2008 / march / 27

Three weeks in India

As a "second honeymoon", Milena and I decided to go to India. Both of us had not been there for more than ten years; I was there only once, in 1997, for three months. Milena however has much more history with the country, as she's lived there more or less permanently for a decade, until she left in 96.
Where to start... there's lots to write about. Some travel tips of course, impressions of the differences between India now and ten years ago, the impact travelling's had on us, the friends we made... lots.

After our marriage, we had a classic Italian honeymoon: being pampered for one week on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples. Which was great to relax after all the business around the Big Event, but we knew a "real holidy" was yet to come.
At first we were drawn to Goa, but it turned out surprisingly hard to find a reasonable flight there - and on a hunch, I then found a flight to Trivandrum, in the South of Kerala, and we decided to go there. Neither of us had ever been there, so we were breaking new ground.



Our Gulf Air flight to Trivandrum was scheduled to arrive at four in the morning - knowing we'd be pretty wasted by then, we arranged beforehand for a hotel and airport pick-up to get us acclimatised. That worked well for us this time, but I won't do it again, as it's much more expensive then bargaining yourself, and the next time we'll know what to expect.
I had an idea what to expect - but still.
The moment the aircraft door was opened, and the seal on our airconditioned metal tube was broken, it was there: the heat, the humidity, and most of all the flagrances - smells you can almost see. I recognized it instantly, and it felt like home.
Getting through immigration and customs was a breeze compared to Bombay International ten years ago (yes, it's called Mumbai now. But then, it still was called Bombay). Whether it was the joy of a small airport or an improvement in unnecessary bureaucracy I can't say, but we were outside in less than one hour!
We found our taxidriver easily in the shouting horde outside, and in minutes we were speeding through the early Indian morning. Magic.
It was a little after six o'clock, the sun not yet up but the sky turning a different shade of blue every minute, and life in full swing around us: kids walking to school, gregorian singing from bustling churches, decorated in pink and gold like hindu temples.

The smoke
Slightly less magic was the smoke. I'd somehow forgotten all about that. In the morning, people burn their rubbish, as a way to start the day afresh. No doubt this is the way they've been doing it for centuries. Unfortunately, these days a lot of the garbage is plastic, which is tossed on the fire regardless. Add to that the smog, caused by the many autorickshaws, motorbikes and cars, and my nose and ears had a big problem.

Maharaju Palace, Kovalam KL But as we got closer to the sea however, the smoke got less again. Finally, we arrived in Kovalam, at Maharaju Palace. A beautiful old house, a room with lovely woodwork everywhere... but all we wanted to do was lie in that nice big bed.

After crashing for a few hours, and a lovely breakfast at eleven on our balcony in the garden, we checked out the beach.

Distinct approaches to enjoying the beach

A nice image to finish this first entry with, no? More to later.

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