HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, May 18, 2012

Return to the Subcontinent

The 5 places I'll be visiting. Click for a larger image.
On Sunday night I fly out of Saigon for my second trip to India, almost exactly one year after my first visit. This will be another two-week trip, and it should be less rushed than last time, when I squeezed eight stops into 14 days.

Before I get into the details of this trip, I'd like to clarify what I thought about India after my experience last year. A few people who read my posts on the trip said I had convinced them to never visit the country, and numerous people expressed surprise when I said I was going back, since they thought I had hated it. After re-reading what I wrote I realized that some of it did come across pretty negatively, but some parts of the trip did really suck, so that wasn't accidental. There were torturous bus journeys and hateful towns, but if you take a trip where everything is comfortable and easy that isn't travel, it's just tourism. And that's boring.

There were also many wonderful moments on the trip, and I made it clear at the end of my wrap-up post that I wanted to go back to India, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I am. India is a massive developing country and the new money being made in its major cities hasn't reached every part of the country, so traveling within it won't always be pleasant. But that doesn't mean it isn't endlessly fascinating.

With that out of the way let me briefly discuss what I'll be doing. Last year I stayed in deep southern India, and this time I will be in what I guess you could call south-central India, a little bit farther north than where I was last year. I'm meeting up with my friend Kevin from back home, who I traveled with for the first week of my last trip, his brother and one of his friends.

We're starting in Bangalore (officially Bengaluru), the capital city of the state of Karnataka. Bangalore is supposedly the most modern city in the country, and it is the center of India's IT industry. It is also home to a lively bar scene and nightlife, so I'm looking forward to experiencing that after a mostly alcohol-free two weeks last year.

After spending a few days there we're heading to Goa, India's smallest state (by size), on the Arabian Sea. Goa was once a Portuguese colony, and the decaying remains of this legacy are still there. Goa is also home to a long string of beaches that are famous for being the final destination of the notorious hippie trail through Europe and the Middle East in the 60's and 70's, when these beaches became synonymous with hedonistic, all-night trance parties. The Indian government has cracked down hard on such events, but Goa still attracts strung-out druggies and aging hippies yearning for the glory days. I'm more interested in the historical aspect of the place, but I'll certainly be doing some drinking as well.

We'll then spend a day or two in Mysore, which was the capital of an old Indian empire, before moving on to Ooty (whose official name is the absurd Udhagamandalm), one of the most popular hill stations in Tamil Nadu. Famed for its beautiful natural surroundings, tourists flock to Ooty during the summer for relief from India's heat. I can't wait to do some trekking there.

Our final stop is Chennai, which will require an overnight train ride since, as you can see from the above map, isn't very close to Ooty. I flew out of Chennai's airport last year so I've actually been very close to the city, but I didn't properly see any of it. This will be my first chance to see an Indian megacity, since Chennai is the country's fourth largest, and I'm both excited and a little apprehensive about that prospect.

Overall this should be a pretty diverse trip, including beaches, mountains, crumbling colonial villas and heaving traffic. This is my last post before I leave, so check back around June 5, when I should have my first post from the trip up. See you then!

p.s. If you'd like to read about last year's trip to India you can find all of the posts related to it under the 'Travel' tab.


  1. Really nice blog. This is a very good information. Thanks and sharing it...

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  2. Mike, Have an amazing time!!! Can't wait to read your posts.

  3. Hi Mike, I also live in Saigon and a roadie! I read your discussion on Saigon Cycles group. I don't mountain bike, but still joined the forum. You can check out my blog. I ride w/ the locals in D7. Our speed may be too slow or too fast, I have learned most who say they are slow are truly freakisly fast.... let me know if you want more info....


    (that said, we are going to India about the time you return) once we return for summer, I will be putting in some long and intense miles training for a few stage races (not in VN of course... being a woman the doors are CLOSED to me!)