Friday, April 25, 2008

India, India, India: 3

So after a relaxing bit in Alleppey we haded to Ft. Cochi. We took the bus and had the perfect bus experience even though we sat in the back row (the upside being there was plenty of space on the floor next to us to leave our bags).Ft. Cochi is very much like Varkala, but more spread out and surrounded by really nice old colonial architecture. So what I'm saying is that it is very touristy, but photogenic at the same time (whereas Varkala really wasn't photogenic). It hasn't changed much since last I was here in 2001, but the tourist stuff has expanded. Oh, and the cute colonial hotels are no longer affordable.
After we booked our hotel and had a nice cup of coffee, while wandering aimlessly around looking for a dosa (yes, still), we met Angus. Angus is a Scottish-Australian traveling around India alone. He asked if he could tag along with us and we agreed. I quickly discovered that Angus is also an amateur photographer with the same camera I have, so we had a lot of fun taking photos while walking between Ft. Cochi and Jew Town.
Jew Town consists of many trinket shops, a synagogue and a cemetery. If you are planning a trip to Kerala and only want to spend a few days in Kochi, do not schedule those days for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As this is the mistake we made, we did not get to go into the synagogue. Luckily I've been inside before, but I was looking forward to seeing it again. The current building was erected in 1664 (rebuilt by the Dutch after the Portuguese destroyed the original 1568 building). The clock tower was built in 1760. The cemetery is locked up too, but you can see it through the gate.And of course, the Chinese fishing nets provide hours of entertainment to tourists as we watch this ancient practice introduced by the court of Kublai Khan. As in Sri Lanka, the fishermen complained that the fish stock is much lower now than before the tsunami. In Kochi, however, they were actually throwing back the small fish, which you don't see too often in Sri Lanka. We did try our hand at pulling up the nets as all good tourists are expected to try. I actually find this fascinating, the fisherman asked us to come help them, so we did. Then they ask us for money for the privilege of helping them. Barbara and I looked at each other and then asked the fishermen to pay us for helping. That got a laugh and we left without paying.
I had been misinformed of how much a taxi would cost back to Trivandrum (and if I had thought about it I would have realized that a bit sooner than we did), so we decided to take the overnight train. The problem with the overnight train is that the trip is only four or five hours, so you don't really get a night's sleep. The other problem, the Indian train system is not computerized so our station couldn't sell us reserved seats. Once again we found ourselves holding tickets for 2nd class, but wanting sleeper. We were told (through many different informants the last being the station manager) that we could find the ticket man on the train and upgrade with him -- he would know if there were actually berths available in sleeper.

We had five minutes to make this transaction before the train pulled out, so when the train arrived we ran up to the first uniforms we saw. They were actually police, but they pointed out the ticket guy for us. I ran up and rudely, but just like a regular Indian, thrust our general class tickets at the guy and asked for sleeper. He took them, not even batting an eye that I just cut in front of a bunch of people (still under the belief that we only had five minutes), attended to those standing there waiting for their prearranged berths, and then, finally, assigned us two berths in sleeper. The train then stayed in that location for about an hour.

We walked into the sleeper car and realized we were in for an uncomfortable night. Not only was it incredibly hot, but we were the only foreigners and everyone was staring at us, which isn't such a nice feeling when you want to go to sleep. We also had the top berths. Oh and we are longer than everyone else and felt compelled to have our bags up with us, so that just makes for an even more uncomfortable ride.

Yet we did sleep. We slept so well we almost missed our station, but for some random unknown event that woke me at the exact time we entered Trivandrum.

There isn't much to do at 4 a.m. in Trivandrum. We stored our bags in the cloak room and walked out into a sleeping India. Happily the only place open was a nice hotel that we ate at when we arrived and was now open and serving coffee with the promise of dosas at 7:30. So yes, I finally had my dosa!

Now we are back in Sri Lanka. The other day there were many, many ambulance sirens -- we found out later there was a huge battle up north with estimates that between 180-300 people were killed. Yesterday there was a bus bomb in Piliyandala; twenty-three people died. Ah, Sri Lanka.

1 comment:

Ivanna said...

I enjoyed all three parts! And the pictures are lovely!