This was our best holiday ever! Why, because there was something new and different to see each day with warm locals who laughed and waved as we passed, ever changing scenery, great food (fantastic fish not just curries), enthusiastic, knowledgeable local guides who made the holiday carefree and a bunch of people aged from their 20s to 70s who mixed, laughed and looked out for each other. Highlights were cycling through palm fringed fishing villages, rice paddies, tea plantations, taking photos of the fishermen hauling in their nets on the beach, the doughnut-style cake and chai tea having all conquered a good hill, swimming in a rock pool after a really interesting walk and talk by Baby Matthew through his rubber plantation, and his wife, banana jam on rice flour pancakes for breakfast.
How was your Explore Tour Leader?
Excellent, knowledgeable, well organised and humorous.
What tips would you give to someone else booking this tour?
Fitness wise,a spin class and 10-15 mile cycle ride each week for a couple of months before going was ample. Bus used by less fit for hills. Bikes excellent, gel covers on wide seats and small handlebar bag for essentials i.e. instamatic camera, loo tissue and hand sanitiser. Baggy knee length shorts best, but cycling shorts fine with a sarong for the temples. Strappy vest tops got disapproving looks. No need for bath towels, a cotton sarong made the best beach towel. Take a few coathangers, line and pegs and sink plug, plus plug in mosquito repellent. Too hot to want SLR camera on my back, but definitely worth taking and keeping in accompanying bus. Water provided fitted onto bike. Line your stomach with a cholera vaccine or course of pro-biotic drinks/yoghurts before you go.
Do you have anything else to add?
The Cochi boat trip and the city tour were an anti-climax after our scenic backwaters boat trip and necessitated the only long coach and train trip on the tour (admittedly we had an usual day of rain so couldn't cycle there). We'd have preferred longer in the hills at the fantastic Vanilla County Guesthouse. The hotels' standard was good so at the homestay the hard mattress and fan, rather than air con, meant a couple of poor nights sleep despite the warm welcome, but those that got to dress in saris seemed more enthusiastic and overall it was worth the 'real life' experience. Would suggest fewer 'group' meals for large numbers as despite pre-ordering the kitchens struggle to cope, perhaps group buffets would work better.