A few years ago, I decided to go to India on a lark, but ended up staying their ages. I went to school there, worked there, and fell in love with the place. The history. The people. The food. Nothing was enough and I always wanted more. For this Throwback Thursday, I’m sharing my Top 3 Overlooked Sites in India. If you get the chance to go, and I urge you to, you must add these to your list:
1. Landour (by Mussoorie near Dehra Dun)
High in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains rests the tiny hill station village of Landour. The place is hard to get to. Accessible by a car or bus, you’ll need every lick of bravery you have to make it up there. The road (hah!) is cut along the side of mountain so close that if you look out the window, you can actually see your death. There were accidents every few feet. Buses locked in displays of automotive dominance screeched past each other, leaving battle scars of peeled paint and busted mirrors in their wake. Behind each belligerent waited lines of cars.
But once you get there, expect the views of your life. In every direction, a snowcapped mountain, a trash stealing monkey, a bull blocking the road. By the time I’d made it to Landour, I’d been in India for months. This quiet little hamlet provided a much needed place to relax.
There’s a language school there, known for Hindi instruction. Mostly, however, there’s just the quiet and the mountains. I’ve never tasted fresher air.
Note: I was serious about the trash stealing monkeys (Apes? The missing link? I don’t know). At 5 feet 2, I was out matched and regularly outwitted. Keep your trash in your house, or expect King Kong on your doorstep in the morning.
2. Kochi in Kerala’s Ernakulam district
The costal city smells like the ocean in all the best ways. Seafood is the staple on just about every menu. Once a home base of Portuguese colonists, the city is a mixture of 16th Century Iberia and the late medieval Kingdom of Cochin.
The jumble of the old and the new isn’t as startling as you may expect. Everything flows together as if by grand design, rather than haphazard luck. Those last two words shouldn’t go together. Then again, a place like Kochi shouldn’t exist.
While there, check out a Kathakali performance. Kathakali is one of India’s most beautiful forms of art (it’s a long list). It’s not fair to call it a dance. Or a play either. I struggle with a definition. The best I can come up with is that Kathakali is equal parts folk tale, musical, and martial art. Here is a 2 minute video explaining this wonderful artform:
Great Big Story’s video used per YT TOS 8.1-8.2
3. GOA (But not for that)
I know what you’re thinking. Goa is India’s party central for Western expats. If you’re a surfer or smoker (of anything), Goa is your place. Go! Have fun. But don’t have such a good time that you miss out on the architecture and non hurl covered sites of the region.
While many visit Panjim’s Fontanihas (the old Latin Quarter) to see Indo-Portuguese mansions and old basilicas, smaller towns in Goa have these districts as well. Close your eyes, grab a map of Goa and pick one! Many of the buildings are in private hands, so be sure to travel during tourist season when most of these are open.
Here’s the thing with some parts of Southeastern India. There was a period of forced Christianization in the late 1500s-1600s with European arrival. Many of the ancient temples were destroyed. Bits and pieces, statues and cornerstones, were sometimes saved and hidden away. Later, the religious sites were rebuilt and the saved statues returned to their rightful places. The Mahalasa Narayani Temple in Mardol is an example of this – a modern building rich with history. You’ll find temples with similar stories throughout Goa. Often, they are built on top of where the old temple once stood.
Note: The Ginger Goa Hotel provides a lot of luxury for an inexpensive price. It’s also located in a central area. Click the pic below for current rates.
tl;dr: Ditch the guidebook and get a local map
Peeps, India is FULL of wonderful experiences and there are surprises around every corner. Go. Explore. Bring a guidebook, but don’t be afraid to shove it in a backpack.