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India topside touring?

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I may be going on a dive trip to India in April, and will end up in Chennai at the end. Can anyone who has been there suggest places to tour from there? Should I stay in Chennai and look around there, or should I go somewhere else?

 

Obviously, I will have a crapload of gear, so lots of local flights are not ideal unless it is easy and inexpensive to fly back to Chennai for the outbound international flight.

 

Thanks, in advance!

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You can fly to Andaman islands from Chennai. I went there in April this year and enjoyed it a lot. Wetpixel's vkalia runs a dive operation there so you might want to pm him.

 

I only had a one day stop in Chennai so I did not make any trips outside the city.

 

I have some shots from Andamans on my website if you are interested.

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flights? take the local trains with all your gear... :P j/k

 

I'm only familiar with the north. For south, I guess Goa on the west coast?

 

If you're willing to fly up north, state of Rajastan is a pretty interesting region. Deserts to interesting forts, temples. Udaipur was one of my favorite spots in India.

Edited by pakman

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I thought india was amazing, I toured Rajistan, which is far from chennai. I don't recommend local flights if you have all your gear, just secure it in a good hotel and travel arround Chennai.

 

as long as you get outside the tourist areas, you are guarenteed to have a wonderful trip. visit some villages that normally don't get tourists.

 

hope this helps a little

 

scott

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Eric, if you are looking topside, you MUST go to the Taj in AgraChennai is an ok town to visit on its own but the Taj is a must. Rajasthan, specifically Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur are great for old city scapes. The nature watching is also great with the tiger reserves and of course the Rhesus monkeys.

Goa is sorta like the backpacker/bohemian hangout and worth a visit just for the music club scenes in the north. It's a nice place to see the Portuguese influence on Indian culture and the history behind it. Never been in April though as it's "out of season". It is a harsh crash of western trash in India, especially when the hippie types complain that the locals stare at them when they sunbathe nude on the beaches. DUH!

Since I doubt you are going to spend 2 weeks after your trip, I suggest you do Agra as the Taj is a must and maybe Jaipur and Alwar, which are easily connected. Just dump your dive gear at the hotel in Chennai. If you need clothes, Chennai have very good tailors who can drum custom up shirts in 10 hours. It's not Sulka but good quality nonetheless.

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Eric,

 

Depends on how much time you have and what you what to see. I am currently working in Hyderabad, India, and have been land locked for the past three months, and starting to crack (also one of the reasons I have more time to spend on wetpixel) but going diving for a week in Goa at the end of the month. As the dive operators say, vis is not the best, but lots of marine life.

 

But I am assuming you will only have a few days. Chennai is a typical dirty over crowded Indian city and it is worth a day or two get walking around and being over whelmed by the sights, smells and sounds. Indian food is fantastic, and even better in India. Around Chennai there are historic temples around 100km south at Mamallapuram, well worth a day trip, and also other temples at Kanchipuram.

 

If you have more time, a least a week or more than you must visit New Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal and Agra Fort) and Varanasi. Best to pick up a Lonely Planet as India is a very big place with plenty to see.

 

I will let you know what the diving at Goa was like.

 

Not sure how long I will be working here, but will probably be for a few more month next year.

 

Regards

 

Nigel

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All these recommendations are good - but most of them are nowhere near Chennai??? So, Eric - you'll definitely need to take flights to get anywhere in the north in a short ammount of time. We just spent a month in Rajasthan and hands down, the most amazing place for us in that region was Jaisalmer (one of the most magical places in the world - right on the Pakistan border) - the Taj was amazing as well - the tigers are unfortunately few and far between these days (with tons of tourists) but as stated all of these are nowhere close for a short touring trip from Chennai.

 

I'm curious to hear others thoughts on SE region as well...Pondicherry maybe?

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Sounds like a great opportunity Eric! We spent nearly four months travelling around India in 2001. It is an extraordinary country and I’m sure you’ll have a great time no matter where you go.

 

India is a photographer’s paradise. Every state is like a different country with new food, culture, people, architecture and experiences.

 

The suggestions you have already received regarding Rajasthan are excellent – it is a fascinating part of the country and I would tentatively endorse all the ideas so far. I’ll provide a couple more below.

 

I tend to agree with Bryce that travelling to the furthest part of the country (Rajasthan) from where you are may not be the easiest thing for you.

 

Weather

India has three distinct seasons - the hot, the wet and the cool. You will be there smack in the middle of the hot. In central India including Rajasthan, temperatures of around 45 C (~113 F) won’t be uncommon. Unless you are of sterner constitution than most, this can make it a bit of a challenge to get motivated to do much at all. My suggestions below try to take this into account.

 

I have three ideas:

  1. Travel a similar distance to that suggested by others to go to Rajasthan, but go somewhere cooler.
  2. Stay relatively local around Chennai, but check out some smaller towns like Pondy or the Nilgiri hills.
  3. Make a short hop to Kerala (1 hour flight) for some really special experiences.

 

 

Rajasthan alternative

Rajasthan is in the middle of the arid desert and for the most part will be one of the hottest parts of the country in April. If you are prepared to travel that sort of distance but would like to avoid the withering heat, my suggestion would be to check out some of the hill stations (to which the British Raj used to retreat during summer). They will be much more pleasant at that time of year.

 

Himalayan foothills

You will be in India during one of the few times when it is possible to get into Sikkim. This is an opportunity not to be missed. It is like stepping back in time.

 

This flickr stream should give you a sense of it:

http://flickr.com/search/?q=sikkim&s=int

 

It is very similar to Bhutan and parts of Tibet – stark rugged landscape, amazing gompas and really stuck in a time warp (which is a good thing in this case). The bold Buddhist colours of red, white and yellow make it a photographic goldmine, not to mention a fascinating cultural experience.

 

Alternatively, places like Dharamasala (where the Dalai Lama makes his home) near the Tibetan border or Darjeeling in the east of the country are really beautiful.

 

Chennai and surrounds

Suggestion two is to stay closer to your base in Chennai. There is quite a bit of interesting stuff to see locally, although the city itself is probably not the highlight of the state. You may find you are lucky enough to visit in the middle of the Chithirai festival when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarer is celebrated. Like all things in India, it will be extremely colourful, loud and interesting.

 

You aren’t far from Pondicherry as someone has already recommended. We spent a little while in Pondy, as it is affectionately known. It is a little seaside town with lovely French influences.

 

Alternatively, you could pop up to the hills around Ooty which will provide a welcome relief from the heat. There are wildlife reserves where you might see elephants and other critters – although I’ve got better suggestions below. You can also hike around the Nilgiri forests which are relatively cool.

 

Kerala

I’ve saved my favoured suggestion for last and I really think it is the pick of the bunch given the time you are there and your Chennai starting point. Kerala was one of the highlights of our trip to India and it is very close to where you are. We also enjoyed Rajasthan, but Kerala was easily as interesting.

 

You can jump on a cheap domestic flight and be there in less than an hour, or if you are feeling more energetic (or lacking cash as we were) you can catch an overnight train which takes around 14 hours. As suggested by others, you could probably find a place to dump your gear in Chennai to leave you a little less encumbered.

 

Why?

Kerala is blessed with a maze of meandering coastal lagoons, lakes, canals and rivers known as the ‘backwaters.’ I think it is one of those things worth doing in your life - do yourself a favour and check out this amazing part of the world.

 

From Alappuzha or Kollam you can pick up one of the thatched house boats (kettuvallum) and cruise around these rivers in which thousands of islands are buzzing with life. You can have a chef on board whipping you up superb southern Indian cuisine and wash it down with fresh succulent fruit – all the while watching life on the river banks pass you by. You won't even need to get out of your bed to take photos!

 

Check out this flickr stream for inspiration:

http://flickr.com/search/?s=int&w=all&...ters&m=text

 

Cruising the backwaters was definitely one of the highlights of our India trip.

Also in Kerala are the delightful coastal town of Kochi with Portuguese and Dutch influences and the cooler hill areas of western ghats where you could visit Periyar wildlife sanctuary where you should be able to find elephants, tigers and other critters. If you wanted to do a bit of diving, Kerala would make a great base from which to pop out to Lakshadweep for a quick look around.

 

I highly recommend you grab the Lonely Planet for India - not just because some of my pics are in it :) It really is the best guide for the country.

 

Wherever you go, I’m sure you’ll have a great time and I’m really looking forward to seeing the pics. India is an extraordinary country and WELL worth a visit!!

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Double agree on Kerala... except for the lonely planet guide :)

And don't forget the Ayurvedic spas!

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Tourism and sights-wise, South of India is quite different from North.

 

Perhaps a good way to spend 4-6 days in South would be to hire a

large car and driver (~US$60 per day total), and drive between towns.

I love the temples and sights of Southern towns:

 

Mahabalipuram (also called Mamallapuram) -- close to Chennai; then go south to

One or both among: Rameshwaram or Madurai (I prefer the former);

Madurai (smaller town, I may skip it)

 

If you have more time, keep driving southwards to spend a day in

Kanya Kumari, then move up along the west coast in Kerala.

 

~~~

The alternative is fly to Delhi and do what everyone else does,

Delhi-Arga-Jaipur-Udaipur. Should be getting hot by April, I believe.

 

I have some (not-so-good) photos of Kerala and Delhi-Agra here.

 

Best,

Ajay.

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Ajay is on the right track I think with the hiring a car. That way you can stop whenever you want to take photos. I also agree with his sentiments that the south is different from the north. Everyone goes north, but there is plenty of interest to see down south too.

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...Mahabalipuram (also called Mamallapuram) -- close to Chennai;...

 

This was an easy side trip from Chennai:

post-5528-1194959109_thumb.jpg

post-5528-1194959145_thumb.jpg

post-5528-1194959188_thumb.jpg

 

Also, India is a very colorful city full of interesting people and city scenes.

I'm a fan of Bicycles and took these two in another Indian city:

post-5528-1194959385_thumb.jpg

post-5528-1194959502_thumb.jpg

 

I really encourage everyone to explore the cities and sights of India.

I must warn you though, the poverty can be depressing if you don't concentrate on the positive stuff...

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Well, it is an old thread now, but if you need ideas on where to go, PM me. A good place to start would be by determining what you want to see.

 

Btw, where will be going for diving? Andamans or Lacadives? If Andamans, stop by and say hello.

 

Vandit

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Wow! Kerala looks amazing. Like the thousand islands, in the st lawrence river, but tropical. Is the water clean enough to swim or snorkel in?

 

Too bad it is soo far. Where else has lots of little islands that you can house boat around? Palau should be like that, but I don't know of any houseboats...

 

Where has anything like this?

 

Thanks.

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Is the water clean enough to swim or snorkel in?

Thanks.

My recollection is no, but it could be because it was raining a bit when we were there.

 

Love your idea of Kerala houseboats in Palau!! Someone should really implement that. :)

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Unfortunately, most of my time in India was middle to far north (Ladakh) and can't offer much info. We zipped through southern India on our way to Sri Lanka. There is great diving there but the best areas are a little dicey sometimes due to the ongoing conflict.

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Hi Eric,

 

Funny i did not see this post earlier. Well i guess if your flying into Chennai your dive destination would be the Andamans and flight will be to Port Blair ?

 

Well i own a travel company in Mumbai and along with a dive shop-Barracuda Diving, based in Goa organized a dive trip to the Andamans this September. Who are you diving with ?? Do let me know cause i personally know a few dive shops there and the owners. In fact Vinnie who owns a dive shop has recently discovered some amazing new dive spots. No buoys are left and they are found by GPS due to fishermen and its all hush hush. Other than this i guess anthp and the rest have given you options for places to visit. Do note however that the best time is not April. It is BLOODY hot !!!! North and South are both best visited between November to March. Having said this there are a few hill stations around south which are spectacular. Do note however that school holidays begin 1st April so most places are CROWDED !! In case you need any help topside or bottm as far as logistics , tickets etc. etc. are concerned please dont hesitate to let me know and my office can get the needful organized. Send me a mail. www.sterlingtravelsindia.com is my website.

 

Cheers,

 

Diggy

 

I may be going on a dive trip to India in April, and will end up in Chennai at the end. Can anyone who has been there suggest places to tour from there? Should I stay in Chennai and look around there, or should I go somewhere else?

 

Obviously, I will have a crapload of gear, so lots of local flights are not ideal unless it is easy and inexpensive to fly back to Chennai for the outbound international flight.

 

Thanks, in advance!

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Thanks, guys! this is very useful.

 

I will be out with Worldwide Dive and Sail. Met the guys at DEMA, and they were a blast. We're also going to be hanging out on land for a bit after the live aboard.

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Thanks, guys! this is very useful.

 

I will be out with Worldwide Dive and Sail. Met the guys at DEMA, and they were a blast. We're also going to be hanging out on land for a bit after the live aboard.

 

 

Hi Eric,

Which trip are you on? I'm on the April 3 trip. Can't wait.

 

Robin

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Robin -

 

I'm on the trip just before yours! (Mar 24 - Apr 2)

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Eric

Pack wisely for cabin luggage. I flew from Kerala and they were trying to enforce the 1 pc INCLUDING laptop rule even for business class. I had to complain to the airline's

Not sure which airline you're taking but if you are taking economy, beware.

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Unfortunately, I will be flying through London. (SFO->NY->London->Chennai->Port Blair)

 

Although, I hear that with the recent battery regulation, they lifted the 1 carry-on rule in the U.K. to allow a second bag.

 

Can someone confirm?

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