blessing is given via a hug.

Sadly, I am not able to post any pictures. Taking pictures in and around the Ashram is forbidden, since it is a place of spirituality. The Ashram of Amma is located next to a small fishing village, Parayakadavu, today known as Amritapuri, in Kerala, Mata Amritanandamayi's home town.
It consists of two very tall buildings that provide most of the housing to the over 3.000 people staying there every night. (I do not have any source to confirm this number! this is what the people working at the Ashram told us!)
The Ashram is located at the beautiful backwaters of Kerala between Kollam and Kochi.

How to reach it? You can reach it with the ferry boat leaving once daily from Allepey to Kollam and the other way round. The boat ride takes about 6 hours from Alleppey and 2 from Kollam.
You can also take a bus from Kollam to Alleppey and get off at Parayakadavu/ Amritapuri. This is a lot faster and just takes around 3 hours from Alleppey and 4 from Kollam.

What to expect? I was honestly impressed by the whole atmosphere. Although I am not at all a religious person I was touched by the ceremony surrounding the Darshan. I got blessed from Amma myself, but I did not experience anything special during the blessing (which was only about 20 or 30 seconds). There are really a lot of people in the Ashram. For about 3€ you can sleep there and they provide 3 basic meals a day. You are, however, asked to participate in voluntary service.

Dresscode: Yes, there is, of course, a special dresscode for spiritual places like this one.The monks and nuns of Amma are dressed entirely in white, whereas the people who are just visiting for a short time wear their usual cloths. Women should cover their body appropriately, including the shoulders and calves, which means first of all no tight clothes. The head, however, is not needed to be covered.

As much as I loved the Ashram, I am also critical and a bit suspicious. There are a lot of rules the "children" of Amma should follow, which also include turning aways from critics of Amma and people who do not live according to Amma's rules, including their friends and family. Of course, things like Alcohol, chily and garlic are also a no-go for Amma's spiritual children, as is speaking for the pleasure of speaking. The voice should only be used for the Bhajans and chanting mantras.
I liked the experience, but I do not think I will ever visit Amma's Ashram again because I do not think that her rules are reasonable. To me, it even looks similar to a sect, at least in some ways.  
But I think it is a truly special experience that should not be missed out!

By the way, I booked my next trip a few weeks ago! I will spent a few days in Barcelona, Spain.
And comming september, I will also leave Germany to live elsewhere. So stay tuned!