Cruising, Cochin, and Kathakali
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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Leaving the relaxing beach life and heading to other parts of India had me a bit nervous, but I have to say nothing could have been more relaxing than our cruise on the Backwaters! I think Todd and Katie describe it well enough so I won't repeat it all. After our cruise arrived back at the "port" we had some time to kill before our train ride from Alleppey to Cochin, so we walked around a bit and found an internet hub. In doing so we definitely saw a bit more of what I had thought India would be about - traffic & honking everywhere, people everywhere, trash everywhere. Alleppey isn't even a medium-sized city so I know this is just the tip of the iceberg and a hint of what we are going to see in Jaipur and Delhi. Which is why the itinerary that K & T set up for me has been great...slowly easing me into things, especially since this is my first time to a developing country
Our train ride from Alleppey to Cochin was all-in-all pretty tame - no "personal hell" experiences that Katie had had before. Our arrival in Cochin and transport to our hotel did, however, continue to build to what I know we'll find in the bigger cities - even more cars/rickshaws/bikes/people everywhere, lots of honking, more trash. Our hotel, which was pretty nice, was in a great area - walking distance to the water and right next to the Kathakali dance center where we saw one of the traditional shows. While Katie and I definitely liked it, Todd was clearly into it since he wasn't near as ready to bolt from our seats as we were and get food - Katie and I felt like it was about twice as long as we needed it to be...Luckily we stepped out of the theater and into the next door restaurant that served almost anything you could want - ideal for me as I think I hit my curry limit for the time being and was all too excited about ordering a bowl of hot & sour soup and french fries!! Tomorrow is going to be planes, trains and automobiles and my first experiences in the big cities...I'm sure there will be many interesting things to observe.
Meantime, thought I'd continue with my top ten...
Top Ten Things I Have Learned So Far (or at least since my last top ten):
9. Katie has not lost her obsession with reality shows and apparently recently watched a marathon of the best reality shows from around the world
8. There's so much to understand about the 5 major world religions - Lesson I - with a follow-up Lesson II to be scheduled soon on the background on the Middle East, so interesting I just hope I can remember it all!
7. Todd is a fabulous teacher, on so many fronts/topics - besides the 5 major religions I have learned about rice paddies, all things about every location we have been to, and how the heck he deals with Katie on a 24-hr basis ?
6. A loud, obnoxious guy talking on a cell phone on a train in ANY language is an ANNOYING guy
5. It's so fun beating K & T at Gin Rummy after they've just taught be how to play! (and it's not like Katie is competitive or anything, which didn't make it that much more fun or anything)
4. You can get cell phone reception ANYWHERE - and believe me, I have tested the limits! ? (so what, then, is up with the horrible, patchy service we get in the U.S.???)
2. Next to the SQUAT toilet I had to use at the train station (aka hole in ground, treads to place feet on either side of said hole and holding self up with wooden door) I will never again complain about a public toilet in the U.S.
1. Going out with hair wet, no blow drying, no makeup & not caring - priceless
When originally planning out our route, I definitely wanted to visit the Indian state of Kerala to do a Backwaters cruise. The Backwaters is a vast network of thousands of miles of canals through an immense stretch of swamps and rice paddies. In the last few decades, hundreds of large hand built wooden boats known as kettuvallam (which in the past were used for hauling harvested rice out of the Backwaters) have been converted into unique cruising boat for plying the atmospheric waterways.
We chartered one of the smaller boats (which had only two passenger cabins) for a 24-hour cruise
After reluctantly disembarking our kettuvallam yesterday morning we took a train north to the city of Cochin. Cochin was once a trading hub of the Portuguese colony in western India but today is a large city spread out over a number of islands. We stayed in the historic Portuguese-influenced part called Fort Cochin. One of the legacies of the Portuguese is their architectural influence and that Kerala has one of the highest Christian populations in India. It was surprising to drive by large 500-year-old European-style cathedrals as we entered the historic Fort area.
One of the traditional art forms of the state of Kerala that is performed nightly in Cochin (and attended by us last night!) is the traditional theater known as Kathakali. It is a bit like Japanese Kabuki or Beijing Opera in that the acting is very formalized and abstract, is accompanied by traditional music, and offers a completely unique way of telling ancient morality tales. Kathakali plays are reenactments of stories from Hindu epic stories such as the Ramayana and are accompanied by drummers and a singing sotryteller. The actors themselves do not speak during the performance, instead communicating through their wild facial expressions and mudras (hand gestures). All in all, it makes for a pretty bizarre and enchanting theater experience
Kerala has been a wonderful "easing-in" to India. The friendly people, fairly hassle-free travel, tasty cuisine, rich culture, and exquisite natural beauty make it a wonderful place to experience so much of what southern India has to offer. I'm a bit sorry to be leaving tomorrow as we fly north to visit Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. But hey...further adventures await!
The cruise through the backwaters of Kerala was one of the neatest things we have done on this entire trip. I had never imagined that India could be so peaceful! The banks of the backwaters were covered with palm trees, rice paddies and lots of locals living their lives (bathing, doing laundry, washing dishes, brushing teeth in the water). It was strange to have a staff of 3 people dedicated to us for 24 hours, but we loved it! Once you get your own personal chef, guess you can't claim that you are really roughing it.
I am looking forward to getting into the real India, as I feel like we have really been in little nice tourist pockets and have yet to experience any of the other extremes India is known for.
Todd seems to be handling Kristen and I quite well! I think he likes having a new pupil to teach travel skills to (when she isn't on the cell phone! Hi Vinnie!).