31 May - Ernakulum (Cochin)
Had to get to the station by 5 am for an early train. The train ride was lovely; there were farms everywhere, very green and lush. The soil was red so it was making everything even more pretty. The red tile roof houses were very neatly kept. Reached Ernakulum around 11 am. Stored majority of the luggage in the luggage room and went to the Cochin Guest House near the railway station. It was a nice simple place to stay.
Walked around a bit, had lunch (not too good) and then took a tour of the city and dance program through the touring company in the Guest House. At 2:30 pm we took the city tour. It was nice in theory but practically mismanaged. First they boarded us on the wrong boat so we lost our front row seats. Then they had more people than seats, so we were left standing. At least it was breezy during the boat ride. First we saw the Wellington Island, an artificial island. Then a major port – there were a lot of ships there. Saw a number of race boats. They were very different looking, very ethnic to Kerala. The scenery was all quite nice.
The first stop was the Jewish Synagogue. Walked less than 1 km through a lot of shops to get there. It was very small but very beautiful. Really a historical keepsake. There were Chinese tiles on the floor, no two were alike, and there were Bulgarian and Italian lamps and chandeliers. The synagogue was made in 1585. Only I went to visit – Papa and Bhaiya stayed on the boat. Back on the boat, we stopped next to see the Chinese nets – one of the most photographed of all things in Cochin. Saw the Bogota palace from far. Came back from the tour around 5:30 pm and went straight to the Cochin Cultural Center to see Kathakali. The tour was highly mismanaged.
We got in time at the cultural center to see the dancers get ready. There were two dancers – both male. They were gracious enough to let the audience see them get ready. The makeup was elaborate and they were applying it themselves – flawless! The whole thing was quite different for me as I expected the classical dancers would be more respected and someone would apply their makeup….maybe its part of the dance to know how to get ready yourself.
|Kathakali Dancers and Us|
The dance theater was very small – maybe 50-60 seats. We sat in the front row. The dances were narrated by a man otherwise they would be just motions. It was very expressive dance – the facial expressions were unbelievable. It was a great cultural experience. The dancers showed all the different movements involved in Kathakali. Dances were all based on stories. We got to take some nice pictures with the dancers. There was only one thing that bothered me after a while of watching the dance – the music. It was too loud and there was no real melody, so it was just wood against wood. Could get really hard to listen to.
Dinner was tasty uttampam and then it was sleep time!
1 June – Ernakulum to Trivandrum (Thiruvanthapuram) and Back Water Tour
Today was backwaters tour day. But first breakfast – really good coffee! Waited for the bus (Maruti) and then picked up 3 more people. It took us about 45 mins to get to Allepy. There was a boat with the rower in it. All six of us sat on one boat. The boat ride was just beautiful. The banks of the backwater were lined with coconut trees all going in different directions. We stopped at one location/someone’s house to see some craft the locals make with coconut husk. The lady there showed us how they make rope from it and necklace. I did end up buying a necklace and serving spoon.
We stopped at another place where the guide showed us the shrimp farming. I don’t care from shrimp, but the local area was just beautiful. We then started our way back to the original spot. The tour was all great, except in some places it was really dirty and smelly. Everything was being disposed of in the water. And then there were several places where people were trying to reclaim the land – not a pleasant sight. There is no oversight for these things in India.
The driver drove us back to the hotel like a mad man. Crazy driving! Had a good saapad (lunch) and then since we still had some time, we went to the handicraft store. I bought a coconut monkey! Went to the railway station, took our luggage out and waited around since the train was late. Since it was getting late already there was really not much to see outside. Reached Thiruvanthapuram at 10 pm. Checked into Mancaud Tourist Paradise – just an okay hotel.