Friday, January 30, 2009

off to the hills

well it was hard to leave kovalam and its beautiful beach but it was time to move on so we headed to kanyakumari which was a 3 hour bus ride. it's in tamil nadu which is the next state, but still very close to kerala. it's the southern most point of india, the indian ocean, arabian sea and bay of bengal all meet there. it's a popular spot of pilgrimages and when we were there i notice many more indian tourists then westerners. it was beautiful, very windy which was nice to stay cool. we stayed only for 3 nights just to see the sights and walk around a bit. from there we took a train to varkala which is back in kerala, it is another beach village on the coast. after missing out train cuz someone told us it was the wrong one as we were getting on, we arrived only a few hours behind our original schedule. we were both disappointed in varkala, it's beach and surrounding cliffs are beautiful. if you can overlook the garbage that they throw over the cliffs. but it's just a strip of shops, restaurants and guesthouses above the cliffs, there is no sense of indian culture anywhere. so we only stayed 2 days then moved on to alleppey, it was only a few hours on the train to alleppey so not to bad. once in alleppey i started to feel a little sick, with a head cold, so we just walked around a bit and we were approached by a houseboat guy, we went to see his boat and after talking a bit we agreed to go with his boat. it's the most expensive thing i've done yet it was 5000 rupees which is about $130cad. with two of us it was still expensive for india, but it is something that you have to do when your there and it really was beautiful. unfortunately all of the boats are now motorized so it's not so great for the environment, as the locals bathe in the water that we are going through as well as wash their clothes in it and after boiling it use it for cooking. and while strolling along it kinda feels like you are invading their privacy a bit, especially when their standing at the edge of the water brushing their teeth. the houseboat started at 11:30am and went to 9am the next day, their was kim and i and 3 crew guys. they cooked lunch the first day which was fish rice and many pickles and masalas, dinner was chicken curry with rice and roti, a chickpea puree, beet masala, coconut masalas with okra or green beans, it was all very good. then breakfast of eggs, iddlys, masalas, fruit and toast with chai.
after returning we hoped on a bus for a 6 hour ride to kumily, where we are now. it's up in the western ghats on the boarder with tamil nadu. it was a slow ride up windy bumpy roads but a beautiful view. we are surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary and tea and spice plantations. the temperature is much cooler as well and it rained our first night here, when the sun is out it's not to bad but at night you definitely need a blanket. we met a rickshaw driver who took us on a tea plantation tour, we couldn't go into the factory as it's closed for a month from tourists, but we walked all through the tea bushes, it's a pretty cool area. after we went to a little tea stand and had probably the best masala tea (chai) i've had yet. then he took us to a spice garden where the owner gave us a tour. it is one of the most amazing gardens i've seen, not just the spices but the flowers as well. it was full of cardamon, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, turmeric, coffee, papaya trees, jackfruit, cocoa tree, peppercorns and more that i can't remember right now. it was also pretty cool.
yesterday we had an ayurvedic massage, it was 600 ru ($15cad) for 90 minutes, it's not like any massage i've had before. you get naked then sit on a stool while the lady rubs lots of oil in your hair and gives you a head massage then your face as well. you then lye on a bed with no sheet, first i was on my stomach and she pours oil all over you and does long fast strokes all over your body. she works individual areas as well but it's definitely not relaxing, after you turn over and she does the front side with more oil. you are literally soaked in oil, every part of your body, then you get up and go sit in a little chamber with your head sticking out and you get a body steam for 10 minutes. i did enjoy it and after a shower my skin felt very soft, all the oils they make from ayurvedic herbs so it's supposed to be really good for you. i am now trying to get rid of my cold so i can do some hiking in the sanctuary before we leave.

Monday, January 19, 2009

beautiful kovalam

i have just spent 4 days in kovalam with my friend kim, i met her about a month ago in mamalapuram. after separating for a few weeks as she went north she arrived in trivandrum on the 15th and the next day we took a rickshaw to kovalam. it's only15km away but very different, it's a little beach village. very developed for the size, lot's of package tours come here but fortunately for us this is a bad season for tourism here so it's quite lovely. the beach is relatively quite and much less people then goa, and allot smaller. the sun is allot stronger though and after
2 1/2 months here i had my first sunburn yesterday. i bought a hat today though so i'm all set, and i'm going through the sunscreen like crazy. for the first 3 days we stayed in a hut, then had to move today as someone had reserved it already. we are right next door though in another lodge so it wasn't to bad. we are behind the beach so it's much more quiet, and cheaper, we are surrounded by coconut trees and birds, and wake up to some chanting every morning. unfortunately kim only has about 3 more weeks so we are leaving tomorrow and heading to kanyakumari, it's about a 80 km away, a 3 hour bus ride. it's actually in tamil nadu, the next state over just on the border with kerala. it is the most southern point in india where the bay of bengal meets the indian ocean and the arabian sea. it has many temples and has great spiritual significance for hindus, they come on pilgrams to bath in the surrounding waters.
we will then come back to kerala as so far it's both of our favourite place, the food is the best i've had yet, lots of coconut is used and tons of seafood. for breakfast yesterday i had appam with vegetable curry, appam is rice flour crepes but a little thicker that you dip in the curry. fish moile is another favourite, it's a mild yellow coconut curry with butter fish. lots of fresh curry leaves as well as the spices here and fresh coconut make it something i know i wont be able to duplicate at home, but i will try.
as well as the tourists on the beach, it is full of fishermen, they are at it all day, going out and setting the nets then pulling them in, well yelling and chanting, it's pretty cool to see. although i wonder what they think of us getting in their way trying to suntan and swim where they work.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

off to kerala

well i left baga,goa on the 11th at around 10pm and arrived 21 hours later in trivandrum, southern kerala. it was a long but beautiful (during the day) train ride, the scenery was amazing, so green lots of coconut trees and water. trivandrum is a larger town, it's very hot and noisy and after 3 days i'm ready to move on. i was waiting for my friend who i met last month to arrive from the north, she arrived late last night flew to cochi from delhi then took a bus which was supposed to be 5 hours but turned into 8 as it had an accident with a rickshaw. so we are leaving today for kovalam which is just 15km south and on the coast, so it should be a bit cooler and hopefully we can do some swimming. i've just been wondering around here, i went to the zooalogical gardens yesterday, it's a huge park with a zoo some gardens and a natural history museum and an art museum. the zoo was a nice to walk through, very green and cool, but i was very sad for the animals. i haven't been to a zoo since stanley park had animals and this one was not so clean, there were 13 crocodiles in one little area with dirty water to chill in. the 2 elephants were both chained up and the loin and leopards were in small cages. as well there were tons of birds, big vultures, pheasants, storks all in small cages. i guess they don't really have animal rights activists here. or maybe they should charge more, then they could use the money to spruce up the place a bit, the entrance fee was 10 rupees, 0.25 cents. the gardens were really nice to just relax and read my book in and the museums were great as well. not much else to report from here, just that its hot! hot! hot!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

a little about the food

well it's been awhile since i've posted anything, i'm came back to goa for christmas and have a few more days to go before heading out. i didn't think anyone would want to read about how i've been relaxing on the beach and working on my tan. so i thought i'd write a little about the food here in india so far.

here in goa, you can get by without eating indian food at all. all the restaurants cater to the the english/european tourists that still want their beans on toast for breakfast. here i usually eat breakfast with at susi's, we have yogurt with fruit and musli (granola), and a cup of earl grey. other places i've visited all have this on the menu as well but with yogurt curds, it's a bit more sour and runnier then yogurt. the only place i've been that western food was not available was mysore. there i would just by fruit from a stand to have for breakfast, a whole papaya or pineapple and bananas. i've eaten more papaya here then ever in my life, it's soooooo good and costs around 0.50$ for a big one. i don't always eat lunch and dinner, sometimes just snacks on the beach, like fruit, coconuts or cashews (goa is famous for them, lots of cashew trees around) or one or the other. i usually have a lassi (yogurt shake) or a fruit juice or two during the day as well as lots of masala tea (chai). i try to eat indian for the other meal as it's usually the best food, sometimes i really want a break form it though and i'll order something like spaghetti or pizza. except for a couple times i'm usually disappointed by the non indian food though. one thing they do quiet well here is chinese food and it's also on every menu, fried rice, noodles, sweet and sour vegetables or chicken etc. it's always really good and cheap if i need a break from curry. in goa there is so much fish as well, mackeral, pomfret, kingfish, snapper and lots of prawns, small ones and huge ones. all very nice grilled or cooked in the tandoor oven. when i feel like i need a veg boost i usually have palak paneer, spinach and indian cheese with nann or roti. the best one i've ever had has been here in goa at a little beach shack, it was so flavourful, not to runny and the spicach was still green, not brown and overcooked.

in mysore and hampi i ate alot of thalis, they are always vegetarian and very tasty. south indian thalis were usually lighter, with poris, small fried pita pocket type things that you dip in sauces, some vegetables and pickles. where as the north indian thalis had 3 curries yogurt curd, a paneer dish rice and roti, it was a much more filling thali, all for around $1.50. i don't know if it's just cuz im in india but everything tastes better, the flavour of the dals, masalas, pickles everything is amazing.

for the first month except for a day where i happened to have beef, chicken and mutten all in one day i didn't eat any meat, just lots of fish. but in the past few weeks i have started eating some chicken, not allot but some. also there is a cafe here in goa run by a german lady that has a very good reputation and i had a cheese burger there the other day. i don't try to not eat meat it's just not a big thing here and the vegetarian meals are so good and allot cheaper. i am having food dreams though, day and night dreams. the other day susi and i were talking about how we would really love a meat and cheese plate for dinner, we went on and on and by the end we had named off all the cheeses and meats we could think of. i also dream about bacon and biting into a nice juicy steak...........

but that does not mean i am not enjoying the food here, i do love it! another thing i don't do allot of is drinking, goa is the only place that i have had alcohol. so for the month of travelling around in between my goa visits i didn't have any, and i didn't really miss it. here we usually have a drink or two watching the sunset, i have a kingfisher beer or a honeybee, which is what the others drink. it's an indian whiskey, really smooth and tasty. i mix it with soda, or put it in my tea, these past two months have probably been the driest i've had in a long time.