My friend and I are heading off on a gap year starting this July.
We have booked the tickets and our route is as follows,
Mumbai, India then we are hoping to get an internal flight down to Madurai where we are taking part in a volunteer project for 3 months.
From here we have to travel back to Mumbai so any advice on getting to and from here would be greatly appreciated! Train or Plane? and can we book in advance?
We are then flying into Sydney and getting an internal flight up to Cairns. From here we hope to travel down the coast to Brisbane so again any advice would be great!
We are flying into Auckland and working and traveling in New Zealand for the majority of our trip. Then flying out to Nadi, Fiji and over to New York.
Its our first time traveling and although we cant wait to set off any advice about any of the destinations would be greatly apprecitaed! thanks
If you don't want to spend a fortune on a flight (I think Air Deccan does the route you want), according to the Lonely Planet you can get the train to Madurai as it supposedly stops there on its way through to Chennai. You could also get a combination of a train and bus. If you went in 3AC class on the train, it is pretty comfortable and you are a lot less likely to have locals come and snuggle up next to you on your bed in the middle of the night as you are sleeping (that happens a lot of the time in just standard Sleeper class). Try and get the two very top bunks as that means you can go to bed when and if you want, because the middle one gets folded down during the day to make a seat along with the bottom one. Booking train tickets is very adviseable to book some time before from the tourist quota office in the Mumbai which last year was out the back of the CST train station (formerly Victoria Terminus) on the first floor. The opening hours in 2006 were 8am-8pm Mon-Sat and 8am-2pm Sun, so they are probably still the same. I'm pretty sure that the CST station is where the train you'd need to catch would depart from as that station deals mostly with trains to the East and South of India.
I don't know what the library is like where you live, but here you can loan the Lonely Planet travel guides for a few weeks. So it may be worth loaning the Lonely Planet India guide to check out the applicable section you'll need as it contains plenty of information which may come in very handy. Be prepared for total mahem in Mumbai and thinking what the f**k was I thinking about to make me come here? When you travel to some less chaotic bits which are less depressing and more rewarding bits then that thing will wear off, but the culture shock in India is enormous. That culture shock starts from when you get the taxi from the airport-city centre which hurts you to see humanity in such a bad state and people doing things that are unimaginable in developed countries. Mumbai is a city of two sides one the rich Bollywood people and the other 90% of people who have to resort to begging and sleeping next to highways on the ground. Before you leave Mumbai to head south, be sure to get the boat to Elephanta Island (just off Mumbai) which is rampant with more monkies and wild dogs than humans on the island and is an archioligical site. You may even spot one clever monkey drinking out of a can of pepsi like I did.
I have only ever done the Cairns-Brisbane route by car with my parents driving, but I'm pretty sure that in a bus station office you can buy a bus pass that lets you do that whole route stopping at numerous spots along the way (at least that was shown on the travel channel). It seemed very reasonably priced, but that may have been recorded a while back.
thanks so much thats really helpfull! i was also wondering when we should apply for the visa for india? we leave in July but how long do they normaly take? and we have all the weekends free so are there any things you particulary recomend around the area to see/do? thanks again!
Mine took a little over a week to come, but I had to post my passport in and wait for the passport to come back, so if you went in to get it done then maybe it'd be done quicker. I did apply in Australia, so maybe the processing time is different if you apply in the UK. The normal tourist visa for India was 6 months, so if you were planning on spending a little over 3 months there, you could apply like a month before you went and that'd still leave you plenty of time to use the visa.
I am certainly no expert on India and didn't get as far down as Madurai, so I am not so sure what to see or do on the weekends there. Maybe it might pay to make a seperate post on the Asia branch asking about what to do on the weekends down at Madurai where someone from India might be able to help more. A Lonely Planet India guide would probably give ideas, because I know when I was in India it was a great help to have that. It wasn't only good to refer to, but being as solid as a brick, it can be used as a weapon if a wild dog comes to try and attack you like one tried to do to me when I was in Mumbai.
Have a great trip.
There are these usual places that Lonely Planet covers as around Madurai:Thekkadi,Kodaikanal and Kanniyakumari.
But there are many unique places that the book doesn't cover
probably because the landmarks are deep inside the State of TamilNadu.
Tamil culture is interwoven with religion and the best manifestation of it are in the thousands of temples( each with a unique folklore), the Sculptures, the Paintings, the Folk arts including Music and Dance.There is a Dept of Folk Arts in Madurai Kamaraj University and a visit to this academic institution will provide more insights.The Chettinad Heritage Palaces(Lonely Planet mentions this), the in numerous spas and waterfalls that dot the area, the Jallikattu(Bull fight)in the month of Jan, the Religious festivals including the famous Chithirai Festival that runs over a fortnight, the Gandhi Museum that displays some of Mahatma's personal belongings including the blood stained shawl he wore at his assassination are a few.
Am sure you will kept busy during every weekend. Pl do not forget to try the Palm leaf readers who will give exact details of your past, present and if you desire, details of your future. This could be an out of the world experience which you wont have anywhere else on earth.Madurai's Believe it or not!