Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week Twenty-Five Daily Journal

Friday, March 18
Munnar, India

Talk about something for everyone.
A rickshaw picked us up in the morning and Clemens, the driver, dropped us at a trailhead.  We did a nice 1 1/2 hour hike up a mountain, had some snacks, and headed back down.  Then we went into town for a good lunch at Raspy (new favorite, tomato fry) and walked around the market.  We resolved not to eat fish in Munnar after seeing the fish stalls, with the fish baking in the sun, not on any ice, smelling horribly and buzzing with flies.  We took another walk around the tea plantations at sunset and later walked to dinner at Las Palmas.  Getting there was a typical Indian interaction.  The first time we asked Rajesh how to get there he said to take a car.  Later we asked again and he said, no problem to walk, i think you should walk. Only 300 meters.  We followed his directions and it was more like a kilometer in the pitch black night.  Oh well.

Saturday, March 19
Alleppey, India

It's like everywhere I travel, you can get a camel ride.
One disadvantage of a cool climate is walking up at 5:30 in the pitch black, freezing cold before dawn, but we had a 6:30 bus to make.  Actually, the bus left at 6:30, then stopped for chai, and then circled back to the same bus station again and left there again at 7:30.  (See post, Sometimes Getting There is the Hardest Part.)  The bus to Alleppey took over 6 hours and was bumpy and uncomfortable but we made a new friend and Maggie joined us in Alleppey at our home stay at Arunima Heritage Home.  Sali and Leela were an older couple whose grown children live with their families in Abu Dhabi, and the home stay is way to meet new people and fill their time.  Their english wasn't great but they were really nice, and Leela was the kind of grandmotherly type constantly pushing food on us.  She served up some delicious fried bananas and then Dave, Russ, and Maggie went into town to find us a houseboat.  That night, after watching sunset on the beach, we had dinner at the home stay - veg curry and chicken curry, and delicious parathas.

Sunday, March 20
Alleppey, India

In the morning we took some rickshaws over to the dock and boarded our houseboat, Coco Houseboats.  The owner, Swinton, joined us onboard and chatted for a while about houseboats, his arranged marriage, etc. while the staff - Joseph, Anish and S-something - got everything ready.  The boat was nice and big if a bit rundown.  We spent the day cruising through the backwaters and watching the fishermen and village life.  Lunch was a delicious thali with fish and served on banana leaves that Joseph cut down from banana trees along the shore.  We also visited an old church and a carving workshop where 3 generations have been carving wooden statues for churches around the world.  Russ bought a cool bowl and Dave a cute elephant carving.  More Indian food for dinner and then we watched The Kings Speech - it was really good.

Monday, March 21
Alleppey, India

After breakfast (eggs, coconut pancakes), the boat dropped us off at Bamboostix and we said goodbye to Maggie who was taking the bus down south to stay at an ashram.  The resort is on an island in the backwaters near Alleppy and is built as a multi-level, open air resort with catwalks connecting the rooms, everything made from bamboo and metal.  A very fun and relaxing place.  We had lunch (salad!!! Ice!!! They use bottled water for everything) and then took a long walk around the island.  We stopped to hang out and take photos with some girls who were giggling and whispering like crazy and appeared to be scared of me, and to play cricket with a few little boys.   Later, we had pizza and pasta, and crab masala for dinner and hung out drinking delicious cocktails made with fresh fruit (and ice!).

Tuesday, March 22
Alleppey, India

Chopping onions.
Pretty much all we were allowed to do.

We hung out at the resort in the morning and enjoyed their delicious eggs and homemade bread for breakfast.  We took a canoe out in the afternoon.  We were hoping to make it into the narrow backwaters but the wind was really strong and even though we paddled for an hour and a half we never made it.  We did (or at least Dave did) enjoy playing chicken with the houseboats.  That evening we did a cooking class and learned the different dishes for a Kerala thali- Kerala dal, a coconut cabbage dish, a sweet pineapple curry, and okra (which they call ladyfingers).  We also made masala chai and, for dessert, pyacin, a rice pudding like dish but made with rice noodles instead.  It was really fun to learn what is in the dishes we've been eating, even if we mostly just chopped veggies and then watched the cook prepare the food.  Then everyone at the hotel ate what we prepared and we all hung out until late in the night.

Wednesday, March 23
Alleppy, India

Coconut break!
After spending the morning at the resort, we rented a motorboat (with 4 other guests) to take us out into the narrow backwaters we hadn't been able to reach by canoe.  It wad slow going but peaceful.  That night two of the girls took the cooking class so we had thalis again for dinner (slightly different ones, though).  Later we discovered a major bug infestation in our room.  We used the killing napkin to no avail.  Dave slept in the most infested bed, Jesse slept in Russ' bed (the least infested) and Russ slept on the couch.  It was a horrible night.

Thursday, March 24
Alleppy, India

Dave woke up early for a sunrise lotus tour.  After lunch we took a motorboat to Alleppy, a rickshaw to the bus station, a bus to Ernakalum (Cochin), a different bus to the Cochin airport, a plane to Mumbai, and then another overnight plane to Bangkok.  Long travel day!

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