Fawlty Towers

Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
1
6
74
Trip End Oct 22, 2004


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Flag of India  ,
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

28/11/03

Greetings from the Sub-Continent pale-skinned ones.

Hot-off-the-Press report of our confinement/stay at Keralayeem Heritage Resort, Alleppy:

Pluspoints:
Er, I'll try and think of some at the end.

Minuspoints:
Food
Restaurant
Staff
Isolation

We won't be totally negative about the place, because our room was really comfortable, big shower-room and nice verandah overlooking the backwaters. But when you go away, the restaurant and food plays a major part in your general happiness.

This is where Keralayeem fell over Heskey-style.

We should have spotted the signs when we arrived.

A german lady sat crying in reception, and as we know Germans never show their feelings (sorry-xenophobic). We smiled and said hello to our next-bungalow neighbour, he returned the compliment with a look as if we had pooed on his lunch (who in fact turned out to be our life-saver as you'll later find out). The manager had greeted us with the now-customary weak handshake, and checked us in, in prison warder fashion. I waited for the rubber gloves to come out. Fawlty Towers sprang to mind.

That evening we went to dinner. The main building in which the restaurant was situated looked really nice and traditional. But to get into the restaurant you had to either walk through the TV room or the office, and once inside, the atmosphere hit you like a wet fish in the chops.

There were about five tables. We sat down at a table for two, with five pairs of eyes upon us.

On the next table sat a pair of well-heeled 70-year old Northern Indians, the man was sat in a lotus position, cross-legged with bare wrinkly corny feet on chair.

On the table behind were what we initially thought were a couple of Brits in matching flip-flops and stripy tops, the woman having more make-up on than Marilyn Manson. But they turned out to be, yep you guessed it, our continental neighbours from the Black Forest (and it looked like they had been hammering the gateau).

And sat in a corner was our tearful lass who looked like she'd lost her winning lottery ticket.

We all sat in deafening silence.

Just to the side of us, leading out directly into the restaurant, were two more guest rooms. Four 1950's fans on full-blast blew our napkins everywhere and a full-up grey plastic bin sat dejected by the entrance. What a weird set-up.

Me and Soph looked at each other. We didn't have to say a word, in fact we couldn't or we probably would have been thrown out for excessive noise. Instead we played charades and honed our telepathic skills.

We had to order our food earlier in the day so it could be made (supposedly) fresh. The food-ordering schedule was as follows: Order your breakfast the night before during dinner, order lunch at breakfast and dinner at lunch. Usually you'd be interupted half-way through your meal to do this. Their timing was impeccable.

They would also have the annoying habit of calling your room about 15 minutes before the time we had ordered it for, and informing us that we should come now or our food would get cold!

Our food (I use the term loosely) arrived at 8pm on the dot:

Chicken bones in gravy.
Luke-warm cheese fondue.
Stone-cold pulao rice.
All washed down with a 2001 vintage water.

Because the resort had 'Ayurvedic' in it's title, this was a Kingfisher-free zone.

Gordon Ramsey would not be losing any sleep tonight. In fact, we had a sneaky look in the kitchen at one point, and probably wish we hadn't. Squalor is an apt word. The only thing lacking were rats scurrying around, but these had probably already been caught and used for the mutton curry, which funnily enough was my favourite dish.

The best part of the meal were the chappathis, so we ate about 10 and made our excuses and left out the back-door. (Not before having to order breakfast for the following morning.)

We'd booked seven nights here, full-board, as there weren't any (decent) restaurants within, well, within the time-zone. 21 meals, I could feel the pounds falling-off already.

That night we waited for the amoebic dysentry to kick in, but strangely woke the next morning feeling fine. We sat down at our desk and tried to figure out an escape route. After deciding a tunnel would be too dangerous, we decided on a two hour boat trip around the backwaters.

There are about 2,400km of rivers around Alleppy, and we only managed about 20, stopping off on the way to meet the family time forgot, and had a mini-tour of their 10-feet below sea-level farm.

Back at base we had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the boat.

On the way back to our compound, the neighbour, who was a sucker for punishment, turned out to be staying for one month and we stopped for a little chat. His name was Sajid Khan. A distinguished looking Indian with an American accent who looked, acted and sounded like a cross between Ozzie Osbourne and Marlon Brando. He had a guy staying with him who we thought was his gimp, but apparently was his Man-Friday who every now and again would be sent into town to stock-up on Kingfishers.

Our friendship with The OzzFather blossomed one afternoon, when, after spending three suicidal lunches in the restaurant, we asked if we could have lunch on our verandah.

A perfectly reasonable enquiry? You must be joking.

Even though there were about six guests at the confine, and our bungalow was a two-minute walk, the spotty young waiter was having none of it.

"You eat in restaurant" he said, as if barking orders to his pet chihuahua.

Sophie, who was wearing the trousers that day, barked back, but to no avail.

I then tried on the trousers for the first time and uttered four words I thought would never pass my lips: "Get me the manager".

Sophie looked at me surprised, but with a slight you're-my-hero look on her face.
I tried to look commanding, but deep down was wondering what I'd done.

Out came the prison warder and like the waiter he was having none of it. We were beginning to wonder who the guests were here.

We then stormed off in a right huff, deciding to pack our bags and shoot off to our next destination four days early.

On the way, The OzzFather was reclining on his pavillion, sipping his fourteenth beer of the day. He stopped us to ask about our boat trip but the conversation soon got onto The Room Service Episode.

We explained what happended to him as if we were his little brother and sister who had just been picked on. He had been getting room service since he'd arrived so he couldn't see a problem.

His Man-Friday was despatched to get the manager. Within thirty seconds the manager scurried over with the look of a condemned man.

"What's all this I hear" the OzzFather said in a Brando-like way complete with cotton-wool in bottom of cheeks, "I get room service, why can't these have it too?" he said gesturing to us. We averted our gaze and bowed our heads in shame.

The manager then summoned up the courage and dared to cross-swords with our Sugar-Daddy: "If we give them room service, everyone will want it."

Ozzie immediately dismissed this and slayed him with a barrage of angry words WWF style.

We would be having lunch on our verandah that afternoon after all.

He then told the waiter to get us a couple of beers from his own private stash in the cold store. As the waiter crept away, Oz bellowed "Well ask them if they want one now, they may be taking a shower!" I then piped up "Um, actually we wouldn't mind them now thank you" in a not so commanding voice. Soph's you're-my-hero look disappeared from her face and turned into a feeling-sorry-for-me look.

We waited on our verandah, complete with smug looks.

It then dawned on us that you should never be rude to waiters or chefs. They can do bad things to food behind closed doors of which we won't go into.

Our food arrived along with a couple of beers. The beers were downed in a flash. The food was picked at like a rash. It would be the first and only time we would get room service we decided.

There were unconfirmed reports the following morning that the manager had found a horse's head in his bed.

The next few days passed without much ado. We'd spend our time listening to bird-songs. Our favourites being The Lesser Spotted Loose Fanbelt and The Crested Winter Morning Cold Starter.

We were also transfixed by the ancient Indian custom of 'who can clear your throat like an extra loud coffee-percolator', which is practised by almost all Indian men, and usually just as you walk by them.

One pluspoint of the resort was the TV room, complete with satellite. Star Sports would be showing the rugby world cup final.

Me, Soph and the OzzFather (whose son we subsequently found out played rugby at a public school in England) settled down for the game, complete with Ozz-donated beers.

Half-way through Ozz had to go for his daily massage and left us to gnaw down our newly grown fingernails. The Indian staff popped in every now and again to see what all my oohs and aahs were about, and, having never seen or heard of rugby before, soon left when they got bored/confused.

After a roller-coaster ride of emotions, the final whistle went, and the urge came over me to run outside and jump for joy into the backwaters, but after seeing what the locals use it for (which is pretty much everything) I decided against it.

World Champions, and not an Ozzie, Kiwi or pair of Frogs-Legs in sight for me to run up to and go naaaa-naaaa-na-na-naaaa, damn.

The resort now felt like a real holiday camp, and with a night on a houseboat to look forward to, our general moods brightened up.

The night before the houseboat we asked one of the staff if there would be alchoholic beverages on board. The answer was no. We started to panic. It was 8.30pm and the offy in Alleppy would shut at 9. We were just settling down for dinner when we learned this and had no chance of stocking up tomorrow as it was a public holiday and everything would be shut.

Unbelievably, the staff offered to send someone into town for us. We gave them 600 rupees for ten beers and the return tuk-tuk ride. Sorted.

The next day our boat turned up at 10.30am (see pic), we would be on 24-hour water-leave, with enough beer for the duration. Think, before you drink, before you sail . . . always take enough for the trip.

For the rest of the day we cruised along with our crew of three. Shibu the steerer, Happy the chef and Worrier the engine man.

We'd stop off on the way for a visit to a 110 foot long snake boat, holder of the Nehru Trophy from 91-93, if you're interested? And later had a stroll around a 400 year old church built by the Portuguese. You could tell it wasn't Indian built by the fact that it had actually been finished (with windows and everything).

We moored at dusk, and took another 58 pictures of the sun setting, as you do. Following this, the cook came out and gave us a bamboo fishing rod. We were both going to fish for the first time ever. Soph dropped her line in a few times but the fishies kept on swimming off with the chappathi bait. Enter Gaz. Five minutes later I had a bite, and after a mammoth struggle with Soph hanging on to my waist I reeled in a 2 pound monster catfish (see pic). After the initial elation, a sense of watery-homicide hung over us. The cook wanted to, well, cook it, but we insisted it go back with it's newly pierced lip. (Are you watching Kev and Mark?)

Then we had our most delicious meal of the trip so far, followed by a few games of Uno. The scores so far, for all you Sports fans is 10-0, 10-5 and 10-8 to Cool-Hand Gaz.

We woke up the next morning at 6 to have breakfast and watch the sunrise. After another 36 snaps of the sun (you can never have too many) we set sail for home.

Behind obviously, the rugby, the houseboat was the best experience of our stay and salvaged some happiness from our time at Keralayeem.

At one point about 20 mountain-bikers from England showed up to stay one night. The urge to jump on their bikes and ride home was difficult to resist but we battled through the seven days and came out all the wiser in the end.

One day we took a tuk-tuk to Alleppy beach, and the India that we were experiencing summed itself up nicely. An oldish guy wandered into the sea and proceeded to drop his keks and wash his privates right in front of us, nice, then about 20 metres further along the beach we saw a family of five dolphins about 30 metres out bobbing along. This country is a country of extremes and here it was illustrated very well.

Soph then turned all Confucius-like and thought up her very own proverb:

"Expect the worst and never be disappointed".

Wise words Grasshopper.

Over and out from the backwaters of Alleppy. See you in the mountains of Thekkady.

Cool-Hand Gaz & Sophucius xx
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