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Sleepless in Kerala

INDIA | Tuesday, 10 April 2012 | Views [750]

To further test the idea from my Mumbai money saving expert, I'd book a 2300 train to Mumbai. From there, I'll take a 34 hour train to Trivandrum in Kerala where I'll be spending a few days on Kovalam beach. 

On the train to Mumbai, I got upgraded to 1st AC free of charge. What a let down. Normally I get 2nd AC and quite frankly, the choice is between a hard bed and a very hard bed. The other differences seems to be a 4 berth compartment with a lockable door and the use of a western style toilet. Go for 1st if you're paranoid or the thought of peeing into a lavatory really excites you. 

I awake as the train arrive at Mumbai CST with a less than satisfactory nights sleep. An ineffective cup of coffe later, I'm at Lokmanya Tilak station waiting for the train to Trivandrum. In my sleep deprived stated, I'd forgotten the train wasn't going to arrive for another 4 hours. So I'm forced to sit on a chair in the platform while some guy insists on talking to me in Hindi despite the many permutations of "English, no Hindi".

The weather report for Kovalam was a 60% chance of tropical storms every day, for the next 10 days. I did spend some time looking out of the window of the train to Trivandrum expecting to see a bit of carnage or woken up 'The Wizard of Oz' style. Alas, the weather was uneventful and I hoped it'd be the same for Kovalam beach.

On such a long journey, it's pretty obvious that trains are infested with cockroaches. Although there's only ever a few in the AC carriages. I found one crawling on the t-shirt I put on a hanger and mustered up enough courage to flick it away. To my horror, it landed on the stomach of a fellow passenger in the opposite bunk. I put on my best sheepish grin, waiting to apologise. Fortunately he was actually sleeping.

We finally make it to Trivandrum at 1900, 3 days after departing from Aurangabad. A taxi ride to Kovalam later, I crash down on my hotel bed thinking the whole overnight train thing is just too ^&*% insane to do unless you really need to save the cash or think sleeping is for losers. After 7 weeks of travelling, I was more than ready to relax with a bit of beach bumming for the next 6 days. To avoid sitting in the sun too much, I took some side trips to wander around the Kovalam. It doesn't seem like the most obvious thing to do, but scratch beneath the surface of Kovalam and the town has some interesting things to find such as these beautiful mosques and church:

Never seen such styles before for mosques and churches. Must be something in the synchresis of religions of South India. And if pictures of pretty buildings do nothing for you, why not take a side trip to the harbour and just watch the fishermen go about their business:

All along the Kovalam beach promenade are women selling fresh fruit salads, one of whom had a patch just outside my hotel and I patronized 2 days in a row. She took it personally when I bought a fruit salad from another women. That William Cosgrove was right. On the seventh day, I had the option to stay another day in Kovalam or see Trivandrum and I choose the latter. Beaches I can do anywhere, but a 3000km to see  city is only done as a necessity.

In Travandrum, I decided to do a landmarks tour in hot and humid conditions for a real challenge. A taxi ride to Kowidar Palace is where the walk begins. After 10 mintes, the taxi driver stops and asked me where I wanted to go. I resisted the urge to ask him, "Where the %^&* have you been driving to for the last 4km???" and just told him the destination again. The palace is the residence of the Trivancore royal family. I knew that Kowidar wasn't open to the public, but I'd also read that a guard could be persuaded to let visitors catch a glimpse of the palace. This was the fruits of my negotiating skills:

From this point onwards, there's a 1km walk south towards Kanaka Kunnu Palace, where state banquets are held. Another 2km to takes me past the Institute of Engineering with a Jet plane displayed outside, then into a park where Napier Musuem, Sree Chitra Art Gallery, Natural History Musuem, and Trivandrum Zoo are all based. The pride of the India Air Force:

I loved the look of Napier Musuem, reminds me of a Lego building:

There's very little of real tourist interest in Trivandrum except for the culture vultures. It would have been better to do a day trip from Kovalam. That way, there's always the option of the beach if Trivandrum isn't to your taste.

From Trivandrum, I fly out, having spent 8 weeks in India. I've thoroughly enjoyed by time with so much to see and do. With a bit more planning and a faster pace through the cities, I could have seen more at the cost of finding little gems like Orchha and probably missed out on some of the less obvious things to see.

Farewell and I hope to be back.


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