Kovalam Backwater

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Travel stories from our winter vacation in India

After checking out from the Boat House we left Alleppey behind and drove south, to another backwater area in Kovalam. We jumped down in a small motor boat and we went exploring and went of exploring the mangrove nearby.

The first thing that happened was that A and the young boat driver got into a long conversation. Partly they spoke Tamil and partly English, so I could just understand fragments of what they said. “It is funny” the boy said. “I never felt like talking like this to any other tourists I have been guiding” he said.

DSC_4144I believe his story is far from unique. I have heard stories like his many times before. To hear it from him was like hearing an echo of a million of voices from young Indians, voices repeating the same story again and again.

He grew up in a poor house. “My father is only a poor fisherman” he started. And he told of how he got the chance to fulfill his fathers dream, and came to study at an Engineering College in Chennai.

“But I don’t want to be an Engineer. I want to make movies.” He sent a short glance at the camera we were carrying, before he continued the story.

He fell in love with this girl, and they are in a relationship now. They are both in their early twenties. Even if they are young, their parents are of course already thinking of their future. And getting a daughter married is often a big concern for Indian elders.  The pressure is big, and the time is limited. If they do not find a suitable husband for her soon she will get “too old”, and she might miss her chance.

“They have already decided that she will have to get married next year. I really want to go to her parents and propose to her, but how can I do that? I have not yet graduated. I do not have a job. I have no-nothing. And now I even want to chase my dream and go into film making. There is no way her parents can accept me!”

I felt so sad, for him, and for the millions of young Indians who shares his story.

DSC_4146The story was so enthralling it almost distracted us from the landscape we were in. Apart from some small villages it was just water and vegetation, the forest more or less growing directly out of the water. Seeing a mangrove forest was somewhat of a dream for me.

Can you see the big bird in the second picture below? And the beautiful blue Kingfisher on the fourth one?

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The day when Lisa came to Taiwan

I love Taiwan. I am so happy that I had the chance to come here.But I do miss Sweden. And being in a another culture is bound to be a roller-coaster of feelings, some days I enjoy the situation so much, and other days I just feel malplacé.

Therefore I was so happy when my old friend Lisa came to visit!

IMG_9275Lisa and I was together in China some years ago. (Picture above) Some Years Ago, can you hear how old it sounds like I am getting?

We shared a very special time together, and she has truly seen me at my best and worst. We shared bad hair days, 36 hour train rides, unexpected home-stays in rural areas, and know everything about each others coffee preferences. It was great for me to meet someone like her again! I just had to say a little bit of what was in my head, and she knew exactly what I needed to hear from her.

Go old friends!

DSC_6991DSC_6987Lisa (at the right) and the German friend travelling with her.

As you might have notices I rarely post photos of my friends here. But as Lisa is a blogger herself I feel like there are less need for caring about her privacy. If you speak Swedish you can read everything about here current adventures as a student in South Korea at her blog, and here is her own travel story of Taiwan.

DSC_6901DSC_6863Honestly we spent most of our time eating and shopping, but one day we walked up the Elephant mountain for some work out too.

This old man showed us a hidden track deeper up in the hills and took us to a place so steep we had to climb.

If life was a Disney Movie

DSC_7017Last Sunday was such a special day. Over a simple spaghetti lunch I had one of those heart-touching-life-changing conversations with a new friend.

After eating S came to pick me up and we went for an afternoon trip: this time to Neiwan, less than an hour from Hsinchu.

DSC_7008DSC_7010DSC_7026Neiwan is a common weekend-destination for Hsinchu citizens. The town itself is crowded and touristy, so we did our best to stay away from the crowd and get some quiet time. We walked up a hillside, passed a bridge, and was surrounded by bird-size dragonflies. After feeling too warm we went down to the river and bathed our feet.

When the sun set we made our way up a hillside to see the reason why we came there: fireflies!

DSC_7038Our friends who had been in Neiwan the weekends before came back in a close-to traumatic state after being squeezed in a huge crowd. Just two weeks before 10000 people were visiting the very same spot to see the fireflies. Luckily the worst rush was over now and the mountain was now crowded at all. We succeeded to find a little path into the forest, away from lights and people, and sat down to wait for the flies to start swarming.

DSC_7067DSC_7073These photos simply can’t catch the feeling of that evening. The pictures almost looks like if I have been paining yellow dots on them in paint!

The air was warm and humid, and we could not see the road from were we sat. On all sides around us little flies were crawling and flying, slowly blinking with their illuminated bodies. It gave me a highly surrealistic feeling, it almost felt like hundred of eyes were watching us from every side. Every time I turned to one side, I knew there were just as many of them of them behind me.

It totally felt like if I was in a Disney Movie, and Timon and Pumba would run past us any time. (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)

Later in the night, on the way back to Hsinchu, we went to eat a special kind of roasted chicken. The chicken was first boiled before it was roasted slowly over fire in a ceramic oven. The chicken was served whole with roasted garlic, pepper and chicken oil.

DSC_7088I got the special honour to rip the chicken into pieces with my hands. It was exactly as greasy and messy as it looks!

In Taiwanese – Chinese – this part of Asia – cultures you never touch or eat for food with your hands. After using the thicker gloves for parting the chicken we put on thin plastic ones to wear when we were eating. I couldn’t stop thinking of how funny this would have looked in India, where eating with bare hands is the most natural way.

DSC_7094As S is a Taiwanese he gladly munched on all the strange parts, head, tail and feet are considered delicious and healthy here. I was more picky and only ate the meaty parts. The chicken was so fresh and really great, with a crispy outer layer and extra much taste from the broth. I forgot all table manners and ate until I had oil all over my face.

The best ending of a week!

Three Strange Birds

 

DSC_6397DSC_6380At a cloudy Saturday here in Taiwan we were too tired to follow our plan and go to Taipei. Instead we ate hot noodles and walked with tiny tiny steps to the local Hsinchu Zoo. Outside the zoo there is a buzzing market street and you may find your future pet bird here, if you are into that. (Picture 1)

The zoo itself were not so special. If you want a real animal experience you should find you way to the Taiwanese capital instead. But at least we find some monkeys and birds to watch, and a peacock had fun watching us. (Picture 2)

DSC_6392Right after leaving the zoo we saw a man with a huge binocular and birdwatching-outfit. Around him a  crowd had gathered and everyone were staring up in the green of a big tree. What was he looking at?

DSC_6390An Eagle!

If eagles are sitting in one of the most central parks in Hsinchu, right at 老人大学 (Lǎorén dàxué), well, then you might be able to find them almost anywhere.

If your eyes are sharp enough, of course. 

After this short and not exhausting walk we felt quite tired, and we all went back to our respective rooms for a nap.