Friday, August 26, 2011


I'll put up some pictures pretty soon:)

Ju. We saw a gypsy truck with JUMANU painted on the front of it on our first day in India land. Cool eh.


The room at the Karma Tourist Centre Trivandrum was adequate if uninspired and expensive. It didn't help our chances in finding a room in TV that it was Indian Independence Day. There weren't any fire works. Go Figure. The saving grace of Trivandrum was the local Indian Coffee house ( a chain restaurant as common as Denny's is in America but with out bottomless coffee or any kind of super deal which what and you are most certainly allowed to attend on no shoes days without shoes) If you ever go to Trivandrum, for onward travel or longer term whateveryoulikes go to the coffee house. It's boss. The building was out of this world. A dark brown terra-cotta over solid concrete spiral dotted with small breathing holes in a beautiful spiral pattern to the top, it looked like a giant sunken wedding cake with a green fire inside. There is a kitchen and a reception a the bottom and turning left into the building the spiral starts at a remarkable angle for food service you climb the spiral past dozens of Indians eating and drinking at 30 odd tables. Other punters are slowly trickling down in you direction wiping there brows and holding their satisfied belly's signaling that there are tables free up top and waiters HISSS at you from all directions as they bus complex Indian dishes with a plethora of sides and drinks or dozens of dirty dishes and bills invoiced and remitted back to the kitchen and reception for squaring and cleaning. Cheap eats 2011, this was budget bliss. We ate and drank at perhaps 30Rupee a head. (sometimes at expensive bus stand shoppes you end up paying that for a bag of crisps) We ate across from a lovely Indian family (dazed and confused excited to be eating with tourists). We payed the bill with the agile waiter and returned to the uninspiring Karma for sleeping and TV watching via the best art supply store you ever did see in big busty India. I brought indian inks, lined stationary and cello-tape (the store manager had us sign the guest ledger, there were only two other names in the whole book).


Rickshaw driver from the Helipad to the train station tried to talk us into a rickshaw odyssey all the way to Trivandrum ( probably 5 hours by auto rickshaw only 50 Kilometers) "Next train 1.30pm" "I drive Trivandrum every day" Bull Farts is what I said. We met some scary Muslims on the platform who grilled us about our marital status. "Goldie, my wife, a non muslim, is a very nice girl. She is from the Hutt and her parents are cool as"
The next train to Tvan is to leave at 2pm make that 2.30pm Indian transport time. Without fail every mode of transport in India in at least half an hour late. Buffer time in key. We sat baking under the corrugated steel platform shade from around 9am till 2.45pm. Impressive I think. There were rubbish bins in the train station, maybe a hundred of them lining the perimeter of the platform, impressive also.

The train was mental. Sleeper class 3 was totally packed with indians. Indians on the floor, packed into the booths, sprawled on the luggage racks and packed at elbows through the cabin corridor and entrance way. There were, as is usual, Indians hanging off the sides of the train as well and every so often a Chai or biscuit men would roll through the cabin balancing pots and bags on his head as he trod on sleeping Indians. Gold and i said a quick goodbye to our useless packs as they were hoisted up into the lofty sleeper class luggage/beds and we waited and squeezed and sweated as the vast variety of Keralan smells wafted in and the countryside rolled by.

Trivandrum was a disappointing flop. It was muggy and bustling. It was already getting dark and our packs were weighing a half a tonne each. The hotel we ended our search at(Karma Tourist Centre) gave us a bizarrely mosquito infested room to stay in, claiming no other rooms were available. Lies. Gold had a shout at the two halfwit management goons and they quickly offered up a nicer room when we said the we would be leaving.

Goldie's elephant pants are awesome

There is a TV in our hotel room.


GEKKOS are everywhere
mind you Mosquitos more so are everywhere. Sandflies and other such nasties also. But Gekkos eat the mozzies and the sandals and the others so it should all even out really in the end, only it certainly does not.
My body is positively burning. I've rubbed tiger balm into around 40 mosquito related wounds on my upper and lower back. I'm the hot new taste the Keralan insect population is raving about. I can't say i'm really much for it.

3 hour bus, enter Varkalan sunset. Beautiful cliff side residencies and violent animated waves on muddy brown beach views. Sajit was the man who caught us. Lugging luggage's along the side promenade. Offered us a beautiful room with a balcony facing the sea at a WOW 300 Rupee. Unbelievable really. We stayed for 4 nights.

A shmowzow kind of dinner the likes of Dhal Roti in the Fort on a rooftop in Varkala. The restaurant Little Tibet with a predominately Tibetan Menu (impressive for the tourist shakes of India, they usually stick with Indian or go wildly international) Goldie had the MOMO soup a kind of Vegetable dumpling in broth deal, I had Paang which i flippantly ordered in a rush ( i hate keeping waiters waiting or waiting on waiters to wait for that matter) which turned out to be exactly what i wanted. A beautiful tasty poached chicken broth with chunky vegetables served with a warm layered tibetan bread roll. Think of the outer glaze of a Chinese pork bun layered into the very centre with the same shine and gluten consistency. Broth perfect bread out of this world. We returned the next morning for our last breakfast in Varkala.

It was a funny breakfast mind. All the tourists who had arrived with us on the bus it seemed were there. Like everyone by their 4th morning had likewise discovered the best place to eat on the cliff. Funny like that not really haha.

So far it's been such a holiday. A glorious but not noneducational introduction to India and traveling. The beach was cool, relaxing, Meals and small purchases at tourist giftoramas and superettes weren't breaking the bank (though from the backwater tour we were now a cool 6000rupee over budget, but stll money easily saved back in time) but we had to drag ourselves unwilling out of easy Varkala to get on with real ride. Saying our goodbyes to Sam and the Emma too was sweet. We are en route to Trivandrum, about 4 hour South by train.

This morning an Aruvedic doctor rubbed some non desrcript yellow oil on my 'spider lumps' (my own terminology) an the urge to itch just like that is gone. The healer did my back as a morning favor. Mornings are a high time for favors. Our first train in India. Varkala to Trivandrum will be a ball no doubt.

A NOTE ABOUT JAM. Jam and juice in Asia has proved thus for to be a flop. A picter of fruits on a jam jar or fruitjuice box generally means that the colour of the product may match the fruit depicted but will taste absolutely nothing like it. Sugar syrup and food colouring .

Alleppey and house boat!!!

Dahl Roti was excellent. Quite challenging to locate but as i've expressed so far Goldie and I have almost always been lost. Very simple and pleasingly clean restaurant with loads of seating. The host was a very charismatic Indian man 50s 60s maybe who knew his menu inside out and had patience for all of India who held our hands while we fumbled our way through complex indian and traditional Keralan dishes we had never heard of, many equip with their own 5 or so side dishes. It was a full house and the mood was still ultra chill and relaxed. Gold and Emma got straight down to business catching up and reminiscing of old times and both Emma and Sam opened up as deep wells of knowledge on traveling through the crazy country that is India. We realy had hit a gold mine stumbling upon these two in the boring museum.

We ate a traditional fish Kati, a kind of awesome chapati wrap and a vegetarian tali, curry with these brilliant cottage cheese cubes and a selection of cooling chutneys, rice, dahl and chapati. Beautiful. Over chia and food comma Emma explained that her and Sam were heading to Alleppey the next morning to join another two traveling ladies on a two day house boat cruise on the back waters and that we were welcome to come fill up the last room on the boat. SHOWZOW.

That night I finally met BENSON. He was a lovely man with a lovely son. We chatted at length about the Wellington hotel scene, long distance walking and cricket. I told him we would be moving on to Alleppey the next morning for a few nights on the water. He offered to pay me back for the room I'd paid for, one more night in advance but i said he should keep it and have an account for us in credit in case we hit Cochin again. Moronic really, when in the hell would I be coming back to Fort Kochi? He drew me some diagrams of how to get to Toppompuddy the next morning to catch a bus with the girls. Very helpful. His information saved us a good 2 hour run around in and out of Ernakulum and probably a good 30 Rupee each.

And so it was, we were up at the crack of the crack of dawn to meet Sammy and Emma just past the junction on KB Jacob Rd were we caught an auto to Tuppumboddy, about a 5 minute drive, and caught the bus to Alleppey on it's way out of Ernakulum. Nice work BENSON.

3 hours on the bus, Goldie a couple of rows behind me sleeping face into her day bag. ALLAPUZAH Alleppey. We catch another Rickshaw first to the Sonar Guest House as a frustrating Hinglish mis communication, then to the liquor store where we picked up a bottle of blue label GIN and some strange Indian Vodka, then to a cool store for some pop and snacks and finally back to the Sonar Guest House. Our new friends Kavita and Hannah were staying a few 100 meters up the road.

The owner of the house boat came to "pick up" 6 people on a scooter. In the end we caught a rickshaw with 4 girls in the back seat 4 packs and day packs in the hatch and two more on the driver and under his seat. Goldie and myself opted scooter and rode triple back with the owner for perhaps a Kilometer before we reached the canal and the small sun shade motor boat that would take us to the backwaters and our aqua hotel for the next two nights.

The boat is a blur. I wrote nothing just relaxed and attracted mosquitos with my gorgeous blood. We paid the owner some extravagant sum and proceeded to drink Kingfisher's, sweet lime, Chai and Gins on the deck. The crew were outstanding the chef brilliant and much much more could be dredged up from memory but I only need to say that in the time we spent on that boat all of us became closer. I was floored by Sammy and Emma. Picking their brains about this beautiful country was invaluable. Hannah and Big V, the two loud mouth English chicks mixed killer cocktails (killer like halfies skullies) and played wicked charades and 500 and getting to know the crew was really sweet.

And then the dream was over. We were thrown out into the heat and the noise two days later with packs and boots. After the meal after meal and chai service after chia service and 'get Sajit to jump off onto a strange boat into town to pick up TP and more milk for our simply insane chia consumption' days this was all a shock. We had to walk all of 400 meters, over a bypass mind you, to the bus stand where the bus to sunny beachy Varkala was waiting for us an hour or so into the future.

Fort Kochi

I slip and fall down one morning as the manager is showing us her animals, animals all soon to be sacrificed to the dinner table, I fell hard but got up with just a scratch. That evening when we returned to the guest house the manager had covered the driveway and the stairs with a thick layer of powdered white chalk. I felt very assured. Special also. That night Goldie and i dined out on a rooftop not 200 meters from our guest house. Gold and I both dressed up smart. I like the way Indians treat you if your wearing a shirt. They respect you all of a sudden some even complement you on your manner. A little cotton goes a long way. The restaurant was gorgeous dimly lit up in the darkness of 7.30pm. Strange Italian name I forget, the menu predictably international. We ate a very ordinary chinese take out style meal and talked about the fascinating spider which was living in the plant next to our table. The restaurant was clearly the Fort 'overs' dinner joint. We shared the roof top with 6 or so other touring couples all 40, 50+years. We felt youthful for sure.

During the days we tried to get our bearings in the town by walking out into uncharted territory where we found ourselves hopelessly lost on a number of occasions. One time in particular we were searching for a Peter Celli St for so long we thought we would follow the coastline to the tip of Fort Kochi where the tourist sanctuary sort of begins and ended up walking the complete opposite direction for about half an hour at which point we decided to head back into the center of Kochi to find a main road to follow back to tourist town. The result was a mess. The streets were tight and busy and full of motor cycles, kids, dogs and other sorts of Indian stuff. It was dirty and slummy and we were thumbs in it. It was hot and there were these dis orientating canals flowing through the whole deal, but we got our bearings and had a nice walk out. Kids were following us around asking "one pen? You give me one pen?" and "You take one photograph?". Very cute. Quite tiresome maybe.

These kids were boss!

After two nights at the ** inn (annex to the Karma) we uprooted and moved down the road.. a few roads.. bigish ones, to Costa Gamma Inn were through a ma named BENSON we had booked two nights accomodation. We had been emailing BENSON, the manager intimately for weeks now, had even walked over to meet him the day before the move but he was away on business. His landlord Trevor showed us how business was to go down. We moved in that morning with out a BENSON in sight and paid two nights in cash upfront 720 Rupees. The room had more character than the last and matching facilities (less a safe or two. Who needs em) plus some brilliant concrete shelving set into the walls excellent for packs. We set out to explore.

The streets away from the tourist area are a lot different. Very dirty bustling and louder maybe. We walked for half an hour through a colorful rundown 'local' district of Fort Kochi to get to Manicherry, another popular tourist centre where we planned to see Manicherry Palace or the 'Dutch Palace' the Jewish Synagogue on Jew Street, the local Spice Market and reportedly a great many happy swastikas. All of the sights bar the swastikas were their own degree of disappointing. Manicherry Palace Museum was an exceptionally boring museum. Goldie was told to stop drawing pictures by a security man and had a great flip out at him. After a fair amount of battling and harassment the manger had to give us permission to sketch which was by that point a fair amount less inspiring.

We ran into two New Zealanders Goldie already new, insane. Emma and Sammy, the boring museum takes a little win. We knew they were in the country and a few days before we had an email saying they were traveling South to Kerala soon But this was still an uncanny surprise. We experienced the Spice Market with them, underwhelming ( sounds mean but it was just another dolled up tourist heavy street were low season locals sort of beg you to buy stuff you don't need) and walked down Jew St to find the Synagogue was closed for a few days. With that we made a dinner date at famous Dahl Roti with the girls and proceeded to get lost in the tight windy local slums for a few hours before emerging back in the tourist area again with a little time to get changed for our date with Kiwis.

india kerala

3 hours to NINDIA
They don't tell you duration of flights on Air asia Boarding Passes or Itineraries so working it out before hand would have been ideal, What they do tell you is eta in local time. For those none so gifted in the art of math this is quite difficult to figure out

We arrive in Cochin at 4.30ish catch the local bus end of the line Fort Kochi where we have booked accommodation
2 or 3 hours on the bus it was dark when we arrived at Fort the monsoon was upon us and we had no idea where we were.

The ticket clipper was amazing
he called our guest house to come pick us up and waited with us till they arrived
we ended up catching a small auto rickshaw only for a couple of blocks for 20Rs in the
the guest house we booked "Good Karma Inn" was full so we were put up in there annex next door which was nice enough. The manager there was a feisty Indian lady with a gaggle of kids and some loud arse chickens, a rooster and a turkey. The room housed an impressive three safes for valuables, two standard single beds pushed together to make one, aircon, ceiling fan, bathroom with all the customary accompaniments and a desk and chair. A stunner at only 400 rupees.

On the first day we budgeted. It was exhilarating. We also taught our selves to do long subtraction again.
Very difficult:) One day we'll need to do divison. Fucks. On the first day we also woke up to a mental roster starting a new crowing session every 20 minutes past 5am so that was good. That morning we ate his ladies eggs for breakfast.

Good Karma Inn, even though we never stayed there was good to us. They invited us down to breakfast in the mornings which was a light scrambled egg (a la garden chooks) on small buttery indian toast, fresh plantains and tea coffee as you like. We would sit in the small living room with the other touring couple of the morning as the manager and his brother ran around asking 'more toast?' 'tea coffee?' and cooking and cleaning.

There was a nice marmalade too. Which should not be taken for granted.

We played 500.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Air Asia Is awesome KL Malaysia

The airport was under construction but even still looks a sure sight better than Wellington. Darryn picked our lazy bones up at the airport and drove us back to his Domo for our first sleep away from Wellington. One degree in the shaky city. We picked his flatmates ears about air asia as two of them had recently flown to Veitnam via KL and learnt a few things more subconsciously than not.Sleep was what we wanted and we got it with tea and toast.

Authentic student wood fire spa of ingenious design and two seater niffty50 chopper under construction.

A beer and a cheese burger payoff. We caught a bus back to international CHCH and by 12 noon the friendly folk at Air Asia had our packs 12 and 16Kg on a conveyer belt. We boarded the 11 hour flight that we had told all our friends was only 4-5 hours at 3pm and as sure as I am I can say that we slept.

(AIR ASIA X) uninspiring inflight meals, nill entertainment and no free water. This is true BUT the cost of tickets is mind blowingly low. Goldie Michael flew from CHCH to KL and KL to COK india for a cool $350 NZ each. For that I'll buy a bottle of water on the plane for 6Rm. Air Asia seems to have built there very own LOW COST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT in Kuala Lumpur. We saw only one or two other airline planes on the tar mac and Air Asia slathered absolutely everywhere. It was a beautiful affirmation of the budget travel experience. Our boarding passes were nothing more than take out receipts. Awesome.

Kuala Lumpur was Insane. Stepping out of the air port was like stepping into a sauna. That much was to be expected i guess. Hot stickey and humid we caught the Areo bus to Sentral Station KL Sentral. The bus was an air conditioned mansion on wheels, I didn't want to get off after the 1 and a half hour ride into town. Fair enogh even that it was now about half past midnight pilling onto the very unfamiliar streets of Kuala Lumpur. We flagged down a taxi and had him drop us at the guest house we had booked, there was a tense few moments when the driver couldn't find our guest house but he happily got out and asked locals if they knew where we wanted to go and we got there in the end.

The cab driver dropped us at the entrance and took our 25 Ringgits and we proceeded to ring unashamedly on the night bell panicking in the dark filthy alley we had been dropped in until the owner came down and let us in. Later we found that the bell rings through the entire guest house and everone hears it. No need to panic at all.

Tarrif at Palmmer Guest House was a reasonable 15Rm each in a dorm per night about $7.50 NZ AC a must

We had a lovely room mate Huang who added us on facebook the second night and another Japanese boy who I forget. The city was bustling all day all night with markets and food vendors. Malaysians drive like they're on speed (thats not racist by the way. Several Malaysians told us it was a bad idea to walk around on the streets because the locals drive so erratically) and walking from place to place seams perilous only it's not all that.

We took the monorail into the center of town to see the mammoth malls, ten stories and just truly massive. Is this what a strip mall is? I always imagined that a strip mall would just stretch way out in front of you and you could just walk through shops for hours with out turning. We brought a not so cheep camera at the Plaza Low Yat on Bukit Bintang with which to record our journey from then on 699Rm Panasonic LUMIX and dubbed thee Cammy.

We ate in a cute little covered street food court made up of street carts equipped with stoves and oil vatts on the second night and walked around through the markets. Every stall desperately wants the attention of the english travelers breezing through the stalls and shout things like 'good price good price' and 'value please don't forget my store'.

central market
Manager @ Palmmer Guest house KL nicest dude ever!
Se7en elevens still exist in KL

And then we flew.

Christchurch NZ