I forgot to mention in my last post that for repellent I use the following. It's supposed to be recommended by the Colombian military. maybe you get it in Mexico as well. It's like a soap. You dampen your skin, rub it on until it foams and then let it dry. It's not uncomfortable to wear –
“Tsunami! Tsunami!” he shouted. “Run! Run!” I had a lazy morning and had eggs and toast for breakfast with a couple of glasses of tea as my journey today was relatively short, just 10km or so further north up the coast. I wanted to reach the main part of Cherai beach and then a little past it to my accommodation, another ‘b and b homestay’ that again didn’t include breakfast. Fine by me, usually as I don’t want anything to eat for an hour or so after I’ve arisen out of my pit.
I got on the bike and set off, the road being a little better than the day before but still without suspension, a cheaply made Indian seat and an arse that was having to cope with a series of hot curries, it made for a slight uncomfortable feeling at every bump. On one of the rougher stretches when I was off the bike and walking a small minibus made its way quickly towards me. Far too fast for the road conditions but that is normal. It slowed as it approached just to make sure it could easily get passed me and as it did so a man at the rear on the side nearest to me stuck his head out of the window and shouted the above words.
I stopped and stared to make sure I’d heard right. Just as the minibus passed me by I then heard a large cackle of laughter from most on board at the joke. I smiled to myself and thought it was a good one. Then trudged on.
I passed a few things of interest at the side of the ‘road’. You can see the beach in the background –
The weather seemed a bit cooler than the day before and it was quite enjoyable bimbling along knowing I had no strict time schedule. Time passed and I began to feel hungry again. I searched high and low, actually about half a kilometre, and came across a road side restaurant. Just a small word to pass on a part of my extensive knowledge of Indian roads and cafés – (gets a smack round the head from Mrs Mark, if she was here, for arrogance) – just because somewhere says ‘Hotel’ on the sign, or on Google Maps for that matter, does it mean it has rooms. It may have but it tends to signify that it serves meals.
Here is the menu from the one I stopped at for my second breakfast/early lunch –
The very left panel is a bit difficult to read, but the relevant section is second from the left and the fourth entry down from ‘Break Fast’. It mentions Masala Dosa and costs 60. This is equivalent to 0.80 Euro/0.87 USD/0.62 UK pounds. People can go on and on about this dish and it’s true it is ubiquitous with southern India but there are plenty of other things to eat. I like it as it is quite mild and it just right for a breakfast. I’ve mentioned it probably several times before on this thread and others. It’s like a full English in the UK, pancakes in the USA, churros in Spain etc etc. So I thought I’d lay it to rest so you can see it clearly. The size is obvious from the size of the knife. It is folded and inside is mild potato curry, about two or three desert spoons full. On the left is a bowl of, again mild, vegetable curry and on the right is a portion of grated coconut with spices –
So now you know exactly what it is, I’ll be testing you on it later and you can amaze your friends with your knowledge of India. You can even pretend you’ve been here.
Later I slipped into my homestay after passing by a nice house –
This is my room. There is no window glass and above the shutters you can see two shaped slits that will remain open for ever more, letting in any nearby mossies. I may have to start travelling then with some pet geckos to disperse about the room each night –
Dried coconut anyone?
A couple of shots of the beach. Note there are no westerners at all.
More fab photos and a terrific travelogue! I am impressed by the near spotless streets. OK, noticed a bit of garbage strewn around in your first photos but some of the street were immaculate. The beach with it's palms is so Mauritius! Some of the shops and restaurants are also very Mauritius. The part were locals live of course, not inside posh hotel compounds. Looking forward to the next move Mark.
Tod, I hammered the message of the litter last time I was here. In the towns and villages there is still more than necessary but I've left that subject alone at the moment. Out in the sticks there is a lot less and in Kochi there does seem to be a goodish clean up brigade. The next two nights are in the same area, I won't be reporting much probably and then I'm heading south.
... You're not alone with not wanting to go to India, but Bixa, you venture far and wide in Mexico and I'd bet you most things and feelings wouldn't be too far apart especially in the rural areas.
Actually, I have to say that for the first time and totally due to this thread, I am starting to see some of the appeal.
Looking at the menu, I am charmed by American chopsy. I don't know what it is, but it must be lots cuter than a plain old chop. Don't bother giving me the test, as I didn't study the menu much. Instead, I simply committed to memory the phrase "... a part of my extensive knowledge of Indian roads and cafés".
I’m only ever going to say this once. I don’t think I’ll have cause to say it again and I’ve never said it before. The sea water was too hot.
There, I’ve said it. It must have been at least thirty four degrees, if not more. When I got in I didn’t cool down at all. Last time I was in India and in Goa the water was warm certainly, but it did cool you down little. Here not. I’d planned for a couple of days with little or no travel and swapped hotels to one just down the road about a kilometre. I am now right at the side of the sea and have a room in a brand new house owned as it happens by some Germans who. I’m told, are back home for a while. They rent the rooms out in the house but for the next two nights there is only me, so I have the run of the place.
I forgot to mention that a couple of nights ago I was staying at a place owned by the local Keralans but I noticed the father and the son speaking German with each other. It appears the father was a Doctor in Cologne/Koln for twenty or more years, the son was born there and it is their working language at home. They knew where I lived in Frankfurt and we shared some memories of places nearby and restaurants etc. Especially a local dish I loved called "Handkäse mit Musik". Slightly a strange conversation given the location and circumstances.
The house, as I would expect, it extremely clean and everything works. Well, apart from wifi. It doesn’t have any. Oh yes, and the water. There is hot water, which is a bonus as many places don’t ‘do’ hot water in the shower. Just cold. But this has oodles of hot water from a solar hot water tank on the roof (got to love German owners) but it has no cold water. I can’t even find an outside, or inside, mains tap to turn it on. I’ll speak with the man tomorrow about it.
The strange thing is there are quite a few tourist orientated cafés here but only one has wifi, which I happen to be sitting in drinking chai and eating a fruit salad. I’ve also come here because of a bit of a disaster. I have a game on a small pad I use, it’s called Gummy Drop. I play this from time to time, especially when relaxing in an evening. Well, it does update itself every so often and just as I’ve got to the new place it wanted to but couldn’t. That meant I couldn’t play it until it had. You see, I had to come here.
I had a ride about 6km to the town where there is a bank, and a barbers. So I used the ATM and then had a shave and a haircut. A word of warning, if you happen to ask for a trim, they get out the electric clippers and try and give you a number one all over. Luckily I stopped them. I am still handsome and don’t look like ex-Army or prisoner.
There and back took a couple of hours as I also had to stop for a bite to eat. The hotel last night did do breakfasts, which I had early this morning. There were two boiled eggs, four slices of toast, butter, jam, four bananas, two apples and two oranges. I left a banana. I thought it was a bit much but I had to have a potato paratha later.
I took a few photos on the way of the back waters just to give you a bit more of an idea. I am staying on a thin spit of land, to the west is the sea, to the east are the backwaters. The land is no more than a hundred yards wide or so. There is a the sea and beach, then a small retaining wall about 2 metres high, then a small road running the length of it (the Beach Road I spoke of previously), a row of houses and shops and other properties, a row of trees and then the backwaters themselves.
Chicken anyone? Very fresh.
I booked into my new place but had to wait a while as the house was all locked up. As I was shouting hello a man cycled past and stopped. He said something which I didn’t understand and then indicated for me to wait. A few minutes later another man turned up on a scooter. He had the keys and told me the other one had spoken to him when he was having his lunch, so he shot off down to see me. Obviously everyone knows everyone else.
Half an hour later I was on the beach. I had to walk all of ten metres to get to it so I lay down for another half an hour to get my breath back, gradually getting hotter and hotter. I thought a nice swim would be just the thing. It wasn’t. As mentioned at the beginning I sizzled a little as I got in but then didn’t really get much cooler. I toughed it out though for at least an hour, playing in the waves, getting knocked around and so on. I’m looking forward to when I grow up.
The beach and a couple of the canoes. These aren’t used in the sea, they are for the backwaters –
I was so rushed off my feet today –
A couple of contrasts I’ve noticed again between the south and the north. I went out last night for a meal and struggled to find a veg restaurant. In fact there aren’t really any. They do meat and veg on their menus, rarely purely veg. I had to go to three as the first two only did meat and fish. I have had the fish here a number of times but I didn’t really want it last night. The other thing, and it’s not something most would notice, are the barbers. Here they have proper air conditioned shops, and relatively charge a fortune. Last time in India I was charged fifty rupees for a shave and a haircut, in the north west (Gujarat province). This is about right. That is less than a euro and was done by a man on the side of the road who had a bit of a stall. Here it is three times the cost. Still cheap by western standards but because of the overheads the price obviously rises. Why there are no if few street barbers I’ve no real idea. I can only guess the authorities frown upon it.
Also, there is far less poverty here in the south. You don’t tend to see the rows and rows of shanties at the side of the road, nor or there many beggars, there are more clean and well dressed people. To the south of Mumbai/Bombay the situation changes. Mumbai is a hovel in parts, dirty, smelly, riotous and over populated. Move south a couple of hours, especially down the coast or up into the hills, and life changes. There are still areas in the major cities but as I travel round there is far less poverty at the side of the normal roads.
The UK has an expression, “It’s grim up north”. That is true here as well. Anyway, must go.
I’ve time for another play in the sea. Before I get called in for my tea.
Oh yet another shit day in paradise eh Mark Your photos are the sort of India I wouldn't mind visiting - it looks pretty acceptable. I must thank you for going on this escapade on the behalf of intrepid travelers like me! I guess one must get past the crap to enjoy the really nice villas and area you are in. Looking forward to your next adventure Hemmingway......
Tod, as mentioned, there is actually a lot less crap down here to contend with than further up the country. The room I'm in at the villa, which I have the run of including the fully fitted kitchen, which I won't use as I eat out, costs 2000 rupees a night, about 26 euro. It is actually quite expensive for the area but being here a couple of nights I thought I'd treat myself to somewhere decent and clean, and with a good aircon. If it wasn't quite so humid, it would be nearly paradise. My next adventure will more than likely be in your neck of the woods anyway, well not quite but similar in that it will be southern Africa, Zambia where I'll have plenty of time to explore. In fact you can fill me in on info, no?
Breeze, I've been through this area several times before, but never explored quite so 'locally'. I would drive down from Mumbai calling inland a few times but often sticking to the coast where I/we would rough camp on the beach. Hence I had an idea what the beaches were like in any case. I hope to continue to find decent places but it doesn't always happen.
Today I went for a bike ride in the morning and a swim in the afternoon. That was it. Maybe a couple of photos of the locality later, we'll see. Unfortunately I have to keep coming to this cafe with wifi. Fortunately though they do good food and even have part of the menu in French. Classy.
I found the east coast of southern India (the only Indian coast I have seen actually) quite tidy as well. The south definitely has more of a reputation of being the 'idyllic' part of India to visit for people who are horrified by the cities. (Of course I also spent some time in Madras/Chennai which is also in the south and it was was quite crappy - literally - but the population is 7 million.)
So enjoyable reading this and looking at your photos. Recently watched a 3 part documentary called the " Real Marigold Hotel " and that and this report is making me re-think my previously adamant stance of " Would I travel to India ? - no never in a million years even if my trip was paid for"
a cheaply made Indian seat and an arse that was having to cope with a series of hot curries, it made for a slight uncomfortable feeling at every bump.
I've heard of that documentary. Has a few old but semi-famous people in it, and an over the hill comedian. I'd like catch it sometime. So, does that mean you would think about it now? Or even more put you off? India can be very difficult for a number of reasons if you are dropped in at the deep end. But there are several levels of, errr..... deepness. Apart from not staying at backpackers two euro a night hovels with running cockroaches I think I go pretty deep, especially travelling around. I'm comfortable with that but there are many things you can do to make it easier.
There was a tremendous storm last night. The Gods were certainly angry. There are actually so many here at least one must be angry at some time. The electrics cut off where I was staying and the trees were swaying about like a drunken sailor on leave after months at sea. Coconuts were blowing around and dropping willy nilly, crashing to the floor like a World War I barrage. It was excellent, the power of nature.
The storm left as rapidly as it came leaving the streets cleaner of dust and sand but replaced it with palm fronds, dead coconuts but a fresher smell. The roads didn’t take long to dry but when I set off early this morning there were still odd puddles here and there. First, a photo of the woman who cleaned the house and her sons. I didn’t catch their names. The lads were little horrors. I initially caught them riding my bike around the car parking bit at the front. They then wanted to come in to the house to ‘play’. So I locked the gate. They didn’t get the hint and kept climbing over, ringing the door bell asking for things like salt and sugar and spices.
I took a ride around the area in the morning, it’s certainly not the clean and unpolluted idea you get from brochures of the backwaters.
There’s also been a recent local election.
As mentioned, I spent the afternoon mainly swimming and walking along the beach wondering if I could survive on a desert island eating just coconuts. Probably, if I could get chocolate as well. I loaded up the bike, which I’d had to keep inside the house because of the kids, and set off just before 7am hoping it was cooler. It was, compared to when I headed north and didn’t set off until 10am. By that time any movement made your toenails sweat and if the human body is about 60% water then if you weigh, say 100kg, which few of us do but bear with me, then 60kg more or less is water. That means within half an hour of setting off I lost more weight, it felt like about 20kg I sweated out, than any diet I’ve ever been on. Shame I had to put it all back on again by drinking in order not to die.
I soon hit the chickens.
And a very scared looking young lady. I’m sure the hunk would look after her though.
The typical road I journeyed along.
I bet he gets fed up, and looks like it, with having to sit there all day. I bet he’s hot as well in that glass box.
That’s a tree and a half, isn’t it? It was just across from where I stopped for breakfast, you can see the place bottom right.
The Henley Hotel. A very posh name. Remember how I said sometime that just because the sign says it is a hotel doesn’t mean in the slightest that it has rooms for the night? This didn’t obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned it again.
The menu on the back wall. Have a look and I’ll mention something about it. I’m sure you’re all eager to learn.
You know how when you are on holiday and eating out a lot you pick up a menu and often if you are in the same area and the dishes are relatively similar you check one or two items to see how the price compares with what you eventually realise is ‘normal’? You pay a premium in a tourist area and the further away from it you go the price comes down, as you would expect. Eventually the cost comes down far enough that you know the place is set up for locals, that is with whom they do their business. This is such a place, at the side of the road.
I can tell because nearly everywhere does tea. Coffee you don’t get in the north so you can’t look at that. Neither do you get masala dosa, so checking that price only works in the south. Most will do a biryani, usually vegetable so I look at that as well. What is more prevalent in the north are generally dishes with potato, in the south it is rice. Aloo Gobi, potato and cauliflower, is a standard dish northwards, and breads such as roti, chappati, pori/puri and porotta/paratha are most everywhere.
Best first to check the tea. Between five and ten rupees a cup is what you would pay from a roadside stall. There are currently about 75 rupees in a Euro, easier sometimes for me is to think of 100 per English pound, but it isn’t always that accurate, though it gives an idea especially with large sums. The masala dosa is 35 rupees. Yep, good. Still cheap where I’ve been so far but those places catered to tourists as well. All the breads are the right price and the veg biryani is the same as the egg one just above it, 70 rupees, but you can’t make it out too well. These are the prices for the locals and what they would pay.
By the way, you know when you go out for an Indian and choose a chicken korma because it’s quite mild, creamy and coconutty, so that you don’t spoil your meal by having something too hot, because you are a wimp and a wuss but still want to say you ate something exotic? You can get it here as well but you’ll have to look for variations on the word. I didn’t try it but I think two thirds of the way down where it says ‘Veg Kuruma’, is the one.
I wasn’t sure what to have, I didn’t want anything big and they hadn’t any dosas so I just asked for veg, no meat and what did they have? The lad/waiter told me, of which I understood none of it, but I still nodded my head as though it was just the thing and said that would be fine. Bear in mind also that it was still breakfast time so things like the biryanis would be unlikely to be served, just breakfast stuff. You can just see the clock in the menu photo and it reads, I think, 9.15. I ended up in simple terms with two rounds of bread, a pea curry and a chickpea curry. None were hot/spicy. Well, they tasted of curry, but in a morning nothing is likely to blow your head off, nor make you consider throwing the bog roll in the freezer for the next day, nor leave you feeling someone has thrust a red hot poker into your tonsils. The cost was 20 for the bread and 15 for each of the two small curries. A total of 50 rupees, two thirds of a euro.
I’d just missed the ferry so I waited until it returned and slipped back over into Fort Kochi.
Some quite forceful ‘graffiti’ turned up as I was making my way through the town.
I thought this man was taking piss or exposing himself. I was just about to jump in when I realised he had a camera.
I wandered through. Near the ferry terminal is a tourist tat area.
Two boilers used to power cranes. Not now though, obviously.
I was so preoccupied I ended up in a circle coming back to the same ferry as people were getting off. I thought that can’t be right and then I realised it was a different ferry at a different jetty.
I arrived at the hotel a little early and left my bag there whilst I nipped for something else to eat. Upon my return I was shown to my room. I’d booked a room with a balcony, but I couldn’t see where it was. The proprietor pulled back the curtains behind the bed, where there was a door. That opened inwards.
I mentioned there might be a problem, half expecting him to say that I did have a balcony, as per the room booking, but it doesn’t mean you can get on to it. Just have it. He took me to another room that does have access without saying anything.
To finish off, here are the standard taxi charges to get from Fort Kochi to other points. Convert them as you will. Just to give you an idea, it says Goa is 1800km away. Chennai is 1500km. What they actually mean is that is the mileage for a return journey as the taxi has to come back empty. I bet it does, but nevertheless, if you want to pay that much, so be it. Also, even for adding on a trip to the driver’s mothers on the way back, they are a couple of hundrend kilometres out. So a taxi to probably Panjim in Goa, air conditioned mind you, would cost 290 euro/315 usd/230 ukp. Don’t forget, as it says, Interstate Permit tax, parking and tolls are extra.
I continue to vicariously appreciate every moment of this trip, although I don't think I would want to retire in India myself, if only because of the (to me) unbearable contrast between the very wealthy and the very poor. If I had more faith in the lessening contrast as India continues to develop, I might be interested, but I don't think that there will be any huge economic differences for at least another 50 years, so I am not concerned. Now, Vietnam on the other hand... a more egalitarian society and people less hypocritically nice than the Thais.
Your vegetable curry breakfast looks wonderful to me, but I must admit that my appreciation of 'dinner' food for breakfast in various parts of the world was slowly acquired after dozens of trips. I grew up in a family that did not eat eggs or bacon or beans for breakfast, so it took a leap of faith for me to move on to savoury items.
It's fun to see the tourists preparing to purchase Indian clothing items. People would actually wear some of these things in the streets of Paris back in the 70's, generally after returning from their six months in Goa. You never see that anymore, so I wonder how they plan to use such items. As sleepwear at night? Or perhaps on a hot summer day in the garden in back of their place, as long as it is surrounded by a high fence.
I am cynical enough to believe there will always be a vast gulf between rich and poor. In Vietnam what is the class/caste system like? I think in India, even though there are rules and regulations, the chasm between the top and bottom, the Brahmins and the Sudra, never mind the Dalits/Untouchables who fall below and outside the system, will never be bridged.
That was wonderful Mark! More terrific photos and I absolutely love the detail in your narrative I must say though, retire to India? But you would keep your fannatastic Spanish Villa wouldn't you? That is too beautiful to give up for some beach....?