Due to repairs being carried out at the airport, all flights leave either very early morning or late at night and during the day they work on the runway. So for our one hour trip to Cochin we were up before the crack of dawn. We nearly didn’t make it on the flight as we were asked for our details of onwards travel from India at the check in counter. We said we would be leaving via bus to Nepal but were informed if we didn’t have onwards travel booked, Indian immigration wouldn’t let us board. He then mentioned that free of charge we could change our flight to the next day as the flight was over booked but we didn’t want to do that so quickly went online and tried to find a flight number from Deli to Kathmandu. While we were doing this two gentlemen were told that they couldn’t catch the flight as there were no available seats. We must have gotten the last two! But we got the flight number to Nepal without actually booking the flights and were soon waiting for our plane.
Now I don’t know what I was expecting but I had visions in my head of just getting off the plane and being thrown into the madness of over 1.2 billion people. Surely with that many people they must be everywhere and lonely planet had said that India has 210 more people per square kilometer than China, and China had a lot of people! But when we arrived it was quite normal really. Lots of people but no real madness. Until we got into the taxi where the rule seems to be you can change lanes without looking as the car beside or behind will honk at you to let you know they are there. Trucks even have signs on the back which say “sound horn” when you are passing them so they know you are there.
Driving through town the biggest difference between India and Sri Lanka is the rubbish and even our taxi driver after finding out we came from there commented that he had heard Sri Lanka was so clean. First impressions just seem to be India is like Sri Lanka buy on steroids!
We had decided to continue with our trend of guesthouses but here they are called home stays. We were met by Jeen our host and were soon blessed and siting down to a lovely spiced grape juice drink. Our room was lovely and we had a little communal balcony that overlooked the street. By this stage it was lunch time so we decided to walk into town. We saw our first cows just lounging on the side of the road and several flocks of goats just wandering in between houses and shops. We also experienced the Indian tuk tuk drivers who just would not take no for an answer.
We were actually staying in Fort Cochin which is an island just off the mainland that is attached with several bridges. Cochin was originally conquered by the Portuguese who lost it to the Dutch who then lost it to the British so there is an eclectic mix of old buildings and churches within the old fort area.
We found a nice place for lunch and ordered the Kerala curry special. Which consisted of a selection of different vegetable curries, chutney and roti bread. Similar to the Si Lankan rice and curries but the flavours were definitely different. It was mouth watering and the bread was amazing, though we need a little bit of practice ripping off bits with only one hand.
After lunch we headed to the top of the island where there is a promenade that winds from the beach which is more a small stip of sand with rubbish and fishing boats on it to the Chinese fishing nets which are giant cantilevered nets that drop into the ocean from a jetty. They look almost spider like and are a very impressive sight to behold, especially when they are being drawn in. Though I think the fishermen get more money from the tourists who want to take photos as the catches being pulled in where not that great. Further along the promenade there are fishermen selling fish that you can buy and then take to the restaurants across the road where they will cook it for you. Tim was up for it but I thought I wouldn’t chance it just yet having been only in India one day.
We then were looking for a tuk tuk driver to take us to the palace. He quoted a ridiculously cheap price so we said okay and as we were driving turned to us and said look I will show you a few other things as well all for the same price. All you need to do is go into a shop and have a look around, no obligation to buy. Hahaha we knew there was a catch but it didn’t seem like a big hassle so we agreed. Our first stop on the city tour was the old laundries which are still used today. A section for ironing which included a lady using an old school heated coal iron and a section for washing which was a series of tubs for hand washing. Out the back there were rows and rows of line for drying.
Next we went to a few Hindu temples but could only view from the outside as only Hindus could enter and we passed a few shrines. In front of one shrine was a metre high pile of salt. Apparently certain deities have specific offerings you should give and this one was salt.
We then had to stop at our first shop for the driver. We found out that they get stamps for every tourist that steps through the doors. We couldn’t work out if it converted to rice or petrol but the amount must be substantial considering they are doing these tours for less than $1. Anyway we were keen to have a look at what they were selling and entered into a wonderland of textiles and wood work and metal work and everything else exotic you could imagine. We were escorted through the 4 floors and I must admit the goods were amazing! I could have purchased a whole container load but ended up walking out with a lovely shawl even though we were adamant we were not going to buy anything!
The area we were in now was Mattancherry on the north east of the island and we were loving it. It is the old bazaar district and the traffic was crazy and everything was just a sensory overload. We decided that tomorrow we would come back and do it by foot. I haven’t been to a place this photogenic since the streets of Cuba. We also made another stop for the driver in a spice market where we saw ginger being dried covered in lime powder and boxed up for sale and a shop selling every spice imaginable.
We eventually made it to the Mattancherry Palace which was a gift to the Raja of Kotchi in 1555 from the Portuguese to help smooth over the fact that they invaded and took over. Inside there are wonderful Hindu murals lining the walls depicting scenes from Hindu legends. The building itself isn’t much but the murals make it worth the trip. We then were driven to the Pardesi Synagogue which was apparently a must see. It was a bit of a let down really and I think it is only noteworthy because it was built in 1568. But we were pretty happy with our first day and were looking forward to heading home to relax for an hour or two before dinner.
But when we walked out our tuk tuk driver was gone! We hadn’t paid him any money yet and other tuk tuk drivers where there telling Tim that he left but we wouldn’t believe them and waited for 10 mins or so but still no driver. So we found another one. Who also tried to get us into another shop. It was then that the penny dropped and we realized that the money they get from the shops is far greater than the fare so as our first guy had gotten all he could from us he ditched us! Sneaky little bugger. To make matters worse we still found ourselves in another shop selling similar goods with the second guy as he wouldn’t take us home if we didn’t. But we had already seen the goods and were not interested so we walked in and walked straight out and soon found ourselves sitting outside on the balcony enjoying a few hours out of the heat.
Jeen our homestay host told us of a cheap local restaurant just up the road from us which was apparently good. So we headed out. The walk was another crazy experience where we passed a church lit up with fairy lights and mass was on with Indian sounding hymns. It certainly seemed different to any other churche we have been to but I suppose when you have Hinduism to compare to where the temples are a riot of colour and there are thousands of gods with extra limbs and elephant heads you have to jazz Jesus/God up to compete.
The restaurant was a simple local affair with the kitchen set up out the front. We ordered green pea masala and aloo Gobi with paratha and for a total of about $3 we ate another amazing meal. The flavors were so different between the two dishes and although a little spicy it’s more just flavorsome. We both are very much looking forward to eating our way around India! S
There is plenty of really fantastic artwork lining the streets in Cochin.
The Chinese fishing nets.
Notice the rocks tied acting as the canter lever.
The washing basins.
The washing lines strung with coir which is coconut husk thread.
One of the Hindu temples we visited. This one is only accessible when they drain the moat once a year.
A lady making and selling popodoms on the side of the road.
The salt shrine.
Workers weighing and packaging the ginger which is drying on the cement. Kind of looks like coral.
The spice market.
We came across a few shops selling these coloured powders which They throw at holi, a festival in Anorth India. You can also use them as face paints.
The area around the synagogue was actually called Jew town. So many amazing photos to take!