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Kerala

21 Jan

It is known as “God’s Own Country” but it is really just India.  We arrived fresh off the train the other day in Trivandrum and decided to try to go directly to Varkala, about 50 km north of the city.  I tried many different places by telephone, but either could not find anything available or felt like they were being dodgy about prices.  After about 45 minutes of calling guest houses and trying to hear anything over the roar of trains, people, PA announcements, (why do local telephones in India all have to be outside where you can never hear what is being said?) and all other loud things, we decided to stay in Trivandrum for the evening – easier said than done…

You see EVERYTHING affordable near the train station was taken by early afternoon.  I mean EVERYTHING!  We ended up spending way too much at Wild Palms Home Stay which was actually very nice and included a typical Keralan breakfast the next morning which consisted of rice noodle patties with shaved coconut and a coconut curry that was reminiscent of a Thai coconut curry- very delicious.  We tried to go to a movie in Trivandrum and that fell through as well- it just wasn’t our day.  So we had some dinner and went back to the room to go to bed.

On first glance, Trivandrum is a very clean city- full of the normal hustle and bustle of other Indian cities, but somehow different.  People are more educated here and most that I talked to speak at least some English.  Kerala’s government has been Communist since the 50s and that may account for the push for literacy- which is amazing for a developing country at 91%! A strange thing about Kerala that I have notiiced is the absence of street dogs- I mean they are gone in Trivandrum itself.  I think I saw one street dog the entire day.

Next day, we took the state bus from Trivandrum to Varkala- which does not go straight there by the way- just ask at the bus station which bus to get on- people are very helpful in Kerala.

So here we are on the cliffs of Varkala overlooking the Arabian Sea.  I’ll post more about this beautiful place later.

Cheers!

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Back in Siliguri, flying to Kolkata tomorrow

21 Oct

Yesterday I went to the jeep stand in Kalimpong to see when share jeeps left for Siliguri, a two and a half hour ride.  The people running the stand told me to just come back on Sunday and that jeeps would be leaving every half hour.

We checked out of our hotel at 10:00 a.m. and went to the nearest Internet cafe to book our flight to Kolkata as there are no trains available because of the end of Durga Puja.  After booking our flight, we went to the jeep stand to find it closed.  Yes, closed.  In fact the whole transportation hub was a ghost town.  Our only option was to take the four hour mini bus to Siliguri. 

Now when I say mini-bus, I REALLY mean mini bus.  In fact the seats were so small that Astrid and I could not fit into them.  I got off the bus in a hurry and tried to purchase two more seats, I could only get one :(.  So here we are getting ready for a four hour bus trip Astrid in one set of seats and me crammed into a seat with the Indian version of Cheech Marin, (you know, from Cheech and Chong,) bushy mustache and all who is not giving up an inch of room.  My knees are hitting the seat in front of me and I can’t stretch my legs out beacuse there is a large metal bar that is preventing me from doing so.  Then, once the seats filled, people started standing in the aisles.  There were probably seats for 25 and there were another 25 standing in the aisle.  Old men, babies, women in saris, there might even have been a chicken, I’m not sure…

Anyway, arrived safely in Siliguri and we are going to go enjoy the festival to mark the end of Durga Puja where intricately painted idols are being dunked in the river. 

See you in Kolkata.