14.12.2011 - 21.12.2011 28 °C
Day 76: Ernakulam (Kochi), Kerala 14/12/11
Barring illness, this was the worst day of travelling yet. We headed to the station, caught our train to Thrissur with a chicken biriyani in a box for lunch. There was a very strange Englishman on the carriage who kept videotaping everybody sleeping, including me. Oddball.
Arrive in Thrissur after an uncomfortable journey and embark upon finding a room. Easier said than done in this town. Many places refuse to take foreigners and after trekking around for over an hour with all our stuff, sweating and toiling and refusing to pay the extortionate prices in the places that will take foreigners. We then have a run in with a tuk-tuk driver, who after agreeing a 20 rupee fare tries to pocket the 50 I give him. He then reluctantly hands over 10 rupees change and after demanding the correct change he simply throws the 50 rupee note at us and drives off. Daresay there was an attitude problem somewhere.
Eventually decide to jump back on the train after a fruitless search for a room, head to Kochi on a train carriage with a few hundred clapping, singing monks and holy men. Eventually arrive at a nice hotel and after dinner are more than happy.
Day 77: Ernakulam, Kerala 15/12/11
Refreshed and open minded after yesterday, we head into the city centre, a town of modern malls and traditional markets, with many street side stalls selling everything from sarees to sports bras. There is a lot of Christmas gear on sale too, from trees to lights to creepy Santa outfits.
Gemma a bit under the weather so we head back to the room, I have a workout and with the humidity and heat up am soon sweating like Dave in Gonny’s living room. I head out for some lunch – 50 rupees buys a huge fish curry meal. After a quiet afternoon we head out for dinner and find a steak – every bit as good as it sounds – and even apple crumble and ice cream for dessert.
Back into the market place for a wander and it is even busier and more overloading on the senses than during the day. We buy a Christmas tree and decorations and get lost on the way home.
Day 78: Ernakulam, Kerala 16/12/11
A continental breakfast first thing, which arrives as a cup of very sweet tea and a plate of scrambled egg. Ask where the rest of it is and the guy returns ten minutes later with warm bread (apparently toast), cornflakes with hot milk and no juice. There is none apparently.
Head back to the market area, where we discover lots of parts to it we did not find before. A huge food market, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, an incredible fish section and of course lots of smiling, friendly faces makes this a great place to spend some time. I buy a compass from one of the tat shops around the corner to help with the navigation of these confusing Indian cities and to help us stop getting lost (I hope).
Day 79: Ernakulam, Kerala 17/12/11
We pack our stuff and move to a cheaper hotel just down the road, next door to the steakhouse. Had a great breakfast at the coffee shop below this new place, Gemma had a chicken burger, I had a traditional Keralan dish called an appam, which is like a rice cake in the middle with a crispy pancake like outer ring and a curried egg, Delicious.
Headed to the tourist office to book an organised tour to Munnar, a nearby hill town, which incorporates elephant bathing, tea farms, etc.
Afterwards we get together some stuff we want to send home and pack it in a box we source from a tea stall. We get to the post office to be told it is closed and are redirected to the main post office. Arrive here and are told they can wrap the parcel for us, as before. Unfortunately, it turns out this is not the case and luckily a very friendly local takes us in his company paid tuk-tuk to a tailor to get the parcel wrapped in cloth. To cut a long story short we end up with a sack tied with shoelace around the box, which is simply laughed at by the post office clerk. We end up parcel taping the whole box, being abused by the post office staff and losing an hour and a half of our day. Oh well, the goodies are eventually sent and we are back to the hotel for a beer.
Day 80: Ernakulam, Kerala 18/12/11
Just a week until Christmas and we make our way to the ferry jetty and head for Fort Kochi. With it being Sunday the ticket office for the ferry is in true Indian maniacal fashion, with queues (in the loosest sense) and people everywhere. A bargain fare of 2.5 rupees each for the 15 minute ferry ride across the water, with the busy port full of cargo ships. I keep an eye out for pirates and/or Ross Kemp but see neither.
We visit the Chinese fishing nets, incredible structures that have remained pretty much unchanged for centuries. It is slightly strange to see these ancient mechanisms against the background of an oil refinery and the sadly familiar sight of rubbish.
I buy some mussels at the market and have them cooked into a curry at a nearby café, which is delicious. We then take a trip into Jew Town, where there are some incredible shops before we found ourselves at a traditional Keralan theatre production. Cue crazy, scary masks, costumes and facial expressions. That’s quite enough of that, back to the steakhouse it is.
Day 81: Ernakulam, Kerala 19/12/11
A fairly quiet day, with some top quality bbc tv before we headed for lunch and our separate ways to do a spot of Christmas shopping. An Indian takeaway in India (again) and a couple more films before we head out for a short while, the streets are very busy tonight – lots of revellers, policeman and even more market stalls. Seems the Christmas rush is universal.
Day 82: Ernakulam, Kerala 20/12/11
Another day spent experiencing the sights and sounds of Ernakulam and the Fort Kochi area. A lovely place but we feel have seen and done enough and we start to get itchy feet – whilst we have enjoyed it here we are glad to be moving on tomorrow. We stumble across the cinema and see it is playing the new Mission Impossible film, so we go for a cup of tea and a cake at the bakery nearby and then go to watch the film.
The cinema is quite an experience, with the air conditioning on arctic setting, the other cinemagoers are in a vociferous mood, and when Tom Cruise announces they are off to India a chorus of whooping, whistling and cheering goes up. The appearance of a Bollywood star receives the same reaction. Dirt cheap popcorn helps make the experience a more than enjoyable one. The film is worth a watch too.