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Matt & Mercaders - The World Tour

Alleppey, Goa & Mumbai

INDIA | Wednesday, 14 January 2009 | Views [2489] | Comments [2]


The reason for going to Alleppey is to take a houseboat trip around the backwaters. It’s a top activity to tick off when you’re in the Kerala region of India. And to be fair it lived up to the hype. You have to be fairly relaxed by the time you get on the houseboat though because it’s a pretty laid back experience i.e. uneventful, so if this is your first stop from Terminal 5 you´re going to struggle.

We went for a 2 day cruise. The boat was a recommendation (and a belter). This boat had everything on board – en suite bedroom, kitchen and lounge with TV and DVD. The lounge had two recliners looking out in the direction of travel. The 3 staff, for just Chloe and I, bring you food and drink every hour or two so all you have to do is sit back and soak up the surroundings. It’s sort of luxury but, being India and all that, not quite. Kind of like sipping champagne out of a beer can. 

To paint a picture the surroundings include – locals having their morning washes in the water, passing through remote villages, beautiful scenery, little boats paddling past with varying contents. And that´s it. It sounds quite mad and it is really. It is simply very peaceful and relaxing. At night we pulled up next to this little house where there were loads of puppies playing by the waters edge. When they finally stopped yapping Chloe made me go and check they hadn´t drowned. True story.


After disembarking ´Sprite´ we got a taxi back to Cochin to get a train (yesss!) to Palolem beach in Goa. Most reports about Goa from fellow travelers had been unsympathetic. 3 weeks prior to our arrival all the unlicensed properties along the beach front had been bulldozed by the council - an annual occurrence by all accounts that left the place looking like a cyclone had hit it. When we got there, Palolem beach version 6 was well under construction. I don´t know if the licenses to sell booze are hyper-restrictive or if they just love to build?

Palolem beach had all the trademark features. A perfect slice of sand, gawkers and covert undercover photographers. On top of that, a little bit of Bank Farm, some cows wandering amongst us. Weird. Despite the home comforts of the cows we didn´t rate Palolem. Our accommodation was rubbish, food options a bit weak and the aforementioned beach, well, you know by now. Also, the end was nigh. Next stop Mumbai and then Hong Kong. We´d been to Mumbai so we knew the drills there and frankly we were excited by Hong Kong. We did, however, have a great incident on the way back to Goa train station…

Palolem beach was 45 mins from Goa station. Getting on this train was crucial if we were to make the next leg of our travels onto Hong Kong. Getting flights and trains that match at shortish notice is virtually impossible so if we missed it we were stuck in India. The taxi picked us up at 6.45am and seemed intent on taking us to the airport instead of the train station. I think we had just about got through to the driver that we needed the train station but, alas, we weren't to find out. His car breathed its last breath on that journey, slowing to a standstill, 20 minutes from Goa station.

In what has now become an oft-quoted saying, the driver uttered the immortal word “problem”. At this point we panicked thinking that we were heading for a 2 week Indian extension. He saw this in our faces and quickly hailed a rickshaw to pull over. It wasn't a taxi rickshaw but one adapted to carry tools, stock boxes, maybe livestock. He wasn't even a taxi driver. Our driver successfully persuaded this random chap to take us to the station. I loaded our backpacks and Chloe into the back of this contraption and we were off. 

I have to admit, it was hilarious. Every bike and car that overtook us did a double-take. Two white tourists hanging out the back of this Indian bloke's rickshaw. We looked ridiculous. Then he drops us right at the entrance of the train station. A flock (official term) of Indian folk staring as we awkwardly climbed out the back of his motor. In terms of jaw-dropping weird entrances this one is only rivaled by the time my dad dropped me off at cubs in a tractor. We made the train.


Oddly, we were glad to be back in Mumbai. The hotel that we thought was gross first time round had a homely familiarity. We knew our way around the Colaba area and we got to hang out at Leopolds again. We were in Mumbai for one night so we spent a lot of time there, hanging around, venturing out simply to buy the odd stone carved elephant (p&p 400% greater than the cost of the elephant) and going to the Cathay Pacific offices to sort out an issue with our tickets. Mumbai was beginning to get into our blood. A month later there was all the bombings around Colaba including attacks on Leopolds itself (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_Cafe).

So next stop Hong Kong – what a city – but not before one final escapade en route to Mumbai airport. We should have known, but we didn´t, there was a hindu festival happening and we got stuck in the middle of it. And by the middle of it I mean the middle of it. Lorries filled with people, costumes, papier-mâché deities, music blaring from speakers. Our taxi didn´t move an inch for half an hour as this procession worked its way around us. You obviously know we made it on time so I´ll spare you any more melodrama.



Great story! Sounded a real struggle but a memorable and sometimes brilliant time. How many stoned elephants did you buy?

  Sam Jan 22, 2009 10:37 PM


Excellent travel story........

  harikumar May 3, 2009 3:06 PM

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