Monthly Archives: November 2017

Um Jala, Hey Jala!

Day 1 in Cochin kept us very busy. After a breakfast of a huge Egg and Bacon Dosa (crispy pancake) we met up at 10am with our guide for the day Mary Griffin. She was not the softly spoken Irish lady we’d been imagening but instead a very colourfully dressed Indian lady. You can see her in some of the photos here. She explained to us that she was an ex banker who had changed jobs after she had started her family as the hours worked better for her. She was really lovely and looked after us very well in our half day walking tour of Fort Cochin. She was also extremely knowledgeable so my desire to learn a bit about the history of this part of the world was soon fulfilled. Our first stop was very near to our hotel , the St Francis church. This is said to be the oldest European church in India and was built by the Portuguse during their time here in the 16th century. It contains the Tomb of Vasco da Gama. Here we stood by a map and then sat in the pews whilst Mary taught us all about the politics, religions and caste system in Kerala. Essentially Kerala is the most well educated state in India, it welcomes all religions who mix well and it has a socialist (communist?) state government. The caste systems is not offcially recognised but for all of that, it still seemed to be alive and kicking for example in terms of who you marry etc. It was quite fascinating and also to learn about how all this education and wealth (lots of people work abroad) has actually lead to the need to import food from neighbouring state Tamil Nadu as no one wants to work the land. The net result is that the average age of mortality has actually gone down from 90 to 65 in th last 20 years. That’s all working out well then.

This was all very interesting but I was already finding it hard to stay awake. The heat and humidity is exhausting and Mary didn’t really pause for breath! Anyway, next week walked on past the Real Marigold hotel where Lionel Blair and his mates stayed. We walked on to the Chinese fishing nets. These are very famous but Mary explained that since the Tsunami the fish numbers had declined dramatically and really these nets only survive on government subsidy and tourist income. So we paid our dues and enjoyed going out on the nets and helping the fishermen tug on the robes to haul the net up and down. We sang a nice song as we worked ‘Um Jala, Hey Jala’ or something similar. They were very friendly and it was fun. Then we walked past the fish market and admired the stalls with their catch of prawns, red snapper , shark and squid. It was a lovely colourful scene.

Other stops along the way today included the Santa Cruz basilica , a Catholic Church which was much more ostentatious than the other one. We learned that there were Lots of different types of Christians here including the St Thomas Christians and the Syrians Christians. Then we went to the Synagogue which looks after the five remaining Jews in Kerala. No pressure then on the 45 year old woman running the reception. This old building was really quaint, very basic but it had beautiful glass chandeliers.

Next up was the Dutch Palace. Not really Dutch at all but Portuguese originally but used by the Maharajas. Here again we learned lots, this time about the Hindu religion as there are some amazing murals on the wall. However, I will spare you the ins and outs of Vishnu and his many wives and the monkeys. By now we were both really struggling to pay attention as we moved from room to room although the paintings of the different maharajahs with the shoes that pointed at wherever you stood in the room were a highlight.

Next up we drove (oh yes by now we had been joined by our lovely air conditioned car and driver) to see the Dhobywallas . Otherwise known as the local laundry. This is a place where a local family can rent one of the stands and do washing for a career. Strangely, many young Keralans chose banking over this these days. No wonder as the irons weighed 8kg (4 bags of sugar) and Jane could hardly lift it. Whilst we were here it reminded Jane of her Dad and all the ‘Wallahs’ he had known from his time in India. Chaiwallahs, punkahwallahs etc. Me it just reminder of It Ain’t Half hot Mum.

After this we came back to our hotel to relax and I had a swim in the pool whilst the rain came down. It was bliss.

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In a pickle already..

Here we are safely arrived at or first hotel in Cochin , Kerala in South West India. It seems to have been a long time waiting for this trip to come around and I have not written my blog for ages so I am a bit out of practice. Trips to a nice hotel in Crete are all very lovely but there’s only so much you can write about when you don’t leave the hotel compound for days on end! Not sure what happened when we went to Iceland as that really was worth a blog post or two but somehow I was distracted by all my lovely travel companions and the snow!

Still never fear, India’s here and this is where my blogging all began. No adventurous train journeys planned this time though.

It would already seem that we are also a little out of practice in the travelling department. We flew out from Birmingham on Emirates to Dubai and then after a relaxed two hour changeover there we caught our connecting flight into Cochin. The first flight was amazing, really smooth and I’m pleased to the say the extra legroom I’d paid for was fab. Jane and I watched films all the way and the 7 hour flight was over in no time. However, the next flight to Cochin wasn’t so good. There was quite a lot of bad turbulence and I am not a fan of this these days. Especially when they tell the cabin crew to take their seats. Anyway, we arrived!

We met our guide and driver Vaiju and made our way in a nice Rav 4 to the Malabar House Hotel,  which is in the centre of Fort Cochin, the old town. The drive took about an hour and we noticed how different this already seemed to our trip to Northern India. It all seems a lot more modern, westernised and there was a distinct lack of animals roaming the streets. However, the colours along the way are amazing, especially the ladies clothes which are really bright.

So at our hotel we checked in any by now we’re desperate for some sleep. It was about 11am local time and weird this – their time difference includes a half our! We just wanted to get a few toiletries out of our suitcase – only the locks on the new Samsonites would not open with the code we’d put in. We knew this was going to be trouble back home as we couldn’t really understand the picture instructions. Excellent. Anyway it was all too much so we decided to ignore this pickle and go to sleep for a few hours. Of course we couldn’t really sleep so a bit later we woke up and tried again. We searched the Internet and found several informative videos telling us to use a zoom camera and a flashlight to look for differences down the side of the dials. Only trouble was there was a non existent gap and we couldn’t see nuffin. So by now stress levels were rising. Jane wanted to contact Samsonite in via Joyce back in England and I wanted to rip the suitcases apart with my bare hands. However, in the end we decided to take the suitcases to the nice young man in reception . He smiled promisingly and told us to leave it with him, it would take some time. We skulked off back to our room and waited in tense silence. After about an hour there was a quiet knock at the door and the boy with the smiley face beamed proudly and waved what looked like a hairpin at us. He had done it. What a blooming star. Thank goodness …now our holiday could begin.

We decided to celebrate by using our toiletries, putting on our anti mosi stuff and going up to our lovely hotel’s Wine and Beer lounge! Oh the air conditioned luxury. Actually we sat outside and decided to acclimatise as it is incredibly hot and humid here. We ordered a bottle of Indian (yes I know…) Chenin Blanc and despite the label on it that said ‘Drinking alcohol is injurious to health’ it turned out that wasn’t true at all and in fact it was particularly marvellous! We then took our wine down to the hotels restaurant and whilst an Indian trio played lovely soothing music we ate a fine feast. I say feast because it turned out the Biriani starter I ordered was a main meal so we had quite a bit of food. After my ‘starter’ I then had a Paneer (cheese) dish and Jane had a thali (three small dishes with rice). It was all absolutely delicious and we had a lovely time!

 

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