Ten days in Kerala. Days 1-2 — Kochi (Cochin) PICTURE-HEAVY!

Each of these accounts will start with the information the operator gave us in the itinerary.


05th Oct (Wed): Arrival / Cochin

At the airport, you will see that Tree Trunk Travel representative is waiting to give a warm welcome and later he will escort you to your hotel, previously reserved.

After upon arrival in Hotel discuss your tour itinerary with our representative in Lobby and after that our representative will help you to check into formalities

Overnight at Hotel 06th Oct

(Thu): Cochin

This day, designed as per our Kerala itinerary, will begin with sightseeing in the historic city, Kochi. As we take you on an expedition into the city you will come across various interesting sights such as Jewish Synagogue (closed on Saturday) built in 1568. when the Jews settled in Mattancherry, after their expulsion from Rahabi, who built a clock tower and paved the floor synagogue with hand painted willow pattern tiles brought from China.

St. Francis Church which is the landmark in the Fort Kochi. Fort Cochin, this Church was originally dedicated to Santo Antonio, the patron Saint of Portugal. It was built by the Portuguese in 1510. It is the first church to have been built in the new European influenced tradition To spice up your tour we will take you to the most attractive feature of Kerala tour, the Spice market, from where you can buy some flavor of South India for home.

Evening Kathkali Dance Show: Evening we will visit the Kathkali Dance. Kathkali dance is the one of most famous dance performance in Kerala. Kathakali draws its theme from the wealth of Indian mythology and folklore. Expressions of face and eyes hold the key to perfection. Unique among the Indian dance forms, Kathakali ranks high among the Indian dance forms. Noted for its archaic costumes, weird make up, the elaborately painted faces often mistaken for masks and grand headgears, Kathakali is perhaps the only dance form in India in which the masculine aspect of the dance is preserved in its elemental vigor.

Overnight at Hotel


We finally arrived and had our first taste of India. I had arranged e-tourist visas for us, and imagined (gullible fool that I am), that we would merely need to present these at the immigration desk to be allowed in. Really. I should have known better. Much as I admire and love the people of India, they do (and I should have remembered this from the time I worked with a number of their countrymen in Dubai in the early 1980s) have a passion for officialdom, administration and procedures that make the French look like their attitude to these things is defined by the term laissez-faire.

There was a special office where we had, individually, to present our visas and passports (none of the other documents we were advised to carry, like copies of our medical prescriptions, were ever asked for, though you can bet your boots that if we hadn’t taken them…) and where we were photographed and fingerprinted before the stamp was placed in our passports.  Apart from the fingerprinting machine, which stubbornly refused to work unless it was cleaned, degreased and sanitised between each use, of which there were four per person, and even then not reliably, everything went smoothly and amicably and we were soon on our way.

A representative from the tour operator, Tree Trunk Travel (on whom be heaped much praise), met us at the airport and saw us though the throng to the pick-up area, where our driver was to arrive shortly. The representative handed us a dossier of useful papers and went through the first day’s planned activities. He then, as the first instance of what was to be a frequent occurrence, had us pose for a photograph.The rep, together with our driver, Shafi – remember the name, it’s going to crop up from time to time – took us to the hotel and helped with checking in. We also learned there, that Shafi was to be our driver for the entire holiday – at least until we end up in the last destination, where we were to be at leisure for a couple of days, with nothing planned. Shafi has been doing this work for seven years, five of them with Tree Trunk.

We went up to our room in the Abad Plaza Hotel in Kochi and settled in. Later in the day, Shafi took us out to the sea front, telling us we really had to see the sunset over the area. Here are a few images from that area up to, and including the rather splendid sunset (and some of those Shafi insisted on taking of us). The following morning after breakfast (the eggs masala were to die for), we drove into the town, where we picked up a specialist guide to show us the important historical sites and sights (as well as some less ancient).It was then that we first found out just how chaotic driving can be, and became more thankful for Shafi!We also passed what is known as a cannonball tree. Pretty flowers……interesting fruit……aptly named!We also passed more of the Chinese fishing rigs that we had seen the previous evening and had our first clear sighting of one of my favourite birdsthe iconic Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) – Milan sacré in French. We were to see many of these in the days that followed, and every one was a delight.

Flash photography was forbidden in the church, as was all photography in the synagogue, so no photographs of either. Both gave fascinating insights into the background of the area and the multicultural, multi-faith mix that make Kerala what it is today.

Our next visit was to a dhobi-house. After the large area of land on which the Dhobis worked was taken over by the government, a purpose-built complex was created.The procedure is simple. You need only turn up at the building, choose which worker you want to take care of your soiled clothing, and negotiate a price and timing. Payment is made when you pick your stuff up again. This room is mostly for ironingsome even using good, old-fashioned wood-fired heavy irons. The washing (all by hand, of course) happens in separate roomsand there is a large drying areaBefore the guide left us, we had to find a way to get hold of some cash to tip him. Happily, ATMs are to be found all over, and most of them work most of the time – mostly. We then needed some change to tip him, so we bought a top for Clare. We weren’t accustomed to the exchange rate at that point (we never did really get used to it), and thought 2400 rupees excessive for the top. We successfully talked the man down to 2000 rupees (we could possibly have done more, but holiday time is too precious to waste on haggling to save a small amount extra). It was only when we walked away that we realised that 2000 rupees only equated to about £25! Once the guide left, Shafi took us to a restaurant for lunch, then left us to do his own thing.

Chinese fishing rig in use

After lunch, Shafi took us to a boat trip operator where, for the price of a top, as it turned out, we had a small boat and driver to ourselves, touring around the backwater for almost two hours. The driver sensed our interests very early on, and eased back on the throttle every time we saw a bird. He wanted to take a load of photographs of us with our cameras, too. Here’s a flavour of that side trip.




Somebody’s enjoying the trip!
Mangroves
Black and Brahminy Kites
Unaccompanied minor?
I don’t think so!
Oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster)
Lightening the load ready for take-off
Fishing
Guess who
Repairing the nets
Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
Indian Runner Ducks

As promised, the evening was spent at the Kathkali performance. It all starts with the make-up being painstakingly applied. The actors (all men) then act out the play. You have to understand that we were probably still jet-lagged and very tired – it had been a busy day – so couldn’t appreciate this as much as perhaps we should have. You have to be awake to appreciate culture.

Here are a few pictures, followed by the description of the piece as provided. I think we were supposed to give the description sheet back. I forgot. By the way, don’t worry about the gory aspects of the description – it was all very symbolic. The ‘weapons’ consisted only of the red baton being held aloft in the last image. During the ‘fight’, I don’t think it came within a foot of his opponent!

THE MAHABHARATHA

DUSSASANA VADHAM

The killing of Dussasana

Lord Krishna: God of the Hindu Trinity: Pacha-Green face, noble character.

Draupadi: Wife of the five Pandava Princes: Minukku-Yellow make-up.

Dussasana: Brother of Kaurava King: Kokkana tadi-red beard, evil character

Bhima: Second, Most powerful of the Pandava Princes: Pacha-green face-katti: with the appearance of lion at the Battle of Kurukshetra.

The Singer narrates the story:

The Pandava Princes played a fateful game of dice against their enemies the Kauravas, and after staking their wife, Draupadi, they lost her.

Dussasana comes and seizes Draupadi, dragging her by the hair. When she refuses to do menial work, sweeping the floor, Dussasana tries to disgrace her further by tearing off her sari. Draupadi appeals to Lord Krishna, who makes the sari never-ending, so that many lengths of cloth lie heaped on the floor. Ex­hausted at last, Dussasana falls unconscious. Draupadi curses the Kauravas, and vows she will leave her hair unwashed and in disarray, until her husband combs it with his hands covered in the blood of Dussasana. Then Dussasana wakes up and drives the Pandavas into exile in the forest for twelve years.

THE BATTLE OF KURUKSHETRA

Returning from exile, the Pandava princes determine to reclaim their kingdom from the Kauravas. This results in the Battle of Kurukshetra. In this great battle, Bhima seeks out Dussasana and challenges him to a duel. With the ferocity of a lion, Bhima strikes down Dussasana and kills him. He rips out Dussasana’s heart with his bare hands, gulps down his blood and scatters his entrails. Then with bloodstained hands, Bhima draws his hands through his wife’s hair, fulfilling her vow to be avenged by her husband. Bhima confesses to Lord Krishna that he has killed many Kauravas. Lord Krishna consoles and blesses Bhima, saying that his actions were in accordance with the will of God.


Next, Munnar – read on!

8 thoughts on “Ten days in Kerala. Days 1-2 — Kochi (Cochin) PICTURE-HEAVY!

  1. Love all of the birds! Such beautiful creatures.. also loved the performers.. wow. So colorful. I’ve read a lot of Hindu stories over my year of studying Indian religions and culture in college.

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  2. I wish you’d taken pics of the outside of the synagogue and the church – would have loved to seen both. Understandably none inside though. Most won’t allow that.

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    1. I’ve had to be selective with the photos, Lori. Between us, Clare and I took more than 2000 in the ten days we were there. I’ll take a look; if I have outside shots of those buildings, I’ll email copies to you.

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  3. This is marvellous, Keith – and I look forward to your further adventures! I have the added interest that my neighbours do a ‘freelance’ 3 or 4 wks in India every year (as in arranging their own itinerary), and they diary their trip in much the same way as you have done here. Thus I am familiar with some of the things you have documented – both the cultural (the fishermen) and the procedural (visas etc). I must let them know about the evisas, though – they are very tech savvy, but I think this has passed them by.

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    1. Thanks, Kimberley. If ever anything could be described as the trip of a lifetime, this was it. It seems like an age ago, already, but documenting it (and sifting through more than two thousand photographs to do it) will keep it fresh.

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