Sunday, January 16, 2011


Thiruvananthapuram, othewise and more commonly known as, Trivandrum. (Maybe more commonly known as Trivandrum because no one can actually say Thiruvananthapuram.
After leaving the massive open air toilet that was Kanyakumari, arriving back in a big city means major air pollution. Now I’ve been to New York and Tokyo, both of which have heavily polluted air but let me tell you, this is thick, blue/black air that hits the back of your throat like nothing else. On returning to your hotel room after an hour or two outside in it, you blow your nose and it’s all black and sooty. The throat gets dry and sore and you tend to breathe in a very shallow way because you just don’t want to breathe that muck in deeply. The shallow breathing has it’s own downside and overall makes you wonder what it must do to the people that have to live in it all the time.
By the way, as soon as I left kanyakumari my nose stopped running, which is interesting. Piss and shit ? Chlorine ? Who knows ? Now it’s this irritated throat and a sort of throaty cough thing as if I have been breathing in poisonous gases, which is precisely what I have been doing.
So, instead of wandering round what I consider to be just another over-crowded, filthy, dirty, polluted, stinking Indian city for a day, before heading to Tiruvannamalai, grabbed an auto-rickshaw and took off to Kovalam Beach for the day. 30 odd degrees, bright sunshine, fresh coastal air, warm water and great waves. Fresh pineapple sliced up and served on the beach followed at the end of the day with a big plate full of grilled garlic prawns. Another gaseous auto-rickshaw ride back to the hotel the day was a fantastic idea, excellent decision.
Staying these two nights in the Mascot Hotel. It’s a government owned hotel, of which there are quite a few in India apparently, but I’m still not exactly sure what the point of a government owned hotel is. It’s certainly not any cheaper, in fact the food in particular is relatively expensive. You might expect the staff in a government owned hotel to be a bit useless but then that’s no different to a privately owned hotel. Will have to make some more enquiries about that. Interesting that in India the great desire of most parents, who have the wherewithal, is to get their children as good an education as possible and get a government job, pretty much set for life apparently.
This is the view from my window at the Mascot Hotel

Just out for a walk up the street with her umbrella, in the driving lanes, back to the traffic !

The buses are great big chunky blocks of steel

If buses could be prisons, this is what they would look like

Not sure which is safer, umbrella woman or the family on the motorbike.
So many families have only a motorbike for transportation, if they are fortunate.

 Back to Kovalam Beach for the day

Did I mention that when you hire a lounger and an umbrella for the day you get a dog ? 
There are all these really cool, very healthy "beach dogs" that grab the shade for the day.

My fruit lady. Cuts up pineapple, mango papaya etc and serves it up right on the beach

And sunset before prawns

Then it was out to the airport the next day and off to Bangalore. Flight was fine and easy, got a taxi from the airport, paid a bit more than usual but got an exceptional and safe service, considering where I had to get to. Was about 80kms to my hotel, could have been about 3.5 hours driving right through the city of Bangalore but the driver asked my permission to go a "jumpy-bumpy" way through the villages which would only take two hours. Of course I agreed and it was interesting that within a few hundred metres of going off course his phone was ringing and was his office asking why. Obviously had GPS tracking on the vehicle and that was worth paying for. Got to the wost hotel in the history of the the planet, fortunately only one short night and I was out of there. 

Next morning I was out of that dump in a flash and off on the last leg of the journey toward Tiruvannamali. Had an arranged taxi and what should turn up but an old Morris Oxford-style Ambassador. Never been in one before and was quite excited. The most interesting thing about this one is that it’s actually only two years old from new. A two litre diesel engine and, wait for it, air-conditioning. If last nights “jumpy-bumpy” road wasn’t bad enough well a full 110km of this journey was like driving up the worst part of the Waimakariri River, seriously, a 200km journey that takes four to five hours in a taxi, anything up to nine or ten hours in a bus (and that’s why we take taxis here sometimes) great car, very bad bench seats that are still from the 1950s I suspect.

  Kumar and his Ambassador Taxi when we stopped for chai

Family of five on a bike, any higher offers ?

I love these sights, not always easy to capture them


Cows with coloured hand-prints all over them

And finally, Tiruvannamalai. 
This is the view from my room, with the famous Arunachala Hill in the background