One of the best experiences are the ones where I glimpsed how Indians live and work in the towns.
Of course I cannot generalize because we got to see only 3 towns – Pulpally, a tiny town minutes from Vanamoolika; Irinjalakuda which was near the Ayurvedic centre we stayed at and finally downtown Kochi on our final day.
But each town gave me a lovely insight into how India really is. It is also telling that these towns aren’t the types of places tourists usually visit so we caused a bit of excitement wherever we went!
After all it isn’t common to see Chinese and Caucasians walking about their towns. While we ogled at them, they ogled right back at us! Kids were the friendliest – they’d wave and say hello to us each time we smiled.
Everyone wanted to take a photo especially with Bastiaan (whom I had nicknamed Brad Pitt just for fun!), Marcel and Ingmar. When the guys went off to see the Athirapilly waterfall, a magnificent jaw-dropping fall (which I’d missed because I wanted to go exploring the town with Uma, Yvonne and Gwen), the Indian men and boys were falling over themselves to take photos with these ‘white gods’. (You can see Bastiaan’s video of the waterfall here.)
Pulpally town was the smallest of the three towns but it had a lot of character. We had a quick 45-minute stopover in this town after we visited an organic farm not too far from the town. Like dazed tourists, everything we saw was curiously interesting. I didn’t know who watched whom; the townfolk were spilling out of first-floor balconies looking at us.
In every place I go, I like wandering in towns and looking at their supermarkets or shops. (Oh HK supermarkets were absolute cat’s whiskers which I know, I know, I have yet to blog about).
It was the same in Pulpally. Nic and I looked into their tiny shops, the size of our Penang ‘ottukedai’. Everything was cheap to us – I bought some sliced fruit cake at a mere 30 sen.
In Irinjalakuda which was a slightly urban town, we still got stares. There we were, 4 women walking down the streets and stopping ever so often to snap photos while greedily munching on our chicken kebabs. The kebabs were like god’s food to us the moment we spotted them. We had by then started craving for meat because throughout our stay, we had vegetarian meals mostly. Spotting a kebab stall outside a shop elicited delighted screams from me, Uma, Yvonne and Gwen. And at 40 rupees (RM2.80) each, it was a steal.
In Irinjalakuda too we walked into a no-aircond Indian supermarket. The interesting bit is that it had a whole shelf of Ayurvedic medicines and oils. I went a bit nuts buying camphor oil, neem oil and herbal soaps, utterly forgetting how much I was allowed to check-in to AirAsia.
In Kochi, again we walked about with no intention whatsover to buy. It was more of seeing what went on in the town. I think Kochi is a city so it was a lot more cosmopolitan. When you see a place with shopping malls, it is definitely more than just a town.
Again, the action was happening outside the malls; I saw a roadside tattoo artist with a customer! Of course, to all Indians, we were Japanese. They kept asking us “Konnichi wa?” and waving their wares at us.
It was good that we had Uma with us. Uma helped us bargain and put on her “touch-me-and-you’re-dead-meat” grouch face if the vendors tried to raise prices (which they did when they saw us trailing behind Uma).
Do you love exploring towns and poking your nose into what people are doing?
I know I do! That’s the best bits about travel!