The South vs.
The streets of Fort Cochin.
Driving through Munnar.
In the backwaters of Alleppey.
September 4, 2006
While some of the normal stereotypes of India still exist in the south, it sure was a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun) from being in the
more congested areas north of here.
I was only down here for a little bit over a week which only gave me the opportunity to go to three different cities: Alleppey, Munnar
and Cochin. Each one was drastically different from one another yet all three had so much beauty to offer. Not only that…the people
here had so much to offer – whether it came in the form of smiles, handshakes or just wanting to have a little bit of conversation. This
was quite a change from traveling through Delhi and Rajasthan where a rupee was expected for simply any and every interaction.
While in Kerala, I learned of a holiday called ‘Onam’. The festivities take place for ten days until the main festival. Apparently this is
their biggest bash of the year. There is are parades galore and a huge feast that is served on a banana leaf and consists of at least ten
different types of food. Because this is something only Kerala celebrates (in honor of their former king), my Lonely Planet India – all
1100+ pages of it – made exactly zero references to this holiday. I extracted my information on Onam from a combination of speaking
to a few locals and piecing together some broken English and from reading the newspaper. And of course, as my luck would go, I am
leaving the day before it takes place. Because I am unable to change my plane ticket, I am now doing the equivalent of going to New
Orleans and leaving the Monday before Mardi Gras.
Holidays-that-I-was-missing-out-on aside, I noticed some other miraculous things down here that I don’t think would ever happen up
- I had to use internet in Fort Cochin to figure out some stuff for when I got into Delhi. I didn’t use the full hour. Normally that
doesn’t matter since you just pay the hourly rate. The guy insisted on giving me ten rupees back since only part of the time was
- The initial prices that were given for things were fair. Who knew it was possible?
- One rickshaw driver didn’t try to get me to take his rickshaw. Instead, he just wanted me to come over to chat for a few minutes.
- I bought some cookies and chocolate and the place gave me too much change. I went to hand him back a ten rupee and he gave it
right back to me. Sure, this could have been due to the fact that he was not great at math…but the point is that he didn’t jump at
the bit to take back the money.
Let me emphasize that it was still not a cakewalk going from place to place to place. It was not so much that it was difficult. It was more
that it got tiring and exhausting at times. For this reason I was a little bit cranky when I got into Cochin. Yesterday I had a firm chat
with myself and decided to turn my frown upside down. It made for an absolutely fantastic day in Fort Cochin. It really could not have
been much better as the town had so many charming qualities about it and I was able to engage in conversation with many locals. But
when I arrived back in Ernakulam last night (the part of Cochin where my hotel was), I was once again greeted with the symphony of
horn honking that can drive somebody mad. This ‘somebody’ that I am referring to was me.
I was set to leave for Delhi this afternoon and I saw on CNN this morning that it was almost 100 degrees out there. Yesterday I geared
myself up to handle the exhaustion that would come with traveling for the next ten days. What I didn’t think about was the weather
conditions. This definitely could pose a problem with my ‘stay positive’ plan. Because I know myself rather well, I made the executive
decision to head to a travel agency. I first inquired about flying to Varanasi tomorrow from Delhi to avoid hanging out at the wide-open
concrete hotel they call the New Delhi Train Station and the twelve hour train ride that would follow. The ticket would be $170 for only
one way. Ummm… not a chance. I then decided to ask about a round-trip ticket to Kathmandu. Price: $210. It took me only about five
seconds to say “I’ll take it!” So now I am heading into the mountains for a week and am looking forward to a little bit of peacefulness.
Believe it or not, I am a bit disappointed about opting out of going to Varanasi. I guess I will have to wait until next time to view
cremations taking place in the Ganges River…
I also feel like a bit of a traitor. I was ready to give India my all for the last week and a half that I was out here. But that was also before
I saw how hot it was going to be. I am sick of my body being its own personal sauna. I still have a loooong time on the road…I am in no
mood to get burnt out just yet.
On that note…Nepal, here I come!