Location: Fort Cochin, Kochi, Kerala, India
It's Wednesday and I'm leaving Saturday night! My whirlwind trip to the South of India is coming to an end. TIme has flown, but at the same time, it seems longer ago than just one week ago when we left Delhi. Since then we've spent two nights in Chennai, two nights in Pondicherry, one night in Madurai, and one night on a train traveling to Kerala. We took another train up to Kochi yesterday morning. This'll be our second night in Fort Cochin, and then we're flying out early Friday Thursday morning for Bangalore. Saturday afternoon I fly back to Delhi. I'm only 4 flights away from home. Strange concept.
Kerala is lush and beautifully green. It's also during the monsoon season. Divya says the Malabar coast, west coast of South India has their monsoon season sooner than the Tamil Nadu east coast does. The rain is a blessing not a curse for me. It cools down the days and diminishes the mosquitos. In Madurai the mosquitos loved me. I tried to out smart them by wearing long pants, sleeves, and shoes (not sandals.) They still found a few bare patches of skin to bite. Worst was waiting at the Madurai train station for our 11 pm train. I didn't put on Deet bug repellant because I didn't want to wear it for 16+ hours- until we'd make it to a hotel to shower and change.
We only had time to take an autorickshaw to Kipathin Inn and grab a quick bite to eat before the Kathakali performance started at 6:30 pm. Kathakali means story play. It's a traditional art form/dance that reenacts famous stories to music and singing. Last night's performance was geared towards foreign travellers- and indeed everyone in the audience was a tourist. They explained in English different eye, facial and hand movements. I wasn't able to remember them all, but I was impressed by the actors "bodily" control.
We got caught in a downpour after the performance. I had tried to find my umbrella, but when I couldn't, I realized I must have left it in some taxi back in Tamil Nadu. We got soaked trying to find a place that had ice cream or some other dessert. We finally ended up back next to the Kerala Kathakali Centre at one of the restaurants that tried to entice us to enter when we left the theatre. They didn't have ice cream, but we had the yummy hot coconut pancakes instead after fish moliee. Divya tells me that Kerala is known for their fish and that they usually have fish several times a day. We had fish in mango sauce just before the performance started. Divya commented that we've fallen into a strange eating habit. We won't eat for hours, then we eat way too much and don't want to eat again. In Delhi, we usually ate only 2 meals a day- maybe a small snack, but not a meal.
I should head back, since Divya is mostly likey back at the inn, finished with her Auyervedic massage. She's been waiting for one for a long time. But it just has't worked out yet timing wise. Next we should walk around and see some of the sights that Fort Cochin has to offer as a former Portuguese, Dutch, and British port. There's dutch cementary, Portuguese churches, and even a Jewish Synagogue to visit. We heard Spanish singer Enrique Iglesia's music playing from the Portuguese Santa Cruz Basilica last night on the way home. Divya was surprised!
Location: Pondicherry, India
I'm in Pondicherry now. Those who've read "Life of Pi" may recognize the city name. It's not quite what I expected. Divya told me that Pondicherry still has a lot of the French Colonial influence. We did have French food for lunch at Rendezvous and there are street signs in French & Tamil, but still not quite what I was expecting. Definitely the eastern side of the canal of more French than west of the canal.
We took the cramped public bus down from Chennai last night. The bus lef the station at 6 pm, but we didn't arrive in Pondichery until after 10 pm. So much for it being a 3 hour trip. We took an autorickshaw to the first hotel in Lonely Planet. It wasn't a bad hotel, but they only had availability until 8 am the next morning! Divya was too tired (and I was cranky) to look for another place. Hotel Surguru wasn't bad and it was clean with marble floors and bathroom. We set our alarm for 7 am this morning, as we'd have time to get up and get ourselves together before we were kicked out. After talking to reception desk this morning, they told us we could stay in the room until noon, but they still didn't have a free room for tonight.
We decided to take the Heritage Walk and see what hotels we could find along the way. The beach & Bay of Bengal was beautiful as always, but it wasn't much fo a beach. It's more of big rocks and larger waves. We continued our walk and came across the Park Guest House. This is somewhere I had noticed and considered from LP. We checked if they had available room and if we could see the room. The room overlooked a small green space, and beyond that the ocean! (or is it bay?) We were statisfied with the room. We had to hurry and get back to Hotel Surguru to pick up our luggage so we could make it back to Park Guest House to give our laundry over to be washed. Hotels here have cheap next day return on laundry- but if you're not staying more than one night anyplace, it makes it hard to get the laundry done. I have washed some of my underclothes and air-dried them, but I haven't attempted to wash my pants or shirts yet. I don't think it's hot enough to dry them in the hotel room before we move on.
I'm hot now. There's a/c and a fan in this internet place, but it's not quite doing the trick. I was trying to find a small bag to buy. I need to find a way to rearrange my luggage. I have my backpack, which is working fine, but now I've taken to carrying stuff around in the bag I brought to protect the backpack when traveling. My waist-pouch bag that came with the backpack is too hot to wear, but it's all I have for daily trips. I was hoping for a smallish bag to either pack my souvenirs in or a different bag I can use daily.
We finally figured out the plan for the rest of my trip. I can't believe half my trip is gone. On the one hand time has gone quickly; on the other we've done so much and we still have a lot left to do. After Pondicherry, we'll continue exploring Tamil Nadu. We'll go to Mamallapuram tomorrow morning and see the rock carved temples and regular temples. We catch a late afternoon flight from Chennai to Madurai. I can't wait to see the Sri Meenakshi temple. Divya says it's one of the best. The next day we take the night train to Kollam in Kerala. We have two nights to make our way up to the airport near Kochin. Thursday morning, we fly to Bangalore, the IT capital of India. We have two and half days and two nights to see Bangalore and take the 3 hour trip to see the Maharaja's Palace in Mysore. Saturday afternoon, I catch flight back to Delhi from Bangalore. Then I get to wait a couple hours at the Delhi airport before getting on my midnight flight back to Chicago. I'll be back in San Francisco 10 am on Sunday the 17th. It's going to be a packed week, but it'll be worth it. We took it slow to start with, spending 4 nights in Delhi, now it's time to get a move on.
http://www.tamilnadutourism.org To see Tamil Nadu.
http://www.keralatourism.org/ To see Kerala
Location: Delhi, India
Hello! I'm in Delhi, actually I've been here since Sat night. Yesterday, Monday, we went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We were picked at 6 am, had to get an early start because it's a 4 hour car ride to Agra. Divya said we had a more comfortable ride than she's had in the past, in our Toyota Qualis.
First, we stopped at the greatest known monument to love, the Taj Mahal. It really is impressive, and to be generic, pictures don't do it justice. We spent a couple hours wondering around the Taj Mahal. It's grand and just amazing the detail that's gone into decorating it.
Next, we went to Agra Fort, or the Red Fort. Delhi also has a Red Fort that we'll be visiting today. They're red because of the red sandstone. The living part is made out of white marble. There's also a fabulous view from Shah Jahan's quarters onto to Taj Mahal. He always had a good view of his wfe's mausoleum.
Finally, we stopped at Sikandra, which is Akbar's Mausoleum. It wasn't what I expected. Once through the entrance gate, it was all lush grass and animals. I had seen a few monkies at Agra Fort, but they were nothing compared to Sikandra. There were the monkies, langurs -not monkies, they have a long tail, peacocks, other birds, deer, and another sort with antlers. After walking down the brick path, we reached the Mausoleum entrance. The sun was setting, so there wasn't much light in entrance foyer. I walkd downt he long dimly light corridor to enter the tomb chamber. It was a simple high-ceiled room; at the center was the unadorned white tomb. The guard told me that the ceiling was 75 meters (or was it feet) and that echos last 5 seconds. His "Allah" did last more than 5 seconds and it was impressive.
It took another 4 hours after dark to make it back to the YWCA. We ere exhausted since it was after 11 pm. We managed to get showers and then drifted off to sleep.
Location: San Jose, USA
I'm leavin in just a few short hours to go to India. Well, I've got a few hours until my plane leaves, but then I've got a long flight to India. I'm going to be visiting Divya, a good friend from middle school. We'll be in Delhi for a few days and then flying to Chennai and spending the rest of the 2 weeks down there.
I just got off the phone with Divya. She told me to pack light. She also said to be prepared for anything. In my mind, those two things contradict one another. How can I pack lightly, but be prepared for anything at the same time? Yes, I do travel with a first aid kit- I just bought a new one at REI. No, I mostly likely won't ever use half the stuff in it, but I like to be prepared. When I've gone camping or on other vacations, I joke that I used to be a Boyscout, because I try to always be prepared. Thinking ahead to what it is that I might need. No of course, I won't every have every contigency planned for. But it makes sense to me to cover the basics; the things it's reasonable to believe will happen and can be prevented or minimized.
I wish Shou Chi was going with me. I'd make her entertain me on the 19 hour flight to India. I was thinking to take my iPod, but it occurs to me, I don't know how I'll charge it back up over there. I guess I could just assume & hope that Divya will have something that I can use to charge it with. I only bought the adapter for India since I couldn't figure out the whole deal with converters vs transformers. I couldn't find a transformer over 50 Watts, nor a converter that said it was suitable for electronic circuitry. Maybe some ppl would need one for something else, but that's the only think I would need to plug in! I mean only electronics, such as my camera battery. I have two now, thanks to temporarily losing the original one. Don't ask!
I've been watching Indian movies this week that were suggested by my Lonely Planet India guidebook. I just watched two tonight, while I was sort of packing. That means I looked over everything again and took out somethings and rolled up my clothes to pack them. However, everything is still sitting in a clothes basket and not in my backpack at all. I am assuming that everything will fit, but honestly I don't know yet. I had forgotten I have a few more shirts still hanging in the closet. Anyways, back to the Indian movies- more interesting than my ordeals with choosing the right clothes to take on my trip.
First I watched "Raincoat." It was the shorter of the two; it was alright. It did remind me of the "Gift of the Magi" at the end, which makes sense after seeing that it was based on O'Henry. I wished there had been more to it; I'd have liked to see more happened between the main characters after the movie ended. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer was a much better movie. I had thought it was going to be too serious and a downer, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, Hindus & Muslims is a serious topic, and some bad stuff happened in the movie, but it was more about the interpersonal relationships that were formed over the course of a few days during some hard times. Odd that both of tonights movies were centered around Calcutta. Previously, I had been watching movies all set around Bombay/Mumbai.
Alrightly, it's 5 am and my plane leaves in 7 hours. Maybe I should go to bed, though I'm getting adjusted to Indian time I guess, since it's 6:30 pm there now. But I'll bea complete zombie if I don't get any sleep. But I haven't finished putting everything (really anything) into my bag just yet.
I'm going to try to keep this updated as the trip goes along. If not, I'll have to transfer my notes from my pda to this site after I get home. I'm surprised that I've gotten sveral requests for trip update emails like I've sent to my family in the past. The surprise is that it was my coworkers asking! I kenw my aunt had shared soem of the emails with my boss, but I hadn't realized how many of the coworkers knew the details of my misadventures too. I've got to stop missing flights and getting stranded in random locales! This trip is supposed to simple, but things never go as planned, even I know not to expect that.
Location: San Francisco, USA
I have been back for a month now. That's a strange thought. It's putting so much time and distance between me and the trip.
Looking through the pictures today and added the last captions helped to bring it a little closer. I know it'll continue to grow more and more surreal. Guinea was just so different that my everyday life.
I really did enjoy it. I didn't have to suffer any hardships or anything. That's one thing most people inquire about. Yes, it was different; I had no hot or running water away from Conakry. But it was doable. I don't know if I could commit to that for two years though. I mean, as Van says, it's not the physical part that's hard. It's being out of contact and stuff from your family and friends. Being so far removed for so long? I don't know that I could do it.
A coworker asked if I would recommend visiting Guinea. I wouldn't, not to her. I mean, I enjoyed my trip, but I wasn't just a tourist. I had my friend in the Peace Corps to visit. So I was a visitor and not a toursit. I knew someone who could show me around and take care of me. I was never venturing out on my own. And I think that was a good thing in Guinea. My French is not all that hot and they spoke it differently. Though admittedly, I had trouble in France with people not understanding my French. I need to keep practicing. I'm signed up to take French 3, the last of the beginning French, Spring quarter.
Here's the link to all the photos from Guinea.
I'll work on the Paris pictures next.