When I arrived to India, I wasn’t just scared, I was petrified for my life. I was wondering and asking myself “What have you gotten yourself into, how will you survive India for the next 3 weeks?” I had no idea what to expect and I honestly expected the worst.
I knew all the great things India had to offer, but I also knew all the other things that weren’t too great.
After winning the Kerala Blog Express competition that I wanted to win so bad, I started doing a lot of research on India and asking friends questions, who previously visited. Everything I heard and everything I read, just scared me more and more. Knowing myself and knowing what I can handle, I prepared for the worst.
I bought everything from toilet papers, a few bottles of hand sanitizer, snacks, first aid kit, bed sheets, vitamin pills and any kind of pill for that matter and I’ve never been one to take medicine, unless it’s something serious. I got shots, I got malaria pills, travelers diarrhea pills, you name it, I had it. It seems as though my suitcase to India was more of a survival kit then anything else.
I have never been more scared to visit any country before this!
Call me high maintenance or a diva, but I like luxury travels and I’m a huge hygienic freak. I’ve stayed in hotel rooms where I literally cried with disgust and checked out right away. So I was wondering how on earth, I would survive the next few weeks in India.
BUT to my surprise, my trip in Kerala, India, had to have been one of the most luxurious trips I have ever taken in my life! In fact I didn’t even use 90% of “my survival kit”!
For years I’ve heard the worst stories about India from past travelers, I’ve heard about how sick you can get from food, about all the diseases, the toilets there, the transportation, the wild animals roaming the streets and more. Many of these came from well traveled individuals who have traveled all over the world. Let me be honest and blunt, India is not that bad! In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited and I completely fell in love with Kerala, India and was in tears my last few days, having to say goodbye to all my amazing new friends from the Kerala Blog Express and to this beautiful new place I discovered. Which has never happened to me ANYWHERE!
ARRIVING TO KERALA, INDIA:
I arrived to Kerala, India at 10pm at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. After receiving my visa on arrival, I was then greeted with a beautiful “Welcome Hofit Cohen” sign and a bouquet of red and pink roses!
I always think there is something weird about arriving to a country during the night. You totally get a different first impression and the unknown of the darkness, plus you’re excitement can sometimes confuse you from what a place really looks like and most of the time, it’s for the worst. Most recently this happened to me when I arrived at Iceland and Budapest and now in Kerala, India.
The drive from the airport to my hotel was about a 30 minute drive. Looking out the window on the drive from the airport to the hotel, it really hit me that I am definitely in India! It was pitch dark outside, with no traffic lights or street lights. There were random animals roaming the streets, I saw some dogs and goats, all being too skinny, to the point where you can see their bones sticking out. People were sitting at random spots near the road in complete darkness. In my mind, I was wondering to myself what are they thinking?! But it was just their way of life.
The roads were very thin with 2 lanes, each one for one direction. Of course, no one seemed to care that there was an actual divider in the middle lane, because everyone drove in whatever lane they wanted. This meant cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, tuk-tuks plus animals were coming at you from different directions, cutting you off or coming towards you. It was a complete zoo. I even saw a car driving in the opposite direction with a dog running beside it, at the same speed. I also saw a crowd of about 50 people around something and only when I got closer did I realize they were crowded around a car that flipped over on the side of the road. Normally in America, when something like that would happen, a fire truck and police cars would be all around trying to flip the car over. But this was India and in India the people on the streets were trying to flip the car over themselves.
I kept repeatedly asking myself, “What were you thinking coming here?! This is sooo crazy!”
ARRIVING TO MY HOTEL:
I finally arrived at my hotel, the Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel & Spa, FINALLY something that looked “normal”. When I arrived I was greeted by 2 bloggers who were joining me on the trip, Lee Blackwood from Washington D.C (blog: Eat Travel Cook) and Adriana Vassilkova from Bulgaria (blog: Adventure Flair) and was so relieved to see them. While having a short talk and getting to know eachother a little better, I was already getting attacked by millions of mosquitoes.
I was originally wondering if I should even take the malaria pills I got because I heard they have really bad side effects. But after that moment, I realized I really should and I should cover my body from head to toe with mosquito repellent because I always get bug bites. These mosquitoes were crazy and aggressive, they were literally flying at my face, into my eye and trying to get into my mouth!
I checked into the hotel and was shown my room. My room wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be, especially after hearing all the horror stories about India. It was simple and cute. But I was still a little scared to even take a shower, so I took a shower with my flip flops. I was exhausted after traveling for 44 hours, so I went to sleep fairly early, which also made me wake up pretty early.
THE MORNING AFTER:
So I woke up at 5:30am and was pretty eager to see this place I have been planning on visiting for months now! The Kerala Blog Express wouldn’t start for another 2 days, so I figured I’d do some exploring of my own.
The beach has always been my place for zen and since the resort was on the beach, I thought I’d make a quick walk to see it. When I arrived to the beach, I was surprised to be the only female insight. I was surrounded by about 50-70 men who were all barefoot. Some were fishermen and the others were helping the fishermen pull nets out of the ocean just like you would at a summer camp playing ‘tug a rope’.
Not only was I the only woman insight, but I was the only white one and with bright blonde hair and EVERYONE was staring at me! I was staring right back thinking how sad it was that no one had shoes. Everyone seemed too skinny to me, no one was wearing pants, instead they were wearing ‘mundu’ which looks like a long skirt that touches the ground, but many of them tie it up and create something that looks like shorts.
I finally saw another familiar face that I remembered from the Kerala Blog Express site, a man named Marky from the Philippines, once again, I was so relieved! Because standing there being the only white female that everyone is looking at was weird enough for me. We began talking and shortly after a local who spoke English began talking to us. While he was asking us questions, I noticed a bunch of random fires near the beach, what looked like trash on fire.
While I was trying to cover myself up with the scarf that I brought along with me, I saw a man taking a $h!t in front of me and everyone else. I WAS SHOCKED! “Is this really happening?!” I asked myself. After that moment, I literally had a serious case of culture shock! I asked myself again, “What were you thinking coming here?!”
To be honest, that was as bad as it ever got. Maybe it was just bad timing arriving at night and being on the beach that early in the morning. But from that moment, my trip took a dramatic turn for the best.
I went back to the hotel to chill out and was just in time to have breakfast with a few more of the bloggers, who later on became my closest friends on the trip.
Yes, I was scared to eat the food at first, but the moment I tried it, I fell in love with the food there! I came to Kerala, India thinking I was gonna lose some weight and ended up gaining so much weight! In fact, I seriously couldn’t stop eating! I gained as much weight as I did when I went to Italy, which if anyone knows anything about Italian food, you know just how good it is. Being a vegetarian for 21 years and loving spicy food, I was basically in food heaven! I learned of so many more things to add to my diet now and will definitely be ordering the Indian vegetarian meal on future international flights.
ALL YOU NEED IS TIME:
As the days of the Kerala Blog Express unfolded before my eyes, I started putting my guard down and falling in love with the beautiful state of Kerala, India! I wasn’t wearing closed shoes anymore like the army boots I was wearing in the first 2 days, I was wearing flip flops and flat shoes. I slowly stopped taking my malaria pills when I found out that Kerala had almost zero records of malaria and I felt more safe with the environment. I even went inside a lake barefoot and helped wash wild rescued elephants. Without being scared of what I might catch from the water or the elephants. I didn’t even finish 1 small bottle of hand sanitizers and I brought 3, instead I gave them to friends. I didn’t use the toilet paper I brought or most of the things I thought I would “need”. I definitely think people over exaggerate, India is not that bad!
WHAT I’VE LEARNED:
Yes, there are bad areas in India, but there are bad areas all over the world! As well as nice areas. Yes, there are poor people but there are poor people everywhere and of course on the flip side of things, there are also rich people there, just like everywhere else in the world. In fact people who live in Kerala, make a lot more money than they do in other parts of India.
I personally don’t think that females should travel solo in India, but that’s my personal opinion as a solo female traveler.
Kerala, India is probably the safest state in India, out of the current 30 states. It has the most friendliest people I have ever met anywhere around the world! Everywhere we went we were treated like royalty. People waved to us everywhere we were and smiled at us so genuinely. It didn’t matter how old they were, from children chasing down our bus waving and blowing kisses at us, to a group of 20 working men waving to us with smiles, to women walking down the street and shyly smiling and waving, everyone was so incredibly kind to us! Which is something I have never seen before. This happened all around Kerala, no matter where we were and we drove 2500 klm through Kerala! They wanted photos with us, they wanted to get to know us and always wanted to make sure we were happy and beyond satisfied.
Kerala, India is beyond beautiful! The sunsets are to die for! They turn the whole sky into a beautiful yellow orange and then a purple pink. I made many of my India dreams come true and was so touched by the whole incredible experience that I am so grateful for Kerala Blog Express for showing me their beautiful country!
You can definitely have a royal luxury trip to Kerala, India, if you wanted. The 4 and 5 star resorts we stayed at were all so wonderful, that at times I forgot in what part of the world I really was in. With infinity pools overlooking the jungles or the beach of Kerala, to having my own private swimming pool in a Villa, I was definitely living the dream.
I know many people are scared to go to India, but visiting Kerala has completely changed my prospective on India. You can visit India and enjoy the best of both worlds, the luxury lifestyle and the locals lifestyle. Kerala, India, is India on the light side. You can experience all the wonderful things India has to offer without going to more “dangerous” parts of the country like Delhi or Mumbai, although I heard, are just as important to see. But if you’re looking to experience India on the lighter side of things, I would definitely recommend visiting Kerala first because there is so much to see and do!
LEAVING KERALA, INDIA:
I seriously had one of the best trips of my life!
Leaving Kerala was very hard for me. I have never gotten so emotional about leaving a country before, unless I was saying goodbye to my family. The 30 amazing travel bloggers, the wonderful Kerala Blog Express crew, the hotel staffs and the locals really touched my heart! The last few days I cried at every moment I had to say goodbye to someone, as did most people on the trip.
These amazing group of people became my family for the last 3 weeks. I love them all and I’m going to miss them all very much.
In the beginning I thought to myself that this trip to India would be a first and a last, but after getting so emotionally attached to the culture, the locals and the nature, I can definitely say that I will be visiting India again in the future and when I do, I will be sure to make a trip back to Kerala, India.
Thank you to Kerala Tourism for welcoming Vanilla Sky Dreaming! As always, my opinion is my own.