Kerala – What Western Tourists Should Know
In my previous post I lampooned India’s tourist industry by writing some fake tour guides for 3 completely lame tourist attractions – attractions which the Indian nationals queue up for and visit in their hundreds. However, what is apparent, is that the things that entertain Indian’s (standing on a bay shouting your name and listening for the echo) is not what entertainers Westerners (who, quite frankly, have been disney world’ed to death and if it doesn’t go upside down 400 times, soak you through, take 5 years off your life, and cost $50 to get in, it’s not ‘entertaining’) are wanting from the experience.
So, here is a (rather lame) Westerners guide to Kerala…
First off, the place is green (as I may have mentioned in my previous post). The views are spectacular and well worth the money. It’s like a combination of the Austrian / Swiss alps, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands. If you are all for inspiring vista’s, panaramic views, mountains rising out of the mist, thundering waterfalls, then Kerala is the place for you. In the morning the mist can be seen in all the small valleys (if you are in a high up resort) with the mountains poking out, and slowly, as the sun heats the air, it all rises, joins together and passes through you and overhead.
Up in the mountains, there are huge tea estates. Seriously huge. As far as the eye can see kind of huge, there are miles and miles of tea plants. As a Brit who loves tea, it’s great to finally see the plant where it is grown and find out which part of the tree the tea comes from. Your impressions will be: a) it’s a lot smaller than you imagined and b) what part of the tree does the leaf come from.
If you are driving up to the mountains, make sure you get the driver to stop so you can get out and take some photos (if you want), because they probably won’t stop (tea trees are not interesting, right? But it’s good to actually see them up close). You will also see the ladies picking the tea with bags strapped to their back, so when you go back home to your friends and drinking your cup of Tetley, you can say, with authority, that you have seen the actual tea plants the tea came from AND actual people picking the actual leaves. Wonderful conversational piece. Go ahead.
The other strange thing that happened was the driver brazenly drove past three Elephants, and we had to cry out just to get him to stop. Again, it’s a Western thing, we don’t see Elephants in the street! You get to sit on the elephants and feed it fruit. No comment on the conditions the animal is kept in, but it’s probably not great 🙁
Beyond that, the recommendation is to either admire the views, or simply to ask your driver to drive around, because the real attraction is the scenery – and very good scenery it is too, they must have seen Lord of the Rings and thought, “hey, that’s a good idea! We can have mountains like that too!”.
There are some cultural things that you can do, and I use the word in the loosest sense of the word. You may have to ask around before you go, because my mother received an ‘ayervedic massage’ (say what now?!) – organized by our travel agency – in a freezing cold hut. We also watched a show about Lord Krishna (maybe, who knows?) which was very…cultural. If you are not in to the bizzare, abstract, downright weird, then you should probably give that one a miss too. If you are really going to be a culture vulture like my mum, then go ahead, knock yourself out. And if you do find out what the play/show/art/performance is about, be sure to drop me a line because I was totally lost.
From what I could tell of the story, the girl (played by a guy) was a real hussy and tried to lure the green guy in to bed. The green guy being very traditional refused and said they had to get married first. The hussy just wanted to get some action and persisted until eventually the green guy cut off her breasts because she wouldn’t stop. Then he went and told his father about what happened (and presumably got a bitch slap upside the head for being so stupid).
I could be gravely mistaken though.
Hmm, I’m writing this blog from a houseboat on the backwaters in Southern Kerala. It’s pretty cool, you get to see a completely different way of life, with women washing clothes in the river, washing the cutlery in the river, washing their kids in the river, washing themselves in the river, before finally, catching their dinner from the river. However, there’s also the cynic in me that half thinks: these guys are being paid to be rural and traditional for the high paying tourists.
Again, very scenic, and only slightly ruined by the number of white tourists gawping at the culture. Damn culture vultures!
Keeping with my penchant of comparing everything here to the way things are back home, the houseboats are like canel boats that you can take short breaks on, but over here, they know what a house boat is! It makes our canel boats look quaint, a little funny and a bit like a noddy toy. The Kerala houseboats are really big, really nice, well furnished, have great facilities and even better meals onboard.
Anyway. Next stop: Goa. India’s equivalent of Benidorm, Malia or Daytona.