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India Blog 16 (finishing Kerala)

May 19, 2010

OK, we’re done with the ashram.  We made a few friends and kept 1 old one.  2 canadian girls that want to see everything with a smile on their face explore while they wait to eventually meet their boyfriends lagging behind in canada, along the backpacker trail.  1 Indian from Kochi, but lives in Delhi, down here for yoga, is done with the financial work and longs to get back out into traveling fantasy realized.  He speaks Italian and even has ties to one of their women.  Part playboy, part responsible adult, he will get everything he wants.  And Rhea, she taught with me in Korea, did the course with Mary, and might still be seen wandering India forever moving in and out of travellers lives bequeathing them with spiritual guidance and a reiki massage.  Or she might just go back to Korea where she has lived for the last 8 ears, long enough to learn the language and date a Mongolian gangster.

With this group, we go to Kanyakumari.  Where 3 oceans meet (1 ocean and 2 seas).  This is the southernmost tip of India.  We stayed on the third floor of a hotel overlooking a 2000 year old temple reviewed by an Athenian trader in our guidebook, and a stones throw away from 2 islands with monuments to great Indian sages.  The city is kinda shitty, but the temple and the islands shine.  One other temple is just outside of town and worth mentioning.  It is devoted to Hanuman, the monkey god devoted to Lord Rama, and is a stunning complex with an intricate gopuram (Tall thingy laden with tiny statues?), and large and small cooridors leading to and lined with all sorts of statues carved from one peice of rock each.  Every room has a shrine to a different god and trees grow out the middle of roof openings.  I love this temple.

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Next, up the coast to do a backwater river boat tour.  Fist hour is relaxing, then we get stuck for almost 4 hours when the water level isn’t high enough to keep the boat from bottoming out in a very narrow channel.  There is no turning around, only disembarking, which all the other foreigners except us.  We wait and the tide eventually comes in enough to continue.  The rest of the ride is relaxing.  I listen to reggae, Mary gets to drive the boat, the sunset is spectacular, seeing so many people use the water for their livelihood is interesting, but overall I would have liked a tour where we talk to the locals more.  Oh, and our friends left us to pursue other options, but we did gain 1 as well.  Mairead, Irish, from the ashram.  She has done a lot more yoga than us so its great to pick her brain on different styles.  Also, she is a confident outspoken person who tends to tell ya whats what when needed, like when she yelled about Indian courtesy for anybody around to hear when our path was blocked getting off the train by a mob of boarding Indians.  Love her.

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Done with boats, we see Alleppy and Kochi, second time for me.  Then to Thrissur for the Pooram elephant festival.  The biggest festival in Kerala and on many to do lists, this festival probably had about a million people scrunched together to witness 50 elephants with 3 guys on their backs stand still as men change from one colored umbrella to the next.  It’s quite odd, but the throng of onlookers alone was worth it.  I guess I can say I have been to it, which might be better than actually going.  Hours of giant umbrellas up and down cheered enthusiastically.  Some men in the crowd stand on the shoulders of others and pose like bodybuilders, others try their best to grab the ass and tits of any girl within reach.  I defend Mary vigorously, but Mairead has to yell, “WHITE WOMEN COMING THROUGH” and point and scream at the groping men stunned to see her put up a fight.  She gets separated with Rhea, back from her own excursion, and they leave early because of the growing condensed crowd.  We stay, see more of the same, and fight our way through the crowds to leave.  Done and Done.

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Back to Kochi a few more days, see the oldest jewish temple in the commonwealth, about 500 years old or so.

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Off to Munnar in the Western Ghats to show Mary my favorite place so far.  Once again.  I love this place, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  Neverending tea plantations line the sides of mountains interspersed are areas thick enough to be labeled jungle and forest of sandalwood, high looming peaks, giant rock faces, winding roads perfect for a motorcycle and villiages small enough to get away from tourist throngs looking here for perfect weather.

Most beautiful places I have seen since leaving the US 3 years ago:

Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province, China

Olkhon Island, Siberia, Russia.

Gobi Desert sunset dissapearing on a straight away, Mongolia.

Seoraksan Moutain in fall when the leaves have changed in North East South Korea.

Connemara and Galway on the West Coast of Ireland

The top of Mt Fuji in Japan

The shallow ocean water of the Mariana Islands, specifically Saipan

and Munnar area, Idukki, Kerala, along the Western Ghats in Southern India.

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We leave for Madurai in Tamil Nadu.  This state will be all temples and ruins if I have my way, but first three night at an ashram just outside Madurai.

This is the end of Kerala for us, hopefully not forever, but the amount more there is to see in this country is staggering.  To give you an idea, I am writing this about 1 month behind and am thousands of miles away at the foot of the Himalayas, still in India.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Elayne Sawaya permalink
    May 19, 2010 3:40 pm

    thanks again Alex for a wonderful trip.
    I too loved India, but spent only one month there.
    It changed my life…dramatic as that may sound, it just gave me perspective.
    Keep on trekking.
    Question? Did the sandalwood forest smell like sandal wood ?

    • May 20, 2010 11:03 am

      yeah it did, but not very strong from the road, I had to go into the forest to get the smell

  2. May 23, 2010 2:47 am

    I’m so glad for that recap, Alex. Especially the part about the Trishur fest. That was wilder than the jungle treks, by a long shot.

    I wonder what will become of all of us? I’m looking forward to the novel when it comes out. I’d like to write it but too lazy and talentless. Let me see the pieces of it as it comes forth.

    And keep in touch! You and Mary have pretty much slipped through the radar.

    Rhea

  3. May 26, 2010 2:54 pm

    hi alex! i just watched the lakers lose last night with your dad at my house and he reminded me about your blog…i loved reading it! it reminded me of the 2 months i spent in india in 1975…brought back all kinds of memories…e.g., never take one person’s answer for directions, as they do, in fact, just say anything that comes to mind when you ask them where something is…at first it was exasperating, then it became kind of a game with me. i was in cochin. is that the same as kochi? i ask because it had the oldest jewish community in asia, as i recall…it is on the southwest coast of india.

    i also recall both loving and hating the country more than anyplace i visited on my trip around the world. the beauty, the poverty, the dirt, the beggars, the thieves, the enormity of the place, the spirituality…and the taj mahal…all in one country. i didn’t want to leave and couldn’t wait to leave. don’t miss the taj.

    i loved reading your entries! keep up the writing and take in every moment of this experience of a lifetime!

    love

    jimmy

    • June 3, 2010 8:10 am

      kochi is the same, the temple (oldest in the commonwealth) is still there but the jewish community left around 1990. Not good for me because I showed up there on passover hoping to find a seder but found nothing. Not even a restaurant named Menorah could give me some Matzo Ball Soup. Nevertheless, I had a great time there as well as everywhere else. The TaJ is a sight. Great to hear from you. Can’t wait to watch game 1 tomorrow morning here in Bangkok. Did you take the offer for your Finals tickets?

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