Southern Kerala

Trip Start Dec 15, 2007
Trip End Jan 10, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Sunday, December 30, 2007

We arrived in Chennai (formerly Madras) around 4 a.m. on Thursday, 15th December and checked into our  hotel, the GRT Grand.  A bit up-Market for us and not our usual our sort of place but in a noisy, dusty, busy city like Chennai we did want to have a comfortable 'haven' as a base for just two nights.
Then on Friday morning off to the airport for our one-hour flight to Trivandrum in Kerala at the foot of India and a fairly short journey to our hotel at Chowara Beach.  Nikki's Nest (named after the owner's daughter, Nikita) is a lovely hotel on a headland above a very quiet beach.  With a spacious room, the sea so close and a non-smoking, vegetarian restaurant, what more could we ask for?  In fact, from our first evening onwards, the waiter prepared us a table on the decking just outside the restaurant, so we were able to enjoy the delicious evening meals in the open air under the stars.
The hotel had an Ayuverdic Clinic in the grounds.  Ayuverda is a 5000-year-old holistic medical system widely practised in India.  Instead of the West's system of finding out what's ailing you and destroying it, Ayuverda looks at the whole patient.  Disease is regarded as an imbalance so it's the imbalance that's treated, not the disease. 

Being fairly healthy specimens, we both decided just to go for a full body massage but during the initial discussion, the doctor noticed the problem with my arm, Brachial Plexus injury which is damage to the maoin nerve running from the spine and down my right arm.  Not painful now but slightly restricts certain movements. 

He suggested a few daily treatments - a brisk massage with a pad and using a solution of (wait for it!) rice soaked in hot cow's milk. My shoulder (where the nerve damage is) was massaged first and then down the arms to the wrist.  Following that, further massage of the shoulder and arm (with traditional oils this time), and then a pummelling of the arm muscles for 10 minutes or so.  I had this treatment for four consecutive days, the Masseur always welcoming me with the greeting "Ready for rice pudding treatment?"
The same masseur also said to me one day "What is your name." "David" I replied.  "Oh, that very good name." the masseur replied. "Why is it a good name?" I enquired.  "Because of my name", he said.  "And what is your name?", I asked . . . "Harish", he replied.  Yes, well . . . ! 

Much of our time here was spent on the beach and on most early evenings a walk into the village or along the sand. Dozens of eagles soared over the tall palm trees lining the beach and every morning the fisherman worked hard hauling in the night's catch on the adjoining beach. The warm sea was great fun, not a snorkelling area but we had good times being thrown about, over (and under) the crashing waves. The weather was deceptively hot.  Although there was light cloud cover for part of the days, and we did have a couple of short showers, you still had to be careful not to stay exposed for too long. 

A relaxing first week at Nikki's Nest then on Friday, 21st December our flight back to Chennai.  We arrived in mid-afternoon and it was then out into the hustle and bustle of India's fourth largest city with a population of around six million, heading for Pondy Bazaar.  Even crossing the busy main roads is a major challenge.  However, the air pollution has been significantly reduced.  The thousands of auto rickshaws which were previously driven by two-stroke engines, billowing out noxious exhaust fumes, have all now been converted to LPG - and what a difference that makes.

We rarely buy souvenirs when on holiday so our shopping trips tend to be for practical items and today we purchased: cashew nuts, a new watch for Elaine, a hat with a wide brim for me, metal key rings which we purchased and had engraved at a street stall  - oh, and a suitcase and a plastic sandwich box!   Well, our suitcase had passed its travel-by date and we do like to have picnic lunches on holiday so the sandwich box would be handy for those.

It wasn't easy buying the sandwich box.  The shop was long and narrow with aisles just wide enough for one shopper (no overtaking) - and very, very, busy.  Despite this, customers had to pick up their items from the shelves and take them to a counter where they issued you with a bill.  You then return to the front of the shop (minus your purchases) to a larger counter where you produce the bill and pay. In the meantime all purchases are brought down to this front counter from counter No. 1 by members of staff, inconveniently squeezing past customers browsing in the busy, narrow aisles.  Finally, you hand your receipt to yet another person who identifies your purchases for the dozens of items on the counter and places it in a bag for you.  Job done!  

Saturday morning and off to the airport for our Jet Airways flight to Port Blair, South Andaman Island.
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