Thursday, January 31, 2008

a stroll in the backwaters of Kerala

We wandered around the island one morning, taking in some of the culture and lifestyle. Check it out:
Alex and Nat on the stroll
man climbing a coconut tree to knock them down
pretty flower
women working in the rice paddies (need a zoom lens...)
a man "mud digging" in the river

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kerala homestay

The day after the houseboat, we went to a "homestay" with a family on the backwaters. We took "cooking classes" from the mother, who basically just told us what she was doing as she did it, but it was still educational. In the evening we went on a walk around the island and learned about the history. Afterwards, we enjoyed a canoe ride back to the house where the guide and canoers sang us folk songs. It also included a stop at the local toddy store for some locally made alcohol (toddy), which was probably the best locally made alcohol I've tried, but that's not saying much.
cooking lessons
rice paddies
baby goats are remarkably like puppies...
some kids in the backwaters

Kerala houseboat

I splurged and spent about 3 days' budget on spending a night on a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala, a southern state. Parts of it were worth it, but overall, I'm not sure... It was very relaxing and we got to witness, from afar, some aspects of Keralan life: the women washing clothes in the water, the fishermen on the lake at night. Here are a few photos:

so you don't forget about me (it's a little blurry because I forgot to change from manual focus back to auto - whoops!)
boat graveyard

temples, etc.

the top of a Dravidian temple, in southern India - Trichy
close up of one of the carvings on a temple, southern India - Madurai
sunset from the southern most point in India - Kunyakumari
a scene from the bus window, some sort of procession
women in a temple

Friday, January 25, 2008

rock carvings

I heard about these amazing rock carvings in southern India, so I headed south to check them out. They definitely lived up to their expectations, far exceeded them in fact.
a 30 meter long rock carving
if the woman who took this photo had listened to me and framed it like i did instead of changing it, you might have been able to see me peeking out from behind the elephant's trunk
the top of a temple, all carved out of rock
a dance festival in town

Sunday, January 13, 2008

street scenes

The streets always offer amazing sights and smells, along with goodies and people wondering what I (and fellow travel companions) are doing there.

bees swarm some honey treats

more bangles than you could ever imagine

statues of Jagannath, Lord of the Universe and incarnation of Vishnu

view of the street from above

sun temple in Konark (east coast)

This temple is from the 13th century and is a chariot carrying the sun god. One of the most interesting things about it is that it is covered in erotic sculptures, which seems like quite a diversion from this incredibly conservative culture... (In an effort to keep my blog clean, I did not post any photos of these sculptures, sorry to disappoint some of you.)

one of the chariot wheels

the top of the temple

elephant carvings

beyond kolkata...

enjoying ice cream with my indian friend

the shore of chlika lake, asia's largest brackish lagoon and host to millions of migratory birds and irrawaddy dolphins

a typical street scene

sights in kolkata

I am finally able to update some photos. Here are a few from Kolkata (Calcutta) and the beginning of my trip.

The back of a bus in Kolkata: "India is great" and "Danger" Intriguing!

the roles are reversed; the rickshaw driver took this ride with white knuckles

Victoria Monument: if it weren't built for a colonial queen it would have been one of India's best buildings

Thursday, January 10, 2008

cows rule the streets

Spending any time in India will inevitably result in some quality time with cows. I have spent significant time in places where cows wander the streets freely, but until yesterday, never turned around to find myself staring straight into the eyes of a bull walking down the street, not caring what was in its way (would you if you were a bull?). It was harmless, but still gave me a small adrenaline rush.

Then today while in a rickshaw, several cows were literally laying in the middle of the road with a whirl of activity surrounding them: cyclists, rickshaws, cars and buses. They didn't mind at all, nor did they budge. Later, in another rickshaw, we passed a dead cow lying in the street. Someone covered it with a cloth, people had placed money on the cloth as an offering, and our rickshaw driver crossed himself as we passed it. Fascinating.

this cow parked itself like a bike/motorcycle

Friday, January 4, 2008

Indian wedding

The Hindu wedding did not disappoint. It was an amazing evening of colors, smells, tastes, and sounds (much like India so far). Most women wore the most gorgeous sarees (sari) out of amazing silk, including most of us visiting from the states. The ceremony itself was very interesting and performed in Sanskrit. The first part consisted of a ceremony between Sourav, the groom, and his new father-in-law. Then there was a part with just Sourav, followed by Mary, the bride, entering and circling him several times with her face covered. Afterwards, Sourav, Mary, her dad, and the priest sat down and performed some more rituals, including lighting a fire, then extinguishing it. It was all fascinating.

I'll post more photos of Kolkata (Calcutta) itself soon.

musicians at the wedding
all the U.S. attendees