Friday, September 01, 2006

24 hours in Trivandrum

Kerala was always one of my top 5 destinations to visit in India. Earlier this month, I went to Trivandrum for some animal related work and though the stay was short but sweet, I promised myself that I would go back. My 24 hours in Trivandrum left the following impressions.

I got out of the airport and planned to take a bus to town when a very friendly rickshawala told me that he would reach me to a good hotel in Rs 50 and after some bargaining settled for Rs 30. The hotel was a foot away from the railway track and I decided to look for another one, as I did not want to stay awake all night, I decided to look for another one. My rickshawala was still waiting and he told me that he would take me to another one for “no charge”. So finally, I checked myself into Hotel Venkateshwara, which had a small but clean room and bathroom and was close to the railway station and bus stand.

Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram as it is now known is a small and relatively green city but like all developing Indian cities, it is losing its traditional architectural beauty with the Mangalore tiled houses giving way to modern buildings and shopping complexes. As I moved away from the city towards the suburbs, it became greener with lots of coconut trees, small houses with Mangalore tiled roofs and I also passed a small river surrounded by dense vegetation.

The Trivandrum that I explored was only to be after 10 pm and before 9 am the next day. I think the best way to explore and absorb a city is to walk around (stray around) or use the public transport. I walked from my hotel which was near the railway station via M G Road through almost half of Trivandrum in areas like Thampanoor, Chalai Market, East Fort, Bakery Junction, Statue (yes, it’s just called Statue), Kowdiar Palace and so on. I am sure all these names have some history attached that I don’t know of. On my way back, I took a KSRTC bus and the conductor was very helpful to tell me which was the bus stop nearest to my hotel. I of course, did not get to see the places that tourists to Trivandrum would visit like Kovalam beach, Napier Museum in the zoo , Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Sri Chitra Art Gallery (houses a rich collection of paintings of Raja Ravi Varma) and the East Fort. I managed to take a picture of the old gate of the East Fort from the rickshaw)

I did not get to taste a lot of the delicious Keralite Cuisine because of my short stay but managed to grab a dosa with fresh coconut chutney and delicious sambar at Rs 6 and filter coffee at Rs 3.50 at a Hotel Aryas which I later discovered was a chain of restaurants all over Trivandrum (maybe like the Kamats in Bombay). Also had a Kerala parota with vegetable kuruma (yes, spelt that way). Missed out having appams, idiappams and veg stew.

I had always thought that all South Indians were coffee drinkers and when I saw a ‘tapri’ (I am sure it’s not called that in Trivandrum) on the footpath selling a hot beverage, I went and asked the guy for a coffee. I was surprised when he said that he had tea and not coffee. He was also selling some wadas on the side (medu wadas and banana bhajiyas). It was a pleasure to see the ingenious way he made the tea. There were several such tea sellers at every street corner all over Trivandrum.

Some of the striking features in Trivandrum were as follows …. Newspaper stands and book shops being sold all over (Kerala being the most literate state in India) , lottery tickets being sold on the street and in mobile vans (one guy was selling them in a Maruti Omni while continuously announcing something in Malayalam over the loudspeaker tied to the Omni’s roof), Bananas (yellow, green and red) hung outside all shops irrespective of what they were selling, Hindi, Malayalam and English film posters stuck on walls, beautiful multi-colored temples all over reminding me of the temples in Chembur & Matunga, Meals Ready signs in Malayalam and English outside eating joints and of course banana, jackfruit and tapioca chips being fried in huge kadai and sold fresh.

I left Trivandum after drinking MAA at the airport – a darker Appy like apple juice served in a tetrapack and resolved to go back to Kerala as a tourist so that I could stray around much more.

1 comment:

SloganMurugan said...

Most of South India is actually tea drinking.