India, part deux

Monday 16th June 2008

Hello again!

Ok, so I made it safely back to Chennai from Singapore, and took an overnight train to Ernakulam, where I got the ferry across to Fort Cochin. I met two lovely girls while I was there, and we all ended up sharing a room in a gorgeous old Portuguese house, where apparently Vasco de Gama died (he’s some famous Portuguese dude who discovered India or something).

Cochin is a beautiful, relaxed and laid-back little town, and lovely to wander around in. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go on a houseboat to tour the backwaters as I’d planned, because it being the monsoon/low season there wasn’t anyone else to go with. The two girls I was sharing with wanted to go but they wanted to stay the night on the boat and I didn’t have enough time before my next train north.
However I liked Cochin a lot and would love to come back and do the backwater tours another time.

I headed north on another overnight train up to Hubli, where I got a bus to Hospet, and then a tuk-tuk to Hampi.

Hampi is GORGEOUS and I’ve completely fallen for it. It’s a weird kind of place – there are huge natural boulder formations everywhere and dozens of ancient temples – most dating back to the mid-1400’s. It’s also supposedly the place where the monkey-king lived in the famous Hindu story/myth of the Ramayana.

Anyway, I had originally planned to stay here only for a couple of days, before heading on to Goa, but several people I’ve met along the way have told me that Goa has basically closed up shop and the monsoon has arrived in full, so it’s driving rain everyday, no chance of going to the beach and all the shops are closed.
It’s rained a bit here, but mostly it’s cloudy and surprisingly cool and pleasant, so I thought I’d stick around here for a bit longer instead.

So far we’ve rented bikes and cycled over to a temple across the river, where we then walked up the 600 steps to appreciate the view. My thighs almost killed me coming back, but it was a pretty good view!
The next day I’d planned to walk to a couple of temples down a path to the east, about 2km away, but was warned several times that it’s dangerous along that path and not at all safe for women travelling alone. So rickshaw it is then! I skipped that and monged out instead, and then hired an auto-rickshaw the next day to take me around all the ruins in one go.
They were fabulous.
Very temple-y. And old. With carvings and stuff.

I also had a little strop today as I got sick of all the constant interruptions. I couldn’t enjoy my breakfast or walk around the main temples without constantly being bombarded with “What’s your name?” “What is your country?” “Madam, Rickshaw?” “Guide book?” “Maps?” “Give me money!”

You’d think I would be used to it by now, but I got fed up and shouted at the poor man who kept the shoes – he made me put mine on a rack when everyone else had left theirs on the floor. I was sure he was going to ask me for extra money for putting my shoes there, so I refused and gave him a long speech about skin colour and money and how I should be allowed to keep my shoes in the same place as Indian women.

Then there are all the people who keep asking me if they can take pictures of me, or if I’ll be in their holiday videos. You’d think it would be flattering, but it made me feel more like a freak at the zoo!
Of course afterwards it occurred to me that they’re only getting their own back – I’m sure the people here have spent years putting up with awful tourists and journalists who want photos of authentic locals in saris etc. Serves us right!

Anyhoo, I’m all better now thanks to some retail therapy!
There’s lots of nice shops full of crappy souvenirs, so I’ve bought some crap and will probably pop off in a bit to have a nice dinner (well, mediocre, as the restaurants here are definitely not great!) and a cheeky rum and coke. Alcohol is semi-illegal here (only in this village) because of the religious importance of the site or something, but you can go to certain restaurants and get a “special” coke (with rum) for 80 rupees, which is fine with me! (After you order it they pop off on their moped into Hospet, 15km away, to buy the booze and then serve you up a nice bootleg drink!).

Also today I amused myself by being belligerent and annoying – every time someone shouted at me, I shouted back – they were so shocked! One woman literally yelled as I walked past “HELLO MADAM!” and pointed at her stall for me to buy something, so I just yelled right back “HELLO MADAM!” and she looked so offended! It made me laugh!

Not much else to report really – Tomorrow I’m going laze around, buy some more books for the long journey north, and attempt to cram all my new souvenirs into my already-full rucksack. Then I’ll be off on Wednesday to Goa where I catch a train back up to Agra, (48 hours on the train or something silly) to see the Taj Mahal, and then I head to Delhi for a couple of days before I fly home.

I can highly recommend both Cochin and Hampi to anyone coming to India though – they’re both lovely, although you’d probably get more out of it in the high tourist season when more things are open.

Also I’m coming home in 8 days! I’m really excited! Woo Hoo!
Oh, and I’m also applying for real proper grown-up jobs now, in England of all places, which is more than a little scary – I’ve never had a real grown-up job before! I don’t even know what I want to be when I grow up yet! I wonder if they frown on silliness in those kind of jobs? Will I have to start wearing sensible clothes and learn about politics so I have something to discuss at the water-cooler? Or maybe my silliness and weird clothes would be a better water-cooler topic? Hmmm, a little bit daunting!

anyway, take care of you
tons of love
(who just bought a really SILLY pair of trousers just for fun)

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