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Taking It Easy In Trivandrum

It has occurred to me that since I’m posting well in arrears, I should put in the actual dates – I was in Trivandrum from Dec 22 to Dec 28, 2010.

Major holidays can be difficult for solo travelers (just as they can for singles at home). The last time I spent Christmas in India, a friend flew out to meet me in Kerala, and after a couple of lazy nights on a houseboat, we settled into a boutique hotel in Kochi. We had a great time, but my friend can no longer travel, and I didn’t feel like going back – a lot more people were traveling in December 2010 than December 2001, and I had heard that the handful of houseboats I remembered had exploded into hundreds. I also wasn’t wild about the idea of sharing a beach with a lot of romantic couples or partying groups (the same thoughts that had put me in Laos instead of on a Thai island when the tsunami hit in 2004). Nor did I want to pay inflated holiday prices.

Our houseboat

Kerala fisherman

I decided that what I really needed were rest and a good internet connection – I had done zero planning for Sri Lanka, and my flight to Colombo was just a couple of weeks after Christmas. So I picked a place people were likely to be leaving, Kerala’s state capital Trivandrum (renamed Thiruvananthapuram – what was wrong with Trivandrum?) where I found a good rate for the Keys, part of a budget business chain.

I really liked the Keys. The decor was cooler, the staff more efficient and my room both bigger and more comfortable than at the Ginger. And the wifi was free. While almost any hotel room looks good fresh off a night train, especially when you get to check-in early, I still liked the Keys after six nights. Even the buffets weren’t bad, and no one made a fuss if I ordered off the menu instead (for some reason I developed a sudden taste for french fries!). The staff made a special effort for Christmas, both with the buffet and the decorations, although I was a bit puzzled by the blue and white balloons.

Christmas Day crowds at Trivandrum zoo

Lord of the jungle?

I was still recovering from the chicken disaster in Coonoor, and I found the humidity level way high, so I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing. Along with a great many locals I took a look at the zoo, which I found rather sad, and I wasn’t impressed by the over-developed beach at Kovalam. An expedition to visit the wooden palace at Padmanabhapuram gave me a good look at crowded roads and last-minute shoppers, but the palace itself was closed for the day. A prominent Kerala politician had just died, but it hadn’t occurred to me that the day of mourning would affect a palace in Tamil Nadu.

I did get a rest, I did get my trip to Sri Lanka planned, despite the holidays, and I Skyped friends and family with Christmas greetings. I also got my hair hennaed and my toes painted, and did a little shopping. I had a trouble finding deodorant, and failed altogether to find dental floss and small plastic bags – interesting cultural differences you don’t notice on shorter trips. I also bought the first souvenir of the trip – a pashima shawl. I bought at the government store, the SMSM Institute, so no bargaining.

Kovalam beach

St. Josephs Cathedral

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