Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back in the US

Arrived back in the US safely :) Will most likely be posting more pictures on facebook soon! Hope you all enjoyed the blogging :D

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Last day by the beach...

8/15 India's Independence Day! Lots of little kids in Goa running around waving flags, a lot are also flying kites.

Catherine and I woke up early this morning to investigate the possibility of doing yoga at the local ayruvedic center..but after a fruitless hike through a muddy residential beach road, we were informed that because it is low tourist season it is closed (a common explanation for most things we don't find). We do yoga on the beach, eat a hearty breakfast, lather on the sunscreen and rent a scooter for the day. Early in the morning we see a lot of fisherman reeling in their catch (lots of shrimp) and many locals swarming onto the beach to buy the fresh catch.

Men reeling in a fishing net.Sorting the shrimp in baskets to transport/sell.

Cat's much better at driving than I am and we spend about 3 hours going through the countryside and finding remote beaches recommended to us by local shopkeepers. The countryside is gorgeous, lots of palms, greenery and rice fields but the beaches aren't anything to type home about. We investigated Agonda and Patnem beach, both of which were abandoned-looking, covered in sticks and seaweed, with not very inviting muddy waves. Tired scooting around many kilometers to get to the next beach we headed home to Palolem, enjoyed a light Indian lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon on our favorite Palolem Beach. When sunset, we packed up and showered heading to the 'Cheeky Chipati' for dinner. For my last Indian meal, I had my favorite vegetable, bindi a.k.a. lady finger curry and enjoyed a classic Goan lime soda. We sure are going to miss Palolem beach and Goa!
Our hotel's backyard. Lots of animals about, including a pig!

Stormy skies and showers for most of the day...But it ends on a beautiful sunset

Catherine and I at the Cheeky Chipati, our last dinner!

Back to the U.S. by 8/17, can't believe it!!!

More Pictures of Palolem

Palolem is a very long beach, almost a half circle shape.
Church near the beach
Fishing boats docked on the beach
Catherine and her artfully crafted sand "Hindi Temple"

My creation :)And of course..there are cows..even on the beach. Life must be pretty good for them!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kochi and Palolem

After our exhausting day in Allepey, we decided to spent the next day totally relaxing and getting to know the quaint seaside region of Fort Cochin or Kochi (8/12).

In the morning we browsed the many touristy shops- the only downside to Kochi are the heckling shopkeepers that bug you incessantly to enter their shops. We ate breakfast at the nostalgic Kashi Art Cafe, a slice of Maine beach cafe feel in the middle of India. Starbucks-like music, simple western food, and hot tea made us visit Kashi again for lunch and then dinner the next day. Catherine and I then rented bicylces from the tourist center (at only 5Rs/hour) and ended up nearly exploring all of Fort Cochin by bike! We biked all along the coast- the only sea we saw was from very rocky beaches with a bit of trash everywhere and unfortunately a huge naval base covers the coast as well. However, our bicycle ride was so refreshing as we were greeted by all the locals in the streets and we were able to see the much more rural side of Kochi- dirt roads, fruit stands, and then we shopped a bit in Jew town and their Spice Market. For the afternoon I got an Aryuvedic (India's form of traditional and ancient medicine) Entire-Body Massage which involves a lot of herbal oil and the requirement that you strip down to your underwear! I was relaxed after the one-hour massage and with renewed energy went to the internet cafe and completed my three essays for Northwestern Medical School's secondary app (whew!). Meanwhile, Catherine took a yoga lesson from a very skilled teacher (I'm nowhere as flexible as her!).

We spent the whole day 8AM-5PM on a Backwaters trip in Kerala. Kerala is famous for it's jungle-like rivers and bodies of water and for 4 hours we drifted on a large covered boat in an area called "3-Rivers" where we saw 26 islands! We saw a lot of the daily activities of the local people that live there, many of them fish or dive for small crustaceans and many of them also dig sand basket by basket from the river bottom, exported and used for such things as construction. The palms trees and view were simply spectacular and Catherine and I dangled our feet from the boat side.
Fishing net structures used by the locals, they are currently looking skeletal and bare because not much fishing goes on during monsoon season.
A glimpse at the sand industry.

Then, We visited an island calcium plant (they crush mussel shells to get calcium powder) and tried coconut tonic (supposedly makes you strong/healthy), a juice taken straight from the coconut flower which is white and opaque and very alcoholic, it ferments within 6 days into a pure alcoholic drink! As part of the trip we were fed delicious local food, almost all of which contained coconut- whether it be dried, shredded, or liquid milk. Coconut is a huge part of daily Keralan life- you can use its husk to weave ropeand all its various parts to cook with. We then spent the latter half of the day being pushed in a canoe by bamboo stick through the narrow inland backwaters. Incredibly lush green jungle and coconut trees made this canoe trip seem like we were in the middle of the Amazon!

In the stark white calcium plant located on a remote palm-studDelicious lunch with lots of coconut incorporated in.

On the canoe in the narrow backwatersWe were propelled by guys pushing long poles into the creek bed
our "dock"

We left that night for our 14 hour train back to the northern state of Goa- and this train ride was the most amazing of all that I have taken in India as of yet. The sky was clear when we departed the train station at night and I lay in my bunk just staring at the stars which seems to drip down from the sky. With little light polution and a view from the Southern atmostphere, I couldn't stop looking out my window and fell asleep with my glasses on. I awoke the the startlingly green views of farm valleys/rice fields of Karnataka (state south of Goa). Hills, mountains, valleys whoosed by the train window, all of them abundant with palm trees and green. Views from the train...
In my seat tanning/ reading/ enjoying the open air and scenery.An amusing train of brightly painted trucks ready to be shipped to the north!

Catherine and I arrive at last to the small idyllic village of Palolem, known for its beautiful and picturesque beaches. It's definitely a tiny town and tourists bump into each other often and local folks start to recognize you a few hours into your stay. We went out to the main beach, a huge crescent lush with palms and with a lot of local fishing action going on in a corner of the beach. We played in the water, which was warm and clean! Later, I walked along the beach and took many pictures of the breath-taking views. Tomorrow is our last full day in Kerala before we get ready to head back to America, we plan to go around to Palolem's hidden beaches via scooter.
Fishing boats coming in around sundown on Palolem beach.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In beautiful Kerala

After a 14 hour train ride and about 400 miles, which was very pleasant in our Non-AC compartment, Catherine and I arrived in Ernukulam near Fort Cochin, a big tourist destination. The scenery on the train ride was gorgeous- vegetation in South India is made up of many palm trees and lush green jungles, and due to the rains almost every field was flooded. It felt like we were traveling into the Jurassic period and that a dinosaur would attack our train at any moment... just kidding, the ride was actually very peaceful and I slept very well!
Looking outside the jail.. i mean train (jk jk) of our train compartment. Lots of newspapers on the window to keep the rain from dripping in.

Fort Cochin is a small, entirely tourist revolved town right on the western coast of India. We are staying at a simple, clean home stay for only $5 every night. Our first night here we saw the classic drama form of Kochi- Kathakali. It's like a pantomime/dance with elaborately dressed and made-up actors with a classical Indian singer narrating along with percussion in the background. I really enjoyed the performance (a story-line similar to Grendel) and was sad that I missed the classical Indian dance performance the night after. I'm going to inquire about classical dance lessons soon!
Kathakali...lots of brilliant col
Boo!!! Pretty unique costumes and good dance storytelling.

This day we, along with many other tourists, took a 1.5 hour bus ride to Allepey known for it's Snake Boat Races which attract thousands of local fans and in which over 50 boats compete (each snake boat holds 105 rowers, wow!). So there were also over a thousand people on the water that day! There was definitely a regatta feel to the entire event that made me miss crew races. We sat in a tourist pavilion set on the water in front of the finish line and near the judges. However, we didn't miss out on the local atmosphere as a whole lot of Indian guys ended up/sneaking into our pavilion and started doing long rowdy cheers/songs. It was incredibly amusing to watch and part of me wanted to join in their crazy water bottle bashing and chair jumping festivities. A very nice Indian ex-weight lifter was sitting next to me and explained the entire race as the English commentator was horribly lacking in her skills. From noon until 5:30 we waited, then watched the several heats of boat races, and enjoyed sharing snacks with the rowdy Indian men :).

There was music (drums mainly) and lots of costumed dancers in the celebrations.Before the race, all the snake boats (~20 of them) line up before the governmental VIPs to salute them. You can tell the boats are super long , skinny, and shallow. There are also about 8 cheerleaders that stand on the center of the boat either drumming or yelling at the crew.The picture doesn't even fit the entire boat!

We met several student British doctors and dentists on the pavilion and ended up having a great dinner with them after the races. Every tourist I've met so far has been so friendly, and we always exchange emails afterwards, offering hospitality in our respective countries if the other ever visits.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Extra Pictures of Vagator

Very Rocky Beaches, very muddy/turbulent waters
Catherine and I trekked through some major greenery to get to the abandoned Portugese Fort
Success! What a spectacular view :)
She sells sea shells by the sea shore.... that's my hand (covered in henna)

Goodbye Delhi- Hello Goa!

Catherine and I departed the dusty, hot city of Delhi around 11 AM (after just completing our 40 page documentation of our report just before leaving) and arrived in a rainy, but tropical Goa (because of monsoon season it's low tourist season as well) Our trip map can be seen on Catherine's blog:

What we've done so far-
From Goa we traveled to Punaji, a very quaint and little town nearby a river inlet from the Arabian Sea. It's almost got a European feel and all the tourist's end up running into each other multiple times because it's so small! Goa is very much into Christianity and used to be a Portugese-run state (I believe). There are lot of beautiful churches and crosses everywhere. We stayed at a small guest house called Park Place Lodge and it felt like we were living with the family!

Along the riverside in Panaji (yes, I spell it differently all the time)
Beautiful church in the middle of the town. We got a chance to go inside where the architecture was quite a medley of many gold extravagant things.Catherine on the church steps.
Goan cake: 29 layers! Tastes like a creamy thick chocolate jello... yum.

We met up with two German sisters and went to visit a large local market in Maposa via bus. It was fun wandring around the spices, fresh fruits and veggies, and also looking at the variety of clothing and jewelry. Since Catherine and I are back-packing (it's amazing what you can fit inside a school backpack for 10 days) we didn't buy much. We then took a bus to Anjuna, famous for it's beachside Wednesday flea market that only runs around high-tourist season but we found a few small vendors none hte less. They were situated on a cliff right about the ocean and with palm trees swaying it was definetly a tropical shopping experience. I've found that my bargaining skills are pretty good or otherwise the sellers are desparate for business in low-season.
India's famous spices at the market. Such vivid colors!Cows..are everywhere. Here they walk the streets of Anjuna.

From Anjuna we went to Vagator- known for it's remote/rocky beaches. The view was spectacular and so green. We sat on a cliffy ledge just looking at the waves for awhile (very stormy and brown water, no one swims at this time of year) and walked some on the blackish rocky beaches. We were able to hike to an abandoned Portugese fort and were rewarded with a great view of Disco Valley (apparently great rave parties happen here around Christmas time) and Vagator Beach. The German girls met up with two Indian guys- Riesen and Vicki and we had tea with them. Later the guys took us to a nice eatery with good music right on the beach. Indian hospitality is indeed found everywhere!
Catherine and I by the Arabian Sea!

The beautiful beaches of Vagator.Our German friends Linda and Karoline with us in cloudy/rainy Vagator.

We head out early morning in search of breakfast. After a path through the "jungle" and alot of wandering in the rural streets we find "Chinatown" and have a wonderful meal of banana porridge, hashbrowns, toast, and tea for just about ~$1! And we find Internet right nearby, from where I write this post-
Cheap Breakfast! Banana porridge and a hearty meal with some chai of course!
Catherine and I will embark on a 13 hour train ride along the east Indian coast (should be beautiful scenery) to head even further south to the state of Kerala (famous for its jungle-like backwaters). We depart around 8 pm tonight and will arrive there in the morning. I am determined to write 3 med school essays on the train (why is Northwestern demanding my secondary app by 8/15?)... we'll see how that goes!

Missing Everyone!