This is fascinating deyana. I'm a pretty adventurous traveler at times but you've got me completely beat there. I love your attitude and the way you seem to roll with the many strange twists and turns in your journey, looking forward to more.
My middle boy is very interested in birds. Yeah the feathered type! Well the other type too, but in this case we'll stick with the ones that have the claws and beaks He enjoys photography, so we were always on the look out for a bird sanctuary to explore. In Kerala we found it.
'Known as the ‘green lung of Kochi’, the Mangalavanam bird sanctuary is located in the centre of Kochi. The ecologically sensitive area is home to several species of resident and migratory birds and also supports different types of mangroves. Spread over about 2.74 hectares, the sanctuary also houses a shallow tidal lake surrounded by thick mangrove vegetation. The lake is connected with Kochi backwaters by a canal and is home to seven species of fishes.'
Some pictures that I took while in the area. We took a rickshaw to Mangalavanam (I really miss those rickshaws!)
The Kerala High Court is situated just to one side of the bird sanctuary:
A friendly lawyer that let us photograph him just outside of the Court:
Other places of interest seen along the way:
Finally we are at the entrance:
And inside are not only birds, but many types of vegetation and trees and other interesting wild-life:
And up above, what do we see? BATS! Hundreds of them. Hanging from the trees.
It was a very pleasant walk around this natural reserve. No noise of cars or rickshaws or people. A slower pace in the middle of a city, real nice. We met a few tourists doing the same as us - exploring the city and what it had to offer. One man was from Britain and he had a guide with him, a chatty Indian woman, who spoke immaculate English. Ha. I didn't even know you could hire a guide to take you to the different cities. (as they were doing), and see places of interest. HAMPI was one place the guide recommended we shouldn't miss. Unfortunately we were not due to pass thorough there. Maybe next time?
I love trees and at this sanctuary I was spoilt for choice, such ancient beautiful trees:
An interesting few hours. I'm glad we saw this side of the city.
'Kochi, formerly Cochin, is a major port city on the west coast of India by the Arabian Sea and is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. Kochi is often called by the name Ernakulam, which refers to the mainland part of the city.'
Two things that I didn't want to miss out were to see Kochi and the backwaters of Kerala. I was told to see the 'real' backwaters I would have to travel more South to the area of Thiruvananthapuram. That would have taken us even further away and I was getting worried about making it back to Delhi in time to get our flight home. Even though that was a still a few weeks away yet. But with the extraordinarily slow pace that things moved in India, (especially public transport), I didn't want to risk going even further South. Decisions, decisions, so hard to know what to do for the best sometimes. Anyhow, we were informed by the booking tour agent that we could see parts of the backwaters on a boat trip and Kochi too all on the same day, just a few miles from where we were staying. Sounded good, so that is what we did.
Before I post the really beautiful photos of our boat trip that day, I wanted to tell you a bit about our hotel situation. So, we had booked into an inadequate and quite run down hotel, simply because that was all we could find at a short notice. Everything else was completely booked up. Of course there was all always the option of staying at one of the really nice 5 star hotels over-looking the Arabian Sea, but we couldn't afford anything like that.
The characters that ran the hotel were an interesting but jaded lot. There were two brothers who owned the hotel and they seemed to be letting it fall to pieces. Then there was a permanent lady there, who had bad legs, one of which she dragged around all the time, I assumed she must have had polio as a child? Anyhow she was disabled in some way. She also has a foul temper, and at times would start yelling at the brothers, so I assumed she must have been their sister or another relative. And then various others could be seen behind the tatty desk at times too, no idea who they were. Just in front of the hotel a few single men slept every night, and a couple slept in the corridors inside the hotel. I gave up trying to make sense of it and by this time, after weeks of being in India, I knew at times, just about anything goes. This place was a shambles, but after a few days we would be moving on, so whatever I guess.
The room we were given had the tiniest window, we were told that was all they had for what we wanted. I had a very uncomfortable night there, mainly due to the fact that the heat was so extreme at this point and there was no air circulating in the room. Two fans on the ceiling did nothing to help and there was no air conditioning at all. The next day I asked for another room and was given it. This new room was much bigger with a large window and fans. Okay, so at least we had air in the room. I went inside and sat on one of the beds and is broke under me! The bottom of the bed fell heavily at the back of one of my legs and made a gash that would take days to heal. It bled quite badly and was really painful. To see a doctor or not see a doctor? I bandaged and rebandaged it many times over, trying to keep it clean and dry. It would eventually heal, but it was no fun limping around the next few days.
The manager of the hotel (one of the brothers) came to the room with the disabled woman and told her to help him lift the heavy bed out of the room. My sons volunteered to help, we all felt bad that this woman had to do this kind of work. But the manager would not let my sons help and insisted that the woman did it instead. I felt really bad for her, but didn't know what to say or do.
It was just as well we were only in the room at night time to sleep, there really wasn't anything good to recommend about this place. Apart from the fact that a little shop with all sorts of useful things for sale was just across the road from us. Little animals would come into the room, we'd end up throwing them out and hoped we wouldn't be faced with one of those poisonous snakes that lived in this area! Geckos were the worst culprits. They were everywhere, we'd pick them up and chuck them out. Amazing what you get used to when you have to!
Here is a photo of one I took just outside in the lobby area:
'The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) of Kerala state in southern India. The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, both man-made and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range. The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways, and sometimes compared to the American Bayou. In the midst of this landscape there are a number of towns and cities, which serve as the starting and end points of backwater cruises. National Waterway from Kollam to Kottapuram, covers a distance of 205 km and runs almost parallel to the coast line of southern Kerala facilitating both cargo movement and backwater tourism. The backwaters have a unique ecosystem - freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. In certain areas, such as the Vembanad Kayal, where a barrage has been built near Kumarakom, salt water from the sea is prevented from entering the deep inside, keeping the fresh water intact. Such fresh water is extensively used for irrigation purposes. Many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs and mud-skippers, water birds such as terns, kingfishers, darters and cormorants, and animals such as otters and turtles live in and alongside the backwaters. Palm trees, pandanus shrubs, various leafy plants and bushes grow alongside the backwaters, providing a green hue to the surrounding landscape. Vembanad Kayal is the largest of the lakes , covering an area of 200 km², and bordered by Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. The port of Kochi (Cochin) is located at the lake's outlet to the Arabian Sea. Alleppey, "Venice of the East", has a large network of canals that meander through the town. Vembanad is India’s longest lake'
I was lucky enough to see Dolphins too while on the boat! I tried to take a photo, but they were so fast out and then diving back in the water. I think I got a photo of a tail of one of them at some point.
So a bus was due to pick us up just around the corner from our hotel. Which it did. We were the first ones to be picked up, after which it did a tour of the city and picked up many more people from the various hotels around. Other tourists to the area who had booked the same day excursions as us. There was the really nice British Indian couple, who were in India for just three weeks, visiting relatives and then doing a bit of touring. Then there was the retired doctor and his wife, and various others who would be our companions during this boat trip.
It dropped us off at the harbor where we boarded our boat. First we were told to go onto a smaller boat and then we were told to step over to the bigger one. So we, and the others on board, simply boat hopped until we got to the one they wanted us on! A bit tricky in some ways
From the boat we could see the city fading away into the distance:
I really don't know what this is:
I can't swim very well, so I was glad that safety measures were in place. Of course my sons are excellent swimmers and they assured me that they would rescue me if I went overboard
Another shot of the city from a distance - we'd see it again at the end of the day:
Kerala gets more than it's share of international visitors and tourists. Not to mention business people and those coming over for medical treatment of one sort or another. It's quite the happening place.
And so further on we sailed into the Arabian Sea:
So our first stop would be Kochi, also known as 'The Venice of the East', after which we would stop for some lunch on land, and then back on the boat to see the backwaters and to discover how the residents of the area lived on a daily basis.
So our first stop would be Kochi. A few photos I took on the way:
The river police, they would stop our boat and check something out with the man in charge. Not sure what exactly, but I imagine it was to see if all the paperwork was in order, things like if they had the right kind of licence to be transporting passengers. All went okay and we were free to go:
Chinese fishing nets. These kind of nets have been used for generations:
This was creepy. The boat seemed to quieten down as we passed this area:
Fancy a cruise anyone? Not my cup of tea. But for some the ultimate experience. This ship would go far and wide:
The bird sanctuary looks fascinating and the bats are wonderful even if they aren't birds. It is always interesting just to see the different concept of the various parks and sanctuaries in various countries. I do find the human arm growing out of the second tree photo a bit disturbing. I remember that I liked seeing the botanical gardens in Pondicherry even though they were nothing like the sophisticated botanical gardens that I had seen in other countries.
I certainly hope that you and your sons did not toss any geckos out of your hotel room. Geckos are among the best things you can have in any hotel room in South Asia, and the more the better, because they eat all of the mosquitos and other annoying insects. In the Maldives, I had at least 20 geckos at the top of my bedroom walls at all times. No, they never try to get in bed and snuggle with you.
Was the huge white building on the Kerala waterfront just a giant apartment block or was it something else?
I am not a good swimmer either, so I immediately check for life vests or any other sort of flotation device when I get on a boat like that.
Thank you Deyana continuing to really enjoy reading about your travels and viewing your pics. I am in awe of your resourcefulness and laid back, but can do, approach to travelling in India.
-I have a lot of re- reading and reflection to do on the conundrum and complexity of India that are depicted in your posts so wonderfully.
First thoughts though are;
You have completely changed my perceptions of Goa. In a good way.
Those children on the train ....even though I have thought a lot about how to respond, an appropriate reply continues to challenge me. I want to comment on the poverty, the sheer awfulness for me of their scavenging for food, but what do I know about their lives and whether they feel loved and cared for ?
Kerala -so lovely in the pics but for me sums up the conundrum of India and makes me want to know more about what has led to a situation in one part of the country where there is low mortality ( comparable to US and Europe ?) and yet it has such high morbidity?
My own experience in such countries has shown that some people think about it -- leave excess food so that it can be recuperated -- and others make a point of rendering it inedible or inaccessible. But I think that is the sorry state of human nature in all countries.
One image sticks in my mind, not from India but from Paris. I saw a bum fishing around in a rubbish bin and he came up with an empty McDonald's sundae cup. He ran his finger around the rim to wipe off as much chocolate as possible and stuck it in his mouth. He looked so happy.
Kerouac, the strange thing is I hardly saw any birds at that sanctuary, although I did hear them. I went back to look at the arm/leg branch photo, it does look uncannily like a human limb. Yeah, we threw the geckos out, I was worried I would indeed find them in the bed with me in the morning! yikes.
The guide on the boat did tell us what the huge big white building was - if I remember correctly I think he said it was a hotel? But I'm not 100% sure on that, as from where I sat, I could hardly hear what he was saying.
Hi tod, glad you are still following my journey
htmb, those Chinese fishing nets are something ain't they? I had heard of them before and it was really cool seeing them for real.
lugg, India is full of contradictions I found. I know that any country can have rich and poor people, but in India the contrast is so vast and they live in such close proximity that the reality of that difference can be quite startling to an outsider or visitor. Why this is is probably due to many reasons, most of all the fact that India is still a developing country and corruption is unfortunately still ripe. But at least the people of India are aware of it and are fighting against it. But I have hope that in time a fairer and more even economic status will come to be for all people. I can't see this happening any time soon though.
For the middle class population - obesity and all the diseases that are a result of this are more and more in evidence. I really don't know if people leave left over food for others to eat, at least not on trains and public transport anyway. I can see restaurant owners giving left overs away to the poor however. Which is better than throwing them in the bin.
The entrance. The guide tells us to follow him, but somehow we lose him and then have to make our own way around, at least for part of the tour, until we bump into him again later on. We were not given much time to look around, but I guess we saw what was of interest anyhow:
A small boat anchored to one side. No idea who owned this one. Maybe one of the people who work here? Boats are needed to get to the main land and to homes that are situated in the backwaters:
Cobbled streets line this historic town:
We were not allowed to take any belongings into the synagogue, and had to take our shoes off too:
It was quite a pretty little town, very geared to the tourist of course. I saw many people here from other countries, there seemed to be a concentration of them in this area:
Sari's and other kind of clothes are made right here:
And so we walk along:
An ancient church:
Shops selling colorful merchandise:
I really like to see tall green trees:
Some nice houses along the way:
This was the largest tree I had ever seen. I couldn't get it in one shot. So I took a few pictures of it, from top to bottom. And really, I still didn't get it all in:
I can just imagine what life would have been like for the original inhabitants of this pleasant town:
So the morning was pretty much over. We got back on the boat, sailed to another area, got off and had lunch in a very nice restaurant. After Which we went back on the boat and set off to see the backwaters and to discover how people live and survive without being directly connected to the main land:
So we were on our way to the backwaters of Kerala.
A few photos taken along the way:
Living away from the mainland and not having any direct way to get there doesn't appeal to me at all. But for some it's the only way to live. People can take their own boat to get to the mainland or they can go on a hired boat. Many do just that, just in order to get to work and do some shopping or whatever else they have to do:
After a while, we dock the boat again and get off to have a look around.
fisheries are big here obviously - at the market:
After a short stop,we are on our way again:
A man up in a coconut tree:
There a little abodes or houses dotted along the route. Here people live on a day to day basis:
The people who live along the backwaters in Kerala have a unique relationship with the waters. It is the source of the local people's livelihood. The fish caught from its waters, the paddy, coconut and other crops harvested along its banks, the boats they build and use to transport them across the labyrinthine backwaters, are all an integral part of their traditional way of village life.
I found out that some people choose to hire their own private boat, with just a couple of people on it, and spend the night on the boat. All sounds so romantic. On the other hand, mosquitoes would spoil any fun to be had They are rampant in the area.
It was a relaxing few hours on the boat, at times you could have almost just fallen asleep, in fact a couple of people did just that! I was intrigued to see that there were even medical clinics in place for the people who lived here in the backwaters, not only that but schools for their children. Some of the houses we saw were very grand looking indeed, and our guide told us that the rich and famous were known to have their vacations out here. I guess it was a good place as any to get away from it all.
A few more photos of the area:
Many little huts can be seen along the way. Most people are still, after all, quite poor. But they do whatever they can to survive:
And so, we made our way back to the mainland. Once off the boat we boarded the same bus that took us back to our hotel.
We wondered what else there was to do and see during our stay in Kerala. During a walk to explore the city, we saw a huge sign up for a place called 'Lulu Mall'. It looked like an interesting place to see and in an area we had not ventured into as yet.
So we made some inquiries to find out exactly where it was and how to get there and off we went on a hired rickshaw. It was in a nice busy commercial area, it seemed wealthier and more upmarket than what we had seen so far.
A little bit about Lulu Mall:
'LuLu International Shopping Mall is India's largest shopping mall in gross leasable area and second-largest shopping mall in gross floor area. It is located in the Edapally neighborhood of Kochi, Kerala. It is built on an area of 17 acres, with the gross floor area of the mall alone at 2,500,000 square feet. A premium five-star, 20-storey, 300 room hotel managed by JW Marriott Hotels is located adjacent to it, within the mall compound. Opened on 10 March 2013, the mall consists of more than 300 outlets including food courts, restaurants, family entertainment zones, a nine-screen multiplex, South India's largest ice skating rink and a 12 lane bowling alley. The estimated cost for this project is more than INR 1600 crore. The mall is run, managed and set up by the EMKE Group, a business group with interests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The EMKE Group's Managing Director is M. A. Yousuf Ali, who is an NRI from Kerala, based in the UAE'
Indeed it was all brand new and sparking. A few of the areas were yet not open. Like the movie theater for instance, it still had a few adjustments to be made before they let the public in. We were there in March and it had only just opened it's doors a few days before.
Here are a few pictures of the mall and surrounding.
It's extremely busy as you can see:
Inside the mall:
All so shiny and new
And of course McDonalds:
Plenty of stores and things to see:
A area for the kids to play:
And so ended our stay in Kerala. The next day we took a train out - heading towards Bangalore.
I think you are correct in thinking some of the strips of land may very well be man-made in some way. I vaguely remember the guide saying something like that (from what I could hear of his commentary). No idea why this would be. I had lots of questions, and I wanted to present them to the guide but he was always so preoccupied and the few answers I did get from him didn't always answer my questions fully.
I have to apologize for the quality of the photos on here. These were taken by my old camera that I (foolishly) took to India with me and I know I missed many good shots, as my camera could not take them from that distance from our boat.
Also worth mentioning is that I was told that this area was not the best place to see and experience the 'backwaters' - in fact some didn't even consider these to be 'backwaters' in the true sense at all. To see these we would have needed to travel more South of Kerala, and we didn't have time to do this. But anyhow this was a reflection of what they were like I guess.
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) of Kerala state in southern India. The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, both manmade and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range.
So, yes some of the canals are man made. Interesting. Now I want to know more! The 'why' and 'how'.