Monday, 23 April 2012

Varkala


Lonely planet made an impression that Varkala is an overpriced town with crazy prices and one government run hostel hell knows where for cheap. I told my tuk-tuk driver to drive me there, and thank god it was full. I guess it was full of people who had lonely planets in their procession! I asked the driver to take me to a guest house, my budget is $6. He took me somewhere, I went upstairs to look at the room. Beautiful, clean room with king size bed, closet, and a balcony the size of the room, I almost yelled at him with "didn't you listen that my budget is $6???". I asked the owner how much is it, and he said $6!!!!! SOLD !!!! I couldn't believe it!!! It's end of season and all the guest houses are all almost empty, and pretty much it’s you who set the price for it. They rather make any money, than no money at all. There is a problem with guest houses, there is no common area, everybody is for himself ... how are you going to meet people?? I decided to solve this problem by sitting in the restaurant at a table that was close to another table where a guy was sitting alone as well. No point for two people on the beach to dine by themselves! I didn't have to wait long to initiate a conversation. He ordered a beer, and I guess the restaurant didn't have alcohol license. They served him a beer wrapped in a newspaper, placed next to his chair and gave him a flowery butterfly mug. I learned that I don't have to say anything smart at all, just have to say absolutely anything. If a person is not interested in talking, s/he will say something like "aha", and if yes, then any mistakes/goofiness on my part will be excused (guys ... it works for you as well!! :)) ). I told him "what a pretty beer mug you have there :)" and we continued talking till the morning. See, nothing smart is needed, just any “in the moment” comment would do :) His name is Andy, he has phd in biology, and he has done absolutely nothing with biology since then. He travelled the world for the last 20 years, living in Australia, UK, South Africa, Germany, Spain, working as a waiter, carpenter, restaurant manager, chef. He had dreadlocks for 10 years, and it was a very interesting combination of someone who's very smart, and who looks nothing like it :)
In the evening we went to a bar, I was very tired and sleepy, thought of going back, but then decided against it. If I want to meet people, I have to be out, and apparently, this is the place to be! I was absolutely right. Andy met 2 girls from the day before, they joined us, then some other guys who know the girls, then guys who know the guys, and there ended up being 12 of us! Most of us were hanging out together for the majority of my stay in Varkala.
One of the guys (Jeff) gave us all a psychological test to do. We had to draw some objects, and then he would interpret them. He told us to draw a cube, determine what it's made of, ladder, what it's made of, flowers, a horse, thinking of direction, size, domestic/wild and a storm. My results are: big ego, very private person, have a good and balanced network of friends with equal support in terms of giving and receiving. Have connection with lots of kids (I have no idea what he's talking about, I just love flowers!!! :)  ), I'm supporting my husband (which is domestic), and currently going through major challenges in my life! Hm ... sounds interesting. My question is, where am I going to find that many children????
There are many dogs in Varkala. During the day they're good and friendly, but during the night they turn into monsters and start to protect their territory which is everywhere they are, or everywhere they had a piss that day ... I guess :) I heard enough stories of them attacking people, and biting them, and I'm not ready to receive 150 shots against rabies in case they bite me! I got scared, and my guest house was far. Thank god Jeff was staying in the same guest house, and we walked back together, breaking big braches off of trees to protect us against the dogs. All that panic for nothing, there were none on the way. We were lucky! During my stay we got attacked twice though. Once right beside the guest house, there were about 10 of them sleeping, and we disturbed them, Jeff shooed them away with sticks. And the other time, on the beach, out of nowhere they started chasing us. Jeff threw his shoes at them, while I run away :) I really don't like dogs, and I have reasons for it!! Of course there are some small cute ones that hide under the table in the restaurants, and a few times I almost threw the table down the cliff when something started to lick my toes :)
Varkala is a very nice beach town situated on a red cliff with nothing but guest houses, shops and restaurants along the edge, all of them offering amazing views of the ocean and the beach below. The shop owners first bothered me with "come look my shop", but after a while they remembered me, or my bright pink shirt, and bothered me no more :) Of course I still had to bark at a few people, for example one jewelry sales man. He was showing me all the jewelry on the distance while I was having juice, I kept shaking my head in a "no" movement. 5 times, 6 times, he still didn't get it. He then got up and walked towards me, pulling yet another necklace from his pile of stuff. At that point I exploded with "I said no!" bark. He got scared and run away. He didn't bother me anymore from this day forward :) Speaking about juices, the juices here are sooooo amazing! There are any combinations that you can imagine! With such a variety of the best food I've ever had in India, restaurants, juices, I promised myself that every day I will try something that I never tried before. My craziest juice was a combination of carrot, apple, beetroot, ginger and coriander. At first it was scary to order something that you have no clue what it is, but one day I counted, and I ordered 6 different things, which were new to me, and they were all super delicious! :) Ok, if it was just me, but I brainwashed Andy and Jeff to do the same. Oh man, what were they ordering! The weirdest thing on the menu, you would be sure that they'll pick that one! And they would eat it too! If I don't like it, I'll just eat whatever they ordered from their plate, but if they don't like something, they have this macho feeling that's engraved in their macho brains telling them to finish it. Either that, or they're worried about all the starving children of Africa :)
Next day Andy and me agreed to meet at 1pm on the beach. I waited until 3, well, not really waited, I met other guys from the night before, then he showed up. He just woke up! Yep, that's the life in Varkala. You have no idea when you'll go to sleep, you'll have no idea when you'll wake up. This was the weirdest place ever. There would be nights when I'd drop dead for 12 hours, and other nights, wouldn't be able to fall asleep till 6. Why?? I have no clue! Neither does anybody else whose sleeping schedule got a life of its own.
My bikini is not suited for this beach at all. It's so wavy, and the waves are so strong that I had to readjust it every time the wave hit me. By the end, I had to throw the bikini away because so much sand got into it, and I couldn't get it out :(
People are so friendly in here ... I love Kerela! The owner of the guest house said that he's going to the market, and if I would like him to get something for me. Then while I was on the internet, he came and gave me grapes. It's so nice :) I missed hospitality :)
On the beach there were mostly backpackers, but the Indian gangs would still be making their rounds. Sometimes I would give them a look, turn around and cover my breasts with my arms as in giving them a hint that it's not OK to look at a woman as though she's a piece of meat! Andy was laughing, but I bet he wouldn’t be laughing if he was a girl!! I swear, if I’m not going to punch somebody out till the end of my stay in India, or throw their cellphone/camera into the ocean, they should mold me and worship me like one of their gods!!
On the beach I wanted to play a beach ball, but we didn't have any rackets :( I went around and found a person who had them. I asked if I can borrow them, he said that he's leaving soon, but we can play meanwhile. After 5 minutes, he approached us and wanted to know which guest house we stay in, so that we could keep the rackets, and he could come by later on to pick them up!!! WoW!!! My mood was definitely improving in Varkala!! :)
In the evening there was an open mic event in the bar. One popular singer was travelling around and gave us an all night performance. He quit his career to spend more time together with his wife :) How sweet :) He's from Ireland and for some reason most of the songs he sang were sad and I almost fell asleep. I thought people drink in Ireland so much that all the songs would be happy so that everybody could dance on the tables, but nope! Then some girl hit the stage. She was terrible. We all gave her a round of applause after the first song as an encouragement, but when she started singing another song we needed to come up with a strategy fast!!! We all convinced Andy to go sing something, as once, many years ago, he was in a band himself. He was shying away, saying that it was ages ago, and he could barely remember anything. But no way he could be worse than that girl, so we just pushed him onstage!! :)) He wasn't bad at all. I don't know what all this drama was all about :))
We then went to the back (police problems again), and continued singing there. It was a round sitting area, maybe a fire meant to be in the middle. There was no fire, but there was the famous singer back again, and about 60 people around. Would be cool when he started singing a song that everybody knew, and everybody would sing along. It would create a close community feeling :)
Later we went to another bar which played actually normal dance music, just the way I like it! I was so happy, I was dancing the night away. There was one Indian guy who worked there, he would do some crazy exaggerated moves and everybody would follow. Pointing a finger at the sky and stomping/waves/shaking of hands and head in sync/pelvic thrusts (ok, I skipped those ones)… it was so much fun! Jeff, Andy and I were playing a game where you have a bunch of faces and you have to guess which face your opponent has. The loser would go and dance on the stage for the entire song – by himself! I won twice, and saved myself the embarrassment. But it didn't look like Jeff and Andy thought it was a punishment, they continued dancing even when the song has finished :))
 I have no idea when I went to sleep, must have been late, cause I think the next day we met up for breakfast at 3! :))
Something very strange is going on in Varkala. I'm not sure what it is, but I can feel it in my bones, I just can't really pin point what it is!! After a few days of a very suspicious atmosphere, I got it!!! There are no cows in Varkala!!!! I have no idea where they are, maybe the dogs have chased them away, but seriously, this is my first cow-free town!! :))
Andy told me some extreme game that he was playing once. They would roll a dice and predetermine what each number means. As the game went on and the drinks were coming in, he ended up getting a scar, and some girl ended up getting a tattoo with Andy's name, made by him with some needle and a die from pen!! Ok, I'm not gonna go that wild, but I thought if I had a choice of places to go to, I could write all the names down, and then roll the dice :)
There were a few signs to do reiki. I have no idea what is reiki, but in one of them, the guy travelled all around the world healing people and is constantly on TV. According to my life theory that if something doesn't harm you, you have to try it at least once, I signed up for reiki! The guy was supposed to open my chakras (what's a chakra?), and that interested me enough :) It was an hour, I lied on the table, and he put his hands on my head, throat, stomach, knees and ankles. I had a coffee right before that, and my thoughts were racing. For some reason I was seeing cats, dogs, shirts and pants. The images were switching in my mind with incredible speed. Then he told me to concentrate on my third eye and tell him what color I see. Deep, luminous blue appeared out of nowhere, first it started as a dot, and then it grew bigger and bigger until all my forehead was covered in it. I was disappointed, I expected red. I did aura reading in Toronto, and I have a red aura, but this blue was just there, and didn't go away! I told him blue, and he said that my chakra is open (yeah right!), then he told me to concentrate on others, but I couldn't see any colors :(( It was cool, when I saw blue, I started breathing very heavily, like pre-climax breathing, I couldn't get enough air, there was too much energy! 1 hour was over, and I felt ripped off. What's the point of reiki? What is it anyway? But then I saw a picture of a man sitting in a lotus pose with all the chakras (energy centers) and colors drawn on it, and third eye is blue!!! :) He told me that I'm a very lucky person, I couldn't see the colors, but none of my chakras are blocked, I have a very strong voice, self esteem and motivation. I paid the money, but left unhappy. Next day I had 2 extra strong frappes, and I noticed that my thoughts weren't racing at all. I thought more and more about reiki. I thought about my racing thoughts and my heavy breathing, and the fact that I saw a color, and it was the right color that magically appeared out of nowhere. I told him that my knees and ankles hurt, he did reiki on them, and all evening I was very impressed by how almost lubricated they felt. I was disappointed at the session itself, but next day I was quite amazed!
Andy and me were looking for one massage center. There are like hundreds of them in here! How do you know which one to choose? Anyway, one was very cheap and very recommended. We were looking all over for it, but couldn't find it. When I went to reiki, there was a sign for that massage center! It must be a sign, we went there right away and made an appointment. It wasn't too bad, but it wasn't too good either. A lot of rubbing (they love to do it in aurvedic massages), but I could feel that they don't really know the body, they just do a bunch of moves that were taught to them. It was ok, so I didn't mind. But afterwards we were so relaxed, we couldn't talk or walk straight on the street, were constantly stumbling over each other :)
I got fed up by unprofessional aurvedic treatments, and decided to sign up for a 4 day treatment. One clinic (and the only one) was recommended in the lonely planet, and I gave it a go. The doctor actually examined me, asked me a bunch of questions: dry skin - no, memory problems - no, bad sleep - no, cracked heels - no, indigestion - no no no no no ... easily irritated? - only at Indian men! :)) Being a doctor runs in their family, and I could really feel the professionalism. He said that my neck is a little stiff, and they stretched me, it was so funny. I lied on the bed, and they tied a towel around my ankle and opposite hand and pulled in both directions :) Then switched. Then I sat, and he put his arm where my throat it, and pulled upwards :) I became so much more flexible after that :) I asked him a bunch of questions. My knees hurt - you just have to do yoga; sometimes I can't breathe, low blood pressure? - No problem, you just have to do yoga :)) He didn't try to sell me anything, but nevertheless I signed up for 10 treatments in 4 days. Aurvedic medicine pretty much means natural. There are no chemicals, and all the pills/oils are 100% herbal with no additives added. I did 4 massages, 4 rice ball thingis. All the herbs are blended into a mixture and almost brought to boil. Then there are 2 rice balls which are constantly interchanged and padded on the body. I assume because it's so hot, the pores open and the cells absorb anything that comes in. Then I got a very not nice treatment. First my sinuses got opened with herbal steam, and then some drops were put into my nose. It was disgusting, and I was spitting and spitting for an hour later. I was supposed to meet Andy for breakfast, but I came to his guest house and said that I can't go anywhere in this condition. He was laughing at me, said that I watered all the plants around his room :) I felt like a camel :) And another treatment was a very relaxing one when hot oil is being poured on the head. Aahhhh so nice :))
In the middle of my therapy, I got sick, really sick :(( I’ve been to India for 2 months now, and this is the 3rd time I’m getting sick. Stress does its thing! I went there in the morning. They looked at me, checked for fever, and right away gave me a bunch of pills, some green disgusting potion to drink, inhale some herbs. I felt better right away. They told me to come back again at 1 and at 4. I started feeling worse, then better, then worse, then better. They really took care of me, and I felt very warm by their hospitality. Next day they told me to come back at 1 and 4 again, but I skipped the 4pm, this potion was making me more sick than healthy :)) Or at least I think so. The woman who worked there, a few times had to hold the glass, so it will just go in, I couldn't handle it, and it was a whole glass! Ok, if it's something disgusting, then give it to me in a small quantity even if it’s more concentrated, but not a whole glass!!
Andy met a girl on the beach, she came here to do a 3 week yoga and aurvedic course. She asked Andy how much he's paying for his room, he said $3, she looked down at the sand. Andy tried to calm her, said that probably her room is so much better, and she has a whole resort feel to it ... she still kept looking at the sand. She recommended us some cafe, said it's the best of the best. We walked there, it took us forever to find it, it's in the middle of nowhere, and I didn't like it at all. She must have loved it, because it's the only cafe in the area! There you go, it proves once again that book nothing from abroad. Come to a place, find a nice spot, and book things locally at fraction of the price!
Varkala is filled with aurvedic clinics and yoga studios, almost every guest house offers something. And the evidence of it is seen everywhere. Everybody walks around in yoga cloths, carrying yoga mats. At sunset groups of people sit in a semi circle facing the sun meditating. Sometimes you would see people in the middle of a huge crowd, quietly with their eyes closed holding a pose, such as cat’s pose :)) (http://static6.depositphotos.com/1040130/565/i/950/depositphotos_5656557-Woman-back-bends-yoga---cat-pose.jpg). I remember one of my yoga teachers told us that yoga is not about being in a comfortable pose, it's about finding comfort and peace in any pose. I guess they were practicing this theory :)
It's getting hot, very very hot! So hot that sometimes I have to wake up 3 times a night to take a cold shower and lie under the fan, only then I'll be able to fall back asleep. Then I started hiding between 12 and 3pm, it's so hot it's unbearable, you can't think, you can't move, you sweat like crazy. Whoever thinks they love it when it's hot, think again!
Andy, Jeff and me went for a walk to a different beach, and once again got convinced that there is nothing better than our beach. There were cactuses growing on the way, and Jeff got excited by the fruits and went to pick them up. Andy had no idea about these fruits and went after him. I warned him, do NOT pick up these fruits, you'll feel the needles for days! Of course, nobody listened to me, and on they went to pick them up. Andy, the less experienced one, crushed the fruit, and put it near his mouth to eat it. He had needles stuck everywhere, in this arms, fingers, lips, tongue... I told you so!!! Nobody wants to learn from someone else's mistakes ...
It got windy, and I was scared to walk on the path, since the coconut palms are everywhere, and they could fall no problem. I was walking with my head up again and jumping from side to side. While we were eating at the restaurant, it started raining. You can’t believe how happy we were for this rain. Somebody must have done the rain dance :) It's my first rain in India and I was ecstatic! Probably so was the huge spider who ran across table where we were sitting!!! It was humongous, probably the size of a palm with green eyes. I flew to the other side of the restaurant, and refused to go back until the premises were cleared! I told them to give me a broom as my weapon, and I was sitting there like a witch ... although I think witches eat spiders, I'm not ready for that yet, but if it was fried, I would've felt much better :)
Jeff doesn't drink alcohol, or takes drugs, or has any other bad habits ... of course I found a few, but it doesn't matter :) We were in a bar, and ordered 2 mojitos, and 1 mojito without any alcohol. No alcohol? - No alcohol! 2 minutes later we were approached by another guy. You wanted 3 mojitos right? - No, 2 mojitos, 1 without alcohol. 2 minutes later, yet by another guy. You want 1 mojito without any alcohol?? - Yes, NO alcohol !! :)) We were laughing so hard. Jeff was thinking what they're thinking. Man, they really threw us a ball. I quit, this job is way too hard! :) Andy was laughing too. You look, now we get some cucumber juice, 3 mojitos with no alcohol. Did you order calamari with mint and lemon on the side?? :)) We were fooling around. We even said that we should charge them for bringing people in. Jeff would be the big man with the big wavy arms attracting people, like meduza gardona (he drinks so many juices and eats so much sweets that he's high on sugar all day long :) ), I would be a dancer, and Andy would play a guitar. We even named our band Mo-J and 2 mojitos :) Random? ... Yeah, I know! :) I guess you think about those things when you don't have to think how to blackmail your coworker in order to look better to the boss, and have some useless report to get done by Monday morning :)
Jeff has a bunch of IQ/memory/concentration/brain games on his phone. I was playing them all day long. People would be dancing in a bar, and I would be thinking about my brain tingling problem! Every time I did some brain age test, I got about 19/20 years old! Yeepiii ... and my IQ is at consistently 126. Actually I think it's 2 points higher than my last IQ test. Happy happy :))
Andy and me decided to leave Varkala on the same day. Ok Thursday - ok! No, maybe not Thursday, I think I'll stay here till Saturday - ok, saturday! That went on and on. He won, he left first. But he had friends waiting for him in Goa. I was set on leaving too, but after a super fun dancing night, and a number of cocktails that I couldn't even count (I think we tried all the cocktails on the menu, including a "salty dog" - and yes it tastes as awful as it sounds! I just tried it and spit it out, but Andy’s machismo kicked in again :)), I wasn't in any shape or form ready to get up early to go anywhere else. Why leave? Varkala is awesome! Of course it wasn't that awesome when Andy left, but nevertheless ... Varkala is Varkala, and you can't change it :) No wonder why people move to live here. I met quite a few who return here every year, or for half a year every year, or some live here for 6 years already.
Me and Jeff started hanging out more and more. I needed some time apart from all his life enriching theories though, but I hate doing nothing, and I decided to sign up for a reiki course! I had a master "Shaloo" living right in the guesthouse. She said she got into reiki when she got hepatitis (don't know which one), and after 2 years of lying in bed, with constant doctor visits, drugs and unending number of tests, one of her friends suggested that she should try reiki. 2 weeks later she was out of bed, and she's healthy to this day. It was a whole day course. She first told us the history of reiki. It started in Japan, some man went to mountain to meditate and to get enlightment (that's how all the stories start in here. It’s either a mountain or under a tree), after 3 weeks, he finally achieved it, came back down all healed and started to heal everybody that he saw. He later opened a school where only Japanese men were allowed to practice. One woman from Hawai wanted to learn this form, but was denied because first of all she's a woman, and second, she's a foreigner. She kept in touch with them, but to no luck. Then the 2nd world war started, and Japan was scared that this traditional healing will be lost forever, they then did teach it to her BECAUSE she is a foreigner ( I guess they didn’t know they’re gonna bomb Pearl Harbour yet), and so it continued on and on with now reiki being practiced worldwide. Explanation of reiki in a few words is channeling the energy of the universe through your body to someone/something else. You can heal yourself, others, animals, food, even machines, charge batteries and heal people on the distance (more advanced level). We first did reiki on ourselves with guided meditation, then she did initiation. I didn't feel anything. The other woman was telling us how she felt, like she couldn't move her arms, and she had hot streams of air passing through her ... I felt nothing :( We then did reiki on each other. That was cool. When I did it on her head, I felt like I was wobbling and could barely stand. When she did it on me, I got a headache (sometimes symptoms get worse during the session - called healing crisis), and on my feet I felt waves like she was rocking me back and forth. After whole day of reiki, in the evening half on my head unblocked, and in the morning I woke up practically healthy, with both sides of my head unblocked. I stopped coughing, got more energy, all the 9 yards :)
I started practicing reiki on Jeff. He said that a few weeks ago somebody did bad chiropractic session on him, and since then his lower back was bothering him. I did reiki on all of his back. Later he said that it was so cool, he saw a bunch of colors, and when I did his lower back, it was black (blocked), but the longer I held it, the more colors started to appear. Then he turned on his back and in the middle of the session, he got an erection :) Well, at least I know the energy went somewhere ;)
I stayed in Varkala a bit longer because in the temple there was a big festival, and I really wanted to see if for a long time. Everybody told me that the festival season is finished, and there you go, it's happening right at my doorstep. It was so-so, nothing spectacular. There were A LOT of people! There was a band playing, then men would wear huge wooden structure on their head and spin around. There were people dressed like gods. But what I was waiting for most were the elephants. Suddenly everybody became quiet and started to pray, I couldn't see anything. I held my camera high and took a picture, they were praying for the elephant! We went up the stairs to be in the middle of the action. There were 8 elephants in total, all dressed up. It's very funny to see that, because most of these elephants live on elephant farm, and took a 2 day journey to get there, but 1 of them lives in the temple. One day when I was in the temple, the elephant was chained in the back, and the locals were throwing sticks at it. There you go, you can do anything you want with a chained elephant, but once you put a golden head-dress on it, suddenly it becomes holy, and people bring their hands together in a prayer.
Speaking of a temple, we went in and there is a tree with hundreds of dolls hanging on it. They look at you with these eyes, like they just came out of a horror movie. We were having fun and taking pictures in the middle of them, as though being on some spooky doll planet, until we were almost kicked out. Especially me, when I sat in the middle of it all, on some god that I haven’t even noticed. (There you go, my place as a goddess is closer than I think :) ). We apologized and asked what are the dolls doing here. They said that women who have problems with children who cry at night or are sick or if they have troubles having children, bring the dolls here and tie them to the tree. I really hope if they get pregnant, the baby won’t be as scary as these dolls!!
We then went to a restaurant, and I told Jeff that I'm leaving tomorrow morning, and a change of scenery would be nice for him too (he's been in Varkala for 2 months now). He agreed, and my path aligned with his next destination anyway :)
After the restaurant my stomach was grumbling, I did reiki and it went away :)
It's interesting to notice how the locals don't know some words. I got into a very posh autorickshaw. The driver really "blinged" it up. Wow, I said, your autorickshaw is like a limo. - Like what? Or, I was sitting on the beach and the waves were coming from all the directions. I told the lifeguard who I was speaking with. It feels like in a Jacuzzi. - Like in what??
I wasn’t really speaking with the lifeguard, he was more speaking with me. I was sitting there, splashing in the waves, when the 2 of them were coming near and whistling and whistling for the people to get out. What are you whistling at? I asked. Those people are knee deep in the water!!!! – Oh, they’re not like you, they don’t know how to swim, and the waves are strong. He kept on talking to me, of course asked me if I have a bf. Of course I have a bf!!! He told me that he’s been looking for a gf for 5 years already, but all the women are taken. I was laughing inside. Varkala is not the first destination in India, and girls have gone through the sour experience of saying that they’re single. They’ve learned, and so have I! I told him that he might have a better luck with Indian girls. He said that he doesn’t like them. He’s dark, and they’re dark, and he loves white skin. Good luck buddy! But these locals are not stupid. They go to clubs, they see girls and guys coming there on their own, and end up kissing on the dance floor, or even worse, leave together to a room. This is NOT happening in India. You do not kiss girls unless you’re married to one, and even then… Arranged marriages are arranged for only purpose of business, not for love, so forget kissing or any other kind of emotional connection. They’re looking, and they’re learning. White girls are easy, of course they have a chance too!! No, you don’t have a chance! A normal girl would never go for a filthy, uneducated, dirty, paan smelling, teeth rotting, ill mannered, long/dirty finger nailed, burping, spitting, sexist Indian, no way in hell!!
https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Varkala

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Udupi and Cochin


In Udupi I went to a hotel that the girls recommended to me. This hotel is so posh! It has marble columns, a bell boy, it's sparkling clean, has an aquarium in the lobby, a bunch of staff working, I couldn't believe that the room there can be so cheap! Oh, and it even has an elevator!!! My first elevator ride in India to the 3rd floor :) They helped me with the luggage, and gave me a real key which you then plug into the wall and the electricity goes on! wow!! Top class! The room had towel, soap, phone, closet, $8! I went to eat in hotel's restaurant. The decor and food was amazing! Everything had carved wood, nice wallpaper, Victorian style walls, carpets, and furniture, and the food was half the price! Everybody speaks perfect English! Another great thing about the hotel is that you pay for 24 hours, which is the best idea anybody ever came up with!!
I came to this city because the Lonely Planet recommended it. There is some important temple in it. In the morning, I went to the temple, and it was really nothing interesting. A lot of people praying, lighting candles, putting dots on their foreheads, kneeling or even fully lying down on the floor near their idols, buying oil and flowers, circling them around their head, and giving the donations to the holy people, and just walk in circles around any columns, touch them/the stairs, and kiss their hands. I secretly took pictures :) People donating lots of money, and considering how much they make, the donations are surprising! Religion is an excellent way of collecting money!
I wasn't too impressed by the temple, but I was glad that I went into the city. I was the only tourist, and non touristic cities are fun! There is no hassle, there is no bargaining, people are generally much more friendly, and everything is super cheap!
By 11am, I already saw the temple, used the internet and had breakfast. I still had time to do a return trip to Murudeshwar and back before the 24 hour checkout, and still make it to Mangalore, but decided against it. I took my luggage, asked for directions to the bus station. 1 minute from the hotel, I stopped to recheck my directions. Where is the bus station? I need a bus to Mangalore. "Mangalore, Mangalore!!" I turn around, a bus was just passing on the street and collecting more people! Lucky me !! :))
The bus driver was crazy, pretty much like all Indian drivers. With his hand 90% of the time on the horn, and mostly on the other side of the road.
The same story in Mangalore, not knowing what to do ... Bus/Train/Location? First decided on the bus, then at the bus stop, changed my mind and took a tuk-tuk to the train which left in half an hour. Thought to go to the beach, and bought a ticket for 80 cents. On the train, I always talk to people, asking what to do, where to go, recommendations. The girls told me that there is no beach in the town where I'm going to ... hm ... confusing ... What now? (Later I discovered that there is a beach, it's 7kms away from the city). But actually I'm happy that I didn't go, because it's off the beaten track beach, and it means that there are not that many tourists. Some would love it, I would hate it :) It usually makes for interesting stories, but I think I had enough interesting stories in the last few weeks.
The girls (Indian) were super helpful, wrote me a huge list of things to see. I have the list, but I won't go to any of the places :) I've asked them if they travelled a lot around India, and they mentioned maybe 4 places each. Of course if you've seen only 4 places in your life, all of them would be a "must go to" places ... not for me though, but thanks for the advice :) At least I initiated conversations between them, and by the end of the ride they were quite good friends :)
The minute I crossed into the state of Kerela, something very interesting happened! First of all, most people are actually friendly, second of all, there are advertisements everywhere for colleges, courses, summer fun computer courses, everybody's carrying backpacks and reading books! Unbelievable! Although, I'm yet to see an Indian reading a novel.
LP - In 1957 Kerela democratically elected a communist government - the first in the world to do so. Kerela has been labeled the most socially advanced state in India. Land reform and a focus on infrastructure, health and education have played a large part in Kerela's success. The literacy rate of 91% is one of the highest of any developing nations. The infant mortality rate is 1/5 of the national average, life expectancy stands at 73 years, 10 years higher than the rest of the country.
I decided to continue to Cochin, although the problem is, I don't have a proper ticket! The girls assured me though that in general class and especially in women's wagon, they rarely check for tickets, and yeii, they never did! Although karma has its ways. There are 2 stations in Cochin, I needed to get off the 2nd one, well guess what? The train never stopped at the 2nd one! It's an express train and it stops at like every 3rd station! Grrr ... it was already 12am, and I've been on the road for 13 hours already. The train passed next station, and the station after that. Then it stopped, and it didn't even look like a station, at 1:30am, it finally arrived somewhere where there are people. I got off, and took the next train back to Cochin, it was 2am, and I was sure that there won't be anybody checking for tickets at that time. General class at night is fun, people are sleeping on the luggage shelves, on floors, on newspapers, towels, 3 on one seat. It's like a mine field to navigate between all that mess. Got to Cochin at 3:30 in the morning, and went to look for a hotel at the train station, alone, in the dark. It's NEVER a good idea!!! Most of the hotels were closed, the ones that were open, were full, and I stopped at some expansive, dirty, tiny-sh room for the same price as the palace of Udupi ... oh well, what can you do?!? Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
In the morning ... ok, the afternoon, I got a rickshaw to the center of Cochin. The owner of the hotel helped me with the price, and told me that it's $4. $4!!! This is outrageous price!!! But after going for an hour(!), I felt like leaving him a tip :) Cochin is a cute, small, touristic town that's filled with Indian tourists, elder people and of course backpackers. The lonely planet goes on and on about it's colonial heritage, but what interested me more were the Chinese fishing nets. These huge nets take 4 people to operate. Sometimes they're built right in the middle of water, and use weights (rocks) system to lower the net into the water. All the nets sell their catch right there, and you can buy anything you want, bring it to a restaurant, and they'll cook it for you :)
Kerela is famous with the men wearing the skirt thingis, and I was obsessed with taking way too many pictures :)
I found a very nice cafe that served french toast with whole wheat/grain bread, with wild honey, and so much fruits that they were falling off the plate. OMG so good!! I couldn't wait till next morning to have my favourite breakfast again and again and again :))
Next day had to wake up at 7 to go for the famous Kerela backwater boat trip. But Sherrif got me hypnotized and I put my alarm clock for 6:30 to do my daily morning stretching/push-ups/abs routine! Could you imagine that? Now that I write it, I even can't imagine that!! :))
The boat trip was excellent. There are backwater man made canals used for irrigation and transportation. It's still used right now and not only for tourists :) It's green, peaceful, operated by two men at the front and the back pushing long bamboo sticks into the ground and walking along the platform while steering it and pushing it forward. It would've been very quiet too if it weren't for the noisy Indian group :) We made a few stops on the way. One was a factory that produced powder from the shells. The locals would collect oysters, sell them at the market, and then would sell the empty shells to that company. It would heat it, and the shell would become a white powder which is used for making chalk, white paint, put into cement to make it stronger. We then saw how rope is being made. Coconuts are softened in the water, then the hair inside of it is taken out, dried, and if you take a small portion of it and start twisting it, the other hairs would get attached and be made into a rope. Now the women have a twisting machine and a bunch of coconut hair in their bag. They attach a small piece to the rotating bolt, and walk backwards. That's it! Rope is done! Fold it in half and twist it and you can't tear it with all the power that you've got!
We stopped for lunch and had thali from a banana leaf :)) Then we transferred to small canoes, but that wasn't as relaxing. The canals went through very populated area with houses and roads nearby, and my feeling of "lost in the jungle" had gone :) We stopped at a spice plantation, and saw how things that we eat or buy in the box actually grow. Peppercorns grow on trees, cinnamon is a bark of a tree, and trees leaves are bay leaves. On the way back, kids were running along the boat and asking not for money or sweets ... for pens!!!! Am I in a different country? Did I cross an invisible border?? Checked the map, nope, still in India!!!
All the air is still foggy :(( Damn that construction in Mumbai!!!! ;)))
Next day went to the beach. I thought that the beach was in a touristic area. An hour later when I got off a local bus in the middle of a local town with short short shorts, I got quite a few jaw dropped stares. Oooppsss ... ok, I agree ... my fault now! I can understand the Indians now. Sometimes when I spent too much time with the locals, or even not, but with people who alter their appearance for the benefit of the local culture, and then you see some backpacker with a too tight dress, or way too short shorts, or a huge cleavage, sometimes my jaw drops too. Imagine what would happen to a guy who never saw that in his life! Of course he'll think that all white women are whores ... can't blame them! I try to dress conservatively, but after looking at the mirror, or at other properly dressed backpackers, you just can't hide the shape of the body. You would still see the round shape of a butt and breasts and waist unless you wrap yourself 10 times with a sari that would hide absolutely everything there is too see or even imagine. I met a woman who has slept with an Egyptian and an Indian. At first she said they were looking all over her body, she couldn't understand why. They said that they thought that the white women were built differently!
I don't understand what this beach was doing in the lonely planet?? It was the worst beach I've ever seen! I haven't even taken one picture... very disappointing! There was no shade and the chairs and the umbrella were crazy prices. There were a few empty chairs, and I asked the woman lying beside if I can use them. Turns out they're from a resort (who would ever go to a resort in here?!?), and they're free. Yiepii :))
In the evening went to Katakali performance. It was very interesting. It's Kerelan style of acting, which doesn't involve speaking, and all the actions are done with either their special sign language and facial expressions. The make up and costumes are extraordinary. It takes an hour to put on a makeup. The audience is invited to watch that. So many colors, so precise, so pretty :) All the colors are natural. Black is coal, white is rice powder mixed with water, red and yellow are from some stones mixed with coconut oil. To make the eyes red, put some seed into an eye, and 2 minutes later, the eyes are red. In the beginning we watched different facial expressions of different feelings. It was hard to believe that the actor is actually not happy or sad or proud. He would smile and I would be smiling too, a second later, his face would be neutral. How he couldn't feel his own smile?? Then he showed us different words and phrases. They would be funny. A "go away" phrase wouldn't just be a point at "you" and then a whoooosh to the side. It would include stomping, angry face, some "I don't know" gestures of hands coming together and apart and only then a 3 times whooooosh to the side. I loved the introduction, but I felt like the play was very childish and actually couldn't wait for it to be over :)
Woke up early to go to a different city. I made a decision to move places early in the morning. Otherwise with a 4 hour move, I wouldn't be able to do anything where I am, and then it would be too late to do anything once I get somewhere else, and the whole day would just be a waste, and with frequent moves ... that's a lot of wasted days.
I bought a general class ticket, and when the train arrived, I walked all throughout the length of the train, and couldn't find general class seating. What can I do? I just walked into a sleeper class, and sat where there was most space. There was a 21 year old girl travelling with her father from Delhi. They've been on the train for over 2 days. She was going to Kerela to be a police woman. It was hard to understand her, her English wasn't that good, and sometimes she would start talking to me in Hindi despite all my attempts to convince her that I don't know any Hindi. She seems to be scared of everything. Scared of speaking English, scared of going anywhere on her own, her father is always with her, scared of going to the academy. She decided that she wanted to walk along the train ... ok, why? 2 girls walking on the train, it's fun! - Sure lets go. First she took 15 minutes to comb and braid her hair. I told her that she looks good with her hair spread, but she told me that she looks scary. I noticed that only girls wear their hair open. Once married, all women have their hair tied. I don't know ... maybe it's considered to be sexual as well. She took my hand while we were walking, and when we were sitting in front of each other, she would put both of her hands on my knees. That felt very uncomfortable! But that's the way they are in here. Men hug men, women hug women. You can't hug opposite gender, so might as well hug and hold hands with your friends. I wonder how many men here are gay?? She had one hand regular, and other hand with long nails and nail polish, I asked her why. She said that she does work with one hand and no work with other ... interesting.
Karma plays its role again. The inspector came to check the tickets. I gave him my ticket and he said that I'm sitting in the sleeper class, and my ticket is for general. I'm here illegally, so I'm gonna pay the difference plus a fine. Which came out to be 400 rps. 400 rps??? I'm not paying that!! I told him that I looked all over the train for the general class, couldn't find it, and besides, I'm sitting on a seat of a girl, so we're sharing a seat, and I asked her if I could seat here, and she agreed, so I'm not taking any extra space, besides, the wagon is almost empty. He started writing me the ticket, and I told him to show me a document where the fines are written. He showed me a document that he's an inspector, I told him no, a document with fines. How do I know that it's 250 and not 100? He started convincing me that it's the rate, but I wouldn't pay. He said that he'll call the police, and I told him to go ahead. Unless he shows me a proper document I'm not paying anything. We sat there quietly looking at each other. I told him, ok, I'll go to general class right now, he said no. Let me pay the difference - no. Ok ... let me give you 100 and we'll be friends - What?? I'm working for the government, not for tourist money. Ok ... I kept sitting quietly. I was surprised that the family didn't back me up. After a few minutes he started asking me a bunch of questions, where I'm from, and if we have trains in Canada, and some other stuff, and I knew that he gave in. We joked around, he made me promise that I will never do that again, I promised and he forgave me. Fweeeef!! :)) Although it would’ve probably be another interesting story of me mingling in the local police station :) It’s ok … next time :)

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/UdupiAndCochin