Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When time is NOT of the essence.....

We went to God's own country for the long weekend, it being the monsoons, there was a considerable amount of precipitation of varying intensities. There is something very relaxing about Kerala. That is until you're starving and the waiters in the restaurant couldn't be bothered about serving you. You could argue that it's all about savoring the moment and so on and so forth.... But when one is hungry, one needs something other than paper thin papads drenched in oil and pink water. Yes, I kid you not! For some thoroughly unfathomable reason the water served is pink! What is with that? It doesn't taste funny but ... It's PINK!!! Somehow I don't really see hefty mundu clad, heavily mustaschio'd mallus waggling their beefy fingers at each other and drinking pink water! Well enough of that! Moral of that story.... Make sure the head waiter can see you at all times.... That or always carry your own banana leaf when hungry in Kerala... Apparently that's the green signal for the rest of the minions to start serving you.
So then we proceeded to the Taj Garden Retreat in Kumarakom. Nice place, really great staff, as usual the women have these freakeshly perfectly draped cotton saris.... I just can't get how they do it! I'd need a couple of hours and at least four saris before I could manage anything remotely close to what she achieved.
Now when in Kumarakom, do not expect high excitement and extreme sports.... You want high adventure go stand up in a paddle boat and tip the whole thing over....for extreme sports, do the same thing in a motor boat. Guaranteed adrenaline rush. Beyond that, it's the very antithesis of Mumbai and the stock market. Slow ponderous house boats, two hour long meals, gardens and waterfalls with convenient benches so can just sit around doing absolutely nothing, brilliantly colored sunsets (no sunrises though). If anyone tries to convince you to go bird watching, I recommend laughing loudly and sarcastically in said person's face. Frankly, we saw more birds, both exotic and regular in the hotel gardens than in the 'sanctuary'. In fact whatever birds we did see in said 'sanctuary' were on trees that were in the hotel garden! If however you enjoy 6 kilometer trecks at freakish hours of the morning, then by all means go. It's a nice trek and no leeches because the place has both fresh and salt water at different times in the year.... There are monkeys though.
Vembanand is their big lake, second largest in the country after Chilika in Orissa. Lots of water plants floating around, with birds hitching rides on some of the larger clumps. Needless to say that speed ain't of the least essence. Very calming and needless to say the commerce of the area pretty much relies on that water body. I worry about the impact of all those houseboats, cruises and motorboats on the lake. The discarded water and cola bottles, junk food packets and the occasional wine bottle are noticible. But all in all, it is calming. The iffy cell phone signal also helps... A lot! I wouldn't recommend taking the 'lake cruise'. It's a half hour thing with the boat going 15 minutes in one direction and then turning back. Waste of time in my opinion although when we went on it the weather wasn't the calmest and there was this one idiot zipping around the back armed with his camera. Everytime he zipped to one side, the boat listed with him. If that wasn't enough, he then decided to lean over one side...of a moving boat! In the middle of the second largest lake in the country. We didn't tip over, but had one of the crew not yanked him back, I would have happily helped him over the side. I shudder to think of the strains he'll be introducing into the human gene pool..... yikes!
Today we checked out of the hotel and into a house boat. Word of advice, when shifting from a nice comfy hotel to a houseboat, whack the toiletries. Houseboat operators don't particularly care about the bathrooms and their accessories. I guess you can't really blame them. Having a working bathroom itself should be considered a luxury... At least you don't have to aim over the side! We got ourselves booked on the Gold River Houseboat. Nice clean place, very nice crew, a horn that sounds like it was stolen off a Tata Ace, three neat bedrooms with attached bathrooms and the coziest little seating space upfront that I have ever seen..... Heaven!
Today's a nice calm day, so I am hopeful that I won't be getting seasick on this trip. The roads, by the way, are awful!
By the by, if you do decide to go for the whole houseboat experience, make sure you pay special attention to the reversing technique being used by your boatman! There's a reason why the sides of most houseboat roofs are a touch raggedy....
My goals for the weekend were to manage to enjoy a proper Kerala coconut and malai. While the hotels will give you the coconut water they studiously avoid all mention of the malai.... I want it... and i never get it. Problem is that I get car sick so stopping on the way and downing one is out of the question. My hubby may love me but I think puking all over him will push the bounds of the whole 'in sickness and in health' concept. If ur not sure of the risks don't make the attempt. Anyhoo, we got the coconuts, and attached malai... woohoo...the food that the crew cooked for us on the boat was yum! The stomach upset that followed wasn't so awesome but still... totally worth it.
As a nice relaxing break, no work, no stress.... Kumarakom totally fits the bill!