We have spent the past two days in the paradise of the canal village of Alleppey, Kerala, dubbed the 'Venice of the East.' Or, at least we have decided that it would be paradise if it weren't for the mosquitoes. We took the train from Trivandrum, which made Alleppey feel even more charming and relaxing by comparison. After dodging the schemes of some very sneaky rickshaw drivers seeking commission from hotels, we found a lovely spot to spend the night. The Gowri guesthouse is on a shady, quiet piece of land with chickens and three very hilarious geese running around. Our independent little cottage had a beautiful outdoor bathroom: four walls, no roof, and some trees next to the toilet. Rather, Antonia thought that it was beautiful and James cursed the mosquitoes that joined in on his shower.
The next day we set out on our houseboat ride. This is one of the most luxurious things that we have ever done, and it was strange to have our own private crew of three people for the twenty-four hours, but it really was wonderful. Our boat was a floating palace, with an outdoor dining area, upper observation deck, bedroom, and the only hot shower we will likely use for weeks. Shoreline villages passed us as we drifted by, we watched people wash their laundry and dishes in the waterways, and exchanged waves. For lunch the boat pulled into shore and our chef promptly leapt out of the boat and cut off some banana leaves that were then used for our plates. The traditional Keralan food was served to us in very large amounts and it just kept coming. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the upper deck, lounging in the chairs or on a shaded bed when the sun was too much for us, all the while watching some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen go by. Our chef brought us a snack of fried bananas. We had to laugh at the amount of pampering that we received. The only negative was the swarm of mosquitoes that attacked us while we were eating our dinner, which caused us to eat as quickly as possible while swatting each other, "okay, two more bites and we can go inside, hurry up!" It's funny now, but wasn't then. But this was only a small irritation in an otherwise sublime day. We fell asleep to a wonderful, rainless thunder and lightning show.
Antonia had hoped to ease her conscience about this bourgeois activity a little by befriending the crew and trying to close the obvious social gap that existed between them and us. This didn't really work; only one of the crew spoke much English and they declined our invitation to join us for lunch. Antonia tried to simply enjoy this rare experience but feared that she had come to the oldest freely-elected Marxist state in the world only to be waited on.
This morning we had another huge meal on the water, this time while moving back to port, so thankfully the mosquitoes couldn't keep up. We reluctantly left our floating palace and heading for the train station, where we booked a train to Kochi in order to catch our flight back up north tomorrow morning. We are getting to be quite proficient and comfortable with the Indian railway system, if we do say so ourselves. Today we wandered around Ernakulam, the mainland and more metropolitan part of Kochi, and now we need to go to bed because we will get up before 5 am to catch our flight. Tomorrow we will meet up with Emilie and Yann in Lucknow.
We have been very lucky with the weather in Kerala. It rains a little in the morning and then clears up to a sunny and tolerable temperature, if a little humid. This ends tomorrow; we head back to 44 degree weather!