Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India
4 days - November 2018
Time to leave our paradise in Palolem Beach to go south.
We have been driven to the train station in Madgaon by the owner of our guesthouse and his future wife. We started speaking about their wedding and so on about castes, arranged marriages and it confirmed what we read : how strict Indians were. 70% of marriages are still arranged and you can’t marry outside your religion or cast. If you do, good luck you will be banned by your family and friends.
At the train station, travelling first class (these were the only tickets remaining and we booked 2 weeks in advance!), we had to wait to see our names written on a screen to get our seats number (in Hindi... quite funny !)
As usual in Indian train stations, it’s a mess! People everywhere, sitting, sleeping, crossing the tracks, some guys with fluo orange hair. We saw a guy selling omelette in a plastic bag which reminded us of Nicaragua and their « Vigoron, Vigoron! ».
There are more than 3,000 people in the station, I’m wearing a top showing my shoulders and a pair of shorts showing my knees and nobody asking for a selfie! What’s going on? (Probably our sweaty face ;) )
The difference between 1st and 2nd class: the colours of the seats (and price...) ! We laid down and started our long night, we surprisingly slept really well during this 15 hours' ride (for 800 kilometres...)!
The train left exactly on time and arrived exactly on time. During our 5 weeks in India we have been amazed by the punctuality of Indian public transport !
Our destination: Fort Kochi. Our first impression : men are wearing skirt here ?! Actually it’s a Dothi, a traditional Indian outfit worn by many men in India (and especially in the south). It got famous overseas when Gandhi started wearing it as a protest against the British empire (he didn’t want to wear western clothes anymore).
Second impression: they have zebra crossings ! First time we see some in India (and we didn’t even use them still crossing the streets in the chaos of the traffic !)
Third impression: nobody use the horns here, it’s so chilled!
4th impression: it’s still monsoon and we got soaked in one night !
The most European city in India has been colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. We can still see this influence with a mix of old houses built in these colonial periods line the streets of Fort Kochi. Today, there is many Christians cohabiting with Hindu and Muslims and you can clearly hear the 5 calls to prayers. There was also Chinese Influence from the spices traders who came in the 14th century and implemented their famous fishing nets: a net with a system of rocks manipulated by 6 to 10 men to balance and leverage it. Impressive but personally I wouldn’t eat the fish coming from the shores with all the waste present in the water...
Many tourists feel good here because its not as busy, messy and there are a lot of Art Cafe serving European food. But we actually surprised ourselves missing the Indian busy streets & life and didn’t get impressed by this city at all. We did visit many things like the Basilica, the oldest Synagogue in Asia, the Dutch Palace (that has nothing of a Palace!), we found little stalls with spices and even street art but something was missing for us...
The highlight was the show we attended: a Kathakali show. That’s something really particular and far from every form of art we know! It synthesizes music, vocal performers, choreography and hand and facial gestures together to express ideas. It takes the artist a lot of time to put makeup on as each colour and form has a particular signification.
Each gesture and eye move has a particular signification as well and show clearly how the artist feel. We loved replicating the moves later in the night ! (I have some special talent rolling my eyes whereas Cédric is quite bad at it ;) )
And the thing we will remember the most: we asked a tuktuk to drive us to the hospital so I could get my last anti-rabies injection. He stopped three times at different shops so that he could get his commission. We made him realised that here was a reason we had to go to the hospital so the sooner the better but this didn’t prevent him from stopping again ...! Once in the shop (we fought as much as we could but surrendered) we found tables, wood seats, massive sculptures all really heavy. How do they want us to send this back home ??!
Anyway it didn’t make any sense. Classic hospital - private this time but we didn’t see the difference in quality, everybody even dying people are exposed to the newcomers, it’s not really clean, they don’t have air conditioning, everyone is running everywhere, people are just waiting and you don’t know why (not sure they know either...) and I was the attraction of course.
Anyway a shot later and I’m good to go.
Time to leave for our next step in Kerala: the famous backwaters
# don’t take a tuktuk in this city. They all try to get you to the shops so that they can get their fuel liter and 100 rupees as a commission. It’s tiring.
# we haven’t been impressed so 1 day was enough for us
# don’t miss the Kathakali show. It’s impressive