19.11.2015 - 23.11.2015 30 °C
Kerala is a state known for its beauty. There is lots of lush greenery and rivers known as the backwaters run through the whole state. The reason why people come to Kerala is to visit the backwaters and see the surrounding tribal villages, go to the mountains for trekking and seeing the tea and spice plantations, spending a day at a wildlife sanctuary and for visiting the beautiful beaches.
Our first stop, Fort Kochi is a small fishing village. There are ancient fishing nets called the Chinese fishing nets set up along the water which are still operated (manually) by fishermen. It is a really cool thing to see.
Each day there is a market selling fresh fish and people an buy a piece and take it to the nearby restaurants who will then cook it for you. The waterside is the main attraction here with loads of people gathering to buy fish, relax and watch the amazing sunsets. There are other food stalls around too selling the usual deliciously naughty fried Indian snacks like samosa and pakora as well as drinks and ice cream.
Alcohol is not easily accessed in Kerala so there are some restaurants that sell is illegally, serving it in teapots to disguise the beer. The prices are much higher because of this.
The city of Kochin of which Fort Kochi is a district is very spread out and each part is different. You can access the other parts by ferry which we did one day. The people over there were very different and it was not as nice or relaxed as Fort Kochi.
About 3km from Fort Kochi there is an area known as Jew Town. There you can find lots of shops selling antiques, jewellery, pashminas, essential oils and spices. We spent some time there because the shopping was so good and we both brought lots of cool things. The streets are really easy to walk around as well because they do not allow all traffic through. Interestingly there is a 'hassle free' policy in the shops and information about what this means that said that the shop owners went on strike and shut down as a protest against the aggressive nature of some shop owners and the way that they drive tourists away. It is the first time that I have seen this. They still encourage people to come into the shop but there is definitely a less intense pressure to buy or negotiate price. It was very pleasant.
One night we saw a traditional Keralan show called Kathakali where the actors dress in elaborate costume and use only gestures, eye rolling and song to tell a story. It was a really interesting experience. We arrived early to watch them apply their makeup before the show which is quite the process.
On our last day after being asked every single day we agreed to have a tuk tuk driver take us around to some sights for $1. He took us to a local laundry where they wash by hand, some temples and several government shops that sell spices, clothing and homewares. He took us to the government shops because if a tuk tuk driver takes tourists to these shops, they give him vouchers that he can use to get petrol and rice. We only had to spend a few minutes in each shop and the driver was nice so we agreed to help him out. The whole experience was ruined however by a visit to an abandoned building where an elephant was kept captive. Evan has explained all this in his Facebook posts and has contacted four authorities including PETA to try and have someone look into this appalling situation and help the poor elephant. I don't want to explain it all again because it makes me sick but I think most people have seen read Evans post and know about it.
Overall we had a really nice time in Kochin and look forward to seeing more of this beautiful state. Next stop the mountains for some trekking to visit Munnar, a hill station that has spice and tea plantations.