Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Lotus Tour - And Other Alleppey Activities

Lotus opening up on Vembanadu Lake

To round out our six weeks in India we splurged at Bamboo Stix Island Resort.  For $44.20 a night we got a sweet room with stunning views of Vembanadu Lake, fun interactions with local people, nights at the bar with the fun and friendly guests, and a total bug infestation (like tons of bugs even inside our mosquito net) only 1 of our 3 nights.  Welcome to India.

The fun began with long walks on the beach narrow and crumbling retaining wall that lined the lake.  The Indian girls (who were scared of her pale skin and blond hair) would run up to Jesse, giggle, and then run away.  Emboldened by our calls of “Namastaaaaaaaay” (hello) we were eventually adorned with wild flowers and requests for first one school pen, and if not a pen, then one coin for my school coin collection.  When these polite and humble requests failed, the children would invariably turn up the volume and just scream “MONEY!!!!!!!!!, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  to which we would again deny. 

We also made friends with some young cricketers along the way who taught us the basics of the game, and reminded us that sometimes just a plank of wood and rubber ball is all one needs.  And maybe some more lessons.

Here we are, flowers in our hair, posing in front of a
coconut tree with a political ad for the communist mayor of Alleppey.
The local flower committee
Gorgeous.  Simply gooooorgeous.
This was a very serious photo for the kids.  Russ and I, however, gave our biggest smiles.
Despite the epic form, if you look closely, you can see this was a total whiff.
Perhaps the worst cricket team in all of southern India.
Russ smashed it out of the park, causing the kids to lose their only ball. Oooops.

The fun continued with “cooking lessons” or as I liked to call it, the Cut Sweeni’s Veggies class.  We did watch as he prepared the many, many dishes of our delicious thali, so we now know that Keralan food includes an alarming amount of coconut oil (yes, the very same coconut oil in one’s healthy movie theater popcorn) and is by and large all prepared in the same way:

1)    Get coconut oil really hot
2)    Fry up the desired spice mix (i.e. veg curry, okra and onion, chicken curry, pineapple curry, whatever)
3)    Add meat/veg/fruit (whatever) and continue to saut√©
4)    Make it even healthier by adding a significant amount of coconut milk
5)    Mix everything around and serve.
6)    Delicious.

We also watched Sweeni make kheer – delicious rice pudding.  I love rice pudding.
Dave, Jesse, and Russ with Sweeny (our chef), his wife, and his waiter.

Dave and Sweeny
Just keep chopping.
Russ has much to learn about
kitchen safety.
Egg curry.
See recipe above.
Veg curry.
See recipe above.
Okra curry.
See recipe above.
Pineapple curry.
Recipe above.
Another curry.
See recipe above.
Kheer (rice pudding)
You don't want to know why this dish is sooooooooo delicious (but it has to do with a lot of sugar and cream).

But how much sweeter does it taste when you have made it (and are eating it) with your own hands?

To get a bit more backwater action we shared a small boat to take us through “the tightest and most scenic canals. “ And while the canals looked substantially like the canals we drove around in all day on our houseboat it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Sitting on the small boat, watching the backwaters go by.
Local people fishing

Stunning Alleppey sunsets
And my final Indian activity – an early morning lotus tour.  As Russ and Jesse slept, I cruised Vembanadu Lake in a canoe, watching and watching for the famed lotus bud to open itself to the sun.  It was pretty spectacular morning, not so much for the lotus buds themselves, but taking in the larger scene, as the flowers, animals, and local people woke up for the day.

Opened lotus
Our canoe on the Lotus tour
A bird lotus tour.
Lotus in green
Plenty of lotus photos
One last lotus

It was a good end to our time in India.  Later that day we struggled with all methods of Indian transportation.  Taxi boats to tuk-tuks, to public buses, to private buses, to airplanes, we eventually landed in the glint and gleam of the Bangkok airport.  What a journey!

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