Posted by: Tommy | March 11, 2011

Guest Blogger: Sarah Halloran

On the phone, about 30mins before leaving for the airport….
Dad: Well, be safe.
Me: You have told me to “be safe” about 12 times. You have never said once “have fun”.
Dad: (slight pause) Because I can’t imagine having fun in India.

In my dad’s defense, that is the response from over half of the people I talked to about
my trip. Everyone’s seen Slumdog Millionaire and images of people riding on top of
trains. (I just hope the people in India aren’t judging Boston on The Departed…)

The first time Anna told me about her and Tommy’s plan, in spring 2009, I said I
wanted to come and meet them somewhere. Flash-forward to a fall 2010 email
exchange: “Where will you be the last 2 weeks of February?” “India.” “Great, what airport
should I fly into?”

Jay (houseboat companion) said the south was “India light” which was pretty perfect for
a two week vacation. I apparently kept Anna and Tommy busy, with 6 locations in two
weeks. We had originally planned on 4 locations but it was so easy to change the plan
up! We did cover a lot of ground but it was the little things that made the experience
great: beautiful colors and clothing, Jurassic Park-ish jungles, juice that is just fruit in a
food processor, elephants randomly on parade in the street, monkeys going tree to tree
over head, beautiful beaches, custom made outfits, awesome food.

It was fun for me to have Tommy and Anna tell me how things in India ranked compared
to the rest of their travels. I am very happy the houseboat was a top ten day but bummed
that I joined them in the second sweatiest country of their trip. So in that honor, here are
some awards from my two weeks in south India:

Best View – The Varkala beach is set below a huge cliff, which all of the restaurants and
hotels are on top off. As a result, the view from any restaurant in Varkala is just straight
out into the ocean. It was gorgeous and very relaxing after 24 hours of travel to get to
India. The perfect place to start the trip.


Varkala Beach View


Best Day – The houseboat in the Kerala backwaters. We didn’t quite understand what
you actually do for the day. But that was the point; you don’t really do anything other
than enjoy the beautiful scenery and your company (and the great food). Our first few
days in Varkala were fun and pretty but could it be a beach town (almost) anywhere. The
houseboat was like “hello, Sarah, you are in India.” It was a great introduction.


On the houseboat, relaxing


Biggest Inconvenience – You can’t travel for 24 hours and then get up at 6am five
days in a row without getting sick. Being sick at Mudumalai was probably more annoying
than not seeing a tiger.

That’s Not What I Expected – The Chinese fishing nets in Kochi were huge and really
cool. We only saw them at work at dawn because our elephant training camp ride was
late, and I am glad it worked out that way. It was really fun to walk along the water with
the nets working and seeing their stands with the fresh catches for sale.


Chinese Fishing Net


Best Unplanned Attraction – We weren’t supposed to go to Mysore (too far inland) but
it sounded cool in the guidebook and worked well with Mudumalai when we decided on
that trip. They light the Mysore palace up like a Christmas tree on Sundays and, as it
worked out, we got to Mysore on Sunday. It was awesome and beautiful and completely unexpected. (Tommy has posted a lot of great pics.) We toured the palace the next day
(no pics allowed), and it was just as awesome inside. It is great to see something old
and historical that has such bright and vibrant colors.


A Temple at Mysore Palace (daytime)


Fact I Wish I Hadn’t Known – The elephant we got to touch while he was being bathed
has killed 22 people. But don’t worry; he’s a good elephant now.


We're nervous.


Worst Two Hours – I tried my damnedest to skip “experiencing” an Indian bus but it
was necessary to get from Mysore to Goa. It was fine until the last two hours. We were
essentially stop and go on a dirt highway due to construction. No movement means no
air through the windows and dust being drudged up by the trucks just settles in. You
know you are justified in being miserable when even the Indians on the bus are visibly

Best Drink (tie) –The mint iced tea at Parklane was delicious (and great for my “just
getting over being sick” self). I may need to buy a food processor so I can make fresh
pineapple juice with a shot of dark rum like we had at Albert’s in Goa. Yum.


Rum and pineapple on the beach


Goofiest Moment – Our bathroom in Goa was huge, as was the bathtub in it. After
enjoying a lot of Albert’s pineapple and rum drinks, trying to get a photo of the three of
us in the tub was really the only reasonable thing to do. There is a nice progression of
photos on Tommy’s Flickr page
. Just start at the link and click next – there are four total.

Best Mode of Transportation – Tuktuks! So cute and life threatening, all at the same


Smiling in the tuk tuk


Best Palak Paneer – Tommy and I discovered a life-long connection the first day of our
trip: a love for palak (Indian spinach dishes). We set the over/under at 5.5 on my palak
consumption. Glad to say over won. My favorite is the palak paneer (cheese) and the
best version was at Parklane in Mysore. Runner up: Calfouti in Varkala.

Best Purchase – My hand-made tunic in Kochi. Going through tons of fabrics with Anna
to pick the winner and having it turned into an outfit for me in a matter of hours was
pretty cool.

Most Astute Observation – Tommy to me: “You look really happy to be here,” upon
arriving at the Alila Diwa Goa. I give Anna and Tommy a lot of credit. After a week and
a half, I was ready for accommodations that had AC, hot water, fluffy pillows, and an
infinity pool. The resort at Majorda Beach in Goa was wonderful. The grounds were
gorgeous and the service fantastic. It was a nice fantasy land with which to end my

I am so glad I made this trip; I can now definitively tell people you can have fun in India!
It is the biggest adventure I have been on so far and the desire to see new places
can be infectious. While writing this post, I noticed new India photos are up on Flickr
from after my visit, and I am insanely jealous. But for now I am going to have to live
vicariously for through Anna and Tommy!

And, lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t give shout-out of thanks to Anna and Tommy
for letting me make a cameo in their travels! It was great to spend time with them both,
which I haven’t had many chances to do since they left NYC.


  1. Sarah –

    So fun to read your post. You did a lot in in two weeks and seems like you saw a lot of different views of India. I know Anna and Tommy are so glad you came!

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