First experiences.....

Trip Start Nov 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Park Avenue Hotel

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Well, we've been in Fort Kochi for 48 hours so far and haven't yet strayed very far from home as we've been getting our bearings. We've just been out to "Teapot" for breakfast, fried egg, beans, toast, butter, jam, coffee and a banana lassi to share for 430 rupees (just over a fiver) which is actually more than our very, very good meal out last night cost us! More of that to follow later. Jane is currently lying on the bed attempting to get back to - how shall we say - "good health" so we have postponed today's plans until equilibrium is restored which gives me a chance to scribe a few notes on the eventful two days so far....

As I noted previously, our hotel is right in the heart of things, about 200 to 300 metres from everywhere. We're surrounded by food shops, restaurants, sari shops, nicknack shops and all manner of interesting things. It really is a nice location. The hotel itself - "absolutely 100% refurbished" - is not quite absolutely 100% refurbished. It almost is but they forgot the coat hangers, the shaving mirror (30 rupees from the shop across the road), a shelf in the bathroom to put your toothbrush on and, more importantly, to put any gas in the ac unit! Consequently, we've had the ceiling fan and the "ac fan" on all night to keep cool. But they're really nice and going out of their way to make us comfortable.


That was a short break while I popped up to our room to use the facilities. Fortunately, Jane was "resting" and the facilities were vacant. But I'm back now so back to the story...

We settled in on Sunday and went for lunch and a walk to get the feel of things. We ended up by the Chinese Fishing nets in the afternoon where there was a large gathering of Indians milling around. They were all waiting the see the Celebrity Solstice leave the harbour so we did too. What an enormous ship! About 12 decks above the waterline and only a 27 foot draft!! I'm sure it should have toppled over. Anyway the crowd of Indians milling around was great, all done up in their Sunday best and looking a real treat. Sadly, we'd both omitted to bring our cameras so no photos. Hoping for another big ship next Sunday! Whilst looking into Vasco de Gama's (alleged) house for somewhere to have lunch, we met Nishad, who was clearly destined to be our very best friend in the whole of Kerala. He was close to insistent that he take us on an hour long tour of Mattacherry in his Ferrari (tuk tuk) for 75 rupees. We resisted but did make arrangements for Monday morning at 10.30.

That evening, we ate at a pavement cafe. Jane had a fine piece of grilled fish, with more garlic on than there is in the whole of Albrighton, and I had a very dubious chicken byriani. We tried to obtain the "Kingfisher in a teapot" that we'd heard was par for the course in unlicensed restaurants but sadly that tradition seems to have been wiped out by the constabulary. Our waiter seemed intent on showing how his gym work had toned his upper body - which he sought to prove by giving me a head massage!?!?!?!?! - and the "greeter", who walked with a limp (and old knife injury perhaps) and wore a bandana over his dreadlocks, ingratiated himself with Jane by spitting vigorously into the gutter every time he crossed it! Nice...

Monday morning 10.25am. We've been for brekkie - very nice - and I've popped into the local hypermarket (cornershop) for water when I'm ambushed by Nishad, who clearly wasn't going to let us escape. So by 10.30 we were off, our first experience of the tuk tuk. Oh, what fun. Thankfully, the first half of the tour was in quietish streets while we got used to the experience. It warmed up later in the day in the crowded "Jewtown". Nishad took us to churches, museums (closed on Mondays, Peter and Margot, like you told us!!!), temples, the laundry _ fascinating!, the spice factory, a synagogue, bazaars - oh so many bazaars and no doubt every one offering him a tablespoon of petrol for his bladeless lawnmower. And it was hot, very very hot. We'd said that we wanted to do all of Mattacherry and all of Fort Kochi which he said would be two hours for 150 rupees. By 1pm, we'd only done Mattacherry and we'd had enough so we demanded that he take us back to the Park Avenue. He did and he got 300 for his trouble. But then we needed to escape so we could find a Kingfisher. We almost, very almost, committed to "part two" the following day but managed to fight him off. Still, everywhere we walked, we saw him lurking in the trees waiting to offer us luxury travel to the next street corner.... At one stage in the afternoon we stopped to have a chat with him about him perhaps taking us to the local beach - about 25 kilometres up an adjacent island. As we were chatting another tuk tuk driver pulled up and clearly tried to "steal" us from him - and, I tell you, I couldn't understand the lingo but it wasn't far off coming to blows!!!

In the afternoon, we went for a stroll and walked along the "promenade" - a fairly nice footpath along the filthy coastline which is littered with fishstores next to the Chinese nets and with souvenir stalls next to the fishstalls and then we headed back inland a touch to find two spots that had been pointed out to us on the morning tour. The first was a shop called Anokhi. Well, I've never seen a woman drool so much. Almost dribbling at the prospect she was.... I read the entire Kochi section of the LP while Jane perused, selected, tried and purchased! Then on the the "film set". It appeared to be in the yard of a local restaurant and there were Bollywood dancers and all giving it large! And swarms (well, a small swarm!) of people just standing watching, taking it in. Apparently the most famous Bollywood actor in India was there. Very famous, very handsome, (very old! - 60!) our lovely little lady receptionist tells me....

The evening was soon upon us (after a short afternoon break at the only acceptable bar we've found that serves cold Kingfisher) and we consulted Lonely Planet for somewhere to eat. LP agreed with "Rough" that Dal Roti had to be experienced for a good nosh so we were off. Walking away from town past the Bollywood film set - still filming in the pitch back - and practically next door to Jane's new favourite clothes shop. And what a recommendation it was. The owner was well spoken, interested - and interesting - and clearly passionate about his food and his restaurant. We ordered lime and sodas, water, a chicken kurma (nothing like the tasteless stuff we get in the UK), vegetable fried rice and a paratha - all to share - and it came to 370 rupees - 4.50! Absolutely fantastic...

And we were all done and stuffed well within an hour so I suggested we walk back along the promenade as opposed to going straight back to the hotel. Jane wasn't keen but agreed. I was confident. Until we came across the hordes of Indian guys "chilling" on the beach. But we got past them before the path descended into total darkness - with shadowy figures lurking in the bushes. But we got past them and were ok until the nice dog came up to us - and went after my right ankle. Only a surface wound though so no problems.  Do you know, up to this point in time, I had never either been offered or been asked for marijuana!  I have now - though I declined the offer whichever of the two it was with a polite "no thank you" and we walked on!  And we were on the home straight then - until the rat we almost trod on just before we reached the Chinese nets. "Look, we're ok now", I said to Jane as we approached the fishstalls. Do you know, Fort Kochi goes to bed long before 9.30 pm! There wasn't a soul about and everything was in darkness. I'm not entirely convinced Jane will want to do that evening walk again!!!! (and I'm damned sure I don't!)

Anyway, that's up to date I think. We're clearly having a quiet day today. Off to the Backwaters tomorrow for a boat trip so hope to add something afterwards.
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Jill Burslem on

Enjoying reading about all your holiday experiences. Glad that Jane has been able to enjoy some retail therapy, how are you going to carry it all home though?? Sounds a lot more exotic than my trip to the Cotswolds last week, but I enjoyed 4 days in Stow on the Wold with Tessa, spent a fortune on cream teas and stuff you really don't need but just have to buy! India looks amazing and hot. J xx

John on

Hello guys, you are obviously having a fantastic time. I am very envious. Cannot believe you only have another week. Sounds as though Koochi is up to expectations. Enjoy the remainder of your hols. J xx

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