Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Wishes From Thailand!

Time for the annual email Christmas card, woop!!! I can't believe it's Christmas Eve - I have to keep reminding myself that it's not July and there's been snow on the ground back home. Although, we did spend a few days in the mountains last week in the Tamil Nadu town of Ooty, and we also managed to stay in an old-school Christian hostel that was fully prepared for the big day – baubles and everything.

Going up 2500+ mtrs to Ooty meant a serious drop in temperature that our thin t-shirts and hippy pants just weren't ready for. We needn't have feared though, because Ooty seemingly has an endless supply of truly amazing retro jumpers, all for no more than about 60p. John couldn't resist this super special blue number, and was all too willing to model it for us:

Don't worry – he's posted it home so will be wearing it again on our return.

Now as if an online Christmas card weren't enough, we've also decided to make a short festive film showing bits of our time in India. Too much time on our hands? I think so.

How cute are the little kiddies at the end?!!! So adorable....and they just loved posing for pictures.

The film was great fun to make, & although John's been doing this kind of thing for years its pretty new for me. It's the 2nd short film we've made in recent months - here's an animation we made for the birthday of John's gorgeous niece, Gwen.   Future employers of John, I take full responsibility for the 'home-made' style :-)

The last couple of weeks in India were great, & probably the most chilled out of our whole time there. After a laaaaaaaazy week by the beach in Varkala, we put our swimming gear to rest and headed north east into the hills of Tamil Nadu. The bus rides there and back were spectacular, taking us through tea plantations, national parks and eucalyptus forests. We even spotted a couple of wild elephants on the way down to Mysore.

Ooty is a bustling hill station with a small pocket of tourists but none of the hassles we've experienced elsewhere. We met some lovely people in the hostel and spent a day trekking through the countryside with a local guide. It was pretty stunning and so nice to finally find true peace and quiet.

We were ready to move on though & head somewhere a little easier, which definitely sums up Thailand! Even the Indian airport proved difficult and we had to pay £100 for a flight out of Thailand that we won't be using, just to assure the check-in staff that we won't overstay our visa. Boo them.

After 5 days in Thailand we're still amazed by how efficient it is – signs and everything! We spent our first fun day in Bangkok with a friend we'd met in India, then took the overnight train southward - a bus & a boat journey later and we ended up in the small resort of Ton Sai. The pace of life is super laid back & the scenery is pretty picturesque, with amazing cliffs and jungle surrounding the small beach and blue water.

Unfortunately having avoided illness for the whole time in India I've somehow managed to get myself a bit sick, so have spent the past few days not eating and hibernating indoors.  We've managed to move to the island of Ko Lanta though, a couple of hours away by boat and have found ourselves a beautiful beach bungalow to spend the next few days. 

I guess that's it for 2011 then!  We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas & happy New Year!!!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Fort Kochin -> Kerala

So since my last cocktail, Ive had some more-  I had one called Black Colin.  I don't think you've ever heard of this one before, and im pretty sure its not travelled very far either. Ask your local weatherspoons. It was quite good though.

Fort cochin was a nice place to stop, we had a great day on bikes (my bike was called Hero, 0.6 tonnes, rod pull front brake, no rear), and Laura's was called Red something (one brake also, one pedal missing). They had working bells though, which in India is more important than having brakes.  That goes the same for cars too.   Still, they were 90p each for the day, which was a lot cheaper than the ones we hired in Valencia back in July.

A row of famous Chinese fishing nets along the estuary, cantilevered with large stone boulders, are swung up and down during the day to catch all sorts of fish.  

So on to Alleppey in Kerala, home to the backwaters and mighty houseboats.  I'd always been looking forward to this, and the waterways really were something to see.  Flexible (and cheap) as ever, we decided to do a canoe trip instead on the first day.  This was our guide. What's not to trust?

He'd obviously been to Blackpool Pier to get that hat.  Anyway, he took us to his humble house, which was just recovering from some flooding.  They were growing mango's, bananas, coconuts and pineapples in their garden.  We were fed some amazing food, served up and cooked in banana leaves by his wife, and then headed out into the canals.  Best just to show some pictures I think.

Now, our boat was rather more modest than the two above here.  A bit more man powered. A bit more, 'sawn off plastic garden chair seats'.  But that's the way we like to do things isn't it.  Actually, having the small canoe let us go into much much smaller canals, and see the sights above, whereas the large houseboats stick to the open waters.  And our little boat stopped at the Toddy Shop, a canal side 'bar' selling homemade coconut beer (slightly fermented, lightly fizzy mix of coco milk and ethanol in glass bottles).  We were told later that night to avoid it where possible, you can go blind.  Meh!

We were a bit torn about whether to go for the large boats as well, for the following day/night.  They did look really good, and would have been a rare slice of luxury for us.  Though for 22 hours on one of the boats above, moored up for the night and touring in the daytime, it was the same cost as 20 nights in a hotel for the two of us.  

We'd been asked by our canoe guide if we could help with getting an English visa for his daughter (and I don't think he meant with the paperwork), after mentioning earlier that we could tip him extra if we liked the trip.  There's really no escape, even out in the country, and it created a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere.  Anyway, after our long day paddling around with Blackpool Pier, we'd seen everything there was to see there, had a wonderful time, and had found a comfy, social and genuinely kind hotel with staff who really cared.

Plus, around the corner from the hotel, was a small car garage, where i bought a new horn controller for Roo (our van back home).  So we'll have 3 horns, playing 3 different songs/noises.  I know, it'll  be amazing.  A project for me and Dad when we get back home- what do you say??

We are presently in Varkala, a beach resort in southern Kerala.  We've actually been here over a week, since we're counting down days to Thailand, and just want an easy time of it now.  Its a cliff top path of bars, shops and restaurants, above a great beach with nice waves and a lot of palm trees spotted around.  Just the job! Its a bit touristy, but what the hey, its what we are after all :)


Ricksha! Ricksha!