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Embedded Photos: 1.Ernakulam Harbor, Kerela, India 2.Curio Shop, Ft. Cochin, Kerela, India 3.St. Francis Church, Ft. Cochin, Kerela, India 4.Vasco De Gama's Grave, Ft. Cochin, Kerela, India
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Fishing Nets, Ft. Cochin, Kerela, India
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 1,095,351,995 Area:3,287,590 km2 Gov't: Federal Republic Religion: Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9% View Map
Fishing Nets, Ft. Cochin, Kerela, INDIA, November 2004  

India Flag INDIA


November 9 - 15. KOCHI (ERNAKULUM) Our flight to India was early in the morning but the hotel van made it easy.  The customs people gave our bags a good feel but didn't raise any red flags over our souvenirs.  The flight was around an hour and a half to Kochi. We sat next to an American man who did crisis counseling in different parts of the world.  He had seen people through some devastating situations and it sounded like a rough job.  

Almost every traveler we'd met that had been to India had stories to tell about harassment and hassles but many also touted India as one of the most interesting places they had ever been.  We always knew that India was a place that we waFt. Cochin, Kerela, Indianted to visit before returning home but with nearly two years of travel behind us we were feeling weary.  We just weren't sure how much patience we had left to handle the most hassle-prone destination on the planet.  Sri Lanka was meant to be easy compared to India and we were starting to get fed up with all of the touts in Kandy.  So, we arrived in India with somewhat low expectations and were ready to move on to Thailand if it proved to be too stressful.  

The Kochi airport was quite small but newly rebuilt, according to the guy who had been sitting next to us.  We had to wait a good while for our bags to come out but getting through immigration and customs was painless.  The airport even had a convenient pre-paid taxi service into Ernakulum.  The city of Kochi actually referred to Fort Cochin on the tip of a thin peninsula.  Ernakulum was a larger town across the bay from Fort Cochin and where we were planning to stay.  Ferries ran back and forth across the bay regularly so we could get over to see the old fort area but Ernakulum had cheaper lodging options.  When we came out of the airport, nobody but passengers were allowed inside the terminal, I was expecting to be bombarded with touts but it was very manageable.  Immediately a group of taxi drivers came up and demanded to see our pre-paid taxi slip.  We didn't know who to go with so I popped back inside and asked at the taxi desk.  The woman pointed out a name and license plate number for our assigned taxi.  It was too easy.  The few people that hadn't gotten a pre-paid taxi were being crowded by other taxi drivers but we moved through the sprawling crowd of people without any trouble.  The taxi was a large white Ambassador, an Indian car with a classic-style curved body.  Almost all of the taxis were white Ambassadors. It had springy seats and a huge trunFt. Cochin, Kerela, Indiak so we had plenty of room for our stuff. 

The airport was 30km from Ernakulum so it took a good 45 minutes to get into the city.  The traffic got thicker as we reached the city center..  We told the taxi that we had a reservation to avoid any hassles but he didn't seem like the kind of guy to do that anyway.  Luckily our first choice hotel had a room available.  We were using the Rough Guide for India because that it what we found in Abu Dhabi.  They were often strong on history and sightseeing information but LP was generally better for the logistics of getting around.  The only bad thing about LP was that hotels and restaurants in that were written up in their guides often suffered from instant inflation.  This hotel was just in the Rough Guide and turned out to still be a bargain.  It was on the road that ran down the coast so it wasn't far from the ferries.  Massive buildings on the opposite side of the street meant there wasn't much of a view but we took a back room anyway.  The rooms were a bit grungy around the edges but fairly neat and we had our own bathroom, cable TV, and an air conditioner.  They just threw on a bottom sheet and then handed us a couple of previously used blankets.  We returned the blankets and asked if we could just get two more sheets.  It was too warm for a blanket anyway.  We had a roommate on our first night; that I discovered in a half wakened state in the bathroom.  Scurrying around on the white tile floor I almost mistook it for a mouse but it was a sizable roach and was acted almost as surprised to see me as I was to see it.  I leapt for the door as it scurried towards the door, or rather the gaping cracks in the molding that surrounded the door and provided it with an escape.  Except for one much smaller cousin we never had to share our room again.    

Our room was on the third floor and beneath us, on both the first and second floors of the narrow little building, was probably the best asset of our hotel, the Coffee Beanz cafe.  It was written up in the LP book and turned out to be great place for coffees and light meals.  In south India coffee was more popular than tea but this place looked more like an Indian version of Starbucks than anything traditional.  It was a chain too.  The coffee drinks Ft. Cochin, Kerela, Indiagot pretty creative and elaborate.  There was one creamy cold coffee drink that would put a frappuccino to shame.  We didn't take long to get acquainted with the Coffee Beanz and ate there pretty much every day.  Their masala dosas, a large crispy crepe with spicy potato filling, were great and they even did a decent chicken burger.  In the hot weather the light food was just right and we rarely felt like indulging in a heavy meal at a more formal restaurant.  The only drawback to Coffee Beanz was the deafening music.  It literally thumped like a nightclub.  We could barely talk to each other and it was not a place where you could hang out and read very long.  We tried and just gave up.  They also sprayed a kind of citrus disinfectant into the cafe that smelled strange. The natural smell of brewing coffee was nice and it didn't blend well with the artificial citrus smell.  Depending on the time of day it wasn't always strong and gradually they caught on that the music was a bit loud for us and tried to accommodate us when they weren't too busy.  

The staff at the hotel and Coffee Beanz were all really nice, as were most of the people we encountered in Ernakulum.  Nobody spoke much English but they had a warm way about them.  The waiters soon smiled at us when we came in the door of the coffee shop and could almost anticipate our orders.  All of our fears of aggressive touts and hustlers had been dispelled so far.  The guidebook mentioned that the people in the south were particularly nice and easy going.  That had been one reason that we had flown into the south but we definitely thought it would be harder that in turned out to be.  We really liked Ernakulum.  It was a rather unremarkable place as far as sightseeing went but we had learned that nice people more than made up for any lack of monuments and tourist attractions.  During our entire stay we had very little in the way of problems.  The tuk tuk drivers could be tough negotiators but were geneVasco De Gama's Grave,  Ft. Cochin, Kerela, Indiarally good natured.  We got used to the Indian head wobble that indicates affirmation.  Initially it felt more like a head shake, conveying the opposite meaning, or a gesture of uncertainty, like a shrug but eventually you find your head starting to follow the other person's wobble.  Only one time did I have someone hassle me and it was right in front of our hotel on the day we were leaving.  Rob went out to the street to hail and cab and I was watching our bags.  A man approached me and tried to show me his manuscripts.  He didn't speak much English but he tried to explain that he was a tuk tuk driver and wanted help publishing his book so he was asking for money.  It was a good story, and maybe even genuine, but I had to explain that I didn't give money out to people that I didn't know.  He gave me the head wobble back but then just kept standing there.  I got annoyed and asked him to leave but he just wobbled again and kept standing there, staring.  It was creepy.  I eventually uttered an obscenity and retreated to the overhang of the hotel.  When I turned around again he was gone.   I don't know exactly what his behavior meant but I didn't like it.  It may have just been a bit of miscommunication but it was suspicious that he waited until Rob left before he approached me.  With the guys at the coffee shop, where we went so often, we did occasionally have some miscommunication, partly language and partly cultural, but we generally laughed it off.  One time we came downstairs to get takeout and after waiting for a while we saw take out boxes pass us by and get handed to the host outside the front door.  I thought they were ours and started to stand up but they told us to wait.  Eventually they came with the bill and we paid it but there was still no food.  They were looking at us and we were looking at them. Finally we asked where the food was and they pointed outside.  That had been our food but, for some reason, we had to get it from the host.  If we hadn't asked I don't know how long we would have sat there.   It must have been some rule of Indian takeout that we didn't understand. 


SRI LANKA Colombo Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27-29 Nuwara Eliya Oct 30 Oct 31 Kandy Nov 1-5 (1) Nov 1-5 (II) Polonnaruwa Nov 6 Sigiriya & Dambulla Nov 7 Colombo Nov 8

INDIA Ft.Cochin Nov 9-15 (I) Nov 9-15 (II) Nov 16 Nov 17-18 Madurai Nov 19 Nov 20 Tiruchirapalli Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23 Chennai Nov 24 Nov 25-26 Nov 27-28 Ft.Cochin Nov 29 Lakshadweep Nov 30-Dec 4 (I) Nov 30-Dec 4 (II) Trans-India Train Dec 5-7 (I) Dec 5-7 (II) Siliguri Dec 8 Darjeeling Dec 9 Dec 10-13 Dec 14 Sikkim Dec 15 Dec 16-20 Dec 21-23 Dec 24 Dec 25 Darjeeling Dec 26 Dec 27-Jan 2 Siliguri Jan 3 Jaigon (Bhutan) Jan 4 Kolkata Jan 5-6

THAILAND Bangkok Jan 6-13 (I) Jan 6-13 (II) Jan 6-13 (III)