He's a wimp for shipping it. I'd have ridden it back. Quite a few people do\did that. Pakistan is difficult now though. I think the route is through China. It's not the first brown water and it won't be the last, I'm sure.
Well done Mark! Great cross-section of interesting photos. I have a few comments: That huge poster of Mr. Kerala Contest - only the man on the right looks like he could hale from India somewhere, but the middle bloke looks awfully like Gary Strydom from my home town Pietermaritzburg. He has been body building for years and features in all the Muscle books. Next, Those neat stacks of rice? etc., on the street front - wonder if they just drag a tarp over it at night or lock it all away....OR, never close. In the photo with the men's golf shirts - why has someone abandoned their sandals slap bag in the middle of the entrance - or do you have to remove your shoes in order to shop inside a store? Hang on a moment...just seen sandals outside the Plaza beauty parlour too!
Mark, can you tell me why so many of the men are wearing a bath towel ( or other cloth) wrapped around their midsections and as far as their knees? (Like the guy waiting next to the Tuk-Tuks). That oothapam pizza thing looks mighty nice. I guess you break a piece off and dip it in the curry sauce. Super hotel - I must take Cylvias to task for not using the edge-trimmer around the brickwork... The room looks lovely and big and the two double beds very comfortable. Would you mind telling us what it cost per night and did you get breakfast too? Stunning views over the river and beyond. I would also have insisted on a room in the main block. Makes you wonder why they wanted to stick you away in the back of beyond. About the brown water...straight from the river? Obviously not good to try and brush teeth with or swallow but fine for showering. Looking forward to more Mark!
htmb, the fence was a restriction in front of a temple a little way behind.
bjd, sounds and smells are next time. I'll send you a stink bomb and a car horn in the meantime.
tod, a tarp will go over the rice and other stuff. Usually the shop lad sleeps with it. Closing time is around 10pm. No idea on the body builders but probably your man. Removing sandals is the norm going in to many shops. The towel is called a lungi, in Kerala also called a kaili. Otherwise known as a sarong. There are a couple drying in one photo. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lungi You eat the pizza thing using only the right hand to break/tear a piece off, dip and eat. The cheapest room when I booked was 60 euro. With a river view it was 72 euro. I wanted obviously the river view. Plus 21.2% tax though. It's called The Raviz Resort & Spa Kadavu, Kozhikode.
I want to ban people who make lists of the top ten of something. If you experience every last one of whatever it is and then make a list, then fair enough. But if you’ve only experienced, say, ten, then your list is going to be somewhat biased. They are very subjective and often only relative to what you know. I’ve seen a number of “Top ten beaches of Kerala” lists. I don’t know what it is with these people but when you list a beach that the only thing about it is that you can drive on it, then to me it’s not going to be very good. There is one some way to the north of me now and I have no intention of visiting it. Alleppey beach was on a couple of lists, but it’s not good either. Same with Kovalam, where the lighthouse was some days ago in the south. It may be ok for a day or two and could well have been quite scenic thirty years ago. Varkala beach is fine, especially with the cliffs at the rear, but in my opinion just a kilometre or so south where there are no tourists at all and just one small hotel set back, where I would swim, is far better.
The scenic ones are not scenic any longer when you factor in tourism, litter, lack of maintenance and locals shitting on it. The reason I say all this is because the beach I am at, Kappad Beach, features on many lists. I’ll take some photos but I’m not impressed at all. Besides the fact that swimming is banned here. I’ve been told a km or so away you can swim, but I went for a walk up there earlier and it was just a litter strewn sand pit. My idea of a good beach is what you’ve seen in a lot of the photos. Long, deserted, clean, some sea action with waves however small but there, palm trees swinging lazily in the breeze, crabs, birds, warm water…… you get the picture. Apart from Cherai beach, which is where I first visited, those I’ve found to my taste actually probably don’t have names at all. They are the ones tucked away between those that have. If I had to do a top ten I couldn’t give you the specific name of that beach, I’d just have to give you GPS points and let you find it yourself. I’ve decided that if someone put it on a list, especially here in Kerala, then I’ll drive past it for a look and might even stay the night, but if I want to go for a swim, go for a walk, relax, normal beach stuff, then it probably wouldn’t be on anyone’s list.
And another thing………… Or two things. Maybe three. The posh hotel I stayed at last night. When I check out I don’t want an argument about whether I’ve paid or not. You have the voucher that clearly states on it that I have paid, via credit card. I also don’t want to have to pay an exorbitant amount for wifi. Cheap and mid-range hotels all give it for free. Why then do I have to pay for it because you are a posh hotel? Shouldn’t you be less mercenary and supply it gratis like everyone else does?
Lastly, when I am in the process of checking out, I don’t want to be handed a questionnaire/satisfaction form with fifty questions about my stay. I’ll leave you a review later on the website I booked through, but not now. If you do give it to me and virtually say I must fill it out because it is hotel policy, don’t be surprised if I give you a load of bad marks just to be awkward. Plus I’ll tell you that if you want to be seen as a five star hotel in European eyes, you need to up the maintenance by quite a way. Cracked sinks, broken shower doors and leaking air cons are just a small part. Get some paint out, fill in the plaster holes, replace the broken tiles, clean the corners and so on. I told the manager that he doesn’t see these problems anymore, he’s so used to it. It needs fresh eyes to come in and point the things out. They’re not bothered though.
I had a short ride today to this new place at Kappad beach. I’d booked through venere.com who were offering the best rates. I received a voucher which was on my small electronic pad thingy stating the details of the stay and that it was paid for. The place is fair enough and the room/cottage I am in is quite large and airy with a reasonable view. Their own website states there are two restaurants, which there aren’t, only one as the other is now derelict. Numerous booking sites say there is wifi, free in the reception but paid for in the rooms. There isn’t any in the rooms and the wifi in reception requires as usual a password, but the receptionists won’t tell you. They will fill it out for themselves as though it should remain a secret. The pool is made up of mosaic tiles. I read a review saying a child had cut its feet on them. I can see why as there are patches of them missing. You can’t tell unless you get close up.
When I arrived they didn’t have a clue who I was and my booking. Funnily enough I’d read a couple of reviews somewhere saying the same thing. They wanted me to ring the HQ of venere in the UK to sort it out. I told them they had to ring them. I said they obviously have not received my booking from venere so they have to overcome the problem. The manager/receptionist said they don’t know who venere is, they’ve never had a booking through them. He wanted me to pay again to the hotel direct and then claim my money back from the booking agent. I’ve booked through agents when the price is better than direct with the hotel. I usually check both.
This is when I logged on the their wifi, went to the venere website and showed them half a dozen or more reviews made by people who had booked through them and stayed there. A room/cottage suddenly appeared without further ado and they are accepting the payment I made to venere.
I can understand perfectly well how people can get scammed by some websites that appear genuine and they pay money to but the accommodation has no idea about it. But Venere, Booking, Hotels, Agoda, Cleartrip and a few others I can’t remember are genuine and that’s why I check with them.
The ‘room’ I am in, and I use that term loosely, is on two levels and ‘open plan’. As you walk in the door there is a sitting area.
Upstairs is the bed and there is a bit of a view through the trees to the beach.
All in all, not bad. I’m told I can get BBC on the TV as well.
The bathroom is quite normal.
Including the Indian wiring of the fan using taped joints and just sticking the wires in the power socket.
The spiders outside are quite happy as well I should think.
The pool and grounds are pretty good.
The beach here is bounded by a number of breakwaters. Behind is a sort of what may have been a park and when it was built, a nice place to sit. But as these things are, over the years nothing has been done to it. There is a café of sorts but all it had were a few old ice creams and a couple of packets of crisps. From a distance a lot of the small beaches look quite pleasant, but there is always the problem of discarded packaging and stuff nearby.
I went up and down the breakwaters and usually there were courting couples sitting around whispering sweet nothings into their ears. The last one was deserted and I went to the end. As I started back I was met half way by three teenage lads. Normally I am asked where I’m from and my name. The usual sort of things. Young kids will ask for pens. Two of the lads stopped at the side as I began to walk past. The third, either the toughest or the stupidest, stood still in front of me. As I approached he said, “Give me five hundred rupees.” My tactic is usually confusion. Not mine. Theirs.
I said, “Five hundred, no. A thousand, yes” and walked around him and carried on. By the time they’d worked out I wasn’t playing the game I was near the end and away. I had to have a moment to calm down so I took some photos of the flowers in the grounds of the hotel.
First though I had to have something from this man. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before. He has the usual snack food and nuts in some containers. In other containers he has various vegetables and fruits. These are preserved in a vinegar. For five rupees, about five pence UK money, he will get his tongs and fish out of a container a large slice of something for you and you eat it out of your hand. I like the carrots best. He was quite happy to have his photo taken and offered me some advice. If ever I am constipated the pineapple in vinegar is the best solution. He made an action as to voiding his bowls like a hose pipe. I hope you weren’t eating as you read this. Normally they also do a shaved ice drink with small cut up pieces of veg and chilli.
Here we end on pretty things from the hotel grounds.
Tomorrow I am also here. Hmmm, what should I do? A day at the pool?
Bare wires stuck into an electric socket are so typical. I had a Pakistani colleague who had adopted a French lifestyle about 99% -- but he still thought nothing of sticking wires into an electrical socket.
I enjoyed the vendor of pickled extremes and also the botanical interlude. Bougainvillea, etc. are one of the compensations of such places when other things are going wrong.
I just went for a ride a little up the coast this morning checking out where I could go for a swim. There were a few spots that looked quite reasonable. As expected, there was no name to the beach, it was just an extension I suppose of Kappad beach.
As I rode past I thought there was a net full of lovely oranges. On closer inspection I realised they’d taste a bit plastic as they are fishing net floats.
Would you believe, more boats.
Besides the fact that there were a lot of birds and I’m not really sure what they’d be eating in that mess, have you noticed how more or less evenly spaced they are from each other? Must be some unwritten genetic rule.
I’m still seeing at the side of the main roads the families who make the little garden ornaments and statues. Some plaster of Paris, a mold and a lick of paint, and that’s it. One day I’d like to have a look at the paint tin to see what chemicals are in them, especially the bright green, and how toxic it might be. Maybe they are modern paints that save baby dolphins and such like. But in the back of beyond in India I wonder if they still use lead based stuff. You can see the molds stacked away for use in the last one.
Next door to the statue makers was a lone man making concrete slabs by hand. A long laborious job that is. He mixes the concrete and in a steel mold puts some steel reinforcing. The concrete is added and tamped down to get rid of any air bubbles. A towel is placed over the top and then from the side, he flips the whole lot over onto the floor. He takes the mold off a little while later to be used again. He then uses a trowel and a little extra concrete to fill in any holes and smooth the surface, leaving it to dry properly. I’d estimate the slab will dry enough in one day to be moved and he probably does anything up to sixty a day. It was fairly early when I passed by.
It’s time for lunch and then a swim in the pool. Tomorrow is a sad day. It’s the day I start the journey from here back home. I have a couple of days travel to get back to Kochi, over night there, then I’ll catch a plane back to Delhi. A night there and a flight via Helsinki to Spain. I will spend a night back down on Cherai Beach, which is a good thing. That was about the first beach I went to on the journey and was quite enjoyable. Tomorrow night is just in a town halfway. Maybe I’ll take a few photos of my walk round if there is anything much to see. Probably just a normal Indian town though.
Cheer up Mark...You know you will be back (maybe next year?)! I think your philosophy on letting the third world just flow past you is a good one. I could be wrong but garbage and litter lying around in the streets and buildings seems to be a cultural one with the Indian population. I am on this train of thought simply because it is exactly the same in our Casbah areas. It is as if it's not a problem and does not look unsightly. More over, it is somebody else's job to pick it up. Now in Paris there is an excellent garbage collection - an efficient clean-up crew at every event(thinking of the open air markets) and so there never seems to be trash in abundance anywhere in the city. I think it is absolutely marvelous the way the street are even washed down.
Back to India and your photos - so may statues...are they really going to sell them to tourists or the locals?? Having built several houses and commercial properties I was interested in that one man band operation making concrete slabs. Wonder where they would use them on a building.
The statues aren't for tourists, as there aren't any here other than maybe some Indian ones. They'd be for locals and would be displayed in the house, some in the in house shrine dedicated to whichever god. The concrete isn't thick enough to be load bearing so would either be used as a facing or more likely down on a driveway or house floor where they would be well supported.
It may be some years before I am back. If we do go to Zambia then it is going to have to be my favourite country of Namibia to visit.
Thanks for the answer on the concrete. I meant to ask what those cone -shaped things were that looked sort of wrapped up and bound with some dark cord?
So I suppose when you do get back to India one day it will all be like new again I can't remember if you have done a report on Namibia? I'm toying with the idea of going there for a few days over Xmas. That is to Swakopmund after flying into Windhoek. Only been there once but always wanted to go back.
The cone shaped things are the rubber molds. They are filled and left upside down to set.
I don't think I've reported on Namibia. It's before the time of these forums. In Swakopmund I go mainly for the quad biking, though there are plenty of other things to do. Swimming in the sea though is not one of them.
My report was on Fodors but I am fearful of trying to look it up. Most photos have been retracted by whoever I used at the time. Pity because it was a really full-on reprt with photos. We were there for around two weeks and saw just about everything. I have a very comprehensive book on Namibia and you are very welcome to it - just say the word.
Crap hotel on the way south. I’m sure they didn’t clean the room or change the bed from the last guest. Maybe they did but I still complained. The hotel facilities were good and the room was decent but I was still a little irked. I stopped for a break in the ride down at a tea shop. I stood outside with several others. The owner had thoughtfully provided two small dustbin sized rubbish bins right by the counter. One man threw down his packaging in the middle between the two bins. I tapped him on the shoulder and he watched while I picked up his litter and put it in the bin. He gave an apologetic look but I doubt a lesson was learned. He left and two young men arrived. They did exactly the same. I put one of the bins directly where they were standing and dropped their rubbish into it. A friend arrived of theirs. He moved away from the bin and dropped his ice cream wrapper on the floor. I gave up. (Before you ask, no, the two lads said nothing to their friend at the time)
The woman who does the courtyard sweeping of the hotel last night. A never ending and thankless job.
Today I came to a fork in the road, and took the road less travelled. Really cocked up my navigation. It was less travelled because it finished in a dead end after about ten kilometres. There was no bridge to get over the river so I had to backtrack and find the more travelled road again. I always wave at those I pass the second time on my comings and goings. They always wave back.
You can’t get away from the backwaters when you go up and down the coast in Kerala, so I thought I’d have a night close to them, i.e. about five meters away. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best places to stay are the homestays. Usually good value, sometimes a bit difficult to find, but usually better maintained than the hotels. This, I’m sure you’d like to see, is my room door.
These are the rooms, just three of them. Mine is the far left.
The grounds and view.
I also got a double whammy of the backwaters and a short walk to the beach for a last swim.
That, I think is a pretty good note to more or less end on. I have one more night before the plane to Delhi in Kochi and we’ve seen that, but I’ll take my camera out in the evening and see what there is. Maybe there might be some action here in the backwaters tonight, but probably not. Then it is just the long slog back to Spain. If I see anything I’ll let you know but there is no plan. In Spain I won’t be going straight home but I’ve two days to get from Malaga to Madrid to pick up Mrs M and the girls who are currently in Germany. Then back to the house.
India changes over time but there is still a great inertia to do anything different to how it has always been done. The rich get richer, for sure, the poor seem to stay the same. There is a growing middle class, but then there is a growing population in any case, it just seems more end up in the middle. The caste system is still very powerful and still restricts tremendously any advancement for those in the lower echelons. Social mobility is seemingly none existent, but it is there, however small. There are laws against it, but then there are numerous laws about everything. Nearly all get ignored. As there are numerous religions in India it has to happen where there will be strife. But commonly they all mix in day to day existence. If you are one thing or the other, nobody really minds. The major hiccup seems to be Communism, of which it is quite evident in this region that there is a strong support. Maybe they are just more vocal. I’ve not had chance to into this and I don’t know anyone well enough to ask. I’ve just skimmed the surface and kept my eyes open. Painting and graffiti of the Russian hammer and sickle on roads, on walls and on banners, stencils and representations of Lenin are all around. That gave me a good clue.
I had planned tentatively to get across to the east coast south of Madras/Chennai. I’ve failed yet again as I’ve planned a few times before to do the same and never ‘got round to it’. I’ll leave it as an excuse to come back. My flight from Malaga to Delhi was about a thousand euro. Business class, mind you, and it was a special offer from Finnair. I still like the thought of their lie flat seats and look forward to them flying back. I’ve treated myself with that as there are cheaper options, even from Malaga but mainly from Madrid if I got up there. The flights from Delhi to Kochi and return were about 80 euros each. Apart from the posh five star that wasn’t, I’m normally spending about twenty euro on accommodation per night. Often less, sometimes a little more.
Transport is cheap enough, especially buses and trains. Car hire is usually with a driver unless you are mad like me. My pushbike was 100 rupees a day, 1 UK pound simply put, whilst the scooter was £3 a day. I’m afraid I’m bi-currency, I think in both. I hope it’s not too confusing.
I rarely eat in the hotel or place I stay and prefer the food from local places on the street. It is the same or better and far cheaper. You just have to go out and get it and you’ve seen enough pictures of them. If I spend ten euros a day on food I’ve gone somewhere I wouldn’t normally go. Five euros would be more like and that includes a lunch and dinner that fills me up completely. Breakfasts in these homestays can be continental, i.e. toast, jam, eggs and fruit, as you’ve seen, or often it can be something local like dosa/idli. Five euros includes snacks as well, for example a can of soda/pop/cola is about 0.32 euro. That is the most expensive item. A couple of samosas is the same price, at most. A 1 litre bottle of water is 0.20 euro, large packet of Lays crisps the same. A mug sized glass of freshly squeezed juice, usually orange for me, is 0.30 euro. A shawarma kebab (donor meat cut off with some salad and sauce, wrapped) was 0.60/0.50 I think.
There are loads of snacks all around the quarter of a euro price that can do as a meal when you get a couple of them. I forget now how much I paid for the street omelette but it was good, filling and cheap. I’ve posted a couple of photos of menus so you can get the idea easily enough, I’m sure. However, eat where the tourists are and you will pay on average twice to four times the local cost. It is an obvious mark up which can’t be avoided in some places. Sometimes I don’t mind paying it, I’m not out to travel as cheaply as possible, but knowing what the true prices are, is at the back of my mind.
If you go to India take all the usual precautions but if I’ve been ill, it’s usually because I’ve eaten at a tourist hotel. Those breakfast buffets and dinner buffets where the food has been left out for ages keeping warm, especially rice, is a killer. Eating off the street is not recommended, as you know, but pick your spot, and there are many of them, and it can be a lot less risk. Advice I’m sure you’ve heard before.
Anyway, I’m going to sip my pot of chai, watch the fishermen as the sun sets and ponder on how lucky I am, the meaning of life, how to achieve world peace and that I need a shower.
Briefly (due to a tiny keyboard) I'll just say I've been with you the whole way and my reactions were those of a more timid traveler than you are. The few times you found comfortable clean lodging I was so happy for you! You've taken a trip that I doubt I could do. I liked seeing India through your eyes.
htmb, thanks. breeze, when I found comfortable clean lodging you're not the only one who was happy! tod, I have a Kindle Fire. It is a cheaper one with adverts. Nearly every time I start it up, guess what the advert is for? Karl Bloody Pilkington.
Due to having a last swim yesterday, and the last of anything is quite a momentous occasion, I decided I’d truly have the last swim this morning. So I did. I said I might still post a couple of photos if I see something. I think it’s unavoidable to ‘see something’ in India. Maybe I shouldn’t have said. On the way back into Kochi I came across another procession. After it passed I asked in a jewellery shop what the reason was. The man shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know. It had an elephant in it though so it must have been important.
Some WoW photos Mark! Looking at that elephant I was trying to work out why it's hide was pink in places....like behibd the ears - I'm guessing from the mahut rubbing his heels there or is this where they slide off I must say the tusks look good. Oh that goat on the scooter is priceless, but seeing that dad and small child with no helmets...tsk tsk, health and safety nowhere in sight I meant to ask you last time if you were not afraid of swimming where there are clearly no lifeguards or shark nets? What about an undertowe that could carry you away?
I think elephants suffer from skin complaints as well as humans. Maybe age, maybe the sun, don't know but I don't think its anything more than that. It is law that the rider/driver of a motorbike/scooter wears a helmet. Not the passengers though. It's just another rule that gets ignored a lot, but not by everyone. The next but one photo from that one shows a woman wearing green on the back of a scooter. She has straddled the saddle. This is a rare occurrence and only seen when the woman is wearing a salwar kameez. You will nearly always see them sitting side saddle and there is an extra wide step on the left side of all scooters and motorbikes to enable them to do so.
I qualified in my youth as a lifeguard. I'm not up to date with it though. If there isn't one then it must be me. I am aware of undertow, rips and the like and I adjust accordingly but as for being afraid, no, not really. What they tend to do is take you out to sea a bit and move you down the coast. In a sea as warm as this all I'd do is wait until I could make progress while swimming and gradually work my way back to shore. Theoretically. But, I have been taken out once and it did work. Quite a few years ago but never since. No panic, no stress, keep your head, keep trying but not at full power, shout for help if you can. There are lots of precautions you can take but, well, fate is fate.
Shark nets? Are you kidding? This is India. You don't have them. If I had to have them then I'd never swim. Besides, sharks aren't a problem here.