I know you have all become accustomed to my witty commentary and heartwarming stories. This post may be somewhat of a disappointment, then, and for that I apologize. But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
I returned to Clove Island after eleven splendid days spent on west coast of India. I want every single one of you to book flights to India right away. Here’s why:
1. The food:
If you don’t like Indian food, maybe you should rethink that aversion because there’s not really such a thing as “Indian food”. Each region has a unique cuisine. I was able to travel to three states and in each I was blown away by deliciousness.
Bonus: it was so cheap! My friend, Trina, came from the states to travel with me. Above is the first meal we ate in country. Served on a banana leaf, we had 6 different “dishes” to sample and three curries with which to pair it. It cost $2. The most we ever spent on a meal was $10 and that’s because we were tricked into going to a very fancy hotel for lunch on our second day. We quickly learned better.
The food was spicy. Seriously. I learned to order a yogurt with my meal. Bite of food, bite of yogurt. If there was no yogurt, I suffered, but in the best way possible.
2. The accommodations
Sometimes when you travel to places off the beaten track, it’s a choice between a cheap dump or an exorbitantly-priced mediocre sleeping space. Trina and I spent five nights in two hotels in Kerala and in Goa, one night on a houseboat at Alleppey, one night on a train from Kerala to Goa and four nights in an Indian couples’ spare bedroom in a Mumbai apartment.
Aside from the train, which was cramped with no privacy, each place we stayed exceeded my expectations. Once again, inexpensive.
3. The beach
Mountains or beach? I’ll pick the beach every time. I LOVE the beach. Palolem Beach in Goa was everything I could have wanted and more. The beach was small, clean, white sand with lots of vendors selling me everything to my heart’s content. We stayed at the Art Resort which I adored. The food at the Resort’s restaurant was fabulous and inexpensive. I was able to do a few things I’d never done before. First, I got my nose pierced. It was an unpleasant experience but I like the result.
I also drove a scooter for the first time. For $3, you could rent a scooter for the whole day! I just needed to run to the ATM and it was cheaper than a taxi. Plus I really wanted to try out a scooter. I went the wrong way a couple times and was too scared to make a U-y so I just kept going the wrong way for much longer than necessary. There was the added stress of driving on the left side of the road which had me all messed up.
The last night, Trina and I went to a Silent Party. We’d first seen it on the tv show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Everyone wears headphones. There are multiple DJs and you can choose which style of music you want to listen and dance to. Then when you want to talk, the headphones come off. It’s brilliant! I hope this is all the rage when I return to the states, because it’s my jam.
5. The tea and coffee
Our first two days were spent in Munnar, an area in Kerala that grows tea. Thousands and thousands and thousands of acres of tea. There are tea shops on every rural windy road, a cup of chai for about 5 cents.
I had at least one cup of chai every day. And several cups of coffee. I guess India isn’t as well known for its coffee, but it is the best coffee I have ever had (which isn’t saying a ton as I just started drinking coffee on Clove Island) but I can definitively say that it is better than any Kenyan coffee I have had.
6. The culture and history
I wasn’t particularly interested in the culture or history of India beforehand; I was there to get away from Africa for awhile. But I was surprised to find myself continuously drawn into the richness of it. In Kerala we watched a cultural performance where the dancers every facial movement had significance.
In Mumbai we were able to celebrate Holi, the festival of colors, an ancient Hindu celebration where people throw or smear colored powder on each other (or in our case, get shot with water guns and pelted with bags of colored water). Being the only adults participating in the apartment complex where we were staying, and foreigners, we were quite the popular target.
We also visited an island about an hour’s ferry ride from Mumbai called Elephantas Island. It contains caves with 2300 year old carvings dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Despite being a former British colony, the English we encountered was surprisingly bad.
Don’t let this deter you, however. It just makes conversations more colorful and allows for many fun photo ops with the ridiculous signs.
7. American food
Most likely if you’re traveling from a developed country, you will not find this nearly as exciting as I did. Additionally, we only found all of this in Mumbai, not in Kerala or Goa. But in Mumbai, there are a ton of Starbucks! It was physically painful for me to pass one without entering and ordering an Iced Chai Tea Latte or Frappuccino. They also had several McDonalds where I was able to indulge in a frappé. And on the last day, what I like to call “America day” we ate lunch at TGI Fridays and dinner at Chilis. Yum, yum, yum!!
In conclusion, you should drop whatever boring thing you’re doing today and book a flight to India ASAP.