This month is a significant one for me; five years ago I popped my India cherry. And my holidays have never been the same since. Each year I try to break away from my spiritual addiction and fail. Since April 2008 I’ve back-packed (kind of), boutique hotel’d and eaten my way from sand and dust suffocated Rajasthan to tropical India’s most southern, sticky, coconut fringed tip.
I’ve stepped bare foot and cashmere wrapped onto the world’s most demonstrative declaration of love, the Taj Mahal; and breakfasted on Masala dosa with my benevolent, cattle class neighbour on India’s celebrated railway.
I’ve been served tea by our fawning butler, immersed in Munnar’s tea plantations and 1950’s rose gardens; and eaten Coorgi pork with Arabica coffee estate owners (and my hands).
Rehydrated on road side tender coconut surrounded by monkeys and wild elephants and contracted dysentery in Old Delhi. Served me right; even Hippy Mum was more discerning.
Cleaned (the dorm!) toilets, eaten off the floor, chanted and yoga’d away the controlled with military precision hours in an Ashram.
I’ve ridden on elephants and fed them turmeric rice (gut goodness). I’m slightly partial to elephants. Apparently the females are the calm ones which I’m sure we’ll all agree is unusual.
Gawped in wonder at Udaipur’s breath taking lake palaces, street murals and washing Ghats.
Hobbled, dysentery fevered, around the blue city of Jodhpur, its Red Fort, Ganesha’s and innumerable scabby and bony Holy cows.
And `shed a tear for the wives who threw themselves onto their Maharaja husband’s funeral pyre.
I’ve recuperated in the sand city of Jaisalmer and nearly thrown up again at the site of the refuse collecting pigs capacity to inhale ANYTHING.
I’ve papped the entire local population of 15th century Hampi (again with the cows), escaping the sweaty, lack of AC on the night train for Bangalore’s slick hotels, roof top bars and Victorian parks. Once more photographing the entire, camera spellbound population; laughing and being touched by the unaffected warmth of almost every one of them. Minus the cows.
I’ve bought yoga gear in Mysore, stretched it in Goa and scootered my way from Bollywood star hangout, to Goan sausage stall, to samosa beach hut.
Yet no-where has drawn me back quite like Kerala and Fort Cochin, which somehow manages to tick every chic, cultural holiday box. So strong is the bond, in fact that I may have returned upwards of 14 times. Annihilating my never go back in favour of seeing the world decree. Find out why soon. To be continued…