One of Judy’s and my goals for this summer was to travel. We wanted to see as much as we could of this country in the 10 weeks that we had here. We started off with a detailed spreadsheet of research and some words of advice from previous CASI interns about where to do and what to go. Filled with wanderlust, we were ready. However, once we landed in Araku, which is three hours from the nearest airport, and where Naandi’s offices had six-day work weeks, this plan was put on the back burner. We embraced the slow pace of life, the long winding roads, and the endless greenery of the Valley, but by the time we returned to Hyderabad at the end of June, we were itching to experience new and different dimensions of India. This resulted in a hectic weekly schedule of full, longer work days on our new project Monday through Friday, and then consistent sleep deprivation Friday evening through early Monday morning. In total, we saw 12 cities in India (plus a day-long layover in Dubai) by the time we returned home. Here’s my definitive ranking of them all:
- Pondicherry: We were so lucky to spend our last weekend in India in Pondicherry, which we both agreed was our favorite destination. We stayed right on the beach, and it was one that put other beaches to shame, because it was so clean and yet not overly crowded. Saturday, we went to Auroville, an intercultural community in the north of Pondicherry, and Sunday, we visited the French quarter. Everything was just so pleasant, quaint, and so different from other places we’d been. We felt like we got the best of a beach vacation and a historical experience and some shopping that we needed and everything in between.
- Alleppey: We took a day trip here on our Kerala weekend to explore the famous backwaters. We decided to do this via a day-long canoe tour, which included breakfast and lunch and a ferry ride from the city to the backwater canals. The village life around the backwaters is a unique dynamic, with people using the water for cooking, cleaning dishes, doing laundry, bathing, and fishing, and each area was vibrant with color. Lounging on a small boat in the middle of a huge body of water was a memorable moment of blissful relaxation.
- Kochi: On our weekend in Kerala, we stayed in the Fort Kochi area, and spent one day in Kochi and the next in Alleppey. Fort Kochi was a quaint and quiet city. The shops were all closed and the streets were all dark and empty by 8 PM at the latest, but it still felt incredibly safe. Everything was within walking distance, and everything was right near the water, so it provided some respite from our weekdays in the city.
- Araku: After a month here, it started to get a little repetitive, I will say, but I never fully got tired of life in Araku, and I can’t wait to return. It was incredibly peaceful, and I’ve never seen a place quite so untouched by civilization. The mountain drives were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced, and the people were kind and interested in talking to us.
- Ajmer/Pushkar: As you’ve previously read, we got pretty lucky with a friendly and helpful auto driver taking us around the Pushkar area from Ajmer, and we got to see a lot in a short span of time. While Jaipur was a tourist-filled area, in Ajmer and Pushkar, we got to see the desert side of Rajasthan that it is known for. The Ajmer Dargah was also a highlight–it was almost like a small market inside the dargah and so packed with people that it was a beautiful sight to see.
- Mumbai: We’d heard a lot about how great of a city Mumbai was, so we squeezed in a one-day trip right at the end of our internship, the day after our last day of work. We only spent time in South Mumbai so that we could move around on our feet instead of wasting time driving around, but there was luckily a lot to see in a small area, from Haji Ali Dargah to the Gateway to India to Dhobi Ghat to Marine Drive. Haji Ali Dargah was a highlight for me, especially the walk to the mosque on a rock bridge through the water.
- Jaipur: There was a lot to see in Jaipur and it was beautiful–truly a Pink City. The Amer Fort was a highlight. However, half of the day was spent in a bazaar area that was crowded, hot, and full of people trying to rip us off, but I did come out of it with a few little trinkets and a new pair of shoes
- Hyderabad: I got to see a new side of Hyderabad on this trip, one that I don’t usually see when I stay with family at my grandparents’ house on our regular trips to India. I’ve seen the historical and cultural monuments, so I was eager to explore the newer, younger side of town. There was a lot to see and a lot of places to eat, but not quite as much as in a bigger city like Mumbai or Delhi.
- Mysore: Downside: The one thing everyone told us was a must-see, the Mysore Palace light show, was canceled due to a forecast of rain that never came. Upside: I had the best dosa of my life here and I will never forget it.
- Bangalore: Bangalore was a cool city to walk around, but there wasn’t that much to see in the way of tourist destinations in the city itself. We did get a little bit of shopping done, though, and Judy and I got our ears pierced, which is a nice little memento of our trip.
- Goa: We were excited to be at the beach, but Goa’s beaches were way too filled with trash and too much of a tourist destination for us to relax by the water as we had envisioned. It was also a hard place to tour on a budget because of the lack of Ola/Uber/reasonably priced transportation, so we spent most of the weekend relaxing. and not doing much.
- Delhi: I have never experienced this much pollution in my life, and it was rough. I’ll also concede that this was the first place that I landed in India so the intense jetlag probably colored my time here negatively.
A slideshow of moments from the above destinations in ranked order