Wednesday, April. 8, 11:24 PM
Trichur > Chalakudy, Kerala, India
Today was a day of last days. Last day with our biking buddy Lasser of the last 3 weeks, last day with our couch surfing family in Trichur (as we’ve been based out of this house for at least the past week, traveling between many cities within a couple hundred kilometers and always returning), which reminds me, today was also our last day in Central Kerala.
Somehow, despite having hit that wall of “I get what’s going-on here, and now I’m ready to move-on”, today’s celebratory romp in the water park still blew my mind away in terms of it being a new medium for which to experience Indian culture.
We discovered Dream World when we rode past it on the way back from visiting a waterfall, and it looked magnificent, a high-walled castle protected by two imposing and extremely realistic dragons. The aesthetics of this place alone made me want to go – from the looks of it, they would do it up proper.
We convinced Anish, Arup’s (the original couchsurfer) brother who has been hosting us for the last few days, to come along to the park, and offered to buy his ticket. He took a little convincing, but he called up his buddy to see if he wanted to come too and then he offered to drive us all together in his car (if we chipped-in for gas.) I learned a lesson in the famous Indian Hospitality, which we have been the gracious recipients of over and over again in India: When you are invited, you will be taken care of. So we took care of the gas, the tickets, the meal. It wasn’t much, but it seemed somehow we opened the door and got taught to be proper ‘hosts’ for this outing. Lesson happily learned.
As we pulled into our space in the parking lot, a spiffy parking attendant came and waved for us to turn the car around, with the nose of the car facing out, just like the others. We proceeded to the ticket counter, and a nice woman helped us, asking us each a different question before handing us our tickets (What’s your name? Which country? How long in India?) Approaching the main entrance, a spiffy guard opens the mirrored door for us and we enter Dream World. It was beyond belief: clean, manicured, tastefully vibrant, downright swank! There’s a group of about 30 teenage girls by the locker room, we change. Upon coming out we are ushered into the Monorail. Jamey’s asking Where does this go? and I say Who cares, it’s all part of the experience! The six-car open-air train is waiting and we board, the only passengers. It begins it’s slow & steady crawl out of the station and we embark on a 2mph sky ride around the park at 20 feet high. It was seriously the opposite of the smooth and fast monorail rides (usually magically propelled by electromagnets), as we inched along we just laughed and wondered how we didn’t fall off the skinny rail before us, waiving to everybody below and realizing it doesn’t take us anywhere, just in a big loop. Getting off we look around and notice that none of the water slides are wet yet, no water running. I hope they open eventually! It was 11am and we were probably still the first customers.
We find the Bumper cars (quiet and empty) and climb into our cars, except our two Keralite friends who sit together with an arm around the other, a classic example of Indian man love. The sight is absolutely normal: Anish (25) with his slightly older friend (45), whom I asked earlier in the day Do you have a girlfriend? Answer: Noo! (giggling) Expressing same-sex affection more naturally than any Americans I’ve ever known, hand holding, embracing, men virtually do date their buddies, more-so than they ever will with a girl before marriage. (Side note: Arup & Anish, bothers, are quite different extremes indeed, Arup currently traveling with his German girlfriend in east India and likely to marry her eventually, a love marriage, while Anish will probably follow the more traditional and common route to marriage, that is, arranged.) Anish is a total ‘Indian dude’, and I mean it in the most harmless, affectionate way possible! So bumping was fun. They cranked the tunes, lights flashed, the 5 of us had a blast. “Wouldn’t this be fun if we were in here with all those Indian girls too?”
“Oh, there they are!” Next ride (also dry) was the swinging spaceship, rocking back and forth. This was fun, partially because I’ve always loved the feeling in my tummy when I’m falling, but also because we were in a spaceship full of Indian girls, some screaming in delight, others frightened to death. It was so funny! Really, a few’s hearts were in their mouths! Next and last dry ride was a sort of Hamster Wheel for humans. Jamey and Lasse going first, I’ll never forget their side-splitting scramble, Jamey crawling on his hands and knees trying to keep up, Lasse running and trying to keep his lungey from fallling off, both laughing in their revolving disorientation. Classic! 40 seconds of madness (and the operator would have let them go if we didn’t intervene.) Anish and amigo went next, and in half the time (looking sideways, which is the secret for balance) they yelled Halt! At this point I already knew the secret so I didn’t fall on my face.
An impressive number of water slides occupied our afternoon… since there were so few of us in the park, they ran the water for only the slides we were on (sensible). There were many rules, strict guidelines (like you can’t ride the Space Bowl without a shirt) that took some getting used-to. Come This way, exit There, No not That way Sir, This Line Not That one, you Must ride Three person Only (tough when you’re in a group of 5), Ladies swim Only now… with numerous people ushering and conducting each attraction, it was very serious business indeed. Apparently, there was a correct way and a wrong way to have Fun. Eventually I got the hang of it and learned how to break the rules. You just need to see what you can get away with. For example, as we played in one of the pools, we successfully splashed, jumped, dove, and catapulted each other so that it became the new rules. (The whistle-blowers were outnumbered when 50 people were all doing it.)
A siren sounded, and people were buzzing all of a sudden: Rain Dance! I saw the rain clouds approaching, and feared this would be a premature end to a Dreamy day. On the contrary, it was then I heard the beats. We found Rain Dance, a dance party in a large room which blasted music and water from all directions. Everybody was dancing and having a good time (segregated by sex of course), and, at least for me, after the novelty of dancing around with 20 Gents in a room wore off, looking through the fence at the Ladies I moseyed on. It truly was a highlight in the day, the last thing I ever expected.
It was in the Wave Pool that we broke the most forbidden cardinal rule. There was no prohibition against mixing water sports and thunder storms! With Ladies on their side, and us Gents on the other, the storm overtook us. Thunder rolled, lightning crashed, and we thrashed! It was like that maritime battle scene in 300: throughout the storm’s heaviest downpour, we splashed the time away while a line of dragons on both sides blew cannons of water at us and a glorious 30 foot fish head gushed water from its mouth. It was here, for the first time all day, that I became self-conscious for a moment: Jamey and I were the only guests here out of 75+ people without a shirt on. Ironic, in a state where the traditional men’s dress is actually a wrap-around skirt with a bare chest, men in India swim in shirts and pants, ladies in their full Saris (scarf and all). The realization passed without any ill-feeling from anyone, but after last night at the elephant festival with all the touchy feely men, I’m surprised I didn’t get any unwanted attention for it.
I said To Hell with that Kid who won’t let me ride the Space Bowl without a shirt. I climbed up there, and to my benefit a new kid was tending to the chute. Before he could object I laid down, crossed my ankles and chest, and plunged down the hole. So fast I shot down the pipe, was ejected into a giant toilet bowl, cruising on my bare back around and around until I got the rim, and fell straight down Flush! into a pit of water. It was awesome!!
All in all I was extremely impressed, and I got a glimpse of a modernizing India. (Hell, nobody can swim here yet they built this fantastic water park!) Being a veteran of most every Theme Park in my path, Dream World was a top-notch operation, yet hilariously just as dysfunctional and no less miraculous than our surviving the drive home though the great Driving Game in the streets. India is crazy, and I love it!