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The Backwaters Of Kerala

The serene backwaters of Kerala are now a distant memory for me, though every time I look at these images I’m taken back to India and wishing I could be there steering into the warm still air.  There’s something very mesmerising about the backwaters.  There is a state of calm and tranquility as the landscapes blend and reflect into the water, locals bathe and wash in the abundance of water surrounding them, children ride their bikes (which seems for miles) to get to school and farmers walk the rice paddy fields.

Anyone who’s researched about visiting Kerala will know that the backwaters is a mandatory stop on the itinerary and I was not going to miss the chance to see these stunning landscapes. Travelling on your own has its disadvantages and I was about to experience it first hand when I went to book a house boat tour in Alleppey.  My only option to experience a night on the backwaters was to book an entire house boat to myself.  Surely there must be other people in the same position who I could book with?  Ah, no it’s off season!  So as indulgent as it felt I spent a whole day and night cruising the backwaters in a house boat all to myself.  A time spent listening to iTunes, enjoying Keralan food and reflecting into the hypnotic waters.

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Images taken on a Fujifilm XT100 ©Not The Jealous Kind 2015

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014

It was great to stumble across the Kochi-Muziris Biennale while visiting Fort Cochin. The event was hosted by the Kochi Biennale Foundation, a non-profit charitable trust who help promote art, culture and educational activities in India.  I had visited some poor representations of museums during my time in India and my expectations of the event were low, however I was pleasantly surprised and exposed to a great group of talented artists, all for the cost of 100 rupees. You needed a few days to get around to see everything and I managed to squeeze in a day and half of viewing, zig zagging my way through the streets visiting the various locations and exhibitions.  Here are my pics from who I managed to see, unfortunately there are a few I don’t have references for.  If you’re in Kochi around the same time next year it’s well worth staying an extra day to look at the vast variety on offer to view.

Aram Saroyan

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Janine Antoni

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Hew Locke

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Pors & Rao

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If you have time watch this interview on the duo.

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Kochi-Murziris Biennale 2014 at Aspinwall House

Kochi-Murziris Biennale 2014 at Aspinwall House

Striking It Lucky

One of the most wonderful things about India is its diversity when it comes to it’s towns and cities.  Some are bustling cosmopolitan delights and some are not and have a long way to go. What I enjoyed most on my travels was discovering the quaint smaller towns mixed with history and an infusion of European-Indo culture. Fort Cochin and its surrounding areas was one of these. Mixed with Portuguese houses, ancient Chinese fishing nets and an old Jewish Town there was plenty to observe as you strolled through the village streets.  I spent three nights staying in Mattancherry staying at Sui House a boutique B&B and one night in Fort Cochin at Bernard Bungalow.

Sui House is a tranquil retreat located away from the crowds, but easily accessible to explore the surrounding areas on foot or by tuk tuk. Owners Kumar and Pauline make you feel welcome in their home which is filled with antiques and religious relics from their prior antique business. They also own an additional property and restaurant Caza Maria in the Jewish Town.  With their flair for style and having lived in the area for many years they provide guests with a convenient map of the area and their top recommendations of where to eat, drink and shop.

Large bright rooms at Sui House

Large bright rooms at Sui House

Sui House

Sui House

Inside courtyard at Sui House

Inside courtyard at Sui House

Sui House

One of many antiques and religious relics in Sui House

Following their map I spent my first day wandering the streets, firstly in Mattancherry and the Jewish Town.  I was mesmerised by the abundance of wonderful street art surrounding me as I took to the quiet streets.  There was a government strike on across Kerala which meant most shops were closed for the day and I missed seeing the famous spice shops in the Jewish Town in full action, but it was actually pleasant to stroll and meander with hardly anyone around, which is a very rare occasion in India.

Jewish Town

Jewish Town

One of the many spice shops closed in Jewish Town

One of the many spice shops closed in Jewish Town

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One of the few spice shops open

One of the few spice shops open

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Spices at the Spices Market

Spices at the Spices Market

Quiet streets of Mattancherry

Quiet streets of Mattancherry

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Walking the loop around from the Jewish Town to Mattencherry you’ll reach the ancient Chinese Fishing nets.  You can purchase fresh fish from the fish mongers behind the fishing nets and have one of the local surrounding restaurants cook them for you.  From here keep walking into Fort Cochin where there are many more shops, restaurants and bars to discover.

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Ancient Chinese Fishing nets

Ancient Chinese Fishing nets

Locals playing Cricket and Football on Parade Ground, Fort Kochi

Locals playing Cricket and Football on Parade Ground, Fort Cochin

Santa Cruz Bascilica

Santa Cruz Bascilica

I loved that you could literally eat your way around the towns.  My picks were Dal Roti with their scrumptious kati rolls that leave you wanting to go back and again and again. Brunton Boatyard Bar, a great place for a wine, Malabar House and Old Harbour Hotel for seafood and local Keralan delicacies.

Sui House recommendations to eat and drink in Fort Cochin are; Fusion Bay, Santa Cruz Basilica, Oceanos, Opposite Britto School, Dal Roti, Lily Street, Tibetan Chef, Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort House, Kalvathy, Brunton Boatyard Bar, Old Harbour Hotel for wine and beer, Malabar House, Parade Ground, Upstairs, Italian restaurant, David Hall, Parade Ground, Dosas & Pancakes.

In Mattancherry; Caza Maria, Jew Town, Hotel Abad, Chullickal, Kai’s Biriyani, New Road, Krishna Cafe (veg), Palace Road, Vijaya Lakshmi (veg), Palace Road, Ayyappas (veg), Anavathil, Shami Restaurant, Kappalandimukku, Hotel Fort Queen (bar), Mantra Road, Ginger, Jew Town Taj Malabar and on Willington Island, Hotel Casino and Hotel Trident on Willington Island

And there are great boutiques scattered around.  My favourites were Fabindia and Anokhi for their fabrics and affordability.  Other boutiques recommended by Sui House are; Cinnammon, Parade Ground, Tribes, Inside Post Office, Joe Ikareth, Bazar Road, Ritu Kumar, Jew Town

Lily Street, Fort Cochin

Lily Street, Fort Cochin

For my last couple of days I visited the Dutch Palace which was completed in 1561 by the Portuguese.  The palace has amazingly preserved Hindu murals which are well worth a visit.  I was also fortunate enough to be in Fort Cochin when the Kochi-Muziris Biennale was on and I spent these last couple  of days visiting the exhibitions scattered around the area.

If you’re planning a trip to Kerala  don’t miss Fort Cochin as a destination.  It’s easily accessible by air, train, bus or taxi and is a gateway to the back waters.  And if you can plan your trip when the next Biennale is on even better.

Dutch Palace, Jewish Town

Dutch Palace, Jewish Town

Kochi-Murziris Biennale 2014 at Aspinwall House

Kochi-Murziris Biennale 2014 at Aspinwall House

Images taken on FujifilmXT100

An Ancient Tradition In Modern Times

After being in Wayanad for a couple of days and taking some time to rest and relax, it was nice to be back by the water, this time the west coast of India enjoying my first views of the Arabian Sea.  I was in the Fort Cochin area for four days and on the must see list were the ancient Chinese fishing nets.  This ancient technique has been around since 1400AD.  At high tide it requires at least four people to pull up the nets which is was fascinating to watch.

You can purchase seafood caught from the local fisherman at the numerous fish mongers located behind them.  The restaurants next to them will then cook the catch for you while you sit outside enjoying the warm weather.  I chose not to do this after seeing the abundance of rubbish that was collected in their nets.  With faster modern fishing techniques these fisherman are struggling financially and rely on tourists to help fund their living.  Judging by the small pathetic and polluted catches I saw, they need all the help they can get.

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Images taken on a Fujifilm XT100 © Not The Jealous Kind

The Streets Of India

When you wander the streets of India you become aware of the vibrancy of colours that surround you.  Everywhere you look your eyes dart around hoping not to miss anything.  I loved seeing the street art that would appear randomly.  My first true encounter was in Puducherry where I stumbled across the graffiti artist Tona.  My delight of this discovery continued throughout my travels as I encountered Tona several more times in different locations.

Below is a collection of images from the streets of India.  A large majority of these images where taken while walking from the Jewish Town in Mattancherry to Fort Cochin in Kerala. The day I took these photos, thanks to a strike, the streets were almost empty and I had the advantage of photographing the majority of this art without any people in the way.  Everywhere I turned I was captivated by another image, which are captured in this series.

Tona, Pudicherry

Graffiti Artist Tona, Puducherry

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Puducherry

Puducherry

Puducherry

On the ground to the entrance of Sacred Heart Basilica, Puducherry

On the ground to the entrance of Sacred Heart Basilica, Puducherry

Jewish Town, Mattancherry, Kerala

Jewish Town, Mattancherry, Kerala

Jewish Town, Mattancherry

Jewish Town, Mattancherry

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Mattancherry

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Mattancherry

Fort Cochin, Kerala

Fort Cochin, Kerala

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Fort Cochin, Kerala

Fort Cochin

Graffiti artist Tona, Varkala, Kerala

Graffiti artist Tona, Varkala, Kerala

Coastal walk, Varkala

Coastal walk, Varkala

Coffee Shop, Panaji, Goa

Coffee Shop, Panaji, Goa

Vagator, North Goa

Vagator, North Goa

Palolem, South Goa

Palolem, South Goa

Silent Disco, Palolem

Silent Disco, Palolem

Kala Ghoda, Mumbai

Kala Ghoda, Mumbai

The Royal Treatment

After departing Shreyas Yoga Retreat with a gift package of roses and freshly made cookies, I had three hours in a taxi ahead of me to ponder what lies ahead.  I was back to travelling on my own and I was making my way to Mysore where I was to spend the next two days.  Mysore is famously known for its palace, silk and sandalwood.  It was early to bed and then early to rise to try to beat the heat during the day. Walking to see the palace I met a tuk tuk driver by the name of Iman who offered to take me to a few local sites for the day. Usually I dismiss tuk tuk drivers quickly, wary as they are often looking to take you to the nearest emporium. But my sense felt he wasn’t taking me for a ride and I decided to give him a try, which I’m glad I did as I got to see some sites that I might not have seen on my own.

Our first stop was to a local food market.

Local Market

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Next we visited Yam Herbals.  A family run business since 1936.  Yam Herbals make incense and beautiful essential oils. I watched an elderly woman employee who sits day in day out rolling incense made from sandalwood completely content with her work.  She can roll on average 2000 a day.

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Sandalwood incense sticks are laid out to dry in the sun before they are rolled in oils such as lavender.

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Essential oils are made from flower petals distilled in water at low heat and pressure. Oils such as white jasmine can help with depression while the lotus flower combats stress and is used in meditation.

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Next was the impressive Mysore Palace and it was well worth the visit.  The palace was the home of the former Wodeyar maharajas. The old original palace was gutted by fire and the current palace was rebuilt and completed in 1912. Unfortunately photos are not allowed to be taken inside.

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Mysore Palace

After a great first day of being shown around I decided to let Iman lead the way on what to see for day two.  We climbed 1000 steps up Chamundi Hill to Sri Chamundeswari Temple and Nandi (Shiva’s bull).  On the way back to Mysore Iman offered to teach me how to drive his tuk tuk. Thanks, but maybe some other time.

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For the afternoon Iman insisted we head out of Mysore to visit an ashram and Brindavam Gardens but we needed to ditch the tuk tuk for a scooter.  He had tried to get me to go the previous evening but I had declined.  Heading out of town we came to some beautiful rice paddy fields and a reservoir to get to the ashram, which was closed when we got there. Persistent again, Iman then insisted I learn to drive his scooter!

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By dusk we had made our way to Brindavan Gardens, me as driver and Iman as co-driver. Based on the edge of a dam and reservoir these beautiful gardens are a popular spot for locals to enjoy their evenings at.  But by this stage the mood was starting to change and Iman was hoping that this special tour was going to lead to more than just a friendship.  I think potentially that evening I may have broken a heart in India, as it was a very quiet (and long) ride back to Mysore and I was glad to be moving on the next day.

Brindavan Garden

Brindavan Gardens

Brindavan Garden

A Dedicated Playlist

The reason I was in Thailand recently was to help celebrate my friend Melenie’s 40th Birthday.  As some of you know I post one photo and one song a day on Instagram.  This playlist is dedicated to Melenie. Listening to it will always take me back to the three glorious weeks I spent in Thailand.

1  Beautiful Day U2

2  Eye Of The Tiger Survivor

3  Useless Depeche Mode (The Kruder & Dorfmeister Session)

4  There She Goes The La’s

5  It’s Tricky Run-DMC

6  Until We Shine David August

7  Total Giovanni Human Animal

8  Lovlee Dae Blaze

9  Plan Moe Turk (Silkast Remix) Feat. Sanna Heartfield

10  Troubled Girl Karen Ramirez (Spanish Version)

11  All By Myself Eric Carmen

12  Stretch In Tropic Sunshine Budda Bar Vol 8

13  Another Day In Paradise Phil Collins

14  Body & Soul Billie Holiday

15  Secret Place Gabe & Thomaz Krauze

16  Orange Blossom Special Johnny Cash

17 Twisting By The Pool Dire Straits

18  Learn To Fly Foo Fighters

19  Jump Madonna

20  Happy Max Sedgley

21  One Night In Bangkok Murray Head

22 Positively Me Tess Henley

You can find these songs on iTunes or YouTube.

The Birthday Girl

The Birthday Girl

A Luxury Escape For Two

Thanks to some creative accounting I was fortunate enough to spend two days at Shreyas Yoga Retreat with my friend Majo.  After spending most of the week in Bengaluru, the prerequisite for the weekend was to retreat away from the city and embark on a wellbeing journey of the luxury kind.  From the moment we departed our hotel, we had a sense we were about to experience something special.  From the chauffeur driven Indian Army car (it pays to have friends in high places), to the ceremonial blessing on arrival and refreshing pineapple and celery drink (who would have thought of that combination), our humid one hour car journey was quickly forgotten and a sense of calm gathered around us as we were transported into another world.

Nestled amongst 25 acres of greenery and frangipani gardens, we were guided through the resort to our garden cottage tent named Titiksha.  Titiksha is Sanskrit meaning forbearance. Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2, Sloka 14) refers to Titiksha as the contact between the senses and the sense objects.  O Arjuna, are the causes of heat and cold, pleasure and pain.  Being transient these come and go and we must learn to withstand them.  Both yoga and meditation practise help to bring reactions under control and we were about to experience over the weekend our first steps towards balancing Titiksha.

After a consultation with the retreat doctor, there was just enough time to squeeze in a massage before lunch.  To maximise the benefits of Ayurvedic treatments the recommendation was to have a course of at least seven treatments over a week. Because we were only staying for two days I opted for a Balinese massage instead and Majo a Thai massage.  My therapist Vidya has worked at Shreyas for the past six years.  A testament to how much the staff enjoy being part of something special. I enjoyed the massage so much that I decided to have another one the following day. Majo equally enjoyed her Thai massage which took place in the tranquil garden gazebos.

Lunch was our first chance to taste some of the sublime cuisine on offer. Vegetarian based, the majority of the produce is grown on the property.  If I had access to their chefs daily, I could quite happily become a vegetarian.  We were treated to smoked tomato soup and kachcumber salad for starters.  For the main course our taste buds were set alive with cottage cheese and capsicum, saute beetroot, chick peas masala, roti, rice, yoghurt and papad.  To finish, dessert was kulfi and fresh fruits.  After the abundance of food, thankfully there was time for some relaxation by the pool. Unprompted we were brought refreshments of fresh watermelon juice to help keep us hydrated after a prior serving of coconut water.

Having enjoyed some time to cool down from the heat, it was time to experience our first yoga class.  There are twice daily Yogasana/Pranayama classes available at 6am and 4pm and you can also book private classes.  The fresh smell of burning incense drifts through the yoga hall helping to dissipate negative energy and clears the mind.  It was a gentle Hatha yoga class designed for all levels and we decided to challenge ourselves for our 6am morning class, arranging an Ashtanga session.  To complete our holistic mindfulness for the day we had a private meditation session following our yoga class, which then blissfully lead us to another superb vegetarian meal consisting of leek and asparagus soup, Greek salad, whole wheat fusilli in pesto sauce, bruschetta, sauté French beans and carrots, finishing with an apple brownie and fresh fruits! With a 6am wake up call it was early to bed.  What delights will tomorrow bring?

Be careful what you wish for. Our more challenging yoga class was certainly that! Exhausted I was pleased when the Ashtanga class came to and end and very pleased I had booked another massage later in the day.  Refueled after breakfast it was then time for the group meditation class set in the machan, surrounded by coconut and chickoo trees.  By this stage the stresses of the outside world had certainly disappeared and the tranquility of the surroundings had taken over.

It’s hard to fault Shreyas as a retreat.  From the moment you drive through the gates, the outside world is left far behind.  If it wasn’t for the occasional sound of a train passing by on the outskirts of the property, you could easily become lost in time staying there.  Though a gentle reminder that the outside world and its poverty still exists just beyond the gates I believe is a good thing to keep you grounded when you’re experiencing such luxuries. It is compulsory for all staff to attend daily yoga and meditation classes. You are what you preach, and judging by how long many employees have been working at Shreyas its a philosophy that clearly works for its staff as its passed on to its guests.  It’s extremely hard to find in India the level of service on offer at Shreyas. Every detail is accounted for up until the very last minute you depart (which includes freshly made cookies, bottled water and roses to help you with your onward journey). For those fortunate enough to be able to stay for weeks on end, I hope they feel extremely blessed to be able to do so, I certainly was with my very brief stay.  I only wish it could have been longer.

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Happy Holi

Holi festival, also known as the festival of colours and the festival of love is an ancient Hindu festival which celebrates the beginning of Spring.  I was fortunate enough to be in India to experience this wonderful festival.  Although the North of India traditionally celebrates the festival in its true entirety and is the best place to be for Holi, we were still pretty happy to be in Bengaluru to celebrate.

The day progresses as a game of chase with dry powder and water.  Anyone and everyone is fair game.  If there are patches of bare skin showing, watch out! By the end of the day you are literally covered in colour.  When you think you have as much colour on you as possible, someone will think otherwise.  The best part about our day was the people we met. We were taught Bollywood dancing in the rain by complete strangers, we threw powder back as equally hard as we received it and my face was sore from laughing all day.

If you are ever in India around the time of this festival, don’t miss it, you won’t regret it.  It was worth every minute of it, including the green and red highlights that lingered in my hair afterwards for three weeks.  A gentle reminder of this great day.

Before Holi.

Before Holi

The queue to get in

The queue to get in

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Holi

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Holi

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At the end of Holi

At the end of Holi

We’ll Always Have Bengaluru

There’s always something quite special about travelling when you’re able to share it with a friend or loved one creating memories to cherish for life. With the majority of my time in India to be spent travelling on my own, luck was on my side, my friend Majo was to be in India for work around the same time. Majo is the New Zealand Operations Manager for Fair Trade Australia & New Zealand. She studied international law and human rights at university which led her to work for the United Nations in countries such as Vienna, Afghanistan and Bolivia. She’s a wife, a mother to two gorgeous girls and someone I feel very lucky to call a friend. Unsure of when we would get to see each other again, I happily worked my itinerary to fit in with her so we could spend a few days together in Bengaluru.

Bengaluru or previously known as Bangalore, is one of India’s major IT hubs. As I drove into the city it was a refreshing change after Chennai to see buildings resemble what a cosmopolitan city should look like. I spent three days in the city. While Majo worked during the day, we had the evenings to venture out and about. For our first venture, we visited the Krishnarajendra City Market. We were blown away by the colours of the spices and flowers as cows roamed the market and streets feasting on the fresh vegetables and fruit available.  A local took it upon himself to show us around the market which was appreciated but then proceeded to share our tuk tuk ride with us.  At one point we thought he was going to follow us around all night!  We ended the evening with the Fair Trade crew at a great little restaurant called Koshy’s.  If you’re in Bengaluru make sure you visit this place.

Flowers at Krishnarajendra City Market

Flowers at Krishnarajendra City Market

Banana Leafs for Biriyani

Banana leaves for Biriyani

Fruits

Fruits

Spices

Spices

Holi Holi Holi

Holi Holi Holi

Our second venture was to Bengaluru Palace, the private residence of the Wodeyars (royal family).  There were glimpses of how grand this building would have been in it’s day, but it was a shame to see how this piece of heritage has been poorly neglected over the years and is in need of some restoration. From here we headed across town to the Krishna Iskcon Temple through Bengaluru’s bustling traffic, being caught unaware by street sellers on the road as we came to a halt.  One person appeared out of the blue catching Majo off guard causing her to scream which we roared with laughter afterwards once her heart rate returned to normal. After being blessed at the temple and spending some time there we finished the night with another great meal, this time at Karavalli in the Gateway Hotel, followed by the search for some street art in the dark which sadly we couldn’t find, but that’s another story.

Bengaluru Palace

Bengaluru Palace

A touch of Bollywood in action!

A touch of Bollywood filming in action, Bengaluru Palace

Bengaluru Palace

Bengaluru Palace

Our last day in Bengaluru was a memorable one. We were lucky enough to be in town for the Holi Festival. The festival often known as the Festival of Colours, celebrates the arrival of Spring.  After a disastrous morning of being led around by auto rickshaw drivers wanting to take us to emporiums (beware they are rife around Commercial Street) and who said they knew where we wanted to go, but didn’t, our day turned thankfully into one of laugher and celebration. Our inner child emerged for an afternoon where we immersed ourselves literally in colour. All inhibitions were put aside and we enjoyed meeting lots of people and experiencing this Hindu festival. More on this in my next post.

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

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After trying to get ourselves clean from Holi which was literally impossible, we ended our wonderful day from one extreme to the other with a touch of elegance enjoying the view of the city from the roof top bar Bang at the Ritz Carlton.  It was nice to be able to enjoy a glass of wine with great company and reflect on our day and what we were about to experience over the weekend, a holistic treat at Shreyas.

Bang bar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel

Bang at the Ritz Carlton Hotel