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India

India is a fascinating country of extremes, of contrasting traditions, religions, and languages, once said to be the world’s hardest country to govern. Yet despite its share of problems, India has been a democracy since the British left more than 60 years ago.

It is a place of fast-paced change, fuelled by more than a billion people wanting higher standards of living. Cities such as Bangalore are well-known as technology hubs for the world, yet there is also extreme poverty. The Lonely Planet website calls India “the litmus test for travelers”. This fascinating and unpredictable country is not for everyone.

Because of the British traditions, India is now the world’s largest English-speaking country. Its laws are based on the British legal system. Also, its top professionals, including dentists and doctors, have often trained and practiced in the UK or USA.

India is well-known for discoveries in the sciences from physics to medicine, as well as several artistic traditions. In 2007, it was discovered that one of the scientific laws that had been credited to the Englishman Sir Isaac Newton had actually been discovered 200 years before by an Indian scientist, in Kerala.

Kerala

In such a fascinating country, where would you go first? Currently, Tooth Tourism can send you to the state of Kerala, noted by National Geographic Travel magazine as one of "Paradises Found”. Kerala is located near the tip of India with the Arabian Sea at its coast, and is one of the country’s most famous tourism destinations.

The lushness of the state can be attributed in part to the 44 rivers in Kerala. Being near the southern tip, it feels the swell of the first monsoons in June.

Cochin

Cochin has been listed as “One of the 1,000 Places to See”. Why? For one reason it is a wonderful mix of Indian traditions and European influences.

The city is also spelled Kochi and Colchin, and the part of the city away from the port is known by its Indian name, Ernakulum. This should give you an idea of the cultural influences you will find! Because it is on the west coast, this is the area where European explorers landed. Kerala state has one of the largest percentages of Christians (about 21%) in India, and Cochi is home to a Jewish synagogue.

There are too many historical sites to be listed here, in addition to the old homes built in European styles, but some of them are: the Syrian Catholic Church established in 1200 AD, Fort Immanuel built by the Portuguese, and the Dutch Cemetery, and Pallipuram Fort built by the Portuguese in 1503. Another popular site in the city is an art museum with contemporary, not classical, Indian art. Cochin is truly a mix of many influences.

Cochin is the best hub to explore the surrounding areas. There are several bird sanctuaries and wildlife parks, or go to the Guruvayoor elephant camp.

A favourite choice is to rent a houseboat near Cochin and travel the “backwaters”, a series of waterways that flow through the region. You will be assigned a person to look after the boat, guide you, and possibly cook meals.

Hill Stations are a series of outposts atop hills in many parts of the country, and some of these accept overnight guests.

Goa

A little further up the coast is Goa, a strategic port and series of bays that have been settled by different empires since the 3rd century BC. In the 1500s, the Portuguese landed to try to control the spice trade, and their influence remains. With the decline of the Portuguese empire, Goa was more or less abandoned as a colonial outpost. Goa has been internationally famous since the 1960s and finally became part of India again in 1987.

Goa is part jet-set and part laid-back outpost. For the past 10 or more years, and despite rising land prices, it has been the site of intense commercial and residential construction, and other inflation.

Mumbai

There are not yet as many direct international flights to Cochin as there are to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), about 2 hours to the north. If you do fly to Mumbai you may have to change from the international airport to the national airport. You may want to stay a night or two to experience one of the world’s largest cities. Contact Tooth Tourism for sightseeing and hotel or guesthouse options. We have arranged for an accredited Indian travel agent to look after your plans. For the adventurer, a famous Indian train trip from Mumbai to Cochin last about 10 hours.

Spa Vacations

Several resorts practice Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional natural Indian way of health, healing and relaxation. Some resorts offer programs for cleansing and detoxifying, together with nutritional counseling, meditation and massage, and perhaps wildlife walks as well. These resorts are not inexpensive, but some of them have been rated among the best in Asia. We personally know people who have immersed themselves in programs for a week or a month, and have come back rejuvenated. Contact Tooth Tourism for more information.

Indian Weather and Indian Traditions

Kerala is a coastal state in the South, and travel there between May and September is likely to be uncomfortably hot for many. The best time to travel is November through February when temperatures should not be hotter than about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (about 25 degrees Celsius).

Monsoons can start in June and the rain can last until October or even November. The rain adds to the hot temperature and can produce a “steam bath” effect…not for everyone, although some travelers plan to travel to India during monsoon season.

India’s proud traditions can sometimes be quite conservative. Even though the country is very hot, tourists should not wear clothing that is overly casual or revealing. For women in the land of the sari, a long skirt works better than “short-shorts” Breathable light cotton is the fabric of choice.