5,000 year old temple

Trip Start Nov 02, 2009
Trip End Nov 27, 2009

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Where I stayed
Wild Palms By Sea, Trivandrum

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Saturday, November 7, 2009

We left Kerry's apartment at about 10 A.M. for the Mumbai domestic airport.  This time we took an auto-rickshaw.  They are really a motorcycle with three wheels, a wind shield and a frame that holds the cover.  There was just room enough between the seat and rear cover to stick two small suitcases - which was amazing.  The auto rickshaw has a size advantage in this traffic.  It can fit into really small openings and pass the cars, trucks and buses by weaving in and out, creating new lanes.  We also passed bikes, crossing pedestrians, street vendors, beggars and the occasional buffalo pulling a milk cart.  It was actually nice to have open air sides to provide a breeze.  The vast majority of taxis are tiny and not air conditioned.  Our luggage would have been tied on to the top of the cab.  Another plus for the rickshaw is that the trip to the airport cost about $3.

Bombay was already hot and smoky and we were happy to move on.  On the way to the airport we passed Dharavi, the slum made famous by Slumdog Millionaire.  We could only see the edge of the slum from the street, but from the air we got the full view.  It is enormous - a vast array of gray roofs without roads that goes on and on and on.  It is the largest slum in Asia and more than 1 million people live there.  Some people apparently do quite well and have brick homes with water taps out front.  Another interesting fact is that there is about 1 toilet for every 15,000 people.  It is full of small businesses, most at the bottom of the food chain such as melting down tin cans or working with leather - something only for the low caste.  With all the small businesses here the slum generates about a $1.5 billion a year.

The domestic airport is new and very clean.  The plane was about half full and for some reason they sat Kerry in a row with two other men and gave us our own row - all 6 seats.  Apparently old white women get special treatment.

Trivandrum is 750 miles south of Bombay in the state of Kerala - a two hour flight.  We had arranged a pickup at the airport through our Hotel - Wild Palms by Sea.  (There is another Wild Palms hotel in the city.)  It was a little farther out of town than we expected - about 20 minutes, but it is a wonderful location on a quiet beach

It was apparent that Jesus arrived here several hundred years before us.  In fact the locals say Saint Thomas visited here.  There are several small churches, crosses and Christian shrines along the way.  

We are now in the tropics.  The majority of the vegetation is coconut palms.  It is very green and very humid.  Kerala was India's first Communist Party run state and there are a few hammer and cycle signs painted on walls and buildings.  It is also the most literate state in India - above 90% and fairly prosperous.  

Wild Palms By Sea is on the Arabian Sea.  Outside the hotel wall were several small fishing boats that had been put away for the day.  
We arranged for a car and driver to take us into town.  Kip was upset that the car didn't have seat belts and that the seats were uncomfortable.  When Kerry said something to the driver about it he assured us that we didn't need seat belts because he is a very good driver.  Of course, his seat belt remained securely fastened.

 By the time we reached the city we hit rush hour traffic.  We were trying to go to a palace that our book said closed at 5:30.  When we arrived at 5:05 they told us it now closed at 5.  Disappointing, but we're going to see another historic palace tomorrow.  The real prize was next door, an ancient Hindu temple.  The seven story building is completely carved out of stone.  It is a pyramid shape typical of the southern tip of India.  Our guide book said the base of the temple dates back to 3,000 B.C., but the visible structure is about 300 years old.  The inside is off-limits to non Hindus.  Pilgrims come here from all over India to worship the god Vishnu.  

 Outside the temple we made two wonderful discoveries - banana chips fried in coconut oil and roasted cashews.  Both were excellent. We stopped for dinner at Swagat, a vegetarian restaurant.  We were all anxious to try our first Keralan Dosa, a crepe stuffed with onions, potatoes and other veggies.  They are pretty good.  Dinner with coffee or tea was about $12 for the 3 of us.

The trip back to the hotel was a hair raising ride in pitch black with horns blaring all the way.  And to make it even scarier, bikes don't have lights here.  Kip said there was no way she was getting in this car again tomorrow.  We assured her she could stay at the hotel and read by the pool if she wanted to, but it was too late to make other arrangements.  

 We are hoping she will change her mind in the morning.


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