07.06.2016 - 08.06.2016 82 °F
Kerala is really a country unto itself. Approximately 80% of Indians are Hindu with most of the remainder identifying as Muslim (14%), Christian (2%), and Siekh (1.7%). In contrast, approximately 45% of people identify as Christian in the state of Kerala. India also claims that it is the largest democratic nation in the world. In contrast, the state of Kerala has a long history of governance by the Communist party of India due to the inequality between landowners and farmers, the lack of sectarian violence, and the unusually high literacy rate. Signs of Christianity and Communism are all over the state with churches lining the rivers and Communist graffiti seemingly ubiquitous across the country.
A church on the riverfront
The hammer and sickle emblem of the Communist party
We came to Kerala to finish our chapter in India with a bit of relaxation. Tigers in Tala and monuments in Delhi were fun, but my wife (and pretty much all of the people who know me) say that I need to learn how to relax. I was able to do this somewhat during the food riots in Mozambique and at the resort in Fiji, and Kerala would give me the opportunity to relax on a houseboat for the very first time.
Kerala is also unique in India because I have been told by many Indians that it is the place they most want to visit. Many Indians actually come to Kerala for their honeymoon, and they take large boats on river tours throughout the massive channels of Southwestern India. Wendy, Danielle, and I rented an air-conditioned houseboat for the evening and relaxed as civilization (and cell service) slowly drifted away.
The houseboat afloat
A delicious local river fish, Karimeen
This traffic was a nice change of pace
Docking for the evening
We arrived on the houseboat the day before the official start of the monsoon season. While the weather may not have been ideal, the falling rain really did bring us all some much needed relaxation. We returned in the morning to our hotel and relaxed a bit more, me enjoying the view of the passing ships from the hotel room and the ladies enjoying a much needed massage.
A view from the room
...And my interest waning
This chapter in our trip was pretty much us on a boat followed by me watching other boats from a hotel room surrounded by rain. I'm glad I came to Kerala, but it is definitely a sleepy place. If you like relaxation, this place is definitely for you. For those who are more into monuments and adventure, the previous stops are probably more suited to your tastes.
As my time in India comes to a close, I want to reflect on the myths that were told to me and conclude by giving aspiring India adventurers tips for navigating the massive sub-continent.
Let's start with the myths:
1. "You WILL get sick": I heard this from damn-near everyone that I talked to. I had been told this so many times that I actually started to believe this fiction. The first 14 days that I spent there, I was completely fine. On the 15th day, I decided to be bold and drink hotel tap water. I paid for that 12 hours later, but the sickness didn't last that long. For those of you who want to come here but are afraid of getting sick, I'd say that's not a concern if you wash your hands and only drink bottled water.
2. "The roads are so dangerous!": No, they are not any more dangerous than the United States. In fact, I only saw one accident there in 2 weeks. I see one A DAY in Los Angeles. Yes, they honk a lot which can be intimidating at first. Yes, there really isn't such a thing as "lanes" in India, but it seems to work for them. Remember, just because something is different doesn't mean it's wrong.
3. "It's so hard to get around": This is partially a myth because it is NOT hard to get around if you know the right people, which brings me to my next post-script.
Danielle was in India for two months before I arrived, so I benefited greatly from her experiences. In my opinion, you should not drive in India because the rules are really different when compared to other places (not dangerous just different). That being said, you should get drivers for wherever you go. I've listed a few resources below that will hopefully assist in your adventures:
1. For Jaipur: Kailash Rao is a professional guide whose English is perfect. He is very courteous, professional, and he has his own tour agency. His rates are great, and he knows the city and surrounding state very well. You can email him directly at Kailash94606@gmail.com to set up driving tours.
2. For Delhi: Jimmy Sharma has a Master's degree in history and knows everything worth knowing about Delhi. His English is also perfect, and he is extremely kind and professional. If you need a tour of Delhi, contact him at jimmy@firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. For other spots in India: Taj Mahal Tour operators has an excellent two day tour of Delhi and Agra for around 250 USD which includes transport and guides. When booking the tour, ask for Jimmy (mentioned above). However, her company also arranges cars for nearly everywhere else in India, so this company should be your go-to contact when arranging travel. They respond to emails very quickly (which is the exception and not the rule in India), so definitely contact them for your travel needs. My specific contact is Sheena, and the email is email@example.com.
It's off to surf and sun in the Maldives, check in with you all more soon.