Monday, May 24, 2010

A day wandering Cochin

The twentieth was our last full day in India. We had no plans, just to relax, see a bit more of Fort Cochin and enjoy a little more of India.

Our day began with breakfast at our hotel. Unfortunately, we lacked confidence in their kitchen, so it was really just toast and coffee. We then decided to do a little shopping to see if we could find anything interesting to take home with us. We trolled around the little stores in the more touristy area near our hotel, but didn’t come across much. Colleen and I had spotted what looked like some pretty cool shops down near Jew Town on our way to Alleppey two days prior, so we thought we’d walk over there.

We normally took rickshaws from place to place, but I thought that it seemed like a nice day to try to walk it, so we set out. It was a nice day, and it was interesting to walk through a more suburban part of an Indian city. Far calmer and more relaxed than other places we’d been and a good lesson on what other parts of this country might be like. Unfortunately, our map, or my navigation skills, left much to be desired, and we found ourselves fairly lost after a while. Eventually, we can across a road name we recognized and realized we’d been going south rather than east all along. I was in favour of walking out way out of it and Colleen was up for it, but our little stroll became a very long walk.

Along the walk children would often say “hi” to us and run off. Occassionally they’d be more bold. A boy on a bike would ride by Colleen and yell out “Beautiful” as he’d pass. A group of kids would surround us and ask us for a coin from whatever country we were from or a pen. In one of the last encounters with the kids of Kochin a group wanted to shake our hands, then they wanted to kiss Colleen’s hand. I’m sure it made for pretty good stories when they got back home that afternoon.

Eventually we made it to the muslim neighborhood, which neighbors Jew Town and the shops that we’d been looking for. We poked through the shops and they were rather fantastic. Loads of amazing antiques and likely things that had been made to look like antiques. My favourite items tended to be the great old doors, likely taken from local buildings, hopefully with the owner’s consent.

We didn’t find anything worth buying and it had been a long morning of walking. We caught a rickshaw back to our ‘hood, so we could lunch again at the same place we had the day before, Dal Roti. This time the proprietor was preoccupied with being a raconteur with another table, but the meal was still very good.

After lunch we headed back to our hotel for a bit, then caught another rickshaw back to the stores around Jew Town. More browsing, but no buying. While we were poking around one of the monsoon rains began to fall. It’s amazing the amount of rain that can come down in a short amount of time. It rains a lot in Vancouver, but never in this kind of volume. Within a few minutes the streets were full. I had fortunately borrowed an umbrella from our hotel, which provided a modicum of protection, and it was a bit of fun to dash from shop to shop.

We eventually ran out of shops to visit and popped into a little French café for a bit and a tea. Then we walked the route back to our hotel. It was an interesting walk along the spice road. All along the way were warehouses, big and rather smallish, full of spices and foodstuffs. Each place held its tea or potatoes or garlic or spices in great burlap sacks, and the road was a hive of activity loading and unloading shipments. It was a great walk, as long as we kept out of the way.

On the walk back we ran into English Stephen, who we’d met a week plus earlier on the train to Hampi, and who I’d spotted at a distance in Ooty. He’d subsequently teamed up with some other English folk, and they’d come to Fort Cochin. We’d run into him and one of his friends both riding their rented bikes earlier in the day, when we’d had to explain that there was no fort in Forth Cochin. This time they stopped beside us in the rain, both riding the same bike. They let us know that they’d stopped for a minute earlier, to get out of the rain, turned their backs, and when they turned back one of their bikes was gone. They were trying to figure out what to do and how much it would cost, knowing that a used bike cost about Rp500, but that they’d likely be charged many times that. When we ran into them later in the day again, this time on rickshaws, we asked them what they’d done about the bike. They said they’d dropped the one off and done a runner on the other. It seemed like poetic justice to me, since I suspect that the bike shop was probably the ones who stole their bikes in the first place.

Following our walk back from the spice shops we rested in our hotel and washed up. Dinner was in the courtyard restaurant of a nice hotel, where the atmosphere was great and the food was poor. And post dinner was another night of finding English programming on Indian TV. The TV program Castle has turned out to be a favourite of ours, even thought we’d never heard of it at home.

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