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Kerala

    Postcards Home – Week 6

    To my dearest friends, family and fellow culture cravers,

    I AM OFFICIALLY IN NEW ZEALAND.

    After an 18 hour train journey from Trivandrum to Chennai and a day chilling in my hotel room blogging and watching films with the BIGGEST (and my last *sob*) take-away Indian meal, I hopped on the last leg of my journey to Auckland.

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    Postcards Home – Week 4

    To my dearest friends, family and fellow culture cravers,

    I have moved around a lot this week. After a few days of being shown around the hectic city of Bangalore by a friend who studies there, I hopped on another night bus to Munnar, Kerala. After 14 hours of comfortable travel (I actually managed to get a good 8 hours kip), I poked my head behind the curtain and was stunned.

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    My Top Travel Destinations of 2014

    For me, 2014 has been a year of change. I have graduated from University, moved back home, found a job at a magazine, started this blog and, I’ve even been lucky enough to visit some incredible destinations and have a hell of a lot of fun along the way!!

    It has been hard to choose my favourite countries/cities of the year however, I have managed to whittle them down.

    So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top four travel destinations of 2014. Plus, the destination I have voted as my number one country/city of the year:

    Kerala, India - My Culture Craving

    Kerala, India

    I started the year of 2014 indulging in a luxurious Indian banquet, drinking a lot of wine (it would have been rude not to take advantage of the free bar) and dancing the night away thinking I looked like the main star in a Bollywood movie- all in a 5* hotel in Agra… it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

    However, my great discovery of India this time around (this was my second chance to travel around this unbelievable country) was Kerala in the South of India.

    On my last trip I travelled Rajasthan extensively however, the sandy beaches, endearing house boats and tranquil backwaters of Kerala remained a mystery. Therefore, I assigned the last week of my most recent trip to relaxing, becoming a beach bum and soaking up the calming side of this hectic country in Cochin.

    Kerala is exotic, picturesque and a lot more peaceful than Rajasthan however, it also has a lot of things to see and do! Check out my post on things to get up to off the beaten track in Cochin, Kerala here.

    A week was no where near long enough in this easygoing state (I think a month would even be pushing it) therefore, I will definitely be going back during gap year #2!!

    Canterbury, UK - My Culture Craving

    Canterbury, England

    Despite having to wave goodbye to my life as a student in Kent this July, Canterbury will always be my home away from home.

    If you are a student in Kent or just happen to be in the area, make sure you take time to check out Canterbury’s cute, cobbled side streets, charming cafes and outstanding Cathedral.

    I still rush back here at every chance I get. Find a few posts I have written about good ol’ Canters here, here, here, here and here (you can take the student out of Uni, but you can’t take the student out of the girl… does that even make sense??..)

    Favourite Moments of Travel - Ibiza - My Culture Craving

    Ibiza, Spain

    After years of testing the water on the notorious party islands of Malia and Ayia Napa, my girlfriends and I decided that this year, we were ready… we were ready to experience the party capital of the world, IBIZAAAA!!

    Beautiful beaches, huge performances, 24/7 partying and quality time with the gals… it was everything I had always imagined it to be.

    Although we were on a standard 18-30s holiday, it surprised me at how classy and beautiful the different areas of the island were. I would love to go back and experience the luxurious side of this eccentric island… maybe when my budget isn’t so tight!

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Market - My Culture Craving

    Montreux, Switzerland

    As you may already know from my last couple of posts, I discovered the picturesque municipality of Montreux, Switzerland a couple of weekends ago.

    With its magnificent mountains, unique, wooden houses and mounds of cheese and fondue, Montreux was the perfect place to get a real taste of Switzerland.

    I had a great day unearthing a side to Switzerland I had never seen before and can’t wait to adventure further into the Swiss countryside at a later date!

    And number 1 is… drum roll please…

    Hvar, Croatia - History - My Culture Craving

    Hvar, Croatia

    I went to Hvar in Croatia for an end of University blow out with my Uni gals… and boy did it deliver!!

    Known for its crystal clear waters, pebbled beaches, marble-esque buildings, backpacker nightlife and luxurious yachts, we knew that Hvar was going to offer us both culture and crazy, drunken fun, all on one island.

    When we first arrived I was taken aback by the immaculate beauty of the island as well as the steep prices. However, we soon found that excessive pre-drinking (not that I’m condoning binge drinking in any way…) and befriending their more… wealthy visitors, played in our budgets favour!

    This island is stunning by day, soooo so much fun by night and has still not been ruined by us binge-drinking Brits. So get there while you can… it is my favourite destination of 2014.

    What have been your favourite destinations of 2014? Please comment, Tweet or Facebook me to let me know :)! 

    Off the Beaten Track in Cochin, Kerala

    Also known as the ‘Gateway to Kerala’ and renowned for its picturesque backwaters, tranquil beaches and impressive number of palm trees, Cochin is an area of outstanding natural beauty!

    Therefore, when visiting this enchanting area of India, there are certain attractions that just can’t be missed such as, floating down the peaceful backwaters, witnessing one of Cochin’s extravagant (and slightly scary) Kathakali performances, seeing the Chinese fishing nets and spending a night on a traditional Keralan house boat.

    However, despite how incredible these attractions are, a lot of the time I find that the most memorable experiences I have whilst travelling are when I discover things a little ‘off the beaten track’.

    Therefore, here are my top three ‘off the beaten track’ places to visit in Cochin, Kerala, which I discovered during my last visit to India. Enjoy!

    Off the Beaten Track in Cochin, Kerala - My Culture Craving

    Visit the Co-operative washing centre 

    This fascinating back-to-basics launderette is a hidden gem in Cochin!

    From washing and drying to ironing and folding, here, you get to watch the different stages involved in washing the locals clothing and bedding, and there’s not a washing machine or tumble dryer in sight…

    As you venture through the open air launderette you see men using a trough filled with water, washing powder and A LOT of man power to wash and rinse clothes and bedding.

    You are then led through to a field lined with rustic washing lines made from bamboo sticks and wood. Here, the newly washed items are hung over string made from woven coconut, which is called coir. The field looks like a web of bunting – it is awe-inspiring!

    Finally, you are shown through to a room filled with smiling men and women chatting, ironing and folding the washing. They use traditional irons, which are made from unbelievably heavy iron and contain glowing coals at the bottom of the instrument to create the heat.

    I will never quite understand how the tiny Indian women manage to lift these irons everyday, they must have killer biceps!

    This co-operative washing centre does not have an admission charge however, the guide does suggest you leave a donation.

    Nevertheless, with a guided tour and the invaluable opportunity to see and understand how washing is done in the area, it is a small price to pay for such a memorable experience!

    Off the Beaten Track in Cochin, Kerala - Ginger - My Culture Craving

    Go to the Ginger Factory

    This ginger factory is fascinating.

    When you first enter, you wander through a courtyard covered in drying ginger – it is astonishing to see how white the ginger looks at this stage of production.

    Once you have admired the drying ginger, a worker from the factory shows you around and explains the next stages of selecting, packaging and distributing the ginger.

    Similarly to the co-operative washing centre, this factory does not have an admission charge however, it does appreciate donations of any kind.

    This is a very quick tour however, it is an interesting lesson learnt on how ginger gets from plant to packaging!

    Off the Beaten Track in Cochin, Kerala - Cherai - My Culture Craving

    Stay on Cherai Beach

    Cherai Beach takes serenity to a whole new level.

    Surrounded by the calming backwaters, peaceful ocean, lavish palm trees and endearing Chinese fishing nets, this beach is the ideal place to visit for a couple of days relaxation.

    Situated approximately an hours tuk tuk and boat journey from Cochin, travelling to Cherai beach can be quite a trek.

    However, once you are swinging in a hammock, overlooking a sensational sunset and watching dolphins swim across the horizon, all with a ‘special tea’ (beer) in your hand, you will understand why the journey is more than worth it!

    When I stayed in Cherai I stayed at Brighton Beach House. Offering basic accommodation, mouth-watering food, friendly and helpful staff and a view to die for, I couldn’t recommend this place anymore.

    So, if you are planning a trip to Cochin, Kerala anytime soon, dirty up those rucksacks and get exploring the unknown – you never know what you might discover!