Kerala - Kochi - 6 nights

Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Bastian Homestay

Flag of India  ,
Friday, March 7, 2008

Day 13 - 06/03/08

Arrived at Kumta train station at 11.30pm an hour before the scheduled train departure to Kochi in Kerala, as is the Indian way the train arrived nearly an hour late so we had quite a long wait at the station.
Rather than getting a first class ticket, thought I'd do what the locals do and sleep in third class which is also known as sleeper class. It's a bit like a cattle truck with bunks three beds high. Had a pretty good nights sleep on the top bunk even though people appear to be walking up and down the train all day and all night selling random produce ranging from tea to school atlases.
Finally arrived at the station and got a rickshaw to fort Kochi, the driver recommended a homestay, which is an Indian families house that has a maximum of four rooms for visitors. Really nice place so decided to stay, the family are really hospitable and kind, defiantly better than a hotel or guest house. After I dropped my bags off, went for a walk and watched the sunset across the harbour with the famous Chinese fishing nets as a back drop. Fort Kochi is a really beautiful and relaxed place, very European in style due to colonisation of the area by the Portuguese and British when spices were more valuable than gold.
The whole state of Kerala banned smoking in the street in 2003, you can still smoke in bars and restaurants though, which is the complete opposite of the smoking bans in Europe, it's very odd. If the police catch you, you get an on the spot fine, I've obviously been breaking this ridiculous law but keeping an eye out for the fuzz when having a cig.
Returned back to the house for some dinner which was the first proper meal I've had for two days due to my illness, it was really good and I managed to keep it inside my body which made a change. Then spend the evening chatting with the English guys I've been travelling with for the last few days and an American guy who's also at the house.

Day 14 - 07/03/08

I explored fort Kochi on foot today. It's a real nice place for a stroll, with its low key atmosphere, friendly people, it's probably my favourite big city/town I've visited in India so far. Early in the day, saw the Chinese fishing nets in action hauling in today's catch and just meandered the streets for the rest of day observing life in Kochi.
In the evening, I went to a Kathakali show, which is traditional Indian performance art which exists mainly in the state of Kerala. This form of theatre involves men dressing up in elaborate make-up and clothes to tell a traditional story using music, dance, song, facial/hand gestures. A Kathakali dancer can tell a story just using hand and eye moment, there is a complete language using these methods and it takes around 6 years to learn to a standard where a man can perform in public. Most of these performances last for 7-8 hours, the show I saw was a taster for the tourists and only lasted 2 hours. I can't imagine having to drum or having to wear all that make-up and costume for an 8 hour period, that's serious grafting!

Day 15 - 08/03/08

Today I decided to take my first Kuttanad or backwaters trip. I've looking forward to this part of my stay in Kerala. I really enjoy boat journey's but back at home I rarely have the opportunity. I picked a 7 hour tour, which consisted of 5 hours on the water in two types of boats. The first boat was pretty large with a wicker roof, there were two guys with long bamboo poles, (I know what you're thinking, "long bamboo poles", very funny! Move on) steering and moving the boat Gondolo style, very relaxing slowly drifting down beautiful rivers, in between palm trees and small villages, very peaceful. We stopped to have lunch on an island in the river then boarded the smaller less stable boat and travelled down some of narrower river channels. Met some interesting people to, it was like the United Nations on water there were Germans, Brits, Italians, Swiss, Israelis, Canadians and Indians of course. Overall a good day out.
In the evening had another fabulous freshly cooked meal at the Homestay,  listened to some tunes and chatted to the guy from the states whose also staying at the house. 

Day 16 - 09/03/08

Got shit on by a bird today, I was passing the time having a pineapple juice outside a restaurant when I felt something hit my back, knew what it was straight away. Suppose to be lucky of course, I'll have to wait to see if any luck comes my way.
Today was really a catch up day, caught up on my mails and blog, did some shopping, booked a flight from Kochi to Delhi and had a stroll around the fort. Trying to get some walking in before I arrive in the Himalayas, should be in the foothills in around 10 days.
Slightly worried about the situation in Nepal, speaking to someone yesterday whose friend was struggling to get in via land. There are elections In Nepal in April so security is tight and I think the Maoist separatists are causing trouble again. The only way I maybe able to get in the country is by plane from Delhi to Kathmandu. I was going  to travel by bus from India, but this might not be an option. There's a couple weeks until I go so hopefully I'll work something out. Worse case scenario I'll have to spend my time trekking in the Indian Himalayas instead around Darjeeling
A couple more people came to the homestay today, a guy from Guernsey and a Dutch guy who cycled from Holland to the Iranian border, unfortuntaly he got stuck in heavy snow in the mountains and had to stop. His original plan was to cycle to Nepal, but now he's sent his bike home and is backpacking around India. What a great experience that must have been!

Day 17 - 10/03/08

Quite an eventful day today, but not really in a tourist sense.
Got my clothes washed, sounds pretty uneventful I know but I bought some light cotton pants to wear at night to stop the masses of mosquito's eating me alive. These pants were washed with my other clothes and the dye ran and ruined everything, I now have one T-shirt left. The thing is a gave away a couple of T-shirts the day before to the son of the family I'm staying with as well. Going to have do some shopping tomorrow.
Experienced my first drops of rain in India today, but they were literately drops, nothing like the big storm which is hitting the UK at this very moment. The sun came out 5 minutes later and all was well.
Went for a walk in the afternoon, just as the kids were finshing school, effectively the school run was taking place. I saw a real hilerious sight, around ten kids getting into a rickshaw which should only carry three people, I wish i'd taken a photo, it was like a gunniess world record attempt, probably a great way for the kids to get home for only a couple of rupees each.
In the evening after eating another great meal, went out with the guys from the homestay for a couple of beers. In Kerala the sale of alcohol is very limited due to strict laws, so the restaurants get around this by selling beer in teapots and mugs. The whole restaurant appears to be drinking chi, but really everyone is drinking Kingfisher beer out of mugs, very funny sight. When you want more beer you ask for another pot of chi!

Day 18 - 11/03/08

Another quiet day in Kochi, it's really easy to spend time at the Bastian homestay, all you're cooking is done for you and you don't have to think about anything, its far to comfortable.
I think I'm going to leave Kochi tomorrow and go to Alleppey to experience a day and a night on a houseboat, it's one of those things you have do when you visit the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. It's not cheap in terms of Indian prices, but it will be my one piece of indulgence while I'm in the country.

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