As I have been working on various Quilts of Valor, I have been thinking about new projects to start and I had two in mind…….
The first is an inspiration that I had when we were in Chengdu, China back in 2016. There was an office building next door to our hotel and at night there were long strings of colored lights shining brightly on the building. These is a very bad quality photo that I took to remind me of my inspiration…..
The colors would change from blue to red to yellow and sometimes the light lines would split up……
Again a horrible photo but it was best that I could get from inside my hotel!!
So, I have been thinking about how to make a quilt that has these same slivers in it. Here is where I am so far…..
…but this ain’t cutting it. I am not sure if the slivers that I am using aren’t bright enough or what, but I am not happy with it.
I have been wondering if it would be more interesting if I completely pieced the black/grey backgrounds first (maybe in a brick style) and then made the slivers go from top to bottom. The biggest problem with this will be that every time I add a sliver, it makes the edges wonky.
And, looking at this photo, I think that the slivers may need to be a bit wider and maybe I only want to use the lighter orange ones???? I have been trying to use some silks that I bought in India in 2015 but they may not be the right colors…..
SO…..since I am sort of stuck on this one, I turned to my other inspiration.
On the same 2016 trip, we spent some time in Trivandrum, India, and one of the things that I wanted to do was to get a Henna tattoo.
As I watched the young woman applying the Henna designs to my skin I couldn’t help thinking that the technique was similar to free motion quilting…..of course I viewed this exercise thru my “quilt-colored glasses”!!
So, I have been combing the internet looking for henna tattoo patterns with the thought of making a “white on white” quilt using those designs. I didn’t really want it to be white but was thinking about more of a tan-on-tan.
Yesterday I bought some appropriate fabric and decided to make a sample to see how it looks, and I am SOOOO happy with it……
I was thinking about doing some Trapunto work on it but decided instead to try using two battings. I placed an 80/20 batting on the bottom and a fluffy batting on the top. Unfortunately, I don’t have the bag that the“fluffy” one came in so I have NO idea of exactly what type of batting it is, but it works and I have enough for the big project so…..who cares!!
Now I need to spend a lot of time designing what this 40 inch square is going to look like. I am pretty sure that this sample design will be the center of the medallion and I am planning to put peacocks in each of the corners, but who know what else will be added to it!!
I also have to figure out a way to get the design onto the fabric. I have a light box but it is too small to do a big piece. I will have to put on my thinking cap!!!
So, no finishes, but a couple of FUN starts…… more to come!!
When we were traveling on this past 8-1/2 week trip, we started noticing that, on certain days, we were less tolerant of the differences that we saw. We started saying that, on these days, we had “lost our whimsy”!!!
Let me give an example….. on a whimsical day, we would see a small child standing in front of her Father while riding on a scooter and say “isn’t that cute”. But, if we saw the same scenario on a “non-whimsical” day, we would break into a diatribe about how dangerous it was and how the Father shouldn’t allow it to happen.
As the trip wore on, we realized how fortunate we are to live in a place where there is a lot of standardization in how things are done. That was probably the thing that most often caused our whimsy to wander away.
The classic example was the day that I wanted to buy a Coke in the hotel restaurant. First I went to the restaurant and asked for the drink. The waitress didn’t know how I was supposed to pay for it so she called a supervisor. The supervisor wrote up a paper ticket and walked it into the lobby to the front desk. From there, the desk clerk put it into the computer and printed out an invoice that I finally was able to pay. I walked away with a slightly bemused expression and a now warm Diet Coke!!!
With that being said, let me review the trip. Being an Accountant, I am enamored with numbers, so let’s look at the numbers of the trip……
19 airplane flights
15 hotels (and new beds)
31 Taxi rides in China alone!!
An unknown number of car rides (with driver) in India
4 boat/canoe rides
84+ teaching contact hours between Michael and his students
Umpteen banquet or buffet meals!!! The problem with these is that you just get a small amount of a bunch of different tastes and smells and you come away feeling like you haven’t had a full meal. We took the opportunity to order ala carte any chance that we could!!!
All in all, it was a good trip but we were both happy to arrive back in our Georgia home!!
Except for a quick trip for Michael in December, we don’t have any trips planned for the near future. However there is a possibility that next year we will spend 4 months in India!!! We will wait to see if the grant is successful……
And for now, life goes on with work, house cleaning, gardening, catching up with friends and family and, hopefully, a little bit of creative time too!!!!!
The second part of our Kerala vacation was spent on a Kettuvallam, a type of boat which were originally used as grain barges but have been transformed into floating cottages with each having 1 or more bedrooms, a Western toilet, kitchen and dining area. Once again Jai, of Sanchari Holidays did a marvelous job of hooking us up with Gokul Cruises .
Our driver picked us up once our ferry from Coconut Grove arrived at the dock and drove about an hour to the town of Alleppey which is the 7th largest city in Kerala. We were told that it is called the “Rice Bowl” of India because it is below sea level and the conditions are perfect for growing rice. We were met there by a company representative and put onto our own private boat (which, unfortunately, I dont have a good photo of!)…..
We explored the boat, checking out our bedroom…..
the simple and compact kitchen…..
and the magnificent dining/living area……
As you can imagine, the first plan for the trip was to check out these chairs…..
We joined the queue of boats slowly passing thru the canal…..
…and started to enjoy the daily life that was passing by us…..
One of the first things that we noticed were the myriad of canoes that also plied the water, each with their long shanked motor……
We wondered about the length of the shank but then saw someone running thru an area of vegetation floating on the water and noticed that all he had to do was lift the motor out of the water and the vegetation would shake off. Very ingenious!!
I loved the scenes on the sides of the canals, including this laundry hanging lazily out to dry….
This boat carrying silage approached…..
…but we were amazed to see that it was not a wide boat but simply a single canoe carrying a wide load…..
We were entertained by this boat filled with umbrella wielding passengers….
Our captain asked if we wanted to stop at a fish market and buy some Tiger Prawns to have for dinner and we answered with an immediate “Yes, Please!!”. As we approached the docking area, all three of our crew members would come to the front to help guide us into shore….
They would beep the ship’s horn and immediately others would come out from the fish shop to help us dock..
The store (and I use that term loosely) was very basic and the fish were stored in these huge coolers…..
We selected our four Tiger Prawns (which I never knew were BLUE) …..
….hopped back on the boat and we were off again.
On closer inspection of the prawns, they looked like tiny sea monsters ….hopefully very TASTY sea monsters!!!….
A little further down the canal and it was time to stop for lunch with yet another docking. They presented a marvelous lunch highlighted by a small crispy fish…..
….and accompanied by a myriad of curries, vegetables and, of course, rice…
We spent a bit of time in the kitchen while they were cooking and I was intrigued by this utensil….
….wondering exactly what it was used for. I found out a few minutes later as one of the crew started grating coconut with it. I like this video because it not only shows the tool in action but also the big smile on the gentleman’s face!!!…
There was a much larger Houseboat next to us as we ate lunch and we enjoyed listening to the rock music and laughter that came from the bunch of young men occupying it.
We had been told that there would be a tour of one of the smaller canals which the houseboat couldn’t get to. We were expecting a small motor boat but were pleased to see a canoe arrive as our transportation. Our guide rowed calmly along for about 5 minutes…..
….and then handed me an oar. I quickly passed it on up to Michael and he proceeded to help with the rowing work…
Our guide was actually quite fortunate as Michael knew HOW to row and was able to do a lot of the work. We passed other canoes where the passengers were doing more to hinder the rowing than to help it!!
It was very interesting to be closer to the shore to be able to observe life along the river. Every home had a small opening that led onto the river and most had a large rock in pride of place….
It didn’t take long for us to understand that this was the “washing machine”….
The noise when women were washing was very recognizable….
In many places we could see over the shoreline berm to view the rice paddies in their full glory…..
As we floated past, we got a closer view of river life and I have to say, that it looks like a hard one!! It seems that everything is done along the river’s edge, including bathing, dishwashing…..
…and food provision…..…although it was interesting to see that many houses had a satellite dish perched on the corner of their homes…..
I am not sure why these pots were stuck on the ends of long poles, but it reminded me of pirate movies where skulls were set out this way to warn others not to enter…..
We returned to our boat and a very sweaty (but happy) Michael took a photo with our canoe guide…..
The guide immediately climbed back into his canoe and headed off to the next boat for yet another tour…..
Now it was time to just sit back and enjoy the trip and we made the most of our relaxing time. It was fun to listen to the sounds of the canal, from the “slap, slap, slap” of women washing clothes, to the “tap, tap, tap” of men using machetes to open coconuts, the “ beep beep beep beep” of water taxi’s moving quickly thru the canal and wanting all of the house boats to get out of the way……………and the occasional cry of a vendor as he floated upstream hawking his boat full of wares….
It was also interesting to pass the other boats and smell the aromas of their cooking, wondering if their lunch was as good as ours had been!!
Many people would wave as we passed and I think that they were not particularly used to seeing white people along the river!! One young girl waved shyly to us and when we waved back, the whole family joined in the waving!!
This group of men were rebuilding the wall and “dock” in front of one house….
One of the funnier sights was when a canoe decided that it needed to cross the canal in the middle of a long line of boats…..
He would paddle as fast as he could as all of the Houseboats made adjustments to their engines to allow him time to pass. We did discover during this episode that our captain “was a honker”!!!
We passed one LONG snake boat (Chundun Vallam) which was being prepared for the races associated with the Onam Festival……
Unfortunately these races fall on Sunday so we will miss them!!
I loved seeing this little girl practicing her rowing……
…and we laughed as this man quickly rowed up in his canoe, attached himself to the boat and allowed himself to be towed along…..
As it got later in the afternoon, the canal traffic increased greatly…..
…and before we knew it we were ready to dock for the evening. We tied up in front of a smallish house, along with 2 other boats from the same company. An electric cord was pulled off of the boat and plugged into an outdoor socket. We were told that it cost 70,000 Rupees ($1,050) for the plug to be installed and that each boat paid between 350 amd 500 Rupees for each night that they spent there. It is quite an ingenious way to earn a bit of extra money!!
Soon we were told that our Prawns were about to be cooked, so we hurried to the kitchen to see them being placed into a small skillet with butter, covered and cooked for 10 minutes.
While we waited for the delicacy, we enjoyed the sunset that quickly colored the sky…..
Our delicious meal centered around the perfectly cooked Tiger Prawns…..
…and we greatly enjoyed every part of it…..
After dinner, we relaxed on the deck, happily watching the Geckos cavort around the ceiling of the boat…..
When it was time to head to bed, we found that they had closed our door and turned on our air conditioner so that our room was extremely comfortable!!
We awoke the next morning and were treated to a wonderful breakfast of toast (made by holding the bread over an open flame), omelet, vegetables and fruit…
All too soon it was time to cast off and head for port again. We enjoyed floating slowly down the Backwater, but signs of civilization started creeping into the views….
We soon docked in our spot amongst all of the other boats…..
….took a final photo of our wonderful crew…..
….and met our driver for the return journey to Trivandrum.
The drive back was slow and deliberate, taking 5 hours to travel 154 kilometers (92 miles). We laughed at several signs that noted that we were in an “Accident Prone Area” and to “Drive Slowly”!!!
We arrived back at our hotel mid afternoon and immediately started re-packing for our return trip to China on the next morning!!
We both felt that this trip was a magnificent way to end our time in India. We were well cared for and the time was just SO relaxing!!!
On Tuesday (the 6th), Michael finished up the last of his teaching duties in India so we took a few days off to do some serious R&R. Based on various travel shows we had seen, we really wanted to visit the Kerala Backwaters, a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. Trying to wade thru all of the possible trips was a monumental task, so we contacted our friend, Shirley in Bangalore and asked if she had any suggestions of someone to help us. She pointed us to Jai at Sanchari Holidays and he did a magnificent job organizing our 4 days of fun.
We were picked up by our driver early on Wednesday morning, having no real idea of where we were going. The only clue was that it would take 4 to 5 hours to get there so we figured that we must be heading North (since 5 hours South would put you in the ocean!!)
The trip was difficult with several detours and lots of traffic jams. There were very few stoplights and the traffic was being directed by policemen. Most of them were pretty ineffectual, waving their hands around with no one really obeying them.
Seeing snippet views of the ocean and a myriad of fish sellers reminded us that we were following along the western coast of India.
Our first stop was at the Coconut Lagoon Resort, which can only be reached over the water. Our ferry arrived about 15 minutes after we got to the jetty and we started our journey…..
…..passing this group of women doing laundry and washing dishes in the river…..
We looked excitedly at a a series of small cottages that we passed, saying that those looked like fun. Suddenly, we took a sharp turn into a narrow canal and realized that we were staying at the resort with the cottages….how perfect is that!!!
As we pulled up at the outdoor lobby, we were serenaded by a man playing a traditional flute……
As we registered, we were given flowers and then the (extremely fresh) coconut milk arrived……
We were escorted to our gorgeous cottage……
….with a magnificent room…….
As we were oohing and ahhing over the room, she proudly opened the door to the bathroom (which I thought looked like an outside door) and exclaimed that “it’s an open air bathroom”……
I am sure that we had bemused looks on our faces but we found that it was a very comfortable bathroom, even when sharing it with Gecko’s……
I had a nap while Michael spent some time sitting on the front porch. The manager happened by and started talking to us about the resort. He was basically apologetic that it was more rustic in nature but we assured him that we loved it that way. We had noticed that various trees on the property had signs saying who had planted them. Michael asked about it and the manager asked if we would like to plant one . When we excitedly said yes, he immediately sent over the grounds manager and a time was set for the next morning!
As we were sitting there, I noticed that the sky was starting to get a wonderful red tinge to it, so I grabbed the camera and headed to the edge of Lake Vembanadu, the largest lake in the Kerala Backwater. The views as the sun went down were magnificent…..
….and became increasing brilliant as time went on…..
This was my favorite photo of the evening……
It was well worth the walk!!
We enjoyed an excellent buffet dinner, a great sleep and awoke the next morning ready for our daily adventure.
We were met at 9:30 by the groundskeeper, Jijo, and hurried off to plant our banana tree. He had already dug the hole and had the tree ready to plant. He told Michael that he must first take off his shoes and face to the East as he put the tree in the ground……
Michael only scooped in a few handfuls of dirt before Jijo moved him away and finished the job for him. I guess that you cant let the paying guest get sweaty and dirty!!!
I added the water (under careful supervision)…..
….and the deed was done. Jijo told us that a plaque will be printed and put with “our” tree!!! We found where Jude Law had planted one (Michael swooned over this one) and it was rumored that Paul McCartney had planted one as well, but we never saw it. So, I guess we are in good company!!
The next task of the morning was to visit the Butterfly garden. This was unique because it wasn’t an enclosed area but, instead, was a natural area that hosted plants that the butterflies loved and returned to religiously. We had fun trying to catch the butterflies with the camera lens…..
They were fairly elusive, although we did get a good photo of this beauty….
While we were sitting in the gazebo we also caught sight of another of the local inhabitants…..
If you look carefully, you can just see the head of a small monitor lizard. Unfortunately, he took off and we never got a good look at him.
We continued to wander around the property, taking photos of the beautiful scenery. I really like this picture with the reflections in the water…..
There was always a steady stream of fishing boats along the shore…..
At lunchtime, Jai had organized for us to to enjoy a traditional meal called the Sadhya. It is served during the Onam festival which was actually going on while we were in Kerala. It is a 10 day festival that commemorates the home-coming of King Mahabali….more about that later!!
We were escorted to a private table by the lake, a banana leaf was placed on the table and the food started to arrive. We were assisted by the Executive Chef (Naveen) and he talked us thru each of the foods that we were presented, telling us the history of the food and why it was part of the meal.
Before long our banana leaf was full of delicacies…..
….and it was time to start enjoying the flavors. Naveen told us to eat from left to right initially and then to eat anything that we wanted. He also told us that we must use “God’s Utensils”….ie our hands….. to eat with. The dishes included dried Plantains, Jaggery, pickles, bitter gourd, and a whole host of curries, each with its own delicate taste. The item on the upper far right is white Pumpkin and we were told to use that one as a palate cleansing food. Our drink was Sambar which is a Yoghurt with spices and herbs.
We ate until we couldn’t have another bite. It was such a fun experience to enjoy the food and a beautiful view of the lake!!
By the way, all of the tables in the resort had the same centerpiece….a little pot of rice plants!! It was simple and very effective. I may have to try it at home sometime!!
I have found one design that HAS to become a quilt some day……
I will add it to my idea list!!
Before dinner, there was a program of traditional dance called “Kathakali”……
It is in the “story play” genre meaning that the sole dancer (usually male) tells the story thru dance, song and speaking. Here is a bit of it…..
As we walked back to our cottage, we marveled at the beauty of the resort…..
On Friday morning it was time for us to move to our next Kerala adventure and we were serenaded with drums and given a proper send off……
It was the end of a perfect visit and we left with the thought that we WILL return….for longer next time!!
Now, before we go further, let me talk about the Onam Celebration. As I said, it celebrates the the homecoming of King Mahabali. The entire festival lasts for 10 days with each having it’s own importance. One of the interests of each day is the building of a Pookkalam which is a floral carpet. Tradition dictates a few basics of how the Pookkalam should look, but individual touches are added.
We saw our first Pookkalam at the hotel in Trivandrum on Sunday……
It was very simple and fun.
On Monday, it became larger and more intricate…..
Tuesday brought this one…..
And, Wednesday dawned with this lovely 3 dimensional beauty……
Unfortunately someone had already scuffed it up!!
This was the day that we arrived at Coconut Lagoon and this was their offering for the day…..
I failed to get a photo of the one for Thursday, but Friday was made of vegetables and was amazing…..
Returning to the hotel on Saturday showed us this one…..
When we left on Sunday, this wonderful peacock was on the floor…..
This photo isn’t great because it was VERY early in the morning and I hadn’t realized that my camera lens had fogged up until it was too late!!!
They were such fun and I eagerly looked forward to seeing the new design each morning. I would really have loved to see them making it but it was always done late at night.
IF we come back next year (which is possible), we will look forward to celebrating Onam in the fullest way possible!!
For many years I have looked at Henna tattoos and thought that the designs and color was beautiful, and on this trip I had decided that I wanted to get one to see exactly what it was like.
I talked to the hotel reception desk and they organized for me to visit a local beauty parlor to have the tattoo (also called Mehndi) applied. I learned that the dye is prepared from leaves of the Henna plant which is a tall shrub or small tree. Since it is difficult to form intricate patterns from coarse crushed leaves, the leaves are normally powdered and then a paste is made adding a liquid such as water, lemon juice or strong tea.
So, with very little information, I sat in the chair and calmly presented my arm to Midhila (By profession a Nutritionist for a local Diabetes Clinic) for decoration…..
…..and off she went. The Henna paste was in a small tube….
….and I was amazed at the intricate details that she could draw. The pattern quickly grew…..
…and I was greatly reminded of some of the Zen Doodle patterns that I have played with over the years.
She would first outline the next shape and then use various fill patterns or shadings to add interest. After a short while, it looked like this…..
….and I was pleased that there was a Peacock included in the design!!
She kept on painting down my finger, ending with a spiral of dots on the finger nail itself….who knew!!
We sat and talked for about 10 minutes while the initial design dried…..
She then turned my arm over and was off again……
….continuing until she reached the tip of my index finger…..
This VIDEO is on the other side of my arm and she is almost finished.
The women at the “Glamito Hair & Beauty Hub” were so kind, even going out and bringing Pineapple juice for us to drink.
A final photo…..
….and now we had to figure out how to keep my hand wide open and my arm in the air for the next 2 hours!!! We had planned to take a Tuk-tuk back to the hotel but were afraid that it would be too bumpy so we called the hotel and asked them to send a car.
Midhila had told me that it would take about an hour for the henna to dry and then to make a lemon juice and sugar mixture and daub it onto the dried henna. Let that sit for at least another hour and then scrape the “mud” off.
The hotel was magnificent in helping me obtain everything I needed. As I walked back in I asked for some limes and an oil of some sort and immediately a bowl of cut limes arrived and two small tubes of Coconut oil.
We followed the procedure……and were soon scraping the henna off, using a spoon and fingernails…..
When I first saw the results, I was really disappointed as it was just a dark orange color (and not a particularly pretty color )…..
But, in the next 24 hours, it turned to a much more pleasing deeper brown color…..
The design on top of my hand and arm never got as dark as I would have liked, but I think was a mixture of the color of my skin and that I probably didn’t leave it on long enough…..
But overall, I was pleased with the result and very glad to have gone thru the process. If I do it another time, I think that I will have it placed on my lower leg and ankle so that I can wrap it in saran wrap and let it sit for 4+ hours.
The design normally lasts for 2 – 3 weeks, depending on how long you leave the paste on. Since I didn’t leave it long enough, it faded pretty fast but I enjoyed it while it was there.
I am hoping to try to recreate it as a quilting design sometime!!!
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 was the King’s bed and is said to be carved from medicinal woods to help keep him healthy…..
Most of the windows had wooden screens of some sort and I found them irresistible…..
I also appreciated the profusion of red tiled roofs…..
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.
We passed this room….
….and immediately knew what it was, but a woman looked at Michael and said “Restroom….Indian style”.
Many of the beams in the buildings were wonderfully carved, although it was once again difficult to see them…..
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……
The word “Ambari” refers to the seat put on an elephant’s back during safaris. This platform is based on the shape and structure of the ambari.
Before leaving this high spot, it was fun to look down on the well manicured palace grounds…..
Our next building included the kitchen that had huge built-in mortar and pestles. One family was trying to tell us what they were and she decided to demonstrate…..
The final building was the Navarathri Mandapam, a building built from a solid rock. It was quite a change from looking at the wood……
We enjoyed walking around the gardens before we returned to the courtyard, where we marveled at this set of leaning stone steps…..
The last visit of the day was to a small museum that held various artifacts originally in the palace. After that we retrieved our shoes…..
…..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!!
Our last 3 days in Pune were fairly uneventful, although I did find time to do some shopping at the “Bombay Company”. It was only a few blocks away from the hotel and I enjoyed shopping and carrying my two big bags of stuff back. I was tickled to see two “Tuk-Tuks” (Auto Rickshaws) slowly following me, hoping that I would decide to catch a ride instead!!
There was a small mall just across the street which provided the perfect place to buy a small suitcase to get the purchases home!!! As I entered the mall, I walked thru the ever-present metal detector and put my purse thru a scanner as well. I was alarmed to see one older lady removing a HUGE knife from her bag but was happy to see it in the hands of guards and not her!!!
I also wandered thru a local grocery store and was surprised that they used a plastic zip tie to close my purse before I entered. They very wisely advised me to take my cell phone out before they zipped it up, because Michael called me while I was wandering around!! After shopping, I passed the “take-out” section and bought two Samosas for lunch….wonderful!!!
Our hotel was older but was extremely comfortable. I read that this area of town was established when the British were still in India and I can totally see where the hotel fit into that context.
The decorations included ribbons stretched across the lobby….
…and a very cool wall hanging…..
On Sunday night we decided to visit the local Marriott hotel for dinner and drinks. We had a marvelous night, complete with excellent food, great ambiance, and a medium size fruit bat flying thru the dining room!!! The staff did a great job of cornering and removing it with a minimum of distraction, although Michael (who worked on bats for several years) offered to carry it out for them…..they declined!!!
We have grown to love Kerala and were looking forward to our return to Trivandrum. Unfortunately, we found out that our hotel reservation had been messed up and we were being transferred to a different hotel when we returned. We were initially disappointed about this but have really come to enjoy our time at this new hotel. It is part of the same chain, “UDay”, and has a bit quieter atmosphere.
The staff has been magnificent, first retrieving our stored suitcase from the original hotel, then helping us pay for an item that was being shipped to us, finding someone to give me a Henna tattoo and working to make sure that we are happy!!
The complex is very pretty, especially at night….
It is decorated with 3 dimensional wall murals….
….and is landscaped with some beautiful flowers…..
This butterfly obviously enjoys it…..
Michael’s host, Hema, told him that this is a “Southern Bird Wing Butterfly” and is endemic to this area in the southern part of the Western Ghats. Whatever he is, he was huge and beautiful!!!
Michael was supposed to have been working on Friday (September 2nd) but there was a Nationwide strike happening so they closed IISCER down and told the kids in the course to stay home. Strikes here can often get violent, especially when you are found in a vehicle on the road. So, we took the advice and stayed close to the hotel for the day.
The strike began at midnight and the night before we had gone to dinner in town with some of Michael’s colleagues. As I looked over the ledge of the hotel, I could see the men standing around with torches in their hand…..
…sadly, it reminded me of the Ogre hunt in Shrek!!!
On “Strike Day” we did venture out to the beach, about a five minute walk away, however we avoided the corner that had men holding clubs!! We passed a group of young men playing Cricket…
…the perfect pastime for Strike Day!!! We enjoyed watching them for a few minutes and could tell that we were the topic of conversation and the source of much laughter.
Michael and I have wondered whether the strike was just a way to get a 3 or 4 day weekend. Monday is a holiday in some areas as it is the start of the Hindu Ganesh Festival and in much of Kerala as the start of the Onam celebration. People certainly did seem to be enjoying themselves!!!
We arrived at the beach, stopping to watch a few fishermen working on their nets….
We new that we had to at least stick our toes into the Arabian Sea…..
……. but Michael got a little carried away…..
One other interesting thing from the State of Kerala….. it is illegal to sell alcohol on the 1st day of each month. The premise is that, since most people get paid on the 1st, they can protect them from spending all of their money on booze. Based on the length of the lines on the last day of August, I am not exactly sure that it is working!!
On Friday we made the decision to move out of the guesthouse and into a hotel. The Guesthouse was NOT comfortable and the thought of trying to relax there all weekend was too much to deal with!!
On Saturday, we had another fun day planned with Chalo Heritage & Nature Walks. This time we were excited to be joined by Rashid’s wife, Jan who was born in Southern Ireland, but fell in love with India (and Rashid)!!
We had given them the power to choose where we visited and they picked the Jejuri Temple, the main temple of Lord Khandoba, a form of the god, Vishnu.
They picked us up at the hotel and we enjoyed a 45 minute drive thru the town of Saswad, arriving at the temple complex entrance. We loved this ox cart driver talking on his cell phone…..
….such a dichotomy!!
Rashid found a parking place and was immediately blocked in by another car and an auto rickshaw. We wondered if we would ever be able to get out again.
The street leading to the temple complex was lined with stores selling Turmeric powder ….
…and other interesting accoutrements….
Two boys asked us to take their photo and the group quickly grew from two to FIVE…..
The first shrine that we saw gave a hint of things to come……
….as did this powder encrusted pup…..
We now began the long climb up the steps leading to the temple…..
There were litters and litter bearers available to carry the less athletic up the stairs…..
Although this lady did not look particularly comfortable with her descent….
There were stalls and vendors all along the stairs…..
…and we were bombarded with offers of goods and services.
This young man was hurling coconuts onto the steps to break them open….
Rashid told us that this is a symbolic gesture. The coconut represents the head and breaking it breaks the ego and then it can be offered to the god…..or eaten as the case may be!! Just after this one was broken open, another gentleman picked up two pieces and offered them to us. We ate them…..
…repeating our mantra that “we have antibiotics” (for any potential stomach upsets)!!
We laughed watching the people come down the steps as they were covered with hand prints of turmeric…..
Rashid and Jan had told us that two times each year (on new moon Mondays) the god was put on a horse and ridden down the steps and then dunked in a pool to be cleaned. There is a special horse that carries the idol and we figured that he had the best job in the world….work two days and have 363 off!!! The horse breed is called Mawari and can be recognized by the ears that point inward. There was no photography allowed of the holy horse, but here is a photo from the internet…..
All along the stair route, worshipers were putting the yellow powder on their hands and arms. One man put his forehead into the pile of Turmeric and came up with it covering his hair and forehead.
The stalls were all filled with interesting delights…..
We hadn’t walked far when I was approached by a man and his two sons, asking if I would take a photo with them…..
A few minutes later, a woman stall keeper asked where I was from and asked to take a photo with myself and Jan…..
As other people walked past, the woman said “she’s from America” and more photos were requested……
There were MANY such occurrences through out the day!! We talked later that, if we had charged 10 Rupees for each photo, we would have paid for our entire tour!!
We continued ever upward…..
…passing small vignettes of life, including this little boy getting marked for worship……
We passed smaller shrines, each covered in bright yellow Turmeric powder…..
….some so encrusted that we couldn’t even tell what the statue was…..
At one point we had to remove our shoes and do the rest of the journey in bare feet. As we stored them in a small room, we asked how much it cost. Her answer was simple….”as you wish”!!
We entered the temple proper by stepping OVER the entry stones, continuing to wind our way up tall, deep steps. We passed thru several metal detectors and each buzzed or dinged as we walked thru. We asked the purpose of them, and Rashid said (tongue in cheek) that it just makes sure that they were working.
Many people were selling flowers and other items to be used in worship…..
We were intrigued with this man in his Turmeric covered turban….
It is customary for newly married couples to visit this temple to receive a blessing for a long, happy life together. This woman was one of the people offering such a blessing…..
There were bells all around the temple complex and I love that the lampstand has peacocks!!!
This sweet family posed for a photo op……
….and then later found us and asked for us to take one with them!!
This very nice couple did the same thing…..
As we approached the main temple, there was a large bronze disc that had people sitting or laying in worship and others throwing the turmeric powder high into the air……
The powder was raining down…..
All of the powder flying in the air seemed to eclipse the beautiful design on the temple and I honestly never got a good photo of it…
Rashid was telling us about a huge sword that was displayed in the complex, and one of the guides there asked if we wanted to see it. We went into a side room and Rashid (on the right) and the two other men pulled it out of the safe…..
….and then encouraged Michael to pick it up……
The guy in the back (all in yellow) said that he would take us thru a private entrance if we wanted to see inside the temple (for a fee of course). We didn’t really want to stand in the long line so agreed to his price.
Now came the surreal part of the day…..
We walked thru a series of metal detectors and iron barred walkways (stepping on something gooey along the way but refusing to think about it)……
…to reach the (very small) inner sanctum of the temple. After crossing the threshold we could see a line of worshipers and a turmeric covered horse statue…..
We walked up to the god and were given a handful of powder to throw and at this point, all photography ceased as we tried valiantly to keep the cameras clean. After we threw the turmeric, we were each handed a coconut. We moved to the next station and were marked with the powder. The guy was pretty nice to me…..
….but he laid it on thick for Michael…..
After we left the temple we were told that we had to walk around the temple one time, stopping to throw powder at the front and then give away all of our coconuts on the way down. We honestly started to wonder if they were making it up as they went, just to see exactly how far we would go….silly Americans!!!!
There was much laughter along the way…..
We continued walking around the courtyard to begin our descent, passing a place that you could sit and have lunch…..
….although Jan strongly suggested that we keep walking!!!
We passed thru a series of porticos that had wonderful quilt designs (maybe they will show up in my artwork at some later time)…..
….and lots of families eating their lunches. This smiling young man let me take his photo…..
We slowly made our way down the steps, finally finding our shoes. Rashid kept stopping to give away our coconuts to those in need…..
…although one got loose and we watched the “holy” coconut careen down the steps!!
I loved this stall carrying bangles….
We returned to the car and found it well and truly blocked in……
….but by the time we had used Jan’s wet wipes to clean ourselves up…..
….the way was clear for us to leave.
We had one stop on the way home to eat lunch at Vithal Kamals, a chain restaurant that is known for its cleanliness. Michael and I both had a Dosa with curried potato stuffing…..
It was so yummy!!
As we neared the hotel, I told Jan that my original thought had been “Not another temple!!”, but this had proven to be a magnificent day in a fantastic place and like no other temple we had ever seen. They told us that they only did this tour for “special” people, but we are pretty sure that the word they were looking for was really CRAZHY. And, it seems that we DO fit that bill!!!
The next morning, while Michael worked, I headed out for another super day of sightseeing with Rashid Ali of Chalo Heritage & Nature Walks. I spent time with Rashid last year and had one of the best days of sightseeing that I have ever had…..check it out HERE.
Today the plan was to finish the tour that I started last time….apparently I spent too much time enjoying myself and we didn’t get finished with everything!!! Then we were going to add a few new places as well.
As Rashid picked me up, he told me that this was a holiday in India….the festival of Dahi Handi, with Dahi meaning curd and Handi meaning bowl. The story behind the festival is this……
When the Indian god Krishna was a little boy, he loved to eat butter (or curd) and he would always find pots of such and empty them out. His parents would try to hide the pots in out-of-the-way places, but he always found them. This Festival celebrates that fact by hanging a clay pot high up in the air and forming human pyramids to retrieve the pot. The one that retrieves it is awarded a cash prize.
Rashid told me that this year might be a bit different because the Indian Supreme Court had just issued a ruling set to protect the revelers. The height at which the pot could be hung was limited to 20 feet and the minimum age of the person in the pyramid was also being regulated. Since this was a fairly new change, he felt that it would be interesting to see how many people actually followed the new law.
He had picked me up early so we could beat the traffic but since it was a holiday, there WASN’T any traffic. The plan was to park his car and take Auto Rickshaws for our journeys but when we arrived at the place where he had planned to park we found that the deck was closed. Never deterred, Rashid made the call that we would drive to all of our destinations. The driving was easy but finding places to park was a bit of a chore. It was funny to watch people say “no you can’t park here but you can park over there” and then after moving over there, someone would say “no you can’t park here but you can park over there!!!!”. Eventually the car was parked and we began our tour!!!
The first stop was the temple of Shiva’s Wife, (Parvarti) located at the top of Parvarti Hill. The temple is the oldest heritage structure in Pune and was built during the rule of the Peshwa dynasty.
The climb up Parvarti Hill (supposedly 103 steps) was punctuated with goats….
…and stately trees, both indigenous and introduced.
We did a quick tour of the Peshwa museum which contained some interesting items, but they were not well displayed. The museum was dark and with little explanations so the tour was short, sweet and to the point!!
But, just beyond the museum we started to see the splendid structures of the temple…..
There was a lot of bright colors which greatly appealed to my senses!!!
We passed into the courtyard featuring the “Shri Kartika Swami Temple”, having to leave our shoes at the door step. This temple wasn’t large…
but the multi-colored dome was entrancing…..
Rashid has training as a biologist and provided an informative guide to the trees in the temple area. I found this one to be intriguing as the branches grew downward rather than up to the sky……
It is called a False Ashoka or Buddha tree and is native to India.
Rashid talked about the Tamarind tree which is not native to this country, but he said that, in environmental circles, it had received “it’s green card” because it has worked it’s way into Indian tradition, culture and cooking. I thought that was a great description!!
He also talked about the Neem plant (tree) that is used for medicine, insecticides and pesticides. It is also used for tooth-brushing. You pull off a twig, bite it apart, use the twigs to clean your teeth and then throw it away. Interestingly I had seen a lady do that on our trip this morning and had wondered what she was doing…..now I know!!!
The best thing about the Neem plant was looking down on the leaves….
….and the wonderful whirled pattern!!
The next temple courtyard allowed us to walk up on the wall surrounding the temple, although the following warning was given….
The view from the terrace was terrific, although the haze over the city reduced the view some……
Rashid came prepared with a city map to allow me to orient myself….
The view of the temple was superb…..
….especially as it allowed all of the high-line wires to be out of the photo!!
We left the temple area, returned to the car, finally found another parking place and entered the “Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum”. According to the entrance sign, Dr. Kelkar had a lifelong obsession for collecting artifacts and art from all around India. Since this collection takes up MANY galleries, I can just imagine what his house looked like!!
It is an interesting museum and here are a few of my favorite things…..
This tall lampstand was intriguing as I looked at it closer. Each of the reservoirs circling the base held oil and each of the petal shaped appendages held a wick….
Wouldn’t it be beautiful when fully lit?
These wooden boxes held “kumkum”……
Kumkuma is oxidized turmeric that is used in social and religious ceremonies. The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of lime, which turns the rich yellow powder into a red color. It is often used for the “third eye” that Hindu’s often wear and, when placed in the part of a woman’s hair, can indicate that she is married.
There was a replica of a classic Indian house, complete with Rangoli. This design of the two feet…..
is representative of the goddess Laxmi (or Lakshmi) who is the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. The feet are always pointed into the house as they want her to come in and make them wealthy.
If you are like me, you will never figure out what these are……
They are hair dryers!!! I am guessing that they are used to “brush” and separate the hair so that it could dry. Given the intense thickness of most Indian women’s hair, I cant imagine how long that would take!!
And then there were these super fine toothed combs…..
…that were used to remove tiny livestock from hair!!
There were several areas devoted to sculpture and I was captivated by this group of women…..
I asked why they each had a hand over their head. Rashid asked the museum docent and she replied that they were looking in the distance for their husbands to return!!
We entered an area that held kitchen utensils. I loved these Chapati presses….
….such wonderful designs!
This kiln was extremely functional as it had three different cooking areas. The fire could be placed in the open area and it would heat all three burners…..
I liked this horse pitcher…..
….but even more when I peeked around the back and saw the rider forming the handle…..
Moving into an area that held weapons, we found this protective armor made out of Fish scales…..
I have to wonder if it could stop a sword or knife??
This powder horn was an interpretive rendition of an animal….
However, it was a bit freaky to see that the stopper was a person’s head….
Entering the fiber room brought some exquisite designs….
This exhibit displayed a rather strange set of dolls where the torsos, legs and heads can be interchanged……
I loved this hanging acrobat lamp…..
My interest increased as we entered the instrument area. There were a number of flutes (Shehanai) and several “Sitar-like” instruments in the shape of animals. This peacock was wonderful…..’’
….as was this cleverly shaped instrument…..
I was fascinated by this “Triple Tambura”…..
Rashid told me that the Tambura is an accompanying instrument much like a bass and that it produces a steady drone. We figured that each of the three sides had a different tuning so that different tones could be heard at the same time.
Have a look at this door…..
…..and then look at the detail in it…..
I left the museum, marveling at the treasures there and wishing that our souvenir collection was as wonderful!!!
We returned to the street, stopping to purchase some raw peanuts……
….and passing a store that sold modern “make-your-own” dolls…..
Rashid asked if I was ready for tea and cookies and, since I STILL remembered the cookies from last year, I said a hearty yes. He led me down one corridor to a seating area, but then stopped short and said “I don’t think that they want us sitting here”! The reason was obvious……
We visited another local temple…..
….and then had a walk around the shops associated with the temple….these specializing in kitchen and religious items. ie…lots of flowers…..
….and cooking pots…..
This young man spent a lot of time telling us the difference between the copper and the stainless pots.
Next we passed the wedding paraphernalia street where you can buy everything that you need for a good Indian wedding……
One of the traditions is that bride and groom tie their clothes together and then walk/dance around a fire made from the wood of 9 sacred trees. They have made this easy by selling small packets containing sticks of all of the needed wood…..
Our final destination was to a large food market that centers around an octagon with “tentacles” radiating from the center. Each stall has a display platform and a lockable storage area.
Most of the vendors sat on their platform and sold their wares……
I loved seeing the shopkeepers sitting, with their legs crossed, as if they were ruling over their kingdom…..
It was also fun to realize that they were using a basic scale and iron weights…..
Unfortunately it was siesta time so many of the stalls were closed and we passed a number of keepers sleeping on their platform.
Rashid then led me to a vendor who sold disposable plates, but these were different because they were made out of leaves and bark (truly recyclable)…..
I particularly liked the ones that were molded with compartments!!
There were also some that were simply leaves that had been stitched together or pinned together…..
As we exited the market, we passed the “Paan” area. Paan is a preparation that combines Betel leaf with various items that are chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effect. The Betel leaves were beautiful as they were displayed….
As we left, Rashid suggested that we get something small to eat. I let him order for me and he selected this “pizza-like” bread that was amazing…..
My drink was a lemon/lime soda. It was brought in a tall glass with a small amount of pure juice in the bottom. The soda water was added and then I was handed a sugar water solution that I could add to get the perfect mix of sweet and sour.
As we left the restaurant, I could see that the holiday celebrations were starting to heat up…..
….and we passed this group preparing to hang the curd pot…..
As we drove back to the guesthouse, Rashid gave Michael and I the best compliment….he said that we would be the “perfect candidates for Holi”, the Hindu celebration where dry paint is thrown on everyone and everything!!! I am thinking that he thinks we are a bit crazy!!!
Dinner that night was with Sutirth and Michael and I requested that he take us back to the Tandoori restaurant that we had visited with him last year. We enjoyed our dinner and then walked to a Kulfi vendor just down the street. Kulfi is much like ice cream and is packaged in long tubes…..
The vendor (who was also the owner of all of the Kulfi stands around) cut out our selections, weighed them on a leaf, and then put it onto a plate for us to enjoy….
It was the perfect ending to a great meal and a very fun day…..
On Wednesday it was time for us to reluctantly leave our hotel in Trivandrum and head to Pune. But first, a couple of comments before we move on…..
One of the things that we have noticed in the hotel is that the Indian guests carry a LOT of large suitcases. It got us to wondering about the sheer volume of the clothes that they wear. I can imagine that the Sari’s and other items take up a lot of space!!
We have had a wonderful driver while we have been here this week. He was always on time, or a few minutes early, and he has done his best to make things easier for us. There is one thing that we have laughed about with him, and Michael sent me a text on the first day to make this point….”He’s a honker”!!! I had pretty much figured that out since he had honked 3 times while getting out of the parking circle as Michael was leaving. Of course, one person commented that “some people will honk at potholes”!!!
Also, I was reading a story in the India Times about an elderly couple, aged 50 and 52!! That was a bit shocking as we realized that, according to this standard, we had vaulted over old and straight into “damn-near dead”!!!
Finally, our sweet room maid, named Sreeja, continued to entertain us with folded towel masterpieces like this Elephant…..
….and these sweet kissing swans…..
I caught her in the room with one of her creations and she shyly posed with her art…..
I sent this photo to the hotel office and told them that she had taken good care of us. She came to the room the next morning and thanked me profusely saying that the photo was now on the employee bulletin board!!!
Our last morning brought yet another wedding to the complex and this one was a blow-out!!! It was set up outside with this being the main tent….
….complete with air conditioners at each corner!!
The mat (made of flowers) was beautiful……
….and the white and purple tables were strewn around the tent…..
The music started about 10:00am and, when I left at 3:00, they were dancing drinking and having a wonderful time!!!
This morning I also headed down to the beach to view the fishing nets again. It was a bit different this time because the tide was in and there was absolutely no room for them to work on the beach so they simply pulled the cord over the walkway and continued pulling on the other side…..
There were a few extra working spots with this set up, including a set of men who were charged with keeping the rope from rubbing along the rocks…..
There was also another man in the ocean who held onto the rope (between waves) and wound the floats and sinkers around the rope so that they didn’t get stuck on the rocks either.
At some point, these men moved over the walkway and down on the beach to be closer to the other side of the net…..
The last guy here is the one tasked with rolling the ropes but every so often he had to anchor the pulling. Here, all of the men are being pulled by the waves going out and trying to take the nets with it.
And then it happened!!! I first noticed a lot of yelling and that the men were no longer tugging on the ropes…..
Yes, the net had broken and was being washed down the beach. Lots of men ran after it…..
….but it was gone. I had wondered exactly who was in charge of the process and soon found out that it was the man in white…..he yelled instructions for several minutes after the break.
It was sad to see all of the net pullers standing around, forlornly contemplating the loss of the catch!!!
We left the hotel about 3:00 and flew to Pune (via Bangalore), thus completing the 11th and 12th of our 19 flights. We were met by a driver and taken to the Guest House at the IISER campus.