Cindy swimming at the Hilton in the rain
New Video - There are three short, new videos of the famous Kathakali Dance from Southern India. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and double-click them to view...
Somehow we managed to wake up at 3:00 am ready to head for a lovely 5:00am flight to Cochin. Murli actually tapped on our door wanting to make sure that we were up. The taxi guy was a bit late but sped through red lights and little traffic and got us to the airport in plenty of time.
We flew on GoAir, one of several low cost airlines in India that hopefully has relatively new equipment and legal pilots.
Spicy Kerelan Shrimp for Dinner
After we checked in, we were waiting for our flight in the terminal where we ran into Matt, one of the Canadian kids that we met in immigration on the way into Delhi. He booked the cheapest flight possible home and was flying to Mumbai where he has a fifteen hour layover, then to Singapore where he has another six hour layover, then to San Francisco (6 hour layover) and finally on to Calgary. Youth has energy, we don’t and are already dreading our 16.5 hour flight to Chicago and six hour layover…It is pouring out in Delhi and he wasn’t sure what to do so we loaned him our India book and he researched things to do in Mumbai with fifteen hours to kill on the plane. By the time we landed in Mumbai it was a deluge and we are not sure whether or not he made it out of the airport.
After an hour on the ground in Mumbai, it was off to Cochin where we hopped in a cab and headed to the luxury of a Hilton stay. The airport is close to an hour away from Fort Cochi and Willingdon Island where the Hilton is located so we settled in for a long cab ride.
We finally crossed a bridge onto the island and it appeared to be a little less idyllic a resort than we had hoped for. In fact, Willingdon Island looks a lot like the seedier parts of the port of Long Beach or San Pedro, CA and right smack in the middle of it, surrounded by nothing but Port Authority offices and a Naval station is the Hilton.
Great. Stranded. Things went downhill when we checked in. If you read the entries from the start of our trip in Rajasthan you will recall that the Trident group who runs the Hilton’s here, just doesn’t treat us as well as elsewhere in the world (given my lofty status of course J). We were given an “upgraded” room (which was nice but exactly like all of the other Trident rooms and smelled kind of like cat pee plus had the weakest water pressure in India) and were told that we did not get breakfast included. We did however have access to the “Executive Lounge” where we were told we could “entertain our friends!”. Too funny - the Executive Lounge was completely empty including no employees, food or drinks. Oh well - at least the bed is comfy!
We wandered out in the humidity hoping we could find someplace local to eat and were lucky, stumbling on a nice little place with really good Thali’s and Masala Dosas.
Dinner at the Hilton was expensive and only marginally good so we figure we will head over to Fort Kochi tomorrow and spend the day seeing the sights of the island.
We woke up kind of late and decided to hang by the pool which is quite nice before heading over to Fort Kochi. We walked all the way to the end of the island to catch the ferry across the water only to find out that the map was wrong and the ferry was back towards the hotel. Luckily, just then, a guy with a rowboat popped up and said he would take us across for 50 rupees which is supposed to be the local price so we hopped in. He was quite funny and tried to convince us to let him row us all the way to the far side of Fort Kochi where the “Chinese fishing nets” are located.
We said we would walk.
The island is a strange place with a huge Catholic influence as well as Chinese, Portugese and even Jewish immigrants. There is a place affectionately called “Jew Town” where there are shops, a cemetery and a synagogue. We walked up past canals teeming with southern Indian life and boats to the far northern point of the island where the Chinese Fishing Nets are erected. These are huge, blue nets attached to a catapult looking thing with rocks on the end that were brought here way back. The net is submerged for a few minutes, then pulled back up by the guys with the big rocks tied to thick ropes. The catch is a slithering, silvery bag full of tiny little fish that the locals all gawk over before they head off to the market for sale.
Pretty fun to watch.
We were getting hungry and walked to find a place for lunch before we ran into a group of Keralan kids in their 20’s who wanted to practice their English. They were very intrigued with America (often asking the most personal of questions about religion, politics, kids, etc.) and we talked with them for a while before trying to find a place to eat.
After lunch, we visited a couple of the big churches and an old Dutch cemetery, then hopped in a tuk-tuk to check out Jew Town, a cool old museum with incredible carved ceilings and the spice market which was pretty uneventful. The tuk-tuk driver did try to stop at several shops including a spice shop and a tea/ginger/pickle shop to make some commission.
At least the southerners aren’t as pushy as the guys in Agra or Rajasthan. Generally, once you say you are not interested here, they seem to leave you alone.
Kathakali Dancer applying makeup
Our “guide” took us back to a place where they perform the local Kathakali Dance as well as some other dances. We were told to show up early to watch the dancers put on their makeup. Little did I know that it was two men putting on lots of face paint instead of something out of Moulin Rouge. At first we were the only two people there and we were worried that no one else would show up but eventually a few other people straggled in. The dances were pretty interesting (Cindy took several videos that we will eventually upload) and all in all it was a lot more fun and less touristy than some venues like this we have been at (like in Tibet!).
It was pouring rain afterwards and we waded across the street for a pretty tasty seafood dinner before grabbing a tuk-tuk back to the confines of the Hilton.
Chinese Fishing Nets on Kochi
We figured we would start the day off enjoying the pool again but as you can see from the picture of Cindy, it was kind of raining rather hard. We ended up taking advantage of HBO in the room and watched movies for a while before heading out to our little local place for Masala Dosas for lunch. Even though I emailed it to them twice, the people at the front desk hadn’t received our Hhonors reward certificate which ended up turning into a huge problem. The girls who work at reception have huge smiles on their face and not an ounce of intelligence at dealing with a problem. We ended up having another expensive, mediocre dinner (which really pisses you off in India where the food is usually cheap and tasty) and just to top it off, found out that it is a “dry day” every first of the month.
Luckily they restocked our mini-bar! The phone rang around 10:15pm that night with one of the vacuous girls downstairs informing me that they still haven’t received the email with the award certificate. If I was more energetic, I would have walked downstairs and berated her but instead I told her I would deal with it tomorrow and hung up. Good thing I am a Diamond as I would hate to see how they treat the regular public!
Chinese Fishing Nets on Kochi