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Embedded Photos: 1.Leaving Fort Cochin, Kerela 2.Sunset on Ferry, Lakshadweep 3.Sitting on the Spit, Lakshadweep 4.Dusk at the Resort, Lakshadweep 5.Coconut Factory, Lakshadweep 6.Kadmat Downtown, Lakshadweep 7.The Muslim Family, Lakshadweep
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Lakshadweep, India
SRI LANKA Colombo Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27-29 Nuwara Eliya Oct 30 Oct 31 Kandy Nov 1-5 (1) Nov 1-5 (II) Polonnaruwa Nov 6 Sigiriya & Dambulla Nov 7 Colombo Nov 8

INDIA Ft.Cochin Nov 9-15 (I) Nov 9-15 (II) Nov 16 Nov 17-18 Madurai Nov 19 Nov 20 Tiruchirapalli Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23 Chennai Nov 24 Nov 25-26 Nov 27-28 Ft.Cochin Nov 29 Lakshadweep Nov 30-Dec 4 (I) Nov 30-Dec 4 (II) Trans-India Train Dec 5-7 (I) Dec 5-7 (II) Siliguri Dec 8 Darjeeling Dec 9 Dec 10-13 Dec 14 Sikkim Dec 15 Dec 16-20 Dec 21-23 Dec 24 Dec 25 Darjeeling Dec 26 Dec 27-Jan 2 Siliguri Jan 3 Jaigon (Bhutan) Jan 4 Kolkata Jan 5-6

THAILAND Bangkok Jan 6-13 (I) Jan 6-13 (II) Jan 6-13 (III)

Lakshadweep, INDIA, November 2004

India Flag INDIA

November 29. KOCHI (ERNAKULUM) We arrived in Ernakulum in the morning and were relieved to return to the same hotel above Coffee Beanz, the Hakoba.  The guys in the cafe recognized us when we came in and almost anticipated which frothy coffee drinks we wanted to order.  With our afternoon we returned to wander around Fort Cochin.  We had booked train tickets from Ernakulum to Siliguri, in West Bengal, for the day we arrived back from our Lakshadweep trip.  It would be a long haul after our return boat ride but it meant we were on a direct train and wouldn't have to transfer...for two whole days!  To make things easier we looked into hotels in Fort Cochin where we could get cleaned up in between the boat and the train.  We tried to make reservations but with the tourist season getting busier none of them wanted to commit.  The Delight Lakshadweep, IndiaTourist Resort, where we had taken the cooking class, wouldn't take a reservation either but assured us it would be no problem to get a room when we got back.  Uh huh.

In the evening we enjoyed another Kathakali performance at the Kerela Kathakali Center.  We had expected a different show but ended up watching the same scenes we had seen before.  But our seats were better and we just got that much more out of it the second time.     

November 30 - December 4. LAKSHADWEEP Getting to our boat on Willingdon Island was the easy part of our Lakshadweep experience.  We just hopped a taxi to the Sports office, the tourism organization for Lakshawdweep.  There we were given some cheesy t-shirts and a badge for our trip.  We were on our own getting from the office to the ferry dock down the street.  Taxis were scarce and we couldn't both fit into a tuk tuk with our bags so we took separate tuk tuks down to the dock entrance.  At the gate we were stopped by security and they made a cursory inspection of our bags while we watched an entire Indian tour group walk through without even a glance.  Alcohol was prohibited on the Lakshadweep islands, since the people were Islamic, so naturally they assumed that the foreign touriLakshadweep, Indiasts would be the ones smuggling alcohol aboard.  

The boat was a large ferry with airplane style setting on one floor.  There was a limited number of tourist allow  so most of the boat was filled with locals returning to the islands.  Besides ourselves there were just three other non-Indian tourists on the boat.  A couple of British women who had just signed up the day before and a Dutch guy who had just signed up that morning.  The women were sitting behind us and told us that they were going to have to stay 2km away from the resort because the main compound was already full.  We were glad that we had signed up early and had confirmed that our room was going to be with all of the others, except that we didn't opt for A/C.  The local Indian tourists paid only a fraction of the rate we were paying and got A/C but we understood that was the way it worked.  We were paying $125/night while they paid about $55/night for a room without A/C.  

The boat ride took 18 hours from Kochi to Kadmat Island in Lakshadweep.  We left around noon on the 30th and arrived around six the following morning.  It wasn't such a bad ride, compared to other long trips we had taken, but sleeping in chairs is never really comfortable.  We spent some time up on deck enjoying the dark ocean views, starry night sky, and watching the fluorescence kick up in the wake of the boat.  Most of the people on the boat were low-key islanders.  Even though there was quite a few families the kids weren't out of control.  There was a second compartment at the back of the boat that was for women and children only, for the more strictly Muslim families.  But, the bathrooms were off of their seating area so they weren't exactly cloistered from the rest of the passengers.  Some okay meals were served throughout the trip and they arranged ours on special trays, since meals were part of our pre-paid experience.  They even played some movies on a TV and had a documentary about the islands.  The documentary tried to encourage environmental responsibility and after making references to western colonization of Native America stated that "we are all becoming 'white men'" when we cause destruction to the environment.  That analogy struck me as odd and at least a bit racist.  Underdeveloped countries like India don't contribute to world pollution as much as industrialized societies but on an individual level I think habits were far worse.  After meals the Indian locals and tourists just dumped their trash right into the open sea. 

While all of the islanders were quite laid back and easy going, thLakshadweep, Indiae Indian tour group that was going to Kadmat Island with us, was a totally different story.  It was an all-male business trip and they had smuggled copious amounts of hard alcohol onto the boat.  It was the very same group that passed us by as our bags were being search by the guards at the dock entrance.  There were visible signs about no-alcohol but at least they had enough respect to keep their drinking on the bow of the boat, away from the women and children.  Still it was a culturally insensitive thing to do and, to our surprise, they were joined by the two British women.  That was rather inconsistent since we'd all had a conversation about visiting Lakshadweep because it was a culturally preserved region.  But we just figured they were all having their last hurrah on the boat before we got the island.   

By about 10pm the TV went off and the cabin quieted down.  I slept in my seat but Rob was too uncomfortable and spent the night stretched out across a large coiled rope on the bow of the boat (after the Indian tour group retired).  When the boat reached Kadmat Island it had to drop anchor outside the reef and local long boats came out to pick us up.  We precariously handed our packs down and climbed onto one of the boats.  The shore was quite some distance away from the reef, creating a huge shallow lagoon on the north side of the island.  The boats carefully navigated the lagoon and brought us to a small dock on the west end of the island.  We could see the modest "resort" buildings peeking out amongst the palm trees.  As we started to pull our bags off of the boat the resort manager, wLakshadweep, Indiaho had been on the boat with us, to us to stay on the boat with the Dutch guy.  He said we were going to be staying in the rooms that were 2km away from the resort but, oddly enough, the two British women were now staying at the main resort.  Quite obviously they had taken the room we had booked.  They were planning to do some scuba diving (i.e. more money for the resort) so the manager wanted to make it easier for them to get to the scuba shop.  That didn't sit well with us at all.  We had planned our entire trip to Tamil Nadu to be back for this trip and now we were being pushed aside by two people who had signed up the day before.  The two British women just shrugged like they had no idea what was going on.  The manager tried to placate us by saying that the non A/C rooms were away from the resort but we had clearly confirmed that wasn't the case when we booked.  That argument didn't work well since we knew the Brits had also booked a non A/C room.  Staying 2km away meant we had to wait for a shuttle to bring us up for meals, any activities, or even a soda, and we were paying more than double what the local tourists were paying.  We stood firm and said if we didn't what we paid for we wanted to go back to Kochi, which we knew was pretty much impossible.  But they eventually scraped up a crappy run down room for us at the far end of the resort, beyond the decrypt helicopter pad.  It was equivalent to our $10/night room in Ernakulum, minus the TV and A/C, and had no view (and all rooms had views Lakshadweep, Indiaaccording to Sports).  The Brits ended up in a new room with a view right next to the dining area. That was lucky for them since they were going to be gone diving all day and weren't even going to be using their room.   It wasn't until dinner rolled around that one of them casually offered to change rooms with us with that sort of "if its really that big of a deal to you" tone.  We just stayed in our crap room and tried to make the best of it but weren't all that keen on socializing with them after that.  

We sat down with the manager of the resort and told him how unhappy we were but he just said it wasn't his fault.  He said the bookings happened in Kochi and he didn't know anything about who signed up when or what.  Of course he did nothing to rectify the problem, which was his fault.  Basically the resort was run just horribly run.  When we signed up we knew we shouldn't expect too much and we laughed about the movie "Club Paradise", an absolutely horrible Robin William's movie about an island resort that turns out to be a total scam.  Lakshadweep's Kadmat Resort is India's Club Paradise.  It was so bad that if we hadn't felt so ripped off it would have been comical.   

During the day we really tried to enjoy the island since it was a total waste if we couldn't enjoy some of the experience.  We found some peace and quiet along the one beach where they bothered to set up some lounges, just four lounges to be exact.  The rest of the lounges were visibly stacked in the resort's warehouse.   The Indian tourists tended to follow the list of "activities" so we pretty much knew when they would be using the beach and when they would be gone.  You couldn't just snorkel or kayak when you felt like it, there were scheduled windows so you had to do the same activities with everyone else.  Most were free, including a "glass bottom" boat ride but we opted out.  The glass bottom boat was just Lakshadweep, Indiaa small boat with a plastic bottom.  Scuba diving was extra and we were going to give it at try but much of the coral had been bleached by warm seas and even the Brits couldn't rave about their diving experiences.  They also offered parasailing for a fee.  We didn't try it out but had ample amusement watching one guy try to get airborne by running off the end of the spit while the boat pulled him.  He just ended up in the water every time. The meals were good but entirely Indian, unlike the "international" food they told us about at Sport.  And, there was never anything cold to drink.  It wasn't until the third day that we learned that there was a snack "closet" that opened on a whim once in a while and people could buy sodas and ice cream.  By the time we found out about it the ice cream was sold out.  The resort had a large air conditioned convention room that sat unused while we ate our meals on our laps in plastic chairs under a tent.  Folding tables were set up and cooking pots were lined up to make a "buffet".  But the worst part about the meals was that we ate over sand and people constantly dropping food on the ground had caused bugs to proliferate and while you ate your meal the bugs ate your ankles.  By the end we were dragging our chairs to the walkway to eat.   

The windows of peace we had along the beach during the day and at night were the only really nice moments of our Lakshadweep experience, but they were something.  The geographical beauty of the fragile little sliver of an island was stunning.  From the canopy covered beach chairs we would watch locals come along to fish with nets or see a school of small fish leap uniformly from the water as they navigated down the lagoon. At sunset we would sit along a spit that stretched out the west end of the island and watch colonies of crabs emerge from the sand, occasionally poking right up underneath us.  The crabs would duke it out and chase each other around until we moved and then they would disappear instantly into the sand.  After the sun went down we would watch the florescence splash up along the shore, creating a lovely twinkling effect as it appeared and disappeared with each undulation of the sea. So, there were definitely some very nice things about Lakshadweep.