February 11 and 12
The train ride from Coimbature to Ernakulam was uneventful. A bit noisy because of the food vendors trying to sell tea, water, food at the top of their voice, throughout the journey.
Arriving at Ernakulam train station we were met by a representative of the travel agency who walked us to a taxi who was to drive us to Fort Kochi.
This turned out to be kind of an adventure. Over an hour’s drive, busy roads, no seat belts and a driver who didn’t know where our hotel was.
At one point we ended up in extremely narrow streets and were literally stuck between a store front and a truck. By folding in the car’s mirrors and with the help of bystanders, the driver inched his way out of his precarious situation. The truck driver could not care less. He refused to move. We got out without a scratch. Amazing. All part of the adventure and good for a laugh afterwards.
Eventually the driver found our hotel and we made our way up a couple of stairs. This used to be an old Jewish house. Built around a courtyard it explained the name: The Old Courtyard. Lots of old wood, appropriately old furniture. I loved it. We went for a short walk along the shores of the Lakshadweep Sea. Saw the Chinese fishing nets and were shown how they worked. It is an extremely labour intensive process and a balancing act with rocks, rope and net, which goes on day and night.
It got quite dark so we set out to find a place to eat. We found a very nice fish restaurant with live music. Good food and good atmosphere.
Kochi has quite a history.
The rise of Kochi in the 15th century was due to the combination of geographical and political factors. After the flood in the Periyar river in 1351 A.D importance of Kodungallur port declined and Kochi became one of the prominent ports in Kerala. The ruler of Kochi facilitated construction of factories for the trade activities of the Portuguese and in return sought military assistance against Zamorin of Kozhikode. The rulers of Kochi practically became the vassals of the Portuguese. Subsequently, the Dutch established their supremacy over the Portuguese and took over Mattancherry in 1662 A.D. In 1752 A.D. the rulers of Travancore overran Kochi. In 1776 A.D. Mysore forces invaded Malabar and reduced Kochi Raja as his tributary. The English took control of Kochi in 1795 A.D and held it till Kochi State merged with the Union of India on July 1, 1949.
After a good night’s sleep we had breakfast in the courtyard and made plans for the day. Fort Kochi was hot and humid so we took it fairly easy. We walked via the Chinese fishing nets to the Dutch cemetery, St. Francis Church (Vasco da Gama was originally buried here, but his remains were later moved to Lisbon), back to Vasco da Gama square. There we negotiated a motor-rickshaw to Mattancherry, where we saw Dutch colonial houses, spice shops, the Jewish Synagogue and the Dutch Palace. The Mattancherry Palace was built and presented by the Portuguese to the Raja of Kochi, Vira Kerala Varma (1537-1565 A.D.) around 1555 A.D. Subsequently, the Dutch renovated the palace hence it is popularly known as the Dutch Palace. The palace has both European and indigenous architectural features. It is a double storied quadrangular structure built in Nalukettu style with a courtyard in the middle. The Mattancherry Palace Museum was established in 1985 and consists of six galleries.
We stopped at several handicraft/clothing stores on the way because, if we visited these places, whether we purchased something or not, the rickshaw driver received gas coupons!
On the way back to Fort Kochi we purchased tickets for that evening’s Kathakali show.
At 5:00 pm they started the Kathakali make-up session. That takes at least an hour.
After that the show started. These performances can last all night, but they have 1 hour versions for the tourists. It was quite worthwhile. We ate dosas for dinner and took a rickshaw back to the hotel.
We had to get up very early for our flight to Jodhpur.
(We received a phone call from the travel agency to apologize for the “problems” with the ride to Fort Kochi. They were making sure we had a proper ride in the morning, including seat belts, to the airport).