Friday, April 9, 2010

Temples, Palaces and more

There's a temple around every corner in India. But similar to how we felt in Thailand after seeing our first few dozen temples, after a while they all tend to blend together. It's not to say they lose their luster or beauty, it's just that after 237 days on the road, we're starting to get a little burned out of all the sights.

We also miss our routine of Valkara. Other than possibly Pondicherry, we haven't found a place in India yet where we feel comfortable and relaxed. We went from Valkara to the town of Alleppey, the center of the famed backwaters of Kerala. The town is built around the houseboat cruise industry, we couldn't go five feet without someone offering us a "houseboat" tour. Partly because everyone was doing such a hard sell, and partly because the canal system looked like it was full of sewage, we decided against a cruise. (To see what everyone told us we were missing, see these pictures from a google search.)
We continued up the coast to Fort Cochin, a city described by our guide book as "an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal, Holland and an English country village grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast." They forgot to mention the myriad tourist restaurants and trinket shops, but otherwise it was a pretty cute town, but we happened to hit it during a couple of days of intense rain storms which somewhat limited what we could do and see. We did have our best meal in India to date though, and one of the simplest: called Kati rolls, they're essentially fried filo dough wrapped around roasted vegetables and spices. That and some fresh lime sodas (lime juice squeezed into a glass and topped with cold sparkling water) made for a scrumptious dinner.

From Fort Cochin we braved an overnight bus to Mysore, up in the mountains of South India. It was a Super Deluxe bus, but we were aware that they slap the word Delux on all sorts of things that are no such thing. This bus wasn't too bad, except that when we got to the state boundary between Kerala and Karnataka (at 3AM) we had to wait until light to keep going. Karnataka has a law against driving at night because of accident danger. Which begs the question, why didn't the bus just leave Fort Cochin three hours later to avoid having to wait? Not sure, except it did allow us to catch a few hours of sleep while not going up and down and around on the windy, rough roads.

Mysore has been somewhat of a disappointment. It contains Maharaja's Palace, supposedly one of the grandest palaces in India. The orginal palace was damaged by fire in 1897 so they rebuilt/renovated in 1912. It is beautiful from the outside, but we didn't pay the 200 rupees (nearly $5) each to go in. Why? We didn't feel like it (plus 200 rupees is more than two meals for both of us). Plus Jaimee has spent the past couple of days suffering from a head cold/sore throat and hasn't really felt like doing too many touristy things.
We did take a ride up to Chamundi Hill, where there is a beautiful Hindu Temple. The day we went was some sort of holy day and the temple was swarming with people; the line to get in snaked all the way around the temple. So again, we contented ourselves with pictures from the outside. Then on the way down, our rickshaw driver wanted to take us to all sorts of silk and natural oil shops. The rickshaw drivers are all in cahoots with the stores around here. Same with the hotels. When we got off the bus in Mysore, we were accosted by rickshaw drivers all wanting to show us business cards of local hotels. It's a bit much, especiallay after being on a bus for 12 hours (almost four of which it was stopped, because in addition to the mentioned "wait for daylight" break we also stopped at a restaurant around 11PM).

We topped off our stay in Mysore by visiting the quirky Rail Musuem, which our guide book called "A must see." Not sure about that, but we did snap some pictures of random ancient machinery to keep my Uncle Neil happy. Take a look at all our pictures from Varkala through Mysore.

Tomorrow we head to Bangalore, the "Silicon Valley" of India, where most of the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) takes place. We've arranged through couchsurfing to stay with a 30-something Indian couple. We're looking forward to getting off the tourist trail for a bit and meeting some locals.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the Rail Museum pictures; that little rail truck was my favorite. But I also liked that Tata bus; that's the company that owns Land Rover now! That excavator floating on those pontoons dredging the canal deeper was funky. What IS that gunk being dug up?


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