What should i pack and what should i do - India/Yoga edition
December 3, 2012 4:06 AM   Subscribe

Going to a retreat in Kerala in Jan 2013. What do i need to take with me so i'm not the ill-equipped and inappropriate lady everyone rolls their eyes at? (Daytime is yoga and ayuverda therapy, weekends off for sightseeing, eating out down the beach or in the local town in the evening) Also, any recommendations of sightseeing and anything interesting to read beforehand?

I am taking a trip for 2 weeks (Kovalem, Kerala) which will include yoga classes and some general massage/therapies and free time for sightseeing. Breakfast is where i'm staying but i'll be getting lunches and dinners out locally.

Classes and therapy are early morning and early evening so i also have some day time to fill. I guess i will read, swim, laze on the beach etc but will probably also want to have a wander round/do a few things that take a half day-a day in/around Kovalem.

We have a long weekend break halfway through in which i want to get out and explore a little. I would like to stay around the general area as i dont want to spend a long time on buses/trains etc when i,m only there a short amount of time (def not interested in goa or doing a breakneck speed trip up to agra with flights). I'm thinking maybe do a backwater boat trip or something, maybe visit cochin.

Basically i have no idea what, or how much, to take with me - what clothes are suitable for doing yoga (and in that heat)? I dont massively want to spend out on loads of new stuff and i'm not bothered about looking fancy. Do people do yoga in shorts or is it all the flowy long cotton pants deal? what do you wear on top (again in that heat)? i loathe tshirts but is a vest too clingy? If i am doing one 2 hour session itne morning and one 2 hour session in the early evening, everyday, then how many yoga 'outfits' do i need? I'm guessing there will be laundry facilities but i dont want to be doing that all the time.

Also any tips on what to take for evenings and sightseeing when i will be off and about? I wouldnt want to be all skimpy or dressed up but i know its going to be hot so i dont want to be fully covered all the time. I hear kerala is kind of relaxed but not so informal maybe as goa or the backpacker filled thai islands.

Sightseeing - any recommendations for doing stuff close to kovalem in the day, how about stuff that is still close but i could do over the long weekend so could include staying over a night. I dont want to spend more than £200 (little over $300) during the long weekend but also dont want to 'rough it' so to speak - i dont want to be cooking my own stuff or doing a camping/homestay sidetrip. I like to look at stuff rather than 'do' stuff, i like the water, i like animals, i like eating new things, i dont mind walking but i do not like hiking in hot countries, i like markets.

Reading - i'm willing to just let the yoga be a learning experience there and i will pick up a copy of the lonely planet or similar for a crash course in the area, indian history, practical stuff about money, greetings etc but what would be nice to read to give me a feel for Kerala before i go? A novel is good but i'm happy with a non-fiction memoir too.

Anything else you think i should know/pack/prepare for?

I am a woman in early 30s, never been to India before but have travelled and lived in other asian countries, travelled in europe by myself etc. so i'm not worried about the being somewhere new or the by myself aspect, just want to make sure i prepare and get the best out of a short trip. There will be a few other women that i can hook up with at the yoga place if trips work better in groups so feel free to suggest those too.

tldr - what to wear for yoga in a hot country, what to pack for kerala in january generally, what shouldnt i miss doing/seeing in kerala, what books would be interesting to read beforehand?

posted by moreteaplease to Travel & Transportation around India (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For yoga clothes, I'd pack some lightweight, breathable long-sleeve pants and tops. Lightweight so that they aren't a burden in luggage, breathable so you won't feel stuffy in the heat while getting into downward dog, and long-sleeve in case mosquitoes like you.

What to pack generally: when I went to India I packed some immodium AD. Didn't think I would need it but it turned out to be quite helpful :) You have to be rather vigilant with food and water - while I was there (India, didn't get to go to Kerala) we heard of vendors who would sometimes sell bottled water that was actually pre-used and filled with tap water, so it wasn't clean.
posted by ditto75 at 5:23 AM on December 3, 2012

When thinking about clothes, keep in mind Indian standards of modesty: you'll want to cover your legs above (and including) the knees, as well as your shoulders and chest. So that leaves shorts and tanks/vests out. You can probably get away with both on the retreat grounds and the beach, but you'll be pushing it. Although I should say I havent been to Kerala, but have heard its a bit more progressive, so maybe someone else can chime in about what's appropriate.

Generally, I found loose, flowing clothes to be the best for India: longish, flowing skirts or pants, loose t-shirts.

Oh, and pepto bismol is really good for low-level travel stomachs issues.
posted by lunasol at 5:45 AM on December 3, 2012

A prescription for ciprofloxacin for your inevitable Delhi belly.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 8:05 AM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: I'm from India, but I haven't been to Kerala since I was a child so no help with sightseeing, sorry.

Re: clothing. Pack loose, lightweight clothes in natural fabrics. You can pick up kurtas (tunics) for quite cheap in India, wear them with loose pants or capris. Skirts should be below the knee at minimum. Kerala is 'progressive' in the sense that literacy is higher and it's one of the richest states, thanks to money sent back by Indian expats in the Gulf, but really it's pretty conservative. Loose capris/pants and a top with sleeves are best. Do not be that tourist in shorts and a tank/vest, you will be stared at enough if you don't look Indian without adding strange clothing to the mix.

Reading: I haven't read it myself, but I've heard very good things about The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which as a bonus is set in Kerala. For a general overview of the insanity that is India I really recommend In Spite of the Gods by Peter Luce. Fantastic book.

Other things: A small kit with any meds you take for the small stuff, tylenol, Tums, what have you. It's a pain being sick in a strange country and trying to figure out what the local equivalent of the medicine you need is, or having the shops be closed when you REALLY want something. Also, mosquito repellent. You can either bring some (get the heaviest duty one you can) or buy some here, Odomos is the best although it reeks. If I were you, I'd bring a couple of energy bars just in case, Indian food can get some getting used to and Kerala is known for putting all manner of spices in.
posted by Tamanna at 6:51 AM on December 6, 2012

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