The train from Mumbai to the State of Goa was packed to the tilt. It was now, what is known as, The Indian Tourist Season. We got talking to a young man, who was a permanent resident of Mumbai but was on his way for a week of sun, fun and relaxation in Goa. He was travelling with a group of friends of his. I asked him what it was like living in Mumbai. He said is was a good city to live in but didn't like the fact that so many Islamic people had also made Mumbai their home. There were conflicts, apparently, between the Hindus and the Islamic people.
So, the tension I had felt while in Mumbai was real, there was an uneasiness that was undeniable. He was an only child and seemed quite spoiled. Once in Goa he and his friends would board a motor-bike taxi and be taken via this mode of transport to the beach area where they would spend the week. A motor-bike taxi? Now this was something I had not heard of, but couldn't wait to see.
I was looking forward to being in Goa, and if all went to plan, would spend at least a week there, to have a break and recuperate from the stress of all this constant travelling from place to place. I realized that my original plan of traveling further afield, to Kolkata and beyond was not going to work, we simply didn't have the time. So why rush? A week in Goa doing nothing much but taking in the surroundings was just what we needed at that point in time.
The train finally arrived in Margao and we got off and took in our surroundings. There are two main cities in Goa, the smaller one is called Margao and it's officially known as the District Headquarters, it's situated on the South side of the State. The second one is Panaji, which is the Capital city and is on the North side of State.
Sure enough, the young man and his friends boarded motor-bikes that were lined up just outside of the station and zoomed off! There were also rickshaws and taxi's waiting at the ready. The competition between these two kind of transportation was fierce in this city, in fact two of the men got into an argument over who could give us the lowest fare and who could take us to the best accommodation in town!
The sun was setting as we reached our destination:
On that first day we booked a large family room in a hotel just by the station. It was literally about 10 mins walk from the Station. Not ideal, not what we really wanted but it would do for the one night. Enough time to figure out where we wanted to be after that.
The next day I could see that the whole hotel, apart from a few rooms were under renovation! Great. Not only that but our room was on a corner that over-looked a very busy and noisy street. The view from the second floor, where our room was:
Coconuts anyone? We were beginning to see more and more exotic fruits, coconuts being one.
Goa still has a big Catholic following and churches like these are quite common:
Would you believe that as early as 5am buses start rolling down the street and just under our window and room they stop to pick up passengers. The noise was enough to wake anyone up!
This was not the area we wanted to be in. If we were going to spend the week here, we wanted to be in a the main city and in a better hotel. This one had no air-conditioning which was quite unbearable as temperatures were now rising dramatically. We were no longer in the Northern parts of India, the more South we went the hotter it hot.
The hotel owner was a nice man, but he was almost always not available. As there were were hardly any guests at this hotel it was not surprising. This was the first time I came across Indian residents who were not really Indian, but of a Portuguese decent. The manager being one, green eyed, brown haired and light skinned, but with a very strong Indian accent when he spoke in English, it seemed kind of out of place somehow. I would soon get used it, as well as seeing many women wearing dresses and skirts and showing their legs! The other notable thing was that there were no cows on the roads. This being a very Catholic State, they had somehow managed to keep the cows off the roads. If only this could be implemented elsewhere I heard myself saying. It was nice walking down the street and not having to worry about stepping on cow dung.
The first thing we did when we got up the next morning was to go back to the Station and book our seats on a train out of Goa to Kerala. You might wonder why this had to be done now. I had learnt with experience that it was the only way to get a decent reserved sleeper seat on a train, leaving it nearer the time you want to leave was unwise, as usually seats were all booked up a week, if not weeks, in advance. We managed to reserved three sleeper seats to Kerala, but the closest time they could give up was in 9 days time. Not having any other choice we took that option.
Seen on the way back from the station:
Ice cream for sale. I found that ice-cream and any frozen food from vendors like this one was always very watery and soft. They just didn't have the proper re-refrigeration facilities to keep it cold enough so it didn't melt.
The market place:
This man was selling fish, and it was still alive and flopping around! A guard soon approached and told him to leave, he then wrapped it up and walked off:
I was surprised to see that beef was for sale.
As you can see the market place is busy and alive. For me it was fascinating going through the different stalls, and seeing what was on sale.
htmb, that is good question. It made me realize that I had not been putting dates down of when we arrived or left each city or town.
I had to look at my tablet, where I had made a diary of the trip as we had lived through it. And an entry was made on the 1st March stating we had just arrived in Goa. We had another month and half to go before we came back home.
Unbeknownst to me, March is actually the hottest month in Goa, most of the European tourists had already left (I was told that Europeans usually stay in the Goa from October to February and by the end of February they have left. Although I still noticed a few here and there.
Russians in particular seemed to really like this area of India and many travel here every year. I remember the temperatures were the hottest we would experience in India while we were there. Mostly in the 38 c or 39 c range. I had (literally) never know that kind of heat before. It was a real shock to the system.
I always felt better knowing that we had half-decent tickets already in place for our next destination. Now that we had that secured, we could plan what we wanted to do next and how to spend the next 9 days in Goa.
Goa is perhaps one of the better known destinations in India. Having been made famous (or should that be infamous) by the hippies of the 1970's. In all honesty, I don't think all that much as changed since then. Europeans still congregate here to party, to meet up, to relax, to have a good holiday. That much is still the same, and add to that now Indian tourists also like to travel here to do the same thing. The only difference I did see was that Goa was now selling itself to a higher end market. By that I mean it's a very popular destination for those in Western countries wanting medical treatment at a cut rate price. Everything is here for just about anything that you might want done, from serious surgery to cosmetic procedures. Here, after the surgery, you can expect to get pampered and spoiled, as you recover around pleasant surroundings and equally as pleasant medical staff.
Later on that day we took a taxi to the city of Margao. We had already booked the first night at a really nice hotel there, complete with air-conditioning and room and maid service. This was to be our 'holiday' if you like. I holiday within a journey. A time to rest and just do what we wanted to do and I wanted a place to stay that would be pleasant to come back to at the end of each day.
'Goa is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its western coast. Goa is India's richest state with a GDP per capita two and a half times that of the country as a whole. It was ranked the best placed state by the Eleventh Finance Commission for its infrastructure and ranked on top for the best quality of life in India by the National Commission on Population based on the 12 Indicators. Panaji is the state's capital, while Vasco da Gama is the largest city. The historic city of Margao still exhibits the cultural influence of the Portuguese, who first landed in the early 16th century as merchants and conquered it soon thereafter. Goa is a former Portuguese province; the Portuguese overseas territory of Portuguese India existed for about 450 years until it was annexed by India in 1961. Renowned for its beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture, Goa is visited by large numbers of international and domestic tourists each year. It also has rich flora and fauna, owing to its location on the Western Ghats range, which is classified as a biodiversity hotspot.'
'Goa is a former Portuguese colony with a rich history. Spread over 3,700 square kilometers with a population of approximately 1.4 million, Goa is small by Indian standards. It has a unique mix of Indian and Portuguese cultures and architecture that attracts an estimated 2.5 million visitors each year (including about 400,000 foreign tourists). Since the 1960s, Goa has been attracting a steady flow of visitors -- first the hippies and returning expat Goans, then the charter tourists (starting with the Germans in 1987), pilgrims visiting Catholic and Hindu shrines, those opting to settle in Goa as their home, people going for medical treatment, and a growing number of those who attend seminars and conferences in Goa.'
Indeed I found the Goan people to be gentle in their ways, and on the whole graceful and proud of their heritage. Goa is used to foreigners and tourists, and so relaxed about their presence. Pushy vendors and merchants and rickshaw drivers were rare, it was a much more relaxed atmosphere than what we had seen so far in India. And women could be seen working in many aspects of employment, apart from waitressing. I saw a female waitress only once in India and this was right at the end of our trip in a very expensive upmarket stared hotel. (More about how we ended up there later on).
I'm not sure what these men are making or repairing in this shop, but it looks like knifes...
We had room service and a restaurant at the hotel, but we preferred to dine at this restaurant just a couple of streets away. There was an elevator that went to near the top, where it was situated. It had a great view and an inside and outside dinning area and of-course air-conditioning. The food here was amazing, the best we'd seen in India so far. The variety was incredible, I learnt so much about Indian food at this restaurant. The waiters were always friendly and nothing was too much trouble. I really enjoyed dining here.
Outside - still covered area. Here you could watch a large protector T.V. if you so wished:
Temperatures were rising to nearly 40c in Goa. I had never known such heat. I found that some of the shops and businesses closed down for a few hours mid-day, when the heat became too intense. They locked up, went home and came back, and opened up later on in the day, when the temperatures had dropped somewhat. I was told that most of the European tourists had now gone back home. February and on-wards was simply too hot for some to handle. This was now more the Indian tourist season. I still saw a few Europeans here and there, but not many. Many Russians come to Goa each year, it's a popular destination for them and of course for the British. A few of whom had businesses in Goa and lived there permanently.
Reading the newspapers I could see that there were many Portuguese in Goa, and/or their decedents. Some lived here as well as in Portugal half the year. Many Portuguese last names dotted the lines of newspapers. Obituaries, birthdays, local government, real estate, religious events and those looking for visas and citizenship to Portugal just to name a few. It was an interesting place for sure.
The auto-rickshaws here were not the 'government' type. Government auto-rickshaws were colored the same colors as the Indian flag - green and orange. These must have been more privately owned and operated. the Government auto-rickshaw had a different kind of licence plate too and each one had it's own number. I never saw a bicycle pulled type rickshaw in Goa or in Mumbai.
Goa is the a State where motor-bikes are very popular. They are all over India in fact, but especially here. Motor-bikes can be rented for the day and they are a great way to get around town. I know many tourists do exactly that. Driving in most areas is safer then other parts of India, but you still have to be on your toes at all times if not used to how the traffic works here.
These yellow/fawn colored dogs can be seen all over India and Goa was no exception. I always worried for them and wondered if they had enough water to drink. Most seemed quite well fed, but what about water and especially in this kind of heat?
The hotel from a distance:
Walking around after dark, another kind of street life emerges. Here someone has an enclosed fire-place of sorts lit up:
Down another street - a place to buy a rifle. There are quite a few rules and regulations in place to be able to buy fire-arms. Being a local and having lived in the area for some time is one of them. I found that Goa has a different kind of Government in some ways, or least a different kind of local government and bylaws, and they work well most of them time.
One evening we saw that an organized party was taking place and is the way sometimes, it went on for a few days:
I am already in love with Goa from your photos, but actually I have always been in love with Goa without ever having been there. It is part of European mythology. When I arrived in France to live, it was the high point of the hippie years and it seemed as though just about everybody my age but me would suddenly decide to leave for Goa for six months. It was out of the question for me since I had just arrived in France and needed to dig in without thinking of going anywhere else.
But the streets of Paris were full of "Goa people" wearing their Goa clothes upon their return and the flea markets were overloaded with Indian fabrics and knicknacks (if the truth must be said, that has never changed!). Young men of Paris could be seen in flowing pyjama style outfits and the young women had flowing patterned dresses, hair of Mercurochrome colour because of henna and rings on their toes.
Working for the airlines a few years later, I was discussing the period with some people in the Air India agency who told me "back then we had two 747's a day to Bombay from Paris." They were clearly nostalgic about it.
On top of that, the Italian novel by Antonio Tabucchi "Indian Nocturne" is one of my favourite books, describing a trip to Goa. The protagonist tries to trace a friend who has disappeared in India but is actually searching for himself. A wonderful atmospheric French movie was made in 1989 by Alain Corneau ("Nocturne Indien"), and the images have stayed with me all of these years.
I can't blame you for falling love with Goa It a unique area of India and the best thing is the history of Goa is still all there for us to see and view. And who cannot be curious about what the hippies and travelers over the years came here for and in such mass numbers.
The beaches have the most beautiful white sand, really something. I think I would have preferred it if it hadn't been quite so hot however. But that's just how it worked out, we just had to muddle through all the heat. It did get a few degrees lower in other States, but not much. Unless you are way up North, India is like a furnace until the monsoons come.
Wow, really two 747's per day to Bombay from Paris back then? Amazing. I'll have to look up the novel 'Indian Nocturne', that would be a great read.
Maybe you should make a point of going to see Goa for yourself one of these days, Kerouac? And if you need a guide,nuisance, someone as company, you know where to find me ;D
So what is Goa most famous for? Beaches of course!
Here are a few photos of one of them. This one was on the North side and called Colva beach -
It's a nice sandy beach, but quite crowded. Well, more than I was personally used to, after being at so many Canadian beaches.
Here a motorbike could be rented if you wished to cruise around the area that way. If you didn't have credit of any kind, no worries, they just keep your passport until you return the bike! Refreshments and food were available at these beach huts:
Life-guards and beach patrol were in evidence at this beach.
Dogs, so many of them, even on the beach:
Fancy a bit of para-gliding:
Ready for a swim? No, well, just strip off and jump in:
The water was wonderfully warm. I did wonder about the kind of sea-creatures that could be found in the water:
My lucky slippers, They have been half way around India and back. I still have them
Gotta love the palm trees on the road. Souvenirs could be bought here also, as well as sandals, shoes, T.shirts etc:
It was not the best beach in the world, but it was so nice to cool down. The heat was unrelenting. I was told that most Europeans and tourists actually prefer the beaches in Panaji, on the South side of Goa. We had yet to explore that area, but would do so on another day. While at the beach a group of people approached us (or rather my son) and wanted to have their photos taken with him. He obliged them, when they asked me, I refused. I value my privacy too much
I still remember that our hotel in Goa had wifi and so I would sometimes come down to the reception area (which was the only place that the wifi could be reached), sit on one of the sofas and write about my day in Anyport! The Tablet I was using was hit and miss, at times I would write a post, only to have it lost to cyberspace. That was really annoying. Something else that was annoying was the unwanted attention of some of men that I came across. Thankfully, most of the time I could just walk away and wouldn't have to see them or bother with them again. But as we were at this hotel for 9 days, it wasn't always possible. I thanked God that my sons accompanied me on this journey, it helped in more ways than I could have I imagined.
I would come down alone to the reception, just to, well, be alone for a while, and this particular guy (he was some kind of high ranking business man) decided I was the one for him. There just seemed no way to get rid of him. Eventually I told him that I was in a very happy relationship and completely faithful to my boyfriend back home, and I started to just ignore him and just put my nose in the Tablet. Then I heard him saying to the reception staff how 'some people' just don't have a life, all they ever do is go on the internet. This while he sneered at me from the desk. Okay whatever! I thought as long as you go away, think what you want. ;D
The trip was challenging in so many ways. I really don't think it's a journey for a single woman to do alone. Unless they have accommodation arranged with people they know already. Then they have some kind of protection and guidance.
I was always happy to come back to the hotel at the end of the day or even during the day, if we had not ventured too far. The intense heat was very difficult to be in and spending too much time outside was just not practical. Unless of course you wanted to be at the beach all day, which didn't particularly appeal to me, after a while that gets boring.
'Panaji, also known in English as Panjim, is the capital city of the state of Goa. It has its own charm, a river flowing along one side of the city, some areas which are low-rise and red-roofed, and even a Latin Quarter at the eastern end of town. Increasingly, it is shaping itself as a centre where cultures (many from across the globe, and from diverse areas of India too) meet and creativity flourishes.'
We found that we could get a bus to the local main bus depot and then get another bus direct to Panaji. It would be about a 45 minute bus ride and the distance is approximately 36 Kilometers. Buses were quite cheap about 30 rupees each way and there was an option of non AC and AC.
Anything historical always interests me, so Old Goa was just too fascinating for me. Old Goa is about 10 kilometers from Panaji.
The Portuguese wanted to make Goa as close to resembling Portugal as they could. As most people who invade other countries have also done in the past. They want to feel 'at home' in a strange land. The Portuguese went one step further and encouraged and sometimes forced the locals to convert to Catholicism. That is why many Indian people who are not truly Portuguese will have Portuguese last names, they had to take these names in order to become Catholic way back then. And the legacy of that could be seen all around.
Cathedrals, churches and other buildings surrounded us. Here are a few photos of some of what we saw:
Here is tomb that hold the preserved body of Saint Francis Xavier, (born with the name Jesus). It can be located in the World Heritage site - The Basilica of Bom Jesus.
And the well maintained gardens outside:
Anywhere you go, you will find vendors selling all sorts of merchandise and knickknacks:
SE CATHEDRAL, NORTH GOA.
Built in the 16th Century as a monument to the Roman Catholic rule in Goa under the Portuguese, the Cathedral is one of the most ancient and celebrated religious buildings in Goa. It is also the largest church in Asia.
Deyana...it was interesting to see your piece on the Saint. He was originally buried in Malacca, now in Malaysia. I have visited his first resting place with its old Gateway and church. Apparently he had asked to be buried in Goa where he had lived, so they re-buried him there.
Travel! Set out and head for pastures new[br] Life tastes the richer when you’ve road worn feet.[br]Ibn Battuta[br]
Deyana...it was interesting to see your piece on the Saint. He was originally buried in Malacca, now in Malaysia. I have visited his first resting place with its old Gateway and church. Apparently he had asked to be buried in Goa where he had lived, so they re-buried him there.
Thanks for the background on this, questa. It's a small world after all, it's funny to think that we both saw the same tomb but such vast distances of each other.
What language is used in Goa? Is there much Portuguese left or is everything in English and the local Indian language?
bjd, I communicated mostly in English, I tried a Hindi/Punjabi mix but got nowhere.
I looked up about it and found this:
Goa boasts about a fusion of languages. Portuguese was widely spoken until Goa was liberated from the Portugal regime in 1961. In fact, the older generations can still speak Portuguese. However, the main languages spoken now in Goa are Konkani and Marathi. Marathi is widely taught in schools too.
Yet almost everyone in Goa can speak in English and Hindi. Thanks to its chequered history, Goa is a multi-lingual state. Having had people of various regions, ethnic races and religions from India and abroad settling in Goa, their language too has inflected accordingly. So, the total number of languages used in Goa are English, Portuguese, Konkani, Hindi and Marathi. Konkani, however, is the official language of Goa. Konkani is written in the Devanagri script. The other main languages spoken in the state are Marathi, Kannad and Urdu. Gujarati and Hindi are also spoken by a considerable number of people in the state.
The nine days in Goa went quickly. We saw much more, just walking around and got to know the area quite well. Goa had a variety of things to do and see and of course many beaches to visit. Sometimes after a day of being out, right at the end of the day we would go to the local bakery, where they had all kinds of cakes and pastries for sale. Curiosity often got the best of us, and at times we'd venture into places just to see what was going on or what could be found there. It was an easy place to be in and for me, interesting to observe. It was funny how after only 9 days, we started to recognize the locals and they us. I wondered what it would be like to stay here longer?
A few more photos taken while out and about:
At the market. Sugar in cane in blocks?
An old water pump:
Displayed at the restaurant:
Our time in Goa was up. That last day we took a rickshaw back to the Station where we had been originally and waited for our train to Kerala.
So we waited at the station to board our train to Kerala - or to Eurnakulam Station to be more accurate. Eurnakulam is a major city across the river from Kochi.
Dogs are everywhere, even on the sidewalk of Railway stations. As our train was delayed by 5 hours, we had time to spare. Petting and feeding the stray dogs was always a bitter-sweet pass-time. We felt sorry for them, and it was always nice seeing them perk up to some attention, but at the same time, we felt helpless in being able to do anything much to better their lives.
This one my son fed and then offered it some tea. There were two dogs, I guessed from the same litter, one was very forthcoming, the other one more cautious. Most people elbowed or shooed them away and we were told not to touch them. As usual we ignored all the unwanted advice.
For the first time, I saw men wearing these wrap around cloths instead of trousers. The closer we got to Kerala the more popular these kind of pants seemed to be. At times I saw them being let down, and when this happened they looked like long skirts. Some men flapped them around while walking or standing, I guess in was the best way to cool down in this heat wave that we were now in:
Eventually we boarded the train. It wasn't too crowded to begin with and of course, as we had reserved before hand, we had a whole sleeper bench each, so that was a relief. The journey was long, but it wasn't too bad on the whole. It's amazing what you get used to after you have done it a few times! I was feeling like I was well experienced in this type of travel now. We met a family on the way, an aunt and uncle, a grand-dad and a younger fellow whom we got talking to. They were from the State of Tamil Nadu. The only thing I had ever heard of Tamil Nadu were of the 'Tamil Tigers' and their conflicts with Singapore. The young man was very proud to have come from that State.
I found that most Indian travelers come well prepared for a long journey. And they bring with them home-made curries and rice or other types of Indian food, or they buy them from the stalls before boarding. There of course is always the option of purchasing all sorts of food and hot and cold drinks from the sellers who march up and down the corridors of most trains.
This family had bought a packet each of rice and curry sauce before they boarded. It was all held together in a foil container, and eaten with fingers. After they had finished they simply threw the left-overs under the very dirty seats that they were sitting on.
I mention this because later on, after they had got off the train, a woman with two little girls got on and sat in their empty seats. Or at least the two girls did, the mother sat elsewhere. This kind of thing happened quite a bit. Poor people would sneak on trains to get from one town to another and they usually got away with it as hardly anyone ever checked for tickets near the end of a journey. The train was quite empty by this time.
The girls raced up and down the near empty train looking for.. I wasn't sure what? A bag left behind maybe? Or food? They were picking up bits and pieces here and there. They then came to us and started begging. By that time I had no food on me but some candies, so I gave them these. They then started looking around under the seats.
During my trip across India I saw many sad sights. This one would stick in my mind for ever. The girls had voices that could be better described as high pitched shrieks. When they yelled at their mom across the way, their voices put my nerves on edge. Eventually of course they found the dirty discarded left overs of the rice and curry sauce mixture under the seats. They then eagerly started to eat from these containers:
I felt very sorry for them, but what could I realistically do? Here are a few pictures of the empty train. Those straps that you see hold up each bench or sleeper seat on over the other. When not in use they are placed up like this:
One stop before our station the woman took the girls off the train and walked off.
Not sugar cane in blocks, but various types of palm sugar boiled down until it crystallizes. We used to make it in Indonesia and it is sold in supermarkets in Oz.
You find some nice sugar palm trees and cut a slash in them (like collecting rubber) The sap that fills your container (traditionally a coconut shell but now usually a tin can) you put into a large wok shaped pan with a little water to smooth it out.
Then it is just a case of slowly simmering it down until it goes like toffee crystallizing. You pour it into tins, coconut shells etc and leave it to set before turning it out for market. The darker ones have cooked longer and have a toffee taste.
Palm sugar has a delicious flavour and is used in all Asian cooking. A by-product is the distilling into arak or tuak...very strong alcoholic drinks.
I used to scrape or cut a piece off to suck on when I felt like eating a toffee.
Travel! Set out and head for pastures new[br] Life tastes the richer when you’ve road worn feet.[br]Ibn Battuta[br]
I've never been to a Canadian beach, but those beaches in Goa look wonderfully uncrowded compared to a French beach in the summer. Nevertheless, I imagine that if more Indians had access to a culture of leisure, those beaches would fill up fast.
Since you have shown lots of loose dogs, one thing that I notice is that they don't at all look as though they are starving. In fact, the majority of them appear to be in better health than the feral children, who seem so wild looking it is almost incongruous to see them wearing clothes.
Most of your scenes of Goa show a wonderfully uncrowded and well kept place. I can understand why so many European youth settled there for several months. When the fad of going to India first began in Europe, it was a lot less specific, the idea being to explore "all" of India and its cultures. But as more and more people would finally wander back home, they spread the news "go straight to Goa - don't bother with the rest of India" which was sort of a shame but understandable. After all, their whole point was to have a good time doing nothing and smoking dope, not to "witness misery."
I have to admit that I might feel pretty challenged riding that train, but that is mostly because I always picture myself travelling alone with no backup. With a travelling companion, it would be much easier, for example not having to take all of one's baggage just to go pee into an abominable pit. Then again, I am now reaching a hoary old age where I accept to spend much more money on comfort than I used to. Did that train have first class carriages as well?
questa, so that is what it is! Thanks for the explanation. I had never seen anything like it before and couldn't figure out what it could be. I wish I had bought some now just to taste it. Sounds delicious.
Kerouac, the girls on the train were quite wild mannered. Not their fault of course, just the circumstances they lived in and how they were brought up. I did give their mother some money before they left the train, but of course it won't make any difference to their life in general. Very poor people like these need long term care and financial help. The kids need an education. So much needs to done. The hippies came to India all those years ago for a reason. To party. And that was basically it. They headed for Goa and were quite happy to stay put. It is a shame that they cut themselves off from so much.
Having someone to travel with on long train journeys and just to share the incredible experiences along the way really is the best way to go. There are first class compartments on trains, but I never used them. You'd need to book in advance in order to secure one and sometimes way in advance, plus there is quite a price difference. We did sometimes use 'AC sleepers', these are one up from your usual 'sleeper' compartments. With AC sleeper, you get Air conditioning, curtains, cleaner compartments and no beggars or intruders to disturb you. Again, you will need to book in advance for these. I guess more trains need to be put into operation, not sure how easy or difficult it would be to do this, but it would certainly help.
At first I found it really hard to travel this way, but did get used to it (sort of). It was just a matter of going with the flow. Some train journeys were better than others. But for sure, if you want to travel first class than that is an option. I imagine it would be much more comfortable.
So the City that our train stopped in was called Emakulam, not too far from Kochi or Cochin as it is sometimes known.
'Kerala, a state in Southern India is known as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It is a narrow strip of coastal territory that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation, and reaches to the Arabian sea. Kerala borders the states of Tamil Nadu to the east and Karnataka to the north. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohini Attam. It is the most literate state in India, and a land of diverse religions, where you can find Hindu temples, mosques, churches, and even synagogues. With world class tourist sporting options, ayurvedic spas and treatments, eco-tourism initiatives, a large number of visit options ranging from beautiful high altitude blue mountains to pristine rain forests to golden sun-sand beaches and an enormous range of accommodation, Kerala has much to offer the visitor.'
' With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 census, Kerala is the twelfth largest state by population and is divided into 14 districts. Malayalam is the most widely spoken and official language of the state. The state capital is Thiruvananthapuram, other major cities include Kochi, Kozhikode, Kollam and Thrissur.'
'Kerala is the state with the lowest positive population growth rate in India (3.44%) and has a density of 819 people per km2. The state has the highest Human Development Index (HDI) (0.790) in the country according to the Human Development Report 2011. It also has the highest literacy rate (93.91%), the highest life expectancy (74 years) and the highest sex ratio (as defined by number of women per 1000 men: 1,083 women per 1000 men) among all Indian states. Kerala has the lowest homicide rate among Indian states, for 2011 it was 1.1 per 100,000. A survey in 2005 by Transparency International ranked it as the least corrupt state in the country. Kerala has witnessed significant emigration of its people, especially to the Persian Gulf countries during the Kerala Gulf boom during the 1970s and early 1980s, and its economy depends significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community. Hinduism is practised by more than half of the population, followed by Islam and Christianity. Malayalam is the major spoken language. Although it is considered the "cleanest state in India", the morbidity rate, at 118, is the highest in the country. The culture of the state traces its roots from 3rd century CE. It is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures, developed over centuries under influences from other parts of India and abroad.'
The first thing that struck me about Kerala were the trees, there were so many of them and they were all so lush and green. There is no tree that is quite as lovely as a swaying palm tree in a tropical location. Kerala has plenty of these.
We had no hotel pre-booked. We could never be that organized! And anyway that would take too much planning and wouldn't be as adventurous and as fun as discovering what awaited us as we went along. So straight from the railway station, we started to look for a place to spend that night as least, only to find that everything around that area was full to the tilt. No room anywhere. This wasn't the first time we had found ourselves in this situation and it probably wasn't going to be the last. I knew that the further we went from the main station the more chance of us finding a hotel with a suitable vacancy.
Eventually we found a place, it was a large but slightly run down looking hotel. But it was a place to sleep for the night. This was not the nicest or the most decorated hotel we stayed at by a long chore. But the characters that ran the hotel made us giggle when we saw what they were up to and the place would grow on us during the few days we would spend there. It had it's own kind of charm in a way. And even though I could hardly understand a word anyone said there, we somehow muddled through.
A few photos of the main street, that led from the Station to our hotel. It was just bustling with everyday life, restaurants, hotels, guest houses, vendors of all sorts and businesses occupied this street.
Notice that there are no cows on the road. I had a sigh of relief.
Local bananas. I noticed that it didn't matter where I was in India, the bananas were always quite small and usually with skins that were not all yellow, but marked. I never did figure out where this was. My son reckoned it was because the nice big large ones got exported to other countries. What other explanation could there be? I never asked anyone over there why this was, for all I knew they may not have ever seen any other kind of banana. It was something that puzzled me quite a bit.
Coconuts were everywhere and so were coconut trees, they even seemed to just grow wild. I often looked up and wondered if many people got hit by falling coconuts from trees as they walked on by:
And of course the street stalls selling all kind of foods. I never ate from these places, mainly because the few times that I had tried in the past I had gotten quite sick. And I noticed that flies where always all over the food:
What's for sale? I found lots of knock-off brand names on the stalls:
A section of the Rotary club right here in Kerela:
The cheap and cheerful merchandise for your everyday tourist.
Peanuts and other snacks at a street stall:
Did not see this kind of truck outside of India:
Stoves of this sort are quite common place and often food is cooked or heated up right in front of you as you wait:
A Kerala Policeman. All across India they all wear these kind of Khaki army type uniforms:
Here the rickshaws are black and yellow and more spacious than the government India flag colored type ones:
We found a restaurant we liked and dined there when we were in the area. It had two floors and from upstairs we got quite a good view of the street below. I liked that fact that they served meat too here, which made the menu more varied and interesting:
As you can see these kind of pants for men are very popular here. The heat was unrelenting and I guess people do what they have to in order to try and cool down a bit.
And others wear them down:
Some simply place a mat on the floor and sell their wares or produce from there:
KFC and the scanner that we had to go through before entering:
The egg men cooking up some breakfast or lunch for customers:
A parade across the street. This was one of many. There always seemed to be something going on. This was India after all!
What would any traveler do without the convenience of an ATM machine? And of course the ever present and popular motor bikes:
I guess it's easy to tell from these photographs that Kerala is one of the more well off States in India. Here is a shot of the Ernakulam railway station:
If you look at what is written on the wall, you will see that Kerala is very big on languages being taught in their schools. Many children come out of school speaking two or three languages, including the local Malayalam, as well as English and Hindi. I found the Malayalam to be so very different from how other Indian languages look and are written.
think I will be, htmb! And they still talk about it too. My oldest boy studied 'Asian history' as part of his degree at university and his friends who were in the same class couldn't believe that he was lucky enough to do this journey. It was something they all wanted to do. He took a camcorder and made 4 different documentary type films about the trip as well. I was just bowled over when I saw the completed film.
You know it's always special sharing these kind of trips with our kids. They learn so much and we learn too and it creates some great memories.