WE arrived at the beach in Varkala on Wednesday, as the boys wanted to get in a little old fashion beach resorting while they are on holiday. It was quite a shock. I haven’t been to Goa yet, so perhaps it is like this a bit. The entire place is setup for tourists in a way I have not yet encountered in India.
Spent the last two lazy days aboard a houseboat, exploring the backwaters around Alappuzha. It was an incredible trip. The backwaters are like no other landscape I have ever experienced. It was great just hanging out with Arnaud, Sean and Breandan, getting to know each other and enjoying great food prepared by our boat’s chef.
We all decided to try out ayurvedic massage yesterday at our homestay in the unfortunately named Pooppally Junction (no relation to the Poopada hotel in Munnar). This massage was quite different from the previous Swedish or Thai varieties that I have had. Ayurvedic herbs and oils were rubbed with vigor into my body forcing relaxation into every pore. I did feel quite relaxed at the end of it, but had a hell of a time getting the oil out in the shower.
The food in the Pooppally homestay has been amazing. It is all local Kerelan cuisine prepared with love by our hosts.
Tomorrow, the gang and I head out on a two day houseboat tour of the backwaters. I will probably be offline for the next couple of days.
So we checked into this posh place in Periyar, as I said in the previous post. This place reminds me of some of the nicest lodges in American parks, and we are pretty happy to be here, even though we know that there is no going in or out of the park once it closes at 6pm. We figure no problem, as we notice that the hotel has a bar (they call it a “Beer Parlour”). We get settled in, take a walk around a bit, have our boat ride and come downstairs for our included buffet dinner. We decide that before dinner, we will stop by the Beer Parlour for a drink. We then discover to our horror that this is a “dry day” in Kerela and they can’t serve us. What?! What are we paying for in this dump?! I try to calmly explain to the staff that we are foreign and are not subject to their arcane drinking laws and that they should serve us anyway. They smile and nod and tell me this is not possible. I then ask our waiter at dinner if he can get us a beer and he too explains that this is a dry day. I ask if he can get us beer if we were to pay for a special “drinking license” just for us, wink wink. He smiles and says no. I ask if tomorrow is a dry day and he tells me no it is not. “Can we get a beer at one minute after midnight?” I ask hopefully. He tell me that the restaurant closes at eleven. After consulting my colleagues, I tell him we will pay extra. He shakes his head no, smiling nonetheless. My last, desperate sounding words to him are “If you change your mind, I am in room 116.”
Left a good job in the city…We next headed to Periyar, supossedly the most visited wildlife reserve in India. When we got there, we decided to spend a little extra and stay in a posh place inside the reserve itself. With our expensive hotel came a “free” boat ride around the man made lake at the center of Periyar. The boat was super crowded with French tourists. The only good thing I can say about this group of tourists was that they weren’t American. Call me jaded, but the scenery was also less than thrilling. I can see why Indians love this place, the environment is quite unlike anything else in India. But for Europeans and Americans, it resembles a lot of places we have seen. Also, I think I am just not the Safari / Trekking / Nature Reserve Type. I can appreciate landscapes and nature in certain contexts, but the safari-on-the-cheap feel of this place left me a little cold.
We arrived in the hill station of Munnar and I still had this damn cold. Alas. Munnar is at a fairly high elevation and contains surreal (to me) landscapes of tea plantations. We checked into our not very elegantly named Poopada hotel, and headed out to explore the town. The town ain’t much I can tell you that. The tea plantations are another thing altogether, and we took a long hike the following day in the most beautiful scenery. The most amazing thing about it is the mix of beautiful natural hillsides combined with the super manicured tea plants that stretch for miles.