The following info was concocted prior to my earlier post about Cochin and Trivandrum but has been stuck on my Netbook due to lack of WiFi net access.
We leave Fort Kochi for Trivandrum tomorrow.
We went to Dal Roti for both lunch and dinner as the food is so good and the owner (Ramesh - who also owns a 1959 Enfield) is such a nice person. Besides, it's just too hot to go wandering around unnecessarily.
At dinner I smacked my head something fierce on a low doorway - "I do it several times a week" says Ramesh as he hurried by.
When we attempted to pay the bill after dinner Ramesh presented us with a note saying that as we had been such regular customers the meal was complimentary. At the bottom of the note was a hand drawn sketch of himself - really very nice of him indeed.
There was a Nation-wide transport bandh (strike) this day so happily the Homestay had ensured we had a car to take us to the Ernakulam Town railway station - they also told us that our breakfast that morning was complimentary! We must be nicer people than I thought.
We shared the car with a couple from Austria who were also going to Trivandrum by train, but leaving from Ernakulam Junction station, so they were dropped off first.
Shortly after the car left the Homestay we realised we had left our walking stick (purchased in Mysore) leaning against a tree outside the house so back we went to retrieve it - don't want to carry it all over the Country only to lose it.
The train trip was great, carriage not crowded at all and a Chai-wallah doing regular rounds. We got into Trivandrum at about 1.10pm after 3 & a quarter hours.
Before we left the Railway station we (well, Desley) organised tickets to Madurai for the next leg of our trip. We also broke with our usual pattern and organised a bus tour around Trivandrum for the next day at the nearby KTDC office. This saved the hassle of dealing with Auto rickshaw drivers who try to take advantage of us - at 300 rupees (about $6.00) each for a half day tour it looks like good value - we shall see.
Back into the maelstrom for a trip to the Hotel we had selected but not booked - all full so after a couple of other no-go's we found one (SM Tourist Home in East Fort) with good air-con, fan, bed and TV for 1,200 per night - nisy neighbours the only real problem it transpired.
Up early to get to the KTDC office in time to be picked up by the Tour Bus. Man it's hot here!
The bus was a largish "Force" type (about 20 seats, maybe more) and we were the only passengers for the whole tour. First stop was the Padmanabhaswamy Temple which is quite large (and famous).
Being non-Hindu's we were not allowed inside, which was a pity as there is a very large reclining deity inside we would have liked to have seen. Never mind, there were good view of the intricate but unpainted gopuram tower (30 metres high over 7 tiers) from the right hand side of the Temple.
In the same area is the Puthe Maliga Palace - now a museum. This building contains 80 rooms, 20 of which are open for viewing by the public, i.e. us. It is 200 years old now, all timber and quite ornate - as would be expected from the owners, the Maharajas of Travancore.
Many of the roof struts are carved into the shape of a horse, hence the building is known as the Horse Palace. It contains all kinds of treasures that in most other parts of the world would be under serious lock and key. No photo's allowed inside unfortunately.
This turned out to be our favorite site in Kerala (so far) and the best bits included a throne made of crystal, featuring a large (around 12") perfectly formed crystal conch in the middle of the back rest, another throne made from the tusks of 25 elephants (50 tusks in all), life-sized statues of Kathakali characters (really excellent), various weapons such as swords and punching knives as well as a 270 year old rifle captured from the Dutch in a battle.
Many paintings and precious objects also were evident, including a bronze statue of a number of trees with two Emus below them - a gift from Australia said the guide, possibly from a businessman who traded in spices or coir.
By the way, across the road from here and in front of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple sits a small shop selling the best Chai we have had since Mumbai.
Back on the bus for a trip to the beach - can't remember the name of it but it is near Kovalam Beach.
So hot here! The tide was out but we went for a wander on the sand anyway. Not a bad beach at all, helped by the half dozen or so workers (all women) who were engaged in picking up the paper, plastic bags and cardboard ice-cream containers that everyone casually throws on the ground. A lot cleaner than Chowpatty that's for sure.
Then off to what I thought (incorrectly) would be just a giant tourist-trap - the Veli Tourist Park. First surprise was the entry price at 5 rupees each. Inside was moderately cool thanks to the many trees with lots of happy couples and groups of school kids (who are always well behaved here in India).
There is a large fresh-water lake upon which you can hire a paddle boat. Second surprise - the lake was pretty clean. A further wander took us over a floating bridge to a separate area where there was music a-pumping. As we got closer we saw an interesting setup of 4 x quad boxes with 12" speakers sitting on top of four more speaker boxes each containing one 15" bass driver - loud doesn't describe it.
Nearby was a roped off area with three large 'wok' like metal pots containing some yellow liquid all bubbling away. A group of about 10 drummers appeared and began beating their drums faster and faster. A few of the crowd broke off and started dancing around the drummers and the bubbling pots.
After some time the dancers, using feather like fronds, dipped the fronds into the boiling liquid and then held them up to their heads, causing the hot liquid to drip down their faces and backs - this strange behaviour continued for all the time we were there and could still be heard later as we made our way back to the bus.
Very reminiscent of the fire walkers that Ian & Carol had seen (and Video recorded) somewhere else in Kerala.
Next stop was the Zoological Gardens and separate Napier Museum. The Zoo was pretty good - quite a lot like the one in Mysore in that the animals looked well cared for and had sufficient room generally.
The Napier Museum was wonderful with many 17 century (and earlier) bronzes, plus a collection of Indian musical instruments, a temple chariot and a large collection of Balinese objects. The building itself is a work of art really - no photo's allowed inside (again) unfortunately.
Back to the Hotel and after cooling down in the air-con we went out for dinner at a place called the Chime Restaurant. A good day but a bit tiring due to the heat (35 degrees) and humidity (87%).
Out for breakfast at the Hotel Annapoorna pure vegetarian restaurant. This place was very popular with the morning crowd and offered good cheap vegetarian food. Our two Marsala Dosa, two cups of coffee and one litre bottle of mineral water came to 120 rupees (about $2.30 AUD).
We attempted to find an Internet Cafe and a place where we could buy a USB flash drive and headed off back towards the Railway station.
On the way we happened upon the Indian Coffee House mentioned in the Lonely Planet - the building is round, a bit like a hen house, with a sloping internal pathway that circles around inside the building. The waiters must be fit as the charge up and down the path carrying trays of food and drink for the many customers sitting at tables around the inside perimeter of the building.
We couldn't get a table so outside again into the heat. There we found a late model Royal Enfield parked outside. Whilst I was photographing it the owner appeared and stood back graciously to allow me to get the photo. We chatted for a while - his bike was 6 months old, a standard 350cc Bullet (a 500cc version would be called a B5 in Australia) - and he gave us directions to a Royal Enfield spare parts business close by where I bought 4 x "Fifty Years In India 50 The Legend Rides On"
stickers for 26 rupees each plus a genuine RE ammeter for 176.83 rupees (about $3.50 AUD)!
Back to the Hotel to cool down (literally) and later (2.30 pm) out for lunch at Akashap Restaurant. We found an Internet Cafe with help from the restaurant staff and bought a 4GB USB flash drive for 350 rupees. I intend to use these to store photo's and text for the travel blog so that I can plug it in at Internet Cafes and still update the blog - we'll see how we go.