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India: the southern states (Kochi)

India: the southern states (Kochi)

Old Dec 17, 09, 5:19 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: SFO/OAK
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India: the southern states (Kochi)

SFO-DBX-KOC

The first clue we were in the Dubai duty free shop was the cell phones.
Priced on sale at $40,000 a piece. Of course that was plain platinum or some such thing - if you wanted the jeweled case it was much more - in fact you had to ask for the price. (But then if have to ask for the price you probably can't afford it anyway - :->)This is truly the rich person's playground.

We are sitting in the Emirates terminal 3 at the Dubai International airport waiting for our nrxt flight on to Cochin, India. This is a brand new to us terminal and the food court is very nice. First, the terminal is oval like an egg on its side. The center part of the terminal is
5 stories tall. And then the terminal is very long -- 211 gates. Take an egg, put it on its side, and then stretch it out for two miles. The departing flights are on floor 2. Club rooms on floor 4.

So we deplaned after the very long flight but fortunately we had coupons they had given us at SFO for one of the club rooms in Dubai. We were upgraded to business SFO-DBx (hurray!!) and are coach from DBX to Cochin.
The club room passes were sort of a consolation gesture on the part of the SFO staff. Well as anyone who travels know --there are gestures and then there are the little lady bouncers at the doorway. We dragged ourselves into the club and presented our passport, our boarding pass stub from SFO, our boarding pass for Cochin, and also the coupon for admission. She took one look and told us we could not come in. Seems there was somerthing in fine print that noone had noticed. You can only come into the club room if your next flight is three hours or more distant. Our flight was taking off in 2 hours and 49 minutes -- we were 11 minutes short of getting admission!!
Ashley rose to the occasion, put on his dancing shoes and started the sale.
She was not budging. He put on the smile. Asked about her children and the pet dog. She was not budging. Finally even he had to admit defeat. She did let us use the bathroom before banishing us to the waiting room with its terrazo floors, hundreds of crying children, and chairs with iron arm rests.
The horror of it all <grin>. For those of you who haven't experienced it, getting anyone in Asia to bend the rules is a lost cause. They wrote the book on "we have rules". And of course in Dubai all the support staff is Filipino, Malaysian, or Indonesian. You ain't getting nuttin extra from them.

We found a food court with a Starbucks and with WiFi so I could start writing. Across from our table maybe 25 feet away is a park, inside the terminal, with trees, shrubs, grass, a fountain, and little flowing creek.
Very nice and peaceful indeed. About 50' wide by 300' long. This is the west end of the terminal and it is open from the 2nd floor to the ceiling. What a dramatic sight. The supporting beams are chrome/aluminum with alternating stripes - one brushed, then bright polish, then brushed, etc. Three stories tall - when they terminate in the ceiling there are circles of lights around each one. It is like sitting in the midst of an oasis surrounded by very tall shiny palm trees.

Off we go to the gate and join the queue of people for India. Each one carrying at least three bags from duty free. I will admit that I was lusting for one of the 5 pound chocolate camels on display. But even if my cardiologist would approve, after five minutes in India it would probably be a five pound pool of chocolate.

This is quite a different crowd than the SFO flight. Coming from SFO the plane was full of people going on the Haj. It was fascinating watching people board and seeing the diversity of clothing. No burkhas in that crowd.
Lots of modest clothing covering any exposed flesh with elaborate embroidery y or beading or fancy stitching - and not always black. Just as the US press always uses the fundamentalists as -THE- voice of Christianity, it uses the extremely conservative Muslims as -THE- voice is Islam. Both depictions are wrong. On this flight to Cochin there are lots of families with children (please God not in my row!!).

That is all. Ashley just told me to stop making the emails too long. People don't want to read them. The new mantra should be - a new friend in every airport AND short emails. :->

The first clue we were in the Dubai duty free shop was the cell phones.
Priced on sale at $40,000 a piece. Of course that was plain platinum or some such thing - if you wanted the jeweled case it was much more - in fact you had to ask for the price. (But then if have to ask for the price you probably can't afford it anyway - :->)This is truly the rich person's playground.

We are sitting in the Emirates terminal 3 at the Dubai International airport waiting for our nrxt flight on to Cochin, India. This is a brand new to us terminal and the food court is very nice. First, the terminal is oval like an egg on its side. The center part of the terminal is
5 stories tall. And then the terminal is very long -- 211 gates. Take an egg, put it on its side, and then stretch it out for two miles. The departing flights are on floor 2. Club rooms on floor 4.

So we deplaned after the very long flight but fortunately we had coupons they had given us at SFO for one of the club rooms in Dubai. We were upgraded to business SFO-DBx (hurray!!) and are coach from DBX to Cochin.
The club room passes were sort of a consolation gesture on the part of the SFO staff. Well as anyone who travels know --there are gestures and then there are the little lady bouncers at the doorway. We dragged ourselves into the club and presented our passport, our boarding pass stub from SFO, our boarding pass for Cochin, and also the coupon for admission. She took one look and told us we could not come in. Seems there was somerthing in fine print that noone had noticed. You can only come into the club room if your next flight is three hours or more distant. Our flight was taking off in 2 hours and 49 minutes -- we were 11 minutes short of getting admission!!
Ashley rose to the occasion, put on his dancing shoes and started the sale.
She was not budging. He put on the smile. Asked about her children and the pet dog. She was not budging. Finally even he had to admit defeat. She did let us use the bathroom before banishing us to the waiting room with its terrazo floors, hundreds of crying children, and chairs with iron arm rests.
The horror of it all <grin>. For those of you who haven't experienced it, getting anyone in Asia to bend the rules is a lost cause. They wrote the book on "we have rules". And of course in Dubai all the support staff is Filipino, Malaysian, or Indonesian. You ain't getting nuttin extra from them.

We found a food court with a Starbucks and with WiFi so I could start writing. Across from our table maybe 25 feet away is a park, inside the terminal, with trees, shrubs, grass, a fountain, and little flowing creek.
Very nice and peaceful indeed. About 50' wide by 300' long. This is the west end of the terminal and it is open from the 2nd floor to the ceiling. What a dramatic sight. The supporting beams are chrome/aluminum with alternating stripes - one brushed, then bright polish, then brushed, etc. Three stories tall - when they terminate in the ceiling there are circles of lights around each one. It is like sitting in the midst of an oasis surrounded by very tall shiny palm trees.

Off we go to the gate and join the queue of people for India. Each one carrying at least three bags from duty free. I will admit that I was lusting for one of the 5 pound chocolate camels on display. But even if my cardiologist would approve, after five minutes in India it would probably be a five pound pool of chocolate.

This is quite a different crowd than the SFO flight. Coming from SFO the plane was full of people going on the Haj. It was fascinating watching people board and seeing the diversity of clothing. No burkhas in that crowd.
Lots of modest clothing covering any exposed flesh with elaborate embroidery y or beading or fancy stitching - and not always black. Just as the US press always uses the fundamentalists as -THE- voice of Christianity, it uses the extremely conservative Muslims as -THE- voice is Islam. Both depictions are wrong. On this flight to Cochin there are lots of families with children (please God not in my row!!).

The mantra for this trip - a new friend in every airport AND short emails. :->
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Old Dec 17, 09, 5:21 pm
  #2  
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India - Kochi and environs

Arrived on the peninsula of Kochi from Dubai 4:30A. Air heavy with humidity.
Taxi (vehicle of death) to Ft. Kochi (terrifying). Heritage site. Two story buildings. Courtyard Hotel - old Portuguese house. Everyone friendly. Three- wheel motorized rickshaws everywhere - drivers insistent on giving you a ride. Spices! Color! Fish! Totally male society.

Day #2 to Hernaculum by ferry. Endless queue. Women have own line. Gave woman money to buy out tickets. Women sit in front, men in back. Hernaculum large city - teeming with people, noise, incredible traffic. Went sari shopping Fun!!! Men here dont go into Sari stores - Salesladies were surprised to see us!

Met couple from Sebastapol associated with movies. Massage #1 - Veyadic (gallons of oil all over). Massage #2 rub with herbs to remove fat (didnt work). Dinner on private pier. Marvelous. Food spicy - not sick yet (:->).

Day #3 car to Appaloosa (sp?). Walk thru streets. Lunch in bare concrete restaurant. The best in town (:->). Massage #3 - five gallons of oil again - in places even I didnt know I had.

Day #4 bird watching tour in the backwaters by canoe with 80 year old paddler. Not many birds. People bathing, washing, doing dished, etc. etc. in waterway. Not water as much as fluid mass. Fascinating. -=EVERYONE- super friendly anxious to try out English skills.

Off to the beach..
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Old Dec 17, 09, 5:26 pm
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Kottayam - 15 cents for 28 kms what a deal!

This time I will spell it correctly - Alappuzha - 64 km south of Kochi along the coast of the Arabian Sea.

After our bird watching we had a quick lunch in a more upscale hotel - same food we had had in the "concrete bunker" the day before but for much more. Prior entree 50 cents - now about $2.25 only difference was the setting and the clientele. They had an attached swimming pool that I might have used if I had had my pet turtle along. :->.

Then a quick rickshaw (v.o.d. = vehicle of death) ride to the business center to spend sometime roaming the streets and just looking. The street we were on was the jewelry center and chock a block with very large, expensive, gaudy to western tastes, gold wedding necklaces. Some had jewels as well. Given the weight of gold I am surprised the bride is able to keep her head upright. The dowry is illegal in India but the wedding jewelry is an outward sign of the bride's worth. The stores were full of young women with older men who I presume were their fathers. Some had entire families there as it is the family reputation as well that will be assessed when the bride appears. And the entire family must agree on what will be purchased. We did a quick look around, very much out of place with Ashley and his backpack. Given our propensity to buy gifts for our women friends we were fortunate none of them are getting married. That jewelry is very expensive!!

A little bit more down the street came across a Hindu temple complex. Not many people were around so we doffed our shoes and stepped in. Walked in a few feet and from across the courtyard came Babu talking very quickly. I think he was some sort of caretaker or simply hanging out at the temple. He was very engaging, told us the temple itself wouldn't open for another 15 minutes, but motioned to follow him. he took us to every shrine on the grounds and carefully explained to us what the image represented - of course there was Shiva, and my favorite Ganesh, one small enclosure had a separate image for each aspect of Shiva. Given that his English was very basic it was lots of fun. Thankfully Ashley has an understanding of the Hindu pantheon and could fill in some of the blanks for me. At each shrine Babu made a gesture of respect to the image and then put his finger in a little bowl by each one and smeared our forehead with the substance. Each image had a difference substance - sandalwood, marigold, something white, something red. Our foreheads were full of color stripes. Sort of like a walking paint store chip set. :->.

We completed the temple circuit and the central temple doors opened. People quickly gathered in a line outside peering into the temple where you could see the central image of Shiva. Men cannot enter with shirts on so Ashley quickly took off his shirt, handed it to me, and joined the throng going inside. As Babu started his chanting, along with women seated in front of the entrance I waited outside. Ashley said the central image was Shiva and the congregation walked around the image saying prayers as they walked. The image (as were the ones outside) seemed ancient and was black with the accumulation of oil over the years. Babu was most gracious in helping us out. We thanked him with a little something and he saw us to the entrance to the grounds and said goodbye. As we left I noticed he had started talking to a young woman with a backpack sitting near by reading the Lonely Planet Guide. He may very well have figured out his very own temple grounds tour agency! Entrepreneurship in action.

Tired now we made our way back to the main canal that runs through the city. We had planned to hire a driver ($$$) to take us by car (another v.o.d.) to the next stop, Kottayam, a 50 km drive east to the opposite side of Vembanad Lake, but I read in one of the books that we could take a local ferry and it was only 28 km by water and took two hours -- best of all it was 15 cents each. We got the info at the boat jetty - it left at 6:30A and no need to buy tickets ahead of time. They sold them on the boat. Hurray!
Back to the hotel. Along the way ran into one of the assistants at the massage place. Smiled and shouted hello. Probably surprised we were able to walk and not slipping and sliding our way down the street from the residual oil yesterday.

Up at 5:45A (Sun rises at 6), breakfast on the porch in front of our room and off to the jetty. the ferry is a medium sized wooden boat holding about 50 people. Padded benches for seats, each bench holding three Indians (or two fat Americans), two benches to a row. All open sides so the air can flow through. Yes it was a local ferry and stopped many many times along the way to discharge people with merchandise, etc. The first 14 km we were leaving Alappuzha so it was mainly people going hometo their small villages. Then the second 14 km we were approaching Kottayam so it was people going to work, women to shopping, and what was a real joy - childrenon their way to school.

Let me explain a little about the ferry. We were essentially on a -very- large delta. The ground around us was below sea level. The water flowing to the sea had been channeled into canals bounded by dikes. At some points it seemed the rice paddies were 10-15 feet below the level of the water in the canal. The entire area could only be accessed by walking along the dikes (about 10 feet wide at the top) or going by boat. No roads of any kind. No vehicles of any kind on the dikes. So instead of roads and streets there are intersecting canals. The ferry navigated up and down the canals - the canals being maybe 100 feet wide.

Every 40 feet or so people had added dirt to the back of the dike and created a small patch of land perhaps 50 feet along the dike and 30 feet deep. On this small piece they built a cement block house. All of this but 2 feet above the water level of the canal. I know truly understand why the monsoon and the tropical storms can be so disasterous. All it takes is a small increase in water level to breach the dike and flood hundreds of acres of rice paddy and destroy a crop.

The houses though small are very clean and neat. One thing for certain, the people of India are very fastidious. Everyone has clean, pressed saris, shirts, etc. The daily bath ritual is important and you see people vigourously brushing their teeth. Cologne isn't obvious but they use sandalwood etc. That is the good news. The bad news is that all this washing and cleaning takes place in the canal. Water for cooking - from the canal, wash the dishes - in the canal, take a bath - in the canal, brush your teeth and gargle - from the canal. I was amazed to say the least!

The highlight of the ferry ride was the hordes of children boarding on their way to school. Hindu, Muslim, Christian children all in one school. It seemed to work. We didn't notice any cliques of any of the groups. They were intermixing as children do, joking around, jostling, running up the aisles. And then they spied the two obvious foreigners sitting there. A chance to practice English! We were bombarded with "hello," "how are you," "what is your name," and their favorite "Do you have any candy?".

We made the mistake of giving one child a ball point pen -- it was like tossing bread on the ground in front of a flock of pigeons -- a mob scene ensued. Then trying to control the mob Ashley pulled out a box of Altoids and offered them around. Imagine 30 hands at once grabbing from one small tin. Of course they hated the Altoids but instead of throwing them away, all 30 hands proceeded to put them back in the tin -- even going so far as to gather any that had fallen on the deck and put them back in the tin. Their stop was approaching and they all jumped off. It was a highlight of the trip so far. They were a delight -- the future of India looks bright!

The end of the line in Kottayam and a quick ride in another v.o.d. to the Taj Kumarakom - our first luxury hotel in india. Plush indeed! Expansive lawns, private lagoon, bird sanctuary, boat tour of the lake (by the way this lake is enormous, maybe 65 km long and at our end 50 km wide). We were upgraded to a luxury suite because Ashley knows someone working for the Taj in California. Hot water! lots of it! outside shower under the stars, CNN, great bed, air conditioning......

Met a woman from New York City. Recognized our accents. You do tend to bond with other Americans when you hear their voices. She was on her way to Kochi so we were able to fill her in on some things to do and not do.

We were up this morning again at 5:45A for a tour of the bird sanctuary at 6:30A. Ashley very happy with the number of birds. The Kingfisher is a brilliant vermillion blue. Also on the grounds are two turkeys -- since this is a sanctuary they probably aren't for next Thursday but one can hope!
I'm vegging out the rest of the day - breakfast, midmorning nap, time at the pool, maybe a massage, late afternoon lime rickies..... got to enjoy this before I get thrust back into the real world tomorrow.
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Old Dec 17, 09, 5:30 pm
  #4  
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India - the Spice Forest

We are now at the Shalimar Spice Garden resort in a village called Murikkady, 6 kms from Thekkady on the fringes of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Yes I said tiger preserve. Since this -is- a yip tour you should all be lighting candles for us. You know who is infamous for trekking along the untrodden path and in this case there really are things that go bump in the night!

We have had a full day so far. Ashley was up and out again at 6:15A for some more bird watching next door to the Taj in Kottoyam. He took advantage of the little time we had left to do some exploring on his own without the guide. I stayed in and packed - taking my time saying goodbye to the plush deluxe suite, gobbling down the last of the white chocolate. Then we were off to our last breakfast - a buffet with the usual corn flakes, muffins, cheese Danish, plus lots of vegetarian Indian food. Ashley had a wonderful rice flour pancake filled with vegetables. Yum yum. The managers all stopped by and said goodbye and wished us well. A great send off.

We had arranged for a car through our taxi driver when we arrived. (Travel note: always schedule transportation away from the hotel if you can and before giving full details of where you are staying - first the driver will jack up the price if he knows where you are staying and if the hotel makes the arrangements another 30% is tacked on to the final price. Everyone wants a piece of the pie.)

The driver had a brand new Tata car. Ashley climbed in the front (brave soul) and I took my place behind the driver. That way my view of the oncoming traffic is blocked and it is much easier on my nerves :->. His seat belt worked. Mine was hanging as it should be right behind me but there was no buckle to be seen on the seat. It had been removed. The driver said "they aren't really necessary" and I think he actually believed it. On the other hand I know what the traffic fatality rate is in India!

Off we went first through the town of Kottayah and a visit to a Syrian Orthodox Christian Church built in 1579. This part of the State of Kerala is predominately Orthodox. When the Portuguese colonized the coast they forced conversion to Catholicism. So the Orthodox Christians moved further inland. Keep in mind that this church was built almost 70 years before the Taj Mahal. Christianity has deep ancient roots in India.

The building was about two stories tall. Long nave, rectangular shape. The sanctuary was curtained off. Total lack of icons. Very plain and unlike Greek or Russian Orthodox churches. The sanctuary had a simple altar but above it was a glorious fresco of Mary holding the baby Jesus surrounded by saints. The fresco was original so much of it was faded but the central figure of Mary had been restored. The ceiling was coffered wood, each indented square painted with a different decorative pattern. Wonderful! The nave was empty, no seats. There were lots of Hindu influences and symbols on the facade and inside the church. The sexton pointed them all out. The Orthodox churches seem to have done very well assimilating objects and symbols.

Back in the car and off again. As we left the city we climbed continuously. Leaving the tropical flora and fauna we passed the rubber tree plantations, then as we got higher that gave way to coffee and then to tea. We were well into the mountains of India and the air was significantly cooler. Over a mountain pass and down the other side we were back into coffee and then into vast spice farms. That is where we are now. The sun is getting ready to set, the coolness is setting in. We are sitting on the veranda having tea and lime sodas. Contemplating tonight’s buffet and the promise of 30 different kinds of pickled something.

Tomorrow Ashley is off for a full day hike around the perimeter of the park. I had planned to do a boat tour at 7A as that is supposed to be the best way to see the animals but the boat tours are no more. Last month when the boat was out someone spied a group of tigers, alerted everyone and they all rushed to that side of the boat. You know what happened. It capsized, a two deck boat, and many died. So the boat is no more. The only options are the all day trek, a two hour walk, or a jeep ride.

I'm planning on a 7A yoga class, breakfast, followed by a massage, and then a 10A walk thru some of the park, lunch, a meander to town and then some quality time with the iPod at the pool. This has been one of the most relaxing vacations yet. (Btw – still not sick),
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Old Dec 17, 09, 5:35 pm
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India - Munaar and beyond

Today we are much higher. We had a four hour drive from Kumaly over the mountain range (the western Ghats) and into an interior valley devoted to tea plantations. The scenery is breathtaking. Tea bushes are grown on the mountain slopes in rows. Scattered throughout the rows are tall trees to provide some shade to the bushes. So you see miles and miles of slopes covered in green and since the tea is harvested all the time (new fresh leaves are picked) all the bushes are compact and trim.

Arrived in Munaar. Not much to say about it. It is nestled in a mountain valley and is the largest city in the area. The major businesses here are the tea plantations and tourist services for those coming to see the plantations. As a side note - the plantations are huge and owned by large corporations. This is not a family/farm type of operation.

Nearby is a very large national park. The good part is its size - on the scale of Yosemite and a haven for some endangered species. The bad part is the public has access to only a kilometer of it - a macadam road you can walk on, high up one of the mountain slopes. There is another section of it zoned for "eco-development" so more will be opened. But even with that less than 90% of the area will be accessible. Took lots of pictures.

Back to town and a visit to the market. I got some delicious butterscotch chocolates. Chocolate is a big thing here with almost every shop advertising home-made chocolate. Cacao trees are plentiful.

We are staying at a country club that now accepts non-member guests. The bar could serve as a set for a black and white movie about the last days of the Raj :->. Walls covered with hunting trophies. Shelves full of silver cups, plaques, and trays from sport conquests. One wall has the military helmets and hats from the members starting in the late 1800s. Leather stuffed chairs, cigars can be ordered.

These are the rules posted in the office, posted in the rooms, and given to guests.
- personal servants are not allowed in public rooms nor to reside in the club
- nannys are allowed only in the nursery
- drivers may drop off people in the front of the hotel but may not remain there. Drivers cannot be in the front, main building, or rooms at any tim
- sandals or collarless t-shirtss are not allowed in the club building at any time
- jackets and ties must be worn after 7P on Saturday in public rooms
- meals must be ordered one hour in advance

The strangest thing about these rules is the for the first day we stayed at the club we were the only people in the entire place. And the second day there were three Indian couples. Would be it has been many many years since the staff here has seen a servant or nanny! This used-to-be exclusive British hunt/fishing/sports club is frozen in time. The British have all gone home and what remains are the rules, lots of forms and carbon paper, and 1950s decor. The floors have a tilt to them. Windows don't fit the frames. Definitely a Yip Tour memory in the making. They had rooms available for drivers but our driver took one look and bailed. He is staying in town (smart driver). Ashley thinks the club is charming.

Up early the next day for our all day drive to Mysore. We left Munaar and headed northest over another group of mountains, down the slope of the western Ghats and onto the plain. This area is the state of Tamul Nadu. We went through another animal reserve (huge) with the scenery much like Africa. Lots of birds, elephant scat and tracks, white-spotted deer, wild boars, no sign of tigers :-<.

The road varied from good to pot-hole ridden. For our Fruto California friends it was like traveling on a bad 99W through small villages. Our driver was not sure at some points which way to go and the road signs are almost non-existent. Capt. Yip Ashley) lept to the challenge and successfully navigated us thru any towns and unmarked junctions.

Through small towns, passing sugar cane, rice paddies, small farms, and then over another mountain with 27 hairpin curves (each one is numbered so you can mark your progress). We were then in the state Karnataka and our destination Mysore straight ahead.

By the way – each of the three states – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka – speaks a different language and has a distinct writing. Sometimes the road signs are also in English, most often not. We didn’t see any other westerners the entire day. It was total immersion. And we got to practice "please" and "thank you" in three different languages! You couldn’t imagine a situation more fertile for a Yip tour adventure!

All in all the trip took about 11 hours. We arrived in Mysore, had tea and cakes, and then a little nap which turned out to be all night – we woke up at 6:30A. Were exhausted.

Mysore is a very large city famed for its palaces and silk manufacture. Tourism is a big deal here. We are staying in a palace built for one of the maharajah’s daughters. It sounds much grander than it is – a three story building with large pubic rooms on the first floor. Has a lovely garden on the side with white Adirondack chairs grouped around low tables where you can take your tea or lime sodas. We will be here for three days and then to Bangalore for our flight home. Lots to see and do – I’m looking forward to the silk factory and the Maharajah’s palace. The traffic is monumental and the noise can be deafening on the main streets. Am sure there will be lots of quick escapes from the streets into secluded cafes that serve cold lime sodas! :->.

It is Thanksgiving day in India...... no curried turkey in sight.

Last edited by Bonnerbl; Dec 17, 09 at 7:20 pm
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Old Dec 18, 09, 2:00 am
  #6  
 
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Pretty extensive. 11 mins!!!!! that sucks. Any pics? Thanks
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Old Dec 18, 09, 3:26 am
  #7  
 
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Weren't you struck by the look of policemen in Mysore? Karnataka police wear cowboy-style big hats...Isn't it strange to your eyes? South India and cowboy hats...
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Old Dec 18, 09, 9:18 am
  #8  
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Policemen in Mysore -

Yes they do stand out. And are significantly larger in physique than others. Don't remember seeing them armed but they did carry a stick-like cane suitable for smacking someone :->.
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Old Dec 20, 09, 1:20 am
  #9  
 
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Interesting trip report about my home town of Cochin and the state of Kerala! I live in SFO and travel SFO-COK every year.

I'm surprised you find Cochin and Ernakulam male dominated. In reality it is the opposite - the state is one of the few in India with more women than men, and for long was a matrilineal society. Kerala is the most socially progressive state in India, with a literacy rate of ~95%, and life expectancy about the same as USA today, both anomalous compared to Indian averages.

On the flip side, we in Kerala have arguably the craziest drivers in the country. At least in Cochin, the driver would be very wrong about seatbelts - there's been a recent crackdown by radar gun-wielding police on speeders and people without seatbelts (cars) or helmets (bikes).

The water system is not a delta, but a backwater/lagoon. Kerala has a significant Muslim and Christian population, in addition to the Hindu majority, but we get along just fine.

I'm impressed that you got to see so many places - Cochin, Alleppey (Alappuzha), Kottayam, Munnar, all within a single short trip. I've been to all these places, but they thought of rushing between them all within days gives me a headache! There's a lot more in Cochin itself that you might have found interesting, particularly the recitals and dances at the Fine Arts Hall, and the Jew Town and Mattancherry synagogue, which dates back to the 15th century.
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Old Dec 20, 09, 10:10 pm
  #10  
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Thanks for the additional insight

I need to be more precise in the words I pick :->. I reacted to it as male-dominated because with few exceptions the shopkeepers/managers were male, the staff in the hotels were male, the waiters, the cooks. We did encounter women but they were always in secondary/minor support jobs. Am glad to hear that may have been a misperception on our part. We did see the synagogue in Jew Town and some of the dancing near Kottyam. Rather than be prisoners of train/bus schedules we hired drivers wherever we went and were able to concentrate on those things of most interest and save a lot of time. With only two weeks we chose to emphasize fine arts, architecture, fabrics/design, and bird watching. Our itinerary was tailored to nearby bird sanctuaries and national parks. Am looking forward to our return trip!
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Old Dec 21, 09, 10:27 am
  #11  
 
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Very informative! Thanks for a nice report.
sobore is offline  
Old Dec 21, 09, 5:12 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
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Nice trip report. Also, if you are interested in bird watching Vedanthangal is the place for it. It is located about 50 Miles south of chennai. Below is some info on vedanthangal. http://www.forests.tn.nic.in/wildbio...bs_vedabs.html
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