With foreign influences as disparate as Chinese and Portuguese, Arab and Dutch, Kerala is the
spice coast of India. Edged by a thread of unbroken beachline, the state’s heart is composed of
intensely green paddy fields and a unique network of rivers and lagoons. Upland Kerala, relatively little
visited, is composed of hills thickly wooded with teak and rubber. It is here that Kerala’s most precious
spices are grown in carefully nurtured plantations: cardamom, pepper and nutmeg.
Andhra Pradesh’s capital city, Hyderabad has the atmosphere of an Arabian Nights fairy tale.
Whimsical palaces, erstwhile stately homes and crowded bazaars filled with shops selling
Hyderabadi pearls, incense and copper utensils characterise the city, while in the distance
looms Golconda Fort. The city’s historical connection traces itself to the rulers or Nizams
whose wealth was legendary. Rooms full of jewels and currency notes, a garage full of
gleaming Rolls Royce’s are all now part of history, but a unique culture lives on, colouring the
city with its distinctive charm. The Epicurean tastes of this most exalted royal house of princely
India gave rise to a fabled cuisine based on painstaking preparations and slow cooking. Much of
Hyderabad’s old town can be covered on foot. The city’s important landmarks include Charminar,
a 16th century gateway; the Salar Jung Museum which exhibits priceless treasures alongside trivia
that made up the personal collection of the owner; Mecca Mosque and Golconda Fort. Nagarjunakonda
is the site of ongoing excavations which have revealed Buddhist temples, stupas and monasteries.
Ask any globe-trotting island-hopper if the globe still holds any undiscovered gems, and
Lakshadweep will be the among the first names to crop up. One of India's best-kept secrets, the
36 atolls and coral reefs making up the remote Union Territory of Lakshadweep (or Laccadives) are
an extension of the better-known Maldives island group