A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: chrisvasil

Update - Brussel-Thailand (Sept 19-Oct 15),Sue English post

Update - Brussels to Thailand (Sept 19-Oct 15)

Sept 19-Oct 15 was just uploaded, a total of 9 posts. After Thailand we went to India for a month, and just arrived in Malaysia a couple hours ago. With more Internet updates will be more frequent.

Nov 18 - Sue has published Cesky Krumlov pics and updated Thailand, but not all pics are up.

Also - to be able to read Sue's posts in Engrish, use this link. Some parts won't make sense (because Sue's Chinese is too "advanced" for computers to be able to translate - a lot of expressions and slang), but for people that are interested it's something.

http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=zh-CN&u=http://vasilshu.travellerspoint.com/

Posted by chrisvasil 11:06 Comments (1)

Madurai - Tamil temples


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The main attraction in Madurai is the temple complex, whose temples are built in the Tamil style of being a large pile of hundreds of statues and carvings stacked in a pyramid shape on a blue background. After going inside we went across the street to a rooftop shop, where we could see the entire complex from above for as long as we wanted before going back down the stairs to the sound of their sales pitch.

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Inside the temple there was an elephant in a wig and makeup that would "bless" people with its trunk in exchange for a few rupees. It was cool to see inside an otherwise normal temple complex, though the trainers did hit the poor thing more often than I'd have liked to see.
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The market was hard to find, and after rain the unpaved floor was quite muddy, which made the produce a bit less appealing and the walking around a lot less appealing, though it also made it a unique experience within the center of a fairly modern city.
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With this we bid farewell to India: it's been cheap ($500 for a month including lodging and lots of trains; $1000 also including visas and flights to and from SE Asia; prices are total and not per person). We met some interesting characters, ate a lot of curry and mutton, stayed in some great value for money hotels (and some cheap grubby places), negotiated a lot (esp for rickshaws and fruit), and saw great things in both the dusty North and the lush South.

Posted by chrisvasil 21:18 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Kumily - Tea, spices, "India's best nature reserve"


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When we got off the bus in Kumily we fended off the usual slew of tuk-tuk drivers that wanted to help us find a place to stay (with unmentioned commissions to them for the referral). Then as I was buying water someone got talking to Sue, offered to take us to "his brother"'s new hotel, and she thought it would be worth a look. I'm usually more of a sucker for a sales pitch than she is so I followed, ignoring my useful reflex of wanting to shake off people trying to help me spend money. It ended up being a great decision. 5 minutes walk from the places recommended in the guide book and city center, there were several very nice places, some even living up to the title of hotel. The one the tuk tuk driver dropped us off at was not quite done being built, had almost no customers (being off the guide book map), and we eventually bargained them down to 250 Rs ($5.50) for a large room with king-sized bed, tv (including HBO Movies), and hot water. Great value for money, and confirmation to trust woman's intuition over my own. Unfortunately we didn't take pics of the place.

We took a scheduled tour of a tea plantation and factory and a spice garden, and we were the only two people on the tour. Having never even seen a tea plantation I found it very interesting. Because of the way the tea is harvested (new leaves are cut), each plant is trimmed in such a way that it does not touch the neighboring plant. Also, the trees are cut very short and pruned regularly, so that a 100 year old tea tree, which could grow 20 metres tall, will in fact be the same size as a bush shrub so that all leaves on the surface of the tree can be reached by a labourer.
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The spice garden and flower garden had some wierd stuff, like a fruit which is a hallow spiky ball with nothing inside; trees with long furry leaves ("cat's tails"), and pineapple plants.
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The tour ended as night was falling, with a quick stop at a coffee plantation, which had lots of big spiders on webs between the trees (spiders about 6 inches including legs, nets several feet across).
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That night we found out the wonders of chicken 65: spicy chicken deep-fried on roadside woks, and sold for the bargain price of 15 rupees (30 cents) per 100g (roughly $1.50/lb for freshly cooked chicken). So good, so cheap. Next to one of the stands was a truck full of cows.
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That night Sue wasn't feeling well, so I went alone to a Kalari (Indian traditional martial art) demonstration. It was good, but because the fighting was choreographed (especially with weapons - like dagger vs cloth; sword vs bare hands) it was hard to tell what an actual battle would look like.
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The main reason we went to Kumily because our trusty guidebook raved about Periyar national park as the premier nature reserve in India, with an awesome boat ride that offers the opportunity to see much wildlife and varied forest. Unfortunately a week before we got there, one boat from the fleet sunk, killing 30 people; since then all boat rides were suspended. It is also not permitted to walk off the paved road without a guide. So we walked along the main road from end to end, saw the docked boats, saw a couple monkeys, a hornet nest and a deer, and were generally disappointed about our stop at Periyar nature reserve.
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Posted by chrisvasil 21:16 Archived in India Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Allepey - Slow Kerala backwater boat tour


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Somewhere on Lonely Planet's list of 10 things you need to do before you die is to take a houseboat along the Kerala backwaters in Southern India. We did the next best thing, taking a 5-hour rowboat tour, just the two of us and the driver / rowing guy (costing 500 Rs, or $11). It was a rainy day, which was good because it wasn't too hot or crowded, though it also meant the villages were a bit less active than usual. We saw lots of jungle, villages of people fishing, doing laundry, getting married (at least it seemed to be a wedding), rice paddies, and lots of houseboats. It was a nice, relaxing ride though I wouldn't rate it as a must-do - it is not too different from a boat ride along any river or lake in a natural setting.

A row of houseboats about 1km from the city, waiting for high season and throngs of tourists.
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Villagers bathing. I'm sure they don't mind being watched, otherwise I guess they would have to move.
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Typical riverbank in an area without villages or farms.
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Our driver was really nice, and found a couple flowers for Sue to put in her hair. He especially liked orange flowers, or maybe thought it's her colour - 3 of the 3 he picked were in shades of orange. Anyway Sue looks even better than usual with flowers in her hair.
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During construction season clean fill needs to be moved, and the most convenient way to do it seems to be by longboat.
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Same with tractors, though those take up more than one boat.
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We passed by what was possibly a wedding, where we saw more people in a minute than in the rest of the 5-hour boat ride.
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The next day we took a 2 hour ferry to get out of town, where we saw many similar sights to the rowboat at a fraction of the price (30 Rs or 65 cents per person).
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Posted by chrisvasil 21:16 Archived in India Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Cochin - 800 year old Chinese fishing nets, terrible palace


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Nov 6-8 Cochin - 800 year old functional Chinese fishing nets

Cochin (now Kochi) is comprised of 2 main parts connected by boat: Fort Cochin, the historical district; and Erakulum, the modern city part. We stayed in Erakulum but spent 2 days (1 morning and 1 evening) in Fort Cochin.

In line for the ferry across, we saw the best Euromullet of the trip.
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The main road in Fort Cochin is covered with wholesalers of things like tea and rice.

2 churches and a synagogue, in Fort Cochin. The second church has a Jesus draped in Indian clothes, riding a horse, and carrying a sword. That church is located in Jew Town, and was blessed by His Excellency Rt. Rev. Dr. something, Bishop of Cochin. India is big on titles.
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The old Dutch Castle is ok value for money for the 2 Rupees (4 cents) entrance fee, but given that it is one of the main draws to Cochin it's very disappointing. It's basically a 2-storey industrial-looking building with peeling paint and a small museum on the inside. I didn't take any pictures, but it looked like half the (budget) places where we stayed.

At night we went to a Kerali play, which is preceeded by applying make-up on the actors. The make-up is extremely elaborate, taking about an hour. The white parts along the neck of the green guy are stuck on using tools and clay in such a way as to completely hide the seams along his face, and the yellow guy has a coat of purple face paint under the yellow, which gives kind of a two-toned effect when he's on stage. No words are used in the play; instead communication is through dance, hand gestures, and facial expressions which are explained at the beginning of the show. Apparently people that study the genre can understand entire dialogues and plots, but to us it was a bunch of dancing with a few wonderful facial expressions. For the next couple weeks I was looking at Sue with an expression of romance, as demonstrated, which involved keeping my eyes big, moving my eyebrows, and looking around a lot. The story, explained in the programme, is more-or-less as follows: the green guy is a good god; the black guy is a demon; when the demon is making a delivery of maidens to the god, the demon falls in love with the god. The demon then transforms into a beautiful woman, tries to seduce the god, fails, and turns back into the demon. When the god sees that the demon was trying to seduce him, he vanquishes the demon.
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The Fort Cochin area was on a trade route with China, and one excellent piece of engineering that they kept from 800 years ago are the fishing nets. They are massive nets that balance on a hinge, counter-balanced by rocks of roughly the same weight on a pulley. The net part goes in the water, and is pulled back up some minutes later with any marine life that was swimming above it at the time. The system was economical for large-scale fishing until a few decades ago, and is still used for small-scale fishing (more effecient to have 5 people working this fishing net than using fishing rods, but less effecient than using trawlers or other modern large-scale techniques). As the sun began to set we happened upon a fish market, where the catch of the day was being weighed and sold by the box. We wanted to see the trading the next morning, but woke up too late.
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Cats joining in the fish-eating fun
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There were a lot of exotic (possibly illegal) fish for sale. Here is what I believe to be a baby hammerhead shark.
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Unexpectedly, a fancy mall boasts Abad Food Court, while slightly repressed induividuals may live in the Bay Pride Tower and shop at the Bay Pride Mall.
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Posted by chrisvasil 21:00 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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