Published: January 16th 2008January 12th 2008
Welcome to Kerala!
Keralean people are by far the most accommodating we've encountered so far.
Well, we did it.
We attempted to take the train to Kollam, Kerala. We've read all the stories, I saw The Darjeeling Limited, we've spoken to other travelers. The train seems like a necessary experience to fully feel India. We promised ourselves that we would, at some point, experience India's railways.
We went to the station, bought our first class sleeper a/c tickets and spent 30 minutes dragging our luggage and one-legged Nicole up a flight of stairs, over a bridge, then down a flight of stairs to our proper platform. Then, when the mile-long train arrived, we couldn't figure out what train car to get on so a train worker looked at my tickets and said, "Here, here, get on here." I got on with my luggage and Nicole's big bag (alone) while the girls waited on the platform. I peeked in the car and about eighteen people were squished into each four-person sleeper compartment. I told the man we needed a whole four-person space to ourselves, he laughed, then pointed to a "more spacious" compartment with six men, naked except for cloth skirts, and insisted we share the compartment with them until the next stop. I said
An assortment of Keralean lunch snacks. Yummy AND pretty.
no thank you, the train started moving, Michelle starts screaming from the platform, "The train is moving, Alys, THE TRAIN IS MOVING!!!" And it was. As I watched my friends' freaked faces slowly disappear, I grabbed my bag and threw it off, then grabbed Nicole's and threw it off, then grabbed myself and threw me off, barely landing on both feet and all the people on the platform and the people leaning out of the train were staring and laughing at me. We hired a spacious SUV to drive us the four hours to our resort.
Another wacky car ride for sure, but we haven't been so pleased with our final destination. We were greeted with smiles, warmth, and chai. This is by far the best place to spend the remainder of our trip. The owners of Fragrant Nature Resort, Adrian and Provine, are already pampering us and our villa is exquisite. There are only 6 villas here so the atmosphere is very intimate and everybody is so helpful and kind. We have a huge bedroom with a balcony that overlooks the Keralean backwaters, and a living room with French doors opening to a private jungley garden and another
Our balcony looks out over the Keralaen backwaters.
set of doors leading to a fountain. Across the river there is a temple filling the air with distant sounds of spiritual chanting. This place is amazing and we deserve it =).
Kerala is already and easily my favorite place in India. I love it here. It is very different than the intense, overly populated, culturally diverse Mumbai, where in any given moment you can expect to see a Muslim, a Hindu, a Parsi, a Christian, a bare-shouldered tourist, and a beggar, all sharing sidewalk space. Kerala is also very different from the tourist-driven, predominantly Christian Goa where perched on the dashboards of taxicabs are plastic figurines of sun-bleached Jesus. Kerala, in contrast, is interestingly a Communist state and by far the most spiritual as well. Kerala is also the most educated state in India, boasting a 99% literacy rate. Driving through the streets, this is evident as school children dominate the road and every other building is a school. The people here are different too. Keralean people just talk a bit more gently, move with more intent and grace, and are extremely quick to smile and wave. This is India at its finest and for the first time
I can confidently say, I would definitely come back here.
Our first night at the resort we took a sunset boat cruise in a punt ("pooooont" boat), a traditional hand carved wooden canoe-like boat. These boats are all over Kerala, both the oceans and river backwaters. The boat ride provided us with views of the village fisherman and sand miners at work, storks and egrets going about their business, and a spectacular sunset.
The next day Michelle and I headed into the village for an elephant encounter, leaving our injured (and sick) Nicole home to recover. The elephants we visited are temple elephants, used in various processions, festivals, and temple activities. At the time, they were in their resting zone where they get fed, bathed, and spoiled by me and Michelle. I was assigned the largest of the bunch, a 40-year old male with polka-dot ears and a very sweet disposition. I could tell he liked me. I hopped aboard for a stroll through the village then thanked him by giving him a bath, a pedicure, kisses, and some fruit. I love him. I would like to take him home as a souvenir.
After eating a home
These grow like weeds at the resort.
cooked traditional Keralaen dinner overlooking the river, we retreated back to the villa where Michelle battled a cockroach with a squeegie. She won. I guess even in the most pristine accommodations, the beasts WILL find us.
There are more photos below