Tuesday, March 5, 2013

India Trip!

I spent the majority of my winter break (December 19th to January 3rd) on a trip to India with my family. It was somewhat bittersweet, since this was the last time for who knows how long that my sister and I would have a vacation at the same time and thus was possibly the last family trip for a while. We managed to fit quite a bit of travel and sightseeing into our trip, so in the interest of keeping it short, I'll give you the highlights.

A man meditating on the beach, circa 6am
We arrived in India on 12/19, and met up with my maternal grandparents and my cousins (my mom's younger sister's family). The next day, we took an early morning walk to the beach, then visited Mylapur for some shopping as well as to visit the local temple (you'll see a trend here, soon). On the 21st, my mom, my sister, and I went on a mini-sight-seeing trip with my grandparents, my aunt, and one of my cousins. We visited the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary and two temples in the city of Kanchipuram, including Ekambareswarar temple, the largest temple in the city.

I know we went to Vedanthangal to see birds,
but the monkeys were just so cute!
We spent the next few days with family and running errands. We also threw an ice cream party (of sorts) for the children at a local orphanage, and donated some clothes and things to the orphanage and a nearby old age home.  On the 23rd, my sister, mom, and I took a train to Bangalore, where we met up with my dad. The next day, we began a hectic but fun road trip in a rental car with a driver.

On day 1 of our trip (Christmas Eve), we visited Ranganthittu, a bird and crocodile sanctuary, where we took a guided boat ride. Next we drove quickly through the ruins of Tipu Sultan's fortress, followed by a visit to the Brindavan gardens in Mysore to see the light show (which wasn't much of a show, but it was still pretty). We bedded down for the night at a homestay in the Madikeri hill station in Coorg.

Abbey Falls
The next morning, after a traditional Coorg breakfast of homemade rice chapatis, we visited Abbey Falls, the Namdroling Monastery (a Tibetan Golden Temple) in Bylakuppe, and the Palace of Mysore. At this point, we were cutting it really close to the 8pm closing of the only road to Bandipur jungle, so we hightailed it to the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in record time, where we stayed in a resort for the night.

Tibetan Golden Temple
We took a safari bright and early the next morning, on which we saw very few animals. Fortunately, the driver of our rental car was familiar with the area and was able to show us plenty more creatures. After this, we began the long, arduous journey to Guruvayur (nearly a 7-hour drive), to see the Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple. At Guruvayur, we got to see the Seveli ritual performed, where an image of the presiding deity, Vishnu, was carried by the temple's elephants (yes, elephants!) and the temple priests. The elephants (three of them, side by side, such an awesome sight!) circled the temple three times, with devotees preceding them and praying aloud. Seeing the Seveli was definitely worth braving the extreme crowdedness of the temple! After Guruvayur, we spent the night with some family friends who recently moved to India from our hometown in Georgia.

A peacock from our morning safari!
On December 27th (the following morning), we visited my dad's cousins, followed by my maternal grandfather's ancestral home, where he grew up. Next, we drove to Coimbatore, where we visited the university campus where my dad's eldest brother works. After a campus tour, we visited the famous Marudamalai temple, followed by a delicious dinner at the Annalakshmi charity restaurant. This was a really neat restaurant in that all the "employees" were volunteers, and you were allowed to pay whatever amount you wanted for the food you ate. What a cool idea! We spent that night at my uncle's place.
Amrita University, Coimbatore

The morning of the last day of our trip, we visited the local Perur temple during a festival. It was too crowded for us to go in, but we did get to see some of its beautiful architecture - thousands of years old. After saying our goodbyes, we began the trip back to Bangalore (which included a delicious buffet lunch in my mom's hometown of Salem).

During the remainder of my time in Bangalore and later in Chennai, I was able to see some friends from Georgia and Pittsburgh, and watched fireworks on New Years Eve on my aunt's terrace near the beach. A few days later, I returned home to Georgia, exhausted, but pleased with a wonderful trip!