South India 2016 – Kochi, Kerala Backwaters

The last stop of my little South India tour was Kochi, the main city of central Kerala. I arrived there by a bumpy and noisy night train ride from Bangalore in the early morning and made my way to the hotel in Ernakulam, the busy and modern mainland part of Kochi. After dropping my luggage, I took the ferry to Fort Kochi, probably the most interesting historic part on the island west of Ernakulam. Its main attractions, such as the Chinese fishing nets, the Dutch Cemetery, the Maritime Museum, St Francis Church and Santa Cruz Basilica, can be easily viewed in 2-3 hours by walking around. On the way back I took a different ferry route via Vypeen Island, which however did not provide any special sights. In the afternoon I walked around the promenade at Ernakulam and back through the busy city centre with many shops, restaurants, and a modern shopping mall – a metro is also currently built which is supposed to link the city centre to the airport.
The second day I joined an organized day tour to the Kerala Backwaters, which mainly included two stops with boat tours, the first with a motorized boat around Allepey located at Punnamada Lake with its many canals and house boats, sometimes also called the “Venice of the East”. The second stop of the tour was near Kottayam and involved a boat trip by a small canoe through narrow channels and a visit at a spice farm. Unfortunately, much time was consumed by getting to those places, and the view during the car rides was only partially scenic.

The third day in Kochi and last day of my trip, I only had time to visit another part of the island, Mattancherry, with the Dutch Palace and Jew Town with the historic Pardesi Synagoge. Before my return flight I still had a bit of time to get to the “LuLu Mall”, supposedly the largest shopping mall in whole India, which does not much distinguish from malls like in the US – all very clean and polished inside, the same brands and the same entertainment options including indoor ice skating and amusement park facilities.

South India 2016 – Bangalore

Bangalore (or Bengaluru as it should be officially called) is the heart of the “modern” India with a lot of tech/ IT companies, and probably not the typical sightseeing place. I wanted to get an impression, though, and decided to spend one day in this city. Staying in a hotel near the centre or financial district, I was able to do most sightseeing of the inner city’s few attractions by walking. This can be quite adventurous due to heavy traffic and difficult navigation – there are mostly no red lights for pedestrians, no street names and not always proper sidewalks. I started with a few interesting historic official buildings around Cubbon Park, then went in the wrong direction and ended up at the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. From there I walked to Tipu Sultan’s Palace, Bangalore Fort and the Krishnarajendra Market in the south western part of the city centre.

In the afternoon I had a hard time to make an auto rickshaw driver take me to Bangalore Palace, which does not seem to be a common tourist spot and was not fully visible due to preparations for some event. From there I went to the National Gallery of Modern Art, a nice collection of paintings and sculptures mostly by modern Indian artists. In the early evening, I finished my Bangalore experience by walking through the “real” modern part around MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road with many restaurants, shops and bars.

South India 2016 – Nagarhole National Park, Mysuru

From Hampi, I took the “Hampi Express” night train to Mysuru (formerly Mysore). Arriving at Mysuru in the morning, I continued the journey by hiring a driver to get me the remaining about 90km or 2 hours to Nagarhole National Park, where I stayed in a lodge at the former Maharaja hunting ground, now called “Kabini River Lodge”. Included with the stay was a one-day safari package with one afternoon and one early morning ride by jeep inside the National Park. Unfortunately, most of the animals were hiding and the sightings were not so spectacular – the National Park is famous for the large tiger population. So besides the monkeys and deers that are all over the place, I only saw a few gaurs, eagles, wild pigs, and elephants. Several times we came really close to spotting a tiger, however in the end all I saw of tigers were a few fresh footprints and an interesting documentary screened in the evening at the lodge.

After the morning safari session I got back to Mysuru and started a half-day sightseeing tour of the city, most of it by auto rickshaw. First stop was of course the famous Mysore Palace, which also belonged to the former Maharaja. From there I went to St Philomena’s Cathedral, apparently one of the largest Christian churches in South India. Chamundi Hill about 12km out of town provides nice views of the city and surroundings, and hosts a couple of temples with Sri Chamundeswari Temple being the most famous. Last two stops were the Rail Museum with a few impressive old locomotives and waggons, and the Devajara market, a huge, lively and narrow bazaar in the center. After having local specialties for dinner, I took the train to Bangalore in the evening to be ready for my next sightseeing spot the next morning.

South India 2016 – Hampi

After spending a week in Goa with the founders of WunderNova to work on concepts and plans for our startup, I used the opportunity to add a week of personal sightseeing in South India. My first stop was Hampi, a small town in central Karnataka with a multitude of historic temples and other ruins embedded in amazing rock formations. It can be reached from Goa by train or sleeper bus – I took the latter, it is not very comfortable, but more convenient in terms of travel time.
Arriving early in the morning on Sunday and leaving on Monday late in the evening, I had almost two days to spend, which was just enough to see most attractions. I started my tour with a nice walk through banana plantations to the rather hidden Hampi Waterfalls with a lot of interesting rocks, water holes, and a lake. From Hampi Bazaar, where I stayed overnight, I rented an auto rickshaw driver for the day and went to the various locations near the town and the so-called “Royal Centre”, an ancient palace. In the evening, I took a boat to the other side of the river and went to Hanuman “monkey” temple on a hill with very nice views of the area, though the sunset was not that spectacular due to cloudy weather.

The second day, I got up early in the morning and went to Matanga Hill for the sunrise, which also provided great views despite the cloudy conditions. I then went to see what you can call the highlights of Hampi: the Lotus Mahal, the Elephant Stable, and Vittala Temple with the stone chariot. In the afternoon, I briefly stopped at the Archaeological Museum, and spend the rest of my time around Hampi Bazaar, viewing a few smaller temples along the river, and visiting Virupaksha Temple.

South Australia 2015 – Long Journey Back (Devonport, Port Melbourne, Perth)

From Cradle Mountain National Park, I drove to Devonport at the Northern coast of Tasmania, where the “Spirit of Tasmania” ferry to Melbourne runs. I arrived there early and was able to do a bit of sightseeing, mainly the Hersley Bluff, a small cape with a lighthouse. The overnight ferry brought me to Melbourne Port in the early morning, where I also had a quick stroll around. From the port I made my way to Melbourne airport to take the flights back home. The flight route included a first stop in Perth, and due to a heavy thunderstorm in Melbourne, this became a longer stop since the flight was so much delayed that I missed the connection and had to stay overnight in Perth. I made the best of it and used the time for quick sightseeing rounds in the evening and morning through this nice city in the West of Australia.


South Australia 2015 – Cradle Mountain National Park

The last day of my trip to Tasmania was mainly dedicated to the most well-known and most visited National Park, Cradle Mountain. The park is located in a mountainous region in the North-Western part of the island and encompasses a large area between Cradle Valley in the North and Lake St Clair in the South. The main national park is about Cradle Valley though, and when I got there it was already crowded enough that traffic was closed for normal vehicles and visitors had to use the shuttle bus to the various stops in the park. I first got to the final stop at Dove Lake and did the hike to Marions lookout as well as the circuit walk around the lake, which both provided fantastic looks on Cradle Mountain and the surrounding area. I then followed some parts of the boardwalk that runs through almost the whole valley, and finished with a few smaller walks around the Interpretation Centre.

South Australia 2015 – Freycinet National Park and Launceston

The second day of my Tasmania trip was dedicated to Freycinet National Park in the East of the island, a rather small but untouched area with beautiful beaches, rocks and rainforests which reminded me a bit of Seychelles. I did an extensive hiking round to Wineglass Bay lookout and beach as well as Hazards Beach, and smaller walks around Cape Tourville and Sleepy Bay.
In the afternoon, I took a scenic driving route to Launceston, the second biggest city in Tasmania located in the upper middle of the island. I arrived just in time to be able to complete a walk around the city centre and the fabulous Cataract Gorge, an impressive gorge very close to the city used as a local recreation area.