"The south is different" - said one of my friends to me before we left Delhi. He did not say why or how, that I was about to experience on my own, as it turned out it was one of the most complex experiences I ever had, but let me start from the beginning...
There I was on 24th of February on New Delhi railway station about to go for my longest train tour, above 2000km, 36 hours. I felt nothing, as if my mind chose to become numb for the entire time. It was painless, half asleep, half in stagnation while I got upper berth to stay on, with no possibility to look outside the window I had not much to do except sleeping or listening to music.
Chennai and Puducherry
We reached our destination - Chennai, on 26th of February. I can't say that it was anyhow close to a pleasant experience to stay there even for one day. As far as traffic in Delhi can be crazy, Chennai sets new level of insanity. The general impression can be put in three words : dirty, chaotic and hostile. Whether it was perception strongly influenced by fatigue or Chennai simply isn't most attractive place, I don't know, but as for now I don't feel like giving it another try.
Next morning we left Chennai for few days to stay in Puducherry(Pondicherry), a touristic destination of many French people who chose to visit their old colony in India, with interesting colonial architecture in French quarter, relatively clean beaches and much better atmosphere than in Chennai. I must say that I really rested in that place. We chose a home stay near the beach for those few days we had with only one thing on our minds - rest. For the first two days we did nothing except lying on the beach, swimming in the ocean and enjoying every moment, in the evening we would go on the roof of the house with couple of beers and just relax. The stars were easily visible and that made evening even more pleasant… The only thing that bothered me a bit was a lack of nightlife, after sunset there was absolutely nothing to do, the fact that there was no place to sit in the evening on the beach was a bit of a disappointment. One of the things that I was really looking forward to was seafood, but when we arrived to Tamil Nadu, we had no luck in finding fresh, good seafood.
On third of March we went back to Chennai to catch a train to Coimbatore from where we planned to go and see tea plantations in Valparai - mountainous terrain at the border of Tamil Nadu with Kerala where tea grows everywhere you look. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, high in mountains the air was free of any pollution, densely growing trees and wild monkeys roaming the area made an incredible view. At this point this hunger to see and experience more woke up in me, gave an impulse to learn more and travel further. We have spent two days in Valparai with our guide driving us to all worth seeing spots in the area. It was so peaceful, completely different than Indian cities. This is a place I would highly recommend to anyone visiting India.
Our next and final stop was in Kerala - city of Kochi (Cochin) where we spent couple of days. We stayed at Fort Kochi in a home stay. I was really surprised by the positive atmosphere in that place which instantly made it a better experience than Tamil Nadu. The food was also better in Kerala, with seafood available everywhere. I could finally satisfy myself with prawns, squids and fish. I must say that people seemed simply happier here, more relaxed and open, there was no tension that used to follow me on the eastern coast.
Overall I can say that it was really good travel experience that gave me a better understanding of … the southern perspective.