We arrived to Fort Cochin with intentions to stay two nights, but ended up staying six. This place is so great that we didn’t want to leave. Cochin is basically a group of islands separated by channels where the backwaters run into the sea. We’ve been told it is the commercial capital of Kerala (Thivandrum being the official capital). Kerala, or as they call it here “God’s own land” is awesome, it is the first publicly voted communist state in the world and they still pretty much follow this rule today. Seeing the red communist flags on most street corners, somehow instantly made the yugonostalgic in me feel at home. The scenery is scattered with backwater channels, making the state green and lush with birds and wild animals.
In Fort Cochin we stayed in Heavenly Homestay, a room in a house with an Indian family. These guys were great, they made us local breakfast consisting of different pancake style breads, coconut chutneys, eggs and a different fruit juice each morning. The room was huge and the bed really comfortable, I loved it and can’t recommend it enough. Their youngest daughter, Jeffy even played the veena for us, a beautiful huge guitar like instrument that was basically twice her size. Really impressive!
The first night we went for dinner to “Oceanos” a local place, where we ended up chatting to Monique, a lady at the table next to us. Turns out she used to be a tour guide in Korcula and was well familiar with both Croatia and Mostar. She now lives in Cochi and knows Kerala really well so we agreed to meet for coffee the next day. Monique runs a small travel agency, where she tailors trips around Kerala for visitors. Her logic is “I don’t have customers, only traveling friends”. She sits down with you and works out what kind of person you are and what interests you have, then she creates an itinererary around that. She doesn’t just send you to random places, she loves to travel so she always goes to check out new spots herself. When you then sit down with her to go through the itinerary, you are free to accept or decline, no hassling involved. If you are going to Kerala, I ecommend getting in touch – email@example.com
The first day in Kochin we met Ashok,”the friendly tourist guide” who offered to take us to see some bits we wouldn’t normally come across. The guy promised the tour wouldn’t include his mates’ shops and gave us a decent price, so we agreed. The first place we saw was the big Bodhi tree, Ashok told us this was the oldest tree in Cochi
The second spot was St Frances church, where Vasco da Gama was initially buried before his remains were taken to Portugal. I couldn’t get a decent shot inside, so here you can see Indian school kids queueing to enter.
Next we went to the spice warehouse
Then to the ginger bleaching facility. When ginger is dried it is dipped in a solution of lime and water, the lime has antibacterial properties and also protects the dry ginger. The lime is later removed when the ginger goes for grinding. I couldn’t get any good photos of this process, but the warehouse was beautiful.
We also went to see the Jai temple, Jainism focuses mainly on non violence, acts of kindness towards all living beings, and is one of the oldest religions in the world. Ghandis theories were based heavily on Jainism. It truly seems like a beautiful religion that everyone can learn a bit from. These guys care greatly for animals and one of the temple goers feeds the pidgeons that live around the temple. He shows up with bird food and makes a sound upon which all the pidgeons fly around the temple 3 times then settle down to eat. The lady guide in the temple told us to stick around to see this as it’s meant to bring good luck, however at this point it was getting HOT in the sun and as Mat pointed out “If I wanna see pidgeons, I’ll go to Trafalgar Square”. So we went further to Brahmin street
Brahmins are the highest Hindu caste and are considered to have the highest spiritual knowledge. They are usually priests, teachers, artists or technicians. Brahmins are considered almost holy as they are the connecton between humans and God and have always preferred to live together. These are said to be the oldest houses in Fort Kochi, they really are beautiful.
Georgeous street, however these Brahmins do not make good electricians.
We the went to the laundry washing quarters. Ashok told us that pretty much all of Fort Cochin gets their laundry done here.
The guys doing the washing are the lowest caste, the untouchables. They start around dawn and finish at midday. The process is basic, they first soak the clothes in sopay water, then beat it on a rock. Hard work for sure!
Ashok also said that if we had given any laundry to the homestay to wash, we’d find it here.
We have now been travelling for 20 days. It still feels like we’re on holiday. India is so diverse and huge, I’m really loving it. I’m also starting to understand Indian driving. Basically, instead of following any traffic rules, these guys just use the horn a lot. So if you want to overtake, you use the horn. If you’re turning left or right, use the horn. If you’re in a partuculary tight swing and you dont’t want cars in your direction to overtake and get into you lane, you use the horn. Instead of slowing down for pedestrians, you use the horn and they move, hell on the back of all trucks it even says “Use horn please”.
We’re about to use the horn too as we’re venturing out on the trip Monique pulled together for us, where we will see more of georgeous Kerala