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.

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