March 10th, 2009
Time sure flies. I can’t believe I’ve been here 10 days already! I feel like I’ve hardly been anywhere! I stayed in Fort Cochin in Kerala longer than I expected, cause I was lazy. I could have gone to find the St. Thomas shrine two days ago, but on Sunday, I just sat around and did nothing. That was:
March 8th, 2009
I stayed on the veranda at the hotel and chatted with Carmen and his travelling partner (I can’t remember her name now). They spend ALL their time travelling! Anyway, I decided about 5:30 to go get a bite to eat, and saw three elephants going out to do some thing, took pics but as I passed the Kathakali Theatre, it was showtime, so I went in. I had forgotten I was going to do that until the guy giving out programmes stopped me on the street. I bought some refreshments and went in. Kathakali is a 16th century mime play, and all the stories are acted n mime. Apparently every gesture has a word meaning, but although they gave a demonstration at the beginning, my memory banks didn’t exactly retrieve any of the movements they had demonstrated. I fell asleep during the first act, but luckily woke before I started snoring, and in time for the second act. After the play I decided I would try the Upstairs Italian Restaurant kitty corner to the Talk of The Town Restaurant, and ran into Elvira and Tuni and had dinner with them. I knew Elvira from the Backwater tour. She’s from Belgium, and Tuni is from Barcelona. Though the dinner wasn’t very good, the conversation was, and after we walked down to the temple where the elephants were being honoured and paraded about. Took some shots, and will upload some of them to Facebook into “The Great Big Book of Elephants” photo album. Tuni had visited an elephant farm (I don’t know if that’s what they’re called) and got to wash some elephants). So all in all, The day of doing nothing turned out to be quite exciting.
Elvira was flying out to Mysore and will be there for a day or two, and I’m there for a day before I head up to Hampi to visit a temple there. Unfortunately, out of the three buses going to Mysore, all three leave at night, and the first one, the one I booked, gets in at 4am. Looks like I might have to stick around the bus depot until it gets light out and late enough I can get a hotel without paying for two nights. If I had taken the 9:30, I would have got into Mysore late enough for that. It’s really frustrating travelling here, cause all the public transport moves at night (or almost all). I guess its to avoid the heat or paying for a hotel. It sucks though if you want to see the countryside, but I think I’ve already ranted about that in this journal. I am thinking I might book a bus direct to Patma. I was going to take a train to Bangalore and then a bus to Hampi, but it looks like I mmight be able to ride directly there. I shall see, I guess!
So anyway, I should get back to the backwater trip, but then again, maybe I should start where I left off last entry. Where was that? Hold on while I check…
March 5th, 2009
So I took a tuk-tuk (that’s the name of the little three wheeled pedicabs, I only just found that out yesterday) to the elephant sanctuary, and ran into the first foreigner I’ve seen since I left Goa. Her name was Uti from Berkeley. We had a little chat and fater the visit she gave me a ride back to town in the car she had rented in Thrissur. She was leaving for home the next day. So that was really nice. I ate at some place that actually had chicken. As Guruvayoor is a major temple thing, most of the restaurants are vegetarian. The meal was OK, but I never really had a meal I would say was good in Guruvayoor.
So, listen to this! As my key had disappeared, (I may have mailed it home with Ganesh, or alternatively, it may have been transported from Guruvayoor on the 4th of March and rematerilaized inside my parcel in Winnipeg sometime in the future. It was fairly difficult to explain the Theory of Trans Dimensional Shift to the hotel staff, as I know almost zero Malayalam, so, not really getting what I was saying, and not having a duplicate key, they called in an expert locksmith who actually busted the lock by taking a big hammer to it, breaking the door frame. I was charged for the damage, and with the extra charge, it cam to the same amount as if I had stayed at the 5 star hotel I first checked out. Still, I gotta keep reminding myself 500 Rupees is only $10 USD. Which brings me to the next day:
6th March, 2009
The trip to Cochin was pleasant, but I almost missed it because I was waiting on the wrong platform. The announcements in English are quite distorted on the train station loudspeakers. And you walk across the tracks to catch your train here. I had to get out at Ernakulum Junction, which I did. I stopped for a minute to have a cup of tea and a samosa, then ventured forth. A guy stopped me at the station and I followed him out of the station, past the parking lot to his tuk tuk on the street. (He was avoiding the charge at the station, and told me he would take me to Fort Cochin. As Ernakulum looked like a busy city, I decided to go and he told me he could drive me around for 50Rs. and hour. He brought me to Rin and Rens Guest house. Very nice place and I was charged only 400 Rs. a day (I had told him I wanted a nice place for 400 Rs. and that’s what I got. So then he drove me around Fort Cochin and stopped at a few places where he probably got commission for stopping, including the Synagogue in Jew Town (closed Thurs and Fri), and I signed up for a day tour on a a Backwater Cruise. I gave him 200 rupees for his time, but then he said it wasn’t enough and I had to pay another $150 Rs. for the trip from Ernakulum to Fort Coshin. I found out later he had charged 200 to another couple of couples for the train station trip. There are just no standards here.
Like, I bought a drum for Lee and the gut wanted 1,000 rupees and I said I’d think about it and he dropped the price down bit by bit to $750 Rs. So I bought it. I also bought a couple of flutes. I have no idea how much they’re really worth. Anyway, I saw the gut later and he tried to sell me another drum, and told me I had bought the cheap one, and the kind he had was better with the smaller other end. That’s what I though I had bought. He eventually changed to price to 600 Rs. Then told me if I hadn’t been so concerned about the price I could have bought the better one the first time. He was pretty rude. I guess he had only sold the one drum. So I told him he would do better selling if he didn’t insult his customers, but he had no idea what I was talking about. I thought it would make a good present for Lee. Anyway, when I got back to Rin and Rens (The hotel is named after the owner’s twin boys.) I found out I did have the “good one” after all!
I also bought a shirt, as my denim stuff really keeps the heat in. I’ve been toyin with the idea of throwing the denim shirts away, but I have to wait and see what Nepal is like first. I think I miight change one set of jeans into cutoffs and cut the sleeves off the older shirt. It is very hot here, and I sweat buckets.
I turned in early, but a knock on the door from Rin (or Ren) got me up, and there was a parade outside. First came a float with some god riding a tiger and roaring sound effects, then drummers and dancers, and a Flying Hanuman, some drummers, then about 200 women carrying offering plates with rice and a half a cocounut with a flame burning in the centre. Then a cart bearing the same god’s statue. It was either Krishna or Elvis (half naked). Very cool stuff!
So next day:
March 7th, 2009
I went on the backwater cruise. The bus picked me up outside of the hotel and I joined a bunch of other touristas, and the trip was quite relaxing and very enjoyable. I chatted to a few people. There was a woman and daughter from England, A Canadian guy who didn’t talk too much, a Scottish guy and his English girlfriend from London, A very nice hip German couple, Elvira, and a very adventurous couple of girls from England. I got to pole the boat for quite a while. I followed the English girl and German woman, and no one else volunteered to replace me. The lunch they served on banana leaves was the best meal I’ve had in Kerala. We ate outside under a canopy. Really great! After lunch the group split up. Eight of us went in another open canoe (the boat we were in was covered) and went down some backwater canal. It must have been bathtime cause we saw a lot of people washing in the water. (No pics. The batteries died on my camera and three sets of batteries I bought along the way, didn’t work. I was freakin out thinking my camera was malfunctioning).
OK, so after that, I came back and ate at the Talk of the Town and had butter chicken Masala, which was good, but not anything to write home about, so I won’t mention it. But, what I will mention is the cold coffee with ice cream! It was so good, I had three! Anyway, after I ate, I got back in time to see and elephant parade. It was one elephant. The drummers went on and on and on. There were also 2 torch bearers and with the fire and the noise, I was amaxed at how calm the elephant was. In fact at one point, with the trumpters and horns and drums and dancing, fore, and buses honking to get by, the elephant actually seemed to be going to sleep!
Here’s a cool bus destination: “Navel Base”
Here’s a cool political party (there’s an election going on here): “People’s Poplar Movement”
I ran into Elvira and we hung out together for a bit. Caught the end of a Kathakali stage thing.
March 9th, 2009
Today’s the day I set out to find the place St. Thomas landed in Kerala in 52AD. Only thing is, there’s nothing really in the Lonely Planet, and the Catholic Church isn’t too hot on advertising for the Syrian Church. I did find a map on the internet and wrote down all the places where St. Thomas was supposed to have established churches. The place where he landed was Cranganore, but the real name of the place is Kodungallur, but you wouldn’t know that by the way it’s pronounced here. Basically, I took a ferry to to Ernakulum. One because I had to check out the bus to Mysore (previously discussed), and I booked that at the bus station, but founf out the bus to Kodungallur left from where the ferry lands. I decided to walk to the train station Ernakulum Junction to see if maybe a train went there (it doesn’t and walked back to the ferry landing. I was walking in thongs, as all my clothes were being washed and I wanted to find some sandals to replace my Timberlands. I couldn’t find any I liked, so I ended up walking all day in the thongs (the foot kind, not the upyerbutt ones they wear in Miami) and I got blisters (and dirty feet). SO The bus was 14 Rupees to Kundungallore, and when I got there, two tuk tuk drivers turned me down to drive me to St. Thomas Church. It wasn’t far, but my feet hurt. So it was a small church and I got the Parish guys to open it up for me. It was built in the 1800’s by Mrs. (or Miss) Robinson, and had a children’s primary school as part of it. I donated 100 Rs. to the church and they wrote down the name of the St. Thomas shrine in Malayalam for me. A tuk tuk guy drove me there for 80 Rs. (It’s a 8 km ride). I don’t think Indians tip at all, as he was quite confused when I told him to keep the 20Rs. change from the hundred.
The shrine was quite big, modelled on St. Peter’s at the Vatican, saints on the roof and all. Only it was built in 1953, and I couldn’t find anyone who knew of any place older. I walked about a mile to a ferry landing. (2 Rupees to cross) and caught the bus to Ernakulum for 8 rupees. It’s about an hour’s ride. The bus from there didn’t take me back to the ferry to Fort Cochin, so I walked along the seawalk, had an ice cream.
They were filming some movie on one of the brides and people were getting quite agitated they couldn’t cross, and eventually the crowd reached critical mass, and went across without waiting for the direector to say “Cut!” (I think he had, but I don’t think that would have made any difference by that time. I took the ferry back to Fort Cochin, and stopped in a restaurant called Beanz, but only had the coffee milkshake and a latte, as I wanted something more than sandwhiches. I moved to a place called The Treehouse and ordered butter chicken, but it took forever to come. I passed the time writing postcards and wrote 20 before the food arrived, and was bitten a lot by mosquitos. It was OK, but not great. OK, it was good, but was more of a chicken curry than the butter chicken at the Eat India Company or Ivory in Winnipeg. Both of which make better food than I’ve had here in Kerala.
It rained quite heavily last night and I realized it’s the first rain I’ve seen this year!