In the Venice of India

January 25th 2010
Published: January 25th 2010
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I am now in Kerala. In Alleppey, which they call "the Venice of INdia". I am not sure about that, but it is charmingin its own way. By far the best place I saw since I left Mysore...

Leaving MAdurai was a long process... THat night I was supposed to take the train at 2 am. SO I met Pieter for supper on the rooftop of one of the hotels. We had a long dinner, trying to waste as much time as possible until 2 am... We were the only clients in the restaurant for most of the evening so we had a lot of attention. Pleasant staff, really trying hard to make us happy: I asked for a glass of cold milk. THe guy went to the cook and came back with a sad face: "Madam, we have no cold milk. But we do have cold coffee, cold pepsi, cold water...". Actually finding milk is not simple. I tried the milk shop. "Sir, can I have some milk?" "Milk? No madam". I still don't understand how a milk shop cannot sell milk.

After that long supper, we went to the train station to wait for our train. Unfortunately it was one hour late, which meant waiting until 3 am. I was deadly tired, considering I usually go to bed VERY early, so we ended up doing just like everybody else: we tried to catch some sleep laying right on the floor in the entrance of the train station. It wasn't that bad, but the mosquitoes were extremely aggressive. I didn't sleep at all, but ended up chatting with an old man whom I couldn't understand at all. And he didn't understand me either. "What is your purpose here?" "Tourism" "Toilet?" "No, tourism, tourist, I travel..." "Toilet?" "Oh whatever...". "No bed?" "NO, I stay here tonight, I wait for my train". "Ah, you rich or poor?" "Hum, well, poor"!

I slept a little bit in the train, woke up with a cold from sitting too long on the rooftop on that breezy night. I didn't feel very good, and KAnyakumari, the very southern tip of INdia was not going to cheer me up. I wanted to go there, but almost wish I hadn't. The place had a very bad vibe, the hotel where Pieter and I ended up staying was very dirty and too expensive (again), the staff not very nice (people really don't understand here how a man and a woman can travel together and stay in 2 seperate rooms... Some think I am a very loose woman, and it is not very pleasant). The food wasn't good, it is a very cheezy place, dirty, not pretty either, in other words, I didn't like the place (I rarely said that while travelling in India...). To top it up, Pieter got food poisoning and was very sick all night. When I saw him the next morning, he looked like a ghost but there was no way I was staying one more night there and no way I would leave a poor soul in that hole, sick, by himself. So I told him he was coming with me to the train station, (whether he agreed or not!) and luckily we got a seat in the 3AC class, which was very quiet at first and very clean, so he slept and started feeling better by the time we reached Kollam. Thanks to a big dose of Cipro.

Kollam, I am sorry to say, is not a great city either. We ended up staying in a decent place though (YMCA), that was much cleaner than the previous 3 nights, and more comfortable. The city itself is not very interesting, but my plan was not to stay there anyway, but to take the ferry the next day to reach Alleppey. So after breakfast we got on the boat, and cruised down the backwater channels for over 8 hours. It is a very slow boat but interesting to see the villages, especially just before sunset when people are outside washing clothes, cooking, bathing, etc. The kids are waving, smiling, and the scenery is really pretty too. Coconut trees again. Most tourists found it a bit long, but I was recovering from my cold and enjoyed the lazy day.

Arriving in Alleppey was a bit busy, and it was dark, so we stayed in one of the places recommended by the Lonely PLanet. Big mistake! The garden restaurant looked great during the night and the food was good, but the rooms were not very clean (again!), overpriced, and the beautiful garden wasn't all that clean when you could see it in daylight!!!! Luckily today we found a jewel, a really really nice, clean hotel, tucked away in a small alley. It was a young guy who gave me his business card yesterday saying: "You look friendly so I give you my card". Well, he is very friendly himself indeed, and the guesthouse is wonderful and reasonably priced. Ahhhhhh, what a relief. The rooms are smallish but all made with bamboo walls and furniture, it is very charming. The place is called "Ashtamudi", for those going to Alleppey.

Tomorrow I will try to go to a small village not too far away from here. SHould be an adventure! I will be travelling on my own again. THere is some advantages to travelling with other people, but one also misses the contact with the local people when travelling with other people, and this is a big part of why I enjoy India so much.


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