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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!

Leavin’ on a diesel train….

1 Dec

Hey all, we left Goa on the 29th of November from Vasco da Gama and took the 7312 Vasco to Chennai Express leaving at 2:30 p.m. and arriving in Chennai at 12:50 p.m. on the 30th. Once we left the little bubble of our beach shack and got on the bus, we were back in the “real” India and somehow, things seemed much easier this time, the bus transfers, smog, pollution and masses of humanity were just normal now like the trip to Goa just helped settle all of our experiences thus far. The train ride was a whopping 21 hours, our longest train ride yet! Now it may sound tedious, but being a sleeper train, it was actually quite nice, it’s only the last few hours that got a little boring.

Astrid and I were in the same berth as two men around our age from Chennai, Dhanan a tax assessor and fellow traveller who gets out to see India every November and Ramesh, an engineer working with Kone Elevators and managing escalator projects all over India. We all got to talking right away and it was fun to hang out with these guys. We found out Ramesh is getting married this coming March and plans to have at least 1000 people at his wedding! Congratulations on your marriage Ramesh! Too bad we’ll be back in the States, because we would have gone in a second! We ended up teaching them how to play the card game Uno and we played and talked for about five hours before going to bed.

Not wanting to stay in Chennai, Astrid and I decided to head straight away to Mamallapuram, about 50 km south of Chennai and Dhanan and Ramesh were so helpful with steering us in the right direction. Dhanan even made sure we got into a pre-paid rickshaw and saw us off to the bus stand! Talk about hospitality! Anyway, he is originally from the southern-most tip of India, a place called Kanyakumari, where the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea all come together. Since we were planning to go anyway and since he will be there at that time, he asked us to give him a call and he will show us around his hometown. Should be fun seeing a town from a locals perspective.

Anyway we are safely in Mamallapuram on the way to Puducherry (Pondicherry) in a couple of days. We’ll post more later.