A Travellerspoint blog

Rules and Guidlines

sunny 30 °C

In Canada, rules are pretty clear; either something is a rule that most people follow or it isn't and you are fine. We all break rules now and then (unless you're my aunt Donna) but we know we are stepping across a line; you just might get a j-walking ticket if you cross the street illegall or that tailwind pushes you a little over the speed limit. When you look around India and Sri Lanka, there are things that are rules that are rules and rules that are more flexible. Even the rules that are rules tend to be a bit flexible.

One of the first things you notice as soon as you hit the road, is that the lane markings on the road are really just guidelines. In the western world, if you are in a lane it is yours and not to be tampered with. When you go to pass someone, it is your job to make sure you have enough room in front to safely pass  and get back into your lane. Here in India, lanes are more guidelines or suggestions as to where cars might drive. When you need to pass, you honk and change lanes. The car you are passing pulls over and any oncoming traffic also slides over to make room for you. Generally it all seems to work out, cars make room for each other when they can.

We have also noticed that when we order beer at restaurants it shows up as "pop" on the bill which confused us; we had to ask the first time what the $4 "pop" charge was for. It turns out that there are very few establishments that actually have a liquor license and that despite alcohol being freely available at all the restaurants they are not actually supposed to be serving. It was explained to us that in a perverse round about way this helps everyone. The unlicensed restaurants are making money, the bars that are
licensed wholesale to those that are not and therefore make money and the police are happy with their payoffs that grease the wheels of corruption. It's a very different world view from mine to say that a system setup to breed corruption is actually in some way "good". If you want to add to the list of those that are happy you could also say that the people against alcohol consumption are pleased that, on paper at least, the laws are very restrictive.

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An advertisement for Kingfisher water. You didn't think it was a beer ad, did you?

Saying that India has no rules or that they are all flexible would, of course, be an overstatement. I have heard stories of drivers being brutally beaten up for causing accidents.  Overstay your visa at your peril and we need to fill out extensive forms for all 5 of us at each hotel we check into. I  still find it amazing how often other things that are brought forward as rules are really just guidelines.

Posted by McNouye 02:05 Archived in India Tagged india alcohol corruption family_travel Comments (0)

Wonderla- An Indian Water Park

overcast 30 °C

What do you get when you cross a water park with India? I have to say, it is an interesting combination.

There are all the first world things you would expect from a well advertised attraction in a big city: water slides, rides, two wave pools, a fuzzy animal mascot, and a dwarf in costume greeting you at the door. It cost us $40 for all of us for admission and as there were no lines we were happy to have not sprung for the express pass. The food was also economical and tasty; the five of us ate fried rice for about $8 at lunch.

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Signs you don't see at home.

The big differences are what the people do and wear. First, there is strict sex segregation in the pools and many of the activities. The wave pools have a 1m buffer area between the gents and "the women and kids" kids sections. Despite being a weekday, the gents area of the wave pool was packed with of rowdy early 20s men throwing each other around, getting whistled at constantly by the lifeguards. The ladies section was much smaller and sparsely populated with school girls. "Rain Disco"  (water pouring from the ceiling and a low budget light show set to thumping Indian music) was similarly sex segregated. The men's side was stuffed with over 100 Indian men dancing and gyrating wildly; the women's had exactly three women (two of which were the only other westerners in the park). A necessary eight foot chain link fence separated the two sides and in mid afternoon several security guards were on hand making sure everyone was behaving properly. I can only imagine what it would be like if you added alcohol to the mix.
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Taro with a few rowdy men.

As far as attire goes, well, it's India and conservative is the word. You might think conservative at a water park means no banana hammocks for the men and a one piece for women. You would be wrong. Audrey brought a swim shirt and some yoga shorts to wear in the pool over her bikini. Had she actually changed into this she would have been woefully underdressed. The girls (there were few women swimming) were all fully clothed often in saris and pants. There was a large group of teenage girls there all wearing their full school uniforms going on the slides and bobbing in the wave pool. Even the men were more or less completely covered and most wore their clothes and one guy even had dress pants, a dress shirt and leather belt on as he walked away from a water slide.

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Make sure there is no skin showing!

Overall, those of us that went swimming did have a lovely day. And I have to say, I was happy to see the flight attendants sporting shirt skirts on the way to Malaysia; now Audrey will be at least able to go in the pool!

Posted by McNouye 09:37 Archived in India Comments (1)

The Kerala Backwaters

sunny 35 °C

The southern Indian state of Kerala is well known for its maze of canals through rice fields along the coast. The waterways are hundreds of kilometers long through the fertile soil and make a scenic backdrop for tourists to flock to.

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A beautiful sunset in the backwaters.

The most popular thing by far is house boating from a place called Aleppy. A thousand or so house boats are based here and most do one night trips around the canals and back home. The day we paid $160 for an three bedroom houseboat that was like a little floating bamboo covered palace. There were three bedrooms (we paid the two bedroom price), three bathrooms, a kitchen, a sitting area and a large upper deck. The whole thing was finished surprisingly well considering the bamboo outside and was adorned with stainless steel railings, tiles in the bathroom, A/C at night and a TV upstairs. It came with a crew of three to cook and drive the boat.

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A typical house boat

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We boarded at noon, had a delicious Keralan lunch of fried fish, rice and sambar then took the afternoon to lounge on the upper deck, do some homeschooling, drink some beer and take in the scenic canals. Dinner was another delicious meal then we went to bed. For the first time on the trip Audrey and I actually got our very own bedroom at least until we realized that the A/C was either on or off, (ie freezing or boiling hot) and we had to split up and manage the switches in each of the rooms. So much for romance.

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As close to a quiet moment as it gets.

The second part if our backwater experience was at a home stay 10km out of Aleppy. We are staying along the rice paddies in a little cottage just beside the house where the family lives. It is smoking hot and humid here during the day but cools off nicely at night. The family is an Indian family with two teenage daughters and they have spent seven years in London. It was very nice to walk the village meeting the local families and talk with someone who speaks excellent English about India. We had a lovely couple of days here and ate some of our best Indian meals. A couple of nights in Cochin to go to an Indian water park and we are off to Malaysia for a few days.

Posted by McNouye 05:58 Archived in India Tagged kerala family_travel aleppy Comments (5)

A Gentle Intro to India

sunny 30 °C

Here we are buying our first of many fruit salads on the beach in Kovalam, India.

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Kovalam is a touristy coastal town with a maze of small narrow alleyways typical of India. The difference here is that the alleys are for pedestrians only. We can wander around with a meandering 3 year old and never get lost or worry about motorcycles whizzing by. On the flipside, I recall wandering around similar sized alleyways in Varanasi 13 years ago which were shared with cyclists, motorcycles, cows, cow plops, gimpy dogs, dog plops, funeral processions on their way to the Ganges for a cremation ceremony and the rest of Indian life. That is not the case here.

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One of the things that makes traveling with 3 kids in Asia possible is the locals. They treat our children like they are the most important people of their day. It is as if the Sri Lankans, Indians and Balinese are in a competition to be the nicest people in the world. If Kaito falls, he will be scooped up by the closest local folk. If he wants another bowl of chocolate cereal, he just glances helplessly at one of the hotel staff and his bowl is fulled up. When he leaves his only pair of shoes outside of someone's shop, the owner runs to find him. He once ran into the arms of one of his 'friends' who in fact turned out to be a total stranger because to Kaito all the men look the same.

I love that there are places in the world where children are adored somewhat unconditionally.
Audrey

Posted by McNouye 08:58 Archived in India Comments (8)

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