Even if you've never been there they seem to draw you in a little just from the names. Trivandrum isn't officially called that now, it is Thiruvananthapuram, Pondicherry is Puducherry, Alleppey is Alappuzha. Is the same with those we know like Madras and Bombay. A place that seems to draw me, purely from the name is Mandalay, but the Burma one, not the one from "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
In an evening, when I can, I try to go out for a walk in the chaos and have a bite to eat as I’m bimbling round. Mostly I’ll stop off at a local restaurant but as I wasn’t so hungry tonight I thought I’d just have something off the street. First though I did a bit of window shopping.
Then I stopped and ate a really good omelette from this man. You can see, vaguely, that he breaks the eggs into a tin cup, he then adds some onion, chilli and coriander, gives it a quick mix, adds a bit of curry spices then puts it on a hot plate. He has a self-contained stall he wheels home every night. With a slice or two of Indian bread, in this case called a roti, you have a cheap and filling meal. Costs half a Euro.
As I’m eating the noise level rises and rises. I turn to look and there’s a bit of a procession heading down the street. I tried to snatch some photos, a few were blurry but you get the idea.
And then I spotted it at the rear. An efalump! A real one!
In the news recently there was an incident in Kerala where an elephant in a procession became angry and killed one or two people. Something like that. So I kept my distance.
What a lovely happening just out of the blue like that! I feel sorry for the elephant but it's mind would have been destroyed years ago so is virtually a vegetable. Sad but true. Your photos, blurred or not, give a real sense of the noise and spectacle Mark! Looks like we are in for some more wonderful photos as you continue
On my route down and up I’ve tried to stagger where I’ve stayed so I don’t end up in the same place, apart from Kochi, and the travelling only takes up half the day so I can at least have a walk round or go for a swim. Today I rode to near Alleppey, a place on the beach. I also visited Alleppey in the afternoon and evening for a meal and to look at some property/land. Not for me I hasten to add. I headed for a place called Thumpoly Beach about 4km north of the town to a homestay I’d reserved. I was very impressed by it. The property was owned by a German woman and her Indian husband. I didn’t know this until I arrived though. Both of them were perfect hosts and I enjoyed my stay there. If the internet had been working better and my computer hadn’t shit itself, then I may have stayed longer. To give you an idea, this is the balcony in front of my room.
The bathroom was clean and tidy and quite large. The room itself was nothing out of the ordinary but clean and well presented.
The house had on one side the start of a section of the backwaters.
At the front was the pool. It may look a bit green but it was clean.
Dead centre of the next photo is the view from the balcony to the beach.
To get there you have to cut ten metres or so between the fences.
Past the ruined house and the bottle display.
As soon as you enter the beach to the left and behind a little is where the backwaters meet the beach.
The beach, though it has a little litter on it, was quite good. The sea was warm, enough movement to make it interesting and very quiet. Well, it was quiet until some local kids came and started hassling me to take their photo. Eventually there was a good half a dozen of them asking but them when I asked what then to do with the photo, send it to them or what, they had no idea. No email address or anything. Then they started asking for money. I left as it was getting late anyway.
I did have a bit more company for the obligatory sunset photo. But they were quiet and well behaved. Maybe even soulfully reflecting on their life. Who knows.
A little later I engaged the homestay owners in conversation. They originally rented a property to the north at Marari beach, a place I stopped at one the way down. They then were staying in hotel but bought some land just by the beach in Alleppey. Fortune shone a little on them as the authorities started building a good road down to the beach and along it and a number of cafes opened up. Their idea is to build a homestay/hotel and live there. They said that they’ve been offered twice what they paid for it already as the area is starting to boom. In the meantime they are renting where I stayed as a stopgap. But, things are not going too well. They’ve had to spend a lot of money on this rented place to make it for to be used as a homestay. The property they are building by Alleppey beach is being delayed and delayed by architects, builders, paperwork and such like. Plus, they are constantly being asked for more and more money. To a certain extent they are being taken for a ride. I do hope they succeed though but I think there is a lot more tears and heartbreak to come. It was there I rode out to in the evening for a look.
Bugger all happened to day other than me chasing round trying to get my computer repaired. I called at a couple of places in Alleppey but for one reason or another I didn’t trust them to do the job. I found out there was an authorised repair place for mine, an Acer, in Kochi, so I headed up here. Unfortunately it was a 45 minute drive in the traffic to Ernakulum from my accommodation and then the same back again. I did this twice as well as coming up from Alleppey so I spent far too long ‘in the saddle’. I was intending the next day to move on but my sweaty backside said different. I did though try and make a note of all the smells I encountered through the day. They were, hot engine oil, hydraulic fluid, overheated brakes, two stroke engines, sewage, dead animals, fruit, bread, curry, perfume, aftershave, tarmac, incense, sawdust, disinfectant, plastic fires, rubber, coconuts, fresh orange juice, and then I forget. But on a scooter I can smell it all. I have to subtract the sweaty body from it all though as that is me.
Day 21 Kochi
Not a thing. Slept late, mucked about, had a walk, had a snooze, organised the next few days. That’s it. A break for you as well from photos of beaches. I couple of anecdotes for you while you pass the time. I was stopped by the Police on the scooter. They wanted to look at my passport. No problem but I do know there is a slight mistake on it that no one has ever picked up on. Or if they have they’ve never said anything. I am down as an ‘F’ for female. The policeman saw it and told me the passport was a false one. I asked why he thought that and he pointed out the ‘F’. I said, “And?” He replied, “You are not female” “How do you know?” “Because you are not female” “Do you wish me to prove it? Shall I stand here in the street and take all my clothes off? Would that satisfy you? How much trouble would you get in to when it is known you made a tourist strip off and stand naked on a busy main road? Would you be happy then? Because I will.” “…….pause………pause…….. err…. Go.” So I did.
Later I called at a restaurant for lunch. It is probably required by law that on the menu they display how much tax you have to pay on top, or none at all as it is included. Taxes vary considerably from VAT to Luxury Tax to normal tax to a city tax and so on. I didn’t notice anything until I’d eaten and got the bill. It was nearly doubled because of all the taxes that suddenly appeared. I asked to look at the menu and searched for the entry about it. There was none. I asked the waiter and then the manager to show me where it stated what the taxes were. They couldn’t show me, so I told them I wasn’t going to pay any. They were flummoxed. I’ve no idea whether there were so many taxes officially or they were just trying it on, which does happen a lot. A bottle of water, for example, is 20 rupees, not a made up price the shop owner thinks he can get away with when they see me. I give them 20 rupees and walk away.
The manager went away for a while then came back. I sorted out the payment without any taxes included and he accepted it when I gave it to him. I understand perfectly that the difference between three euro and five euro isn’t much for me. But if there is a hint that they think I’m stupid and they can rip me off, even for coppers, I’ll react to it. I can only hope it makes them think twice about doing it again. It’s akin to accepting all the ‘tourist tax’ unofficially added on for anything as soon as someone sees a westerner. Prices triple and when tourists accept it and pay it again and again the situation only gets worse and worse and the next tourists are ripped off and maybe even more. If my little stand about it helps the next person that comes along to at least give the shop keeper or wherever a moment’s thought, then I’m a little happier.
That is certainly a beautiful property Mark - they do need my Cylvias for a day to tidy up around the pool area...he would have it looking fabulous with lawns trimmed! I think the pool needs a dose of HTH chemical (which can only be added when darkness falls) as sunlight destroys chlorine. I think you are quite right about more tears for the owners of the Homestay. Eventually the effort of haggling with builders etc will just wear them out. Very sad when someone wants to improve the tourist trade and is held back. I notice the beach sand is very white compared to some of your previous beach photos. What happens to all the sewage from all around? Is it held in underground tanks I think it's called Night Soil?) or pumped straight into the sea?
Good on you for trouncing those fake costs! I bet most tourists just pay up. I was thinking about that cop looking at your passport...What would he have done if you said "No, I'm a male as you can see and also by my name, so obviously they have made a printing error"!
What's a Cylvias? Talking about the lawn being trimmed, one comment made to me was that they get someone to cut the garden but they then disappear without tidying up the trimmings. They have to do it themselves or get someone else. They are fed up of every time only half a job being done. The beach sand must be a little lighter maybe because there are less dark streaks from minerals in it. Maybe, but I didn't really notice. Most of the houses have a septic tank, but not all. Those that don't then don't have flushing toilets and they just do it anywhere. One of the complaints tourists have, and many locals actually, when they go to some of the beaches is that if it is a working beach, i.e. has fishing boats on it, then the fishermen in a morning will just go on the beach. Those that live nearby will also. As for the 'printing error', in my experience it never holds good to admit to an error in paperwork. It opens doors you don't really want to go through as regards bribes and stuff. That's what I would have expected if I'd said that. I always just vehemently deny there is any error and tell them to prove to me that it is wrong. It isn't up to me to prove that it is right.
A travelling day today. I thought I'd take a few photos when I went for a walk late afternoon, early evening, but the internet is so poor in the hotel I can't load them into Photobucket. So you'll have to wait. I'm heading for what is supposed to be a pretty smart hotel tomorrow. It could be worth some photos because of its location. We'll have to see. I hope its good. I've got one more beach to visit and that's it. Back to fly home in a few days.
Well, that last hotel was certainly outstanding, although I did once have a balcony that large and a bathroom even bigger, but it was at the KL Station Hotel in KL, and it was falling into ruins. Of course now it is part of the Strand group and the rates have been multiplied by 50.
The beach looks like the best one yet. You didn't even find the rubbish dump.
Mark - I have featured my longtime gardener Cylvias Hlongwane quite a few times on Wellies and I'm sure here on Anyport as well. He is a marvellous gardener and maintains our two properties to perfection. Here he is doing palm maintainance some time ago.
I did find the rubbish dump. On the photo looking back from the beach to the backwaters you can just see the edge of it on the left side. I discretely tried to avoid including it. The route I took to the beach was told to me by the couple specifically to avoid walking through the rubbish. The hotel in KL I think I saw when I was there. Didn't go in though, just walked past. I was quite pleased by the amount of rubbish there wasn't when I had a walk round earlier.
I understand about Cylvias now. I've not seen him before somehow, must have missed it. I wonder if he'd like a spell in Spain?
But can you afford him? ha ha ! Darn sure you would find his services very reasonably priced but he needs to be served a good breakfast and a cooked lunch of vegetables - no meat(just like the diet you have been on this trip) and a good soak in a warm bath after all the hard slog in the garden. Pee Ess: He has a nice big slice of cake with every meal....
Mark I am looking forward to the next batch of photos. You have really surprised me this trip with the lovely places you have been to. I never realised India could look as acceptable as Mauritius in some photos. Problem is Mauritius is only 4 hrs away - India, Ooooh I don't really know how I would get there from here but I'm sure it would mean a plane change over somewhere.
Sorry about this but I need to overload you a bit whilst my computer seems to be working. It didn't this afternoon until I put it in the fridge for an hour while I went for a swim.
I was, on Day 22 going to post a load of photos of my walk round the town I was in. I'm going to try and do that now. Bear with me, there's quite a few and I can't comment on them all. They're just for atmosphere.
This is a snack I had. It’s called onion oothappam. “Uttapam or ooththappam or Uthappa is a dosa like dish made by cooking ingredients in a batter. Unlike a dosa, which is crisp and crepe like, uttapam is a thick pancake, with toppings cooked right into the batter. Uttapam batter is made of a 1:3 ratio of urad dal (black lentils) and rice; the rice should be a combination of a boiled variety and a variety such as basmati. The dal and rice are subsequently ground and fermented. The outer surface is crisp and the inner layers are like idli.” It’s a bit like an Indian version of a pizza but done in a pan, not an oven. It came with three little bowls of curry. A mild one on the right, middle is middle hot and left is hot hot.
Ah, the magnificent sensory overload and contrasts of an Indian town -- everything I love to see. The vegetation, the posters, the shops, the odd ideas about decoration, the colours and the activity. And the streets continue to be cleaner than expected, but I suspect that we are seeing mostly the main streets and not the little alleys off to the side. I hope you took full advantage of the Plaza Gents Beauty Parlor and got the full treatment that they promise -- hair massage, bleaching, makeup, hair dye, henna, hair coloring.
Two pairs of underpants. That is the solution. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. In thirty five degrees heat with about ninety percent humidity, sitting on a black plastic scooter seat for several hours makes for sore riding. Two pairs of underpants helps soak up some of the sweat and provide that little extra padding to make the situation somewhat more bearable.
I didn’t get chance to mention I was talking to a young Aussie lad. He’d bought the romantic notion of riding around India at his leisure on a Royal Enfield motorbike. The ones I previously mentioned. But he’s tried to do it on the cheap and has found it isn’t to be so. He bought a second hand one (why do they call that now in some places “Pre-loved”? What a stupid phrase), and it was not loved at all. It was hammered to the ground but got back up for just long enough to be sold to some gullible foreigner.
I don’t know what he paid for it but the sellers should have given him money to take it away. The first day of ownership resulted in the clutch needing to be rebuilt and even though he says he’s done about three thousand kilometres on it, I think every few hundred something major has gone wrong. He has even been unfortunate enough that monkeys have ripped the seat. Things are falling off, welds are breaking, filler caps are lost and broken, splines sheared and all sorts.
The last I heard was him asking the owner of the homestay if he knew a good mechanic as the engine was losing compression. He’s only had it about a month and has a six months visa, but I think he’s spent nearly as much keeping it going as buying it in the first place. I didn’t ask too many questions, I just let him talk and made sympathetic noises from time to time. I also had a quick conversation with a Scottish guy, from Glasgow. I think he would have been quite interesting had I had time, but he unfortunately reinforced a stereotype. He’s spent time in South America and a little in Africa, works with kids with learning difficulties but it was his first time in India and his first day.
Then his first question to me was, “Where can I get beer?” Maybe just an opening gambit and if so, then fair enough, but he realised he picked the wrong person when I told him I don’t drink. He looked disappointed but I did know where beer was to be found anyway, so I told him. Kerala has not only fairly draconian smoking laws but also drinking laws which have closed nearly all the bars and alcohol can only be easily found in five star hotels. Public consumption is banned. The process of total prohibition is just a few steps away and is what the State is aiming for. The Indian Supreme Court stated that, “The Bench said the State could use every weapon in its arsenal to regulate a trade where the profits came from “tempting the customer to take reeling roiling trips into the realm of the jocose, bellicose, lachrymose and comatose.” Well put.
I decided to splurge a bit and get me the Indian equivalent of a five star hotel. Initially, when I checked in, they told me I had been “upgraded” to a cottage rather than a room. I’m always suspicious when that happens. I went to look at it and found it in the back end of nowhere with no view. The room was bigger but that was about it. I told them I didn’t want it. I wanted what I’d booked. They ummed and arrred and gave me a room with a view. It is a good room, with a good view, but maintenance is somewhat lacking. The colour scheme, brown and cream is fairly standard here and always looks dull. It needs some colour. On exiting the room to the balcony I looked back at the door, which was stuck until I forced it open. It needs some varnish. It’s a good job I’ve not paid European five star prices.
The view was good though.
The room and the surroundings were quite pretty.
You can’t really see it from this photo but the water does run brown. I think the tanks need cleaning.
I went for a dip and to show off my sandal striped feet.
One more view of the grounds and a photo taken from a nearby bridge of the hotel, plus the boats underneath.
Ha! I knew we'd finally get to see some brown water running out of a tap.
One of my colleagues was a motorcycle (and travel) enthusiast and he actually bought a shiny new Enfield in India and shipped it back to France. Everywhere he went with it in Paris, crowds gathered around him, but only the real specialists knew where it came from.