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Embedded Photos: 1.Rambling Darjeeling, West Begal, India 2.St. Joseph's College with Kanchendzonga Backdrop, Darjeeling, West Begal, India 3.View from Keventers, Darjeeling, West Begal, India 4.St. Andrew's Church, Darjeeling, West Begal, India
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Toy Train, Darjeeling, 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)

Toy Train, Darjeeling, INDIA, December 2004

India Flag INDIA

December 5 - 7. KOCHI to SILIGURI "From a 25 Hour Boat Ride to a 52 Hour Train Ride..." Our boat arrived into Kochi after more than 25 hours.  It was a relief when the bay finally came into sight.  People had been awake for a few hours so the boat was pretty lively.  The three kids from our resort were running around the boat and we took the opportunity toDarjeeling, India give them a some key chains that we had brought from back home.  The older boy and girl picked out the ones they liked but the littlest girl was too shy and just peeked from down the aisle so her siblings brought her a key chain. We'd been carrying the key chains around as small gifts but hadn't had many occasions to give them out.  I am not sure what the kids would do with key chains but the pictures on them were colorful and they seemed happy to receive them.  They seemed a little uncertain about taking a gift from us but their father nodded that it was okay.  

From the boat dock we walked to the nearby ferry stop.  The taxis tried to tell us that the boat wasn't running but of course we knew that it was.  A man waiting on the platform confirmed that a ferry would be along soon.  Back in Fort Cochin we grabbed a tuk tuk to the Delight Tourist Resort but found that they were already full!  The number of tourists had increased significantly since we were there just days before. Luckily we found a decent place in the old town area.  The room was so tiny there was hardly room to put our bags down but it was clean.  We'd decided to stay in Fort Cochin out of convenience since it was closer to the boat docks but the lodging was definitely pricier than Ernakulum.  Our train for Siliguri in the West Bengal province left that evening but we were hoping we could change that.  In the course of the day we had all sorts of ideas about what to do next.  Since Lakshadweep didn't go very well we thought perhaps we were done with India and maybe it would be better to just fly over to Thailand and spend our last weeks having a "vacation" before heading home.  But research into flights out of India wasn't encouraging.  We looked at leaving from Chennai but getting a train would be a problem.  Even before we left Tamil Nadu the trains going north, anywhere north, were starting to get booked up days ahead.  And, from the look of Fort Cochin the tourist season was starting to kick in.  All of the tourist catering cafes wereDarjeeling, India full of people and more touts and hustlers had converged on the area.  We were approached much more often and more aggressively than we had ever been before.  But, the funniest of all was the ubiquitous Sadhu, or Holy Man, that had materialized since our last stay in Kochi.  He had the dress and ornamentation down to a tee but it was all a bit to painted on to convince me.  The Sadhu were men who were supposed to be seeking enlightenment and relied on alms from others to support themselves but it just seemed all to convenient that this guy had shown up just when Fort Cochin was on the verge of peak tourist season.  He probably had a circuit that he traveled to hit the tourist hot spots at the appropriate time.   

With flights to Thailand ruled out we began to come to terms with our inevitable train ride to Siliguri. We were actually doing pretty well, considering we had slept on a boat the night before.  Rob slept on the deck again and I sat up in my chair.  We were stiff in places but not too much worse for the wear.  But, our patience was precariously thin and we just weren't ready to be engulfed by western tourists and the entourage of touts that came with them.  On a whim we went to have lunch at The Malabar House, a $160/night boutique hotel in Fort Cochin.  Our guidebook said it had an excellent restaurant and we were ready to embrace something excellent.  The house was an exquisitely restored white mansion with beautiful interior decor.  The tiny courtyard had a small pool where a couple of guests were splashing around.  The little restaurant was just off of the courtyard.  We felt rather shabby next to the more upscale clientele but the staff treated us well anyway.  The food was wonderful and reminded me of the California-Asian fusion cuisine that is popular back home.  It was hot out but a tall tree gave us some shade and the serene atmosphere of the quaint courtyard transported us temporarily to another place.  The people staying The Malabar House were on vacation, not just traveling, and there was a difference.  

We arranged for a taxi to pick us up from our guesthouse and take us to the train station.  We made the booking at a booth down near the Chinese fishing nets.  The sign advertised Ambassador taxis but as we were giving our details I noticed a smallish hatchback car nearby and asked what car would be picking us up.  They pointed at the hatchback and we shook our head. Not only would our stuff not easily fit into the little car we were paying for an Ambassador anDarjeeling, Indiad indicated that if an Ambassodor didn't show up we would find alternative transport.  An Ambassador taxi arrived to pick us up from our guesthouse and shuttled us over to the train station.  We a moment of worry when the taxi was held up by traffic on Willingdon Island.  There was some sort of military open house taking place and people were coming and going.  But it passed and we made it the station in plenty of time, especially since the train was late.  

Our tickets were for two-tier A/C.  We weren't going to cheap out on such a long journey.  But we didn't have seat assignments, which was always a worry.  Generally we didn't want to be in an end compartment because people open and closed the door at the end of the train car all night.  But there was a downside to being in the middle too, with people all around you, so we just hoped for the best.  As it turned out we got the end compartment but it wasn't that bad.  The curtains insulated us from most of the aisle traffic.  We were allocated the two bottom seats which meant we had the two window seats during the day.  Initially we were the only people in the compartment but we knew that was too good to last.  It wasn't long before the ticket taker shoved three women in with us, more than the compartment was meant to hold but the bench seats were roomy.  We were sitting in the window seats, on either side of a little fold up table.  My eyes widened as I watched a cockroach emerge from a crack between the table top and the metal trim that wrapped around it.  I pushed on the trim to see if I could close the gap but another cockroach just shot out.  Where there was one there were always many.  It was hardly surprising but I couldn't hide my disgust.

The three women got off after a few stops and we were alone again.  We were still alone when it came time to go to bed.  Rob slept on the bottom bunk but I chose to take the bunk above him instead of the opposite bottom bunk.  The top bunks were always a rockier ride but I wasn't going to sleep at all with my head resting next to the cockroach table.  Of course cockroaches can crawl anywhere but I convinced myself that the top bunk was a safer option.  At least in A/C class we were given sheets, a blanket, and a real pillow.  The sheets were big enough to wrap around the bed and I wrapped the top sheet snuggly around me to create a bug barrier.  We hadn't been in bed long before the train stopped and a couple entered our compartment.  They settled in quickly and we were all back to sleep.  The curtain onDarjeeling, India our compartment flew open a bit whenever someone went through the door at the end of the car but I kept my back to the door and ended up sleeping pretty well.  

In the morning we met our new compartment mates, a married couple who were also heading all of the way to West Bengal.  They lived on the border town with Bhutan and had been in southern India at a Christian hospital where the husband had been receiving treatment for a disease that was affecting his brain.  He was somewhat disabled from his ailment and had difficulty moving the limbs on the left half of his body.  She was a plump little woman who spoke very little English but had a gregarious personality.  His condition made him frail but he could speak English pretty well.  Still he let her do most of the communicating because he was so tired.  It wasn't long before we had the gist of their story but it was communicated mostly in single words and gestures.  We gathered that the husband was suffering from brain cancer and that they had been at the hospital in south India for a long time, or maybe this was their second visit, or maybe both.  He wore a knit cap on his head which she removed to reveal a large scar down the left side of his bald scalp.  The scar looked well healed but clearly the surgery had been severe.  He spent much of the time sleeping but added a few words here and there when he was awake.  She showed us the hospital records and tried to explain the situation but we didn't understand much of what she was saying.  We did understand, however, that her husband was dying.  She made rather blatant gestures to that effect right in front of him while he was awake.  It was a sad situation and we tried to be empathetic but it was awkward.