South India - 02/20/01

A Brief History of Geoff & Lisa in South India


Wow! Crazy, hectic, enormous; 16 million strong. City of contrasts. Five star hotels and people defecating in the streets. Cows stroll beneath 50-storey high-rises. Multimillionaires from Bollywood and the Mafia party all night while literally millions live in one of the biggest slums in the world.

A good place to be for food though. Flavor, flavor, flavor! It's such a joy to go into a restaurant and be assured a tasty meal.


A week of ultimate relaxation on the beach (with plenty of cows of course). An all night party on Christmas Eve followed by a super mellow Christmas by the pool eating chicken tikka and drinking rum-&-cokes. Top it all off with a traditional Goan Xmas feast including fireworks at our hotel, the Jolly Jolly Lester (proprietor Lazarus Albuquerque: No Kidding!).


A great place to get some exercise (much needed after all the beach time). It's the ancient capital of a 500-year-old empire. Hiking and biking filled most of our days. Beautiful temple complexes are strewn over miles of countryside, filling the valleys between huge hills of red granite boulders. The temples are all that have survived since only holy places were allowed to be built out of stone.

We had a great ride across the river on a coracle one afternoon. A coracle is basically a big, round basket with no apparent means of steering. They somehow crammed 24 of us into one and off we went. The ride across turned into a discussion on our lack of children. All the Indians couldn't figure out how Lisa and I could be married for five years and still have "no issue". They were all very amused.


Boy did the maharajas know how to live! The Mysore Palace includes such little details as a ceiling of stained-glass in a peacock motif imported all the way from Scotland, teak doors covered with silver and ivory inlay, and the raja's howdah (elephant saddle) which is encrusted with 80 kg of gold. The ex-raja now lives in back of the palace (still a 3-storey mansion). "It's right over there with his 15 cars parked in front of it."

We also met up with two med students, Sudah and Sri, that are studying in Mysore. They were really fun and showed us a good time. One surreal moment: eating a really fancy lunch at the 5-star Quality Inn sitting next to a table of eight Buddhist Monks in full regalia. Who was more out of place, them or us?


A guru, his acolyte, a dentist, a female Protestant Indian missionary and two Americans are sharing a train compartment... No, not the start of a bad joke, our first train ride in India. It went fine, the train is definitely the way to go in India, and we ended up chatting with the dentist most of the way. We got to the little town of Kollam with no hassle, but ended up having a slight difficulty with lunch. Synopsis of our conversation at "Tasty Bites":

We did see some cool things in this southern state. Miles and miles of narrow waterways lined with millions of coconut palms. Floating through them at 10 kph is a great way to spend a day. We went to a Jewish Synagogue in Cochi, which has an amazing history. Jews actually fled to Kerala 2000 years ago. The Raja at the time gave them some land and made their leader a prince. There was a Jewish Price in India for almost 1500 years. Who knew?


Another 10 days in a beautiful beach paradise. Even more laid back than Goa. Made tons of cool friends right at the outset. Then our buddies from home showed up. At one point we had 10 San Franciscans sitting around a table by the beach in India. Very cool. Got in lots of good hiking, body surfing and some classical Indian music. Lazy fun doesn't make for many good stories, but we highly recommend the place.

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Victoria Terminus train station, Mumbai

Shiva rock at Vagator beach, our holiday hangout

The Portuguese touch

Virupaksha temple at beautiful, ancient Hampi

Hanuman shrine

Achyutaraya temple, Hampi

Huge Narasinha monolith, Hampi

Good luck mandalas bring in the new year

River coracle seats 24 (no kidding)!

Hampi bazaar

Hindu cave temple, Badami

Lisa and Vishnu hang out

"What is your name?" "What is your country?"

Pattadakal hindu temple

Bhutahatha temple, Badami

Mysore palace - its good to be the maharaja!

Flowers for temple offerings

Mysore marketplace

Giant Nandi

Chamundeswari temple, Mysore

Village girl

Trekking in Califo..I mean India

Village tombstones

Big water buffalo with healthy horns

Fishing in the Kerala backwaters

Traditional Kathakali dancers (before)

Kathakali dancers (after)

Another beach paradise, Om beach in Gokarna

Stephanie spins her stuff

Gokarna baby

Ordering at random can be fun and surprising!

Holy man Ganesh Baba blesses Chris over breakfast

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