August 21, 2011 2 Comments
I spent the last week in the state of Kerala on a nested vacation with my family. Kerala is a super interesting place, very different from Karnataka in geography and culture. For starters, there are Hindus and Muslims, as one might expect, but also Christians, Jews and even plenty of Communists. The diversity made for plenty of unique drives and lots of exposure to aspects of India I’d never thought about before. Mostly though, we were bowled over by the natural beauty of the countryside.
Our journey went as follows: We took a night bus from Bangalore to Cochin (Ernakulum). I was forced to watch this movie because the speakers were on throughout the whole bus. After arriving in Kochi (Cochin), our driver met us at the bus stand and drove us nearly six more hours to our hotel outside of Munnar, in the heart of the Western Ghats. Somehow, the long drive was made bearable by the spectacular scenery during the drive through the mountains.
Our hotel was about 8 km’s from Munnar itself. Driving around the mountain, we were surrounded by tea plantations as far as the eye could see. As one of my friends put it, “Kerala has shades of green that don’t exist anywhere else.”
We saw a traditional Kathakali show. In the story we saw, a Rakshasi, or demoness, falls in love with a warrior who is the son of Indra, the lord of the sky and the king of heaven. (1) She takes on a traditional human form in order to woo him, only to be rejected because he says his father must approve of any consort. (2)Enraged, she assumes her demonic form and confronts him again. (3) He punishes her by cutting off her ears and breasts. The whole show was about an hour, and had three actors with some fantastic makeup:
The next morning, we were surprised to hear that our sightseeing was postponed due to a ‘cab strike.’ We soon found out that this was code for a sort of grassroots communist labor union. Commie bastards! We spent the rest of the day touring, seeing a national park in the mountains touted as India’s cleanest, and visiting other sites including a dam, a lake, and several waterfalls.
The next day we split for the town of Allepy (whose traditional name reminded me of a certain rock festival), where we rented out a house boat for a tour of Kerala’s backwaters. The channels all connect into Vembanad Lake, the biggest lake in India – we floated around the whole day amidst coconut and banana palms, rice paddies and small villages. With our own cook onboard, we were served fresh food and drinks. Once we docked at dusk, we had a chance to explore the local town, stumble upon a small temple, and follow our noses to a coconut oil factory.
Unfortunately, this trip did not end well. Almost immediately after we got back, my temperature shot up to 104 degrees and I had all sorts of lovely bodily emissions for 24 hours.
To paraphrase Jamie Foxx, I blame it on the alcohol: Toddy, a coconut/palm brew that locals drink. We asked our boat driver to obtain a half liter for us to taste it…I should have known better after he showed up with an old water bottle half full of dirty looking milky white liquid. Lesson learned; immune system strengthened.
Today I leave for Mysore, the royal city of India, to spend time with relatives, bathe with sandalwood soap and see the sights. More to come – thanks for reading!