Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

We’re in Kodaikanal, India for this one, which is a relatively small mountain town in the western Ghats.  We thought it would be quiet, but the constant horn-honking means I haven’t heard a single bird.
Still, it’s a nice little town.  We’re recognized by Kala, who runs one of the street stalls selling chai tea and have gone boating on the lake the last few days.  That’s been fun, but our “fans” are beginning to get on my nerves a bit.
We heard that we might draw some extra attention as white people in India, but on the lake, it was a bit ridiculous.  Groups of other boaters came paddling over to us just to take pictures.  We weren’t exactly sure how to react at first, but decided to just go with it, as it seems better than telling people to go away. 
A mother explained that a kid wanted a picture with us on a walk, so we posed for a picture with some random kid we didn’t know.  Groups of boaters, usually young men would paddle up to us, talk for a few seconds then start posing for pictures.  It must have happened a half-dozen times in an hour on the boat.
Today, we were trying to get out and into the dock when a person on the shore decided he wanted to get pictures of us, so he angled us, and pushed us back out into the lake… twice.  I started to get mad, but Leslie reminded me to calm down and just go with it. 
The food has been interesting.  We’ve twice tried western places in our last few days in Kodaikanal, but have been disappointed both times.  The Indian food has been supurb.
Our two favorites have been the Astoria Veg hotel, which has an all you can eat “thali” for lunch.  That means you get a big metal plate that’s a bit like a pie tin, complete with walls.  Eight to ten small metal cups have different gravys and there’s a big pile of rice in the middle and a six inch round, crispy chip-type thing.  The gravy’s all look rather foreign, but are made out of familiar foods once you learn whats in them.  “Masala” is one of the most popular.  I met a personal chef in the hotel, who told me masala is tomato based with lots of onion, garlic, tumeric and chili powder.  “Aloo” just means potato, so Aloo Masala, is potatoes in tomato sauce. 
Back to the thali…  there is no silverware, but all restarants have a washing station.  You wash your hangs then pour gravy into the rice, mix it up and eat.  Use your right hand for sanitary things.  Your left hand is for…  unsanitary things.
For Christmas eve, there was a bonfire at our hotel, and we met a nice Indian man who taught us a lot about India.  40% of Indians are vegetarian, and the restaurants reflect it.  Lots are vegitarian-only.
“Flavours” is not.  According to the guidebook, the locals claim this place has the best tandoori chicken in South India.  It was a great spot for Christmas dinner.
A “tandoor” is a bit clay pot with hot coles in the bottom.  The Indians use it as an oven and cook flatbreads and meats in it.  We ordered half a chicken and I must say it was the best BBQ I’ve had in a long time.  Flavorful, crispy and just the right amount of burned-to-black on the skin.  The chickens are smaller here then in the USA.  We ended up ordering some with some other food as well.
Nothing says Christmas like mushroom masala.
Love and Joy to you and yours!

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