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A trip to Kanyakumari and Kovalam

When visitors come to see us in India, we take them to the "beautiful" places, to make sure they would come back (or at least they would not leave running) ... That’s how I recently went back to Kerala ...

In India they like to say "Work hard, party hard". So I took advantage of being in the south to go see the tip of India , Kanyakumari. I have been asked a few times if it was worth it and I thought I’d rather go check by myself!

So after a 6 hour journey on a night train (Cochin to Nagercoil), I found myself at 5 am on a train platform trying to open my eyes, spot a rickshaw, and go to Kanyakumari... Upon arrival, we immediately checked in a nice hotel - no window, yellowish painting, clean except for pilling dust and dead hair but with a TV! We hardly time to brush our teeth as we hurried to see the sunrise. The main point of being at the tip of India is indeed to be able to see both the sunset AND the sunrise! We took a nice little stroll on a pier, the sky was cloudy but the sun finally came out!

My feet were dragging on the way back... After a dosa (the local crepes) stop, my bed welcomed me with open arms (I was a bit worried at the thought that there may be rats in the room) but fatigue quickly took over my fears!

Three hours later, refreshed, we began looking for the ferry to go to the rock in the sea at the end of the tip. As for the sunrise sightseeing, we were not the only ones having with this idea: there was a line of several hundred meters! Fortunately there is a system where instead of paying 34 rupees, you can pay 167 (2 €) and skip the line! Not very egalitarian for sure but when it's 35 degrees and there are a thousands of Indians, it doesn’t bother you for very long...

We walked around the rock, visited the memorial of Saint Vivekananda of which I know nothing except that he meditated on this rock for three days and we left to catch lunch.

It turned out that we had done most of the activities Kanyakumari! Except for the Museum of Vivekananda and some churches ... And as it is a holy city it is super crowded, full of cheap hotels, and the food is pretty bad ... It was enough for us to decide to leave and reach Trivandrum earlier than expected. So much for the sunset! But after all we see it every day on Juhu beach from the office window!

The (only) taxi driver who was willing to take us proved to be a rogue (2,000 rupees for 80 km!) so we took the train (20 rupees each)! I love the train. There is such life in a train. The scenery is beautiful. The wind blows your face. Of course I don’t like it when we get stuck for hours to let other trains pass but hey, India teaches you patience! So it took us 4:30 to cover 80 km and land in the messy Trivandrum (the largest city of Kerala). To the natural mess of big Indian metros added the festival of Attukal Pongala – a festival for the goddess Devi which was recorded in the Guinness record as the largest women gathering in the world and that makes the happiness of earthen pots’ sellers (pots filled with rice and jaggery as an offering are sold by the millions, there are mountains of pots everywhere in the streets!).

Our rickshaw, a madman, pushed his way through and drove us to Kovalam beach. Somehow similar to Goa but more organized: with a beautiful promenade and people leave you alone (as in they don’t insist when you say no), good food (ah the beef fry we ate in the restaurant The Beatles!), Ayurveda treatments/massages available everywhere and a beautiful sea! What more do you need?? ;)

I always say: "The problem in India is that when you find a paradise and relax there, the traveling back home will kill your happiness." And BOOM! It took 1 hour and 10 minutes to cover the 12 kilometers separating us from the airport the next day because of the festival. We literally arrived 3 minutes before the counter closed for the last flight to Mumbai and I was ready to explode!

What a weekend! 24 hours of transport in 48 hours, 1 bus, 2 trains, 2 rickshaws, 2 planes. But I went home rather refreshed (and rather very red) and delighted!

Allepey, Kumarakom, Kovalam, Kanyakumari - Feb 2014


Indian loos for dummies!

India,loo,Indian loo,toilets

Quite interesting this poster in the bathroom of German Bakery in Kovalam (Kerala), I even learnt a few tips! Maybe one day I will be able to avoid splashing urine on my feet… Indian loos are cool coz you don't get bored: all the while you're peeing you wonder: Why don't they put handles all over the wall (when your thighs are about to give in and you are in the middle of a stomach effort and you have to lean a hand on the wall, it is not easy to keep the pose!)? How do old women and pregnant ladies do? How do constipated people can squat for more than 3 minutes?? And old constipated ladies?? Well,apparently it is all a question of habit...

Despite all that I have started preferring Indian toilets to European ones: it is just cleaner (most of the time). My main problem is that I (most of the time) forget to carry paper so I end up with a wet ass (I do clean water, Indian style!) and it is not the nicest feeling - especially at the end of the day, when everything has been basking ;)

And also because one day my Blackberry took a dive in the Indian loo of Madurai airport, and I (by I, I mean the maintenance guy) was able to retrieve it – I for one would have never thought that the extension of the loo was an underground tray and not a pipe! And there was not a drop of water on the phone thanks to the case. Lucky nah??

Click here to read more about toilets stories in India:


The golden cow!

One evening I needed something to cheer me up, a treat so I went to Santé (a tiny shop specialized in imported products) to... buy myself a steak! And the steaks they handed over to me ! I had not seen any steak so big in more than 8 years!! When I realised they came from the USA, I thought no wonder...

When came the time to pay, I cheerfully gave my card without even asking about the price: tonight my pleasure is priceless! But I withdrew it promptly from the hands of the cashier when I heard the amount: 3,500 rupees (€40)! For 700 grams of meat? At that price I’d rather go to Dubai and get a barbecue! I therefore left the steaks behind...

And I went to the Cold Storage (which is the closest thing to a butcher’s shop here). I asked for the tenderloin undercut – which is what I usually take, it is melting in the mouth, it is delicious. The only thing is that they only sell it by the piece and they had only one piece left and it was of 2 kgs. I already have a hard time finishing the 1 kg undercut (even if I freeze the steaks) so I decided it had to be a sign: no (holy) cow for dinner tonight! But the guy was a good salesman; seeing my disappointment he managed to sell me some cubes of local beef, 60 rupees to 300 grams. Haha!!  

I was still recovering from the shock caused by the difference of price when the cubes of beef landed on my plate. Not only did I almost hurt my jaw with the chewing but also it wasn’t really tasty (I'm still wondering if it was not buffalo instead of beaf)... The next time I’ll stick to my undercut at 250 rupees per kilo!

More about cows, beef, worshipping, and everything here: