One of the bright spots in India would have to be the saris worn by women and young girls. The vivid colors of brilliant orange, lemon yellow, ruby red and emerald green and the sequins bouncing sunlight were a stark contrast to the dingy buildings and litter-filled streets. The Indian state of Kochi, also known as Cochin, was on our itinerary. Encouraged to take the houseboat tour by our concierge, we embarked on a 90-minute road trip to the backwaters of Kerala, a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. We boarded the large houseboat, which resembled an 80-foot-long floating thatched hut. It had a front viewing area that accommodated up to 20 people, so the six of us had plenty of room to move around under the canopy. The soft wake created by the boat washed into a line of coconut lagoons, mangrove forests and prawn farms along both shores. Chinese fishing nets were thrown from long narrow boats and family laundry was beaten on the rocks next to huts that hugged the shoreline. In all, a fellow traveler summed up our brief, four-day encounter with India’s best: “It was like entering a large, dark warehouse with just a flashlight.” There was so much more to see. 122 west virginia executive En Route to Thailand As the cruise ship rounded the tip of India and headed for Thailand, we experienced an immediate change in the weather. Winds kicked up, and calm water turned to whitecaps where the Arabian Sea meets the Indian Ocean. Our short day in Phuket was spent viewing Phang Nga Bay, home to the large karst formations: magnificent rock pillars that jut straight up from the ocean floor. A short stop on the island of Ko Tapu gave us bragging rights for experiencing “James Bond Island,” as it was featured in the 1974 movie “The Man with the Golden Gun.” The tour included a visit to Koh Panyi, the floating Muslim village, which found us wandering through alleys, shops and the local school that were all perched just feet from the water’s surface. After 16 days aboard the Odyssey, we disembarked in Singapore with a full itinerary. Cooking lessons at the famous Food Playground introduced me to the local spices of tamarind, turmeric and ghee. My attempt at kueh dadar, a brilliant green crepe, was successful. The small appetizers are filled with grated sweet coconut flavored with gula melaka, palm sugar that is similar to brown sugar.