Remember the Seinfeld episode-in-reverse where the gang heads to India for Elaine’s frenemy’s wedding? I always laugh at that scene where the groom’s (Indian) parents urge Elaine to stay home and just send a present instead. “India is a dreadful country,” the mother says. “Do you know they still have the plague?”
Well, plague be damned, Mr. M & I are headed to the Indian subcontinent! And Sri Lanka and the Maldives! …And just for the record, we have Yersinia pestis (the bacteria responsible for the plague, which is found in fleas carried by rodents) here in the US, too! The vet in me couldn’t let that go unsaid. Moving on…
For exciting soon-to-be-revealed reasons, we found ourselves with two free weeks in August. (Everyone immediately thinks “India!” when faced with vacation time in the dead heat of August, right?) We’re not quite as ridic as we may sound; Mr. M & I are headed to Kerala, an exquisitely lush region in Southern India far from the more touristed Rajasthan desert and the Taj Mahal.
August just so happens to be monsoon season in Kerala. Luckily, Mr. M & I don’t mind a daily torrential downpour. We love traveling off season because it helps to keep our costs low and the other tourists scarce.
I’ve already got a few stops planned for our Indian Adventure:
** One of the days I’m most looking forward to will be spent floating through the Kerala backwaters in a traditional rice barge turned houseboat.
**While we’re only an hour’s flight away, Mr. M & I decided to spend a few days in the Maldives, a nation comprised of over 2,000 islands in the Indian Ocean.
With all that beachy coastline, the Maldives are well-known as a honeymoon destination. We’re not big on chillax-by-the-ocean type trips, but when THIS is the ocean you’re chillaxing by, you end up saying… why not?
The last stop on our Indian Ocean tour will be Sri Lanka!
**I’m quite excited to explore the ruins of Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Polonnaruwa– all of which have religious significance, primarily to Buddhist pilgrims.
**One of Sri Lanka’s main exports is tea (Sri Lanka used to be known as Ceylon when it was under British colonial rule!), and the center of the country is covered in huge emerald swathes of tea fields.
** Mr. M & I also want to climb the pilgrimage peak of Sri Pada.
The top of Sri Pada is believed to have been created by Buddha’s footprint, and during the high season, Buddhists from around the world climb to watch the sun rise from its peak. This all sounds far too magical to be missed.
** I must admit that I’m hoping to see a wild Asian elephant while we’re there, too. There are plenty of “sanctuaries” (quotations intended) where visitors can ride elephants for a fee, but I’m anxious to learn about true conservation efforts within India & Sri Lanka.
It should be… interesting… to say the least… setting up safari camp in the middle of monsoon season. :)
**And of course, I want at least one scrumptious curry.
So what do y’all think? Any ideas on adventures to add to the itinerary? Food that we simply must try? Or best ways to stay dry during a monsoon?
And who knows? Maybe I’ll take a page from Seinfeld’s Elaine, call Mr. M “Jagdish” for two weeks, and get my nose re-pierced.
Other, Uninvited Thoughts: I just watched The Island President, a fascinating documentary about the mind-boggling recent history of the Maldives, which is honestly what piqued my interest in the country (… sorry, pina coladas on the beach… you were Reason #2). After a 30-year dictatorship, the Maldives held their first democratic elections in 2008, making Mohamed Nasheed the country’s first rightfully elected president.
President Nasheed’s first order of business- as if settling into democracy wasn’t enough- was to save his country from being wiped out by global warming. At 3 feet above sea level, the Maldives is the lowest-lying country in the world and is sinking at a measurable rate. Whether you’re headed to the Maldives or not, The Island President is a fascinating documentary about the path to democracy and the difficulty smaller nations have in changing policy on a global scale.
In fact, the first time I’d ever heard of the Maldives was when I saw a book in Barnes & Noble. It was titled “100 Places to Go Before They Disappear,” and the Maldivian islands were pictured on the cover. In all honesty, it’s completely incongruous to take a huge, carbon dioxide-emiting airplane to visit a locale destined to disappear due to global warming. That’s kind of a ‘duh.’ At the very least, the Maldives should remind us of the effect our daily actions and decisions have on a global scale.