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Tuesday 29 Mar 2011
Kochi, India

In "God's Own Country"

Had a full buffet breakfast in lobby before checking with the hotel's travel desk to see what the situation was like for tours etc.

The major tourist attractions in this region are the famed "backwater tours". This part of Kerala consists of a series of islands, many of which are now connected by bridges, but formerly were only navigable via rivers and manmade canals. A popular past time is to rent out a boat (or take a boat tour) and to explore the calm rivers watching local fishermen at work, or to travel up the narrow canals and get a more intimate view of village life.

After a bit of deliberation I made the smartest decision in weeks and decided to call it a "beach day" and headed to lovely Cherai beach for an attempt to finally get a suntan after my drizzly experience on the Andamans. To get to Cherai beach all I had to do was take a rickshaw as all the islands are connected via bridges. If you were to come from Kochi town, 20km further south, you would need to take a ferry across.

Cherai beach was luxury in comparison to Havelock's narrow coral (or rubbish)-strewn stretches of beach, and the only annoyance came in the form of local kids either wanting to chat, to give you a Keralan massage, or offering sexual services Yell

In the evening I had a bubble bath (yeah you read that right... not many times you can get to have a bubble bath in India! Tongue out) before I checked out at 8pm and got a taxi to Fort Kochi.

Chinese fishing nets
Chinese fishing nets

Kochi (also called "Cochin") was to be my base for the next few nights, and from where I believed I could also arrange a backwater trip. Alleypey, further south, is better known as the MAIN place to arrange backwater trips, but I had selected Kochi based on it's fascinating history: originally a Portuguese settlement, Fort Kochi has served as a trading post for Chinese and Jewish merchants, and was taken over by both the Dutch East India Company, and eventually the English. The result is a melange of Portuguese-styled streets, Dutch buildings, and Chinese fishing nets that dominate the harbour.

I had a few places listed on where I might stay, but after desperately trying to find "Princess Street" which, according to the taxi driver, was a "new street" (despite having heritage houses on it!) we finally located the town centre and I tumbled out of the cramped vehicle onto the steps of a lovely looking place called "Walton's Guesthouse". It turned out to be a particularly lovely boutique hotel housed in a 16th Century Dutch army garrison. The interior was restored beautifully and very "Dutch" with ebony beams in the ceiling set against whitewashed walls. The aroma of Jasmine and lime-water filled each room. A snip at only 1,200 Rs (I paid an extra 300 for a larger room with TV!

True to his write-up in the Lonely Planet, the owner (a "Mr Walton") was an extremely fastidious sort who had me setup with a backwater trip for the next day before I had even unpacked my bags! I "had to be ready for 7.30 after breakfast at 7".

During the day, I had noticed a few things about Kochi that made it stand out from what I'd already seen in India:

- It appeared relatively wealthy to the rest of India. As we I drove across bridges in my rickshaw I saw large expensive looking apartment blocks overlooking palm-fringed waterways lined with brick (anywhere else in India would have seen muddy banks). Of course appearences can be decieving and clearly all the people aren't wealthy, but their welfare is better than most others in India due to the Kerala model of development. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India at 95% compared to the national average of only 65%. Many of the Indians I have met abroad who work in IT come from Kerala. So it's proof that education is the key to bringing a nation out of poverty.

- There was a very relaxed feel to the place and it even seemed somewhat cooler than the north (thanks to the onshore breezes).

- Communist signage was everywhere. I later learned that Kerala was the first Indian state to vote in a Communist government. In India, each state is largely autonomous and so they can vote in regional governments that may have very different policies to the main government in Delhi.

1 Comment for this Travel blog entry

ajith Says:

21 January 2016

had a few places listed on where I might stay, but after desperately trying to find "Princess Street" which, according to the taxi driver, was a "new street" (despite having heritage houses on it!) we finally located the town centre and I tumbled out of t

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