Cochin Travel Blog› entry 18 of 37 › view all entries
The first thing we get done is to go back to the Fort Heritage Hotel and Restaurant. We had a lovely dinner there the previous evening, in a beautiful backyard, but the lighting wasn’t good enough to take decent pictures. Since I definitely wanted to remember this place, which was originally a Dutch palace, we go back to take some pictures by daylight.
Next to the Fort Heritage Hotel is a restaurant called Addy’s, another place with obvious Dutch roots.
Once we’re done here, we take a rickshaw to Bazaar Road, where the Mattancherry Palace is located. The Portuguese built this in 1555 and presented it to the raja of Cochin as a gesture of goodwill. Since the Dutch renovated the palace in 1663, it’s locally referred to as the Dutch Palace.
I guess it’s a weird thing that happens to Dutch people whenever they find a slice of their roots on the other side of the world. Instantly there’s this odd sense of pride (even in cases when there’s really no reason to be pride, such as in the case of colonialism). We come from a tiny country, but whenever we run into proof that we may not be totally insignificant we trip all over ourselves to look at it. We really can’t help ourselves, I suppose it’s a sad case of nationalistic insecurity.
Our next stop is Jew Town. The main sight here is the Pardesi Synagogue, which was built in 1662.
Once we have seen and enjoyed Jew Town to the max, we want to take rickshaw to the other side of Fort Cochin to see the Chinese fishing nets, but when we’re nearly halfway, the rickshaw driver asks us if it’s okay if we stop at a store. All we have to do is get into the store for a few seconds, have a look and leave again. Then he’ll get a free T-shirt for bringing people to the store.
We say it’s alright, and a few minutes later we stop at an expensive looking shop with all sorts of handicrafts. As said, we walk in, have a glance and want to leave again, but we are being held up by an army of persistent salesmen.
The Chinese fishing nets are beautiful, they are a legacy of Chinese traders in the 15th century. The constructions are huge, at least four men are needed to operate it at the same time in order to haul in the catch. It must be frustrating for these men to see that as they pull up the nets, birds come searing in and grab fish for themselves…
Once we’ve seen the nets and had a late lunch at the Kashi Art Café we’d like to go back to the hotel to relax. We stop another rickshaw, show the driver the name of our hotel and he starts driving. After a few minutes he says: ‘Before I take you to the hotel, I will take you to a shop.’
‘No thank you, we’re not interested in buying anything,’ Rens replies.
‘It doesn’t matter, I’ll take you there,’ the driver answers.
‘Wait, we don’t want to go to the store, we want to go to the hotel,’ I say annoyed.
‘It will only take a minute, it’s a great shop!’ The driver says, without noticing the angry face of my husband. ‘We do not want to go to that shop!’ He replies annoyed.
‘It’s really nearby, everybody I ask goes in,’ the driver continues with a smile on his face.
‘Stop the rickshaw right now!’ Rens says while fuming.
‘All right, all right. We won’t go to that shop,’ the driver says.
We move on for a few minutes in silence. Then the driver opens his mouth again…
‘There’s another store here though, really nice,’ he declares.
‘No!!’ we both yell in stereo. This guy is unbelievable, I think. It’s obvious these shops pay or award rickshaw drivers with gifts if they manage to bring westerners to their shop, but this is insane.
‘It’s just for a little while…’ The driver continues as if he has forgotten all about our previous discussion.
‘Stop, we are getting out!’ Rens yells. ‘I will not have this anymore!’
The rickshaw driver stops and turns around, undoubtedly for some more persuasion, but Rens has already got enough rupees in his hand to compensate for the drive. He puts them in the drivers hand and gets out. I follow him, I know the driver won’t give up unless we obey him.
Within a minute there’s another rickshaw, and instead of negotiating for the price of the trip, Rens asks him if he can actually take us to our hotel without making us get into some shop. The driver looks a bit surprised, but agrees to not bother us about so called beautiful shops we should visit.
A little later we finally arrive at our hotel, determined never to let any tout or driver or anyone else talk us into expensive looking shops.
That evening we see a Kathakali performance at the Kerala Kathakali Centre. First we watch how the dancers put on the extensive make-up, then one of the dancers explains the movements and expressions. Together with this explanation and a printed translated of the night’s story that was handed out, we’ll actually be able to follow what will happen on stage.
The performance is stunning, with beautiful costumes and enticing hand gestures. It is accompanied by drummers and singers and the story is obvious, even without the hand-out. One green guy is interested in a girl, but gets a bit too persistent. The girl warns a friend with a huge moustache and he starts fighting with the green guy. Eventually the dude with the moustache kills the green guy.