On Saturday morning we were picked up by our trusty driver. We finally asked his name and he shyly told us that it was Vinod. Through the day, we found out that he is married and has a 15 year old daughter. He has been more than a driver, playing the part of caretaker as well. When we shopped for groceries, he showed up at the check out line and carried our bags for us, when we arrived at the Palace he parked the car and went with us to purchase the tickets
But, the funniest story was a few days later when Michael needed to go to an ATM on the way back from work. Vinod stopped in front of an ATM vestibule where there was a woman inside and 2 younger men waiting for their turn. Michael stood back a bit to allow the young men to go first, but Vinod rolled down his window and said something sternly to them. When the woman exited, the men motioned for him to go first…obviously Vinod had told them that Michael had the priority!!! It was a sweet gesture, but made Michael VERY uncomfortable!!!
I have mused over drivers in India. They have to be so vigilant as they drive because you never know when someone is going to pull out in front of you, whether a car, truck, pedestrian, motorcyclist, bicyclist, Tuk-Tuk, or cow. Added to that, you have to keep a wary eye out for potholes and road construction sites and there are LOTS of those! All of these pavement issues makes for some uncomfortable riding as you are always having to shift around in the seat to keep balanced.
I have also found that sometimes driving in India is a lot like playing a game of chicken. Almost all of the roads are a single lane in each direction and If you pull out to pass someone there is a good chance that there will be a car coming toward you. The trick is to know when to return to your lane and when to pursue the overtaking! There seems to be lots of headlight flashing going on during these interactions but I am not sure that it really helps!
Finally, I have decided that Indian vehicles must come equipped with REALLY good brakes!!
It was an interesting drive, made more enjoyable by the stares and double-takes that people did as they saw two white people in the back of the car. We passed fishmongers in the beach areas and huge speakers with music pouring forth. Most of those were associated with Hindu temples celebrating Ganesh.
We found out that we were traveling even further south in India, which is pretty amazing considering that we are almost already at the very tip. We came to a checkpoint, complete with a gate to go thru and asked Vinod why it was there. He told us that we had now left the state of Kerala and entered the state of Tamil Nadu. It is interesting to think that you have to go thru a checkpoint to change states….yet another freedom that we take for granted!!
We passed this very colorful open-air market……
Now, back to the palace……As I said earlier, Vinod helped us to buy our tickets for the palace, but was apologetic that an Indian ticket was only 35 Rupees, where a foreigner ticket was 300 Rupees!!! Maybe we should have started shaking our head and pretended to be Indian!!!
After we got our tickets, we started to enjoy this gorgeous complex. It was built in the 1600’s and refurbished in the 1750’s and is only 20 miles from the far tip of India. It is considered to be one of the best examples of traditional Kerala style architecture. It is located in the state of Tamil Nadu, but is considered to be part of Kerala and the Government of Kerala owns it.
We entered the first hall and were immediately directed up a STEEP set of stairs to the second floor……
Many of the women were having serious problems navigating them with their Saris.
The “Manthrasala” is the room where decisions concerning the administration of the kingdom were made. This first photo is a bit dark, but probably truer to the look and feel of the room….
Closer inspection (with a flash) revealed the beauty in the details of the wood and carvings…..
We entered the next building thru a tiny door……
…arriving at the “Oottupura” which was a dining hall where 2,000 per day were served free meals. Each floor of this building was designed to hold 1,000 people at a time…..
Although the sheer size of the room was outstanding, I was more smitten with beams in the roof (do you see a quilt design???)…..
We now came to the residence of the palace grounds. The first thing that I noticed were these cool shutters…..
…soon to be outdone with the intricate carvings inside the palace. They were a little hard to see in the low light, but the camera illuminated them perfectly….
These support pillars were made from Jack Fruit trees.
One of the things that we enjoyed was interacting with the other people touring the grounds. This man posed and waited for me to get the camera set so that we could have his photo…..
His entire body language says “yes, I am the man!!!”.
This is a very simple thing, but it was fun to see this bit of decoration in one of the rooms…..
There was a support beam in one of the walls, and they had added a three dimensional “end cap” to give it more class.
….and immediately knew what it was, but a woman looked at Michael and said “Restroom….Indian style”.
This area is called the Ambari Mukhappu and was built for the kings to view chariot races and to appear before the public on special occasions……
Before leaving this high spot, it was fun to look down on the well manicured palace grounds…..
The final building was the Navarathri Mandapam, a building built from a solid rock. It was quite a change from looking at the wood……
…..yes we did the entire tour with bare feet!!!
We decided to stroll down the main street of shops before we called Vinod to pick us up, but he was apparently watching for us from his car because he magically appeared when we were about 1/4 of the way down the street. We both felt like school kids who had been caught off-campus!!!
Vinod stopped to let Michael take a photo of this”feat of engineering”…..
We just wonder how he can see to drive…..
…and as I look at this picture now, I wonder what happens when he meets a big, wide truck on these narrow roads!!!
The trip back to Trivandrum was uneventful, although we did see a man carrying a LARGE goat on his motorcycle. It looked like a college prank!!
We got stuck in some traffic so I had time to shoot some photos out the window. These guys waved and smiled happily……
….and, I loved the display in this fruit and vegetable market…..
Those are apples that have been woven together to form the long “cords”.
All in all, it was a wonderful day and we were happy to get to visit one of the architectural wonders of Kerala!!