Guru Yogi Kheiry

Posted: December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Its 3.55am, I can’t sleep. I’m back in London, jet lagged. Its almost 11am in Thailand and I concede to the fact that I aint getting any more slumber tonight. I tell myself I did well to make it this far and it will get better tomorrow.

I have a sip of water and sit cross-legged on the floor and begin Pranayama breathing. 10minutes later I am filled with so much energy I don’t know what to do with it and with that there go all my chances of falling asleep again.

Its 4.20AM and here I am writing to you after many months of silence.

I have just returned from the most formidable 9 days in Yoga retreat on the small Island of Koh Yao Noi on the west coast of Thailand.

Before I divulge more, let’s start from the beginning shall we? I have as of late stumbled on 3 months of splendid leave between jobs. After having sorted out my main priorities, I decide to spin the globe once again and embark on yet another adventure. It has not been an easy 12 months for me and it was time to check in with myself again.

I had heard legends told about how amazing rock climbing is in Thailand so I Googled just that, and as the powers of fate may have it, I stumbled on the Island Yoga website by complete accident. A very basic, uninviting website, that somehow called to me. I booked without a second thought. With your room you get breakfast and yoga twice daily, first session is 2hrs at 7.30am, second session is 1.5hrs at 4.30. The island was your oyster for everything in between. Rock climbing was still on the cards! It was win-win.

Island Yoga is essentially a retreat. Providing bungalows that you can either occupy as a single or team up with a roomie. For maximum soul searching, I chose the former. Other amenities are an open family dining area where yogis share meals together, namely post yoga breakfast. I especially loved teasing friends and family back home by sending back a digital image of the sweeping view from breakfast:

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SLEEPING at Island Yoga:

The bungalow is basic and clean. Two sets of steps take you to a porch, where you are equipped with a hammock for maximum relaxation. You walk through the door and find 2 beds that can be separated or joined to form one. You are filled with a feeling of calm, and earthiness. The large mosquito net that covers the bed reminds you that you are in South East Asia and not to take your insect protection lightly. There is a large cupboard with plenty of room to hang and stack clothes. Behind that is the bathroom. These are basic bathrooms. I am a shower person, and to be honest this was a bit of let down, but you remind yourself that this is a yoga retreat and it’s all about Yoga- not showers. What matters most is that the bathrooms worked and were clean, and that they were.

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My Bungalow

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YOGA SCHEDULE:

Less than 20 steps away is the yoga studio. 365 degrees of glass, surrounded by the best flora and fauna the island can offer. In the distance you are served with a short but satisfying measure of the west seas of Thailand. If handled with care, it is within this studio where one can find their inner self.

There are two classes a day, one two hour session at 7.30am, followed by a “family breakfast” where all yogis eat together followed by whatever activities you have planned for the day (or not planned, or do absolutely nothing which can be just as rewarding!). There is a second daily class at 4pm which lasts about 1.5hrs.

I am a beginner. I found the schedule tough with the jet lag. Getting up at 7.15 when your body clock is 7hrs behind is insane! Took me more than a few days to get over it – and I would plan ahead around that. The Yoga itself I found challenging. And I was glad of it. I probably would have gotten very bored if it were easy. In the heat it makes it doubly tough. There are about 5 rotating fans in the studio and its funny cos on your first few days you just want to do Yoga. Then believe me you will quickly wise up and try and position yourself where you get maximum ventilation. I knew the others weren’t randomly picking spots! Grrr. Completely different experience all together. So remember.. POSITION yourself.

Breakfast was always the best part of the day – They made you earn it. My favourite was the eggs. Try the Omelette, along with the Yoga shake. Your body will want something nice and heavy to fill the void.

The 4:30 session was always my preferred one. Especially when Aikiko did one of her Yin classes. It

At Island Yoga they rotate teachers between David, Aikiko and Heather. All three have completely different styles. The only thing that seemed constant was that the morning session was more energy driven and evenings were more meditative and unwinding – the way it should be.

THE TEACHERS:

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David is the head guy at Island Yoga. Think great whisps of hair, intense eyes, relaxed face with a small but ripped figure. He says “Yoga is the work of my life and rock climbing is my passion” – my kinda guy. David is originally from Wales and has been practising Yoga ever since he can remember.  He’s not been back to the UK in over 20 years and his life is now comfortably out in Thailand. His style is mixed and will take you from meditation into pranayama  into Chi Gong into Ashtanga in the space of 2 hours. With the rising morning Thai sun, and the big glass studio you are in, it will start to bake a little. You are thankful for the occasional breathe that escapes in through the chinks in the windows.

Aikiko. David’s partner from Japan, is more of the Yin and Tibetan singing bowls practitioner. She practises Reiki healing, which you can arrange separately with her. Her style is more mystical and will make you think a lot more. Sometimes you will be in a pose for so long with her that you have time to admire one of the many stunning butterflies that fly in and around the studio all day. Do not underestimate her ability to switch the tempo up if she wants to, and she will, and you will sweat.

Heather, the local Californian, has Native American features, very softly spoken and very at one with herself. I did not do so many sessions with her but its definitely “one with the earth”. Universal love and Yoga. This is her style and in her sessions you will be creative, and vocal. She will mix many techniques and is more Hatta & Karma yoga focused. Its a really excellent flow with Heather, many of the other Yogis loved her and she really offers an alternative point of view on the practice. It’s one of the genius things about this place, it’s non conformist and you get a taste of everything. Probably my least favourite of the three styles but definitely one to try.

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Sunsets can be very rewarding in this corner of the globe.

NING:

Ning is probably one of the loveliest ladies I met in 2012. She lives in the main house with her kids and basically is the lady in charge. Ning takes care of everything for you. If you need a booking for a massage on the island (phenomenal- highly recommended), if you want to do a cooking class, organise transport, rent a scooter, go scuba diving, have a slap up meal, she’s you’re go-to girl. She has the loveliest smile and her English is fluent. She will transform your stay. Thank you Ning.

INDIANA JONES:

David will organise an adventure day every week and I highly urge anyone to join in. This will usually either be jungle trekking or kayaking. Kayaking is what I signed up for.

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Here you take a boat to another island closer to Krabi, which in itself is stunning. You rent Kayaks and David will lead you along the coast line into an island through a river system that is riddled with mangroves. Here you are transported into what I can only describe to be Indiana Jones territory. Mind blowingly beautiful. Some of the most stunning wildlife on earth here. I will not go into much detail as I really want you to go and see it for yourself, I want YOUR jaw to drop like mine did. A bubble dwelling Lebanese person once said it best: “It was such a wow”

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Heading back after a day of adventure.

DELICIOUS THAI FOOD:

Do you like cooking? Book a cooking class with Mina. She is a wonderful lady and extremely patient. She can do classes of up to 4 people at a time. You will learn how to cook typical Thai dishes of your choice. You literally have a menu to choose from and you will learn everything in detail and be given a cookbook to take home with you. I love food, and I love to cook. This was a lot of fun and I think the pictures speak for themselves. If you want to experience the colours and flavours of Thai cooking go see Mina. Ning will organise it. One word of advice, don’t go at night, she’s got a field in front of her house and has to open the windows for ventilation. So when she switches her kitchen light on, it’s like a gigantic beacon summoning all creepy crawlies that live in the Kingdom of Thailand.

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Mina and her adopted son. Thank you so much for the cooking class!

END NOTE:

For a beginner yogi this place is awesome, because you do touch on an entire spectrum of yoga. You will also do things you probably never do in your Yoga studio at home. Be prepared to meditate, chant, and try new poses.

For the more seasoned expert, this place is also awesome. Simply because everyone goes at their own pace. Remember, all three practitioners have a wealth of experience you can draw on in order to further advance or tweak your own technique.

This place is not a 5* hotel. The amenities are clean & the beds are comfortable. The food is beyond excellent in and around Island yoga. The island is stunning. The people are wonderful.  You will meet new people. Real people from the real world.

I am from London. I work for an investment bank. I grew up around that kind of life. If you know where I am coming from, take this as an opportunity to experience something real for once.

They say that places that have so many butterflies are filled with positive energy. Why don’t you try it?

Love Kheiry

(I leave you with one last cheeky image)

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Take a chance… You know you want to.

Happy New Year

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’m not one for New Years and NY Resolutions. But when asked last night to list 3 new year’s resolutions I was stuck. Are they not the same as goals? or should they be  more than just a goal? Open to interpretation.

I wanted to kick start the new year by just wishing all my readers love, peace and happiness. May it be filled full of fulfilled goal fuelled fun. I for one intend on not dropping the ball either. See you on the other side.

Cheers. And happy 2012.

K

We are so Lucky.. And so BLIND.

Posted: October 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

Kolkata rocked, but it was time to experience Varanasi, said to be the oldest living city in the world – over 3000 years old! Its my last 2 nights on this trip, so here I splurge beyond splurging. I book the Nadesar Palace – A Taj Hotel. This place is no ordinary hotel. It is the Maharaja’s palace, and only has 10 suites. Each suite is named after some of the famous guests and dignitaries that have stayed there over the years. After checking into my room, I’m told the King of Bhutan once stayed there with his wife when visiting the Maharaja. Its one of the lesser rooms, not that there are any “lesser” rooms in this place. Service, impeccable. Own butler. Private audience with a flutist every morning and evening. 48 acres of land. Complimentary horse drawn carriage tour of the grounds. Because Varanasi has very little greenery, the birds of the area flock to the palace from all over. Kingfishers, Parrots, Eagles are amongst the many birds I recognised.

A couple of sneaky glimpses into this fantasy world:

How much is splurging in India? $500 a night. But you can go crazy in this place. Later I was given a tour of the more expensive suites and quickly decided that mine, the cheapest of the lot was by far the best. The opulence was just way too much everywhere else. Again, if you get the opportunity, treat yourself.

With the driver we head into the centre of Varanasi, where we take a boat with a rower down the Ganges to witness the Diwali opening ceremony. Getting to the boat was chaos. People, cars, bikes, rickshaws, pure madness. I snap some shots to try and capture this madness but its impossible. I do try though.

We row to a Ghat where the main festivities are happening. The rower, a 15year old, lives nearby, attends school during the day but spends most his time on the boat, rowing people up and down the strong-currents of the Ganges. He takes us to where many other boats are docked to watch the ceremony. The atmosphere is electric, full of believers cupping their hands together in prayer to their gods, giving thanks for their safety. I felt privileged, just being a mere spectator of this.

We then go further along the banks to witness the “Burning”. Where cremations happen right on the river, the ashes are spread into the river for the souls to follow on to where they are going next. The Ganges is the mother, and represents the flow of life. It is many a Hindu’s desire to have their ashes spread in this river when their time comes. You are encouraged not to take any photographs here, out of respect for the dead. And rightly so.

After a phenomenal dinner at a local North Indian restaurant near the hotel, it is time to retire in the ever so cramped confines of the Palace. The next day the driver comes back around midday (I spend the morning with a paper, coffee and masala omelettes. which at the Nadesar palace, are awe-inspiring) and we head back into the city to visit the many temples. Again, photography is strictly prohibited. We visit the monkey temple (where monkeys roam free, fun… but the smell that ensues is not), the main Shiva temple, followed by a visit to the “Muslim Silk House” in the Islamic quadrant of Varanasi. Where I experience / witness child labour for the first time. Shocking. There are watchers here and I am careful, but manage to get a shot or two. Here the textile process was explained to me from weaving to dying. The conditions these children (and elderly) work in are appalling. There’s a reason why they call them sweat shops. I will not delve into these details but should you have any questions please contact me directly.

 

At the end of the day I make some new friends… who smile and laugh more than anyone I know, despite the extreme poverty they live in:

We are so lucky… And so BLIND.

Love

Kheiry

 

 

Kool-Kata

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

The gap here is Goa. I skipped blogging from Goa. I honestly don’t think there is anything I can say that you haven’t heard already. Really chilled, great beaches, excellent food (try the prawn curry, don’t try their local alcohol- puke).

I decided to literally cross the country back to the Nepalese border to see Kolkata on a complete whim. I had a few days left in India, so decided to make use of them.

Kolkata is beautiful. A lot of people will tell you its busy and dirty. What Indian city isn’t? The architecture was the first thing I noticed. If you are short on time, the best thing to do is to grab a yellow cab and pay by meter. He will take you everywhere you need to go. Kolkata is enormous (71 sqm or 185 skm), and with traffic, it can take about 30mins to get between places of interest.

The cabby:

 

Didn’t catch his name. Great man. Be careful though… When I say they charge you what’s on the meter, they actually double it for personal hire, and will try and strap on an extra “tip” for any waiting around between sights that they do. All in all, the bill was 900 INR for what must have been about 5-6 hours. I make that about $20 or £15. I think that’s value for money in a huge city, no faffing.

Along with my nameless cabby we became a team. Only having 1 afternoon there, we managed to see the Victoria Memorial, Kali Temple, Botanical Gardens, Jain Temple and a quick drive by  The Marble Palace.

Here’s a run down.

Victoria Memorial:

Feels like a combination of the V&A museum and Hyde Park, in fact, there were a few V&A logo’s as they’ve sponsored parts of a new exhibit there. For someone who lives and grew up in K&C (Kensington- London) this was nothing new. In fact it was a stark reminder of colonialism at it’s height in India. Breezed right through. But here are a couple of pictures:

      

 

The Kali Temple:

Something significantly more special than the Victoria Memorial. This temple was built in the mid 19th century and sits on the bank of the Hooghly River. You have to cross a busy food market to get to the main gate. Here you can get fresh fruit, fresh juice, kali statues and sweets / other offerings for the Hindu gods. The architecture here is impressive, as you walk through the main gates you enter the main compound, surrounded by 9 maroon coloured spires with the main one in the middle. Also attached the main entrance (by the river) is a  massive ghat where believers bathe during their visits. A strong current runs here but if you hang out long enough you witness some beautiful sights:

Bathing on the Ghat at the entrance of the temple:

 

 

The main spires:

 

The Botanical Gardens:

A true gem. One of the highlights in fact. I won’t delve into this too much but, this place is absolutely enormous. Got completely lost and cabby had to drive round the gates for ages til we found eachother. The place is spread out over almost 300 acres so you can understand why… In any case, the best part of these gardens is the “Great Banyan Tree”. So great in fact that it holds a place in the Guinness Book of Records. It is the largest Banyan Tree in the world. I think pictures in this case will speak much louder than words, because honestly… I have never seen anything like this. Felt like being in a forest, but it was in fact one tree with so many inter-connected branches and trunks that it made up JUST ONE TREE. If you get spare 34 seconds, check out this video on youtube of it:

Here are my shots from inside, then outside:

 

 

 

UNREAL.

The Jain Temple:

This felt a little Disney-like. Not entirely sure how to describe this one, but definitely another highlight a long with the B-Gardens. I have to say, I have never been to a temple like this one in India (says the seasoned pro…wink). No but honestly, the colours here are the main attraction. Purples and pinks and other dreamy colours. Its over 100 years old (though you wouldn’t believe it, its so well maintained), built by an art connoisseur named Ray Badridas Bahadur in 1867. It actually houses 4 different temples with a main courtyard in the centre. Really enjoyed it and I highly recommend you leave it to the last.

Main courtyard:

Time to head back to the hotel. On the way we pass by the Marble Palace, but it was too late to go in as they shut just before sunset. This, according to the guidebooks is a very interesting place to visit, housing some of the greatest antiquities in India. It’s free to go in, but you need to tip the people that run the place. Very opulent looking place from the outside. I manage to snap a shot just as they are closing the gates:

Quick note on the hotel, the Oberoi:

The Oberoi Kolkata. Probably one of the most famous 5* hotel chains in India. If you want to splurge, and truly treat yourself, I highly recommend this place. It will completely remove you from the madness of Kolkata and transport you to colonial bliss. I’m not going to lie… At 13000 INR a night ( just over $200/£150), it’s expensive. But after a long….. EVENTFUL….. 2 months, it was totally worth the treat. If you’re ever there, and have some room to do it… Go for it:

On to my final stop, Varanasi, the city of temples.

Love

K

 

The Backwaters of Kerala

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Need I say more?

99% of the reason why people travel all the way to Kerala is to take a cruise around the complex canal system otherwise known as the backwaters. I had to do it.

I take the train from Varsala to “Backwater Central” – Allepei. Allepei is referred to as the Venice of the East. When you first get there you will immediately ask yourself WHY? Its a busy city. Just like any other South Indian city. Insane. Somewhat organised chaos in the streets. Madness to put it bluntly. I get to my homestay there, rated highly on tripadvisor, my ONLY guide now (I ditched my lonely planet long-ago). My homestay, the Venice Castle.. is not much to write home about. It’s super clean though, has air conditioning (life-saving in the humidity here), located a stone’s throw from the back water banks,  and has PHENOMENAL staff. They will bend over backwards to make sure you get what you need. At $50/night, I wasn’t complaining. AT ALL. Only thing I’d say though is as much as their electrically-reinforced tennis racket is to play with, bring some strong mosquito repellant- they are a-plenty.

Allepei, once a key shipping city and water-gateway to the rest of the world, is now a big, bustling city. I did some touring, but in the heat, I simply couldn’t enjoy myself. I just wanted to get on the canals and do my own thing.

I had drinks with 3 lovely sisters I met at breakfast. Their names evade me, something that comes naturally when you have been on the constant trot. In their mid-60’s, with one living in California and two in Andalucia, they reunited to retrace their childhood in India, where they grew up with the mother and father, a civil engineer in Southern India. They came to find the house they grew up in and what an excellent adventure/story it has become with its very own twists and turns. Awesome story. We had beers and dinner on the beach and traded stories, though there’s I must say were naturally way cooler than mine!

It was the backwaters I wanted though, and for 300 rupees ($6 or about £4) an hour I had a private boat take me for my canal tour. This is where the venice bit comes into play, just take out all the beautiful buildings and replace with unrestricted, green, gorgeous nature. D.Attenborough, eat your heart out:

 

We were out for the whole day. We passed through many small villages. Running into friends of his. I took a decent portrait shot of my boat-driver. Fantastic guy. Didn’t speak much , which suited me perfect, I just wanted to enjoy it all in peace. And peace I got.

My boat-driver “Michael”:

Great man. Great driver.

We meandered through the canals, and saw some incredible things. I am no bird-watcher, but I was fascinated by the occasional  visits we got from the Darter bird. I was lucky enough to snap a shot of this fellow before he dived down to catch a fish. We also caught glimpses of Kingfishers but I was never fast enough to snap a worthy image.

 

As you go through the canals, the most memorable sound you will hear is of the slapping non-stop slapping noise you hear of village-women washing and drying their clothes along the river banks. They find themselves a good spot on the bank, rinse, wash and squeeze by hand followed by a whipping slap on a flat rock surface on the bank before hanging the clothes up to dry. As long as there is daylight, and you are passing through a village, expect to hear it. Quite rythmic, and incessant.

      

What people / couples usually do is rent a house boat and will either travel upriver or down river for 1-2 nights to get to another destination or major port. These houseboats are made out of rice-barges and range from super-basic to uber-luxurious, boasting satellite tv and wifi! They look like a lot of fun, and would be great in a group, but I’ve also been warned that travelling alone on one of these can be very boring. I would even say it would be a shame, to hire an entire house boat, which comes complete with captain and cook, and not have anyone to share the experience with. The food on these boats is renowned to be finger-likin’ good. Having travelled up the Keralan coast, and eaten in all kinds of places along the way, I am not surprised one bit. Heres a couple of shots for your pleasure (Check out the huge AC unit on the back!):

       

Before the long stretch home, we stop to have lunch at a restaurant on the river bank. Nothing new here, all very fresh and very delicious, cooked and prepared in much of the same way I’ve been describing throughout my journey.

Scenery is breathtaking throughout the ride back home:

 

……………….I leave you with my smile… Which I believe “Says it All”:

 

I bid you good day… Wherever you may be.

Am now, treading the beaches of Goa, with no regrets. A-tout.

Kheiry

Cookin’ up a Storm…

Posted: October 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today my host gave me a cooking lesson in her rough and ready kitchen!

I don’t know why it’s labelled as “THE SHOP” – because it’s the kitchen. I like my hygiene as much as the next hypochondriac but f-me… I was shocked that I had eaten from this kitchen on more than one occasion during my stay here in Varkala.

Anyway… I proceeded with the class none-the less…  Please bare with me on the ingredients. Nothing is exact here, and I am writing this purely from memory. I sadly did not jot any notes down.

So my host, Rani… A lovely Keralan lady with a big personality, sits me down on the table. She explains to me, in true Hitleresque style, that I am to observe and help when necessary. I salute her.

“So what are we cooking?”

“Chicken Curry”

“Does it have a particular name?”

“Chicken Curry”

…. I sigh.

            

We start with the veggie chopping. Everything is here. Onions, Garlic, Ginger, Cucumbers, Pumpkin, Broad Beans, Okra. Finally we pick a couple of green chillies from a sapling and chuck it into the mix to be boiled.

         

I expertly chop away as per her direction… Check out my finely chopped ginger! Sweet.

         

We make a quick salad out of tomatoes, garlic, onions and curd. Curd’s a key ingredient here in Kerala, we pour a whole packet in and add a pinch of salt. Another one we quickly put together is cucumbers, onions, okra and some salt. Yummo.

         

I’ve had this little salad before, its fantastic on its own, goes even better when mixed with rice. It’s the kind you’d lap up and is the perfect companion for any curry.

Next is the paste that we add to the crunchy cabbage mix. This bit was fun. We pick a coconut from the grove (pick any tree you like, these have the house surrounded!). We cut in half and scrap out the contents, including the brown bits. We’re in organic country, you gotta be rustic with this. Into a grinder with some turmeric she spoons out of a used nescafe pot, pinch of aniseed (intense flavour), onions and garlic, and slap in a bit of chopped green chili.

                  

We pour cooked dhal into the mix and blend it. And its ready.

Everything is cooked in coconut oil that Rani makes herself. She keeps it in a plastic water bottle very close by.

Finally. The Chicken… Out come the chicken chunks, we throw in the chopped garlic, onions, some curry leaves, green chillies, red chili powder, turmeric, ginger coriander, more grated coconut, and a big pinch of salt. That gets mixed up and chucked on an open fire.

         

Annnnnnnnnnd we’re done!

VOILA:

All in all…. It was more of a “watch and learn” than a “cook and learn”. Still not bad for my first ever cooking class. Best bit was that I got to eat the meal! Experience-wise I would rate this as a 7/10. If you do it, make sure you do it somewhere well ventilated (I was drenched from the humidity, especially with the heat coming from the cooking fire). Also make sure you emphasize to your tutor some level of enthusiasm toward hygiene.

My final piece of advice/fact: there’s less bone in an Indian fish than there is in an Indian Chicken.

Over and out from Varkala.

Kheiry

Incredible India

Posted: October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well hello from Kerala… South West India.

Here’s a quick run down of events..

Pokhara… All in all – 8/10…. I highly recommend.

Someone told me that Kerala is the most relaxing part of India. Beaches, backwaters, the origin of Ayurveda, Yoga everywhere, you name it. After a bout of HAPE, I think it’s worth considering. So I take a tiny plane from Pokhara to Kathmandu, the same rickety plane I described to you countless times, flown in the same manner, with the same risks! I land in Kathmandu, settle some final bills with Babu (our logistics guy- always smiling). We stop at his golf club (very fancy) to kill some time in between flights. I order a cheese toasty and an ice tea, some monkeys come to greet us:

I jump on a more sophisticated… medium size plane for my two hour flight from KTM to Mumbai. Wish I had my camera to show the shanty town(s) on our descent to Mumbai Int’l (Largest slum in the world apparently). Overwhelming. In Mumbai my layover is a couple of hours, and luckily I don’t need to transfer to the domestic terminal. From there I board a jumbo jet bound for Saudi, stopping in the “capital” of Kerala- Trivandrum.

I have arranged to live at a “homestay” – India’s version of B&Bs. You basically rent a room and live with an Indian family. There I got to meet Giles and Sylvia (brother and sister)- my hosts. Probably the most wonderful hosts on the planet. Giles has been a graphic designer since the 70s, he’s a little guy, full of geeky knowledge of things, and loves to converse. I was the only guest there and we ended up chatting for hours every day. What a great man. Fantastic place. They inherited it from their grandfather and built an annex for guests to live in. Within their land they grow organic fruits and veggies that they serve at breakfast. Fantastic papayas. I ate breakfast and dinner with the familia almost everyday. Giles’s wife (who’s name escaped me very quickly) cooked every meal. One of the things about Kerala, is the cuisine… I can’t get enough of it! I have had dish after dish, and if you bear with me I will try to describe in time. My room balcony gives onto their groves and some epic sunsets:

Doesn’t get more relaxing.

I do my washing… And learn how to use a semi-automatic washing machine. A 60’s timewarp. Works like a charm. They have 4 dobermans that guard the house, they release them every night. I love dogs, but these guys are not pets… They are there to kill any intruder. They were mean to me 😦 Funny thing… There is a mosque in the distance… and when the call to prayer happens the dogs start howling for the first 60 seconds, then stop. I guess in this part of the world… if it’s not a rooster, its going to be dogs howling 5 times a day right? I figure its the perfect wake up call for my morning yoga session which I’ve organised with the world famous Sivananda yoga centre.

They send me my yogamaster – Jinu… Every day at 6:30. Great way to start your day! He’s shorter than giles, maybe 5’4. He’s strict – doesn’t quite beat me with a stick but still… You don’t wanna make any mistakes with this guy. We train every morning on my balcony. We start with a prayer of which I understand not a single word. This is followed by about 40mins of breathing exercises that I must say I really enjoyed- you truly mellow out. Then the hard work starts. Starts easy then gets really tough. Sivananda is known to hit you with some hard moves every now and again even though you are a complete beginner (like moi).

The balcony:

We finish our session with another Hindu prayer I do not understand the words to.

Its now about 8am. I go downstairs to the kitchen for breaky. This ranges from a boiled egg curry, to rice flower with coconuts and banana to egg toasties! Always very filling.

Being in the epicentre of Ayurveda, I decide to book myself for a week-long treatment. On the first day my Ayurvedic doctor met me, took my pulse and blood pressure. 100 / 70. Apparently a little low. So he suggests I do some treatments that will sort it out, rejuvenate and energise me. I’m in. This happens every day at 9 and takes 2 hours, so by the time i’m done i’ve got the rest of the day to explore.

A note on Ayurveda…It’s ancient. Like before Christ ancient. Its an alternative form of medicine. Hinduism being a serious focal point of the medicine. Everything gets done in 3s or 5s. So you can’t just rock up for a quick-massage. Some people come for 2 weeks to 2months to even 3months of the treatment. I settled for a week. So I got two treatments 3 days each:

The first intro day, I had an full body oil massage- only thing is, the massage table is made entirely of one piece of wood. Carved out of an enormous tree, no joints. Impressive I think… Until I lie down on the WOOD surface. What… no padding? No sir… The wood, is medicated apparently. Uncomfortable beyond words… But medicated. Ouchies. After the massage they give me a steam treatment. Also archeic. This is what it looks like (sorry picture borrowed from another source). Really weird. The steam, is medicated… Thats all i know.

3 days of oil treatment. After a full body massage they set up a contraption where hot oil (medicated..) is poured onto your forehead for 30-40mins. Amazing feeling. It claims to release any trapped nerves and improves brain flow. Must be the medicated oil… But it does work.

Almost there…

3 days of more oil treatment. Same as above but on your entire body. Hot oil. And yes… medicated! They first pound you with small wrap of leaves that have been prepared overnight. These leaves (with medicinal properties) get boiled with other herbs and rapped tightly in cloth-balls. They heat these balls in hot oil, and gently tap you all over with it.

By the end of the week I’m feeling refreshed. Please go to this place if you want to be brought back to life! It is right next to Giles and Sylvia’s ($40/night, inc breaky), and a week long’s treatment will set you back about £120 ($240)- Very small price to pay vs UK/Rest of World prices.

Advice, do not do more than a week of treatments, it gets very repetitive… and OILY.

I end it with a handshake. He gives me a pill, says take it at 6am. It is for purging he says. You will “go to the toilet” 5-6 times, so make no plans. You will also feel nausea, and stomach cramps. I say thank you and put the pill in my pocket. I leave the centre, I take the pill out of my pocket and into the next trash can. F that.

During my days I take walks and rickshaws everywhere:

Loads of fun, filled with close-calls. Story of my trip… and I’m used to it by now!

I sip on Chai while being stared down by a one-legged crow. I see the occasional rodent (will not go into detail here). Explore the city. Very busy. Very loud. Very horny. Car-horns that is. Unfortunately. Alcohol is hard to come by. It is only sold in state run shops. Strangely similar to Sweden’s systembolaget, minus the uniformity. Trivandrum is the first city in India that took to communism. There are hammer and sickle grafitis everywhere. It has the best religious cohesion in India i’m told. Giles tells me his muslim neighbours invite him for Iftar during ramadan and they return the invites during Easter and Christmas, same for Hindus. They are famous for having a church, mosque and hindu temple all in the same block in the city’s bustling centre.

I ate at an Indian Coffee House. Probably the most interesting dining experience of my life. You sit and ask for a meal. There is a no menu, you get what they are serving that day. They slam down a huge plate of rice with a poppadum on top. With it comes a fish curry, grilled fish and a plate of condiments (Curry powder and pickled lime were the only ones I recognised… I probably should have asked about the others). You eat with your right hand (big faux pas to use the left- which is traditionally reserved for wiping your ass and putting shoes on, right is for eating and hand shakes… what if you’re a lefty?). It’s eat all you want, the only way to signal the end of your meal (and their incessant re-serving/topping up) is to get up and head to the sinks where you wash your hands. Fantastic and filling meal, for $1.20! including a coffee!

I took the bus to Kovalam beach. A beach resort 45mins away from Trivandrum. I went from struggling to find tourists in Trivandrum to struggling to find locals in Kovalam. Culture shock. Still, it was nice to spend the day at the beach. I had a beer and a meal, and witnessed a phenomenal sunset (10/10!) I managed to snap a shot:

Had to hit you with the larger size…

Heres one with my meal:

A good end to a good day? Nope… The bus ride back. I faux-pas. I always thought with my Middle Eastern background I could dance around faux pas’ing in most of the world. But I managed it. I sit next to a woman at the front of the bus. It takes me a while to realise why all the women at the front of the bus were giving me dirty looks. The ticket man asks me kindly to sit at the back of the bus, where there is no space, I say no thanks. He asks again. Please sir, move to the back of the bus. The penny drops. All the women sit in the front and the men in the back. I get taunted at in Hindi, I have no idea what they are saying. I quietly move to the back. I spent the rest of the bus-ride in some dudes arm-pit. Nice. A kodak moment I couldn’t capture. I witness countless fights. All in Hindi. Probably about bus fares. No clue.

On my last day in Trivandrum I walk through the market.

Its full of colour. The market. I understand it. Its the closest thing to my work. Its sales. Its the trading floor. Its the screams and the shouts. I walk past the banana lady. “More banana’s than you can throw a starving monkey at” according to lonely planet. Very true. I snap a shot for your enjoyment.

All the big food groups are here. I walk through the market during the “rush”, when everyone is finished with work and are on their way home. They need their fresh groceries. Hence the rush. Screams in Hindi. Fresh Fish! Fresh Garlic! Fresh fresh fresh. I stop to ask where they get their produce. Some local some from abroad. They are proud of their produce. The fish so fresh you need to slap it. I pass through the salted fish section. Very smelly.

I walk by the onions and garlic. So colourful..

Can’t get enough of this place. But I have to move on. I leave Giles and Sylvia’s, move further North towards the coast and head to Varkala. Where I now write to you.

I promise the next one will be shorter. I hope you enjoyed.

But until then…I remain forever yours.

Kheiry

PS… Here’s a monkey I saw on the road. What a sweetheart. Love my monkey piccies…