So peaceful...

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End May 05, 2011

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Flag of India  , Kerala,
Monday, January 24, 2011

I decided to leave Ooty early yesterday morning and get a bus to Kochi so as to get there in the early evening and avoid a night bus or another night in Coimbatore. In the end I took a succession of local buses which was quite a fun experience: every bus I've been on so far has been totally different, but I’ve always (just about) been able to find somewhere to put my bag (that can be a problem), and I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always joined at the first stop, so I’ve not had problems with delays or getting a seat.  Despite the bumpy roads I managed to read quite a lot – I’m now over halfway through my French version of 'The Life of Pi’ which starts off set in Pondicherry.  If I finish it it will be a first as I never get through French books especially since it’s no longer required of me!  It’s frustrating not being able to look up vocab but I can usually figure it out after a while.

Kochi is really nice.  There are lots of tourists, both Western and Indian, but the atmosphere is so much more relaxed than in the north.  People try and sell you things but they’re good humoured about it and don’t seem so money-grabbing somehow.  And people still stare but in a friendly, unmenacing way.  Kochi is made up of a few islands connected by ferry, and I’m on Fort Cochin which is the nice part!  It’s small enough to walk around and there’s lots to see.  The first European settlers were the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, later followed by the Dutch then the British, so the history is quite unique.  Along the shore are Chinese cantilevered fishing nets which look especially impressive at sunset, although I didn’t see them in action today.  Many types of fish are then auctioned off just next to the nets, and I wound my way through buckets of crabs, all sorts of fish large and small, and some unidentified octopus-like creature.  It was really interesting even for a vegetarian like me, although I wasn’t tempted to try any!  Hopefully I can see the nets working tomorrow evening.  I’ve booked a tour for tomorrow to see the ‘backwaters’ which I’m looking forward to.

The backwater tour was really nice - the epitome of the word "tranquil".  We spent the morning on a houseboat (about 20 of us), then after a thali lunch we transferred to smaller boats which was basically tropical punting.  Nice though.  I spoke to a few different people, including the most stereotypical retired French couple ever - in the first five minutes of conversation they expressed shock that an English person could speak French (however badly); complained about the anglosaxon invasion of France and the fact that English has replaced French as the "world language of culture", and of course made several comments about the superiority of French cuisine!  It was nice to practice a bit though, and I also chatted to a Belgian couple who were just embarking on a year long world tour. 

Back in Kochi I had to cancel my train tickets to Goa as I was still on the waiting list, and try and book a bus instead.  Most guesthouses in the area have a sort of travel agency in the reception, so I went to my own.  To cut a long story short I ended up in a bit of a slanging match with the man - well, he was shouting and I was waqging my finger back at him saying "you do not talk like that to me - I am a paying customer!" In the end he started shouting "Get out, just get out of my sight" so I did.  I think two weeks ago I'd have handled it differently: basically he'd wanted to charge me 100% commission on a train to Mangalore (halfway), bringing the total to 230 rupees.  When I left I went to another agent and paid 120 for the exact same train so although we are literally talking a couple of pounds' difference, it's the principle!!  [Tania I'm sure you'll appreciate that...] 

After sorting out the tickets I obviously didn't want to go back to my hotel so I went the ATM instead and ended up chatting to some people and having dinner with them.  They were really nice and we had really interesting conversations.  The two men were novelists and the woman worked in publishing.  Apparently the one man, Charles, was a bestselling author but I was too embarrassed to ask his name because I probably wouldn't know who he was!  The other man Dan worked for radio 4's 'Start the Week' but again I didn't ask too many questions because after all they were on holiday!
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Ruth on

Sounds amazing!! Your writing style is very vivid :-) xx

mum on

looking forward to hearing all about your experiences face to face - not long to go, we leave early Weds morning and will be in Goa very early Thurs am. just got to sort out the packing - among everything else!!
take care and see you soon

Sue Parsons on

Hi Hollie,

Nice to hear you are enjoying some calm after the train experience and the Hotel Guy. I agree with Grandpa, be like a dentist! Have fun with Mum and Lew. xx

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