Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More from Kerala

Howdy, vicarious travellers!

First off, we never let you all know, our luggage did come, but British Airways failed to process several messages from us that we're no longer in Chennai. So, most of Jim's clothes and some various gifts etc. are back there while we're in Kerala. Oh well. We'll get our revenge.

We promised more from Kerala so we're going to try and catch up here. We last left off in Cochin. A little background on the city -- it was a big hub for the spice trade and features quite a diverse mix of cultures. Kerala in general is more Christian (30%), and Cochin at one time was home to a thriving Jewish population. Like dolts we visited on a Saturday, and our Jewish friends would note this is about the dumbest time to try and check out a synagogue (it was closed).

The Chinese fishing nets in the previous blog post are a remnant of similar cultural interactions, and are still in use and fun to watch. A bustling market around it includes places to buy and cook up the fish, right there.

It's also said that most of the best dining is to be found in hotels. We've had some decent meals in most of the ones we've visited and stayed at, but they have imported 'our' music to varying effects. At the Taj Residency in Ernakulam, we had the pleasure of watching "Cochin's Only All-Girl International Pop Band," a trio of ladies from the Philippines (three vocalist, one a synth wiz) sing: "Smooth Operator," "Hotel California," and other such hits. They weren't so bad that we couldn't get a laugh out of it, and it sure beat today's panflute version of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," during which I died a slow death.

"Material Girl" count on this trip: 3.

We also wish to report that this blog is being written in the midst of a rowdy game of Bingo at the Activity Centre.

After Cochin we went on a thrilling 24-hour boat ride through the backwaters of Kerala. Here are some photos:

This was the sort of boat we rode on (though not ours, obviously). There were a good number of them on the water.

Jim looking like William Reid of Jesus and Mary Chain. Just like honey.

Jenny drinking straight from the coconut. She's a wild one.

A nice sunset and sunrise from the boat.

We also got to listen to Michael Jackson, Madonna, and some horrible ballad-y dreck before we requested that we hear nothing we could ever be assaulted with back home. Luckily we were obliged with some Malayalam hits of which the worst only had a cheesy guitar solo.

So that brings us to our current port of call, Munnar. It's a semi-terrifying 4-hour car ride from Cochin to here. Winding, curvy, one-car-width roads of varying reliability, and it's shared with buses, trucks, and the occasional auto-rickshaw that has no business driving at these grades. The city proper is a scruffy little place surrounded by the lushest, most beautiful tea plantations. The Zoroastrian family Tata owns most of the tea out here in the mountains. In addition to tea this family controls a lot of the automobile, telecom, and wireless communications in the country. And people get on the Waltons.

Saw this waterfall on the trip here.

As we hinted earlier, we're staying at this somewhat strange resort (Club Mahindra) and due to the bandh (strike) we were sort of cooped up here today. We were greeted by a serenader with a 'Givson' guitar and a harmonica in a creatively different tuning: "Welcome to your resort / You are here for fun." Today Jenny was treated to an Ayurvedic massage, an authentic Kerala experience. She recommends it (particularly if you enjoy being completely covered head-to-toe in oil by a total -though very nice- stranger). She also recommends a shower following.

It's not all been bizarre or oily. We had a rather nice 'soft trek: harder version' up the mountains with some excellent views and the thrilling experience of being in the midst of fast-moving clouds. If there's one thing this place does offer it is breathtaking scenery.

Pointsetta growing wild!

We are hoping to make it to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkady tomorrow, with the bandh lifted. Then it's off to Madurai, which should bring its own different pleasures. Hope this finds you all well. You'll hear more from us soon. J&J.

1 comment:

craige said...

That's the same hotel where we stayed! I wish I had re-read this a few days ago and seen that even you guys stuck to the hotels for food.