Kerala is famous for it’s backwaters and the house boats that cruise it’s idyllic waters. And no that is not cruise in a George Michael kind of way. We took two house boats trips. The first was day trip organised through the tourist board which was really good and took us firstly on a larger boat around some of the islands (indeed next to the island where Arundhati Roy, Booker Prize author of “The God of Small Things” hails from) and then later, on long boats through the smaller canals and into the villages. Sure, it is a little contrived with three trips a day being poled down the canals, and yet it was really worth doing. Whilst I suppose it was not a unique experience, it was a unique experience to this young country bumpkin from Zimbabwe.
In the evening Nipun and I went walked down to a local temple where we had been tipped off about a festival that was taking place. This turned out to be to be something of a highlight of our journey. The festival involved three (deaf?) elephants, an army of Tabla players (they bang the drums), trumpet players and an irascible priest who took exception to the gigabyte of photos I took. About half way through the evening whilst I was minding my own business (as you do) I was befriended by a ten your old boy, who then bought a friend who bought five friends who bought along a few more mates too. You get the picture. Nipun and I thronged by ten year olds, all of them great fun and relishing the opportunity to practice English and gentle tease the Foreigners (me). It was really refreshing, they only wanted to chat and laugh. For example, Vishnu - the apparent menace of the class room - approached us and said “Hello, what is your good name?” (They say that a lot here.) We told him, asked about his to which he exclaimed something in Malayalam whilst laughing and then ran behind his mates. His friends too fell about laughing. I assumed he had said something a bit daring, rude or mischievous. It turns out that he was not that good at paying attention in English and that was all he knew how to say or understood and he had confessed as much to the other kids, evoking much mirth. To be fair, Vishnu got more abuse during the evening than I did. Nipun and I beat a retreat when we had about 30 vociferous children about us all cajoling for attention and creating a racket that was not unnoticed by old friend the bad tempered priest. I really wish I had taken some photos of this kids, they were great fun. Sadly though, coming from the UK anyone who points a camera at a child other than their own is a probable pervert and old habits die hard. Much to my retrospective regret the camera stayed in its bag.
The following morning we caught a passenger train (i.e. one size fits all, there is only one class which was great) to Alleppy where we stayed at Gowri Guest House and then embarked on an overnight boat trip on the backwaters. Again, this was fantastic and we had a wonderful trip. The house boats are quite expensive (worked out to about £60.00 for one night) but for your money you get the boat for 22 hours, a chef who would out cook Gordon Ramsey and two other crew hands to pamper you and ensure happy travels. So not bad value at all. At times the backwaters can seem a bit M25 like with house boats coming at you from all angles, but we had it good. In the high season there can be triple the amount of boats we saw and a house boat with set you back a whole lot more money.
We caught an overnight train (departed 0015) to Bangalore yesterday and went out briefly in the evening. Banglaore is modern (and expensive) and seems different to much of the India that we have seen so far with regards to it’s commercialism and consumerism. For example we ate KFC (just around the corner from McDonalds) and went to the very swish Rock Bar. The Rock Bar was ultra modern and trendy other than the fact that they played Bon Jovi DVD’s at us for the forty five minutes we were in there. It struck me that if ever there was a man that should not have a Superman tattoo on his arm, Jon Bon Jovi would be him. Poor Clark Kent.
And so it is farewell India. In a few minutes we will be on the bus to the airport and stage 2 of our trip will be upon us - Thailand