Published: November 30th 2011November 29th 2011
Spreading out something...
Chillies and something else...the something else was ravaged by pigeons soon after
So our first full day in Trivandrum (we're just going to use the cop-out colonial spelling from now on) got off to a somewhat late start, crawling out of bed reluctantly at about 9am after crashing out quite early last night. The room service in the SP Grand Days is to be commended as we've been delighting in room service that is (a) cheap as all hell comparatively and we're both tightasses of the first order so never do it in Aus, and (b) actually freaking awesome Indian cusine on par with the best stuff we've eaten in Aus. We even had our laundry done rather than the ole washing in the sink routine. Very decadent! We're basically just in a holding pattern here in Trivandrum to try and recover from the travails of well over 24 hours with no sleep, as well as mild jetlag. It's probably a good thing that we're jetlagged too, as there's been some form of all-hours construction work going on in the room next to ours. So tonight it seems we're going to be falling asleep to the dulcet tone of intermittant electric drilling and general construction ambience. But we digress.
The hotel and
But most still use their helmets as decoration for their scooter handlebars...
the others in town seem to stick out like proverbial sore thumbs, if that sore thumb was 12 stories high and made of reflective glass and concrete. From our window we look down 10 stories onto a virtual shantytown of close jammed in thatch huts, roofs patched with anything from dominoes boxes to tarpaulins and electoral advertising posters. Brightly coloured washing is strung across lines on rooftops and laneways and the ubiquitous coconut palms rise up everywhere out of the havoc (we get the feeling this place could be a bit lethal in a high wind during coconut season). There also seem to be a huge number of small hawks/kites that are constantly surfing the thermal uplifts in a tight spiral, hunting constantly for smaller prey with a fair degree of visible success (bad luck there, Mr Sparrow).
Our holding pattern notwithstanding we ventured out today to one of the handicrafts co-operatives run by the Keralan State government. Don't know if it was just a different time of day that we went out but today we saw a whole heap more people, particularly kids around. Many of the people (especially kids) are so excited to see you it feels
I don't know if they'd meant to do it with their advertising budget though...
a bit like you're famous, with people saying 'hello' or 'hi' to you in the streets, grinning and waving frantically at you. After getting over the initial feeling of being slightly daft we embraced our celebrity status, waving back and saying hello. Once you go out into the streets the humid air socks you in the nose with a slight smell of burning plastic to complement it. The nasal assault is rounded out by the occasional waft of a sewer, and kaleidoscopic coloured piles of rotting garbage litter the sides of the smaller roads. Stray dogs and cats wander aimlessly, poking at the garbage piles and sniffing in doorways, while the honking mass of scooters, auto-rickshaws and cars dart in and around one another in a clamouring anarchic display.
The co-operative had heaps of cool stuff, forcing Tess to exercise significant self control. We don't think they had many customers that day (we were pretty much the only ones there at the time), especially cashed up foreigners; and the women manning the stalls were eager for our business. You are probably imagining agressive, persistent sales pitches and bargaining, huh. Well, yes, they were persistent, but their sales technique had
Though marching for what, we do not know!
Tess trying not to laugh. The words were right: "Madam, look, silk scarf, top quality, so many colours, look!" Yet it was all delivered in a very quiet monotone, making them sound somewhat robotic (if the robot's batteries were running low): "Madam. Look. All the colours. So many. Red. Green. Blue. So many colours." Once you'd made a decision, they'd do a last minute Are-You-Sure-You-Don't-Want-To-Buy-Every-Other-Item-On-This-Table? No? You-Probably-Do-Though-So-I'll-Just-Show-You-Everything-Anyway. The ladies would keep quietly trying to push more stuff, showing other colours, and refusing to hear you when you'd said that was all you were buying. That done, we proceeded through a prolonged and what appears to be thoroughly Indian bureaucratic sales process, which took three desks, multiple people and several antiquated dot-matrix printers to accomplish. Then we set out to try and find an ATM which took us towards the main drag of the town, Mahatma Ghandi Road. We arrived there just in time to hear the music of a very enthusiastic and colourful marching band, who we heard before we saw. We had no idea what was going on but they were then followed by a huge mass of men carrying flags, demonstrating about something (about what we have no
Don't know what the flags were for...
idea) so we stood and watched until it became apparent we'd seen all we were going to see and we turned back towards the hotel.
Mission accomplished, we wandered back on a slightly different route which took us through the middle of one of the poorer sections of the neighbourhood. The legacy of Kerala's history of predominantly communist party rule is a far higher rate of literacy and education than many other states, along with a rich tapestry of communist inspired street art which peppers the muddy dirt laneways, along with bunches of red flags bearing hammers, sickles and stars. The contrasts are often stunning to behold, muddy dirt streets with a gap covered in boards and behind that a modern glass fronted building rising up. Surrounded on all sides by ramshackle huts painted in a multitude of different colours. Eventually we got back to the hotel, though by this time it felt like we'd been swimming through hot garbage infused soup for the last few hours and we collapsed into a heap once more.
So we're moving on towards Varkala tomorrow by rail (not that we've got tickets but its a short ride so we're going to
Just there in the middle of it all...
just front up and jump on a train). At Varkala we're going to be staying in a place with views over the beach which is supposed to be fantastic. This should scratch entry 57 on Aisha's bucket list: 'see a sunset over the ocean', as well as allowing us to enjoy a couple of Ayurvedic massages and other stuff. Varkala looks like a beautiful place and will hopefully be pretty relaxing for the couple of nights that we're there. Posting might get a bit erratic from now as we're not sure how much internet access we're going to have, but we'll do our best to post up as much as we can, even if this means we have several posts going up in one batch.
Aisha & Tess
There are more photos below