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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Kerala - 98 to now
It is amazing how the group you are on tour with changes your interpretation of exactly the same things over time. Or is it that things themselves have changed. Could be either - but everytime i have gone to kerala - i have come out with different feelings, opinions and images.
The first time - I didnt know what to expect. I had seen much of karnataka and tamilnadu and had expected kerala to be same. I didnot know the concept of western ghats and back water etc. So I just hired a bus to cochin and wanted to maximize the 4 day long weekend by visiting everywhere possible. The return tickets - which I didnt manage to get was arranged by Ajo from Kottayam ( I didnt know that there was some place called Kumarakom near kottayam). So We went. The first sight of kerala was on the border. 5:30 AM. The bus waiting in queue to pay toll. Misty morning with green mountains in the bacground. A heavenly view enhanced by the intoxication of half sleep. ( 5:30 AM means not even half the sleep). After about an hour or so the driver announced that the bus cant go any further and needs repairs so we have to wait for 4 hrs. We didnt - took a taxi to Cochin which dropped us at KTDC office - which told us about the back water boat ride for some 50 Rs apiece. We jumped on that - not knowing what to expect and what to appreciate. And it turned out to be nice. Good boats, chinese fishing nets who we thought were some kind of dredgers removing silt from the river floor ( I thought we were on a river - and I had read about ports etc). Next stop trivendrum, bus ride to Kovallam. Sack out for two days in a disappointing beach but a nice and cheap resort(Yes I had been to paloleum on goa just before that). Then bus to kottayam and we are in ajo's place enjoying the hospitality and the beauty. We even managed to embarass ajo when one of us decided to pee on the roadside. The takeaway was that kerala is GREEN. People have forests in their backyards and all houses are big ( no slums).
Then a few more trips - kanniyakumari, thekkadi, munnar, allepy , calicut and Babija's marriage .
Calicut had more coconut trees than you would expect in entire world. There were a few things for tourists to do - a beach, ferries etc. The feeling was that its a poor place which suddenly got middle class. Things were falling apart. Mordenization was taking its toll. but outside city was all peaceful.
Kanniyakumari was the most disappointing (Except for the ride to and fro). It was impossible to find good food. Even good accomodation was a challenge in the peak tourist season.
Thekkadi was heaven so were the allepy backwaters - both of them in one trip seems like a monthlong holiday - slow relaxed beautiful.
Munnar first time was "ordinary".
This time things changed. Cochin was just a city. (We took an evening cruise which showed us the shipyard and some navy ships).
Muvattupuzha was a place to stay - and it was so good - that weherever we went to sightsee was not as great. Since we were insistant on covering patel points - we couldnt enjoy it fully. Next time we wont make that mistake. Kumarakom was all hype. Allepy had the cleanest beach we ever saw. Munnar seemed much more beautiful than the first time.
Happy or disppointed - however you feel - you always want to see more of kerala. There are so many shades of green. Plantation which look like forests to our untrained eyes and day to day tasks like extracting rubber, picking shells from bed of backwaters, carrying paddy on boats. shepherd like ppl guiding a heard of "ducks" instead of buffaloes and goats like the rest of the country. You can never have enough of it.

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