Om Shanti Shanti

After the rat incident we checked into the hotel which now had more reasonably priced rooms available. Never have I been so happy to see clean and only slightly stained sheets, a cold shower with water pressure, and an actual ceiling instead of dried palm fronds. I’m pretty much turning into a princess! We were staying at Om Beach, so called because it is apparently shaped like the “Om” symbol. There were cows on the beach, dogs in the restaurants and being Sunday, lots of locals enjoying their day off at the beach (men swimming in their jocks, women in all their clothes.) Made for a really happy fun vibe. One guy skipped past us, clicking his heels in the air as he went, celebrating the fact that he and his girlfriend had broken up and he was now freeeeeeeeee! I told Svein not to get any ideas. Absolutely magnificent day for a stroll along the beach, exploring the rocky headland, and a SUNDAY SESH! I ❤ Kingfisher! It was also the first time we tried food cooked in a tandoor (the Indian version of a woodfired pizza oven) – so delicious, loved the fiery BBQ taste and tenderness. Have since found out the difference between tikka and tandoori: same tasty marinade, but tikka is cubed meat or cheese cooked on skewers and tandoori is meat on the bone. And so the sun set over the Indian Ocean on a happy post-rat day 🙂

Oh Rats!

22 hours and you can travel halfway around the world. In India however, 22 hours will take you 722 kms…. After talking to some travellers we decided to ditch a few places in Kerala and head north to check out Hampi which had rave reviews. We checked out a few options and decided on an overnight bus to Mangalore, which had local buses available to Gokarna, one of the few places with transport availability to Hampi. We rocked up at 8pm. The bus rocked up an hour and a half later for an eleven hour trip with no toilet and no stops. After a surprisingly ok night we arrived at Mangalore and straight to the nearest restaurant. We were given a masala dosa (we didn’t have a say in the matter, despite there being menu options!) and some funny looks before realising there was a separate dining area for women and children. It was an experience! We finally found the right bus station (we very inconveniently don’t speak any of the 1500 Indian dialects!), bought the best samosas I have ever had the pleasure of eating, and the 11 o’clock bus arrived at noon (starting to see a pattern here!) – six super sweaty, dusty, bouncy (one passenger was worried about his retina detaching!) hours later we arrived at Gokarna… At last! Showers and beer!!!! We vetoed an overpriced hotel, found a cheap beach hut to stay in and dumped our stuff. Including the snacks leftover from our bus trip… Oops! I woke in the middle of the night to hear the plastic bag rustling. Rats!!! Or one rat anyway. I turned the light on and waited until I saw it scurry away, let out a high pitched squeal and didn’t sleep again for the rest of the night… And that, my friends, is a taste of the real India! And even though I was a little bit scarred by the rat incident, the whole day was a memorable adventure and a funny story 🙂
The end.

Afternoon in Alleppey

Rolling on the River

Overnight houseboat on a converted rice barge through the backwaters and lakes of Kerala: oh my gooodness! I would do it again if only for the amazing local food cooked by our personal chef (it sounds a lot posher than it was!)… Fish fry (basically a crumbed fried small whole fish), spiced beetroot yoghurt, sambal, some delicious sort of chicken curry, lentil dal, spicy vegetables, beetroot coconut salad (I walked into the kitchen galley and he was holding the coconut between his feet to grate it), idli (reminded me of Chinese steamed buns), the list goes on. For breakfast that morning we had been served boiled banana – I wasn’t too sure about that one. Deep fried banana on the other hand – YES PLEASE! Sprinkled in cardomom seeds and utterly yum!!! And that’s just the food…

The scenery: coconut palms, rice paddies (I remember when I moved to Ireland my Nan talking about the forty shades of green – well, the most beautiful green has got to be rice paddies) and village life along the canals. Loved seeing the fishermen in their gondola like boats dragging in their nets, farmers, kids getting ready for school, and most of all the washer women standing knee deep in the water and beating their clothes against the steps or flat rocks. I was as snap happy as Dad at Jenolan Caves or Tom along the Great Ocean Road. A different way of life. Beautiful, but makes you realise how lucky Oz is.P1080546P1080590.JPG
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Party Until You’re Homeless…

A jumper (in this tropical heat!) worn by a guy I saw in Alleppey. Funny when the state of Kerala has banned the sale of alcohol at all venues besides five star hotels and beer and wine parlours. Kerala is the least populated state in India per capita (I think – I inherited my fact sharing ability from my Dad so please don’t quote anything I say as actual fact, because there is a very big chance it could be incorrect), with 34 million citizens living here – which equals one licensed establishment to half a million people. So dinner has generally been an alcohol free affair. As a fan of alcohol myself (especially on holidays!) it has taken a bit of getting used to, so it was a treat (and an education) to go to a toddy shop and see the process of coconut fermentation. A dirty little hut, a cauldron and some old beer bottles, that’s all it takes – kind of like magic! We opted for the sweet toddy which has been fermented overnight, the stronger one for two or more days. We later saw an old and extremely agile guy (with a moustache so white I thought it was his teeth) shimmy up a coconut palm to tap into the goodness. All part of the extraction process… Needless to say, after a few beverages I fell asleep, only to wake myself up a few minutes later by spilling the illicit beer I was holding all over myself… And the next morning I nearly died when the lid blew off – alcohol consumption really is injurious to health!P1080549.JPGP1080550.JPGP1080551.JPGP1080554.JPGP1080598.JPG

The Latest Phase… India!

Ulterior motive for starting a blog – something super exciting to write about! After a fortnight of planning, stocking up on gastro medications and crying in the attempt to apply online for my tourist visa (seriously!), we made it! Yay… First impressions: beautiful, dirty, amazing, friendly, interesting, diverse. Kicked off our Indian food adventures with coconut prawn curry and spicy fish in banana leaf (a local Kerala speciality apparently) – you could actually see the flavour! And our first beers by the sea. A look around Fort Kochi, a port town important in the spice trade, at the incredible smelling spices, colourful dyes and persistent “no hassle” tourist vendors. We also watched the local fishermen pull in a massive net constructed on some sort of bamboo, lever, pulley system straight off the shore, a permanent contraption introduced by the Chinese hundreds of years ago, before watching the sun set into the haze over the Indian ocean…

Day 2 and we went for a walk down to Mattancherry, 4 sweaty kilometres away… Also known as Jew Town, Mattancherry boasts a synagogue built in the early 17th century that has chandeliers donated by the Dutch, decorative pieces from the Portuguese, and the most beautiful individually hand painted white and blue floor tiles a gift from China. Further down the street and there is a Dutch palace with incredibly intricate murals of Hindu mythology. The mix of cultures is so cool! Seeing all the Raj pictures and costumes made me want to read “The Secret Garden” again. Lunch has been another culinary highlight – fish moli with appam. A fish stew with fresh curry leaves through it, served with light thin fluffy pancakes (similar to breakfast hoppers served in Sri Lanka). I just read on Wikitravel that what gives them their edge is that they are fermented with a dash of toddy! Maybe that’s why I needed a nap after lunch 🙂

First blog is the hardest….

You know that song “First Cut is the Deepest” – I have a feeling that runs true for blogs as well… Where to start, what to write, will it forever cement the future direction and subject matter of this little piece of internet? Since I became an adult at the age of 26 I have been through various stages of life, passionate about one thing before moving on to the next thing my life would revolve around. There was the rebound stage, the party hard stage, the karaoke phase (they really go hand in hand, don’t they?), the save the world stage, the vegetarian stage, the political phase, save the environment phase, retail therapy, minimalism (that one didn’t go so well!), internet dating, being skinny and fit and making better choices stage (probably should get back into that!), the gourmet meals and experimental recipe cooking stage (I LOVE good food)… Last week was all about cross stitch as I tried to finish my Gran’s present before her 80th. I guess looking back, it seems that balance is just not my thing. I throw myself wholeheartedly into a cause or hobby and just as quickly lose interest. So that’s what I am going to write about. Whatever my latest craze happens to be. Who knows? Blogging may just be a phase as well!

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Happy 80th Gloria – I made it!