Today is our last day in India. We spent the morning leisurely sailing along the Arabian Sea backwaters on a houseboat. The Kerala backwaters have been compared to the Bayou or the Everglades but they seem more magical as narrow slivers of land divide the widening and narrowing water pathways that surrender to rivers, lakes and eventually the sea. The locals depend on the water for transportation, fishing and agriculture and most of the land bordering the canals is used for rice growing and now with the tourist boom boat making.
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of lakes and canals fed by 38 rivers and likely created centuries ago by a tsunami or earthquake and replenished yearly with monsoon rains three to four months of the year. Forceful waves from the Arabian Sea created islands and destroyed villages but most believe a great flood in the mid-14th Century created much of what we see today.
We stayed on a private houseboat the night before along with three staffers catering to our every need. The boat consisted of a kitchen, master bedroom, eating area, roof sundeck and resting area. It had beautifully polished wooden floors (no shoes please), a thatched woven roof and local antique furniture – perfect for napping in the warm Kerala sunshine. The food abundant, the bugs persistent and relaxation required. We departed at noon for a five -hour cruise and I napped most of the time, while Jill read. Suddenly, our boat docked and we found ourselves on the shores of a tiny remote fishing village. As we made our way from store to store, we realized this would be our last shopping adventure in India. Jill announced, “No Village Untouched,” as we darted to the ATM machine with our crew/bodyguards in tow. We wrapped up the shopping excursion I mean sightseeing tour visiting the 1,500-year-old Christian Church constructed by St. Thomas the Apostle and the purpose for our stop. We boarded the boat with bags in tow and Jill looked at the other crewmembers and stated, “We like to shop!” Tuckered out from our big day on the boat, we retired to bed early in a fully air-conditioned suite. It’s sticky hot at sea level.
Back at the DREAM Hotel, we caused all sorts of commotion trying to send another box home via DHL. I advise anyone planning a trip to India to pack underwear, socks and shoes and buy the rest. The entire country is a shopper’s paradise. We were certainly the crazy Americans making a scene. It’s like we can’t help ourselves.
The Dream is a dream. It’s the place to be in Cochin.
Signing off from India, a land ripe with possibilities and a country rich with history and enduring people. All aboard to Singapore.
Highlights of India
- Seeing the Dalai Lama
- Visiting the Golden Temple
- Learning about Hinduism and Buddhism in Varanasi and participating in a ritualistic world very unknown to us
- Watching the Changing of the Guard on the Pakistani/Indian Border
- The spirituality of the North and the serenity and beauty of the South
- Shopping and Shopping and more shopping
- Attending our first ever Indian wedding and wearing sarees
- Learning to dress in sarees and the fiasco that entails
- Seeing the Taj Mahal up close
- Floating on the Arabian Sea backwaters
- Meeting Kirat and Sumir and their friends in Amritsar
- Spices, flavors, tastes and a whole lot of food
- Spending time with our guides and learning about all the incredible history India has to offer
- The eagerness of a country and its people to please
- Kelly’s outbreak of Delhi Belly (Kelly’s worst moment)
- Kelly’s freak out moment at the Amritsar Hotel Ritz (Jill’s worst moment)
- The horns and long car rides
- When Jill returned from her Ayurvedic massage looking like a grease slick and I told her she smelled and suggested she take a shower pronto because she reeked of beef or garbage and she defended herself cracking up that it was the “toxins” being released from her body. “It’s the toxins, Kelly!”
- When we traveled off-road through an abandoned village on the way to Amritsar from Dharamshala and Jill woke me up and we were in the middle of haystacks and animals attempting to find a road
- When someone showed us a $12,000 carpet and thought we could afford it
- The Jammu to Dharamshala Driver/Runner we were convinced was a drug trafficker
- The hermaphrodite and the celebrity photo pictures at the Golden Temple
- Our guide in Delhi calling Jill – Jilly and telling her he would catch her if she fell.
- When our Kerala driver told us his rent costs $2,500 rupees ($45 USD) and we had given him $2,000 ($36) as his tip for 4 days. He lost his father at age 8 and supported his mother and sister. He is married and has a 3-month old baby he only sees 3 days a month because he is on the road traveling the rest of the time. In spite of this, he was the most kind and sensitive man.
- Seeing the poverty in Delhi and Mumbai