Namaste from India! It’s hard to imagine that we’ve only been in India for 4 days because boy, has it been crazy! Maybe it’s the steep decline in baller-ness from the Maldives, maybe it’s the heat (32C!) or maybe it’s just the go-go-go buzz that everyone’s been telling me to expect in India.
Mike and I took another plane trip from hell, leaving the Maldives at 1:30AM on Monday morning, transit through Colombo where I fell asleep on 2 lounge chairs and a bench, and then finally landed in Trivandrum in the state of Kerala on Monday morning. The moment we stepped outside the airport, it was like a rush of colours, noise and heat! We managed to somehow get to the bus station and boarded a state-run bus to Alleppey. What Lonely Planet said was a 2.5hr bus ride really means 5 hours in Indian time! But it was all worth it! We drove through small towns and cities along the highway, met some very friendly locals on the bus and got to take it all in! One guy even fell asleep on Mike. The first thing you notice is the traffic laws, or should I say lack of. Honk means “I’m going to pass you”. Honk also means “I’m passing you” or “Ha ha, I’ve passed you!” or “I’m suspicious that you’re going to cut me off” or “Get of out the way, pedestrian!” Honestly, the hierarchy is pedestrian at the bottom, bicycle slightly higher, then scooter, auto rickshaw, car, bus and then finally huge transport trucks.
We finally made it to Alleppey – dirt, sweat, grime and all – and took an auto rickshaw to our home stay, Ashatmudi Home Stay. Subhash and his wife, Uma were super nice and we settled into a bamboo room in his large house. I swear, it was like sleeping in a tree house! We ate dinner at this local restaurant and I got my first taste of Indian food. All I have to say is OMG! Ever since that first bite, every meal we’ve had – whether it’s just a quick snack from a stand or a home cooked meal (more on that below) – has been amazing! The freshness of the ingredients really help and we always ask them to make it at a local-level of spiciness (not the milder tourist level) so I’m quite surprised I’m still alive. I’ve learned to love bay leaves and onion seeds (little black seeds) because it makes every vegetable so good! And as a carnivore, I have to admit that they even make the grossest vegetable so tasty!
The next morning, we boarded our house boat for an overnight stay and literally, it was a house on a boat! Equipped with chill lounge chairs, full bathroom and even a TV with Bollywood DVDs available to watch on their progressive scan SONY DVD player. There was a captain and a guy who I’ll call the butler/boat guy/tour guide. Between the 2 of them, they made our stay on the boat so relaxing. Literally, Mike and I parked our butts in the lounge chairs and didn’t move for a good 12 hours and only to get up to eat and go to the bathroom. We slowly drifted through the Alleppey backwaters while passing through small villages and local homes. I saw women cleaning clothes, pots and pans, and children simultaneously in the river. Men transporting chopped wood on handmade palm leafed canoes and livestock grazing along lush-green rice paddies. It was so relaxing that we didn’t even notice that it was night time and that the mosquitoes were eating us alive. The next morning, we woke up and had pooris with dahl for breakfast which was amazing! Then slowly drifted through canals back to the boat jetty in Alleppey. We then grabbed our stuff and made the quick journey to Fort Cochin.
Fort Cochin is like a home away from home. There’s not much to see in the city but the home stay we’re staying at is unbelievable! Beena (who surprise! runs Beena Home Stay) is so motherly, considerate and kind, it’s hard to believe from a cynical Torontonian. Once we got there, she brought us tea and lunch and has been feeding us at every possible moment ever since! For dinner, her husband cooks us all these different dishes of Keralan food like pineapple curry, spicy grilled fish and soy beans with flavours I can’t even describe. And we all eat at the dinner table so it really feels like home (well, even though I usually eat in front of my laptop or TV at home in Toronto). The town itself is an old port city with Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialist buildings interspersed between Hindu temples. There are even huge Chinese fishing nets that require at least 4 people to man and function using balance. This morning, we went with 2 other backpackers to Kodanadu to see elephant trainers washing elephants in the river. It was a blast to see but I always wonder if the elephants are suffering in any way.
Tonight, we’re going to catch a Kathakali show (ancient Keralan art of dance) and yes, even Mike wants to go for some reason and then tomorrow, we’re catching a 12 hour train ride to Goa – more relaxing on the beach!