Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Instagram: Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in Kerala, India

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, India
We're currently on the Kerala Blog Express, touring the state of Kerala, India. Here are some photos from the city of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the capital city of Kerala. For more photos, follow @ivanhenares on Instagram.

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, India
Only Hindus are allowed to enter the main sanctuary of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Trivandrum, Kerala, India. And there is a strict dress code. Men have to wear a mundu with their shirt off. While women have to wear a sari or long skirt
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, India
Napier Museum, an Indo-Saracenic structure built in the 19th century, is among the many grand colonial buildings in Trivandrum, Kerala, India
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, India
Kathakali is a classical dance drama from Kerala, India known for the colorful make-up, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures, facial expressions and well-defined body movements. We were treated to a short Kathakali performance at the Vivanta by Taj Kumarakom

Thursday, March 13, 2014

India: From Poovar to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in Kerala

It was a beautiful morning in Poovar, an isolated but spectacular beach town in the southern end of Kerala. We were up early since we had to check out then travel to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the capital of Kerala, some 18 kilometers away.

To get to our bus, we took a boat from the Island Estuary Resort to a jetty were vehicles and buses of guests to various lakeside resorts in Poovar are parked.

It was a thirty minute ride through the backwaters of Poovar and the Neyyar River. Backwaters (a term for a wetland where rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches and the sea converge) define the landscape of much of Kerala. And we'll be seeing more of them in the coming days.

Poovar actually has a very rich trading history dating back to 1000BC. It is believed to be one of the possible locations of the port of Ophir mentioned in the Bible where the ships of King Solomon landed. He received a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, ivory, peacocks and precious stones from Ophir.

Our group was on our way to Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Trivandrum. On the way, we passed by a temple which was having a festival since it was the peak festival season which runs from October to March, especially the last two months. The night before, we also passed by a very colorful evening religious procession. But unfortunately, the bus couldn't stop for us to take a closer look.

It took us about an hour to get to Trivandrum from Poovar. Our first stop was the Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Trivandrum.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

India: Backwaters of Poovar, Chowara & Kovalam Beach in Kerala

Backwaters of Poovar, Kerala, India
A beautiful sunset greeted me as I relaxed at our resort in the backwaters of Poovar in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. We were on an island in the Neyyar River estuary where the river converges with a lake, a beach of golden sand and the sea, with thousands of coconut trees dotting the landscape. It was a great way to start an exciting journey around Kerala, India. To all those who voted, thank you for sending me to the Kerala Blog Express!

Estuary Island Resort, Poovar, Kerala, India
I arrived in Trivandrum (another name for Thiruvananthapuram), the capital of Kerala, after a short flight from Malé in the Maldives. I was met at the airport by the Kerala Tourism staff who took me to the Estuary Island Resort, my home for the next two days. As I walked in, I could hear the calls of crows, among the many bird species abundant in these backwaters. Egrets, kites, kingfishers and cormorants were also quite common. It was a fascinating place.

Backwaters of Poovar, Kerala, India
From my balcony window I could see the small lake that separated us from the beach. To get to the beach, one had to ride a boat which the resort provides for its guests. To the right was the Neyyar River which flowed into the lake. I went straight to lunch at the restaurant by the lake.

Backwaters of Poovar, Kerala, India
I spent the rest of the afternoon getting some rest, coming out an hour later only to see the beautiful sunset. We were brought to the beach by boat where we joined locals enjoying the same view. It was an unusual strip of sand which separated the crashing waves of the Arabian Sea from the tranquil lake.

Backwaters of Poovar, Kerala, India
Backwaters of Poovar, Kerala, India
The next day, we were brought to various resorts in three areas. We walked to the neighboring Poovar Island Resort for a sumptuous lunch. Then we boarded the boats that would take us to the jetty where our bus was parked.

Chowara Beach, Kerala, India
Chowara Beach, Kerala, India
From Poovar, we proceeded to Chowara, a fishing hamlet with many scenic spots. From the Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort, we had a picturesque view of Chowara Beach with its colorful fishing boats parked on the gold sand. At the resort, the group was given an orientation on Ayurveda. But the actual treatments had to wait as we were having them at another location in Kerala. We spent the rest of the afternoon just enjoying the view while having tea.

Chowara Beach, Kerala, India
Kovalam Beach, Kerala, India
We ended our day at Kovalam Beach where we watched the colorful sunset from the Leela Kempinski Kovalam Beach Hotel while having, you guessed it, tea! Tomorrow will be another long day! Catch updates on @ivanhenares on Twitter and Instagram. Also check out the hashtag #keralablogexpress.

Estuary Island Resort
Poovar P.O., Trivandrum 695 525 Kerala, India
Tel. No. +91 471 2229222

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Thank you 2013! Where in the world was I last year?

Machu Picchu, Peru
It's fantastic thinking how much of the planet we've covered in the past twelve months. I've actually decided to slow it down a bit this year. But to welcome the New Year, here are highlights from international destinations I visited in 16 countries in 2013. It was quite difficult to remember every city I visited. But thanks to Instagram @ivanhenares, it's all there!

Hanoi, Vietnam: Huc Bridge, Ngoc Son Temple & Hoan Kiem Lake
In January, I led a tour group to Hanoi, Halong Bay and Tam Coc, Vietnam in pleasantly cool weather. Don't we all love that boat ride through the limestone karst formations of Halong Bay?

February saw me back in Thailand with my UP AIT students. We explored Bangkok and visited the ancient city of Ayutthaya.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC
I visited a new continent in the Summer of 2013 ― South America! My trip started in the US; stayed in Washington, DC for a week and visited a classmate in Baltimore, MD. Then I was off to Rio de Janeiro with tokayo Ivan Man Dy for our five-week South American adventure.

View of Sugarloaf Mountain & Rio de Janeiro from Cristo Redentor
Rio is a charming city! We made sure to visit its famed urban beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, and took a tram ride up Cristo Redentor where we were afforded a spectacular view of the city, Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay.

Plaza Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay
From Rio de Janeiro, we took a bus to São Paolo and then to Porto Alegre before crossing the border to Uruguay. Yes, it's the country famous for legalizing marijuana this year! In Uruguay, we walked the charming streets of Montevideo with its fantastic architecture, ate a sumptuous steak at the local market, and then visited old Colonia del Sacramento before taking a ferry to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Argentine tango in Barrio San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Of course, like every visitor to Buenos Aires, we payed our respects to Evita at the Recoleta Cemetery and enjoyed the street tango at San Telmo.

Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús in Córdoba, Argentina
Estancia de Santa Catalina, Cordoba, Argentina
The next day, we took an overnight bus and visited the Jesuit Block of Cordoba and the estancias of Alta Gracia, Jesús María and Santa Catalina. We found out that Alta Gracia is where Che Guevara grew up. His family house has been converted into a museum.

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Chile
From Cordoba, we took a bus to Mendoza, and from there took another bus that crossed the Andes and the border, and finally to Santiago, Chile. After spending a night in Santiago, we moved to neighboring Valparaiso and spent two nights there before taking a 24-hour bus to San Pedro de Atacama to experience nature at its finest.

Salar de Atacama, Antofagasta, Chile
We visited the altiplano of the Antofagasta Region at the heart of the Atacama Desert and its sites such as Los Flamencos National Reserve, Laguna Miscanti, Laguna Miñiques, Salar de Atacama, Valle de la Luna, Valle de la Muerte and the Géisers de Tatio.

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
After exploring the driest place on the planet, we hopped on another long bus ride to Arica, the border town of Chile, crossed the border by taxi to Tacna, Peru's border town, and took a bus to Arequipa from there.

Cuzco's Plaza de Armas from the Iglesia de San Cristobal
We had a few hours in charming Arequipa before taking off on another long bus ride to Cuzco. We spent several days there, highlighted by our visit to Machu Picchu. Cuzco is such a historic city with a colorful local culture.

Machu Picchiu, Peru
Casa de Pizarro, Palacio de Gobierno del Perú, Lima
So many long-distance bus rides in Peru! And we weren't done yet! From Cuzco, we traveled by bus for a day to the capital Lima. It's Plaza Mayor is stunning! Lest we forget, Lima was the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, which for a time covered most of South America. We also got to watch the changing of the guard at the Government Palace of Peru.

Uros Floating Islands in Puno, Peru
We then took a bus back to Arequipa (yes, another long bus ride) where we hopped on another bus to Puno, the gateway to Lake Titicaca.

Fraternidades Folklóricas de Copacabana in Copacabana, Bolivia to honor of the Señor de la Santa Cruz de Colquepata
From Puno, we crossed the border into Bolivia and stopped by Copacabana where we were lucky to witness the festivities of the Señor de la Santa Cruz de Colquepata. It wasn't easy finding a place to stay though because of the fiesta, and it wasn't cheap! But it was well worth it. We explored Lake Titicaca again the next day.

Palacio de Gobierno / Palacio Quemado in La Paz, Bolivia
Potosí, Bolivia
From Copacabana, we went to La Paz, explored the highest capital city in the world and shopped at the Witches Market before visiting Sucre and Potosi. We made an exciting border crossing into Argentina, a story we'll keep a secret!

Iguazu / Iguaçu Falls in Argentina & Brazil
In Argentina, we visited Salta and from there took a long-distance bus to Iguazu Falls, more than a day if I remember it right. It was raining really hard, but we got to ride a speed boat that took us under one of the falls. We crossed over to the Brazilian side where the better views are, before rushing back to Rio de Janeiro to catch our flight back to the US. I spent the next few days recuperating in DC, except for a one-day visit to the wineries around Aldie, Virginia where I got to enjoy basted pork ribs slow-grilled over hickory wood at a roadside grill. Yum!

Preah Vihear Temple, Cambodia
May ended with a tour to Siem Reap, Cambodia to visit the famed temples of Angkor. When the group left, I hired a car and visited Preah Vihear, a spectacular temple built on top of a mountain. Visit it while you can and before the crowds discover it!

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Bali, Indonesia
In June, I was back in Bali leading a tour group. We visited its famed temples and experienced its colorful culture. After the tour, I visited the Jatiluwih Rice terraces.

Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal
Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
In August, we had another tour group, this time to Nepal. We stopped over at KL before flying to Kathmandu. We visited Nagarkot, Pokhara and Kathmandu Valley. Pokhara was an exciting destination with many activities. I went paragliding for the first time.

Durbar Square, Bhaktapur, Nepal
Aside from Kathmandu, I also got to visit Bhaktapur and Patan. Bhaktapur is my favorite!

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
The month ended with a trip to India hosted by Jet Airways. The group visited New Delhi, Agra and flew to Kashmir. Our itinerary included Srinagar, Gulmarg and Sonamarg. Indeed the place is Heaven on Earth!

Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, India
Sonamarg, Kashmir, India
I definitely enjoyed the pony ride to the Himalayan glaciers of Kashmir Valley, the great food and the colorful culture of the region. We also got to stay in the luxurious houseboats of Dal Lake.

Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia
In September, I led UP AIT students and staff to a food and heritage experience in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Everyone was still talking about the food when we got back!

Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, Thailand
We attended the 2013 Annual Meeting of the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee in Sukhothai and Chiang Mai, Thailand in October. As part of a workshop to help Sukhothai with its tourism master plan, I biked thirty kilometers through rural areas, to the Si Satchanalai Historical Park. I haven't biked in a long while, but I survived that one!

Luang Prabang, Laos
After the meeting, we explored Chiang Rai, crossed the river border at Chiang Kong, Thailand to Houai Xai. Laos. And from there, it was a grueling overnight bus to Luang Prabang, the old royal capital. Luang Prabang is still as charming as every with its colorful temples, colonial architecture and delicious street food!

Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos
I got explore Vientiane, met up with my SSEAYP friends and explored the city's temples, before going by land to Udon Thani for my flight back to Bangkok.

Sanam Chandra Palace, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
I could not believe it, but I was back in Bangkok, and stranded for a week in November, experiencing my first flight cancelation ever! So I spent my time working (and eating). My only out of town trip was a visit to Nakhon Pathom's Phra Pathom Chedi and Sanam Chandra Palace.

Cishou Pagoda, Jinshan Temple, Zhenjiang, China
My last international trip for the year was to China to attend the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit in Zhenjiang. But because of the smog problem in Shanghai, I had to deal with two flight cancelations (I was on a roll), rerouting to Xiamen were I took a flight to Shanghai, and a bullet train to Zhenjiang before arriving at the summit.

The Bund, Shanghai, China
I went around Shanghai for a day (I was planning to see Suzhou but the smog was bad) before flying back to Manila.

So there! That was 2013! Happy New Year to all! Here are more photos from my 2013 trips. Next up is my post for Philippine destinations.

Do you want to see last year's? Now where in the world was I in 2012?

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